31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 70 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
. Telephone users outside major metropolitan telephone districts, particularly those conducting businesses outside those districts, suffer an unfair burden for fees charged for calls.
The system of charging for calls on the basis of distance between non-adjoining zones instead of for the time of the call is unreasonable.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should require Telecom Australia to meter all calls, including local calls, and charge a uniform rate on a time basis regardless of distance between calling parties.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 23 citizens of Australia:
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 requests the Government to restore the imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 234 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.
Human Rights in the Ukraine
– I present the following petition from 442 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That Ukraine, a nation of some 50 million people, is deprived of those national and individual rights and human freedoms which are deemed sacred in Australia.
Those who have the courage to speak out in defence of national and human rights in the Ukraine are dealt with by the Moscow government in a manner which is abhorrent to every freedom-minded Australian.
The most recent manifestations of these repressions is the sentencing, in March of this year, of Myroslav Marynovych and Mykola Matusevych, two young intellectuals, to 12 years of imprisonment and exile for their membership of the Ukranian Public Group to Promote the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords.
In view of the fact that in similar cases in the past, intercession by Western Governments and professional groups has alleviated the severity of such sentences, your petitioners most humbly pray that the Honourable Senators in Parliament assembled forthwith take steps to:
Condemn the use of prisons, prison camps, Siberian exile, drug therapy and psychiatric institutions in order to silence views which differ to those of the Soviet Regime.
Intercede specifically on behalf of Marynovych and Matusevych whose sentences can still be reviewed by the Soviet Government.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled- The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: 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 Kilgariff.
To the Honourable President and Senators here assembled we the undersigned humbly pray:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974-77, renewed for one year expiring on the 30th June 1 978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at the 30th June 1 977, showeth.
Your petitioners respectfully draw the attention of the Commonwealth Government to the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Aged Persons’ Housing 1975 under the Chairmanship of the Rev. K. Seaman (now Governor of South Australia) which recommended additional funds to State housing authorities to meet the demand for low-rental accommodation in the proportion of $4 for $ I with the proviso that the States do not reduce their existing expenditure and
That the Act include married pensioners eligible for supplementary assistance and migrants as specified by the Seaman Report and that particular consideration be paid to the special needs and requirements of the prospective tenants in the location and design of such dwellings.
Furthermore, your petitioners desire to draw the Government’s attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976-77 shows that 24.6 per cent, or 283,000 home owning pensioners, have a weekly income in excess of the pension of less than $6 per week.
Your petitioners strongly urge the Commonwealth Government to establish a fund wherby loans can be made to means tested pensioners for the purpose of effecting necessary maintenance to their homes. Such a loan to be at minimal interest rates sufficient to cover administrative costs and to bc repaid by the estate upon the death of a single pensioner before probate or upon the death of the surviving spouse in the case of married pensioners or where two pensioners jointly own the dwelling.
Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Bishop, Senator Scott, Senator Grimes and Senator Button.
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 Tehan, Senator Lewis, Senator Missen, Senator Button, Senator Guilfoyle, Senator Webster, Senator Primmer, Senator Jessop and
Senator Lewis on behalf of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science. It refers to the InterScan program. I understand that this Australian invention has a potential market of something like $3,000m. In a joint statement by the Minister and two of his colleagues yesterday the Minister for Productivity said in respect of InterScan that we are simply ahead in technology. At the same Press conference Dr Wild of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation described Australia as being way ahead in the development of microwave lenses, which are an integral part of the InterScan system, and said that we have adopted an entirely different approach to InterScan from that adopted by the United States of America. I ask: What is meant by the term ‘ahead in technology’? Does the statement mean that the two Australian companies involved in this development- Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd and Hawker De Havilland Australia Pty Ltd- are technologically more advanced in this area than are United States companies?
-The honourable senator has asked me directly what is meant by words that were used by Mr Macphee when he answered a question yesterday. My understanding is that the Minister views Australia as the main author of this equipment. Over a number of years public funds have been given to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to encourage the development of this equipment. The Minister is aware of the work that was done in the setting up of the early level InterScan equipment at Tullamarine and its use by aircraft at that airport over the last two or three years. The development of this equipment has brought to Australia a technology that is ahead of that of any other country.
The honourable senator may know that some two years ago, if my memory is correct, the Government devoted in the vicinity of $35,000 to the encouragement of further technical development of electronic equipment so that the early stage equipment that had been used could be refined to place it ahead of equipment developed in other nations which had electronic companies which were perhaps more influential, more financial and larger than the Australian companies. It is fairly simple to see from the outcome of the International Civil Aviation Organisation conference that the decision to support the Australian find throughout the world resulted from our encouragement of private industry, our assistance to research by the CSIRO and the investment of government money in private industry to develop this technology. It is appropriate therefore to say that we are ahead of other countries. I certainly hope that we are. There are movements now which will connect Australia with other countries which will provide the major market for the InterScan equipment. I believe that the statement made by Mr Macphee was quite appropriate; it can be considered that Australia is ahead in technology at this stage.
-Mr President, I wish to ask the question again. My question to the Minister was: Are the Australian companies involved technologically more advanced in this area than the United States companies? The Minister has not answered that question. Is he in fact saying that they are technologically more advanced in certain areas in the development of InterScan? Can the Minister clarify that point?
– I do not debate the comment of the Minister for Productivity. Indeed, this is an area in which his responsibility lies. I think it can be readily seen that the activity in CSIRO lies within my responsibility. The further development of the electronics equipment and the industrial usage of it, together with the competence that we in Australia have so far as technology is concerned, and the competence of individual Australian industries to develop further this particular equipment are matters on which the Minister for Productivity is more competent to comment than 1. 1 am unable to answer the honourable senator’s question directly by saying whether this advancement is in the hardware manufacturing area, the electronics manufacturing area or in the area of the manufacturing of the equipment that will go into the aircraft which will receive the navigational beam. The Minister may have been speaking of our industries being more technologically advanced in any of those areas. I shall seek an answer for the honourable senator from the Minister for Productivity.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health: What progress has been achieved in establishing the Committees of Inquiry set up under the Health Insurance Act to deal with complaints against providers of medical care? Have the Committees yet begun their operations?
– I understand from the Minister for Health that the Medical Services Committees of Inquiry provided under the Health Insurance Act 1973 were formally established in all States in August 1977. Members of these Committees have met and a chairman and a deputy chairman in each State have been elected. It is believed that a Committee should consider a case referred to it only if the medical practitioner concerned has first been counselled by a departmental medical counsellor. Some medical counsellors have been engaged and a number of medical practitioners have been counselled. References are now being prepared to Medical Services Committees of Inquiry.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence: Has the Cabinet, as reported in the newspapers last week, made a decision to approve the upgrading of the satellite communications facility at North West Cape? If so, was that decision made within the terms of the North West Cape Agreement?
– I do not wish to appear rude to the honourable senator, but I point out to him that when decisions are made in Cabinet, they are announced by the responsible Minister at a time convenient to him and not at Question Time by the Minister who represents that Minister. That is the normal practice of all governments, Senator.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. Do I interpret the Minister as saying that there has been no announcement on any decision by Cabinet on this matter?
-I do not know whether the Minister for Defence has made an announcement on this matter. In fact I was not in Cabinet on Monday so I would not even know whether the matter was raised.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science. In view of the Government’s decision to become involved in the Interscan project, would the Minister or his colleague who represents the Minister for National Development in this place undertake that, in accordance with the 10-point plan laid down for special assistance for Tasmania following the Callaghan inquiry and as the project in question appears to fit ideally into this sort of arrangement, an investigation will be carried out to see whether the project can be established in Tasmania?
– I recognise the great interest that Senator Archer takes in all matters concerned with his state of Tasmania. This is purely another attempt on his part, as is so often the case, to see that benefits that are available elsewhere in Australia flow to his State. The matter of the production of InterScan equipment is perhaps appropriate for manufacturing industry in Tasmania. I see no reason at all why I should not put that particular proposition to the Minister for Productivity to see whether there is a possibility of Tasmania fitting into this scheme. My understanding is that in Tasmania technology is well advanced. Indeed, scientific research which comes out of Tasmania is pre-eminent in Australia. I recognise what a wonderful State Tasmania is. I come from that State myself so I recognise that fact. This is a particularly important question. The production and development of InterScan are most important to Australia. I see no reason why Tasmania should not be considered for production in some way. I will put that proposal to the Minister for Productivity.
– In view of the reference by the Minister for Science to the high state of technology in Tasmania, can he tell us which industries would be considered in any way suitable for the production of InterScan equipment in that State? What is his considered opinion of the state of technology in the electronics industry in Tasmania?
– I have just finished congratulating Senator Archer, a senator from Tasmania, on his great knowledge of that State. I have now been asked by another honourable senator from Tasmania, what industry exists within his own State and I am left without words.
– I am asking you for your opinion of the condition of it.
-Senator Wriedt is holding up his hands and appealing to me to inform him. I go regularly to Hobart and I go regularly to that other great city, Launceston. Indeed, as honourable senators would be aware, my Department and the Government in the 2Yi years it has been in office have paid special attention to Tasmania. We are attempting to introduce new industry and new technologies. Senator Wriedt will know of the building of the new headquarters for the Antarctic Division in Tasmania, with the enormous scientific research and the build up of industry that will follow. Industry is established in Tasmania. Instead of giving long answers at Question Time, I think I ought to go to Senator Wriedt’s office after Question Time and inform him of the facts.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the recent parody of a trial finalised in Moscow on 19 May 1978, when the famous Soviet nuclear physicist and human rights defender, Yuri Orlov, was sentenced to seven years in a labour camp and live years of internal exile on trumped up charges of anti-Soviet agitation and slander. Is the Minister aware that Yuri Orlov has been a leader of the Helsinki monitoring group, active in exposing the failure of the Soviet Union to comply with its human rights commitments under the Helsinki Pact? Is the Commonwealth Government prepared to give urgent consideration to the proposals now made by British and American human rights groups for the boycotting of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow? Will the Government consider a proposal that Australia boycott those Games in view of these savage new attacks by the Soviet Union on free speech in that country. Failing that, is the Government prepared to express its abhorrence of this denial of human rights to an eminent Soviet citizen and to take positive actions on it as a member of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations?
– The Government is aware that Dr Yuri Orlov has been a leader of a group in the Soviet Union monitoring the Helsinki agreement. I advise the honourable senator that the Government is deeply concerned at the recent trial and the harsh sentence imposed on Dr Orlov. This was expressed by my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs in a news release on 19 May. I further inform the honourable senator that my colleague has communicated the Government’s concern about human rights to the Soviet authorities and will continue to do so. We are well aware that there is a considerable body of public opinion in Australia which, likewise, has expressed its concern about the trial and the sentence.
– Are you prepared to do the same about East Timor?
- Senator Primmer interjects and asks whether I am prepared to do the same about Timor. I ask Senator Primmer whether he is prepared to take the same action in this place with respect to Dr Orlov as he has been taking with respect to Timor? The honourable senator asked also whether the Government would consider boycotting the 1980 Olympic Games. I have no material before me on this matter but, subject to my seeking further information for the honourable senator, I would imagine that that is a decision which would be made by the Australian Olympic Federation.
– We provide money, do we not?
-I realise that. The Commonwealth Government gives money to the Australian Olympic Federation. I believe that the Government would be reluctant to interfere with decisions of bodies such as the Australian Olympic Federation as to whether Australia ought to participate in a particular Olympic Games. However, as the honourable senator has asked that question specifically, I will pursue it and see whether I can obtain an answer for him.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware of the heavy costs faced by people living in isolated areas in obtaining specialist medical treatment and of the heavy burden travel and accommodation costs place upon patients who have to travel long distances for health care, not to mention the social costs due to disruption of family life? If so, is the Minister in a position to tell the Senate when her colleague the Minister for Health intends to honour his promise made on S December 1977 to implement a scheme by which such people would receive financial assistance?
– I thank Senator McAuliffe for the question. I shall refer it to the Minister for Health to see what information is available and to ascertain whether he is in a position to make a statement about this matter.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware of an advertisement that appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser yesterday, authorised by the Australian Roads Federation, headed ‘Stuart Highway our national disgrace’? Has he noted that the advertisement included comments reportedly made by a Government spokesman during the last election campaign to the effect that he believed it necessary to identify a special fund to make allocations specifically for the reconstruction of the Stuart Highway? Is it a fact that the Federal Government provided a special grant to South Australia some time ago to enable the Eyre Highway to be completed? In view of this precedent, will the Government give favourable consideration to allocating a special grant in the forthcoming Budget to accelerate construction of this highway which is so important to the mutual development of South Australia and the Northern Territory?
– The Minister is to receive a deputation tomorrow.
– I am grateful for the interjection. My understanding is that there will be a meeting in Canberra tomorrow to discuss the reconstruction of the Stuart Highway. It will be attended by the South Australian Minister for Transport, Mr Virgo; a representative from the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly; at least five senators including Senator Jessop; the honourable member for the Northern Territory; and the honourable member for Grey; the mayor of Alice Springs; a representative of Tennant Creek businessmen; and a representative of the South Australian Roads Federation.
– And Senator Bishop.
-O Lord, for these the least of all thy mercies, Senator Bishop as well. I have seen the advertisement but I have not studied it in detail. I will refer Senator Jessop ‘s specific questions arising out of that advertisement to the Minister for Transport. I think it is important to await the outcome of tomorrow’s meeting before I comment further on the matter.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. As the principles and procedures controlling the social security appeals system state that appeals may be lodged by personal attendance will the Minister see that this information is printed on the appeals forms to give those people appealing an opportunity to indicate whether they want to state their case in person? Will the Minister also consider requiring appeals tribunals in all States to give people the chance to appeal in person if they wish to do so?
– I will be happy to see that more publicity is given to the fact that a personal attendance may be requested. If further publicity is required to do this I will see that the Department gives attention to it. The second part of the question related to whether people should be allowed to appeal in person. I take it that the honourable senator did not mean an appeal against an appeal decision.
– No. Presumably it is not equal in all States.
– I will see that attention is given to that matter.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. I refer to correspondence, particularly from the Victorian Council for Handicapped Readers, proposing amendments to the Copyright Act to provide for a compulsory licence scheme to enable the reproduction of works for classroom use or for distribution to handicapped readers, especially visually and physically handicapped people. Has the Victorian Council for Handicapped Readers indicated that there is difficulty for organisations such as itself in readily obtaining permission from authors and publishers to reproduce copyright material? Has it therefore sought an amendment to the Copyright Act? Is further consideration being given to amendment to the Copyright Act? Can the Minister say what stage has been reached in this consideration?
– I have answered a very similar question which was on the Notice Paper. It was asked by Senator Cavanagh.
– The honourable senator should read yesterday’s Hansard.
– Is it in yesterday’s Hansard? I have not seen it. I presume that the answer will be in today’s Hansard. I have had representations from the Victorian Council for Handicapped Readers. I am giving consideration to amendments to the Copyright Act. The implementation of aspects of the Franki report which also involve amending the Copyright Act has also been suggested. I am considering all these matters together. At this stage I am not in a position to say what decision will be made by the Government but I am certainly giving very sympathetic consideration to the representations from the Victorian Council for Handicapped Readers. When representatives of the organisation came to see me I told them that.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inquire into the allegations contained in question on notice No. 317 which, apparently, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will not answer? Will he also inquire into the statement of Mr Porter, the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs, on the latest Monday Conference program that all Aborigines working on reserves were being paid $10 per week less than the award wage under arrangements with the Federal Government to employ such workers under the National Employment and Training scheme? Will the Attorney-General ascertain whether the Queenland arrangement is a breach of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act? In consideration of both these matters will the Attorney-General investigate whether a Commonwealth Minister or Ministers, a Queensland Minister or a former departmental director may have been in breach of the Crimes Act by conspiring to cause breaches of the Commonwealth law?
– Order! You must not make imputations of a conspiracy. Will you repeat the last part of your question?
– I want to find out whether this implication is a fact. I asked the Attorney-General to investigate whether a Commonwealth Minister or Ministers, a State Minister or a former departmental director may have been in breach of the Crimes Act by conspiring to cause a breach of Commonwealth law.
- Senator Cavanagh has raised a very serious matter. I think the appropriate course for me is to ask that the question be put on notice so that it can be given proper consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services. I refer to a recent publication of the Australian Government Publishing Service entitled Stay Alive, a handbook on survival which appears to me to be an excellent publication. The preface states that it has been produced in the first instance to satisfy a need for public servants engaged in field work and also that it should be especially useful to holiday makers, bush walkers and travellers. My question is: Who set the price of this publication at $5.10? What factors were taken into account in arriving at this price? Is it intended that the publication be sold widely or does the AGPS wish to keep as many copies as possible for posterity? Taking into account the high cost of search and rescue operations, would not a more modest price ensure a much wider purchase and use of this publication? Could I suggest a price reduction of about 80 per cent to $1.50?
– I agree with the honourable senator that it is an excellent publication. I think it would be of great use to many people in all walks of life. I must confess my surprise when I originally sew the price. I can assure the honourable senator that steps have been taken to try to get a far wider distribution of this book. published in large quantities and sold to a general cross section of the public. I would hope that the price for it would be in the order of the price the honourable senator suggested because I think it is a book that ought not to be kept out of the hands of so many people because of the price of $5. 10 and I believe that at $5. 10 it will not get the distribution throughout the community that it ought to have.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Construction concerns the construction of the new High Court building. Is it a fact that difficulties that have arisen with the installation of the windows in the building have resulted in the window managers being sacked and the architect being given an additional $500,000 to have the windows redesigned?
– I am unaware of the matters raised by the honourable senator. I will seek an explanation from the Minister for Construction. I imagine that the matter is in his hands. As I do not have a note with me relating to this matter I will attempt to get information later today.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister noticed recent public statements by Opposition Leader Hayden that real cuts in wages are occurring and are hindering the recovery in consumer spending? Is the Minister aware of the release yesterday of statistics indicating that growth in the average wage for the last quarter substantially outstripped the rate of inflation and that this is consistent with earlier trends, indicating a real increase in wages? Is the Opposition Leader indulging in his usual practice of exacerbating problems for political purposes by making outrageous, irresponsible and untimely statements, in this case designed to incite the trade unions?
– I have seen a number of statements by the Leader of the Opposition in another place; their purport being to the effect that there had been real cuts in average wages in Australia. I am equally aware that the more authoritative figures published yesterday show that there has been overall a very significant real increase in wages- I think about 2.2 per cent or more in real terms. That is from memory and subject to correction. Honourable senators will note that the whole basis of an argument by the
Australian Council of Trade Unions before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission was the false premise that wages in real terms were falling. It now has been revealed that the case of the ACTU has been wrongly based. I think that it is good to be able to say that the Australian wage earner has been receiving real increases in wages of that significance.
– I thought your leader said it was a bad thing. It is not true, anyway.
-We had better get this matter into perspective. For some two decades or more governments of Liberal philosophy maintained full employment, high real wages and rising real wages, no inflation and home ownership for 75 per cent of the Australian community. In fact, for two decades it was Liberal governments which gave real benefits and real social welfare to the people of Australia. It took a Whitlam-Hayden Labor government in the capsule of three years to destroy these achievements. It took it three years to convert this country from a situation of no inflation and no unemployment to a situation of record inflation and rising unemployment, chronic unemployment. Despite that honourable senators opposite have the nerve to interject.
I am delighted that we have rising real wages in this country at a time when we are proceeding to lower inflation at a faster rate than we had anticipated and when there is a healthy decline in interest rates. These are great achievements for the Australian people and are acknowledged as such. Let honourable senators opposite be reminded that Professor Henderson in his poverty report greatly stressed the fact that if we want to benefit the underprivileged people of Australia we must first deal with inflation- wc must first bring down the rate of inflation. That is what we are doing. At the same time, we are raising real wages. That is not a bad record.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications a question regarding the inquiry into the release of an extra television channel for ethnic television. Is this inquiry to be a public or private inquiry? What steps has the Government taken to invite the views of ethnic broadcasters? Will the Government allow all people involved in ethnic broadcasting to give their views or is it the Government’s intention to seek the views only of the co-ordinators of ethnic radio?
– That is an important question. I do not have the details before me. 1 shall seek them out and let the honourable senator have them.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and relates to mopeds, which are small motor-assisted bicycles. The motor usually is of a volume of about 50 c.c. and has a top speed of about 50 kilometres per hour or, to assist Senator Wood and other honourable senators who do not understand kilometres per hour, about 31% miles per hour. No doubt the Minister realises that at present such machines are classed as motor bikes and are subject to their taxes and registration fees in all States. Will the Minister ask the Minister for the Capital Territory to set an example to the rest of the country by abolishing registration fees for mopeds and reducing the age at which people are allowed to drive them? This would be in the interest of both allowing young people to gain valuable road experience on low-powered machines and fuel conservation. I point out that this is done already in other countries.
– Until I had the benefit of Senator Townley’s question I had observed the phenomenon without being able to give it its generic name. I now confess that, with his aid, I know what mopeds are. I have seen them in their natural or feral state. As to whether they should be set free in the Australian Capital Territory, I will bring the honourable senator’s three questions to the attention of my colleague in another place and ask him whether, in addition to the other genuine hazards of Canberra, mopeds can be added to the native flora and fauna.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations whether his department will this year produce an annual report. Further, has it produced an annual report in the last two years? If not, why not?
– I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and endeavour to obtain an early answer.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs: What action has the Government taken on recommendation 25 of the report, tabled in June 1977, of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, on its Middle East reference, which urged the Government to avoid transferring foreign quarrels to Australia by taking more stringent steps to deny entry to people who had participated in, or had called for, acts of terrorism abroad? I ask further, in regard to recommendation 26 of the report, whether Australia has always given the most vigorous support in the appropriate world organisations to resolutions to curb international terrorism.
– The Government has indicated on a number of occasions that its policy is opposed to the intrusion of influences which could produce deep divisions within the Australian community. Any proposals for a visit to Australia by a representative of any organisation which has a record of involvement in violence, or advocates violence, would receive the most careful scrutiny and would be unlikely to be approved unless it could be established that the visit would involve no risk to security. There are also well-established procedures for the screening of applicants for either temporary or longterm entry to Australia to ensure that applications by persons whose presence in Australia might produce divisive effects in the community are considered most carefully. These procedures are, of course, applied not only to applications by those who might pose a threat to Australia but also to the members of any group which has demonstrated or advocated the use of violence in the overthrow of a friendly government. The Government has always given its most vigorous support in the appropriate world organisations to resolutions designed to curb international terrorist activity.
On 23 February the Prime Minister, in a statement to the Parliament concerning protective security and counter terrorism, advised that the Commonwealth Heads of Government had agreed at their meeting to establish a working group to explore ways in which collaboration can be enlarged, both regionally and internationally, in combating terrorism. As far as action on recommendation 25 of the report is concerned, I shall refer that matter to the Minister to ascertain whether he has anything specific to add.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations whether on March 23 the Minister issued a Press release announcing that the Community Youth Support Scheme would be funded for a twelve-month period. Have committees fostering CYSS now been informed that funding will be available for only a six-month period?
– I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and endeavour to obtain an early answer for him.
– I ask the Attorney-General, a question in relation to the provision of legal aid in Tasmania. In view of the parlous state of funding, which has resulted in difficulty in providing deserved legal aid for the community, has he been able to take any action that will alleviate the problem and enable legal aid to flow, as it should, to needy people?
-On 9 May Senator Grimes asked me a question concerning the problem which had arisen in Tasmania concerning the availability of referrals to the private legal profession which are made on a monthly budget basis. So many cases each month can be referred to the private legal profession. I said on that occasion that I was aware of the problem, it had been brought to my attention, and I would see whether something could be done about it. I also explained that although the availability of funds for legal aid was an acute problem in Tasmania, it also arose throughout Australia.
The problem has primarily arisen because of the effect of an increase in legal costs and also an increase in the number of people applying for legal aid. As I have said, this is a general problem. It is one to which I am giving very close attention at the moment. I want to see whether there may be ways and means of making the available funds for legal aid, which are necessarily limited, go further and benefit more people. However, as far as the immediate problem in Tasmania is concerned- and indeed where it has occurred in other States as well- 1 have obtained approval from the Acting Minister for Finance for the release during this month of an additional allocation against the commitments for the next month. This interim measure will enable the Australian Legal Aid Office in Tasmania and in the other States to continue to refer cases to the private legal profession during the current month. As I have said, legal aid in Tasmania had been reduced to the stage where it was available only in the most urgent cases.
I am giving very close attention to a long term solution of the problem to see how the legal aid dollar, so to speak, can benefit more people.
Honourable senators may be interested to know that $550,000 has been committed by the ALAO in Tasmania in respect of matters referred by that office to private legal practitioners in that State during the current financial year.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that it has been stated recently that employees occupying low rental company housing, especially in mining towns, will have to pay additional tax? Can the Minister confirm or deny the strong rumour that farmers who live in rent free farm houses will have a notional rent added to their taxable income?
– I am unable to deny or confirm rumours. It is something I would not wish to do in this place.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education. I refer to the matter of literacy and numeracy which still provokes considerable public interest and to which I referred recently when speaking to the reports on the States Grants (Schools) Act. Has the Minister seen the observations today of Professor Leonie Kramer, head of the Australian Literature Department in the University of Sydney, in relation to this matter in which she drew attention to the importance of these things as well as that of grammar and logic? Can the Minister indicate the latest position regarding inquiries into the area of literacy and numeracy?
– I have in fact put aside the article by Professor Kramer, which I think is in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, to re-read. She is a person of considerable eminence in her own discipline and her comments are well worth noting. Yes, I have seen it. I have received a growing number of comments from both the general community and the field of academic learning all pointing to the fact that whatever may have been the state in the past, the present levels of literacy and numeracy and of basic skills are not good enough. Let me say that certainly my own Government and I, as the Minister, would acknowledge that problem and would want to work for its solution. Basically the only key information that anyone had on this was the report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties which commissioned the Australian Council of Education Research to prepare a report. The second volume of that report has now been completed and is under considerable study by each of the six States as well as by the Commonwealth. The profoundly more important approach will arise from the establishment of a national inquiry into all aspects of teacher education which we propose to undertake in the weeks and months ahead. One of the main terms of reference and one of the fundamental matters to be probed will be how we can best select teachers of the future who have the right temperament, attitudes and communication abilities and how we can train them in a way which in the end will provide the necessary balance of basic skills and influence the development of the whole or social person. This will be given the highest consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence and refers to the recent statements, which no doubt he has seen, which indicate that Mr Killen now accepts that information about the modifications to the North West Cape facility- a joint facility- were not known to the Government or apparently to senior defence officials. The statements also imply that the information was available to the joint commanders at the base. Is the Minister able to say whether that information is correct and, if it is, what action has been taken in regard to the failure to advise not only the Department of Defence but also the Government about the post changes? What action has been taken against the officers concerned and what arrangements are proposed to prevent such a situation occurring in the future?
-As I understand the honourable senator, he is asking whether there is any truth in an allegation that the information was available to the joint commanders at North West Cape. I must confess that this is the first time that I have heard of such an allegation. I will seek for the honourable senator information on whether it was and, if it was, what action will be taken against the officers for not passing on that information.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry and refers to the timely and welcome announcement of the decision of the Minister for Primary Industry relating to underwriting for prescribed products in the dairy industry for the 1978-79 season. Has the Minister any information as to the attitude of the States to the proposal? In particular, has Victoria given any indication whether it is prepared to take up the Minister’s offer on a $2 Commonwealth-$ I State basis to give an equivalent of 80c per lb. butter fat, or $ 1 .76 per kilogram, at the farm gate for the 1978-79 season?
– I am informed that there has been no formal reaction from any State government to date. It may be a little early yet to expect a reaction. However, there has been some public reaction by the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation- the national industry body which represents all dairying groups. In a Press release dated 19 May the President of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, John Bennett, stated that he welcomed Mr Sinclair’s announcement on stage 2 of the dairy industry marketing arrangements. He went on to say that by ‘offering to underwrite returns of 80c per lb. butter fat at the farm gate, in conjunction with the States, the Commonwealth Government has recognised the seriousness of the situation facing the dairy industry’. Mr Bennett also said that the onus is now on the States participating in these arrangements. I think it may be as well for the announcement by the Minister whom I represent to be considered more fully by the States and within some days perhaps we will get a decision from the States on whether these arrangements for stage 2 are satisfactory.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. By way of preface, I refer to a far-sighted minority report prepared by Senator Keeffe and me rejecting the Black Mountain tower concept. In view of all the shilly-shallying and backward works programs, I now ask the Minister: What is the real story? Who are the guilty men who misdesigned the whole project?
– I am not able to deal with the question raised by Senator Mulvihill. I shall refer it to the Minister for the Capital Territory to see what information can be given with regard to the Black Mountain tower project and I shall see that Senator Mulvihill is advised accordingly.
Anderson and Mr Egon Stern come under notice in due course.
– I suppose it was 18 months ago that Senator Sir Robert Cotton, in his position then as Minister for Industry and Commerce, brought to my attention the work that had been done by Mr Stern. I must say in apology that I was not particularly aware of that work. I realise that a group led by Dr Paul Wild was associated mainly with the development of the InterScan system by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. However, the honourable senator has prompted me on a very important matter. I should think that neither Paul Wild nor any other scientist would wish to claim total responsibility for the development of the scheme. Indeed the CSIRO and the Department of Transport, working together, have played a particularly important part. I take note of the former Minister’s comment and shall see to it that it is given attention.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs advise the Senate whether a company known as the Torres Strait Islanders Beche-de-Mer Fishing Co. Pty Ltd has been established at Townsville? Where is the company registered? Who are the shareholders? Does the company employ white staff? If the answer is in the affirmative, who is the employee or who are the employees? What is the weekly salary paid to the white adviser or advisers? What was the original Australian Government grant to the company? How has the grant been spent apart from wages to advisers? Have any additional grants been made to the company?
– I do not have that detailed information, but because a number of questions have been asked I suggest that Senator Keeffe put the question on notice. I shall see that the answer is given to him.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether he is aware of the publicity in last week’s Press concerning Chrysler Australia and, in particular, the matter of the 85 per cent Australian content’ plan. Is the Minister also aware that the main problem concerning the 85 per cent Australian content plan relates to the current high value of the Japanese yen, which has tended to place a superficial value on the Australian content of some of Chrysler’s motor vehicles? Does this not also apply to some other sections of the motor vehicle industry in Australia? Further, will not the introduction of the locally produced Astron motor engine in the Chrysler Sigma greatly increase the local content in this range of motor vehicles generally?
– I have been furnished with some information in relation to the matter by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who informs me that he is well aware of the recent Press comment in relation to the matters raised by Senator Young. Since Chrysler announced a program of rationalisation to establish a sound basis for its future operations the company’s position, as well as the Government’s motor vehicle policy, have become the target of a good deal of ill-informed comment.
The Government has a policy for the passenger motor vehicle industry involving a local content plan and a market sharing arrangement which provides the framework within which the local manufacturers can operate and make their commercial decisions. The manufacturers are in frequent consultation with the Government about the progress of their operations. The Government is kept informed of any problems that are likely to be encountered in complying with the plan’s provisions. However, the Minister would regard it as a serious breach of company confidence to comment on any specific problems or proposals that a company may place before the Government from time to time. I will draw the Minister’s attention specifically to the last part of the question concerning the Astron engine. I do not think I should speculate on the matter without referring it to the Minister.
-I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: Was an approach for Commonwealth Government financial assistance made in the past 12 months by or on behalf of the phosphate mining company at the Monument in Queensland?
-At the Monument, which is just outside Mount Isa. If an approach was made, what assistance was requested and what was the Government’s decision in relation to the request?
– I do not know whether that is the same place as Duchess.
– It is close to Duchess.
-I will have to seek information for the honourable senator because the only phosphate company I know of in Queensland is Queensland Phosphates Ltd which operated at Duchess.
– It is south of Duchess.
-I think I should seek the information from the Prime Minister on that particular matter.
– It is the same one.
-It is the same one, is it?
-I will seek the actual monetary terms of the request for the honourable senator. According to the company’s chairmanand it is public knowledge- the company sought assistance, it was refused and therefore, the company closed down the operation. Is that the company to which the honourable senator is referring?
-I am referring to Queensland Phosphates Ltd. According to my information the company operated at Duchess. I will seek the information for the honourable senator.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources aware of Press reports today of a study which apparently warns of a risk to Australian uranium exports? Can he say what is the present situation in regard to the discussions on financial arrangements for the Ranger project currently taking place between the Commonwealth Government and the Northern Land Council?
-I am advised by my colleague in the other place that he has seen the news report of a study of Australian uranium exports and the alleged risks to those exports. I am advised by my colleague that I can assure Senator Kilgariff that the Government is firmly resolved that uranium development will proceed on a carefully regulated and controlled basis. The Government is confident that Australia will become a major exporter of uranium. Following the recent round of negotiations in Darwin, discussions with the Northern Land Council are expected to resume again very soon. Views have been exchanged on a number of issues relating to Ranger but the matters under discussion are by agreement with the Northern Land Council. Because of the nature of their confidentiality, my colleague does not propose to comment on them.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask: Did the Australian Wheat Board sign a contract with Mainland China for the sale of three million tonnes of wheat in July 1 977? Did that contract have an estimated value in round figures of $280m, or about $90 a tonne? Is it correct that the Australian Wheat Board hedged about one-third of the value of that contract on the Chicago grain futures market? Was the hedging undertaken with the knowledge and the approval of the Treasury?
– The honourable senator has asked me a fairly wide question that I cannot answer accurately now. I recall that some weeks ago a similar question was asked and I provided a very detailed answer. From recollection, my answer to that question was that the Australian Wheat Board did not trade in futures in that way. I would need to reacquaint myself with the contents of that answer. Obviously the honourable senator has that reply. I think it responds to the question he has raised. If not, I will look into the matter and attempt to obtain a reply for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I point out to the Minister that there are allegations that the casualty department of the Canberra Hospital was remiss in the diagnosis and care of the former head of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Sir Alan Carmody, when he visited the hospital after a heart attack. Sir Alan was discharged to his home where a short time later he had another attack and on being taken to the Woden Valley Hospital was found to be dead on arrival. As there has been no coroner’s inquest, will the Minister order a departmental inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the allegations with a view to having the procedures carried out in the casualty department of the Canberra Hospital lifted to the highest possible standard?
– I am unaware that allegations have been made concerning the events surrounding the death of Sir Alan Carmody. The question raised matters for the consideration of the Minister for Health. I will refer it to him and seek a response.
-On 10 May Senator Keeffe asked me a question in regard to a flight made by an aircraft of No. 34 Squadron to Darwin on Tuesday, 9 May. The aircraft was authorised for the Deputy Prime Minister by the Minister for Defence. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs accompanied Mr Anthony. Mr Calder, the member for the Northern Territory, was a passenger. His inclusion in the party was authorised by the Minister for Defence in accordance with the rules for the use of VIP aircraft which provide:
Where a Minister or Leader of the Opposition is using a VIP aircraft to visit a particular area, it is in order for him to bc accompanied by the local Federal member for that area.
Senator Kilgariff was also included in the party with the approval of the Prime Minister. As there was no entitlement within the rules it was necessary for the approval of the Prime Minister to be obtained. Approval was given having regard to the necessity for Senator Kilgariff to be directly involved in joint discussions to be held between the Northern Land Council and the Northern Territory Executive concerning legislation before the Senate.
- Senator Harradine asked me a question on 1 1 May in which he raised a complaint that had been brought to his attention concerning a record broadcast by radio station 2XX. In my reply I inadvertently and mistakenly indicated that it was the duty of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal to monitor the broadcasts of this station and take action where accepted standards are breached.
This is true in relation to commercial radio stations licensed under the Broadcasting and Television Act. However, it will be recalled that radio station 2XX is one of those few stations operating under a licence granted under the Wireless Telegraphy Act by the previous Government. I should have recalled that at the time. As such, the station must comply with the terms and conditions of the licence issued by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Therefore matters such as that raised by Senator Harradine remain the responsibility of the Minister and his Department, not the Tribunal. I have brought the incident to the notice of the Minister. He has informed me that he has requested his Department to investigate the complaint and provide him with a report. When this is received I will advise the honourable senator further.
– 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 need for a clear declaration of Government policy on granting to Aboriginals and Islanders inalienable title to their traditional lands’.
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-
– Obviously the main thrust of my contribution to the debate will be directed to the Mornington Island and Aurukun areas. I commence by quoting a few lines from a statement made on 18 May 1978 by the Leader of the Labor Party (Mr Hayden). He said:
The legislation still offers the Aboriginal people of Aurukun and Mornington Island no security, no substantial role in determining their own future, and no land rights.
Their daily lives will remain under the absolute control of the Queensland Government. Despite this, Mr Fraser and Mr Viner have again capitulated to Premier Bjelke-Petersen
They have retreated from their responsibilities in a most shameful and cowardly fashion.
The Commonwealth has no alternative. It must step in and acquire the land involved in the name of the Aurukun and Mornington Island people.
This is one promise Mr Fraser must be made to keep. He must surely realise that his Government’s actions to date represent a total sell-out of the aspirations of both Aboriginal communities.
I and my colleagues on this side of the chamber today will go into fairly in depth detail to prove why this Government must take a more positive action in relation to the Aborigines of this country and why, as a matter of urgency, it must take a more positive attitude in relation to the Aborigines who live at Mornington Island and Aurukun. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) made a statement shortly after the agreement with the Queensland Government saying that the Aborigines on both settlements had agreed to a trial period of six months. That is not true. They did not make any such agreement or contract to accept the legislation on a trial basis. When this subject was last raised in this chamber on 10 May 1978 I said:
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.
The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) who followed me in the debate agreed that it was an unhappy situation that the matter had to be raised at all. She chided me rather politely for raising the issue and said that it might upset delicate situations- at least that was the inference in her contribution to the debate. At that time, the Minister could not tell us what the amendments were even though agreements had been made between the Australian Government Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and one of his fellow Ministers and their counterparts in the Queensland Government. Obviously the amendments had been classified.
The legislation was passed through the Queensland Parliament last week in the early hours of Wednesday morning. It should be noted that the Queensland Government and its Premier decided that they would not hold a debate of this nature when the media was available to report it faithfully. Instead they left it until the very early hours of the morning and then rushed it through. I can understand the Minister for Social Security not wanting to admit in this chamber what the amendments were, if she knew. Any person after having heard the promises made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs would have been ashamed to admit that he or she knew the contents of the amendments. They were a total sell out of all the rights and aspirations of Aboriginal people not only in Queensland but also around Australia.
In looking at the great gusto with which this legislation was introduced into the Queensland Parliament, perhaps it helps to know the Premier fairly intimately and to know also of his very anti-black attitude in all circumstances. Mr Porter is a man of his own choosing. How did he become the Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs? Honourable senators might recall that after the last State election the Liberal Party’s former Cabinet Ministers went on strike. They refused to turn up for the swearing in. They sat outside saying that they wanted eight Ministers. The Premier said that because the Liberal Party had lost votes and seats in the State election he did not think it was entitled to the eight Ministers it had in the previous Cabinet. Finally the Deputy Premier announced with great glory that a decision had been reached and the Liberals would have eight Ministers, but of course they never did get them. Mr Porter was Mr BjelkePetersen’s nominee to fill the Cabinet vacancy. Then he rubbed salt into the wound by appointing Mr Porter as Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs. Mr Porter would be the most antiblack racist Minister of any Minister holding this position currently . . .
– Order! Senator Keeffe, you must not make imputations against a Minister in another Parliament.
-Mr President, I shall rephrase it. Mr Porter is a man with far less sympathy for the Aboriginal people and probably is much worse in this regard than any Minister currently sitting in any Parliament. He is probably worse than any Minister who has held this portfolio in a Parliament in this country in the past. When he came back from his first confrontation on Mornington Island he said publicly at a Press conference- I am not sure whether it was held at the aerodrome or in his office but it was held on the day he arrived back- that he had been made very welcome at Mornington Island, that one of the senior Aboriginals had come out with his spear and patted the ground to show that there was friendship. Only somebody who knows nothing at all about Aboriginals would make such a stupid and ridiculous statement as that because as anybody knows- and Senator Bonner would know- this is a sign of war so far as Aborigines are concerned. I discussed this with the Mornington Islanders who were here recently and they said: ‘He was lucky that we stopped at that point because he had refused to come out to speak to us’. It was only after much persuasion that he in fact came out and talked to them at all, and that is consistent with his approach in all the negotiations.
We get a further insight into the policies of the Queensland Government and the administration of Aboriginal affairs by the State Minister when we consider in some detail the Monday Conference program. At one stage Mr Porter said that the conference was loaded against him. This, of course, does not happen. If there were a deal of support for Mr Porter and his policies in the community in Queensland his supporters would have turned up and tried to swamp the conference if they wanted to, but he threw the accusation the other way. One statement that he made was that only the Aurukun and Mornington Island people did not want to live under the two Acts that now apply to Aboriginals and Islanders in Queensland. This is not true. I would say that the vast majority of the 30,000 odd people who are compelled to live under the Acts would escape from them tomorrow if they could.
Mr Porter described the Acts as a load of codswallop. He said the people did not have to live under them if they did not want to do so. Every person at Aurukun can vacate the reserve on which he lives and possibly not be allowed to go back there again, in which case maybe the legislation will not apply to him unless he specifically requests that it does apply to him. This was his answer, and I might say that it was a very lame answer: The people do not have to live under the Acts unless they choose to live under them.
The main thrust of his argument was that the Government had been persuaded to take over the two settlements because of the bad health situation. If there had been a bad health situation, as I said in the debate in this place a fortnight ago, it was the responsibility of the State Government to ensure that the health and education standards in the community were brought up to the highest possible levels. The health situation in fact was not as bad as it is on some of those reserves which are totally administered by the State Department. I have in mind Palm Island, where the position is much worse that it is at Aurukun and Mornington Island. Mr Porter said that Mrs Colless, who was a member of the Aboriginal and Islanders Commission, was dismissed because the other members of the Commission did not like her. That is not true either. She was dismissed because she dared to criticise the Premier at some stage in the beginning of the Aurukun dispute. That is why Mrs Colless was dismissed from the Commission. I do not mind if people who make public explanations and use the media, as the State Minister did on Monday night, tell the truth, but the truth has not been told all along the line. If there have to be coverups then this of course is the Aboriginal Watergate so far as this Government and the Queensland Government are concerned.
At another point in the discussion the Minister said that more than half of the 70,000 Islanders and Aborigines in Queensland were living in the mainstream of society. Many of these people do not want to live in the mainstream of society. The groupings in our many country towns are in the lower socio-economic level because the people are unable to secure employment: Firstly, because of insufficient education; secondly, because frequently their health is not good; and, thirdly, because in most parts of Australia, particularly in small country towns, there is racial bias.
Then we heard from that great mistress of freedom of action, Ms Horan, who first of all attacked Senator Bonner by asking him whether he had gone all black. She is a lady from the One People of Australia League, an organisation which has now just about gone out of existence because of lack of encouragement and support from the State Government as much as from anything else. She tried to imply that one billion dollars had been spent on Aborigines in Queensland over the past few years. These sorts of innuendoes do the cause of the Aborigines no good at all. When they come from a white person, obviously they must be racist in nature.
The Minister paid little attention to the culture which is so revered by Aborigines. He said that culture must change- that it must be dynamic if it is going to live. I wonder to which church Mr Porter belongs. I wonder whether he belongs to the Uniting Church, the Presbyterian Church or the Church of England. Whatever place he worships at, I wonder how he would feel if someone were to obtain a miner’s right and bulldoze hil church, maybe while he was praying. I wonder how he would feel if someone were to take out a miner’s right over a cemetery in which his mother, father and other relatives were buried, were to say that he needed that area for mining and then gathered up the bones on the blade of the bulldozer and pushed them into the nearest creek.
Mr Porter wants to do that with the bones of the Aborigines’ ancestors. He wants to push them into the nearest creek. He wants to destroy the places of worship of the Aborigines. He thinks that that is all right. He said that their culture cannot be kept unless it remains dynamic. At one point he implied that it was disastrous that Aborigines were trying to retain their culture. He said that Aborigines should be incorporated- assimilated is the word he is fond of using- into the general community.
He went further to state that no one had been pushed off his land. What a lot of hypocrisy. When the Weipa mining areas were taken over- I shall make more detailed reference to that in a few moments- people were pushed off their land. They have not been allowed to go back. Their homes were burnt. The people were manhandled. Guns were brought to shift them and, if necessary, guns would have been used. The same happened at Mornington Island and Aurukun, where something like 100 armed police members and sufficient aerial transport were available to go in and take over if necessary. Believe me, the State Government is doing its very best to inspire racial brawling- if necessary with the spilling of blood- to make its legislation operate.
During this program the Cherbourg man, who came in with a written question, was probably one of Mr Porter’s friends. I noted that most of the people who sided with him had their questions in writing. He made statements in relation to the payment of wages on reserves. Today my colleague, Senator Cavanagh, raised a question in this chamber which was very relevant to this matter. The statements made during the program on this matter were not strictly true. There are still people working on reserves, particularly juniors, who do not receive anywhere near the award wage, the National Employment and Training Scheme wage, or any other relevant wage.
Mr Porter made another untruthful statement when he said that hundreds of Aborigines and Islanders in the Torres Strait region own their own homes and that thousands of Aborigines and Islanders in Queensland own their own homes. Very few Aborigines or Islanders own their own homes or are purchasing their own homes because they are unable to raise the type of deposit which is necessary. Yet Mr Hinze, Mr Porter and the Queensland Premier criticised the Australian Government for making available a limited amount of money to be used to assist these people to purchase their own homes. It is just not good enough. These are the great problems that we have. If anybody enters into public debates of this nature it is essential that he tells the truth. No one on any of the Torres Strait Islands, with the possible exception of one or two on Horn Island and a few on Thursday Island, owns his own home. So far as I am aware, only one person owns a war service home although quite a large number are qualified. The people of the Torres Strait Islands cannot get war service homes because they have no freehold land. They do not own their own land and therefore do not qualify. Mr Porter finished his remarks for the night by saying that, as far as he was concerned, his Government did not subscribe to the land rights policies to which the Federal Government subscribed.
I want to quote from the words of the councils of both the Aurukun and Mornington Island settlements on this subject. I will not have time to deal with much of the material that I have before me. I refer particularly to three or four documents that I did not have the opportunity to show to the Minister beforehand but which I shall describe briefly. One comprises a Press statement and telex exchanges between the Minister and the council. Another is a legal interpretation of the basic objections of the Aurukun and Mornington Island committees to the amended Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Bill of Queensland. In order to consolidate the record, I would hope to have them incorporated.
– I ask the honourable senator to show them to the Minister.
– Having to pass them over to the Minister has just about ruined the end of my speech, but I suppose that is part of the penalty for not having done so beforehand. The Aurukun and Mornington Island people wanted to say, in their own words, what they felt, what their objections were. They did that in these words:
We, the Aurukun and Mornington Island councillors and tribal leaders have been very pleased with the public support we have received since the Queensland Government moved to take over management of our reserves on 13 March 1978.
They went on to say:
The Commonwealth Government’s resolve on this matter is not strong. Our resolve, however, remains firm on three particular and important matters:
We want secure title to our former reserves. The Queensland Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Bill does not give us this:
We do not wish to come under Queensland Government administrative and legislative control;
We do not want to become a Local Government authority as defined by the Queensland Local Government Acts. We believe that these complicated laws are not right for us.
The statement goes on in much greater detail to list their objections and states why they believe that these are not the types of laws that they need. This matter will never be resolved until Aboriginal land rights are recognised by this Government. That was provided for in the policy speech of the Government parties, but it has been repudiated. It was repudiated after the 1 975 election in the case of the Larakeah people, the Gurindji people and others in the Northern Territory. It has been repudiated now in relation to Queensland. It was repeated in the 1977 policy speech and again in statements made to Aboriginal people in various parts of Australia. The Government’s practice of walking out on its responsibilities to Australia’s own ethnic minority is one of the greatest tragedies that this country has ever seen. Frankly, I am rapidly getting to the stage where I would like publicly to call for the resignation of both the Minister and the Prime Minister because of their dereliction of duty so far as these people are concerned.
The Larakeah land claim near Darwin is in a similar situation. This land was promised to them years ago. Obviously, the Minister has decided that it must be bought back, if possible, by the Land Commission Fund. Under present government control of money for Aboriginal purposes that sort of money is not lying around anywhere; it is just not there. I finish my contribution to the debate on that note and seek incorporation in Hansard of the documents mentioned.
– It will be subject to the Minister’s sighting of them.
– I returned them to the honourable senator so that he could complete his address. I have since looked at the papers which Senator Keeffe seeks to incorporate and have no objection to that if the Senate wishes that to take place.
The documents read as follows-
BASIC OBJECTIONS OF AURUKUN AND MORNINGTON ISLAND COMMITTEES TO AMENDED LOCAL GOVERNMENT (ABORIGINAL LANDS) BILL-QUEENSLAND
It is submitted that the Local Authority may only carry on a purpose in respect or the land demised in accord with the objects and purposes of the Act. lt is trite to observe of course that the objects and purposes of an Act are to be gathered from the long title and the schematic design of the Act and after throroughly perusing the Act we see that the long title provides for the creation of the area and for purposes connected therewith: by Clause 12 they are created Local Authorities within the provision of the Local Authority Act (subject to express exception) and by Clause 32 the Councils are restricted (notwithstanding the amendment introduced this week) in what can be done under the demise; viz namely there can be no subletting (whether or not the consent of the State Crown is given); they cannot sell or otherwise dispose; they cannot grant any licence.
Rather than expanding on the powers of Local Authorities created under the Act it would appear that their powers are circumscribed and accordingly the ability of the Lessee to effect purposes under the demise are similarly circumscribed. As is generally known both communities carry out business activities including cattle raising, carrying on business of butcher shops, stores, art and craft manufacturies, fisheries and other related businesses.
The Schedule to the Bill does not contain any specific purposes that may be carried out under the demise (and in fact by Clause 10 are limited by paragraph (b) to matters not inconsistent with the Act and the previous provisions of the Schedule), one must therefore look, we feel, at the Local Government Act of Queensland to see whether any of the above present business enterprises can be brought within the purposes of this Act’.
Under Section 30 the General Powers are set out in some detail and certain other express powers which normally are not considered to be basic Local Authority powers are contained in Section 3 1 . lt is submitted that none of the businesses presently carried on by the communities fall within the purposes set out within the Local Government Act and accordingly for the Council to attempt to continue those businesses would we submit be invalid and ultra vires the Local Government Act.
It may be considered that the Local Authority could sublet to the community companies the power to continue to carry on the businesses, but as earlier observed Clause 32 has only been amended to delete a restriction to exact rent, but the Council is not empowered to sublet, sell, license or subdivide in anyway.
If the Council now has the power to exact rent we must pose the obvious question- what is ‘rem’- rent has been defined as the sum certain which a tenant pays his landlord for the right of occupying demised premises and we consider with respect that it is an empty power to exact rent without having the ability to demise (being of course the quid pro quo of charging rent).
To sum up therefore in respect of Clause 6 we would submit that the way of life of the communities prior to the coming into force of this Act will not be able to continue following the assent of the Bill; which we feel seriously undermines the communities welfare for no income will bc able to be lawfully received by the Councils- thus it would bc felt that their self management role had been struck down.
In relation to the areas excised by subclause 3 our clients consider that the areas to be excised should be identified and the reasons for the excision should be spelt out by the State Government.
In relation again to Clause 32 the Council is quite concerned that it will be unable to sublet the dwelling houses which are presently let to members of the community for the reasons above set out.
Our clients wish to draw to your attention the concern that under clause 22 the State Government will be able to appoint Officers of the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs who will by virtue of Clause 23 be able to remain permanently on the lands without any control by the Local Authority- their fear is that this is a ‘back door’ way of the State Government still retaining control, indeed more so than it did prior to the 13th March and the Council require a clear statement from the State Government that it will not exercise its powers under Clause 22 unless with the prior consent of the Council.
Concern is expressed that the by-laws will not permit the Local Authorities to extend the scope of Clause 23 to allow additional classes of people to have entry rights to the shires.
There is concern that the Aboriginal Police will (whilst there is a member of the Police force present), be under the control of the Queensland Police Force.
This it is submitted is a departure from the rights of a Local Authority whereby an Inspector employed by the Local Authority carries out his duties without the control of a member of the Police force.
It is submitted that the Aboriginal Police will be basically Inspectors employed by the Local Authority to see that the by-laws are observed and although such a power is now expressly given to members of the Queensland Police force it is suggested that the Police Commissioner define to his Officers and men when such a control will be exercised so that the Local Authority can consider itself to be independent and able to carry out a similar role to other Local Authorities.
It would be acceptable to the communities if such control would be only exercised in relation to all matters other than Local Authority ones.
We do see administrative problems in that the basic community controls which were exercised previously by the Aboriginal Police bringing persons before the Aboriginal Court have been taken away and without the provision of a Local Court at each community centre such controls will be lessened.
We give the example of unruly behaviour, obscene language, and insulting behaviour, which of course could bc controlled by a suitable by-law, but of course the Summons complaint will have to be brought before the nearest Court, which in the case of Aurukun will be Weipa and in the case of Mornington Island would be Burketown and we feel that we do not have to explain in any detail that there will bc some break down in the present controls exercised by the community on persons who wish to circumvent the accepted modes of conduct in the community.
It is therefore necessary we feel that in each case Courts bc appointed at which summary matters may be dealt with in a similar fashion in respect of which Aboriginal Courts have been able to deal with matters to date- we know that this is an administrative matter and we would ask that suitable submissions be made to the Queensland Department of Justice.
In respect of both areas concern has been expressed that the present boundaries have been placed in some doubt.
In respect of Mornington Island doubt has been expressed as to whether Swere Island was within the Reserve, but of course there is nothing to prevent the State Government resolving doubts to include Swere Island.
In respect of Aurukun we understand that there has been no firm boundary ever fixed between the Aurukun Aboriginal Reserve and the Edward River Reserve and as there are certain community groups who presently reside on the Aurukun Aboriginal Reserve who claim affinity with land which is south of the Kendall River our client Council for Aurukun asks that the boundaries in the new Lease include that area.
15 May 1978 (By the Aurukun and Mornington Island Councillors and Tribal Leaders)
We, the Aurukun and Mornington Island councillors and tribal leaders have been very pleased with the public support we have received since the Queensland Government moved to take over management of our reserves on 13 March 1978. Since then there has been much public debate about this matter and we have received firm assurances on the part of the Commonwealth Government of its determination that our rights would be protected and that nothing would be done by it without prior and full consultation with both our peoples.
The Commonwealth Government’s resolve on this matter is not strong. Our resolve, however, remains firm on three particular and important matters:
we want secure title to our former reserves. The Queensland Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Bill does not give us this:
we do not wish to come under Queensland Government administrative and legislative control;
we do not want to become a Local Government authority as defined by the Queensland Local Government Acts. We believe that these complicated laws are not right for us.
Both councils realise the importance of being able to present our case to the Australian public. We are not rich people. Average annual incomes at both communities are below $ 1 ,000 per annum which is well below the poverty line. With our own money and a certain amount of financial support from friends, we have been able to come to Canberra to try to find out from the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, the terms he is trying to negotiate with the Queensland Government. Despite his previous assurances that he would fully consult with us before any negotiations with the Queensland Government, both Mr Fraser and Mr Viner now feel unable to reveal any details of the terms they are now trying to negotiate for us.
Australians are famous for their belief in fair play. We are sure that the Australian people would want us to have a fair trial in this matter which is so vitally important to us. We therefore asked Mr Viner for financial assistance to put our case to the Australian public. Mr Viner refused us any assistance. We find this refusal difficult to understand. Had we committed rape, or some other crime, because we are poor, the Australian government would have given us legal aid to ensure we had a fair trial. We have committed no crime. We are trying to stop the Queensland Government from taking away our land for ever. We want a fair trial because we do not believe this treatment is fair. We are concerned that the Commonwealth Government, which is negotiating on our behalf, does not appear to be prepared to allow us to obtain one before the Australian people.
For an Aboriginal, his land is his life, his life blood, his past and his future. In 1904, our forefathers in Aurukun did not give up our land freely when it was declared a Queensland Aboriginal reserve. The same is true of our forefathers in Mornington Island in 1914. Now, in 1978, it is the turn of the Church to be removed and again, if they are, it is done without our consent.
Twice, in recent years, we thought that old tribal lands would be acquired for us. Twice the Aboriginal Lands Fund Commission have negotiated pastoral leases for us. Twice the Queensland Government has refused to assign the leases to us, saying that the Aboriginal people at Aurukun have enough land already. But where is this land? The Queensland Government, by revoking the Aurukun and Mornington Island reserves has demonstrated that we have no land at all. A 50 year lease over any part of the former reserves which the Queensland Governor in Council thinks fit and any part of which can be set aside for unspecified publicpurposes when the Queensland Government wants it, does not give us secure title to our land. We are now in 1 978 and we ask, will the Australian people allow a minority native group to be forever deprived of title to its land for no other reason that it is a minority racial group?
We are told that Section 51 of the Australian Constitution gives the Commonwealth power to acquire: property on just terms for any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws’.
We understand that the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs has advised Cabinet that the cost of acquiring the Aurukun and Mornington Island reserves would bc $177,500, valuing the land at 66 cents a hectare. This is considerably less than the figure quoted by the Queensland Premier and Liberal parliamentarians of $250,000,000 which values our land at $595 a hectare, a high price indeed for poor agricultural land in the far north of Queensland. $277,500 seems a small price for the Commonwealth to pay to give us secure title to our land. We received nothing when it was acquired by the Queensland Government. We have never asked for compensation for its loss. We now, however, ask for that part which was formerly Queensland Government Aboriginal reserve lands to be given back to us.
We know that Mr Fraser has the power to give it back to us. We also know that he has the money to get it back for us. But Mr Fraser tells us that there is no question of the Commonwealth Government purchasing this land for us. We therefore ask: Can it be that Mr Fraser shares Mr Bid kePetersen’s view that the Aboriginal people should not have any secure title to land in Queensland?
Mr Bjelke-Petersen says that the Aurukun and Mornington Island people really want the Queensland Government to manage their affairs. But how can he know? Not once has Mr Bjelke-Petersen visited either community to ask us. In fact, at the last State election on 12 November 1977, Mr Bjelke-Petersen was told in no uncertain terms that neither community wanted his government. At Aurukun, for example, his party received 6 votes only from the Aurukun people and Queensland Government officials working at Aurukun.
Why then does neither of our communities want the Queensland Government to manage our affairs? There are many reasons. The following are the most important:
We don’t trust the Queensland Government:
at no time during the present argument over our reserve lands has the Queensland Government consulted with either community. The 13 March notice that the Queensland Government intended to take over management of each community was made without prior warning or consultation;
the Queensland Government has not consulted with either community over other important matters. For example, the Queensland Government prepared town plans for both communities without reference to either community, and now we are obliged to locate houses where the Queensland Government wants them and not where we want them:
the Queensland Government abolished both reserves for political advantage;
the Queensland Government deceitfully brought down two members of the Aurukun community and some Aborigines living at Weipa and tried to make it look like they spoke for the Aurukun people. This action was totally dishonest;
Mr Bjelke-Petersen says the reason the Queensland Government wants to take over management of both communities is because education and health had suffered under the Uniting Church. But both these services are a State responsibility and therefore provided by the State. We would also ask: Where are Mr Bjelke-Petersen’s statistics to support this?:
The Queensland Government rushed the Aurukun Associates Bill through Parliament without any prior consultation with the Aurukun Community;
Sweers Island is to be taken away from the Bentinck Islanders who live on Mornington Island. Again there was no consultation by the Queensland Government;
For the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities, the past record of (he Queensland Government in aboriginal affairs has been more than frightening:
many members of the Aurukun community have been arrested without trial and forced to live on Palm Island against their will;
Aurukun people still remember very clearly what happened to their kinsmen at Mapoon at the hands of the Queensland Government. It is well to remember what did happen. One day about 15 years ago. the Queensland police, unannounced and heavily armed, moved into the old Mapoon mission, forcibly took every living soul there from their homes and took them to waiting boats and thence to be resettled at Weipa. Then the police burnt some of the houses still with the people’s belongings in them, and demolished the remainder. Mr Porter, the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islander Affairs, has said that he will not tolerate outstations. Is it therefore surprising if we ask if the same will happen to our people living at Peret, Ti Tree, Cape Keerweer and Kendall River outstations as happened to the poor people at Mapoon?
Most important of all, the Queensland Government will not permit the Aboriginal way of life. The Queensland Government’s policy of assimilation, by its very nature, is destructive of Aboriginal culture. It is designed to turn us into black Europeans.
We have watched sadly how our kinsmen at settlements like Kowanyama, Edward River, Lockhart River and Weipa have slowly but effectively been deprived of their culture by the Queensland administrators placed there to manage the affairs of these communities. What is just as disturbing is that the Queensland Government puts nothing in the place of what it has destroyed. These people are given nothing to do and no hope for the future but continue to rely on public money flowing into these settlements to keep them alive. We do not want this, nor do we want the Australian people to owe us a living.
The Queensland Government has tabled the Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Bill without reference to either of our communities, lt is intended to grant us a lease over that part of our former reserves which the Queensland Government thinks fit, only for the purposes of local government as defined by the Queensland Local Government Acts. For us, this bill has no meaning at all and demonstrates how little the Queensland Government understands our needs. This Bill is designed to promote European way of life. It will not enable us to follow our Wik Munken, Lardil and other tribal ideals and way ona which we value greatly and which are Aboriginal pursuits.
In conclusion we would remind the Commonwealth Government of paragraph 3 of the preamble to the recommendations of the Habitat Conference for National Action on Human Settlements, a paragraph which received Australia ‘s support and assent:
The ideologies of States are reflected in their human settlement policies. These being powerful instruments for change, they must not be used to dispossess people from their homes and their land, or to entrench privilege and exploitation.’
We have had this statement explained to us and now understand its meaning. We now know that it refers to what the Queensland Government is trying to do to our communities.
We are not asking for any preferential rights over other Queenslanders and Australians. We merely ask for secure title to our land so that we can lead the life we prefer. We do however ask: Why is this such an impossible request that the Queensland Government cannot accede to it?
LARRY LANLEY (Chairman, Mornington Island)
ROGER KELLY (Councillor, Mornington Island)
LAWRENCE DUGONG (Councillor, Mornington Island )
DONALD PEINKINNA (Chairman, Aurukun)
ROY LANDIS (Councillor. Aurukun)
FRANCIS YUNKAPORTA (Tribal Leader, Peret Outstation).
17 May 1978
We have examined the amended legislation for our two Communities that the Queensland Government passed last night.
We are extremely disappointed in it: it does not give us self-management; it does not give us full land rights.
We are very angry with the Queensland Government because they have paid no attention to our requests.
The Government can sack the Council.
The advisory committee will be a watchdog.
The ‘assistance’ in Clause 22 means the ministers can put in as many men in to our communities as they want to and they can take control that way.
Our advisors, like the accountant, lawyers, and the present staff have no right in the law to be on our Communities.
We don ‘t have the right to carry on our cattle business or our stores or our other enterprises.
Our shire clerk has to be approved by the Queensland Minister for Local Government.
No Aboriginal has a right of his own to occupy a house.
This whole Act and the Local Government Act is too complicated and not the way to run our communities.
We ask Mr Fraser to honour his promise that if the Act was unsatisfactory he would acquire our land so that we could use the new Act made for us by the Federal Government on 7 April 1978.
Aurukun and Mornington Island Councillors
Attention Honourable Mr I. Viner.
We have now perused amendments to Queensland Legislation. We repeat and reply on objections set out in our letter of 2 May to Moderator Queensland Synod but desire to point out that Legislation now appears unworkable in respect of following matters:
Under Clause 6(2) objects of lease limited to objects of Act accordingly cattle enterprise and other business enterprises incapable of being lawfully carried out additionally local authority prevented from subleasing to a competent person under Clause 32.
Further problem has arisen where local authority will have to call tenders for public works thereby excluding Aboriginal companies from contracting as presently done req specific alteration to Act to authorise current practice.
Clause 32 effectively prevents Council from leasing houses or other properties in area. The removal of paragraph f(f) merely allows rental to be charged but only when it can attach to a valid subletting therefore amendment inoperable.
Provisions of paragraph 10 of Schedule and Clause 32 and Clause 6 combine to prevent any enterprise being carried out on area.
Council is concerned that your powers under Clause 16 not powerful enough.
New Clause 22 considered to facilitate Queensland Department to appoint full time representatives to areas and thus influence decisions of Council. Considered that powers of entry under 23 sufficient without this express power. It is considered that amendment to Clause 23 is a sufficient power to Departments of Queensland Government to carry out statutory duties.
By-laws under Clause 25 we repeat our concern under paragraph 22 of our letter of 2 May but nevertheless we will draft by-law to allow advisers and other people acceptable to community to enter.
Under new Clause 33 Councils are concerned that Aboriginal Police when carrying out duties equivalent to local authority inspectors will be under control of any present member of police force. This is discriminatory as no inspector under local authority subject to such control.
There has been no provision for control of unlawful fishing so that local authority cannot control this undesirable practice.
Boundaries of area will require urgent clarification..
Canteen on Mornington Island still unlawful without retrospective and prospective Legislation to authorise conduct. Even if application made under Liquor Act there will be lengthy delay when operators subject to legal penalty requires urgent amendment as previously discussed with you. We are writing lengthy letter to you setting out in detail Council ‘s basic objections. Please acknowledge receipt.
CRANSTON McEACHERN AND McMILLAN, Legal Advisor.
DRAFT MESSAGE TO AURUKUN AND MORNINGTON ISLAND
Mr Dear Chairman and Councillors,
At our recent meeting in Canberra I told you how matters were in the negotiations between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments about Queensland Local Government (Aboriginal Land) Bill which had been introduced in the Queensland Parliament on 26 April. There were a number of things wrong with that Bill from the point of view both of the communities and of the Commonwealth Government, and the Queensland Ministers and Mr Nixon and I had talked about those things with the result that the Queensland Government has made some very important changes to the Bill.
In discussions with you last week, I said I would report to you as soon as I was in a position to tell you of the amendments to be made to the Bill. These amendments were available to me late yesterday afternoon. The Commonwealth Government has now had an opportunity to study them and so I am reporting to you. You have told me, and the Prime Minister, that you are most concerned about three things: that the new Queensland law will not give the communities freehold title to the land that Queensland Government and officials will interfere with your administration of the local government area and so prevent your achievement of self management, and that the local government legislation will be too complex for you to manage.
So far as the first point is concerned the Queensland Act now gives your community a lease for 50 years, which will be renewable after that time, this is much more than the communities had when the land was a reserve. You are concerned over the possible domination of the shire councils by Queensland officials, especially through the co-ordinating and advisory committees. The new amendments to the Queensland Bill, made at our instance, completely change the character and the function of these committees which will now only advise the shire councils and will not be advising the Queensland Minister or Government. You therefore no longer need fear the existence of these committees and, of course, if you wish to establish other advisory bodies, or to engage other people to advise you, this will be possible. I think these are major improvements which were necessary if you were to feel confident of managing your own affairs. 1 will make sure that both councils have the staff and advise they need to help them carry out their functions under the new law. A Department of Aboriginal Affairs officer will be posted immediately to your community and will stay there while the council is finding its feet under the new law. He will be able to advise the council about the law and will help the council in making any application to me for money or other assistance to help it run its affairs. After these first things have been worked out, of course, officers will always be available to work closely with the shire councils.
The following are details of other important changes which we have been able to achieve in discussions with the Queensland Government. the Bill now provides that improvements on the lease area will pass to the shire councils and councils can charge rents and so on. the shires will now have power to deal with the land in the lease in the same way as other local government authorities in Queensland subject to the approval of the Governor in Council, this means that shire councils will be able to sublet and subdivide the leased land, as well as acquire interests in land outside the lease, shires will be able to appoint Aboriginal police, subject to the approval of the Minister for Police, the Bill has now been amended to secure to the communities the same rights to use timber, and to quarry materials as other local government authorities. the lease will now expressly preserve to the communities the traditional use and occupancy of the land. Your outstations are therefore secure.
While we would have wished the new law to give communities at least the same control over entry and residence on the local government areas, as reserve councils have, I believe the councils will be able to make by-laws to permit the entry of, for example, all persons to be employed by the councils and other Aboriginal organisations as advisors or administrators and thus provide for a continuing association with the Uniting Church.
I know that the Bill still falls short of your community’s wishes, but I believe it gives the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities the chance of achieving lasting and positive benefits. I hope your Council and community will do your best to grasp this opportunity to manage your own affairs. I know that there will be problems for everyone but I assure you that I will closely watch the way things develop under the Queensland law.
If it is found after the law has been introduced that there are any defects in the arrangements, there will be the subject of consultation with you and between Commonwealth and State Governments with a view to their rectification. I am proposing to make a Press statement later today commenting on the Legislation and I attach a copy for your information.
– The Opposition has brought forward for debate a matter of public importance which it has described as concerning a need for a clear declaration of government policy in respect to granting to Aboriginals and Islanders inalienable title to their traditional lands. It could be construed from the remarks of Senator Keeffe that he was speaking about a much wider range of matters concerning Aboriginals. He spoke of the situation at Aurukun and Mornington Island and said little about the question of a clear declaration of government policy. Although we were interested to hear his comments with regard to this week’s Monday Conference program and the speakers on that program, we should have heard from him more concerning why the Opposition felt it was necessary to bring forward as a matter of public importance the alleged need for a declaration of government policy.
I watched the Monday Conference program. Perhaps some of the matters that were raised by Senator Keeffe were of general interest. I was most interested in the comments of those who were in the audience and of those who were there to answer questions and, as well, make their own statements. The program was one which many people throughout Australia would have found interesting, concerning as it did a subject of current political importance and of vital importance, of course, to Aborigines.
The terms of the matter of public importance concern the Government’s stated policy on this matter. I would emphasise that there is indeed a policy on the matter and that it is also one which has been marked by considerable performance. It was set out in the policy statements concerning the November 1975 election and ought to be restated now lest there be any concern in the community that there should be a need for the Opposition to seek a further declaration of policy. The National policy statement of the Liberal and National Country Parties of November 1975 made it clear that they recognised that fundamental to the Aborigines’ sense of Aboriginality of affinity with one another- was their affinity with the land. The policy statement went on to say:
The recognition of the rights of some tribal clans and reserve communities in the Northern Territory can be satisfied by granting title to their traditional areas of land.
For others, alternative forms of land and housing ‘rights’ need to be negotiated and the means for doing this are considered in later sections of this policy statement. Clearly, a variety of solutions arc required to meet these various land demands and associated needs.
The Liberal and National Country Parties recognise the right of Aborigines to the lands located within the reserves in the Northern Territory. We will also make land available, either by grant or through the provision of funds, to tribal Aborigines living on or near their traditional areas which arc not on reserves and to detribalised Aborigines in rural or urban areas. To achieve this purpose we will make regular allocations to the Aboriginal Land Fund.
Then the policy statement went on to make eight points in recognising the land rights. It said that we would ensure:
The policy statement then referred to health, housing and education services. It also referred to mineral prospecting, royalties and matters of that kind. I bring to the attention of the Opposition that statement which is the declaration of Government policy. I believe it is important to restate that policy. It is important to say not just that that is the policy but that the performance under that policy is already considerable. It represents a commitment that will be achieved through this Government for Aboriginal people.
The Senate would know, and in particular Senator Keeffe would know because I believe he led for the Opposition on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill, that we have already put into effect that policy in regard to land rights in the Northern Territory. The debate in the Senate on the legislation for land rights in the Northern Territory was an important and detailed debate. It was one in which many points of view were put from both sides of the Senate. I draw attention to what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) said in his second reading speech when he introduced the legislation:
Some people have watched with interest- even suspicionthe statements which have been made by the Government on its intentions to legislate Tor land rights. Some people have expressed surprise that a Liberal-Country Party government should have made the decision to grant land rights to Aborigines in the Northern Territory. Let there be no more suspicion.
Not only was there a policy statement but also was there a Bill which has now been enacted and which puts into effect the Government’s policy that I have just read. Another important aspect that was mentioned at that time by the Minister is that the present Australian Government looks to the fact that there should be diversity and choice because it is in diversity that people can pursue the lives they want to live and the ways in which they want to determine those lives. The Minister also said:
Securing land rights to Aboriginals in the Northern Territory is a significant expression of this objective. It is an objective that will be pursued in a way consonant with the rights of other Australians.
He expressed the thoughts of us all when he said:
I am sure this progressive step will be studied with interest in the States with respect to their land.
We all noted that this Bill was a major step forward for Aborigines in the Northern Territorynot only for the present generation but also for future generations. I say that that was an important debate because it was the first time that legislation which gave inalienable rights to Aborigines on their traditional land had been passed by the Commonwealth Parliament. This action had been promised. This was the first time that an enactment made that policy a reality.
It ought to be said that, although there has been much comment from the present Opposition about this matter, it did not achieve legislation which gave land rights to Aborigines during its term of government. If we are talking about Aborigines of the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities at present, we ought to say that despite the fact that much rhetoric may have been heard from the Opposition about Queensland, it did not have the courage or the capacity to use its powers to do anything about rights for Aborigines, particularly land rights, in that State. When in government the present Opposition investigated acquisition but apparently it was either afraid to pursue it or did not pursue it. It certainly did not achieve that objective.
This Government has achieved by legislation which was passed through the Senate and the House of Representatives land rights for Aborigines. I repeat that this is the first time this objective has been achieved through the Commonwealth Parliament. The legislation was passed in the term of this Government following the commitment that we made, not following statements that were not able to be fulfilled. The Government has given effect to its election policy statement with regard to Aboriginal land rights, first by legislating and secondly by providing money to the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission for the purchase of land outside reserves. I believe that what I have already said shows that that aspect of our policy has been seriously fuifilled by the present Government.
If we are to widen the discussion to the inalienable land rights that we would wish to see within the States for Aboriginal people we need to look at the position in several States where there are Aboriginal land trusts. We note that, with the exception of Queensland, there are Aboriginal reserve lands in Aboriginal land trusts. This is an important point. Perhaps it is important to note that legislation is different in some degree in each State but underlying principles are similar in that Aboriginals should themselves control the use of the land formerly reserved for their use.
– Except Queensland.
– With the exception of Queensland. Perhaps we should say a little more about that later because of the emphasis which Senator Keeffe placed on the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities in his speech. Dealing with State governments is another reality that needs to be faced by any Commonwealth government. If we are to talk about the intention of some Aborigines to seek further action by the Commonwealth Government perhaps we need to look at South Australia where Aborigines have indicated to the Commonwealth Government that they are not satisfied with the action by the State Government on land rights and where certain actions have been taken in that respect. Looking at the position in South Australia we can place on record that Commonwealth and State Ministers, because more than one State was involved, examined the request of Aborigines for further land rights at meetings of the Australian Aboriginal Affairs Council and appointed joint working parties to advise on possible collaboration that can be achieved among State governments and between State governments and the Commonwealth Government.
The South Australian Government has appointed its own working party to consider the requests and to advise on possible changes in the South Australian land trust legislation. I understand that the South Australian Minister has informed Mr Viner that the working party report is soon to be released. A joint CommonwealthState working party will reconvene next month when that South Australian report is available. In the meantime the Aboriginal Affairs Council has continued to press for action especially with regard to Western Australian reserves. These are matters that show that, in dealing with land rights where State governments are involved, cooperation, consultation and collaboration are sometimes necessary. It would seem to us that what Aborigines are seeking now in the States is legislation that gives them rights similar to what has been achieved for them in the Northern Territory by this Government. That is a statement of the position as it exists and it ought to be clearly understood by anyone who talks today on the matter of public importance in the terms in which it was introduced by the Opposition.
Because of the way in which this matter was dealt with by Senator Keeffe, I wish to say something about the position in Queensland. What has been said over recent weeks with regard to Aurukun and Mornington Island has pointed to the need, in the minds of the Aboriginal communities, to have some approach to their community life different from what had been their way of life in the past. They have sought protection against State government acquisition of their reserves and State government control of the management of their reserves. To accept anything other than that these reserves are within the State of Queensland is not to understand the position that exists between the State and Commonwealth Governments.
What ought to be said is that, following a great deal of consultation, much of which has been discussed previously in the Senate, an agreement was reached on 1 1 April which ensures that the Aboriginal people of the two reserves can now manage their own affairs under the framework of the Queensland local government system, initially through their existing councils and then through local councils elected under local government legislation. We have discussed this agreement.
It ought to be restated that under the agreement the Commonwealth Government must be consulted about amendments to the local government legislation. These amendments will be discussed with the communities. State and Commonwealth officials supporting the councils will be advisory only, concerned with coordination of government services. Under the agreement the management of the two reserves will not be taken over by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement under the provisions of the Aborigines Act, as the Queensland Government had formerly proposed. The purpose of the Commonwealth Government’s original intervention was to prevent a takeover from the church against the express wishes of the Aboriginal residents and the imposition of the administrative controls which officials exercised in managing reserves under the Queensland legislation.
What has not been stated but ought to be stated is that the agreement which was achieved on 1 1 April did make progress with regard to the rights of” the Aboriginal people to the land and the tenure of the land. Under this agreement the Aborigines will obtain secure tenure of the former reserves under a long term lease guaranteeing their traditional rights and securing their right to the use and occupation of the land. When the land was a reserve- this was the former positionthe Aborigines had few legal rights and the reserves, as was demonstrated, were liable to be revoked at any time by the Queensland Government. Under the new agreement and under the new Queensland legislation the Aborigines will be leaseholders and will have property rights. The terms of the leases must be satisfactory to the Commonwealth after consultation with the communities and the communities will have the final say on whether they accept and sign the leases. The communities will be able to retain their relationship with the Uniting Church although the church will no longer manage the reserves under the Aborigines Act. It should be noted that the church did not seek to maintain its management role under the Act and 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 want to say again that if a satisfactory agreement on a scheme of self-management and land ownership for 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 in the two communities were the ones who suffered. If a satisfactory arrangement can be achieved surely this has to be better than people talking of sellouts and using the other terms used by Senator Keeffe when he addressed himself to this matter. Under the agreement, if the Commonwealth 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, but it has been agreed by everybody that there ought to be a testing period to see whether this legislation will work and will achieve for the Aborigines the degree of self-management which will enable them to determine their own affairs. The Commonwealth Government will provide financial support to see that this is able to be done; it will assist Aborigines in welfare matters and in the enterprises which they choose to conduct.
While it may have been the role of Senator Keeffe to talk a lot about the events on Monday Conference of this week, he did not mention that the Queensland Mininster, Mr Porter, said that after a trial period the Queensland Government would be prepared to consider the legislation and the way in which it was working for the achievement of self-management of the two communities.
– The Queensland Government has never kept a promise and it will not keep that one.
– The Commonwealth Government reiterates its promise to the Aboriginal people that if the way this proposal develops and the way in which the legislation operates do not achieve what we believe is consistent with our policy for Aborigines we will take the ultimate step to acquire the land in the interests of the Aborigines. We would need our constitutional power to do that. What has been achieved is a testing period in which we can see whether the communities and the State and Federal governments can work together instead of this Government attempting to do what the Labor Government was not prepared to do when it was in office; that is, to have a confrontation with the State Government over the acquisition of Crown land. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs received a telegram from the Aboriginal communities in which they said that they were prepared to work under the new Queensland legislation. The telegram reads:
We are still extremely unhappy with legislation. We arc disappointed and sad that you could not get what you promised. Legislation has taken away self-management. We are worse off than before.
The concluding sentence is the important one. lt reads:
We are prepared to work under legislation subject to review in six months by you.
Mr Viner, the Federal Minister, has said that he is aware that the legislation falls short of amendments which the Commonwealth wanted to see incorporated. He made this clear in his Press statement of 17 May. However, the Commonwealth will be closely watching the implementation of the new legislation. Mr Viner said in his statement that he accepted the undertaking of the Queensland Minister for Local Government and, as I have said, the Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs has said that his Government will be prepared to review the legislation in the light of experience and circumstances which develop. These are the points to be made in regard to the two Queensland communities which have been the subject of much discussion.
It should be said in a debate on this matter of public importance, namely, that there is a need for a clear declaration of Government policy on the granting to Aborigines and Islanders inalienable title to their traditional lands, that there has been a clear statement of Government policy which, in the case of our own territories, has already been enacted. We will constantly watch the position of the two Queensland communities. We believe that these two communities are ready for self-management and, as I said in this place when we dealt with the legislation, we would consider acquisition of the land if this were the only way in which our own policy for Aborigines could be achieved consistent with our responsibilities under the powers that were given to the Commonwealth by the Australian people at referendum. That is the position with regard to the policy of the Government on land rights for Aborigines and to state that policy in any other way overlooks completely not only the policy which has been clearly stated but also the actions which have been taken by the Government since it was elected in 1975.
– It is as well that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) quoted the telegram from the Aurukun people to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) because it clearly shows that the Aurukun people are more compassionate, understanding and forgiving than this Government. The agreement with the Queensland Government is a denial of the rights of the Aurukun people and a denial of the rights of the Aboriginal people whether they are at Aurukun, Mornington Island or anywhere else. The Government should be ashamed of the position which it has taken in this regard, a position which has been clearly referred to not only by the Opposition but also by members of the Government parties, particularly Senator Bonner who has been a most vocal and sincere spokesman for the Aborigines. It is a great pity that this debate will not in any way be assisted by the anger and sincerity which only Senator Bonner can bring to this debate. For some reason he is not listed as a speaker. I know that this is not as he would like it but is the result of the awkward position in which he has been placed by his own colleagues. His colleagues have placed him in a position where he must remain silent for the moment. Have honourable senators noticed what reaction there has been in Queensland to Senator Bonner’s stand? Because he stood for the Aurukun and Mornington Island people and because he has shown that he is what he should always be considered to be, the champion of the Aboriginal people, he has been vilified. He has been called a liar by a Minister of the Crown in Queensland- a Minister called Hinze. But where in this place has there been a defence of Senator Bonner? My words are these: It is not Senator Bonner who is the liar; it is Minister Hinze who is the liar. Minister Hinze is supported in the lie against Senator Bonner–
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I take a point of order. It is not my intention to support Mr Hinze when it is my turn to speak, but I wonder whether my colleague is using language that is appropriate under the Standing Orders.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- I think there are other ways of placing the argument. I think it is unparliamentary to refer to a Minister of the Crown in another place as a liar.
-This Minister of the Crown set the standards by which he ought to be described, because he said of Senator Bonner
I repeat: You are an unmitigated liar.
I come to the defence of Senator Bonner by saying that the person who stated that is himself a liar. How can I in all conscience be brought to order by the Standing Orders of this place which should, in effect, bring Minister Hinze to account in this place? It is the only fair and reasonable approach and position that I can take.
We brought forward this matter of public importance because we thought it was importantto repeat that word- that the Government should re-state its policy on this matter. The Minister restated that policy but it is obvious that neither the Minister nor the Government understand their own policy. To read the policy of the Government, which varies very little from the policy of the Opposition on this matter, one would say: ‘Yes, it is fair and reasonable’. But the recent agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government denies the policy of the Government. It also shows that the Commonwealth Government does not really understand what it is about. It does not really understand the Aboriginal people and it does not really understand what Aboriginal land rights mean to the Aboriginal people. Apparently it does not really understand that there is a very close affinity between Aboriginals and the land- and that needs to be understood when we are talking about land rights. It needs to be understood when we are talking about the agreement between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government and the Aurukun and Mornington Island Missions because land means something different to the Aboriginals. They do not understand this complicated, this confused legislation on land rights to the Aurukun people which was passed in the early hours of the morning by the Queensland Government. Indeed one is reminded of the fact that in the early hours of the morning, out of sight of the public and indeed on that occasion without the presence of the Opposition which was not informed of this meeting, the dictatorial government of South Korea pushed legislation through. It is of a character similar to that of the Queensland Government which forbids its Opposition to state a case and which objects to its Opposition debating clauses of a Bill even though it is prepared to debate them at 5 a.m.
The Aboriginal people have an understanding of land rights that this Government, and in particular the Queensland Government, fail to understand. The appointment of Mr Porter as Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs was an insult to the Aboriginal people of Queensland. In character he reflects exactly what Mr BjelkePetersen said. He represents exactly what the Queensland Government wants: A denial of the rights of the Aboriginal people to their own land.
We are limited in speaking on this debate. If I have spoken harshly on this matter it is because I believe that what the Commonwealth Government has acquiesced to with the Queensland Government is the denial of this Parliament and what this Parliament intends. It is a denial of the stand that Senator Bonner and Senator Cavanagh have taken on many occasions in this place. This problem has transcended party lines. It is only when we come up against the vested interests that want to exploit the land held by the Aboriginal people that we see delay and confusion. Only one government stands out against the rights of the Aboriginal people at the present time as regards land rights and that is the Queensland Government. The proposition it puts should never be considered.
– Usually I am rather reluctant to join in debates in this Parliament concerning the Australian Aboriginal people. The matter of public importance reads:
The need for a clear declaration of Government policy on granting to Aboriginals and Islanders inalienable title to their traditional lands.
I am rather reluctant to speak today because once again as far as I can see, this debate is just political mud-slinging and flag waving, using the Aboriginal people as a political football. I regret this because I think that if anything can be done for the Aboriginal people, it would be much better if we took the issue out of the political sphere, abandoned the mud-slinging and excluded the people who get on the Aboriginal’s back as we are seeing here today.
On reading the terms of the matter of public importance, one would have expected that the debate would encompass all the Aboriginal people of Australia, the problems before them and so on. But all we have heard today from the Opposition has been directed along Queensland lines. All we have heard has been the hatred of the Opposition to the Queensland Government and its actions.
– Do you support what it is doing?
– I am indicating, senator, exactly how you are using the Senate today and using the Aboriginal people for flag-waving purposes. I freely admit that I know very little about the Queensland situation, other than what I read and what I hear. I should certainly like to go to Queensland to look at these things–
– What is stopping you?
– I do not go to Queensland at this particular time, senator, because the same situation exists in the Northern Territory. The situation in the Northern Territory is that the Aboriginal people there have been absolutely bombarded by visits from people and even if they wished to live in an isolated community, in a quiet community they could not. This is one reason why I have not gone to Queensland to join the queue that keeps rushing up there and rushing back. If one were to sit down and listen to the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory, one would find that they would say- I presume the Queensland Aboriginal people would say the same thing- ‘Why can you not leave us alone? Leave us alone because our heads are going boom boom. All we have day after day are the whirly-winds coming in and out in aeroplanes, ships and boats’. So I think it would be very good advice if, for a change, we took some note of the Aboriginal people and their request to live a quiet life rather than have a continuation of this mud-slinging, hot debatewhether it be in the Press, in the Parliament or in other places- at the expense of the Aboriginal people.
– You said that before.
– It is getting some bites from the other side of the House. Obviously it is having some effect. I shall now talk briefly of the Northern Territory. After examining the Government’s policy which has been expressed and after listening to the debate today, I would say that the Government’s policy in regard to Aboriginal people has been carried out well and truly.
The land rights system was introduced in the Northern Territory following the Woodward report and following the passing of the legislation by the Parliament. There is no doubt that the Aboriginal people own a considerable amount of land in the Northern Territory. It will be their land forever. It may be of some interest to trace the history of land ownership by Aboriginals in the Northern Territory. The first body in Australia to take action to give land rights to the Aboriginal people was the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I have indicated previously that under a particular clause of the Crown Lands Ordinance of the Territory, land rights for Aboriginal people were introduced. Admittedly, they were introduced in a small way but this was the beginning. We then saw the walk out at Wave Hill, and the Government granted land to Vincent Lingiart and his people at Wattie Creek.
At least 40 per cent of the land in the Northern Territory, and probably more, belongs to the Aboriginal people. The Northern Territory has a land mass of about 540,000 square miles. The land is owned by the Aboriginals in various ways. Firstly the large reserves in the Northern Territory have been retained for the use of Aboriginal people for many years. I refer to Arnhem Land, Bathurst and Melville Islands, the area near Port Keats, the Daly River area and, in the southern part of the Territory, Haasts Bluff, Ayers Rock, the Musgrave Ranges and the Docker River area. Those vast areas have been earmarked for the Aboriginal people for some decades. They are now owned by the Aboriginal people.
I should like to refer to some other important aspects of this matter today so that people will know just what is going on in regard to land ownership and the continuing granting of land to Aboriginal people. Mr Justice Toohey, the Land Commissioner in the Northern Territory, has heard many claims by Aboriginal tribes. The Borroloola land claim has been completed and he is now examining the Tanami land claim. After that, he will hear many more land claims. Land that has been Commonwealth landCrown land and land held in the form of wildlife reserves- is being claimed by the Aboriginals. These land claims are being heard. There is no doubt that one can expect a continued granting of land to the Aboriginal people by the Government. But there is more to this matter. Pastoral leases in the Northern Territory have been acquired for Aboriginal people- for their clans and their tribes. Several cattle stations have been purchased in the last few years. Money has been made available through the Aboriginal Land Trust Fund or by grants from the Commonwealth Government.
If honourable senators are particularly interested in this aspect, they can refer to a question asked by Senator Teehan a couple of weeks ago and to the answer that he was given. His question related to this aspect of Aboriginal land ownership. The situation is that Aboriginal people can buy a viable cattle station, which may have an area of 800, 1 ,000 or 2,000 square miles. Having purchased that land, the Aborigines can then make application to the Land Commissioner for it to become Aboriginal land. At the expiration of the lease the application would be heard. It would be expected that, if the application were successful, the commercial pastoral lease would become Aboriginal land in perpetuity. So, again, there is a continuing ownership of land by the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. Then, of course, we could go further. We have been talking about what the government is doing for Aboriginal people.
The next type of land to which I should like to refer is that which is being acquired by governments for fringe dwellers of the towns. There have been many Press reports about fringe dwellers. Some of them have been accurate and some have been inaccurate. The theme has been that the fringe dwellers- the Aboriginal people who are now coming in from various areas to live around the towns in the Northern Territoryhave no camping area and nowhere to build their homes. Let me use Alice Springs as an example. It has been agreed by the Council, the Government, the people who live in the town- whether they are white or black- and the Aboriginal people who have come to look for a place to live, that permanent leases should be granted in various areas in the town. I think some 12 to 14 leases have been granted. That land will be held by them in perpetuity and the people will not have to move out as soon as the town grows. They will have their land for camping and for dwellings. They will be able to live as clans and tribes when they move into those areas.
In some instances housing associations are building houses and in others, Aboriginals are using the area for camping. The Government is providing water, health, toilet and shower facilities and shelters. Now the Aboriginals own this land. As I said earlier, this practice will continue and the Aborigines will accumulate more and more land. I believe that the Aboriginal people are in a fortunate situation, because they receive a preference to people who own pastoral leases. I suggest that, instead of the Opposition continuing to harangue the Parliament about the Aboriginal people, we should get down to tin-tacks and take note of some of the reports that have been received by the Senate.
I should like to speak about Aboriginal health. As there is only one minute left of my debating time I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which indicates the child mortality rates in the Northern Territory from 1965 to 1977. The table has been seen by honourable senators on both sides of the Senate.
The document read as follows-
– This document indicates that the infant mortality rate in 1965 was 142 per 1,000 and in 1977 it was 74 per 1,000. If the people in this Parliament are genuine, let us work on that particular aspect of the Aboriginal people.
– Let us stop cutting the Aboriginal budget down.
– Of course it comes out of the Budget in various areas.
– The Aboriginal budget has been cut to ribbons in two successive Budgets.
– That is absolute nonsense. When one lives amongst the Aboriginal people and sees what is being done for them, one realises that they certainly are thankful. They would laugh at the thought that their budget has been cut to ribbons. That is far from correct. The Aboriginal people deserve the service that is being given to them now. I am sure that the Government will continue that service. Let us pull together and do something for the people instead of flag waving, as we are doing today.
– Before I discuss the matter of public importance, I should like to correct some of the remarks made by Senator Kilgariff. As one who is familiar with this matter, I believe there were a lot of inaccuracies in his speech, although I do not think it matters very much. The figures cited by Senator Kilgariff showed that the infant mortality rate had fallen. He gave the figures for 1972-73. But infant mortality in the Northern Territory is increasing as a result of the policies of this Government over the last three years. I refer to the report of the Department of Aboriginal
Affairs for 1976-77 to show what this Government has done in the field of health. The report states:
Expenditure on health programs in 1976-77 totalled $ 14.379m (excluding expenditure by the Department of Health and other departments in the Northern Territory) compared with expenditure of $ 16.540m in 1975-76.
This Government has reduced the health budget. It has no interest in Aborigines. On this occasion, as on previous occasions, the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has sought to justify the administration of aboriginal affairs by quoting statements made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and reiterating the Government’s policy. As I have said before, I have never condemned any of the Minister’s statements; I think they are admirable. It is his actions I condemn. The Minister makes statements but does nothing. The last people to receive appropriations from the Government must be the Aborigines.
This is an important matter. I thought that when the Standing Orders were changed urgency motions were replaced by matters of public importance. This was done in the belief that Government supporters would be able to support many of the issues raised. I should have thought that this issue is one with which honourable senators on the other side of the chamber could agree. This matter is not concerned only with Aurukun and Mornington Island. They are mentioned only in condemnation of the Government’s actions. I restate the wording of the matter of public importance. It is:
The need for a clear declaration of Government policy on granting to Aboriginals and Islanders inalienable title to their traditional land.
Are we not entitled to that? Would any Government supporter say that we are not? In that case, why has the Opposition put forward this matter of public importance? I think that the Minister expressed the Government’s policy on this matter this afternoon. She explained it clearly enough for me. The Government believes in giving Aborigines title to their traditional land but it is not prepared to fight to the extent necessary in some areas to achieve this. The last time we spoke about Aurukun and Mornington Island the Minister appealed for co-operation and unity by all parties but today she has attacked the Labor Party for moving a resolution with which one would have thought Government supporters would agree.
– It is not a resolution.
– It is an expression of an important public matter. Surely Senator Missen would not oppose the declaration of the Government’s policy on this matter. If the Labor Government failed in any way, it was only as a result of the early termination of its period in office. When the Labor Government was dismissed on 11 November 1975, the honourable member for Hughes, Mr Les Johnson, was discussing a land rights Bill for the Northern Territory in the other place. That land rights Bill was more generous to Aborigines in the Northern Territory than the one introduced by the Government and for which it claims credit for giving Aborigines land rights. On the very day the Labor Government was dismissed from office a Bill was before the House. The Labor Government had arranged with every State but Queensland to establish an Aboriginal Lands Trust, an organisation to be controlled by Aborigines themselves which would hold land for Aborigines. That agreement was reached with every State but Queensland. This Government has achieved nothing. The Labor Party has been accused of doing nothing in Queensland when it was in government. I was the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs during the negotiations with Queensland. I met the deputy director of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement who agreed with the Labor Government’s submission for the Commonwealth Government to take over planning policy for Aborigines. He put it to his Minister but the Premier of Queensland refused to allow Mr Warburton, who supported the Labor Government, to put the case to Cabinet. He refused the Minister the right to speak to Cabinet.
The Minister stated that the Labor Government was investigating the acquisition of lands in Queensland. At the time the Department of Administrative Services was examining the cost of acquiring all reserves in Queensland. As the former Minister, Mr Daly, was unaware of the areas involved, the case was returned to the Department for further perusal to obtain an estimate of what it would cost if the reserves were to be acquired at market value. Cabinet was given a legal opinion that all that was required was for just compensation to be made when the land was acquired. If Aboriginal land is acquired for the purpose for which it is now used, just compensation may not be the saleable price of the land. It may be an insignificant amount. The cost may not be as great as everyone thinks.
The Bill introduced by this Government is not as liberal as the one introduced by the Labor Government. We reached agreement with every State but Queensland. This Government has not advanced at all on what the Labor Government achieved during its period of office. It has not improved the situation at all. The matter comes to a head in respect of Aurukun and Mornington Island. I have some doubts about the legislation and that is why I want the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs to look into the question of how far our right to acquire land for Aboriginal settlement extends and whether or not that power was given to the Commonwealth Government in 1967. The issue of Aurukun and Mornington Island would be the best way to test this. Senator Missen stated that this question will never be settled until the Aborigines get control of their own land. Having set a precedent in the Northern Territory the Government will never satisfy tribal Aborigines until they receive the same justice as was given to the Aborigines in the Northern Territory. If there are any doubts as to whether the Commonwealth Government has the power to acquire land for settlement, they should be resolved by the Commonwealth taking over this land and permitting it to be challenged in the courts. If it is found that the Commonwealth does not have the power, it should approach the people of Australia at a subsequent referendum and ask them to grant it that power.
Let us not presume that the Aborigines of Aurukun and Mornington Island have accepted the Queensland Government’s legislation, even as amended to the satisfaction of the Federal Government. Let us remember the promises made to the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island that there would be no agreement, unless they approve it. The Minister has justified the Government’s actions by referring to the telegram that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is alleged to have received from the Aurukun and Mornington Island Land Councils. The telegram states:
We are still extremely unhappy with legislation.
It does not sound as though they approve.
We are disappointed and sad that you could not get what you promised.
The Minister had to admit, in effect, that the councillors said they were sorry that the Government had caved in and had not given them what it promised. The telegram continued:
Legislation has taken away self-management. We are worse off than before.
What sort of approval is that? These people were fighting for a cause. They have ended up with legislation that makes them worse off than they were before. I think it is recognised that they are worse off. The Government calls this approval. The telegram concluded:
We are prepared to work under legislation subject to review in six months by you.
What alternative do they have? They are making provision for a review in six months to make sure that the Government will then carry out its promise.
– We will remember the date.
– Honourable senators opposite will remember many speeches in which the Government said that it would do something. Senator Missen knows that its bluff has been called in Brisbane. The Government is not prepared to cause a rift between the Queensland Government and itself because both governments are of the same political persuasion. Therefore, the Queensland legislation will survive. I have referred to the ‘alleged’ telegram, although I do not doubt that the Minister received it. Senator Keeffe has a letter from the Reverend John H. Adams, the Community Adviser at Aurukun. It contains the following footnote:
The councillors have not agreed to give the legislation a go for six months trial.
That amounts to a denial by the councillors. If the telegram was sent they were not aware of it. I appeal to the Minister now to show at least some interest in Aboriginal affairs. It is unfortunate that there are still many issues which show the deprivation of the Aboriginals under this Government, despite the way in which the previous Government was attempting to improve their conditions.
– The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has already detailed and clearly declared to the Senate what is the Government’s land rights policy. By her arguments she has made empty the claims of the Opposition which we are debating this afternoon.
Senator Cavanagh offered to us some statements on Aboriginal infant mortality which are misleading and not central to the issues we are discussing. I intend to demonstrate to Senator Cavanagh in the arguments I shall advance the emptiness of what he has been saying.
– I take a point of order. Senator Baume is incorrect. The statistical details on infant mortality were given by Senator Kilgariff. Those are the statements which Senator Baume claims are misleading.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. In his opening remarks Senator Cavanagh referred to some statistics. I believe that it is to those statistics that Senator Baume is now referring.
– I wish to speak to the point of order, Mr Deputy President. I quoted statistics from the annual report of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Senator Baume intends to show us that they are false. So the Department cannot be relied upon.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- There is no point of order involved.
– I am delighted with Senator Cavanagh ‘s comment. At least he was in the chamber during the latter part of this debate. Senator Keeffe was not. Questions have been asked this afternoon about why Senator Bonner is not speaking. Senator Bonner, who is my colleague, was invited to speak in this debate. He has been in the chamber throughout the debate. He has indicated to his colleagues that he is delighted to have those who share his point of view, who support him and who wish to be counted alongside him take his place in the debate and make their positions clear. Had Senator Bonner spoken I might not have been able to speak. Had Senator Bonner spoken, Senator Thomas might not be able to speak. In a debate of this kind when there are few speakers there must be an occasion when Senator Bonner will not himself contribute to the debate so that those who wish to be identified as his friends may do so. This is especially true following the episode on the This Day Tonight program which was screened last Thursday, 18 May. It is the desire of many of Senator Bonner’s colleagues to speak publicly and express their support for him.
Senator Georges drew attention earlier to statements made by a Minister of the Crown in Queensland. Having watched that This Day Tonight program it is my view that what was said that night by the Minister from another State was disgraceful. He disgraced his country. It is a privilege now for me to rise in the Senate to delcare my support for Senator Bonner, for his behaviour that night and for the general stand he has taken, to express my disgust at what that Minister said last Thursday and to say that I doubt that it is appropriate for a Minister of the Crown to behave that way in public on television.
The issue which the Opposition has put to the Senate today concerns Queensland. The issue in Queensland has not been an issue of land rights; it has been an issue of management. The threat to the communities at Aurukun and Mornington Island was a threat to their capacity to manage their own affairs. It is this Government which has responded to the need to protect for those two communities their right to manage their own affairs. Since this Government has intervened these communities have had restored to them on a firm basis a capacity to manage their own affairs more effectively than they could do before. Previously the Queensland Government could revoke by one stroke the reserve status under which the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities live. What is more, it did so. It can no longer do so. The communities at Aurukun and Mornington Island are more effectively protected now as a result of actions by our Ministers and by our Government than they were previously.
It is interesting that our Government by entering into a process of negotiation with the Queensland Government, bypassing appropriate legislation and by standing up to the Queensland Government has moved some of the way towards a resolution of these affairs. In relation to what has gone on in Queensland, which government and which people fought for the Aborigines in these two communities? It is true that the Haydens, the Cavanaghs and the Keeffes have made a lot of noises from the sidelines for our sins. But it is safe on the sidelines. They are spectators shielded from the real action. All the action that has taken place to protect the communities of Aurukun and Mornington Island, to preserve their rights and to give them a chance to function has come from the Malcolm Frasers, the Doug Anthonys, the Peter Nixons, the Ian Viners and the Neville Bonners. It is very easy for an opposition to make noises. It is up to a government in the end to do the hard work.
Who actually confronted in a very difficult situation the Government of Queensland on a matter on which the State and the Commonwealth disagreed? I assure Australians that it was not Senator Keeffe. I assure him that it was the members of the coalition Government who, by a process of very difficult negotiation, have moved to a solution which has taken those communities to a position of self-management which is better than they had previously. I do not think that Senator Keeffe and his colleagues would have been tough enough or able enough to carry out this function. The issues between the Commonwealth and Queensland really rest- I think it is worth setting this out- on a basic philosophical difference. The Queensland Government and its Ministers have expressed on a number of occasions in articulate fashion their belief in assimilationist policies for Aboriginal people. This Government has a different point of view. It is these two different points of view which have led to the clash. The point of view which we held was expressed- I think Senator Guilfoyle referred to it- in the second reading speech by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner). It reads:
The Australia we, as a Government, look to is one in which there is diversity and choice, because it is in diversity that people can pursue the lives they want in ways that they determine. Securing land rights to Aborigines in the Northern Territory is a significant expression of this objective. It is an objective that will be pursued in a way consonant with the rights of other Australians.
And so it goes. We believe in the right of maintaining separate cultural identity if that is what communities want. It is inevitable even with the best will in the world that a government with an assimilationist policy and a government with an integrationist policy will come to clash with each other from time to time because those two policies take a different view of what is desirable and will see different solutions to reach their objectives.
Let me look at the question of land rights, which allegedly is what this debate is all about. Senator Keeffe and his colleagues would have had us believe that all merit and all credit rested with them and that only they were possessed of grace. I remind honourable senators first of all of parts of the Bonner report- the report of the Senate Select Committee on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders presented to the Senate in 1 976. That Committee was chaired by Senator Bonner. It examined the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Senator Keeffe was a member of that Committee. That report, in a bipartisan fashion, sets out a number of principles on land rights, expressing views from both sides of the chamber- most of which subsequently were incorporated in legislation. Those who are interested in the report can look at pages 243 to 260 and see the principles set out. If honourable senators want to go further and ask about interest in land rights, what about the Bonner motion of 20 February 1 975 which was offered to the Australian Senate by Senator Neville Bonner and was passed unanimously! That motion sets out a basis for land compensation. It reads:
That the Senate accepts the fact that the indigenous people of Australia, now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders were in possession of this entire nation prior to the 1 788 First Fleet landing at Botany Bay, urges the Australian Government to admit prior ownership by the said indigenous people, and introduce legislation to compensate the people now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders for dispossession of their land.
That is the record, and it does not stop there. Who passed the first land rights legislation? Who did not just play around, make token gestures or behave with the inefficiency that characterised Labor’s term in office? Who got legislation through? It was, of course, the Fraser Government. That is where the land rights legislation came from- the Fraser Government. I remind the Senate that the Bill was introduced to permit maximum participation by the Parliament. It was introduced, allowed to lie on the table and my colleagues will recall that we were able to get some 20 to 30 amendments to the legislation to improve it before it was finally passed. I was reminded earlier this week at the very important Australian Council of Social Service conference which is going on in Sydney, when Hugh Stretton who was not exactly praising the Government let me assure honourable senators, emphasised during a speech that throughout the history of this nation the implementation and the extension of welfare legislation generally has rested more often than not with the non-socialist governments. It has not been a feature particularly of Labor Party governments. Hugh Stretton ‘s prime example was the great redistribution of wealth that came through home ownership in the Menzies era and it could equally be applied to matters such as land rights, an area in which this Government has. moved quickly. Our record is less noisy than that of the Labor Party. It is less flamboyant. We simply implement our programs and our policies. It is the Fraser Government which put land rights legislation into reality in the Northern Territory. It is the Fraser Government which fought for the rights of Aborigines in Queensland. In conclusion I remind honourable senators of a resolution which was passed in another Parliament and which reads:
As some honourable senators will know, that is a resolution concerning the Aboriginal people and it was passed by the House of Commons Select Committee on Aborigines (British Settlements) in 1 837. Perhaps we should reflect that the issues facing us today are the issues that have faced us since the beginning of settlement in this country and we at least should acknowledge the efforts of the Fraser Government which have moved us along the right road to correct some of the inequities for which our forefathers are responsible.
– It is most pleasing to see the interest that has been taken by Government supporters in this discussion on a matter of public importance. I remind the Senate of the actual wording of the proposal. We are asking for a clear declaration of Government policy, We did not really ask for the wide ranging debate that we have heard from some of the speakers. We are asking for a clear declaration. There is no doubt of course that we have had many declarations. We had one some time ago when the present Government opposed land rights, and Senator Peter Baume has drawn attention to this. Honourable senators may care to go back to read what was said in the Senate at that time when the present Government opposed the land rights legislation introduced by Labor.
We had a second declaration on the campaign trail in 1975 when the caretaker Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Ellicott, made a number of statements about what the Liberal Party would do if it attained into power. Honourable senators may recall the famous telegram which said that there would be no cuts in any respect and that there would be better services. In fact, one was reminded in the content of the telegram that it could have said: ‘Anything that Labor can do we can do better’. Of course it did not mean anything.
The third declaration was when the GovernorGeneral read his Speech on the opening of the Thirty-First Parliament, and let me quote from that. He said:
Emphasis will be given to assisting Aboriginals to become more self-sufficient and acquire the skills to manage their own affairs. . . the Government looks forward to the fullest consultation with the National Aboriginal Conference and the Council for Aboriginal Development on these and all other issues affecting Aboriginals.
Critical observers in looking at the GovernorGeneral’s Speech on that occasion of course would have seen that the management of the affairs of Aborigines in effect includes land rights because we cannot have one without the other.
The fourth declaration was when the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) introduced his Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill. He spoke all over the country. He went on a large public relations exercise to convince the people that the government of the day really was interested in Aboriginal people. I refer to a statement that he made at the opening of the St Mark’s Library in Canberra. I do not quite know what land rights have to do with the opening of a library. Nevertheless, the report in the Northern Territory News of 9 September 1976 reads:
Land rights represent a pinnacle of success for those who have fought for social change in the Australian community with respect to Aboriginals, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner, said yesterday. . . Mr Viner said that the Northern Territory Land Rights Bill, presently before Parliament, ‘uniquely provides the first example of Australian domestic law expressly recognising Aboriginal cultural values, and implicit in that, the Aborigines’ customary law.
I think Australians will come to realise the passage by the Commonwealth Parliament of the Aboriginal Land Rights Bill will mark a great turning point in social change of attitudes towards the Aboriginal people.
Some of the speeches made in the debate on that legislation make very interesting reading. I will not quote them all because of the restriction of time in this debate.
The fifth declaration we had was when the Minister introduced his 42 amendments, not 30 as Senator Peter Baume said. The Minister said that the amendments would give the Senate or the House of Representatives power to disallow a government decision overriding Aboriginal refusal for mining or exploration on Aboriginal land. He said they would also spell out guidelines for Northern Territory Legislative Assembly laws stipulating recognition of traditional Aboriginal rights. Of course there was a slight sting in the tail for he added that they would not require Aboriginal consent for grants for further mining interests when applications for leases on land which became Aboriginal land under the Act had been made between the freeze imposed in December 1972 pending discussion on land rights and the introduction of the Bill on 4 June.
We have had another declaration. Every time there has been some sort of challenge to the land rights legislation there has been yet another declaration of policy. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) gave us yet another today, which she read from a statement which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs made some time back. Obviously, we are asking for a clear declaration of policy- which one of these six, seven, eight, or nine statements we are to believe outlines the Government’s policy on land rights.
Why is there confusion among the Aboriginal people and people of Australia generally? There is no doubt that there is confusion. The Bill is difficult and complex. We complained about that during the debates on the Bill. But that is not enough in itself; our legal advisers can interpret the legislation. The fact of the complexity of the Bill is not important. The real issue is the fact that the Minister says one thing to Aboriginal people and then says another thing in the House. From what we have heard lately, it would appear that he says yet another thing to colleagues in Queensland. This is the crucial issue on the declaration of policy.
A fortnight ago, on 1 1 May, in our debate on the land rights legislation we stressed the problem faced by the Aboriginal people when their men of high degree- their law men- do not keep faith. I do not think I need to go into that matter again today. It is clear to the Aboriginal people what is meant by the term ‘land rights’. It certainly does not mean leasehold title to land; it certainly does not mean these other funny little definitions which have been brought up by the Minister since the legislation was introduced. We do not have to reiterate the need for land rights for the Aboriginal people and the problems faced by the Aboriginal people who have been dispossessed of their land. It is clear to them that the Minister and his colleagues said that they were to have land rights and all the features which go with land rights. This was supported by the fact that government groups visited settlements and asked the people what they wanted, whether they wanted the land rights legislation to be passed in the Northern Territory or passed in Canberra. All the questions which were put at that time supported the proposition that land rights would be given.
It was clear to the Aboriginal people also that some land could be granted immediately and that other land would have to go to the Commissioner; that hearings and so on would have to be held to see whether the land could be obtained. All these propositions were made clear by the Minister, his colleagues and the various committees which went out to the settlements. It was clear to the Aboriginal people that land rights for Aborigines means exactly that and does not mean land rights for a select group. The Aboriginal people recall that in 1967 a referendum was held which gave certain powers to the Federal Government in respect of the Aboriginal people. Honourable senators will notice that I am not doing as honourable senators on our side of the chamber have been accused of doing, namely, confining my remarks to Aurukun and Mornington Island.
The Minister has made comments about the Northern Territory being a pace setter. The Minister’s statement was explicit; it made it clear to the Aboriginal people what land rights are about. If Aborigines are clear about what they think, what is the problem? It is clearly that the policy just does not work. It is a situation of saying one thing and doing another. It is a situation of going to a settlement and making a statement to a group of clan leaders and then going away to Parliament and saying something different. It is a situation of stating a policy and then not carrying out everything which is implicit in that policy. The example which has been used well today by Senator Keeffe and others has been the example of Aurukun and Mornington Island. Senator Keeffe reminded us of what happened there.
Senator Baume has prompted me to comment on another issue, namely, the issue of selfmanagement. After all, self-management is a part of the land rights issue. If people obtain rights to land they obtain tenure to land. They obtain the right to permit people to go onto that land. They obtain the right to deny people access to that land; in other words, the entry permit system prevails. I shall outline the events which occurred at Maningrida with the Gunavidji people. On 16 January this year the Minister revoked the permits of six people who were working at Maningrida. I stress that the Minister revoked those permits. I mention the names of three people because these men who were working there with their wives were outstanding workers. I have mentioned before the wonderful work which these people performed. Dan Gillespie and David Bond were support workers in the outstation movement and Peter Cook was a mechanic, also with the outstation movement. They were doing excellent work assisting the outstation movement to develop.
Because of time limitations, I cannot give the whole background, but the situation was that two other Europeans were causing some disturbance and the Minister wanted them out of the settlement. He said: ‘We cannot put those two out’- I shall not give the reason for that, although it is known to several honourable senators ‘so I have revoked the permits of all the Europeans who are working there, including their wives’. It is quite clear that the Gunavidji people wanted Gillespie, Bond and Cook, but the Minister said no, and instructed his departmental head to revoke their permits. I make it clear again that land rights and permits are interrelated. If people have land rights they have the authority to deny some people access to their land. They certainly have the authority to allow some people to enter it. Honourable senators might recall that that was one of our criticisms of the Queensland legislation.
It is quite clear to all of us here that the Aboriginal people- the traditional owners- have the right to land either themselves or through the Northern Land Council. Honourable senators can imagine the confusion at Maningrida when this happened. The Minister says one thing- they can have their land, they can deny access to people, they can keep people if they want thembut he does another- Can honourable senators recognise the situation which faces the people there? They are told one thing but in practice another thing happens. We are given a declaration of policy but it does not work out. We found later that the Minister’s action was illegal, but that is not important. The important issue is that the policy was not followed. So we have to claim that the policy is not clear. If a government can change its attitude with respect to this policy it can change its attitude with respect to any others.
At the present time the Aborigines in the Northern Territory are concerned about national parks. They are frightened of the powers being sought for the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and of what might happen to them in this respect. At this stage I am not going to canvass the argument about the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly people- whether the legislation should be enacted there or here. The Aboriginal people have made it quite clear who they want to handle the legislation. I shall read from a copy of a statement made by Mr Wiyandiji Nunggula, one of the tribal leaders of the Allawa tribe, which was sent to me during the time of our previous discussion on land rights. He stated:
Many Aboriginal people in the N.T. do not agree with the N.T. Legislative Assembly. The N.T. Legislative Assembly are not genuine regarding the Aboriginal land ownership policy.
We feel that the Legislative Assembly will favour the white pastoralists, who is one who comes and goes, who leases the land but do not value the land as we the Aborigines do. Who does not recognise the traditional land holding rights of the Aboriginal people, who are residents on the land.
If the land Bill is put to the Legislative Assembly the holding rights to our land will be passed to the white pastoralists and we, the Aboriginal people of the N.T, will be left with meaningless promises or maybe, if we are lucky, we will be left with a few small isolated plots of land which will not be enough to produce market gardens or breed livestock, if the tribes concerned so desire, as part of our self-management.
Concerning mineral rights we believe that Aborigines should be approached, that tribes should be approached, before any mining or resource developments take place on their tribal lands and that they should first be part of the decisionmaking processes.
That matter has been discussed today. These people are concerned about mining because they fear that the granting of land rights will not mean what they think the term means. They have been told by the Minister and by people in the Government that ‘land rights’ means a certain thing, that it means the right to land. They certainly are not familiar with our concept of land being only on the surface. They are concerned with what is on the surface, with what is underground and the waters adjoining. I remind the Minister for Social Security, who read the statement from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, that during the Address-in-Reply debate honourable senators from both sides of the chamber had a great deal of discussion about people who say one thing and do another. Can the Minister’s statement on policy really be reconciled with actions which have been taken by this Government since the statement was read?
I support the proposition that the Government must make clear all aspects of this issue- both the acceptable and the less acceptable aspectsand must give full details to the Aboriginal people. For goodness sake, let us have a policy, not a multitude of policies from which one plucks the one which suits the occasion. Let us not have one which is going to change every day as the wind blows and as confusion is caused by a Premier or some other person making statements. Adopt a policy; do not change it. I am convinced that if we do this we will keep faith with the Aboriginal people and they will believe that our law men will keep their word; we will regain the credibility of the Parliament as far as the Aboriginal people are concerned; and we will put stature back into the law men, those men of high degree.
– We are debating the following matter of public importance which has been brought before the Senate by Senator Keeffe:
The need for a clear declaration of government policy on granting to Aboriginals and Islanders inalienable title to their traditional lands.
That is the stated matter which we are supposed to be discussing. Senator Georges dropped a hint when he spoke. Certainly, from the remarks of Opposition senators it would seem that the real reason for the debate is an attempt to force a wedge between Senator Bonner and other Government supporters.
– Nonsense! That is just sheer politics, and we would not be a party to it.
– It is fairly obvious. Senator Georges alluded to it quite deliberately. That is the only sense I can draw from this debate at all. I say to the Opposition and to the people of Australia that I support Senator Bonner strongly in the actions he has taken. He is one of my very good friends, and I believe he enjoys the support of all Government supporters. For the benefit of Opposition senators I would like to read the policy of the Liberal-National Country Parties, as stated during the 1975 election campaign:
The coalition parties recognise that Aboriginal affinity with the land is fundamental.
In relation to the Northern Territory, there were commitments, as follows:
Recognition of the rights of some tribal clans and reserve communities in the Northern Territory can be satisfied by granting title to their traditional areas of land . . .
The Liberal and National Country Parties recognise the right of Aborigines to the lands located within the reserves in the Northern Territory.
Outside the Northern Territory, commitments were stated:
For others, alternative forms of land and housing ‘rights’ need to be negotiated . . . clearly a variety of solutions are required to meet these various land demands and associated needs . . . make land available to tribal and detribalised Aborigines by allocating money to the Aboriginal Land Fund.
Senator Robertson had a great deal of difficulty in working out, as he put it, which of our statements he wanted to read. I would recommend that he take note of the Government’s actions, as some measure of its determination to follow its policy. There can be no doubt that we have legislated- something that the Labor Government failed to do- for Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory. Moreover, we provided money for the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission for the purchase of land outside reserves. Apart from those who hold an extreme point of view, there can be no doubt that most Australians are quite happy with the Aboriginal situation in the Northern Territory. It seems fairly obvious that the problem relates to certain areas in Queensland. There can be no doubt that in the Northern Territory Aboriginals do have inalienable title. Later, if time permits, I will demonstrate that that is the situation in Western Australia also. Let me quote from the second reading speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), on 4 June 1976 when the Aboriginal Land Rights Bill was before the House of Representatives. The Minister stated:
This Bill will give traditional Aborigines inalienable freehold title to land on reserves in the Northern Territory and provide machinery for them to obtain title to traditional land outside reserves. The coalition Parties’ policy on Aboriginal affairs clearly acknowledges that affinity with the land is fundamental to Aborigines ‘ sense of identity and recognises the right of Aborigines to obtain title to lands located within the reserves in the Northern Territory. The Bill gives effect to that policy and, further, will provide Aborigines in the Northern Territory with the opportunity to claim and receive title to traditional Aboriginal land outside reserves. The Government believes that this Bill will allow and encourage Aborigines in the Northern Territory to give full expression to the affinity with land that characterised their traditional society and gave a unique quality to their life.
That was the first paragraph of the Minister’s speech, and nothing could be clearer. The land trusts that have been established by this Government, and also the Northern Land Council of the Northern Territory, have tremendous power. In fact, in common with other Government senators, I have received numerous complaints from mining companies which have found it extremely difficult- as indeed it should be- to deal with these people. In some cases I sympathise with them, because in the Northern Territory it is a completely new ball game. I would underline the point so ably made by Senator Baume, that the Federal Labor Government had three years in which to take action and did nothing. Perhaps one should rather say that it did do something- it spent a lot of money wastefully.
In the State of Western Australia, which I represent, land trusts have been established to control Aboriginal reserves. In fact, those reserves comprise some 20,412,000 hectares or, 204,120 square kilometres. That is an enormous amount of land, and it is under control, without reservation, of the land trust. To demonstrate how much it is under the control of the Aboriginals, let me say that fairly recently three mining companies wished to explore in the Kimberley area but, because of the power of the land trust, only one was permitted to do so. That demonstrates the power that the Aboriginal people have over their land; a power that, in many cases, exceeds that which the primary producer, the farmer, has over his own freehold land.
If I could make some general comments in the brief time remaining to me, I would say first that to hear Opposition supporters one would believe that spending more money, and giving more Aboriginal land rights, are the only solutions to the Aboriginal problem in Australia. I do not agree with that at all. Money is not a solution and, although land is important to Aboriginals, land rights are not the solution either. I have had a considerable experience with Aboriginal people and recently witnessed something rather upsetting in one of the northern Pilbara towns of
Western Australia, where my wife and I spent a couple of days. Early one morning we visited a hostel where bright, clean, happy-looking Aboriginal children were crossing the road to school. We then drove down the street and, about half an hour later, saw drunken Aboriginals consuming their first carton of hot beer at the kerb. It was a very disturbing experience. In my opinion the task facing not just the Government but the people of Australia is to ensure that those bright, happy children that we saw going to school will not become what their older relatives have become. It is a difficult problem and I am sure that no one pretends to have the answer to it. Some answers have been advanced, but I have not yet heard anyone come up with one that is adequate.
Unfortunately, a backlash is building up in the community and, unless we are very careful, it will become quite strong. This Government has been accused, and certainly the Labor Government has been accused, of spending money indiscriminately on the Aboriginal people. I do not agree with the backlash but it is there and if we are not careful will become quite a force in Australia. I strongly suggest that the Government have a close look at the definition of ‘Aboriginal’. The backlash is developing in relation to those Aboriginals who have been assimilated into white society; who are fitting into it very well indeed. Many of my friends can be included in that category. The Government should define what is a tribal Aboriginal and what is an Aboriginal who has been integrated with white society. We are talking about two different people. The Government is very much in favour of the gradual integration of Aborigines into white society and supports that policy very hard. We say that we want the Aboriginal people to integrate at their own pace. We do not want to force them into a particular situation if they are not ready for it. In fact, we very strongly recognise that the tribal people, who are the original occupiers of the land, have a wonderful society and a wonderful method of living and controlling their lives that must be preserved at all costs. What better place to do it than in the areas of land that we have set aside for them and that they will be controlling themselves.
On the one hand we must encourage the Aboriginal people to integrate into our society and to accept to so-called benefits of our society. On the other hand, those who are not ready or those who do not wish to integrate must be allowed to run their lives in the way they think fit. One factor that is causing a backlash is that there are many white people in our society who do not receive any of the benefits that the Aboriginal people receive and who, in many cases, are in just as much need as the Aboriginal people. That is a very sad fact of life. Certainly, it is very evident in the country towns which I visit. This situation reinforces my argument that some attempt must be made by the Government to redefine the definition of ‘Aboriginal’. I suggest that the definition should distinguish between tribal Aboriginals and Aboriginals who are integrating into our society.
Finally I make the point that, although the Australian Labor Party did not succeed in doing anything for the Aboriginal people during the three years it was in government, there is no doubt that it tried. As Senator Cavanagh pointed out, it had some legislation prepared. However, there is no doubt that the Labor Party has no time at all for one of the most important policies that this Government is adopting, that is, the policy of co-operative federalism. Under this policy the Commonwealth takes notice of the States. It consults with them and tries to bring them into discussions. When in government, the Labor Party was hell-bent upon, firstly, removing local government and then upon removing the State governments. Is it any wonder that the Labor Party is still saying that the only way to solve the land rights problem is to acquire all the land.
– The discussion is concluded.
– Pursuant to section 20 of the Coal Industry Act 1946 I present the annual report of the Joint Coal Board for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a copy of a trade agreement between the governments of Brazil and Australia signed on 23 February 1 978.
– Pursuant to section 25 of the Australia-Japan Foundation Act 1976 I present the final annual report of the Australia-Japan Foundation 1976.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the
States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Act 1974 I present a statement of payments to the States authorised under that Act for the financial year 1 976-77.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report on overseas cargo shipping legislation.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the International Monetary Agreements Act 1947 I present the report on the operations of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development insofar as they relate to Australia for the financial year 1976-77.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Albury-Wodonga Development Act 1973 I present the annual report of the AlburyWodonga Development Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1976. The report has been delayed because of the requirement under section 32 to obtain the approval of the Treasurer to the form of the financial statements. This approval was given on 9 November 1977. The Auditor-General’s certificate was issued on 7 March 1978.
– Pursuant to section 45 of the Pipeline Authority Act 1973 I present the annual report of the Pipeline Authority for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– Pursuant to section 36 of the Aboriginal Loans Commission Act 1976 I present the report of the Aboriginal Loans Commission for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report by Mr Shann Turnbull on the impact of mining royalties on Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 9 of the Medical Research Endowment Act 1937 I present a report on work done under that Act during 1976.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a copy of a statement made by the Minister for Home Affairs at Norfolk Island on 8 May 1978 concerning government policies for the Island.
– I seek leave to make a brief statement on an inquiry proposed by the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare as part of its continuing oversight of relevant aspects of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse.
– I desire to inform the Senate of a further inquiry proposed by the Standing Committee on Social Welfare under its charter to maintain an oversight of relevant aspects of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse. It will be recalled that the Standing Committee, on 25 October 1977, presented a report which discussed a number of significant areas of drug use in Australian society and recommended a national strategy for coping with drug abuse. The scope of that report did not extend to opiates or to therapeutic agents with the exception of compound analgesics. For reasons which, I think, will be obvious in the light of the numerous contemporary major inquiries into illegal use of drugs and trafficking in them, including opiates, the Committee does not at present intend to undertake yet another inquiry on opiates. We shall await the results of the current inquiries and keep the matter under review.
Therapeutic agents, on the other hand, are causing increasing concern among professional health workers and others who are aware of the need for care in the use of drugs available over the counter or on prescription. Much statistical and research information is available. The Committee believes that it should collate and examine this information in conjunction with the views of those who understand the significance of what is happening in the use of such medication and who are concerned. We have therefore decided, as another phase in our continuing oversight, to examine the use and abuse of medication available over the counter or on prescription. We propose to initiate the inquiry without delay so that interested persons may have the opportunity of preparing and forwarding submissions during the next few months while the Committee proceeds with its current reference on the evaluation of the adequacy of Australian health and welfare services.
I should like to say, in closing, that the Committee will lose the services of two valued members after 30 June. Senator Brown, who served as Chairman of the former Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, and Senator Tehan have both rendered significant service to the Standing Committee on Social Welfare and we shall miss them. I extend to them my personal thanks and appreciation for their hard work and support at all times and for their wise counsel in Committee deliberations.
– by leave- I rise merely to associate the Opposition with the final remarks of Senator Peter Baume. In the time I have been a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare, Senator Brown and Senator Tehan have been very important members of that Committee, Senator Brown particularly because of his experience with previous committees. I believe the report of the Committee on drug abuse in this country was a very important report. It has been received as such in this country and overseas. Senator Brown and Senator Tehan made considerable contributions to that report. We wish them well in the future.
-by leave- I welcome the statement of the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Social Welfare. I would like to raise a question at this time in case we have to go into this matter in more depth later. The Committee has taken upon itself to extend to itself a reference in the terms of the statement made to the Senate. By not making any comment we are accepting that extension of reference as being acceptable to the Senate as a whole. At some future date it will be necessary for us to decide whether standing committees of the Senate can extend their references without some substantive motion being moved in the Senate. At this stage I merely indicate that there may be a need to watch that a Senate committee does not extend its references without the full knowledge and consent of the Senate.
Senator PETER BAUME (New South Wales)- I seek leave to clarify this matter.
– It is the understanding of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare that it has a reference which is an umbrella reference. Our action today, which we believe is within that reference, was to inform the Senate as a matter of courtesy what we propose to do. It is not our intention to extend the scope of the reference but to work within a very broad reference previously given to the Committee.
– I seek leave to table written replies received by Estimates Committee A since the Committee reported to the Senate on 1 1 May 1 978.
– I table the replies and seek leave to have them incorporated in the Hansard record of the Committee ‘s proceedings.
– I seek leave to table written replies received by Estimates Committee B since the Committee reported to the Senate on 1 1 May 1 978.
– I table the replies and seek leave to have them incorporated in the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings.
-I seek leave to table written replies received by Estimates Committee C since the Committee reported to the Senate on 1 1 May 1978.
– I table the replies and seek leave to have them incorporated in the Hansard record of the Committee ‘s proceedings.
-! seek leave to table written replies received by Estimates Committee D since the Committee reported to the Senate on 1 1 May 1 978.
– I table the replies and seek leave to have then incorporated .in the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings.
– I seek leave to table written replies received by Estimates Committee E since the Committee reported to the Senate on 1 1 May 1978.
– I table the replies and seek leave to have them incorporated in the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings.
– I seek leave to ask a question of the Estimates Committee Chairmen who have just tabled these reports.
– In view of the fact that the Committee Chairmen have been given leave to have these replies incorporated in the Hansard record of the committees’ proceedings, will the replies be incorporated only in the bound volume for which we have to wait some six months or will they be incorporated in Hansard to bc published in the next day or so? If they are not going to be published in Hansard in the next day or so, it will mean that many people will not bc aware of the written replies which have come to us.
Senator RAE (Tasmania)- by leave- Mr President, it is my understanding that these written replies are to be incorporated and will be available forthwith. If my understanding is not correct, I ask you to ensure that this is done. I accept entirely the point which is being made by Senator McLaren. It was my understanding that that would be the procedure. If that is not the planned procedure, I ask you to give consideration to making those arrangements.
– I shall investigate and give consideration to the matter.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1978.
Qantas Airways Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1978.
Softwood Forestry Agreements Bill 1978.
Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 1978.
– I seek leave to have a statement with regard to the Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Trust incorporated in Hansard.
The statement read as follows-
The question has arisen as to the way in which, as a nation, we might best mark and commemorate, now and for posterity, the great contribution of the late Sir Robert Gordon Menzies to the nation. There has already been enthusiastic and helpful discussion on this by some public figures and by some newspapers, and I am indebted to them. A preparatory committee has already begun work directed to the creation of a special appeal and fund to be known as the Sir Robert Menzies Trust and I am happy to announce to the House the general direction and scope of the arrangements that are in mind.
The appeal will be established on an Australia wide basis, and the funds resulting will be applied to objectives of a practical and continuing kind within the particular interests of Sir Robert Menzies. He had no static view of Australia and he would wish, as those who contribute will, that the funds should be spent in terms of future benefit to Australia. The objectives are still to be finally determined but it can be said already that the fund will be designed to assist Australians of all ages- but especially the young to obtain in serious and worthwhile directions, academic training or practical experience or opportunities to compete which they might otherwise be unable to obtain.
Some of the particular interests identified with Sir Robert Menzies and with which might therefore be drawn within the purposes of the fund are the law, with particular reference to constitutional matters and Federal-State relationships, studies concerned with Australia’s role within the British Commonwealth and with AustraliaBritain relations, studies of Australia and the United States, studies of relations between Australia and the Pacific Nations. Another possibility which would have been of interest to Sir Robert Menzies and from which major benefit would accrue is to bring to Australia for public meetings or special consultations speakers of distinction or young persons of promise and interest to us.
There are two other matters at least, one is the development of skills in the use of the English language, since we all know he loved the English tongue. The other is sport of many kinds because, as he watched it and took interest, it gave him a particular and agreeable relaxation and companionship.
Although much more discussion will be needed, I am able to say now that the appeal and the fund will be under the authority of a national committee and a series of State committees.
It is my honour to have been asked to accept the office of National President. Leading Australians will be invited to accept office with me in connection with the Trust. It will be necessary, in addition, to have a strong and operative executive national committee and a series of State executive committees.
I am pleased to announce that Sir William Vines has accepted office as head of the national committee with the title of National General Chairman. Sir William has a high record of achievement in Australian commercial and agricultural communities and of service to Government, both Commonwealth and State, involving all political parties over a long period. He will be assisted as Deputy National General Chairman by Sir Walter Leonard.
The other members of the Executive Committee will be similarly distinguished people, representative of the States as well as the Commonwealth, and, it is hoped, from a variety of callings and backgrounds. To assist this Committee, a distinguished public servant and close confidant of Sir Robert’s for many years- Sir John Bunting- will be co-ordinator.
Sir Robert Menzies was the leader of one political party. But he was, at the same time, a representative and a leader of all the people. He sought to serve the whole community- as the fund now in mind will do and in fact must do.
– I seek leave to make a statement relating to the health care costs control program and to move a motion that the Senate take note of the statement.
– In the statement where I use the first person singular I am referring to the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) on whose behalf I make the statement.
Over recent years, the rapidly rising costs of health care have been a cause of deep concern in a number of Western nations. Australia is now no exception. In Australia, the great health cost explosion began during the term of the Labor Government. It was a cost explosion directly associated with a large transfer of health expenditure from the private to the government sector. The figures demonstrate this situation very clearly.
In 1971-72, the Commonwealth Government met 30.2 per cent of all health expenditure and the private sector 43.1 per cent. Only four years later in 1975-76- the last year of the Labor Government- the Commonwealth was meeting 52 per cent and the private sector 22.6 per cent of health spending.
In the five-year period 1971-72 to 1976-77 health costs exploded from $2,232m to $6,254m. The costs of health care per head in Australia have risen from $104 in 1966-67 to $447 in 1976-77- that is, by more than four times in 10 years. Despite this very rapidly rising financial burden on the community, there is no evidence available to show a decline in illness. For this financial year- 1977-78- over 10 per cent of all Commonwealth Government spending is being directed to health. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report of July 1977 commented: lt would seem that governments are being increasingly raced with the need to establish an ‘economic’ limit to the growth of public health expenditure.
That applies with just as great a force to Australia as it does to other, similar nations. When the Fraser Government was elected to office in December 1975, it was abundantly clear that one of the challenges of management of the economy in difficult conditions was to arrest the rapidly spiralling costs of health care. While Medibank had achieved universal insurance, it had done so at high cost to the community. The original Medibank was completely open-ended and it encouraged both over-use and abuse. It was just as clear to the Government that, unless action was taken to arrest the rate of health costs inflation, they would crowd out opportunities for income tax reductions and Government spending on other essential programs to give relief to the needy sections of the community.
This Government therefore established the Medibank Review Committee in January 1976 to examine the health insurance scheme. As a result of that review, significant modifications were made to Medibank from I October 1976. Those changes have already resulted in a decline in the rate of acceleration in health costs. Last financial year, the most recent for which full figures are available, the rate of growth was held down to 19.7 per cent. In 1973-74 health costs rose by 20.0 per cent, while in 1974-75 they rose by 36.6 per cent, in 1975-76 by 27.1 per cent, and in 1976-77 by 19.7 percent. Expressed as a percentage of the gross domestic product, health spending in 1973-74 was 5.9 per cent, in 1974-75, 6.8 per cent, in 1975-76, 7.4 per cent, and in 1976-77, 7.7 percent.
It is even more important to note that the percentage increases over the preceding year in the proportion of the gross domestic product taken by health costs was as follows: 1 973- 74- minus 0.8 per cent 1974- 75- plus 15.4 per cent 1975- 76-plus 8.1 percent 1 976- 77-plus 3.9 per cent.
The same picture of continuing increases followed by a slowing up after the October 1976 changes, is revealed by the figures for medical services per person covered by health insurance and pensioner medical service arrangements during the same period: 1973- 74-4.7 medical services per person- a fall of 4.1 percent 1974- 75-5.3 medical services per person- a rise of 1 3.6 per cent 1975- 76-5.9 medical services per person- a rise of 1 1 .0 per cent 1976- 77-5.6 medical services per person- a fall of 5.6 percent.
This fall of 5.6 per cent in medical services last financial year was both substantial and welcome. But the Government is not satisfied that this drop in the explosion of health care costs has been sufficient. The rate of growth of health costs is well above the general rate of inflation. It is still far from acceptable.
Since the October 1 976 changes, the Government has closely monitored the health insurance system and health costs generally within the information available. Some of the results have been encouraging. In the field of pathology, for example, alarming increases occurred with the original Medibank. The Government established a pathology working party, under the chairmanship of Dr Sidney Sax, in association with the colleges, the medical profession and with State representation, and the Government has taken action on its recommendations. The cost of pathology services doubled from the six month period ended June 1975 to the six month period ended June 1976. However, since the changes in pathology arrangements, preliminary information indicates an appreciable decline in the quarterly cost of pathology. For instance, it is estimated that the gross benefits payout by Medibank for pathology decreased by 29 per cent from the June 1977 quarter to the March 1978 quarter. High-cost medical and diagnostic technology is another area now under investigation by a further committee under the chairmanship of Dr Sidney Sax and a report and recommendations are expected shortly.
The struggle against rising costs has been successful in other areas. Increases in medical fees over the last two years have moderated to levels below the inflation rate. This is a singular achievement compared to the increases while Labor was in Government. With the full cooperation of the Australian Medical Association, the Government has also established Medical Services Committees of Inquiry in each State to review cases where excessive services have been rendered by medical practitioners. As well, the Government has stepped up its campaign to identify cases of fraud against Medibank. Penalties for fraud have been increased from $500 fine or six months imprisonment to $10,000 fine or imprisonment for five years and the offences have been made indictable. Fifty-two cases are now under investigation, including 32 doctors. Twenty-four are under prosecution, including 1 1 doctors. Sixty-nine have been prosecuted, including 8 doctors.
The Government has also asked the medical profession to implement professional standards review. In addition, new hospital agreements have been made with State governments, providing for sound budgeting practice aimed at reducing the great increase in hospital costs. Further discussions with the States are under way to achieve accreditation of pathology and of hospitals in the interests of cost restraint.
Despite this progress, it was apparent that further action would be necessary to achieve improved health cost levels. Last year, therefore,
I asked the Hospitals and Health Services Commission to undertake a thorough review of the health care cost question. The Commission produced a discussion paper which was tabled in the House on 1 5 March 1 978. This paper laid the foundation for debate and discussion within the Parliament and throughout the country.
The Government has considered a large number of options available to it to generate the necessary sense of community responsibility in both the provision and the usage of health services. There are no easy answers available. There is no simple panacea for a most complex set of problems. The basic objectives of the Government’s health policy are to:
Promote and protect the health of all people.
Ensure that all people, regardless of their means, have access to high quality health care.
Provide special protection to the pensioners and low income groups, with those on higher incomes insuring themselves to help pay their health care expenses.
Promote preventive health care.
Obtain the best value for the taxpayers’ dollars spent on health care.
Minimise abuse and overuse of services.
Australia enjoys one of the best and most accessible health services and health care delivery systems in the world. But there is room for improvement. Special disabilities still affect people in remote areas, Aboriginal communities, ethnic communities, and developing urban areas. Policies have already been announced to assist in the payment of at least part of travel and accommodation costs of patients forced to travel beyond 200 kilometres in order to obtain specialist medical attention.
Special programs are also being developed to improve access to medical services acceptable to Aboriginal people. The national trachoma program is further evidence of the Government’s determination to improve the health of Aboriginal communities. Proposed interpreter services, located in health facilities throughout Australia, demonstrate the Government’s awareness of the special problems of the ethnic communities in health care. As for health costs containment, restraint for its own sake does not dominate our thinking, but there is no escaping the fact that unless we control rapidly rising costs, they will crowd out opportunities for essential spending in other areas of government responsibility.
People pay for health costs by one means or another, whether it be by income taxation, levies and charges, health insurance premiums, direct patient payments, or a combination of these means. We cannot escape the bill. There is no such thing as free health care.
Those who receive care for no direct cost are being paid for by other people by one means or another. I emphasise this because, while universal health insurance cover provides security and access to health services, it does tend to weaken the perception of both the providers and users of the real costs of those services. Government subsidy to reduce health costs can blind us all to the costs of those services. Unless the universal health insurance system has inbuilt incentives designed to create cost consciousness, common sense suggests- and experience shows- that unnecessary costs will be generated.
The Government’s first responsibility is to assist those who cannot help themselves. It should not be directed to assisting those who have sufficient resources to help themselves. Large scale across-the-board government subsidy is wasteful of resources and reduces the Government’s capacity to assist the needy sections of the community. The changes I am announcing under the Government’s health cost control program are, therefore, designed to encourage responsible use of one of the best health services in the world; ensure that overuse and abuse are reduced to a minimum; obtain the best value for taxpayers ‘ dollars spent on health care; and promote competition and innovation in health insurance.
I will now outline the changes the Government has decided will be made forthwith in the health insurance and associated areas. As I have indicated, the changes which were made in health insurance arrangements on 1 October 1976 have achieved some slowing down in the very high rate of growth in usage of health services and in increases in health care costs.
The Government has carefully reviewed information available to it, both from the process of monitoring the impact of those changes on health costs and usage, and as a result of the general review of health insurance which I requested in October of last year. As a result, the Government has now approved substantial changes affecting medical insurance. However, it has also decided that in view of the important contribution of hospital costs to the total problems, actions will be taken immediately to reduce unnecessary hospital outlays. The Government will continue to monitor hospital costs.
To enable this monitoring to proceed in a detailed manner, the Government has further decided that more comprehensive information concerning some aspects of the operation and costs of the hospital and medical insurance system, where better information is necessary, should be made available to it. Accordingly the Government has decided to seek the authority to obtain and analyse information from and about the health insurance system in greater depth. As well, a number of specific pilot surveys covering the usage and cost of health services in individual areas will be undertaken. This action, together with a basic review now under way of health data available for policy evaluation, will provide the Government with a more accurate information base which is an important requirement of a continuing review.
Until an improved data base becomes available, the Government believes that it would be premature to proceed further with the consideration of major adjustments to the health insurance system. The Government believes this to be the most responsible approach to the objective of constraining the rising costs of health care to the taxpayer and to the community generally.
I turn now to the changes the Government proposes to make at this time.
The current medical benefits rates are 85 per cent of schedule fees with a maximum patient contribution of $5 for any one service where the schedule fee is charged. The principle of a patient gap has been in operation for many years. Indeed it has operated since the beginning of a national health scheme. The gap principle remained in force while the Labor Party was in Government. Over recent years there has been a rapid growth in the per capita utilisation of medical services. The preliminary information available indicates that since the 1 October 1976 modifications to Medibank there has been some slowing down in the use of medical services. However, utilisation continues at unacceptably high levels. This results in high rates of private health insurance contributions and in high levels of taxpayer contributions towards Medibank Standard medical benefits.
The Government has decided that the rate of medical benefits payable to persons in Medibank Standard and to contributors to the basic medical benefits tables of private medical insurance organisations will be reduced. Therefore medical benefits will be paid at the rate of 75 per cent of schedule fees with a maximum patient contribution of $10 for any one service where the schedule fee is charged. These new benefit levels will operate from 1 July. People who wish to obtain additional insurance cover as a result of this decision will be able to obtain it through the supplementary tables of private health insurance organisations.
I propose to enter into negotiations with the Australian Medical Association in order to determine the level of medical benefits payable for schedule services provided to people with pensioner health benefits entitlements where the great majority of doctors accept the general rate of benefits in full settlement for the services rendered. I would anticipate that the AMA will agree to accept this principle as it has done for many years and I know that many doctors will be pleased to accept the new rates.
The Government has decided that bulk or direct billing arrangements for medical benefits be abolished, except for people with pensioner health benefits entitlements. This should reduce the over-provision of services and fraud. It will involve the patient directly in the payment of medical accounts, even where a ‘pay-doctor’ cheque is the only transaction involved.
The average cost of basic private health insurance at present is about $9 a week for family cover. This comprises approximately $5 for medical insurance and $4 for hospital insurance. The actual rates, of course, vary from State to State and from fund to fund. These rates will be affected in two ways by these decisions: The reduction in the percentage level covered by medical benefits and the increase in the patient ‘gap’ is expected to lead to a reduction in medical insurance contributions. The introduction of optional deductibles- to which I will refer- will lead to reductions in medical and hospital insurance costs for those who choose to privately insure in this manner. This will enable exemption from the health insurance levy for a substantially lower contribution.
The change in medical benefits is expected to lead to a reduction of 46c a week, family rate, in medical insurance contributions, reducing the average rate to $4.54 a week. In this connection, I would point out that it is a matter for the funds to calculate changed rates of contribution and to then apply to me for approval. This will, of course, take a little time, but applications will be processed as quickly as possible once they are received. In approving changed contribution rates, I will naturally take into account that the reduced benefits are operating from 1 July this year.
It is intended that the new medical benefits levels be introduced on 1 July. Bulk billing, except for eligible pensioners and their dependants, will be abolished as soon as the administrative arrangements can be made. Meanwhile a rigorous examination of the scope of the medical benefits schedule is being undertaken. It will include an examination of the levels of individual fees for benefit purposes, having regard to such factors as relative complexities of the services and modern medical practice and technology. As a result of these decisions, it is estimated that the savings to Commonwealth expenditure in a full year would be in the order of $24m.
The rising cost of private health insurance has brought forward a significant number of proposals to the Government for further modification of health insurance arrangements. One suggestion is that people should meet a specified amount of their health costs in each year before becoming eligible for benefits. This concept, known as ‘deductibles’ is somewhat akin to arrangements to pay an ‘excess’ in comprehensive motor vehicle insurance. Other suggestions have been that medical services rendered in certain circumstances should not attract benefits; for example, some forms of cosmetic surgery and some terminations of pregnancy. Consequently, the Government has decided that in addition to offering the present standard or basic medical and hospital benefits tables, private health insurance organisations will be permitted to offer optional deductibles in those tables within reasonable limitations to be approved by the Government.
Approved optional deductibles arrangements will exempt contributors from the health insurance levy payment, but the Government does not intend to lay down unnecessarily restrictive guidelines. We will be seeking to allow funds the fullest possible flexibility and competitiveness within the principle of preserving universal cover.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– In providing this new flexibility, the Government is giving both the private funds and the community generally the opportunity to take advantage of a widely-held belief that the introduction of excess ‘ type arrangements in health insurance will provide an incentive to people and providers not to over-use available services. The Government also feels that this imaginative new concept has the potential to reduce health insurance contributions for those who wish to accept a larger direct share of responsibility for the costs of their health care.
The Government believes that this opportunity will begin a new phase of competition amongst the majority of private health insurance funds throughout Australia. The Government will be monitoring these innovations closely to ensure that the new arrangements are compatible with its stated objectives in health insurance arrangements. I emphasise again that it is the Government’s intention that competition between funds should be as free as possible in this innovative area, consistent with the final overall policy framework. But I wish to make clear that whilst the Government has decided in favour of introducing deductibles, no final decision will be taken on either the form of, or the limitations on, deductibles until the whole concept has been discussed in full detail with the health insurance organisations and other interested authorities.
Their views and proposals will be taken fully into account and I will be taking the matter back to Government for approval of the final guidelines which will apply. In view of this, the Government has further decided there will be no immediate alteration in the health insurance levy arrangements until discussions concerning deductibles have been concluded and the Government is able more precisely to assess their overall impact on health costs and the relativity between premium levels and the levy arrangements.
In this context, I caution contributors to health insurance funds to consider carefully before making any hasty decisions to change health insurance arrangements- for example, from private insurance to Medibank Standard before the final effect of deductibles can be assessed. It should be remembered that private funds may require people transferring from Medibank Standard to serve a two month waiting period during which both private insurance premiums and the Medibank levy would be payable.
I wish now to turn to a further aspect of the organisation and operation of the health care system that is causing the Government concern. Hospitals are by far the most costly component of institutional care. Their supply, organisation and operation need to be reviewed. The total Commonwealth outlay on the hospitals sector represents 57 per cent of all Commonwealth expenditure on health services. In 1976-77 the total gross operating costs for public hospitals in Australia amounted to nearly $2, 100m. The daily gross operating costs per occupied bed was almost $ 120 per day for the financial year ending 30 June 1977. This cost is estimated to be $135 per day this financial year and could approach $150 per day in 1978-79. Operating costs vary widely between the States- from $100 per occupied bed day in Queensland during 1976-77 to $ 1 42 per day in Western Australia.
In reviewing the health care and health insurance system, the Government clearly could not ignore cost increases or cost magnitudes of this order. The Government has, therefore, authorised early negotiations with the States and other appropriate bodies, to develop new arrangements that:
Make the best use of public and private hospitals without wasteful over-provision or duplication;
Restrict the beds approved for hospital costsharing to no more than is essential for good care;
Require long-stay patients in recognised hospitals to contribute towards their accommodation and care as they would do in nursing homes;
Require hospitals to satisfy prescribed standards of accommodation and service as a condition of hospital cost-sharing;
Classify different types of hospitals with a view to applying varying levels of charges to different groups of hospitals;
Require the standards for hospital costsharing to cover the efficiency of management, methods of assessing the quality of care, estimates of the appropriateness of the technology used and arrangements for sharing expensive resources in a rational manner; and
Incorporate some out-of-pocket payment, for example, through a system of utilisation review in which out-of-pocket payments would be required for unauthorised stays in hospital.
The changes announced this evening have been designed within the framework of the current health insurance arrangements. The community has shown strong support for the concepts of diversity and competition that we introduced in 1976. These concepts now will be very significantly extended by the introduction of deductibles on an optional basis. Insurance funds that offer policies with deductibles should quickly attract those persons who wish to reduce their daily cost of living by paying substantially lower health insurance premiums. The program that I have announced reflects the widespread encouragement that cost control efforts are receiving through our health services. Such efforts must be supported by government so that stability of insurance rates can be achieved and maintained. I present the following paper:
Health Care Costs Control Program- Ministerial Statement, 24 May 1978.
-In speaking to the motion moved by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) I wish to make a few remarks on behalf of the Opposition on this important paper dealing with health care cost control which the Minister has delivered on behalf of the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) in another place. It is, in fact, a statement of intent which 1 believe will produce mixed reactions in anyone who reads it. There are two groups of proposals mooted in the statement. One affects the amount of money that patients will pay for their own health care out of their own pockets and the other announces a review, although in no real detail, of the provision of hospital facilities and diagnostic and other therapeutic facilities in this country. There is very little detail on the latter aspect but I will certainly comment on it later. The former aspect causes the Opposition considerable concern.
Health care costs concern all of us. As the Minister said, they concern every Western country, probably every country in the world. It is difficult to see how the specific changes which the Minister has mentioned in this paper will change total health care costs in this country. They will certainly change the burden of health funding generally onto low income earners. The young, the fit and the wealthy will be advantaged and the amount appearing as Government expenditure may decrease. I submit that total health care costs will not decrease as a result of many of the more definite proposals in this document which affect patients. The Minister recognises this. When he tries to quantify the savings that he suggests may occur he states at page 16 of the statement that the estimated savings to Commonwealth expenditure- not total expenditurewill be some $24m. There will be considerable changes to the health expenditure of many deserving people in this community as a result of the proposed alterations. But the Minister states that the estimated savings to Commonwealth expenditure will be some $24m when in this country we spend something like $7,000m on health care.
– That will not be total savings, Senator. There will be savings over all.
– I am talking specifically about those proposals which affect the amount of money the patient spends and the division of that expenditure. The Minister states quite specifically at the end of that section that the estimated savings will be $24m. I will come to the other proposals later. As I said, the Minister is concerned about health care costs. We are all concerned about total health costs. No one has been more concerned about total health costs than the Australian Labor Party, when in government and in opposition. I wish to comment first on the figures used in the first 5 pages of this paper to assert that increasing health costs are the result of Labor’s health policy. It is a political statement and deserves more than a political answer. It is a statement commonly bandied around. One of the reasons the community came to accept the need for universal health insurance was the rapid increases that were occurring in health care in this country not only in the 1 970s but also in the 1960s. The increases resulted in the Nimmo inquiry into health insurance funds. From 1967 to 1971, which was a period of low inflation, there was a 46 per cent increase in health costs. The continued rate of increase in the 1970s was due to inflation, burgeoning fees, increasing hospital costs largely caused by wage justice gained by nurses and other hospital employees and the increase in the use of sophisticated diagnostic techniques.
In the year 1975-76, as will be shown by the Minister’s figures, the rate of growth of these costs changed. The rate of acceleration decreased. It has decreased since. It is worth remembering that it was in July 1975 when Medibank, Labor’s national health insurance scheme, started. It did not start in 1972, 1973 or 1974: It started in July 1975. The rapid acceleration of costs occurred until 1975 and then started to slow down. This is obvious even from the figures wrongly used by the Minister in describing health costs as a percentage of gross domestic product. Every reputable statistician would have deflated the gross domestic product figure to take account of the fact that gross domestic product at that stage was increasing at a very slow rate. Health costs were increasing at a fairly normal rate for that period and would have been deflated less or not deflated at all. This is why in the figures used health costs are excessively high compared with gross domesticproduct.
Some comment is also worth making about the figures and tables supplied in the associated documents. Any reputable economist or expert on health care, anyone who produces articles on this subject, would first of all source his figures. Secondly, he would give the methodology used to compile those figures. These figures are without source. It is obvious to honourable senators on this side of the chamber where some of the figures came from. We can see them in other articles. But they are not sourced and we know where only some of them came from. They certainly do not correspond with figures given by other economists in the field or with those given by other statisticians and commentators who write on the subject. As I have said before in this place, if we are to compare figures like this it is important that they are investigated carefully. The source of the figures and the methodology used to compile them need to be known before they can be accepted and compared with other figures.
The statement goes on to describe other methods the Government has used in an attempt to reduce health costs. I mention particularly the changes in the pathology charging system. Certainly the Opposition did not oppose these changes. I have commented in this place on the difficult situation which has arisen with regard .to pathology charges. I welcome and I know that doctors on both sides of the Parliament welcome the investigation into the proliferation and high cost of medical, diagnostic and therapeutical methods. Honourable senators have heard me and Senator Baume talk about this at various times.
– Often in agreement.
– Always in agreement on this subject. That is unusual but it occurs at times. Of course we do not disagree about the attempts to cut down frauds and to prosecute people for defrauding Medibank. All these things affect medical practitioners themselves as does the review of hospital services to which the Minister also referred. Doctors admit patients to hospitals. Patients do not admit themselves. Doctors operate. They order pathology and other diagnostic tests. They buy the computerised axial tomography scanners and other diagnostic equipment which is adding enormously to costs. In the past they have resisted attempts to interfere with any decision in this area. I can imagine the barney that will occur when the definitions in the new system when it eventually comes into operation, if it ever does, require someone to decide who is having an authorised or unauthorised stay in hospital. This is referred to in the statement.
The Minister set out the objectives of the Government’s health policy. They are noble objectives. I suppose that they would be the objectives of anyone interested in the provision of health care in the community. There is very little in the statement and very little is anticipated which will affect any of these aims. The first aim is to promote and protect the health of all people.
I believe that there is nothing in these provisions which will affect that aim at all. The second aim is to ensure that all people, regardless of their means, have access to high quality health care. I do not believe that the provisions in this statement to which I shall refer in a moment will provide that. In some cases they will militate against it. The next aim is to provide special protection for pensioners and low income groups with those on higher incomes insuring themselves to help pay for their health care. I will explain later that low income groups and pensioners will not be protected in the manner in which the Government says they will. Higher income groups may be able to insure themselves but, in fact, they will get off very lightly. The provisions certainly do nothing to help the next aim which is to promote preventive health care. The Minister gives no evidence how the best value for the taxpayer’s dollar will be received from money spent on health care. I shall have more to say about minimising the abuse and over-use of services which is the final aim. Again, we cannot see how this will happen.
The Minister set out these objectives and then talked about the specific issues, the nitty gritty, which will be controversial. The first thing that will happen is that bulk billing is to be abolished for all people except those with a pensioner health benefit card. This means that the only people who will be bulk billed will be old age pensioners and invalid pensioners who have a pensioner health benefit card. We are going back to the old pensioner medical service. Some people well remember that that service was also abused. It will again be abused but we should not throw out the baby with the bathwater the way we are doing with bulk billing because of a few people who are allegedly abusing it. We have no evidence that the abolition of bulk billing will save vast sums of money. The only evidence available, as has been pointed out by the experts, is that it may cost more. Administrative expenses will obviously rise for those people who are no longer bulk billed but who were previously bulk billed. The costs for the doctor in handing out bills will, of course, be increased. There is no evidence in the statement that the amount of abuse which will apparently be cut down by this action will counteract the increased administrative costs.
According to the Health Insurance Commission report of 1976-77 some 56 per cent of all medical claims were bulk billed. They amounted to only 34.9 per cent of the value of all claims. The number of services per bulk billed claim was 1.28 compared with 2.2 services by other claims.
Each service claimed by bulk billing averaged $8.80 compared with $1 1.50 for those on separate accounts. Bulk billing has been very useful to many doctors. It has been very useful to many patients.
– That is what we are trying to cut out.
– I am concerned about those doctors in underprivileged areas with a lot of low income patients who bulk billed because their patients were poor and because they had some concern for them.
– They need not charge a cent if they are concerned.
– I shall also cover that point in a moment. None of the 60,000-odd supporting mothers in this country will be able to be bulk billed. None of the 300,000 or more unemployed peopled in this country will be bulk billed, nor will those in the community receiving sickness benefits and those receiving special benefits. There are doctors- admittedly they comprise only a small group- who practise in rural areas, who practise in small towns and who have large practice areas with many small population centres. These hard-working, long travelling and usually solo practitioners have found bulk billing of great benefit to them because it has removed the burden of the difficulties involved in sending out accounts to people spread all over the area of their practices. They have been willing to accept the 85 per cent payment.
It is quite wrong to throw out bulk billing without producing any evidence that it was increasing the cost. There is no evidence of that in this statement. In fact, there is no evidence anywhere. There is evidence to the contrary, but there is no evidence that it increases costs. It is of no use just having a feeling that it increases costs and that it increases the abuses. Pensioners themselves will be bulk billed. In the past when pensioners were bulk billed there were abuses. The best way to prevent those abuses is to make certain they will be detected and to let those few who will abuse the system know that there is a certainty of detection. But to throw out the whole system just because someone has a feeling that it is bad, that it is wrong and that people will abuse it is quite a ridiculous way to go on.
In talking about the introduction of front-end deductibles I wish to quote from a document of an organisation which I do not usually quote and which honourable senators do not often hear me quoting during debates on health insurance in this country. I will quote from the submission of the Voluntary Health Insurance Association of
Australia to the Government on Mediban changes. Quite succinctly it says:
The Voluntary Health Insurance Association yesterday made public its submission to the Government detailing its opposition to front-end deductibles and no-claim bonuses. The submission said that these proposals would further complicate a health insurance scheme already too complex. Deductibles would react most against those who could least afford it. Clearly, a $50 amount means more to a lower income earner than to someone in the middle or upper income brackets. It would bc likely to cause some people to defer consultation with a doctor, often resulting in greater demands on services and consequently greater costs at a later stage.
Anyone who is young and fit and probably under 45 years of age would be crazy not to go for front-end deductibles if he wanted private health insurance.
– If any fund offers them.
– If any fund offers them. One gathers from the statement that the Minister is likely to pressure them. One thinks it is likely that the Minister, claiming such a great saving, would introduce this system if he did not have some indication that in fact the health insurance funds would accept it.
– Did you hear Mr Moon on the radio tonight?
- Mr Moon probably will not accept it, but some of the others will. If the health funds will not take it up, why is the Government introducing it? Obviously there are indications that a system of voluntary front-end deductibles will be introduced. As I have said, the fit, the young, the healthy and the wealthy would be crazy not to go for it. This will be a transfer of the responsibility for health funding from that group to the people who cannot afford to take on front-end deductibles, such as those who are unhealthy, those who have recurrent illnesses and those who have children with recurrent illnesses. There is no indication in this statement just what is going to happen in this area. If that $200, $ 100 or $50 front-end payment also is to be tax deductible- we certainly have no indication one way or the other- it will be an even greater help to those opting for front-end deductibles, who earn more than the average wage earner. The Minister says that the introduction of optional deductibles will lead to a reduction in medical and hospital insurance costs to those who choose to be privately insured in this manner. I say to the healthy, the wealthy, the young and the fit that that payment will inevitably be transferred to those who are less well off and to those who, because of the nature of their illness, will not be able to enter into this sort of an arrangement.
As to widening the gap for health insurance, the gap concept was introduced not by the Labor Government but by the previous LiberalCountry Party Government. The widening of this gap and the dropping of the percentage of the total benefit which will be paid to the doctor will have two effects. Of course, the amount of money which the individual patient will have to pay in addition to the rebate given by the health funds will increase. It will not be much of a problem for those who can afford it, such as those middle and upper income earners in the community. It will not be much of a problem to them at all. But to those low income people to whom relatively small amounts of money are considerable amounts of money it will be a problem. To those who receive unemployment benefit, to those who are supporting mothers and to those who receive special benefits and to those who do not have ready cash and who do not have much left over each week it will be a considerable problem. It will be a great amount of money to them. But we have the prediction of the Minister that there will be no difficulty in convincing the Australian Medical Association that in fact to accept 75 per cent of the scheduled fees is reasonable.
– Ninety-five per cent of the doctors already do.
– Ninety-five per cent of the doctors already accept 85 per cent. Senator Walters should well remember the fight that Mr Gorton had, the fight that Mr McMahon had and the fight that the Labor Government had to get the AMA to agree to accept that percentage. For the AMA to accept 75 per cent of the schedule fees will mean an incredible change in attitude. It may happen. Many of us have our doubts that it will happen. It may, of course, happen in exchange for restricting the number of people who get pensioner health benefits, which was AMA policy many years ago. It said it would accept the lower percentage provided the number of people who got pensioner health benefit cards was kept at a reasonable level.
The Government is proposing three moves. The removal of bulk billing will cause inconvenience to many doctors- decent doctors; doctors who do not cheat on the system; doctors who are concerned about their patients; country doctors who in many cases have practices in big areas and who have scattered surgeries; doctors like the one interviewed tonight from an inner city suburb of Melbourne who has many patients who are destitute.
– He does not have to charge them more than 75 per cent anyway.
-He will have to bill them the difference. Senator Walters knows quite well the difference between bulk billing and getting a doctor pays’ cheque. She knows quite well the difference in the cost of running a doctor’s surgery resulting from bulk billing. She knows perfectly well and she should not pretend otherwise.
– Is he a member of the AMA?
– I do not think that was asked of him. One can be sure that he was not one of those piranhas who are members of the Society of General Practitioners, which is in fact against all health insurance in the community. The introduction of front-end deductibles will affect the healthy, the young and the fit. These deductibles are not, as is described in the statement, some great, new imaginative plan. They have been talked about for years. Such a system has been used in the United States for years and has been under considerable criticism there. The widening of the insurance gap takes us back to the time before the Gorton Liberal Government- - not the Labor Government- introduced the gap concept as it was and as it now is. We have these changes but, I repeat, there are no indications that any of these changes will cut down total health costs. No evidence has been given to indicate that they will cut down on the number of services which the provider initiates. If they do cut down the number of services which the recipient initiates it will be because the recipients feel that they cannot afford to enter into medical care because of the increased costs. I submit that that is no way to decrease costs.
We in the Australian Labor Party have been advocating for years the other proposals concerning the review of hospital services and the review of the appropriateness of our hospital services. We are a little concerned at the statement that long-stay patients in recognised hospitals should contribute towards their accommodation and care, as they would do if they were in nursing homes. In this country long-term patients are frequently old, frequently pensioners and frequently, if not pensioners, they are poor. One would be concerned to ensure that the introduction of any proposal such as that would be looked at carefully. Again, one would be concerned to ensure that the Government does not intend to cut down on total health costs by inflicting burdens on those people who can least afford them.
We cannot see the three proposals making any difference to health costs; we can see them just spreading the burden to those people who can least afford it. I am fascinated by the concept indicated by way of interjection from Senator Baume, that health funds might not introduce front end deductibles. One wonders what the Government is about in introducing something like that when a knowledgable and senior medical man on the Government side questions whether the health funds will take this up. We shall watch the changes with interest. We shall be more interested in the details of the changes when they are in the form of legislation- that is, those changes which in fact are placed in that form. I make one final request, namely, that the figures produced in the associated documents be sourced and that we be told the methodology by which they were arrived at and that we know why they in fact differ from figures produced by other workers in the field. They might be right; they might be wrong: We want to know why there are differences.
Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.
– by leaveThe two notices of motion, standing in my name under Business of the Senate, for the disallowance of certain regulations were given as a result of inquiries by the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. The first notice of motion relates to some naval financial and air force regulations which conferred upon the Minister for Defence a discretion to determine certain allowances of members of the Defence Force. The Committee considered that the discretionary power conferred upon the Minister by the regulations was excessive. I have now received from the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) a letter in which he gives an undertaking that he will amend the regulations so as to remove the Minister’s discretion and to make the operation of the regulations objective.
The second notice of motion relates to an amendment of the Defence Force (Salaries) Regulations. In its sixtieth report, presented to the Senate on 13 April, the Committee recommended the disallowance of this amendment on the ground that it had the effect of unfairly discriminating between individuals, and thereby trespassed unduly on individual rights. I have now received from the Minister for Defence a letter in which he gives an undertaking that he will repeal this amendment of the regulations. I thank the Minister for Defence for acceding to the Committee ‘s views in these two matters. His co-operation is appreciated by the Committee. In view of the undertakings given by the Minister, I now withdraw Business of the Senate, notices of motion Nos 1 and 2 standing in my name.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill proposes amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act concerning the exercise of the jurisdiction of the Industrial Division of the Federal Court of Australia under that Act. Briefly, it provides that, with certain exceptions, matters under the Act should be dealt with by a single judge with a right of appeal to a Full Court comprising three or more judges. Honourable senators will recall that, following the creation of the Federal Court of Australia in 1976, the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Act (No. 3) 1976 provided for the transfer of the jurisdiction of the Australian Industrial Court under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to the Federal Court of Australia in its Industrial Division. The Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Act (No. 3) 1976 also provided that when exercising its jurisdiction under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the Federal Court of Australia in its Industrial Division would be constituted in precisely the same way as the Australian Industrial Court was formerly constituted. In those cases where the Australian Industrial Court was required to be constituted by three or more judges, the Federal Court of Australia in its Industrial Division would sit as a full court. Where the Australian Industrial Court was required to be constituted by a single judge, the Federal
Court of Australia in its Industrial Division would be constituted by a single judge.
Likewise, the provisions as to appeals remained unaltered. In those cases where there was no appeal from a decision of the Australian Industrial Court under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, there is at present no appeal from the Federal Court of Australia. In other cases, where an appeal lay from the Industrial Court to the High Court of Australia by leave of the High Court, an appeal now lies from the Federal Court of Australia to the High Court. In his second reading speech on the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1976, the then Attorney-General foreshadowed the Government’s desire to modify the provision for the constitution of the Industrial Division of the Federal Court, and in relation to appeals, and indicated that such changes would be made subject to consultations with the peak employer and employee councils. Those consultations have since been held through the medium of the National Labour Consultative Council.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Act presently provides that the jurisdiction of the Federal Court in its Industrial Division is to be exercised by not less than three judges except in respect of specified matters where jurisdiction may be exercised by one judge. In the Act as it now stands, there does not appear to be any consistent basis on which matters are reserved to a Full Court or placed within the competence of a single judge. Furthermore, successive amendments of the Act over the years have produced a number of anomalies. For example, with only two exceptions, a single judge of the Federal Court has no jurisdiction to deal with offences under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Yet such offences may be dealt with by a court of summary jurisdiction constituted by a magistrate. In the State industrial jurisdictions, offences are generally dealt with at first instance by magistrates.
In relation to the enforcement of awards under the Act and recovery of amounts due under awards, section 1 1 9 of the Act enables such proceedings to be brought before a magistrate or a district court judge, except for proceedings for a breach or non-observance of a bans clause. However, those same proceedings, if brought in the Federal Court, must be dealt with by a full court comprising three or more judges. Again, in State jurisdictions similar proceedings are normally instituted before a magistrate.
The Government believes that the present requirements relating to the constitution of benches under the Act are in need of revision in relation to their adequacy in providing for the most efficient use of judicial resources and their influence on the cost of judicial administration. Against these criteria, to have three judges sitting where there are no compelling reasons for matters to come before a full court, is clearly a waste of judicial resources and an unnecessary expense in the administration of justice. Of course, the Government recognises that there are certain proceedings under the Act which, for practical considerations, ought to be reserved to a bench of three judges and this Bill reflects those considerations. The amendments proposed by this Bill provide that the original jurisdiction of the Federal Court of Australia under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is to be exercised by a single judge of the Industrial Division of that court, except that jurisdiction under sections 107, 108, 112, 113 and 143 will be reserved to the Court constituted by three or more judges of that Division. The Bill also preserves the right of a full court of the Federal Court to deal with contempt of the court committed in the face or hearing of the full court.
I turn now to those matters under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which are to be reserved to a full court. In relation to sections 107 and 1 12, which concern references of questions of law by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and by the Industrial Registrar, respectively, such references do not occur frequently and, when they do, an authoritative determination of the question of law is required. Similarly, jurisdiction under section 108 which deals with determination of the validity of a State order or award, and section 1 13 which deals with appeals to the Court from State courts, are to be reserved to a bench of three or more judges. The former raises jurisdictional issues with constitutional implications. In relation to the latter, the Government believes that it is appropriate that appeals from State courts on matters arising under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act should come before a full court, having regard to the fact that such matters are usually concerned with bread and butter issues which may have a direct and immediate application to a large number of employees. In such cases it is desirable that they be determined authoritatively by a full court, rather than having the possibility of various different decisions by different single judges leading to an element of uncertainty which would need to be resolved by an appeal to the Full Court.
A further matter which is to be reserved to a full court is proceedings under section 143 of the
Act for the cancellation of the registration of an organisation under the Act. Cancellation of registration is the ultimate and most serious penalty that can be imposed upon an organisation. For this reason, and because of the implications of cancellation for the effective operation of the conciliation and arbitration system, the Government considers it appropriate that jurisdiction in this matter should be reserved to a full court.
Although, as I have indicated, the Bill reserves jurisdiction in certain proceedings to a full court, it also provides that in relation to prosecutions for offences arising under those proceedings, such prosecutions can be dealt with by a single judge. As much of the original jurisdiction under the Act presently required to be exercised by three judges is to be transferred to a single judge, it is appropriate to allow a right of appeal from a single judge to a full court. This would also bring the constitution of the Federal Court in its Industrial Division generally into line with that of the General Division of the Court. Accordingly, this Bill provides that there be a right of appeal from the Court constituted by a single judge to the Court constituted as a full court, except in relation to proceedings under section 158P and Part IX of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
With regard to the exceptions, section 158P provides for inquiries into alleged irregularities in amalgamation ballots under the Act and Part IX for inquiries into alleged irregularities in elections in organisations. In each case the proceedings involve determination of matters of fact which are not complex and the Government believes that further litigation, which would be likely to be factionally motivated, should be discouraged. The exclusion of appeals does not extend to convictions for offences in connection with amalgamation ballots or inquiries into election irregularities which will be subject to appeal to a full court.
In relation to the limitations on appeals to the High Court presently existing in the Act, these limitations have been retained in this Bill. However, they have been extended to preclude appeals in inquiries under section 158P. As it is proposed that there be no right of appeal from a single judge to a full court in relation to section 158P inquiries, the Government considers that there should likewise be no right of appeal to the High Court. However, the Bill also provides that a single judge, in exercising jurisdiction in any proceedings under the Act may, at any stage of the proceedings upon application by a party or on his own motion, order that the proceedings be heard and determined by a full court.
The Government considers that such a provision is desirable to cover a situation where, in proceedings before a single judge in a particular case, the importance of the issue having regard to, for example, the difficulty of a question of law involved or the subject matter of the action, might justify the matter being determined by a full court. To give honourable senators an example, the effect of the provisions of the Bill which I outlined earlier will be that proceedings under sections 140, 141, 171C and 171D of the Act which deal with the supervision of the affairs of organisations will now be dealt with at first instance by a single judge. Many, and perhaps, most actions under these sections are not so complex that they could not be adequately dealt with by a single judge. However, some proceedings can be of a highly complex nature, as the case of Moore v Doyle and the litigation involving the Shop Distributors Association illustrate. It is to meet these exigencies that the Bill empowers a single judge to refer a matter before him to a full court.
Allied to this provision, the Bill provides that a single judge must refer a matter before him to a full court upon application by the Minister. I would not envisage many circumstances in which the Minister would make use of this provision. However, it does provide a remedy for a situation in which the parties to proceedings did not seek a reference and such a reference was desirable in the public interest. For example, it may be that, in circumstances where the Minister became aware that factions within an organisation had commenced proceedings which were likely to be protracted and subject to appeal to a full court, he would take steps to have the matter referred to a full court initially.
Finally, the Bill retains the existing jurisdiction and appeal provisions in relation to matters the hearing of which commence before the date of commencement of the amendments proposed by this Bill. I believe that the amendments proposed by this Bill will provide more effective means of dealing with legal issues arising under the Act and represent a practical and logical approach to achieving the most resourceful use of the judiciary. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Commonwealth Employment Service Bill 1978 and the Re-establishment and Employment Amendment Bill 1978 being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speeches in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
Commonwealth Employment Service Bill 1978
It gives me great pleasure to submit for consideration of the Senate this Bill and the associated Bill which are designed to give legislative expression to the Government’s commitment to upgrade the Commonwealth Employment Service- CES- into a modern and effective manpower service. The provisions contained in the Commonwealth Employment Service Bill 1978 are designed to establish the CES as a unified, clearly identifiable organisation, to provide a legislative framework for the CES which is appropriate for its development as a modern manpower service, and to make provision for the establishment of an advisory committee structure at the national, regional and local level.
As honourable senators will know, the existing legislative basis for the CES is to be found in the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945. The provisions in the Commonwealth Employment Service Bill 1 978, if accepted, will necessitate the 1945 Act being amended, and the Reestablishment and Employment Amendment Bill 1978 proposes the repeal of Division 5 of Part II. The 1945 Act sets out the then Government’s policy for re-establishing discharged men and women, and re-settling civilian war workers. In order to facilitate this process, and against the background of the Government’s commitment to establish and maintain a high and stable level of employment, and the assumption by the Commonwealth of responsibility for the administration of unemployment benefit, the Act provided for the formal establishment of a decentralised Commonwealth Employment Service. The CES was therefore one of the earliest and has remained one of the most significant expressions of the commitment to high and stable employment. Indeed, throughout Western industrialised countries public employment services have remained the cornerstone of the involvement of governments in the operation of the labour market.
In Australia, few organisations are so visibly present as the CES and offer such a wide range of services and programs. Every day the CES interviews and refers thousands of jobseekers or provides specialist advice and information. In 1977 the CES made over 1,200,000 referrals to vacancies and affected over 400,000 placements. At the same time CES services the various labour market needs of employers and during 1977 received some 600,000 new job vacancies.
However, the environment surrounding the operations of the CES has changed considerably since its formal establishment. In particular, the evolving labour market conditions, particularly the greater incidence of structural imbalances and the trend towards the tertiary sector, have influenced the role and performance of the CES. The CES has also been the delivery vehicle for many of the increased activities undertaken by Government in respect of labour market training. Our expectations as to the performance and objectives of a public employment service have also altered. It was against this background that the Government in October 1976 commissioned Mr J. D. Norgard to make a comprehensive and detailed examination of the CES. This was the first major review of the Service since its inception in 1946. Mr Norgard submitted his final report to the Government in June 1 977.
As honourable senators will know, the report was highly critical of the services the CES was providing to jobseekers and employers. It referred to the CES as a 1946-model organization trying to cope with 1977-style problems. The Norgard report contained a large number of recommendations and suggestions for improving both the operations and performance of the CES over several years. After detailed examination by my Department and the Government, it was announced, against the background of a general commitment to upgrade it into a modern manpower organisation, a number of decisions vital to the CES. Briefly these were changes to the organisation and management structure of the CES, designed to establish a unified, identifiable CES and improve management and performance control; a substantial intensification of the program of staff training; the provision of ground floor, shop front accommodation for the CES in central business districts; the associated introduction of a more effective and differentiated system of placement assistance; and an examination of computerised employment systems. In recommending these decisions, the Government indicated it would reinforce the changes in the organisation of CES by introducing appropriate legislation. However, before outlining the legislation, there are a number of general points I should like to make.
Firstly, and most importantly, the Government remains firmly committed to defeating unemployment. Our underlying strategy for achieving a sustained reduction in unemployment in Australia has been outlined on a number of occasions. Briefly it involves achieving a sustained reduction in inflation and creating the environment both internally and externally for an expansion in the private sector. These goals will not be easily achieved, but there are sufficient indications to confirm that the strategy will achieve a sustained and permanent improvement in Australia’s economic performance! Within this general framework, the Government will continue to place high priority on employment and training schemes, particularly those directed at young people, and on making the CES a more effective national manpower organisation. If the CES can effect the job placement of people more speedily, this could lead to significant savings. For instance, Norgard in his report makes the point that if each unemployed person found work only one day earlier the gain to central revenue through savings in unemployment benefit would be of the order of $ 18m per annum.
Secondly, the Government does not intend the CES to have a monopoly of the vacancy filling business. Private and informal contacts, newspaper advertising and recruiting agencies all play a significant role in local labour markets. However, the Government in accordance with International Labor Organisation obligations is committed to providing a national and comprehensive manpower service. Further, we are concerned that the CES operates with maximum effectiveness in meeting the labour market needs of both jobseekers and employers. In addition, the CES has the added responsibility of providing specialised advice and assistance to the particular groups in the labour market, such as Aboriginals, handicapped persons, migrants et cetera and more general occupational information and guidance. We are also concerned that the CES efficiently delivers manpower programs to ensure the attainment of not only individual private gains, but also the wider economic benefits arising from an improved functioning of the labour market. In upgrading the CES we will nonetheless be conscious to ensure that the CES services are developed in the most cost effective manner.
Thirdly, the upgrading program will take place over several years. This program will not only require the provision of the necessary additional resources, but also the support and cooperation of CES staff, employers and jobseekers. A 1946 style organisation cannot be changed overnight. However, the framework is being laid- and these legislative proposals are an important part- and I am confident that in the years ahead the CES will provide an effective service to all employers and jobseekers and represent an important element in the improved operation of the labour market.
I now turn to the Commonwealth Employment Service Bill 1978 itself. The Bill has three main elements: The establishment, functions and powers of the CES; the position and responsibility of the National Director of the CES, and the status of the staff; and the establishment, functions and membership of a national advisory committee on the CES, and provision for the establishment of regional and local advisory committees. Of particular importance in the detailed list of functions specified for the CES is the responsibility to ‘promote and implement approved manpower programs and other measures designed to ensure a high level of employment in the community’. The changing nature of the labour market in Australia, particularly the emergence of structural imbalances, has required successive governments to introduce manpower programs such as the National Employment and Training Scheme- NEAT- aimed at overcoming labour market problems suffered by particular groups within the community.
On most occasions the CES has been the delivery arm for these programs and frequently this has meant channelling resources away from the more traditional functions of the CES. The Government is now positively stating that the CES has an extremely important role to play in both promoting and implementing manpower programs and that this must be integrated into the traditional functions of the CES. The Government is particularly anxious for the CES to develop properly into a national manpower organisation capable of offering effective placement services and of efficiently administering a battery of manpower programs designed to ensure that the labour market operates as effectively as possible.
I will also be seen from the Bill that the CES now has the explicit function of assisting employers in meeting labour requirements. In the present labour market situation, the Government is concerned that the CES places appropriate emphasis on securing the confidence and therefore the vacancies of employers. As the Norgard report noted ‘vacancies are the lifeblood of the CES’ and the intensification of staff training which I have announced will be an important element in this process.
The CES will, of course, continue to carry out its important and traditional function of assisting jobseekers to obtain employment, placing particular emphasis on those in need of special assistance such as Aboriginals, migrants, handicapped and young people. The CES will also provide jobseekers with relevant occupational information and vocational assistance. Further, the CES will continue to register persons for unemployment benefit purposes, publish labour market and employment service information and collect statistics and other labour market information. The CES will also undertake the training of its staff members. The CES will, at the direction of the Minister, have the power to establish and maintain offices for the performance of its functions.
Of particular importance in the Bill are the provisions in Part III. The Norgard review pinpointed major weaknesses in the management of the CES above the State level, and concluded that the CES needed to be a closely integrated and singly identified organisation. The review found that the CES as such did not have its own head or a head office, but merely a series of officers in the central office of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations who dealt to a greater or lesser extent with the management and operations of the CES. In order to create a unified service, a clear identity at the national level is imperative. To this end the Government has decided that there shall be a National Director of the Commonwealth Employment Service within the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations who shall be responsible for the administration of the Service and for the implementation of approved manpower programs. The National Director may exercise any powers or perform any duties which are by the Bill conferred or imposed on the Service.
In line with his responsibilities, the National Director will be required to prepare and furnish to the Minister, for presentation to the Parliament, an annual report on the operations of the Service. This report will be available by 31 August in each year so that it can be presented in the Budget session of the Parliament. The Government believes this approach represents the most effective means of resolving many of the management problems which the Norgard report identified, and at the same time preserving the necessary integration between the development of manpower policies and their implementation and development.
Finally, I would like to stress that the CES exists to provide a service to individual jobseekers and employers. To assist in this task the legislation makes provision for the establishment of advisory committees at the national, regional and local level to advise on the operations of the CES. At the national level, the Bill proposes the establishment of a national advisory committee consisting of two union representatives, two employer representatives, the National Director and a representative of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. At the regional and local level the advisory committees will include appropriate representatives of employer and employee organisations. In conclusion I would like to reiterate that the Government is determined that the CES will become an effective manpower service. These legislative proposals are an integral part of this upgrading and I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Re-Establishment and Employment Amendment Bill 1978
This Bill provides for the repeal of Division 5 of Part II of the Principal Act which I foreshadowed in my speech on the Commonwealth Employment Service Bill. It will enable the Commonwealth Employment Service to be established within a more appropriate and updated legislative framework. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1 1 May 1 978 on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Wriedt had moved, by way of an amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘the Bills be deferred and not proceeded with until after full and proper consultation with the States ‘.
-The Senate is debating the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill 1 978 and the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978. When the Senate adjourned on 1 1 May, I was speaking to the amendment moved by my colleague, Senator Wriedt, to the motion: ‘That the Bills be now read a second time’. The amendment read as follows:
Leave out all the words after ‘That’, insert ‘the Bills be deferred and not proceeded with until after full and proper consultation with the States’.
The point I was seeking to make then was that if the Senate sees itself, or members of the Senate see themselves, as representing States, or the Senate sees itself as a House of review, a golden opportunity is presented for it to act in that capacity in respect of these pieces of legislation. I was seeking to make the point that it would be strange if honourable senators on the other side somehow in the four years since legislation was introduced by the Labor Government had changed their basic views about the role of this chamber as a guardian of the interests of the States. I referred the Senate to former statements by a number of honourable ministers on the other side, who I presume are also honourable senators and honourable men in relation to this particular matter. When the debate was adjourned I was speaking especially about the views which had been expressed by Senator Webster in the debate of July 1974 on the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill. In opposing that legislation of the Labor Government Senator Webster made this statement, which honourable senators would have thought at the time was one of profound and lasting principle:
We are elected directly by the States to represent the States in this place. We feel that the exercise of the right of the Commonwealth- or the Australian Government as it is now- to declare total control and then to pursue a section of legislation which seeks to declare how the organisation and regulation of control over submerged lands will be made, is abhorrent to a true and honourable senator.
I repeat, ‘abhorrent to a true and honourable senator’, in July of 1974. Senator Webster continued:
It is difficult for me to understand how Government senators can be so subject to the demands of their Ministers and perhaps the demands of their own Caucus that they completely override any reaction or any cry from the States on this most important matter.
In case Government supporters have forgotten we are, in this month of 1 978, confronted with an almost identical situation in relation to the legislation now before the Senate. To use Senator Webster’s phrase, there have been cries from the States, cries of anguish and pain, to which I will refer in a few moments. But of course, Senators Webster, Missen, Carrick, Durack and other senators to whom I have referred have a splendid array of company in this matter.
I would ask the Senate to pay particular regard to the words of a man such as Senator Webster. After all, there can be no doubt that he attaches great importance to words. He probably uses more of them in the course of Question Time than all the rest of the Ministry put together. Those were his words in 1 974, in a situation that was almost identical to the one with which we are now confronted.
The Ministers to whom I have referred were, of course, in 1974 ably supported by an array of talent and principle, if I might use those terms, on the back benches of the then Opposition. Principled statements were made at that time. For instance, I refer to the following statement on 10 April 1974 by Senator Sim in discussing the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill:
But one of my main objections to this legislation is that it takes away from the States areas, which by right, are their responsibility. If the Senate has a major function it is that of protecting the powers of the States and not supporting legislation which diminishes those powers or takes them away altogether.
That is a view with which the Premier of the State of Western Australia, which Senator Sim represents, emphatically endorsed in telegrams which he has sent to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the last few weeks. If one turns to other talent on the Government back benches, taking for example two younger and more promising senators, if one may use those terms -
– That is offensive to Senator Sim.
– I meant no insult to Senator Sim. These senators have been here for a shorter time and, one would hope, would have a longer future here. I refer to Senators Townley and Jessop. The Senate will recall that in 1974
Senator Townley was an independent senator of this chamber, but subsequently became a Liberal. In a sense, if one talks about the senator as a politician, one might not unfairly describe him as a true professional. If one were thinking of him in a military context he might be described as a mercenary, because he came here as an independent and subsequently became a Liberal. Others have described him as a hit man for the Tasmanian conservatives, a political equivalent of a hired gun, and a deadly accurate politician. All these descriptions can be used in speaking of Senator Townley and are important in the context of what he was saying, in the sense of what he was saying as an independent rather than a Liberal senator in 1974. He said that the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill was unfair in that–
He went on to make remarks similar to those made by Senator Sim in exactly the same sort of context. Another senator who made similar statements is Senator Jessop. He is a younger South Australian senator who in this chamber persistently upholds the rights of State governments other than his own, and has made a number of contributions to debates on this subject. In a particularly scintillating contribution on the atomic energy legislation the other night he drew a fascinating analogy between the radioactive hazards of a nuclear industry and a glass of wine. It seemed to me to be an extraordinary contribution from a South Australian senator, conscious as he might be of the importance of the wine industry in that State and the damage that could be done to it by that sort of suggestion. He is a man who quite laughingly dismisses the fears of many experts and thousands and thousands of other people in this country about the dangers of nuclear power. He expressed himself in these precise terms:
We on this side of the House are concerned about the rights of the States. We are determined that the States should be protected against the centralist policies of this socialist Government.
– Hear, hear!
-Great rhetoric, Senator Young, I am sure you said that sort of thing too. We will come to you later. Senator Jessop continued:
That is why we are concerned about this Bill. I am convinced that it is designed to place more and more authority in the hands of the centralist government.
Those could equally have been the words of Sir Charles Court, or of Mr Hamer in Victoria–
– Or of Sir Robert Menzies.
-Or of a number of other premiers and leaders, as Senator Missen rightly points out. The two senators to whom I have referred have expressed very similar sorts of views about the same specific problem. The other senator on the back bench in a different category and again from a different State to whom I wanted to refer was Senator Wood. From where we sit on this side of the chamber I might say with the greatest respect that the honourable senator’s integrity on these matters shines across the chamber like a translucent opal. Senator Wood, who at this point of his career has an immense experience in the Liberal Party, will not be here after 30 June this year. He is a man who, if I can say so respectfully again, was a bikie long before Malcolm Fraser made it fashionable, a man who has displayed a great deal of knowledge and understanding of the Liberal Party. For example, only two or three weeks ago very quickly and I think acutely at Question Time in this chamber he displayed a degree of political sagacity when he instantly saw the connection between the purchase of VIP aircraft by the Fraser Government and the unfortuante business of the use of VIP aircraft in the days when Senator Gorton was the then Minister and when Mr Holt was Prime Minister. He was concerned in that series of questions to expose the hypocrisy of the Government on that issue. For that reason I would like to refer to what Senator Wood said on this very subject of protecting the interests of the States in general and the interests of his own State of Queensland in particular, remarks which I am sure would be echoed by his own Premier in another context. Senator Wood in dealing with the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill (No. 2) in November 1973 said:
I think that this legislation is an indication of the Federal Government trying to reduce the power and the rights of the States and it is an attempt to build the Federal Parliament into a much greater structure at the expense of the States. 1 feel that this chamber owes its existence to the fact that the States would not accept the setting up of a Commonwealth Parliament until such time as it included a chamber in which they had equal voting rights, as is the situation in the Senate.
Senator Wood said that quite clearly in 1 973. I conceive it to be a statement of lasting principle. When he as a senator weighs in the balance the issues we are now debating I put it to him quite sincerely that it would be very hard for him to depart from that very clearly and succinctly stated principle to which he gave voice in 1 973.
– I mean what I say when I say it.
– That is precisely what I was guessing at and I appreciate that. I put it to the honourable senator that the situation in 1 978 is totally the same as the situation with which he was confronted and about which he spoke in 1973; ‘meaning it’ as he just said. That suggests that in the balance on this issue there is only one course of action which he as an honourable senator can follow.
I have referred to a sprinkling of back bench senators who supported a clutch of Ministers who expressed similar views with candour, various degrees of integrity and principle and certainly with varying degrees of intensity. There are, of course, two other Ministers I should mentionI have mentioned the whole of the honourable ministry on this issue except Senator Guilfoyle and Senator Withers. Of course, we must not forget Senator Withers. I have not mentioned Senator Guilfoyle because strange as it may seem I would not like to put her in the same category as other senators I have mentioned who may for some reason be persuaded by or be under the influence of, one might say, the heady arguments of Senator Jessop, for example, to adopt a different course in 1978 to the course they adopted in 1 974. 1 propose not to say anything about Senator Guilfoyle in this context because quite simply the age of chivalry is not dead. Quite apart from that, there was absolutely no statement by her which I could find on this subject in 1974.
That is not so with Senator Withers- now the Rt Hon. Senator Withers- who has always put forward very forthright views in this chamber on the sorts of matters about which I have been talking. Before I mention what Senator Withers had to say about this subject I must confess that I have made statements in the Senate in recent times that might give people the impression that I am not an unstinting admirer of Senator Withers in everything he does. I want to make it quite clear that in a sense I must plead guilty to making equivocal statements of that kind. When I was first in the Senate in 1975 I must confess–
– You came to the Senate in 1974.
-Do not get excited.
– I am just helping your memory.
– If I can rephrase what I was saying for the benefit of Senator Baume, when I was first in the Senate as a new senator participating in these sorts of debates in 1 975 I remember having a degree of scepticism about Senator Withers. I felt it was strange that even a party like the Liberal Party of Australia should have a leader who never read the newspapers. That seemed a bit odd to me at that time. It seemed to me that if he became a Minister he probably would not be able to answer questions very well. I was a bit puzzled and doubtful about Senator Withers. But there was an occasion when all those doubts suddenly disappeared. On 21 May 1975 Senator Withers got up in this chamber, brandished a document in front of the Senate and said:
I have here a telegram from the Western Australian Premier, Sir Charles Court, in which he expresses his concern at the indecent haste with which the Government is trying to force this legislation through the Parliament.
From that time I abandoned my scepticism about Senator Withers because I thought: ‘This fellow is no slouch after all; he is a man who gets telegrams from Sir Charles Court; he knows what it is all about; he mixes with the real big wigs of Australian politics and knights of the realm and all those people who have made Australia the country it is today; he is in that company; and all my views about him in the past must have been uncharitable and wrong’. It was at that time that my admiration for him grew. This is what he had to say:
I have here a telegram from the Western Australian Premier, Sir Charles Court, in which he expresses his concern at the indecent haste with which the Government is trying to force this legislation through the Parliament. Sir Charles points out that Western Australia received the text of the Bill only a few weeks ago. That is a totally unreasonable time to give anyone to consider this legislation properly. Sir Charles has asked for this debate to bc adjourned for a reasonable period to allow a proper reaction from his State and the other Slates. We agree with him.
In a subsequent passage he said:
Therefore those of us who come from the less populous States in particular have a duty, when a request conies from our colleagues in the State Parliaments that they want some time to consider the legislation, as far as possible- I put it in those terms- to accede to that request. That is not to say that there is not an obligation on our colleagues in the States to move as rapidly as they possibly can to satisfy any queries they may have about it.
Senator Withers then went on at some length to explain why he intended to vote against the Inter-State Commission Bill on 21 May 1975. The fact is that in 1 978 not only Senator Withers but also everybody else has access to telexes from Sir Charles Court. We have access also to statements by the Premier of Victoria and a number of other premiers. But more particularly, in the context of what Senator Withers said in 1975, we have a document from Sir Charles Court. It is dated 4 May and has a very interesting beginning in view of his telegram to Senator Withers. Sir Charles Court said in the telex:
I have your telex advising of your wish to proceed with the environmental nuclear legislation with the objective of giving the Commonwealth appropriate powers to administer the Ranger Uranium Mining development in the Northern Territory. 1 can appreciate your desire to press on with uranium development in the Northern Territory. We for our part are equally anxious to press on with our project in Western Australia.
However, the whole basis of uranium mining, processing and marketing in Australia was intended to be tied to meaningful Commonwealth-State consultation and co-operation.
They are almost identical words to those used by honourable senators in debates in 1974. Sir Charles Court continued:
We set up our ministerial and liaison organisation to cooperate with the Commonwealth but unfortunately the Commonwealth has not allowed it to function.
All the present troubles with your legislation could have been avoided had there been vigorous consultation and negotiation.
You are, of course, free to legislate for Commonwealth Territories but such legislation can be very embarrassing when we seek to achieve nationwide co-operation and the maximum degree of uniformity.
There is always a tendency for unilateral legislation by the Commonwealth on any subject to be used to confront State governments where developers and special groups like Aborigines demand the things in Commonwealth legislation that suits their convenience even though conditions in different States are not comparable.
Later in the telex he said:
I share the concern of the other Premiers as reported to mc, and consider the Commonwealth must refrain from carrying forward any legislation which seek to impose codes of practice without obtaining State agreement.
That is what Sir Charles Court spoke about in that telex of 4 May this year. Subsequently- on 5 May- he concluded another telex with these words:
Even setting this aside the Bills have wider constitutional aspects that require consultation. 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.
Having regard to the terminology of those telexes, if one had been sent to Senator Withers as distinct from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) then, on the basis of prior experience, Senator Withers presumably would have read it to the Senate and, when confronted by the amendment which was moved the other day by my colleague, Senator Wriedt, Sir Charles Court would have supported that amendment because it seeks precisely the same thing that he referred to in his telex, that is, that there be an opportunity for consultation with the States and an opportunity for the various States to discuss this legislation insofar as it affects their interests. There were discussions between officials last week in which, for example, the South Australian Government suggested that the safety codes provided in this legislation should be uniform throughout the Commonwealth, should be administered by one authority and should be tightened. That was the view of the South Australian Government. I cannot speak for the view which representatives of the Western Australian Government put in the course of those discussions. But the point is that there should have been an opportunity at every stage for those discussions to take place. That is the point of the amendment which we have moved. It is for those reasons that I have referred to the previous practice of the Senate and to previous statements of honourable senators in relation to this matter.
As I said earlier, in exercising the function of a House which represents the States or a House which conducts a review function, honourable senators not only must weight the argumens which are put in the course of the current debate but also must weigh the arguments put in the light of the precedents set in debates in the Senate in the past on precisely the same set of principles. In that regard I remind honourable senators of the words of Polonius. I am hesitant about quoting from Shakespeare in this chamber because I am not sure that every honourable senator knows who he was. However, I remind honourable senators of the famous words of Polonius in Hamlet when Laertes was going off to England. For the benefit of Government senators and any other honourable senator who does not know who Polonius was, I suppose he could be described as the Tony Eggleton of the Castle at Elsinore. Polonius then made a statement which has become a classical quotation from this play by Shakespeare.
– ‘This above all ‘-come on, tell us.
- Senator Baume knows it. He corrected me earlier when I made a slip in giving a date. Perhaps he can recite it with me. The words of Polonius are:
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then bc false to any man.
Politicians cannot afford to be false to the electors of Australia or to the Premiers of the States to whom, according to many honourable senators from the other side who have spoken in this debate, they are in a sense responsible and who had some influence in sending them here. Politicians cannot be false to them because since 1 974 there have been two elections at which the electors would have been entitled to rely on the principal words that the then Opposition senatorssome of them now are Ministers- expressed with great conviction in 1 974 in this chamber about the role of senators in representing the interests of their States. I have quoted from the speeches of five Ministers and seven back benchers, the seven back benchers being a sample of the people in this chamber who now represent the Government which came to power by talking about probity in government, principle, continuity and all those things which have become part of the rhetoric of Australian politics. Of course, if they consult their own words in 1 974 and 1 975 when dealing with almost identical legislation, I suggest that those Ministers, those honourable senators, those honourable men, will have no alternative when weighing the issues in this debate but to maintain the principles which they enunciated with such conviction in 1974 and 1975. 1 urge the Senate to take a proper, wise and sensible view of this legislation in the light of that history on this matter.
– I must say that as I listened to Senator Button I could not help remembering another classical quotation, but unfortunately I do not remember who said it, namely, ‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks’. Senator Button certainly did protest too much tonight. I think that anyone listening to the debate in this chamber or elsewhere tonight would not have been aware that he was talking about the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill and the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill, which are two important subjects to Australia that do not figure in his dissertation at all. We all enjoyed and appreciated the fact that he moved through with such loving care the statements of Ministers and of members of this chamber who now sit on the Government benches, lt was very desirable that he should remind us of what we said, those wise words, in 1974 and 1975. It is interesting to know that he appreciates and takes such care of what we then said. At the same time, because I do not want it to be thought that it is sour grapes on my part, I remind listeners that in the early part of his speech, which started a week ago, Senator Button referred with loving care to a statement I had made on the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill in 1 975 when I warned about the effect of regulations, the dangers of regulations and how difficult it is to pick up regulations and perhaps deal with them rather than with substantive legislation. Remarks which I shall make later in this speech will indicate that I am quite consistent now with what I said then. I thank the honourable senator for reminding me of my words in 1975.
Here we are considering two Bills of importancetwo Bills about which I have some concern and some criticism which I intend to express tonight. However, it is not the sort of criticism which would lead me to vote against these Bills which are part of a whole package of legislationthe ‘nuclear package’ as it has been called. The legislation requires very careful consideration. Indeed there are some aspects of it that I find I cannot really support. I hope that they will be the subject of amendment and reconsideration after this event.
Senator Wright’s speech on this legislation last week, which should be read by everybody, brought to my attention much of the concern he has for aspects of these Bills, particularly the first Bill that I mentioned. I wish to refer to what Senator Wright said in that speech. Indeed, the fact is that I do not regard myself as in any way an expert or well versed in the substance of the nuclear legislation or the industry in itself. However, with the package of legislation that has been coming through this Parliament, it has been impossible for back benchers of this Parliament to investigate the legislation thoroughly and to attend meetings. I had to give away this package of legislation to consider the Aboriginal legislation because meetings on both matters clashed. Nonetheless I find it necessary to take an interest in these matters which are of concern. Therefore in a state of not complete knowledge of the situation, I make these comments about the Bills.
Let me refer first to the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill which is an unusual piece of legislation. Its object is worth recording:
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.
This environmental part of the nuclear legislation is important. It provides, as I say, a somewhat curious method of developing the legislation because it proposes that codes of practice shall be adopted by the Governor-General in Council, which is, of course, by the Executive Government. The Executive Government will draft codes of practice in regard to the way in which there will be protection against nuclear activity. These codes will be sent to the States and the States will be asked and able to comment on them. There are, I am afraid, some curiosities about this, which, as I said, Senator Wright mentioned in his speech.
Before dealing with the criticisms of it, with regard to the general legislation, I must say that I am not persuaded that there is danger in the adoption of a nuclear industry in Australia. I am not satisfied, on the amount of evidence that I have been able to accumulate, that the dangers that are referred to are anything other than an exaggeration by people in this country. I rely very much on the remarks during the debate by Senator Harold Young of South Australia who has taken a great deal of interest in this subject. In his speech he indicated the great need for nuclear energy by other countries who have a more pressing need for it than Australia. He pointed out that in fact it does not behove this country to stand apart, to leave the uranium in the ground and not to exercise an influence on the protection and handling of nuclear energy and nuclear fuel throughout the world. I think we have to be involved. I am not satisfied in general terms with the criticisms that are made of our involvement in this activity. Of course the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry basically justifies our going ahead with nuclear endeavours. But so far as this Bill is concerned, as I say, there are some aspects which I think ought to be the subject of some concern to us legislators in this Parliament. I say that in respect of the matters mentioned by Senator Wright when he spoke last week. He drew attention then to the curious way in which this legislation is phrased. We can appreciate that the Parliament is not in a position to lay down detailed codes, detailed material whereby it can be determined from point to point how nuclear activity should be controlled. In fact what the legislation represents is an eggshell- to use Senator Wright’s own words- whereby codes can be developed. They are then sent to the States and, if the States do not agree and do not pass legislation accordingly, of course these codes can be brought into effect by regulations that are brought down by our Government. Under this Bill, those regulations are capable of being disallowed by either of the Houses of this Parliament.
However, there are curiosities about this element to which Senator Wright referred in his speech. We have two steps here. We have codes which can be created, which come into effect, which are signed by the Governor-General, which will lay on the table of this Parliament and which are subject to disallowance in whole or in part. Then, if they are to come into operative effect, there must be a regulation providing for this to happen. With regard to the codes and the parts of the codes, that power of disallowance is written into this Bill. It is written into this Bill because the normal position is that we in this place may deal with regulations and ordinances and may disallow them. The normal situation is that where there are regulations and ordinances, they come before the Committee of this Parliament known as the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, of which Senator Wright, Senator Wood and I are members, as are members on both sides of the chamber. It is worth recalling the powers that this Committee has and which I believe, as does Senator Wright, are not included in the disallowance of these codes. Those powers which the Committee has are set out in Mr Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, Fifth Edition, in this way:
That is, the Regulations and Ordinances Committee- would be required to scrutinise regulations to ascertain:
It may be that the drafters of this Bill would consider that the regulations that brought these codes into effect, and in fact the codes themselves, were not merely matters of administrative detail- of course they are substantive- and would never meet the fourth criterion required by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. The situation, therefore, is curious in that the codes will come onto the floor of this chamber and unless we in this chamber are vigilant and unless we can somehow use the facilities of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee and its Counsel and in other ways investigate properly those codes, it is difficult to see how they will be scrutinised properly by the chamber as a whole. As regards the regulations that carry the codes into effect, they will of course be subject to the possibility of disallowance in the normal way. But I think it is a matter of some concern that such a substantial amount of the legislation is left to be filled in later by the Executive Government and does not, to any great degree, come within this legislation we are now passing. As -Senator Wright has pointed out, there are two objections there. One is that this legislation is eggshell legislation which does not have any substance to it and we are passing that power to the Executive Government. The other is that we appear to be cutting out proper scrutiny of the codes which is part of the province which this particular House of Parliament- the Senate- has. The House of Representatives does not have a committee such as the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee which we have. Though it perhaps is not deliberately by-passed certainly in effect it is bypassed by this form of legislation.
There was another matter, which Senator Wright raised, to which I wish to draw attention. He referred to his doubt as to the constitutional power on which the whole of this legislation is based and said that there had been failure to obtain by agreement with the States a very firm constitutional basis for it. Senator Wright pointed out the results of the Joint Committee on Constitution Review, which reported in 1959. One of the important recommendations of that Committee was that the Commonwealth Parliament should be empowered by constitutional amendment to make laws with respect, firstly, to the manufacture of nuclear fuels and the generation and use of nuclear energy and, secondly, to ionising radiation. It was considered by that Committee that the power was not adequate. Yet here today, we work upon the basis that the power is adequate and we are proceeding to build an industry on that basis.
Therefore, I think that constitutional power is linked very much to the attitude of the States. If some of the States object- they have indicated objection to this legislation- then I think there is some concern as to whether its validity will hold up under any test. In regard to the attitude of the States, I want to refer to some statements which were made by Mr Hamer, the Premier of Victoria, in a letter to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Amongst other things, he said:
I believe that the Bill itself is deficient in failing to provide a machinery for full consultation with the States in formulating proper controls of nuclear activities.
He referred to the consultation which was to be had with State Ministers and formed the opinion that this was tokenism, that there was no real possibility for that State to have any control of that input. He went on to say:
This provision cannot be said to provide any more than token consultation with, and input by the States.
He expressed his doubts about the constitutional basis of the legislation. I note that in the House of Representatives the Bill was amended so that in fact it will not operate in respect of the States until a date fixed by proclamation. That amendment is now inserted in the Bill. Nonetheless, we are in a somewhat unsatisfactory situation where we have this opinion of the States and the very doubtful constitutional power upon which the legislation is based.
I think there are other aspects of this Bill that are the cause of some concern. Clause 1 3 of the Bill gives powers to the Governor-General to deal with special situations if he is satisfied that the health or safety of persons, or the environment, are likely to be harmed by a situation resulting from a nuclear activity that exists in a State or Territory. That is very widely expressed. If the laws of the State do not make proper provision for it, then the Governor-General may give directions and take such action as he considers necessary to control and eliminate hazards associated with that situation. It is expressed in very vague language. It is true that it is confined only to three months with some power to extend it and that such orders are subject to disallowance in either House of the Parliament. Nonetheless, I express some concern at the width of the power that is given and at what may be encompassed in it.
In respect to this Bill, there is power to make a regulation to ensure the confidentiality of information obtained in or in connection with the carrying out of, giving effect to or securing the observance of a code or practice. This Parliament not yet having before it a freedom of information Bill and, clearly, being in the process of considering a change in the area of confidentiality of government documents, I hope that we will soon find ourselves with legislation which is effective in regard to restricting the amount of confidentiality. How far that power under this clause may go is very vague and we are empowering confidentiality without, I think, very much restriction. I believe, of course, that a number of problems that I have mentioned may well be overcome if this Paliament keeps them under careful scrutiny. No amount of scrutiny will have any effect on the other matters I have mentioned, such as the doubts in regard to constitutionality. Therefore, I have some concern about the results and the effectiveness of this particular Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill.
I turn now to the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill which is being dealt with in this debate jointly with the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill. It has been interesting to find out what is the justification for using the Atomic Energy Act 1953- an Act largely of a defence nature- which set up the Atomic Energy Commission and which places very great power in the hands of the executive Government. This is being used now for what is something of a commercial operation- the mining and the dealing with nuclear energy. One has some difficulty understanding why this has been done. I have heard it argued that the Australian Labor Party, when it made arrangements about the Ranger field and entered into engagements, had in mind using the Atomic Energy Act. I do not find that argument very convincing. I do not think it is necessarily desirable to do it because the Labor Party had this in mind a couple of years ago. I hoped that in the House of Representatives debate on this matter I would have been able to read some sensible explanation of why the Act was being used. But unfortunately, as so often is the case, both sides of the House went into a tantrum when they came to debate this aspect of the Bill. I was none the wiser.
I think there is some real concern as to the use of the Atomic Energy Act. This arises because, whilst most of this legislation follows fairly religiously the Ranger Inquiry report, I am afraid it does not do so in regard to this particular aspect. In the second report of the Ranger Inquiry, at page 248, Mr Justice Fox had this to say:
An alternative for Ranger left open by the Land Rights Act is an authority to mine under the Atomic Energy Act 1953. We strongly recommend against the use of that Act for the grant of an authority to Ranger to mine uranium. There arc a number of different reasons for our recommendation.
After pointing out that section 41 of that original 1 953 Act gave very great power to the Government and after expressing some doubts as to whether it did- nonetheless it could be said that the Ranger activities were done and carried out on behalf of the Commonwealth and I should mention here that one of the amendments to the Bill covers that particular point- he went on to say:
Although the Commonwealth is a participant, the project is to be, as we understand, an ordinary commercial one.
He went on further to say:
In any event, the section is inappropriate for a venture such as is planned, and which has to be subject to strong environmental controls, determined upon and maintained independently of the co- venturers.
The Commonwealth is one of the co-venturers with private companies in the use and mining of uranium. He proceeded further to say:
A strong body of evidence demonstrates a widespread lack of confidence in the Atomic Energy Commission as the final arbiter of standards for the proposed mining operations, and as a monitor of them. This is in part because it is proposed that the Commission be actively engaged as entrepreneur, and in part because one of its ordinary roles is the promotion of uranium mining and nuclear development generally.
He also felt it inevitable that the Minister’s use of section 41 will attract doubt and suspicion, simply because he is the Minister reponsible for the Commission and he would normally be expected to turn to it for advice in relation to the operation of this section. Finally he drew attention to the security provisions of Part IV of the Atomic Energy Act, some of which seem extreme in the current context but which were doubtless enacted with defence considerations in mind. While they remain, public access to information is seriously curtailed.
In regard to this Act, once again I turn to what I think are the rather serious implications of the application of the original, even amended, Atomic Energy Act. The offences that are prescribed under that Act carry heavy penalties. The security section, Part IV, very greatly impinges upon the normal civil liberties of Australians. Whilst that may be very essential in the case of a specific defence or security purpose, it is hard to see how it is applicable and suitable in the case of a normal commercial venture. It provides for people to be kept off premises. It will no doubt be suggested that it would restrict the right of lawful protest, which operates in this community, of many people who sincerely have a strong objection to nuclear operations. Furthermore, the Atomic Energy Act itself imports in its terms the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act of 1947. Section 60 applies to and is in relation to all works carried out by or on behalf of the Commission as if those works were approved defence projects within the meaning of that Act.
I will not go in detail into the other provisions of the Act which reverse the onus of proof in some respects and which, in section 48, are very restrictive of the disclosure of information. This relates to the point I made earlier in regard to freedom of information and the proper disclosure of commercial documents and information which ought, surely, to be within the public scrutiny. That information may well be restricted under this Bill. I am concerned therefore and I am not alone in this concern. I noticed an article this morning in the Melbourne Age by Mr Tony Walker, the Canberra correspondent, headed Uranium Law Threatens Civil Rights’ in which he made many points in respect of this matter. He took the view that I have taken in respect of the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act and its implications in regard to commercial activities. He said:
And the question remains: why did the Government reject the Fox recommendation and use an Act which may have been appropriate to guard defence secrets at Woomera but which is much less pertinent to commercial development?
When one looks at the various parts of this Act, one sees that there are some very real concerns about the use of the Atomic Energy Act. Therefore I am concerned that this Bill is a case of setting a sledgehammer to operate in what could be a rather dangerous area. I trust that in the operation of this Act the Government will be very careful and very cautious. I trust that we in this Parliament will be extremely careful that the operation of the Act does not result in any undue interference with civil liberties.
We have before us an amendment to the Bill. One would never have guessed until the last few words of Senator Button’s speech that he had made his second speech based on an amendment which suggests that there should be a delay in this legislation to enable consultation with the States. He was not concerned with the other aspects with which I have dealt. He was concerned only with consultation with the States. I trust that there will be consultation and I believe that this Government will have very real consultation with the States. I think it is probably very important from the point of view of the constitutionality of this Bill that the Government should reach sensible arrangements with the States. I do not think that the States will be terribly impressed by the fact that at this stage Senator Button and his colleagues suddenly have experienced what I would call a death bed repentance about the States. They have suddenly discovered the States as a reason to delay this Bill and I do not think the States will depend upon that.
It is clear that the Government is long since committed to a course that will require the use and development of nuclear energy and I would not be a party to avoiding the strategy which the Government has adopted. Whilst I reject the amendment moved by the Opposition, at the same time I urge the Government to take note of the criticisms which have been made of these two Bills. I know that there are amendments to be considered to some of the Bills still to go through. I hope the Government will consider whether there are still desirable amendments that might overcome the objections that have been made by me, by Senator Wright and by other persons. I therefore face these two Bills of the package with some trepidation and some concern, determined that if they are passed, we in this Parliament must be extra vigilant as to how the powers are used and how the Senate, in particular, stands up to the obligations which it has to review and consider regulations and other responsibilities of the Government. Nonetheless, I support the general decision of the Government in respect of nuclear energy and consequently support the package of Bills.
– The Senate is debating the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill 1 978 and the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978 conjointly, to which the Opposition has moved the following amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘the Bills be deferred and not be proceeded with until after full and proper consultation with the States’.
Senator Missen was rather critical of the way in which Senator Button spoke to the amendment. He seemed to be of the opinion that this House, being, as he claimed, a House of review, would need to be very vigilant in the future and keep a watchful eye on what this Government does once the legislation is passed. He said that he thought there would be consultation with the States. I am very much afraid that it will be a similar type of consultation to that which we have just witnessed with the State of Queensland in relation to the Aurukun and Mornington Island matters when this Government was railroaded by the Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen. Of course we will see the Government buckle down on this legislation in the way it did on the other legislation.
If Mr Bjelke-Petersen wants to mine uranium and sell it at the highest price he can get, irrespective of safeguards, he will do it no matter what this Government says. It is no good Senator Missen saying that this House will keep a watchful eye. As I have said many times, this Senate is only a rubber stamp when a Liberal government is in office. We have just listened to Senator Missen being most critical of the legislation. He expressed grave concern for it. But what is he going to do when we have the vote on this legislation later on tonight? He has admitted that he will support it. He knows that once the horse has bolted it is no use shutting the gate. Senator Missen and Senator Wright- I will quote from Senator Wright in a moment; Senator Missen quoted him quite often in his speech- ought to be taking action now if they believe that this is a House of review. This is when they ought to act, not after the legislation has been passed.
Senator Missen went on to say that he was very pleased that an amendment had been moved in the other place so that the Act will not become law until a date fixed by proclamation. Who can trust Mr Fraser? He will declare it the minute he wants to do so. The policy of the Liberal-National Country parties always has been: Dollars before all else. That is the crux of their platform. The mighty dollar is all they are concerned about. Never mind the health, welfare and safety of the people who live in this community. It is all right so long as it is putting dollars into the pockets of private enterprise. In this case it will go into the pockets of the mining companies. We have seen some of the documents put out by the Government- I will comment later about the great dossier which has been released- about the safeguards that it ensures and the sanctions it can invoke. Of course it will not invoke them. It would be too afraid of offending its wealthy backers. If this House is a States House, as Senator Missen just stated, and if it is looking after the interests of the States, I draw attention to the fact that at least South Australian senators received a telex from Mr Corcoran, the Acting Premier of South Australia, a week before the Senate rose for the last recess. Much to my surprise, I came into possession of a copy of this telex in an envelope with a ‘compliments’ slip attached to it. The ‘compliments’ slip was from Senator Gordon Davidson, a Liberal senator from South Australia. He has shown some concern also that the amendment moved by the Opposition ought to be carried. He took great pains to send out copies of the telex with his compliments’ slip attached to it. I am sure that he will support the States, being the great democrat that he is. He came into this place as a States representative. He was not elected to this place initially but came here as a nominee to look after the interests of South Australia. I think that for the record I should read that telex and the names of the people to whom it was sent by Mr Corcoran. They are:
Senator The Hon. C. Laucke, Senator the Hon. R. Bishop, Senator D. N. Cameron, Senator the Hon. J. L. Cavanagh, Senator G. S. Davidson, Senator J. Haines, Senator D. S. Jessop, Senator G. T. McLaren, Senator A. J. Messner, Senator H. W. Young.
The Commonwealth Government has introduced into Parliament, a series of Bills relating to the mining and export of Australian uranium. It is understood that these measures have now been put through the House of Representatives and are to come before the Senate shortly in amended form. This proposed legislaton raises many serious and fundamental questions, not only about uranium and related nuclear acitivies, but also about the established rights and responsibilities of the States in a number of areas. Such questions arise with particular force in relation to the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill and the proposed amendments to the Atomic Energy Act.
The mining and export of uranium and all matters concerned with nuclear development are of such importance that they must be subject to the most careful and comprehensive examination, including adequate opportunity for general discussion and debate. You will be aware that other States have joined South Australian in expressing acute concern at the general tenor and specific provisions of this legislation and the manner in which it is being handled. The Premier of Victoria (Mr R. J. Hamer) and the Premier of Western Australia (Sir Charles Court) have protested strongly to the Prime Minister that the legislation should not be proceeded with. Similar protests have been made by the Premier of New South Wales(Mr N. Wran)and by the Acting Premier of Tasmania (Mr N. Batt). It is understood that parallel concerns are felt by the Premier of Queensland (Mr J. Bjelke-Petersen). There is thus a very broadly based consensus amongst the States that the legislation should not be passed. Instead, the opportunity should be taken for the fullest of consultations to be held with the States.
To requests by State governments for withdrawal of the legislation to enable reconsideration, the Prime Minister has responded that sections 1 1 and 13 of the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill, should not commence in relation to the States until the views of the States have been considered. This is unacceptable to South Australia and, to the best of my knowledge, to all other States. Sir Charles Court has been particularly strong in support of the South Australian attitude on this point. The potential implications for the established pattern of relationships between Federal and State governments arising from such a course are so broad that a much more positive response to the States concerns is demanded.
In view of the importance of these issues to South Australia, I earnestly seek your assistance in ensuring that this legislation is not passed until the fullest of consultations have been held with the States.
I ask you to support your State of South Australia and exercise your responsibilities as senator to this end.
Acting Premier of South Australia
That is the telex that came to South Australian senators. It is in conformity with the amendment moved by the Opposition to the two Bills which we are debating. I shall be very interested to see whether for once in my time in the Parliament senators opposite represent the interests of their electors. Every time there is an election they go out on the public hustings and say that the Senate is a States House. They say that the people elect us to represent them and that they will protect their interests. Here is the opportunity for the South Australian Liberal senators to live up to the statements they have made from the public platform and to let us see what they will do. I shall be the first one to congratulate any one of them who crosses the floor and supports this amendment.
In his telex Mr Corcoran voices the very words used by Senator Missen. He said that the legislation was hastily introduced and that supporters of the Government did not even have enough opportunity to study it and see its possible ramifications. On page 1671 of Hansard of 1 1 May Senator Wright said:
We must never reach the stage where we, the elected members of the chamber, are spokesmen for the Government as distinct from spokesmen for the people . . .
I hope that Senator Wright will join with the South Australian senators and cross the floor to carry the amendment so that this Bill can go away for further consideration by his own Party.
A few of his own colleagues have complained in the Senate and publicly that they did not have sufficient time to study the legislation. This would also ensure that proper consultation was taken with the States. There is another thing of grave concern to me as a country senator. Over the years the Liberal and National Country parties have always led the people in the country, particularly primary producers, to believe that they safeguard their interests. When we were exploring the estimates in the Estimates committees hearings I was astonished at the evidence given by the Department of Trade and Resources. We were given a chart which proves conclusively that this Government is not interested in primary producers. I shall quote some of the answers given by some of the officers after I have spoken about this chart.
This Government is interested in the mining interests which back it to the hilt. The new Department of Trade and Resources which has been created has been split into seven divisions. In the first division of trade relations and markets there is no adviser. There are two principal advisers for uranium. There is one principal adviser for the first commodities division which takes in grains, meat, wool, sugar, dairy products, tropical fruits, copper, tin, lead, zinc, gold, tungsten, minerals and miscellaneous. The second commodities division looks after iron ore, manganese, coal, bauxite, alumina, salt, nickel, phosphate, mineral sands, et cetera. It has one principal adviser. Yet for uranium which is one of the lowest income earners in this great continent there are two principal advisers.
That is proof in black and white of the priorities of this Government, which are the mining and the sale of uranium without any regard to safeguards. Its highest priority is to look after the mining and the sale of uranium to get the mighty dollar. Never mind about the primary producer. When Government supporters talk about primary industry legislation they claim that primary industry is the greatest income earner in the country. They support the superphosphate subsidy for the Pitt Street, Rundle Street and Burnside farmers. They use the argument that those people have to be protected. They have forgotten about them now. They can see dangling in front of their noses the dollars which they hope to get from the sale of uranium. One of the very disturbing facts is how this Government has tried to hide its uranium policy. As I said during the questioning in the Estimates committees, it has scattered it around the countryside in various departments like shrapnel. We cannot pin any department down to give a definite answer as to who is responsible for safety. I shall quote some of the questions on uranium I posed to the officers of the Department of Trade and Resources on 4 May. Talking about the chart I said:
The chart which has been circulated shows the responsibilities of the seven divisions. Could you tell us what the rationale was for creating a separate division for uranium, which comprises only a small part of Australia’s mineral earnings; for placing agricultural products and some minerals, copper, tin, lead, zinc, gold and tungsten in another division; and placing the major export earners coal, iron ore, bauxite and alumina with nickel and mineral sands in a third division?
I shall not name the officer. He could say only what he was allowed to say by the Government which employs him. He replied: 1 think it was an attempt to support the Government policy in regard to minerals, including uranium.
The Chairman of the Committee said:
This represents the priorities of the Government?
The officer replied:
That is right.
So, in effect, the Government is giving the mining and export of uranium its No. 1 priority?
The officer replied:
I went on to say:
Even though it is one of the lowest export income earners, over agriculture, grains, meat, wool, sugar, dairy products, tropical fruits and that sort of thing?
Then the Leader of the Government, Senator Withers, who was in charge of the witnesses appearing before the Committee, said:
That is a statement, senator.
I could not construe it in any other way.
The officer had said that the restructuring of the Department was to safeguard and promote the Government’s policy on uranium. I went on to ask about the safeguards. I asked what safeguards this Government could tell us it had in operation if it got the go-ahead to mine uranium as it is hoping to do, and provided this legislation were passed. All that the Government could do was to supply the written reply which appears on page 134 of the document tabled in the Senate today incorporating written replies to questions asked during an examination of Estimates Committee A. It reads:
On 4 May 1978 Senator McLaren sought information regarding uranium safeguards. This matter was dealt with in Ministerial Statements to Parliament on 25 August 1977 and documents issued by the Government on that day. Copies are available in the Parliamentary Library.
That is the answer I got from this Government. Every time it speaks in public about safeguards on uranium it tells the people at large it has adequate safeguards. Where are they? Surely if the Government has adequate safeguards they must be an improvement on what was contained in the uranium package of statements that was put out as Liberal Party propaganda during the last election. Senator Withers has said in this chamber that we can have tens of thousands of them free if we want to distribute them- to promote Liberal Party Policy. Yet one of the Government’s supporters asked a question today as to why the Australian Government Publishing Service was charging $5.10 for a small booklet on safety procedures- not a booklet on uranium but a wee booklet on safety at a cost of $5.10. The booklet deals with many aspects of safety related to camping, bush walking, bicycle riding and those sorts of things. The children of this nation will have to pay $5.10 for that booklet. Yet the Government distributes free of charge a package of information on uranium at enormous cost to the taxpayer. That is another example of the priorities of this Government in trying the hardsell on the community on the safety of uranium. This Government has not updated the safeguards- not at all.
Let me refer to one of those documents put out in that package to which I was referred at page 134 of the written replies tabled in this place today. The document headed ‘Uranium- Australia’s Decision NUCLEAR SAFEGUARDS’ is a background paper. On the last page of that document the following appears:
If u country buying uranium from Australia were to fail to comply with its safeguards obligations, there are a number of sanctions which can be applied. These include the withholding of supply–
I am quite sure that this Government would attempt to do that because in this chamber during 1975 we saw supporters of the Liberal and Country Parties in action. They are past masters at witholding Supply. That document goes on to say: . . seeking agreement amongst other uranium suppliers to do likewise, action in the United Nations or the IAEA against the country involved, and termination of diplomatic or trade relations.
– Too late.
– Of course it is too late because once the mines are operating and trade links with purchasing countries are established would anyone believe that a Liberal-Country Party Government would move to apply any sanctions if a purchasing country violated any of these safeguards? Of course the Government would not because, as I said in my opening remarks, the mighty dollar is the main concern of this Government, not the welfare of or safeguards for the people of this community. Private enterprise always has been the uppermost plank in the platform of the Liberal and Country Parties and it will crack the whip. The Government will not be game to invoke any of these sanctions it so glibly talks about in that document. It will not be game to do it because immediately it would find itself offside with its wealthy backers and it would be telling us stories about how it would affect the economy of this country.
The Government has not told us how many people these magnificent mines will employ if they get into operation. It is a very low manpower operation. Once these mines are fabricated, because of modern machinery no great work force is needed to mine the uranium. If my guess is correct and the Government gets the go-ahead to mine uranium I would like to know how much of the machinery will be manufactured in Australia to mine this wonderful product that will bring in this great income. The Government will be buying machinery overseas in the same way as it buys many of our ships. It will be buying overseas and leaving out the Australian work force.
These are matters of great concern. They were of great concern to me when I posed quite a few questions during the Estimates Hearings. I was concerned that I got the run-around. I have mentioned how the departments involved with the safety of mining and the disposal of uranium are scattered around like shrapnel. When the estimates for one department are being examined and a senator asks a question he is told that he should have posed the question to another department. Even Senator Withers went so far as to say: ‘I am not going to tell you where you can get the information; you search that out for yourself. The Leader of the Government in the Senate told us that he would not provide us with information about where to go to ascertain what are the real safeguards. He is on record in Hansard as saying that. During the examination of the estimates for the Department of Trade and Resources I asked another officer this question:
What are the responsibilities of these two principal advisers in the uranium division? What are their duties?
This was the reply:
One division is associated with the domestic aspects of the development of uranium in Australia. Basically at this stage it is involved in negotations in connection with the Ranger project. This will involve negotiations with the Northern Land Council of conditions under which the Ranger consortium can develop the Ranger deposit. It is concerned with the environmental aspects in the Northern Territory up to a point because those aspects also involve other departments. Basically that division is responsible for implementing the
Government’s policy on commercial development of uranium in Australia. The other division is concerned with the international aspects of uranium exports, both present and future, and international conferences on uranium.
I then posed this question:
In view of that answer in which you said that the first division is responsible for development, am I to take it that the Government through this Department has no concern at all for the safety angles involved in the development of the Ranger project? 1 asked the Minister for Administrative Services this question:
Can the Minister tell me whether there is any concern for safety?
The Minister replied:
If you refer to the uranium package presented in this Parliament in August last year you will see that a large number of departments are involved in the whole issue. The Department of Trade and Resources, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, the Department of National Development and the Department of Health are all concerned with aspects of uranium. Uranium is not just uranium simpliciter. lt has foreign affairs aspects, energy aspects and health aspects. There is no one single department which has the capacity and expertise to deal with every part of it. As I understand it, the Department of Trade and Resources is responsible for the section outlined. If you wish to worry about uranium waste you will have to go to the Department of National Development.
That is my grave complaint. During Estimates hearings I have raised questions on other matters, including the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I am always told, as are many of my colleagues: ‘We cannot give you the answer from this Department; you have to go somewhere else’. No wonder Senator Missen complained that honourable senators did not have sufficient time to examine this legislation and did not know its ramifications. This is clear evidence of the way this Government is giving every honourable senator who is concerned with the safety aspects of the mining and export of uranium the run-around when we try to pin it down and ask it to tell us what real safety measures it has. The Government will not tell anybody. We cannot find the information in this document which has been tabled today. I have read out the safeguards the Government talks about- the sanctions it can impose- but of course they are worthless once the Government has sold the stuff to people. It might then find it being shot back at us in some manner. It will be like the time when ‘Pig Iron’ Bob sent pig iron to Japan and our troops in Darwin had it coming back at them in the form of shrapnel. It was too late then. The material was sent overseas, and we got it back.
What is to happen to the waste? Already a proposition has been floated- the Government has not denied it yet- that if we sell uranium to
Japan we will be able to dispose of the waste in the heartland of Australia where nobody lives. That is what we have to face up to. The Government might say glibly that this will never happen, but how can we be sure that it will never happen? That is a question which today the man in the street, the mothers of little children and our future mothers are asking. What is in store for us if this Government rushes willy-nilly into introducing legislation, as it is doing now, in order to enable the mining of a commodity which does not have to be mined but which is being mined just because this Government is grasping for the dollar? That is all the Government is concerned about. Is it not time that supporters of the Government- in particular, Senator Wright and Senator Missen, who have criticised the legislation- took a stand and said: We will not allow this legislation to be passed until we are sure and everybody is sure that the necessary safeguards exist ‘?
We know that there has been undue haste. We read in the newspapers every day that the mining companies are saying that if they do not make a start on the mines in the Northern Territory before the wet season they will be put back for years. So they should be put back. They are the only ones who will gain from rushing into this mining exercise. The man in the street will gain nothing. It will not put an extra cent into his pocket. I think he is rapidly waking up to this fact. The Government claims that the results of the past two general elections gave it a mandate to go ahead with this legislation. But it did not ask a question in this issue at those elections. Why did it not have the courage to put the matter to a referendum?
– Why did you not resist it?
– There was a time when the Australian Labor Party’s policy was to mine uranium, but we have been prepared to change and we admit that. We have changed our policy because we have now been acquainted with and made aware of the dangers which exist. We do not run away from the issue; we say that we changed our minds. If we are to be criticised for that, so be it. I think that you would be a greater man–
– Direct your remarks to the Chair, Senator McLaren.
– Yes, Mr President. I think that Senator Missen would be a greater senator if he could change his mind and say that he is not satisfied. He has said already that he is not satisfied with the safeguards.
– No, not the safeguards.
– He is not satisfied with the ramifications of the legislation.
– That is right.
– Why the indecent haste in passing this legislation? Why can we not send it away, have another examination made of it, have consultation with the States about it and then bring the legislation back when we are absolutely sure that nobody will suffer because of hasty action taken by this Government just because it wants to get its hands on some dollars which the mining companies have said they will give the Government if it pushes this legislation through the Parliament and enables the mining companies to commence mining before the wet season commences?
– I was interested in being reminded of something I said when in Opposition. I listened also to what was said by the previous speaker about people changing their minds. I am now serving my twenty-ninth year in this chamber. My term expires at the end of next month and possibly my active parliamentary work will terminate within another two weeks. I hope that it can be said sincerely that I have been consistent while I have been in this Parliament and that I have not been afraid to express an opposite view to the view of my party when in government or in opposition. I believe that if parliamentarians- in particular, honourable senators- generally followed that course the public would have a higher estimation of us as parliamentarians.
One of the things which has always amazed me is how parliamentarians will say one thing when they are in government or in opposition but when their position is reversed they suddenly change their minds. This is probably one of the aspects which lowers public opinion of parliamentarians. Therefore, I have no hesitation in standing by what I say. I am interested in the changes of mind which have taken place. The previous speaker, Senator McLaren, talked about a change of mind. The Labor Government raced in and gave the okay for uranium mining. I believe that if that was the right course to follow then it is the right course to follow now. I have not seen any evidence which made the Australian Labor Party change its mind on that issue. In fact if the Labor Government, as a responsible government, felt that there was any doubt on this issue it should have gone into the matter very thoroughly before it made its decision.
I am in favour of uranium mining. I believe that the energy requirements of this world will be such that something will have to be done to meet the situation. I therefore have no hesitation in saying that I am in favour of uranium mining. Despite that, I am not in favour of the legislation which is before us- the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill and the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill- being passed through the Parliament. I have certain fears from a legislative point of view. It has been mentioned that we are a States’ House. Senator Button reminded me that on a previous occasion I said that we come here as representatives of the States. I believe that if we are to do our job poperly we must pay some recognition to what our State governments think with respect to a particular matter. The Government of my own State- has doubts about some aspects of this legislation, lt feels that more consultation should have been carried out with the States. Apparently some of the other States think so, too. If my State feels very strongly on this issue- I feel that there are some doubts as far as the other States are concerned- I believe that more time should be provided for consideration and consultation between the Federal Government and the State Governments. Therefore, 1 think that further consideration should be given to the legislation.
It is no use our saying that the Federal Government would be responsible in its actions towards the States. I cannot say that I would trust this Government or a Labor Government in that respect. At times we have seen evidence of governments of both political persuasions trying to use strong measures over State governments. I recall the threat which was made very recently by this Federal Government to the Queensland Government about the Aurukun and Mornington Island missions. This Federal Government threatened to walk in and take certain action. Federal governments- the people in Canberraalways think that they can run things so much better than anyone else. Yet a few nights ago we heard a woman from Darwin saying that the Aborigines for whom the Federal Government was responsible lived under disgraceful conditions and that their conditions were not nearly as good as those of the Aborigines in Queensland. Despite that we have heard about this Federal Government threatening to walk in and take over from a State government. While that attitude dominates the thinking of the Federal Government, if the State governments feels that more consideration should be given to this legislation, I say that more consideration should be given to it. That is one aspect of the way I feel about this legislation.
I did not intend to speak for as long as this, but I shall not speak for much longer. We have had two debates on this legislation. I think they have been debates of which the Senate can be well proud. Senator Wright made a magnificent speech in this debate. It indicated his great mind. In my estimation, Senator Wright has been a wonderful attribute to the Senate for almost 29 years. His depth of thought has been of tremendous value to the Senate, to this nation and to me personally. The information that he gave us on that occasion was such that we should be truly proud that we have a senator of his quality.
Tonight I listened with great interest to the remarks of Senator Missen on the same subject and felt that he brought forth some most interesting aspect of this legislation. I therefore thank him for an interesting and thoughtful contribution. Those two speeches have put into my mind a further fear so far as this legislation is concerned. I am in my twenty-ninth year as a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. That is said to be possibly an all-time record for service on one parliamentary committee. Also, I am in my twenty-second year as Chairman of the Committee. I am only a layman but have been very fortunate in the type of legal and other experts who have served on that Committee. I have in mind Senator Wright, Senator Missen, Senator Button, who spoke tonight, and other honourable senators from both sides. The calibre of honourable senators who have served on the Committee has been high.
Service on the Committee has made me recognise, with Senators Wright and Missen, that there is something missing from this legislation; that there is too much that is to be filled in by codes- it is difficult to contemplate just how dangerous or important they might be- and too much to be filled in by way of regulations. One of the characteristics of our Committee has been that it watches these matters. Knowing the deep scrutiny that it has given to regulations, and to protecting rights and liberties, the points that have been brought out by Senators Wright and Missen have left me with the feeling that a lot more should be put into this legislation than one now finds there. It is easy to say that a government would not overstep the mark, but the members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee know from experience that time after time when the Committee has bottle-necked attempts to do certain things with regulations–
– Like today.
– Yes- we find that executive officers or staff try to get around it by using another outlet as a source for their power. This is what happens. If we are to pass legislation of this character, leaving so much of it unfilled, in the words of Senator Wright like an egg shell, we will be giving unprecedented power to the Executive and the Public Service to use regulations or other aspects which, as Senators Wright and Missen said, we may not be able to control.
Under the circumstances, the legislation before us needs a good deal of re-study. I make it clear that, whilst I am strongly in favour of the mining of uranium, I cannot let the decision to proceed be made with legislation of this character. Consequently, I will support the amendment proposed by the Opposition, thereby indicating to Senator Button and others that consistency is a very good thing, hopeful that it will also mark the actions of the Opposition when it seems to be a good thing for legislation and for this country.
-The Senate has been debating at length two Bills, the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill 1978 and the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978, and I thank honourable senators for their contributions. As to the background of these Bills, it is worth reminding the Senate that last year the people and the Parliament had before them the results of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry in two volumes, styled the First and Second Reports. Subsequently, a great public debate took place on these important documents.
Again subsequently, the Fraser Government decided that it would proceed with the mining, milling and marketing of uranium. It did so and an extensive debate on the subject took place last year. Indeed, it was before the public of Australia in the general election of that year. Therefore, the decision to mine and mill uranium in Australia, and to market it abroad, has been established. A series of Bills, of which these are two, to carry out that decision are now emerging. Inevitably, although the debate on the mining and milling of uranium had been extensive, the debate on these two Bills, although not strictly relevant was, on the part of the Opposition, one which went over again the whole question whether one should mine or mill uranium or market it abroad. Therefore, very little of the debate ranged on the Bills themselves.
These Bills are important but to put it in perspective and because of the Opposition’s approach to this matter, I should remind the Senate that the Ranger Environmental, or Fox Report said certain things regarding the mining, milling and marketing of uranium. I understand that that report is regarded as authoritative on these matters and would refer honourable senators to page 2 of the second report, at which the following appears:
The hazards of mining and milling uranium, if those activities are properly regulated and controlled, are not such as to justify a decision not to develop Australian uranium mines.
Here, the Fox Committee was commenting upon the mining and milling of uranium. The report continued:
The hazards involved in the ordinary operations of nuclear power reactors, if those operations are properly regulated and controlled, are not such as to justify a decision not to mine and sell Australian uranium.
Here again, the Fox Committee was reporting on the use of uranium in nuclear reactors. It did so, of course, against the background that it is not currently the intention of the Australian Government to use uranium, or its attendant fuels, for the generation of nuclear power in Australia in the contemplated future. But indeed it is important to Australia, because we are our brothers’ keepers, that we should know what are the safeguards of other countries using that uranium for the generation of nuclear energy.
I remind the Senate that the Fox Committee found that the hazards were not such as to warrant preventing that. The Report continued:
While we do not think that the waste situation is at present such as to justify Australia wholly refusing to export uranium, it is plain that the situation demands careful watching–
That again relates to a massive dialogue on the subject. No one would underestimate the importance of safeguards in the disposal and handling of waste materials. I want to make it clear, as I say these things, that my Government is keenly and acutely aware of its responsibility; that it does not take this matter lightly. The report, speaking of nuclear terrorism continued:
In our view the possibility of nuclear terrorism merits energetic consideration and action at the international level. We do not believe that this risk alone constitutes a sufficient reason for Australia declining to supply uranium.
It went on to point out again the danger if the plutonium content of uranium should be used for fissile materials for nuclear weapons. That danger of course is well known. The important contribution of the Ranger Inquiry also directed itself to whether or not Australia could influence the world if it decided not to mine, mill or market uranium at all. It directed itself to the thought of those who in genuine conscience might say: ‘Let us not do this. We will set an example to the world and this will limit the dangers of uranium’.
The Inquiry concluded strongly against those arguments. The Ranger Inquiry in its first report said:
A total renunciation of intention to supply designed to bring an end to all nuclear power industries or all further development of them would in our view be likely to fail totally in its purpose. If the purpose were simply to draw international attention to the dangers of and associated with the industry, that purpose might be achieved, but it is most unlikely that any worthwhile action would result. On the other hand, there are positive reasons against adopting such a course. Apart from financial considerations, which are not to be neglected, there are considerations to which we referred when dealing with the topic of proliferation. A total refusal to supply would place Australia in clear breach of Article IV oftheNPT–
That is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty- and could adversely affect its relation to countries which are parties to the NPT.
That is a precis, and obviously a short one necessarily, of Fox. What the Fox Commission directed its inquiry to was the fact that the world is energy hungry and is being forced to look in the short term at least towards uranium as fossil fuels dry up. Therefore there is a danger that if uranium is supplied to the world without the most stringent safeguards the very dangers that we all fear could occur. That fact is that two dangers would occur. If we do not come in we can have no say at all in what the world safeguards will be. Therefore in staying out we in fact opt to have no say at all in the qualitative control of safeguards througout the world. But we would do worse than that, as the Fox Inquiry and others have pointed out. If by denial of our uranium to the world for use in slow water reactors we force nations through scarcity to turn uranium to plutonium which can give indefinite sources of energy, we then by our action lead them, even incite them, into making fissile materials for nuclear weapons. The important thing that should be understood is that the consequence of doing nothing can create the very dangers, the very perils in the world that those who argue for doing nothing would want to avoid. I say that in the strongest background. Clearly the two Bills have a major purpose. The first Bill, the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill, will enable the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to participate on behalf of the Commonwealth in a joint venture with Peko/EZ. This is in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding which of course was drawn up by the Whitlam Government. If I can intrude one side comment, it is to say that it is strange tonight that those who in the days of the Whitlam Government sought to earn dollars for Australia by the mining and marketing of uranium in conjunction with a big company now see errors in our doing exactly the same thing.
Tonight, of course, there was great emphasis on the dollar. I would proudly under proper safeguards earn dollars for Australia to turn them into better education, better health, better social services and better housing for the people of Australia and, to help the people of the world towards more energy for peaceful purposes. It is important to understand that the first Bill will give us the opportunity to strengthen and clarify the legislative basis for the application of nuclear safeguards within Australia in accordance with the agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Australia in connection with the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. I would have thought that that proposition would have been fully accepted and that this Bill puts beyond doubt the legislative basis for the application of these safeguards within Australia in accordance with that agreement.
We are walking within the practical and constructive spirit of the Ranger Inquiry. We are walking within the stated policies for the mining and milling of uranium in Australia. Let us make it clear for those who talk about the dangers of fissile materials or radioactive materials in Australia as such that Australia does not intend itself to generate electricity in the future from nuclear products nor does it intend that this continent shall be used for the storing of waste materials or waste products from abroad. In fact that is quite clearly given.
-If somebody said ‘why not’ perhaps he is encouraging it. The Commonwealth Government has made it perfectly clear that, apparently unlike Senator Walsh, it does not intend to use Australia to store waste materials. Perhaps Senator Walsh does. The second Bill, the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes ) Bill 1 978, is an important Bill.
– Where are the codes?
– I think a Labor senator asked ‘Where are the codes?’ What a strange situation. One of the first class documents on safety in terms of nuclear activity was prepared in 1975 under the Whitlam Government. Honourable senators opposite ought to know about the ‘Code of Practice on Radiation Protection in the Mining and Milling of Radioactive Ores 1975’ from the Commonwealth Department of Health. It is a document which stands with respect throughout the world. That is a base for what we are doing. This second Bill proposes to establish measures to protect the health and safety of the people and the environment from possible harmful effects of nuclear activities. The
Government decided to regulate and control nuclear activities by codes of practice and to legislate to enable such codes to be approved following consultation with the States and the Northern Territory. The Fox Committee recommended that there should be codes of practice. It is extraordinary that the Labor Opposition should be opposing these practices. Indeed, clause 7 of the Bill requires the Minister to furnish proposed codes of practice and proposed variations to the appropriate Minister of each State and Territory.
Clause 9 sets out procedure for public notice to be given of orders made by the GovernorGeneral and for their scrutiny by Parliament. The steps taken to arrive at approved codes of practice are set out in the Minister’s second reading speech. In due course in the day or days immediately ahead I will be introducing on behalf of the Government a number of amendments aimed to make the consultative practices between the Commonwealth and States far more clearly determined and secure. I say here and now that the Commonwealth Government is determined that there shall be the fullest possible consultation. So that it is understood, I inform the Senate that many States today have in fact adopted the basis of this code of practice in radiation protection. What is desired is that we should formulate an agreed optimum code and then invite the States to legislate for that extra protection that they may or may not have already. This I think is of positive importance. Senator Wright, Senator Wood and Senator Missen referred to the work of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. The Government and certainly I as a Minister respect the high and consistent quality of that Committee’s work and its importance. Clearly as a result of this Bill there will be a significant amount of work for that Committee to do but if it can be demonstrated that there are limitations to its work we have within our hands the remedy. We can amend the rules under which the Committee functions as part of the Senate so that it can embrace the situations envisaged.
– Simply by amending the status, the terms of reference and the functioning of that Committee. I personally would be responsive to taking suggestions to the Government that it look towards those ends. 1 want to be brief because I think it important to get the Bills passed. There has been a great deal of almost irrelevant debate but, if I may permit myself just one whimsy, I commend to Senator Button, who shares my love of Shakespeare, the first three lines and not the last three lines of the piece he quoted as appropriate to his speech. He will recall that Polonius also said to Laertes:
Give thy thoughts no tongue, nor any unproportion ‘d thought his act. Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar . . .
I think it was perhaps the first three lines rather than the last three lines which were appropriate. I say that with the best of humour because I share Senator Button’s love both of Shakespeare and of whimsy.
– This could go on forever.
– I could go on forever quoting Shakespeare; that is true. What Polonius said in tautology- which reminds me of Senator Georges- was the greatest autology. He said:
That he is mad, ‘tis true; ‘tis true ‘tis pity: And pity ‘tis ‘tis true:
I say that without prejudice as the lawyers say, because I have an affection for Senator Georges. If he wants to stick the rapier through the wall in that regard we should be so reminded. However, this is too important a debate to allow whimsy to prevail. A number of technical matters ought to be raised during the Committee stage and I propose, having secured the second reading of these Bills, to move for the adjournment of the Committee stage to another day for two purposes- to allow the circulation of the amendments so that Senator Wriedt and his colleagues may have time to reflect on them-
– You have not got them ready.
– I have not them with me at this moment, but what Senator Georges said is true; they are not ready. We are quite willing to reflect on them and to give the Opposition time to do the same.
– Can you indicate how long it will be before you bring the debate on?
– I hope that tomorrow morning I willbe able to provide copies of the amendments and that there will be at least some hours for consideration before we debate the matter again. Perhaps we can intrude the debate on the three environmental Bills ahead of the Committee stage debate. If I can so arrange that it will give an even longer period for consideration. I suggest that Senator Withers talk to Senator Wriedt in this regard. There is no way in the world that we would railroad this legislation.
Those who claim that they do not want to mine or market uranium have no monopoly upon the desire to safeguard and protect the people against radiation and against genetic mutation. The Fox Committee said, and it is worth remembering, that those who do that could create the very circumstances they seek to avoid. They could by scarcity and denial force proliferation, force the manufacture of plutonium and force the dangerous and wasteful use of the fuel which could cause these very things. Those who follow the rules outlined by the Fox Committee in mining, milling and marketing uranium have the great responsibility and the enormous privilege to enter the world market and demand of the significant number of countries which will take our fuel that they observe our safeguards which are regarded as the most stringent safeguards in the world. On that note and with the full pledge that this Government is willing to look to every way by which we can safeguard the health, the security and the future safety not only of Australians but also with the concept of one world in mind, I commend the Bills. I reject the amendment and seek the support of the Senate for the second reading of the Bills.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Wriedt’s amendment ) be left out.
The bells having been rung-
- Mr President, will you put the questions separately since the Bills have been debated cognately.
– There has been a resolution of the Senate that the Bills be taken through the second reading stage cognately. The Minister would need the leave of the Senate to make any variation of that resolution?
– No, I do not seek to do that.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the Bills be now read a second time.
The Senate divided
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That consideration of the Bills in the Committee of the Whole be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Debate resumed from 8 May, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– The Opposition has serious reservations about and in most cases is in outright opposition to the package of Bills that has come before us at this stage of the debate. These Bills are part of a package of Bills which have one major purpose, that is, to enable the mining of uranium in the Northern Territory to proceed. The Government clearly intends to proceed with the mining of uranium regardless of the consequences to health, the environment, the Aboriginal people and their aspirations for land rights, civil liberties and world peace and security.
As has just been established, the main Bill in the package is the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill. It is that Bill which gives the go-ahead to uranium mining through the setting up of machinery which involves a grave erosion of civil liberties in this country. Of the five Bills, one gives modified and unsatisfactory land rights to Northern Territory Aboriginals- modified by the requirements of mining, and unsatisfactory for that reason. Miners demands will supersede Aboriginal land rights and the preservation of sacred places. The other four Bills are regulatory Bills purporting to regulate the operations of uranium mining and health issues raised in the two Fox reports. Because they will be inadequate as regulatory mechanisms the Opposition cannot support them.
The Opposition is opposed to uranium mining. For reasons well known to the Senate and to the public at this stage, we entirely oppose that main effect of the Bills- that is, the procedure for mining in the Northern Territory. We have been defeated just now in our major opposition to the Government’s intention but we continue our opposition in respect of the three Bills before the Senate at this stage- the Environment Protection (Alligators Rivers Region) Bill, the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill and the Environment Protection (Northern Territory Supreme Court) Bill. Our opposition to these Bills is based on the assertion that the Bills purport to provide machinery by which the environmental and health consequences of mining can be regulated and their most destructive consequences contained. But the machinery as set out in the Bills, including the incomplete declaration of the Kakadu National Park, will not achieve that effect.
The Bills are merely window dressing. They are an attempt to demonstrate the Government ‘s good faith in the matter of regulating the mining industry. But they are an unsuccessful attempt. The Government has no good faith in this matter. It has only one genuine objective and that is to proceed with mining. On the other hand, the Australian Labor Party, the Opposition, has several major objectives in this matter: Firstly, the prevention of mining; secondly the securing of Aboriginal land rights in an unqualified manner; thirdly, the protection of the environment; and, fourthly, the protection of the health of this community. We will pursue all these objectives in our handling of these three Bills.
I turn now to the first Bill, the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill. This Bill purports to provide the administrative framework for monitoring research and control of the effects of uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region. Because the Alligator Rivers Region will be the subject of the three Bills, I will remind the Senate, by reading an extract from the Fox report, of just what is the Alligator Rivers Region. I refer to page 1 7 of the second Fox report which states:
The distinctive subregions and the large seasonal changes give rise to a wide diversity of plant and animal habitats. As a consequence, the Region is rich in numbers of species of both flora and fauna. Zoologically and botanically it is representative of a large part of the far north of tropical Australia. However, because of the diversity of the native species which occur in the Region, it is regarded as one of the biologically richest in Australia.
It goes on:
Terrestrial and aquatic vegetation and animals have adapted to survive the rigorous changes between wet and dry seasons and the variations imposed by years of low and high rainfall. Some survive by avoiding the stresses: for example, some plant species are annuals, and some are deciduous or have distinct annual growth cycles.
The report states further:
The Region and surrounding areas have been occupied by Aboriginals for at least 25,000 years.
Further in the report, it states:
Although western-type foods are readily available at the centres of population, traditional foods remain an important part of the diet of most of the Aboriginals, and foraging and hunting are still widely practised in parts of the Region. The Aboriginal population of the Region has been estimated to be about 800, in a total population of about 1 .000.
A further description of the geophysical characteristics of the area is given, and the report states:
In these respects it is one of the most important and valuable parts of Australia.
This is the region which is supposed to be achieving protection in the legislation before us. In reviewing the quantity and quality of pollution to be released by uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region, the Ranger Commission decided that a completely different outlook to mining company proposals was needed. It expressed uncertainty about the types, amounts and chemical forms of mine pollutants; in the environment; changes in toxicity of contaminants with time or place; sensitivity of the environment to toxic substances; and effects of other non-toxic factors such as eutrophication. Yet, as proposed, large amounts of contaminated water will be placed in the Magela Basin on the strength of a few simple toxicity studies.
In concluding that there is at present no scientific basis for deriving water release standards on the Ranger project site, the Commission has recommended that all practicable means using best available technology be used to reduce pollution of all types from the mine. Meanwhile, our lack of knowledge on the environmental effects of mining can be corrected by means of a local research institute headed by a supervising scientist who would also be chairman of a coordinating committee of government, Aboriginal and mining representatives. The co-ordinating committee would help to develop the monitoring and research programs for the Region and would review any major changes proposed for the Ranger project. The Bill before us at this stage sets up a co-ordinating committee and institutes the position of supervising scientist in an attempt to implement the Ranger inquiry recommendations for these arrangements. However, in the view of the Opposition, the requirements of the Ranger recommendation are not implemented in the legislation before us.
In summary, our objections to this Bill are as follows: First of all, the supervising scientist is not independent of the Minister and the provisions for his reports and recommendations to come before the Parliament are inadequate. The Parliament and the public will not have access to the findings of the supervising scientist. Findings detrimental to the Government’s credibility could be concealed. The co-ordinating committee which is to work with the supervising scientist in monitoring the effects of mining is too narrow in its Ranger membership and could be dominated by pro-mining interests.
Clause 3 1 of the Bill places undue restriction on the supervising scientist’s access to relevant information enshrining the principle, as it does, of business confidentiality and putting this principle above the principle of thorough and complete reporting by the supervising scientist. The supervising scientist is empowered only to reveal information which the business interests and the mining interests in the regions are happy to have revealed. A further unsatisfactory aspect of the Bill is the exclusion of the construction of towns and camps and facilities for towns and camps for mining workers from the provisions of the Bill. It should be clear to the Senate that such constructions and facilities could and probably would endanger the environment in many ways. Yet they are excluded from the regulatory provisions of this Bill.
Yet a further unsatisfactory aspect of the Bill is that the rights of the supervisory scientist in clause 29 override the provision in the Aboriginal Lands Act 1976 which prohibits a person from entering or remaining on Aboriginal land except for the purposes of that Act. Overall, this legislation is unsatisfactory. It does not implement all the recommendations in chapter 1 7 of the Fox report. It is an inadequate attempt to come to terms with the issues raised in that chapter. For example, recommendation 15 of chapter 1 7 states:
Thai mining and milling not be allowed to start until it is demonstrated that all components or the monitoring system operate satisfactorily.
It is quite clear at this stage that we have not developed the monitoring system sufficiently to see whether it does operate satisfactorily. I think that is one example in which a significant recommendation in chapter 17 of the Fox report has not been implemented. We oppose this Bill and will move amendments, based on our opposition, at the Committee stage.
The second Bill of the three that has come before us for discussion this evening is the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill 1978. This Bill is the vehicle for the proclamation of the Kakadu National Park. Although Australians generally and the Australian Labor Party in particular are most anxious to have the Kakadu National Park declared we cannot support the Bill in its present form. The declaration of the Park is incomplete. I suggest that it is a travesty of the environmental concept of a national park. The Government is trying to foist on the Australian people the contradictory concept of a national park that contains hazardous and destructive uranium mining sites within its region. Because we genuinely support the concept of the Kakadu National Park, because we genuinely want this unique, exotic and highly significant region, part of which is to become Aboriginal land, to be protected from despoilation, we strongly oppose any and all uranium mining within the catchment area of the Alligator Rivers region.
Australian National University: Compulsory Fees-Radio Station 2XX
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., under sessional order I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to bring to the attention of the Senate, particularly the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) an issue which I believe raises many fundamental questions which need to be addressed with some urgency because of a particular situation which has arisen. The general issue relates to such fundamental matters as the rights of individuals to belong or not belong to a particular organisation or association and to contribute or not contribute to an organisation’s actions and policies, thereby supporting it directly or indirectly or to make the decision if they wish not to do so. It relates also to such fundamental issues as the freedom of association with particular causes which may be seen to be worthy or the decision not to associate with causes which might be considered unworthy. It is out of those general issues that a specific situation has arisen at the Austraiian National University which needs to be drawn to the attention of the Senate, particularly the Minister for Education. I believe it is a matter to which he must address himself.
This specific situation as I understand it is that students at the Australian National University have to pay fees of $19 to be members of the student association. Of that$19, the sum of $2.50 in effect becomes a contribution to the Australian Union of Students. I understand that some students on the campus have objected to contributing directly in this way to the Australian Union of Students and feel that they cannot in conscience make that contribution. They take that stand because they believe that some of the policies pursued and actions taken by the Australian Union of Students are such that they cannot support them. I draw the attention of the Minister for Education to a judgment delivered in November 1977 in the Supreme Court of Victoria which related to the use of funds by the Australian Union of Students. I refer to two sections of that judgment to illustrate the problem which I believe has arisen for these people. The judgment stated:
The intended use of the Union’s money was for the production and dissemination of political propaganda which was directed to form a body of opinion amongst students of tertiary institutions and within the community at large to support its objective . . . Neither the dissemination of nor the indoctrination by political propaganda can fairly and reasonably be said to form part of the educational process.
It is my understanding that it is that problem and the irrelevance of these issues, indeed the inappropriateness of the issues that AUS has taken up in some instances, that has led to the objection in conscience by some students at the university to seeing $2.50 of their $19 fee to the student association in effect being transferred to the Australian Union of Students. It is worth recalling also that the Council of the University has previously recorded its opinion that the maintenance of effective associations relating to student affairs is a university purpose and that a compulsory financial contribution for the purpose of those associations is essential to their efficiency. The issue is the purpose to which those contributions are put, the actions which they, in fact, support and whether they are relevant to the process of education, which obviously is the primary purpose of the tertiary institution.
I understand that three students in particular have indicated that they cannot in conscience contribute the $2.50 which would go to the Australian Union of Students. I also understand that they have been told that the grounds for their objections are unacceptable. I recognise that the issues involved in this case are many and complex. They relate to the role and rights of the university within our community. They relate to the powers of university authorities and the associations that exist on campuses; they relate also to the meaning, I believe, in this case in particular, of conscientious objection; and to the significant issue of the fundamental freedoms of individuals to which I referred at the outset, such as the freedom of association. I recognise the complexity of those issues, but there is some urgency about this case now. Whilst I would have liked a good deal more time to examine the issues that are involved, the urgency relates to the fact that the three students in particular to whom I have referred I understand are to have their enrolments terminated and that may in fact happen as soon as tomorrow.
Obviously such a decision could have a dramatic and adverse impact on the careers and the futures of these young people. They have had to make a decision. I understand they have thought it through and they believe they are doing what is right in conscience and therefore have acted as they have. There may of course be open to them avenues of appeal which they can pursue. But obviously this must be a traumatic experience for young students acting, as they believe in conscience, properly, having to face the prospect of their enrolments at the University being terminated. The whole issue poses a dilemma, but it needs to be resolved; in fact I believe it is imperative that it is resolved quickly.
I therefore put to the Minister the question of what action might be taken in this case. I stress that the Australian National University is a matter of responsibility for the Commonwealth and I hope that there is some avenue open and that the Minister might in some way take action to ensure in particular that these young people with their careers ahead of them, in the midst of their studies, are not adversely affected because of the decisions that have been made. I would therefore ask him to give some indication or undertake to examine this matter as urgently as he is able, to ensure that it and the more general issues involved are resolved and that the young people concerned, acting as they have said, in accord with their consciences, in such circumstances should not suffer or face unfair and unreasonable judgment.
– The Senate may recall that on Thursday, 1 1 May, I directed a question to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) about a record played on the Canberra educational radio station 2XX. I referred to some words in the song, namely:
I went with some friends to rape a girl.
I pointed out that my attention was drawn to this incident by a Canberra woman who had been listening to 2XX with her young daughters at breakfast time. The Minister replied that ‘On the face of it it is an excruciating example of bad taste and immaturity’ and promised to refer the matter to the Minister concerned. My question received some Press reports, both here and interstate. The Canberra Times on Friday, 12 May, reported: . . the president of the board of management of Campus Community Broadcasting Association Incorported (licensee of radio 2XX) Miss Claire McGrath, said yesterday that 2XX had a firm policy that material of a racist or sexist nature should not be broadcast.
I ask honourable senators to note Ms McGrath’s comment because I shall refer to it later. I also received a call from a student radio station in, of all places, Perth which wanted to interview me about the question. That turned out to be one of the strangest interviews in which I have ever been involved. The interviewer in all seriousness asked me what I objected to in the words ‘I went with some friends to rape a girl’. I understand that the interview was played on 6NR in Perth late that afternoon, Friday 12 May. I now return to 2XX. Early last week I received a letter from the 2XX announcer who had been involved in the incident. In fairness to him, I propose to read his letter in full to the Senate. It is dated 13 May 1978. It said:
Dear Senator Harradine,
I am writing in respect of a question you directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Senator Carrick, on Thursday 1 1 May 1978 regarding the broadcast of ‘indecent’ material on radio station 2XX on Wednesday 10 May.
As I was the announcer ‘on air’ at the time in question I believe you made a serious error in judgment in bringing the matter to the attention of the Minister before you had the full facts at your disposal.
I would therefore like to take this opportunity to explain exactly what did happen between 7.30 and 7.34 a.m. on Wednesday 11 May 1978.
Firstly, the record in question was in the 2XX record library unmarked in any way to suggest that the song was unsuitable for air-play so I included it in a segment which was intended to bring to the attention of the listeners the musical versatility of the performer, who is one of the major forces in the Australian recording industry today. The way in which I demonstrated this versatility was to first play the song in question, after which I said words to the effect of: ‘That was Bob Hudson (the performer) at his most ridiculous. We’ll now hear something from the same album of a much more serious nature.’ (This can be verified by listening to the log tapes). In this sense I believe this segment was of an educational nature.
Secondly, I personally do not agree with the glorification of rape in any way and I believe that the purpose of the song was to ridicule the type of person who would perpetrate this sort of crime, an objective that was realised very successfully by the general tone of the song and the final line of the stanza which was: ‘ I went with some friends to rape a girl, but I was embarrassed so I held her handbag’. I would also point out that this line does not constitute the refrain (which is what you said). ‘Refrain’ implies constant repetition throughout the song and the words in question arc in fact part of a single verse only.
I fail to understand why it is considered offensive to draw the attention of women and girls to the fact that there are men in the community who could attempt to rape them but had your complainant contacted me at the time to express her feelings I would have immediately and publicly apologised for causing offence where it was not intended, and explained again the educational purpose of the segment.
You should be interested to know that the management has since placed a notation beside that particular track onlydirecting that it is not fit for air-play. In my view there are other songs on the album which could be definitely be classed as sexist and offensive, but they have no such direction, thus it would seem my standards are higher than the management’s. If at any time you would like to listen to any of the songs on the album, my parents have since obtained a copy and you are invited to visit the above address at our mutual convenience to listen to any of the songs on the record.
I would also draw your attention to the report on the Public Inquiry into the concept of Self Regulation for Australian Broadcasters issued by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal in July 1977, paragraph 18.13 which deals with the Code of Ethics for Public Broadcasting that clearly states in relation to controversial issues that:
Any kind of censorship should be avoided and varying viewpoints should be encouraged, unless these conflict with station policy’: and
Station policy should be regularly and clearly stated on air’.
In the twelve months I have been associated with 2XX 1 have never heard or read of any aspects of station policy that forbids the broadcast of the type of material I played on Wednesday morning (in spite of the response given by 2XX to the Canberra Times- as published on Friday 12 May 1978).
Finally, as a result of your premature action I have been banned indefinitely from 2XX- a very harsh penalty, you must agree- for doing something that, as I have explained, is within the limits of both 2XX’s current licence and public morals.
That letter is quite remarkable and very honest. I wish to draw to the attention of the Senate three aspects of it. The radio announcer had been banned indefinitely from the station and considered this to be harsh treatment. I am inclined to agree with that. It looked as though he had been selected as a scapegoat. Apparently others thought so, too, because last night he was reinstated. The second point that I draw to the attention of the Senate is this: The announcer says that the management has now placed a notation beside that track only, directing that it is not fit for airplay. But he adds that other songs on the album, which he believes could be definitely classed as sexist and offensive, have no such direction. The management’s action would appear to confirm the objections of the woman who first raised the matter with me. Thirdly, he says that he has been associated with station 2XX for 12 months. He continues:
I remind the Senate of Ms McGrath’s words, quoted earlier, that station 2XX allegedly had a firm policy that material of a racist or sexist nature should not be broadcast. There are, in fact, three specific conditions attached to the experimental licence granted to station 2XX. One bans advertising matter, another refers to the program guides of the Broadcasting Control Board being used as guidelines and the third limits the station to matters of an educational character. I shall read the third condition in full because, as far as I am aware, it is still attached to the 2XX licence. It states:
The station shall be used for the purpose of transmitting messages, being messages containing matter of an educational character, intended for aural reception by the staff and students of the Australian National University.
In the two years that station 2XX has been broadcasting, this condition has been ignored. The management of radio station 2XX grabbed the educational licence when it was made available but, really, it operated station 2XX as a socalled community station. Now that a category C licence- that is, a community radio station licence- is being offered in Canberra, the station is calling itself public radio 2XX. It did that as early as 1 April this year in an advertisement in the Canberra Times. I am sure that if the only licence available to Canberra were for a sports radio station, it would apply for that licence and continue broadcasting in whatever fashion it chose, ignoring any special notations and conditions. But, having been alerted about station 2XX by the woman who approached me with great concern about the song which 2XX has now banned, I arranged for the station to be listened to more closely to determine the type of education material which it was broadcasting. The Senate may be interested to learn that station 2XX has its own special program for Canberra homosexuals. It might be said: ‘Well, so what?’ But as far as I am aware no State or Territory has altered the laws that relate to paederasts, that is those who are sexually attracted to children.
On the very day that the Canberra Times carried the report about what I had said in the Senate and also Ms McGrath’s disclaimer about 2XX’s so-called firm policy, the weekly 2XX program for homosexuals carried an interview with a woman who runs a so-called counselling agency in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra and who charges a membership fee of $250 for 2 years involvement with the agency. In this interview she was asked about her activities on behalf of homosexual clients and whether any paederasts contacted her. I would like to read in full that small portion of the interview relating to the question which she was asked about that subject and her reply. This is an extract from the interview on the Gay program which station 2XX broadcast between 6 p.m. and 6.20 p.m. on Friday, 12 May 1978.
– Is it an actual transcript?
– I can provide you with a tape, Mr Minister, if you so desire. The interviewer said:
Another question I’d like to ask you is the rather controversial question of paedophilia and paederasty. I noticed in the papers awhile ago, in England, there was a considerable amount of publicity concerning the subject and, of course, it is very illegal and highly dangerous to be associated, to actually get involved in a paederastic relationship. Do you have many paedophiles ( (paederastists. sic) contact your organisation, if so, how could you help them?
The woman ‘s reply is as follows:
I was, in fact, in England, John, at the time that the to-do about paedophilia came up. I was attending a conference on love and attraction. The week after there was a conference of paedophiles in London. At the conference were many psychologists and sexologists and we had some closed sessions on the sexual side of things and quite a lot of attention was devoted to paedophilia. As attested by the conference in London of paedophiles it is now becoming much more open and the issue is really being looked at. The attitude of the sexologists at the conference was that paedophilia and paederasty as such were not necessarily detrimental of themselves and, in fact, that some very valuable relationships throughout history have developed between older and younger people of this nature. However, with the society’s attitudes as they are at present, the damage that can be done is more of a psychological nature- the youngster concerned starting to feel guilty and an outcast and a misfit and to that extent there was concern expressed as to facilitating or approving such relationships. I have had very few inquiries from acknowledged paederasts. Obviously, I cannot facilitate people who have that bent meeting the objects of their sexual desire. However, I can put people into contact so that they can share this particular orientation that they have.
The interviewer then said:
Well, we are almost at the end of our program.
The lady then went on to answer a question about where her organisation could be contacted in Canberra and what fees she charged. That was when she revealed that the membership fee was $250 for a two-year stint. I ask every honourable senator to give some thought to her comment: ‘I can put people into contact so that they can share this particular orientation that they have’. To me this is analogous to someone saying: ‘Robbing banks is illegal; society’s attitudes as they are at present are against it, but if a bank robber comes to me I will arrange to introduce him to other bank robbers’. What are they going to do? Are they going to sit down and work out a crossword puzzle? I do not think so. Will the number of bank robberies decrease as a result of that introduction? I certainly do not think so. If I were a bank manager I would be very concerned that such introductions were being arranged and, similarly, being a parent I am concerned that this woman is prepared to make the introductions that she has admitted to on 2XX.
What are the appropriate authorities doing about 2XX? A licence to broadcast is a very valuable commodity indeed. It may not have a monetary value attached to it in this case but it is valuable nevertheless. No ordinary member of the public can set up a radio station and broadcast all over the city as 2XX does. Have the authorities been monitoring 2XX? Has it kept to the three conditions attached to its licence? It is not just the Minister or the Department of Education who have ultimate responsibility about the matter. I understand that the Australian National University Students Association gave $7,000 to 2XX and that the Canberra College of Advanced Education Students Association gave $3,000. Also, the Australia Council gave $ 10,000 for equipment. Further, the Australian National University pays for the transmitter that 2XX uses. The University Centre for Continuing Education assists 2XX and a Mr Brendan O ‘Dwyer from that Centre is the University representative on the 2XX board.
We in the Senate have two representatives on the Council of the Australian National UniversitySenator James McClelland and Senator Rae. I recall Senator Rae recently defending the Australian National University against attacks on it by a journalist. I would like to hear what he has to say about 2 XX. I would like him to reveal to the Senate the exact link between the University and 2XX. For example, is it correct that the University owns the building from which 2XX broadcasts? Does it charge 2XX rent? If one looks up the Canberra telephone directory one finds that 2 XX is listed as an integral part of the Australian National University entry in the book. Obviously it is connected with the Australian National University. If this is so, what action has the University taken to ensure that 2 XX complies with the conditions of its licence? Does the Council of the University receive reports from its representative on the board of 2XX?
Of course there may be many useful features of 2XX broadcasts. I understand that various migrant groups broadcast once a week on that station and that sometimes it has classical music programs and so on. But just because 2XX now has a grip on University patronage, funds from the Australia Council and grants from student bodies, it does not necessarily mean that it is the appropriate vehicle to hold Canberra’s community licence when it is granted. The Government may consider that it is in a fix in this situation; that it allowed 2XX to obtain an educational licence because of some obscure promise made by a Minister in 1975. Perhaps it is happy to throw the whole question in respect of new licences over to some other organisation such as the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal and hopes that the University will knock some sense into the station. But for two years now 2XX has thumbed its nose at the conditions which were placed on its licence. Will the Government now give it a community licence and let it go hell for leather, completely turning a blind eye to the way in which it made, and is making, a mockery of being an ‘educational ‘ station?
More importantly, I would like to receive an undertaking from the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers), who is responsible for the Commonwealth Police, that he will arrange for an investigation of the admission made in the interview about paederasts. I shall be quite happy to provide the Minister with a tape of that interview. The fundamental reason I have raised this matter in the Senate is that I am well aware that there are people who still see Canberra as the social laboratory for the rest of Australia. If the authorities in Canberra are prepared to accept this kind of rubbish as being educational and suitable for broadcasting by a radio station which has a limited educational licence, what will they allow a community radio station to broadcast? Those people who seek vigorously to promote attitudinal changes by the use of a radio station over which they have unrestricted control in the social laboratory of Canberra need to be told that their activities are not welcome or acceptable in the States.
- Senator Harradine has invited me as a Senate representative on the Australian National University Council to respond as well as inviting the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) to respond. 1 am not quite sure whether he wants to be able to eat the cake and have the plum as well or whether it is just a matter of making sure that he gets a response from all possible directions. I can only say that the matters which he has raised are matters which first I, as a member of the Council, shall refer to the Vice-Chancellor; secondly, I shall ensure that the Council places the matters on its agenda for consideration. I do not wish to comment further in particular about the matters which he has raised, but rather to make a couple of general comments. I totally agree that a radio licence does not mean total licence. I certainly would not wish to argue that because a station has a licence to broadcast it has a licence to do whatever it at any particular time might wish to do.
Further, without commenting on the particular matters raised by Senator Harradine, I should like to say that I think it is important to remember that knowledge of issues involves the opportunity for discussion and for various views to be put. Whilst Senator Harradine might say that he would see it as a matter of advertising the equivalent of a bank robbers’ association meeting, I think it might be important for the community to know that there was a bank robbers’ association and that it was holding a meeting. I think there would be some justification for that advertisement. The extent to which one publicises that event, the way in which one publicises it, the extent to which one provides an opportunity for both sides to be given and the extent to which one allows the community to understand the issue and to make a judgment upon the matters involved are questions of discretion- the exercise of some sort of responsibility on the part not only of a radio licensee but also of any newspaper or even this chamber.
Senator Harradine has seen fit to publicise in this chamber the matters which were publicised over that radio station broadcast. He believed that it was important for what he sees as the redress of the wrong to publicise the matter. It might well be that that radio station believed that it was important to ensure that there was an understanding that this sort of attitude was held by some people and it believed that so people could know it existed and could make a judgment about it the station should provide an opportunity for that view to be put forward, albeit so that it could be condemned.
– It was advertising an introductory service.
– Without wishing to comment on the particular and in an endeavour to keep to the general tonight in relation to what is expected of this type of radio station, I simply say that I hope that the radio station which, I accept, has a clear association with the Australian National University will fulfil a role of informing the public. I hope that it will do so according to standards. I hope that it will do so according to at least one standard which is, as I said earlier, that a licence for broadcasting does not mean total licence. I do not wish to debate the issue with Senator Harradine tonight. I think it would be far more relevant if I were simply to follow through with what I have already indicated I will be happy to do. I am sure the other Senate representative on the Council, Senator James McClelland, will be prepared to join me in ensuring that this matter is referred to the Council and is considered by the Council. The response will be a matter for that Council. I can take the matter no further at this stage.
– I shall refer firstly to the comments of Senator Knight. As I understand the position, three students at the Australian National University are under some threat to their continued studenthood because they offered, and had accepted, payment of the sporting and amenities fees that were due, but withheld a $2.50 subscription to the Australian Union of Students. In other words, as I understand from Senator Knight, the ordinary fees that are properly due by way of sporting and recreation fees have been paid and, presumably, acknowledged as having been paid, but there has been withheld a sum of $2.50 which goes, not to the University itself, but to a suprauniversity body, a national body of students outside the field of the University. On the face of it the University itself is seeking to compel the payment of what it regards as a compulsory levy to the Australian Union of Students.
The first thing I would say is that if, indeed, the students are imperilled, in those circumstances it would be regarded by the Government and by me as a very serious matter and one which the Government, within its frequently stated policies, would not permit to happen. Let me make that quite clear.
– You have to be consistent. I cannot understand you on that one at all.
– That is the highest praise I can get- that Senator Georges does not understand me. Let me make it perfectly clear. Presumably Senator Georges is saying that the students should be forced to pay a fee of $2.50 to the Australian Union of Students and if they do not pay it, even though they have conscience about the matter, they should not be allowed to continue their studenthood. I find that thoroughly repugnant to the Australian way of life. If Senator Georges wants to enter into this debate, doubtless honourable senators will permit him to do so. He has that opportunity. Let me say, because on the face of it, I regard it as a grave matter, firstly that I invite the students to contact me, preferably in writing, setting out the facts. I invite Senator Knight, assuming he has this knowledge of the students, to have that done. I cannot adjudicate now on whether the facts are precisely as Senator Knight says, nor would he finally adjudicate, but I say this: The Commonwealth Government has said that whilst it regards it as being necessarily compulsory for students to pay to the University authentic sums of money for sporting and recreation purposes- this has been traditional- students should not be forced to pay money for socio or political activities which they oppose in conscience. 1 remind the Senate that my Government has conveyed those decisions and policies to all universities and colleges and has asked them to observe them, lt has stressed that the conscientious objection of an individual should be upheld. Clearly, the question of the conscience of an individual in these matters should be interpreted as widely as it was in terms of military conscription for service abroad, that is, that so long as it is genuine the question of arguing it in a reasoned way is not important. A person is entitled to a genuine conscience. That is something for which we would fight implacably. My Government has also made it clear that this is its desire. lt would be regrettable if it could be shown that institutions intended to compel certain persons or that, knowing this, these things are not to happen. The Government proposes to take certain actions and those actions will be announced in the future. Consistent with those actions will be a clear understanding that no student will be forced to pay moneys that are not directly related to his studenthood and that, in fact, are repugnant to his conscience. If I receive in writing the assertions of the students themselves, I will willingly convey to the university- as I did perhaps a year ago in another case concerning which 1 expressed the same view in the Senatethat it would be quite wrong, quite intolerable to the Australian way of life, to deny the right of studenthood to a student when the money concerned was not directly related to studenthood In this case it is not directly related to the university itself but rather to a body outside of it. I await the tendering of the information but wish to make it clear that this would be a matter concerning which the Government would have a very strong view.
Senator Harradine raised a matter in furtherance of what he raised some days ago. He may not be aware that, after Question Time today, I reported a correction to information that I had given to him.
– I am aware of it
– The honourable senator will therefore know that I referred the matter of the record which was the first matter he raised, to the Minister concerned and that Minister has undertaken to investigate it. I am not in a position to adjudicate upon it. Under the Wireless
Telegraphy Act, that is a matter for the Minister concerned. Senator Harradine also raised the matter of the use of the radio airwaves for discussion, advocacy or even commercial exploitation of paedophilia, as I understand it. I invite him to let me have a transcript or to make available the tape itself of that occurrence. I will, of course, take the same action. I will draw to the attention of the Minister concerned the substance of this debate and any other evidence that is forthcoming along with Senator Harradine ‘s request.
I also note that he has asked that I draw to the attention of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) matters which he suggests might be a fit subject for investigation by the Commonwealth Police. I will so do. As to the matter which comes in a more indirect way under my portfolio, because of the Australian National University and its linkage, I will certainly pursue that, as Senator Rae has indicated he will do, and will seek clarification of it. Again, in common with Senator Rae, I do not seek to comment on the particularities but, as previously indicated, I believe that it would be the responsibility of those who use our very precious airwaves to convey messages and to communicate firstly to operate within the terms of reference of their licence. That is very clear. They should operate also within those values and standards which the community generally and predominantly accepts and wishes to be maintained. I make the very clear point- I think that I made it the other day- that it is as much an assault upon a person if he is assaulted by ear or by eye as if he is assaulted physically. An assault upon the privacy, manners and values of a person is a serious matter. It can always be justified in terms of liberty. As Senator Rae says, the question is: Where does liberty cease and licence start? This is a matter of immense importance. Of course, many people believe that any use of air waves which can be available to the younger and more immature of our people must be a matter of concern for the authorities responsible. Here again, the question of a value judgment which might be sustainable in the case of an adult cannot be necessarily sustainable in the case of a youngster. There is no prior method of knowing what is happening. Again, this is an enormous difficulty because the community insists that the predominant amount of the time should be devoted to discussion within the values that we decide are essential to the preservation of our liberties, and at the same time there should be some discussion with those people who hold different and fringe values. It is not for me to decide. I simply thank the honourable senator for bringing forward the matter. I will bring it to the attention of the various authorities and take action myself.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.47 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Education the following question, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1978:
Were applications for new course approvals for 1978 made from any colleges of advanced education in Queensland; if so, (a) what applications were made; (b) which applications, if any, were successful; and (c) why were the other applications refused approval.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Brisbane Kindergarten Teachers College.
Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Studies.
Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education.
Associate Diploma in Instrument Technology, Associate Diploma in Mathematics and Computing, Graduate Diploma in Applied Earth Science, Graduate Diploma in Chemical Instrumentation, Graduate Diploma in Educational Administration, Master’s Degree program in Land and Water Resource Management.
Mount Gravatt College of Advanced Education.
Graduate Diploma in Tertiary Teaching.
North Brisbane College of Advanced Education.
Bachelor of Education (Primary), Graduate Diploma in Industrial Relations, Graduate Diploma in Secretarial Studies.
Queensland Agricultural College.
Graduate Diploma in Plant Protection, Graduate Diploma in Poultry Technology, Graduate Diploma in Valuation.
Queensland Institute of Technology.
Diploma in Post-basic Nursing, Graduate Diploma in Applied Earth Science, Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice.
Brisbane Kindergarten Teachers College.
Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Studies.
Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education.
Associate Diploma in Instrument Technology, Associate Diploma in Mathematics and Computing, Graduate Diploma in Applied Earth Science, Graduate Diploma in Educational Administration, Master’s Degree program in Land and Water Resource Management.
Queensland Institute of Technology.
Diploma in Post-basic Nursing, Graduate Diploma in Applied Earth Science, Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice.
The Government Guidelines issued to the Tertiary Education Commission for the 1978-80 triennium referred to the need to examine, in a rigorous way, any proposals for the lengthening and upgrading of courses, and to ensure that intakes into colleges of advanced education should not exceed the 1977 levels. It its report, Recommendations for 1978, paragraph 2.27, the Commission expressed the view that the time had come for consolidation in the advanced education sector and indicated that it would be reluctant to approve new courses for 1978 unless there was a strong case for them and they could be mounted without requiring additional financial resources.
Accordingly, in considering new course proposals for 1 978 the Commission and Council took into account the Government ‘s Guidelines and the need for consolidation in the advanced education sector, together with the need to ensure that there was no duplication of course offerings and that resources were being used in an efficient manner.
After consideration of the proposals from the Queensland Board of Advanced Education set out in (a) above, the Advanced Education Council recommended to the Commission that the courses listed in (b) above should be approved for funding purposes in 1 978 and that consideration of the other proposed courses should be deferred. The Commission accepted the Council ‘s recommendation.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 21 February 1978:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australia on temporary entry permits, alleged for various reasons that they ought to be permitted to stay permanently.
The Ombudsman does not consider he is empowered to otherwise reveal information about the details of investigations except for purposes connected with the performance of his function under the Act.
I believe the current legislative provisions, so far as they require the Ombudsman to make various reports and make available the results of his investigations, balance appropriately the interests and responsibilities of the Ombudsman, complainants, the Parliament, Ministers, departments and authorities.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
Have any applications been made by the Department of Social Security in Queensland for additional staff since 1 January 1 977; if so, what additional staff were requested and how many additional staff were appointed.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Yes. The Department of Social Security in Queensland has applied for additional staff on several occasions since I January 1977.
However, it is usual practice for the Department’s Central Office to make applications to the Public Service Board for additional staff for all States.
Since I January 1977, the Department has made four applications for additional staff which have resulted in the following increases for Queensland:
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice, on 22 February 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice, on 22 February 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice, on 22 February 1 978:
Are people within the States, including State Police, collecting security information for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation under an oath of secrecy to supply information to ASIO only.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
As the Senate has been informed on a number of recent occasions, the present Government is adhering to the long standing practice of successive Australian Governments not to comment on specific matters relating to security.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 22 February 1 978:
Were some Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme payments delayed in Queensland this year due to cheques being dated wrongly; if so: (a) what date was placed on the cheques; (b) what date should have been placed on the cheques; (c) were some students whose payments were delayed informed earlier that their first payment would be made about 6 February; (d) when did the students whose payments were delayed receive their first payments for 1 978: (e) how many students were affected; (f) how did the error occur; and (g) what steps have been taken to ensure the error will not be repeated.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Documents for 1,800 students were processed for the pay day of 7 February and 1,555 cheques despatched. Production of the remaining 245 cheques was delayed as a result of the error. All the students concerned had previously been advised to expect to receive cheques about 6 February. Of the cheques that were delayed, 13 students who claimed hardship were paid by special arrangement between 10 and 15 February. Cheques for the remaining 232 students were posted on 2 1 February, the next regular pay day.
The Department of Finance, which is responsible for the physical payment arrangements, has advised that in the light of experience of Australia-wide operations on a very large scale over a period of years, it is of the view that the system controls and procedures as they stand contain appropriate safeguards against processing error, consistent with proper standards of economy and cost effectiveness.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s questions are as follows:
I assume that when the honourable senator refers to security and surveillance, he means a watchman service for property.
1 ) Departments which have requested the Purchasing Division of my Department to arrange security service contracts for protecting property are the Departments of:
Defence (Army, Navy and Air)
Prime Minister and Cabinet.
In addition, areas in my own Department such as the Property and Survey Division use private security services for this purpose. I do not have information concerning similar contracts that may have been placed by other Departments or Authorities.
Wormald International Security
Metropolitan Security Services
Bathurst Night Patrol
Sydney Night Patrol Security Services
Roden Security Services Pty Ltd
Intercity Security and Commercial Investigation
Seaboard Security Services
Independent Security Services
Lammac Security Services Pty Ltd
Chubb Security Wardens
Belmont Security Services.
The terms and conditions of these contracts fall into two categories:
Those providing a continuous property watching service during set hours, seven nights a week including public holidays, and,
Those providing intermittent property inspections, seven nights a week including public holidays.
The approximate cost per annum of the above contracts is $600,000.
Police training and skills are not put to fully productive use when committed to the role of property watchman.
As for (5).
asked the Minister represent ing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government ‘s official policy states that the Government ‘will discourage the formation of international cartels which seek to take unfair advantage of consumer countries’. The Government vigorously reaffirms that approach and particularly emphasises its discouragement of cartels seeking to take unfair advantage of consuming countries. lt is important to note that the policy also states that the Liberal and National Country Parties ‘recognise the value of international commodity agreements where both producers and consumers are represented ‘.
The need for arrangements to stabilise prices of primary commodities has long been recognised. As a result, successive Australian Governments have been actively involved in international commodity agreements. Even though numerous commodity agreements and stabilisation measures are now in operation, however, prices of primary commodities are still subject to sharp fluctuations.
For this reason Australia is actively participating in the discussion and negotiations on a Common Fund, with the objective of helping to stabilise international commodity trade. Australia supports the establishment of such a Fund. Moreover, we are prepared to support in principle a role for the Fund in relation to other commodity related measures as well as buffer stocks and acknowledge that direct government subscriptions should form part of the resources of the Fund.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 7 March 1978:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 8 March 1 978.
What form of identification is sought by Department of Social Security Field Officers when investigating the legitimacy of claims to unemployment benefit.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
When a field officer visits the home of a beneficiary he may ask for some document of identity to bc produced to ensure that the person being interviewed is the person to whom payments are being made. Acceptable documents are those which were presented when the person first claimed benefit and are listed in the unemployment benefit leaflet publicly available from the Department. Where a beneficiary does not possess one of the listed documents, identification can be sought from other documents or other information.
A beneficiary may be requested by a field officer to provide a specimen signature for checking against the original claim form.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 7 March 1 978:
On how many occasions did (a) Liberal and (b) Labor Federal Parliamentarians appear on ABC News or This Day Tonight programs in Tasmania in January and February 1978.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The apparent imbalance to some extent is a result of the relatively fewer readily-available Federal ALP Parliamentarians. Tasmania currently returns no ALP Member to the House of Representatives, and only one ALP Senator (Senator K. Wriedt) lives within 150 km of Hobart, where the only ABC television studios in Tasmania are located.
This is corrected by the frequency of appearances of State ALP politicians on ABC News Bulletins and This Day Tonight which as shown in the following figures for the same period are weighted somewhat the other way.
Appearances by State ALP politicians, 25.
Appearances by State Liberal politicians, 4.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 14 March 1978:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Because of this geographic distribution, population in areas north of the Molonglo River, particularly in the Belconnen area, is not as well served with riverside recreation areas within reasonable travelling distance as residents of other urban areas.
To overcome this deficiency, the National Capital Development Commission is taking the following:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 14 March 1978:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 4 April, 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The number of persons in receipt of special benefit while on remand at the end of December for the period 1974-76, is shown below:
1974-1, 1975-85, 1976-275, 1977-310.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 16 March 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 16 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 16 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
As a corollary (and having regard to the fact that duty shortpaid can be demanded up to twelve months after a shortpayment occurs) the Bureau reserves the right to undertake in-depth examination of documents after the eventagain on a selective basis. Thus, it is commonplace for officers of the Revenue Control Branch to examine company documents on company premises and many hundreds of companies are visited in this way.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 4 April 1978:
Is the Australian Broadcasting Commission installing new automatic data processing computers; if so, what is the estimated cost of the computers.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. A DEC 2040 computer was installed in March 1977. The computer is leased by the ABC at an annual cost of $148,071.
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs, upon notice, on 4 April 1 978:
What are the details of the drought and natural disaster relief measures suggested by the Premier of Queensland and approved by the Prime Minister, referred to in the Brisbane Courier Mail, 31 March 1978.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Following discussions on drought between Commonwealth and State officials in Adelaide last month, the Commonwealth moved quickly to approve support for a number of drought relief measures already instituted by States and which were outside the agreed core measures for assistance under the Commonwealth/State natural disaster arrangements.
In the case of measures for which conditions had previously been determined by the Queensland Government, the Commonwealth has given approval to the following extensions sought by Queensland:
In respect of drought: a deletion of the 60 kilometre exclusion on the subsidisation of road movements of fodder and stock; a subsidisation of the transport of fodder and stock by private farm trucks; removal of the condition that road transport only bc subsidised where rail is either unavailable or impracticable; and an extension of freight subsidies to carriage of water.
In respect of other natural disasters: these special revisions to allowable freight concessions have also been extended by the Queensland Government, and subsequently been granted Commonwealth support, to those Queensland primary producers affected by northern bushfires in November 1977; for primary producers affected by either the northern bushfires or Cyclone Ted in December 1976, the maximum repayment terms of loans has been extended. (This revision is subject to no change in loan arrangements between the State and the Commonwealth.)
Relief assistance by the Commonwealth to drought affected States generally is now being reviewed to see whether improvements in natural disaster relief arrangements might be warranted.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 6 April 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Supporting mothers benefit commenced on 3 July 1973. Supporting parents benefit for males commenced on 10 November 1977.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:
– The Minister for Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) The Interim Report of the Board of Inquiry into Public Electricity Supply Northern Territory dated 4 March 1977 was as its title indicates a progress report. At the time it was submitted the Board had not completed its field investigations. The Board reconvened on I May 1977 and subsequently visited Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine. The Board also revisited Darwin.
The final report Inquiry into Public Electricity Supply Northern Territory dated 27 June 1977 covered all matters raised in the Interim Report of the Inquiry. The final report was made public and tabled on 25 August 1 977.
The Interim Report was not made public at the time it was received because it was a progress report only and had been produced in order to facilitate Ministerial consideration of the issues.
When the final report was tabled since it covered all matters raised in the Interim Report it was not considered necessary to table the Interim Report also. However as stated above the final report was tabled in August 1977 and there is no objection to the Interim Report being made publicly available and arrangements have accordingly been made to place a copy in the Parliamentary library.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
However, the Federal Government does of course provide substantial general purpose funds to the States. The States may choose to use such funds for urban transport services.
In addition, the Federal Government also provides assistance to the States by way of non-repayable grants for capital works to upgrade urban public transport services. Over the five years 1973-74 to 1977-78 funds of approximately $ 1 90m will be provided under the Urban Public Transport Agreement, and a further $300m will be provided over the five years 1978-79 to 1982-83 under the new Urban Public Transport Improvement Program.
asked the Minister for Education the following question, upon notice, on 10 April 1978:
– In answer to the honourable senator’s question, I refer him to my reply to Senate Question No. 1.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 1 1 April 1 978:
What is the location of each social worker currently employed by the Department of Social Security in Queensland, referred to in the Minister’s reply in Question No. 3 1 ( Senate Hansard. 4 April 1 978, page 804):
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 1 1 April 1 978:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
Minet Australia Ltd, 1 1 May 1977; Sedgwick Forbes Leslie Pty Ltd, 1 1 May 1977; Baillieu Bowring (ACT) Pty Ltd, 1 1 May 1977; Stenhouse Reed Shaw Ltd, II May 1977: Edward Lumley and Sons (ACT) Pty Ltd, 31 May 1977; S.A.N.T. Insurance Brokers Pty Ltd, 2 August 1977.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice, on 10 April 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 1 1 April 1978:
Mr H. White, CBE (Chairman )
Mr W. E. Beard
Mr P. R. Brett
Mr J. P. Coleman
Mr W. G. Gosewinckel
Dr B. L. Hennessy
Mr I. H. Maggs
Brig. D. J. McMillen
Mr H. Taylor
MrC. B. Wilson
Organisations Visited Overseas
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Canadian Television Network
Canadian Treasury Board
Department of Communications
Department of Health
Department of Transport
European Space Agency
Mitsubishi Electric Corporation
National Space Development Agency
Nippon Electric Company
Nippon HoseKyokai- Japan Broadcasting Company
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation
Posts and Telecommunications Department
United States of America
American Telephone and Telegraph Company
Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT)
Defense Communications Agency
Federal Communications Commission
Ford Aerospace and Communications Corporation
General Electric Company
Department of Health, Education and Welfare
Hughes Aircraft Company
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
National Broadcasting Company
Office of Telecommunications Policy
Public Broadcasting Service
Radio Corporation of America
Satellite Business Systems
Department of Transport
Committee A is accompanied by Mr R. C. Johnson, Secretary to the Task Force, and Committee B by Mr D. M. Kennedy, Secretary of Committee B.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 12 April 1978:
Have any further unauthorised aircraft entered Australian airspace, particularly North-Australian airspace, since the entry and subsequent forced landing of an aircraft laden with illegal drugs at Katherine, Northern Territory, in February 1 978; if so, what are the details.
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Since the forced landing of the aircraft laden with drugs, at Katherine, Northern Territory on 23 January 1978, the following reports of initially unexplained aircraft movements have been received:
February- 6 reports
March- 5 reports
April- 20 reports.
Each report was investigated by officers of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs working in close liaison with officers of other appropriate Departments.
Unfortunately in the majority of cases the sightings were not satisfactorily explained and the investigations had to be terminated without proceeding to a positive identification of the aircraft. To clarify this aspect, I draw attention to the fact that reports of itinerant aircraft originate from a wide variety of sources and are frequently deficient in that they are either made some considerable time after the actual sighting or lack detail essential to enable positive identification.
The Federal Bureau of Narcotics will shortly open a continuous Drug Intelligence Reporting Centre in Canberra contactable by telephone from any location in Australia without cost to the caller. It is hoped that the formal opening of the Centre will encourage the prompt reporting of suspect activities to enable immediate and effective follow-up response action.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 13 April 1 978:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 13 April 1978:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 13 April 1978:
When will tenders be called for the permanent rehabilitation of the electrical distribution system in the Rapid Creek Area of Darwin, Northern Territory.
– The Minister for Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Tenders for the permanent rehabilitation of the electrical distribution system in the Rapid Creek area were called on 26 January 1978 and a contract in the amount of $632,898 was let on 20 April 1978 to Wolpers and Flowers Constructions Pty Ltd. The contract is for rebuilding the overhead distribution system, including street lighting and is due for completion in November 1978.
Pacific Forum Line: Assistance Provided by Australia (Question No. 398)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 13 April 1978:
What are the details of the substantial technical and financial assistance provided by Australia for the development of a South Pacific regional shipping line, referred to in the Minister’s answer to Question No. 1573 of 1976 (Senate Hansard. 10 December 1976, page 3097).
– The Foreign Affairs Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The technical and financial assistance referred to in my answer to Question No. 1573 of 1976 consisted of a grant of $50,000 to enable feasibility studies to be carried out concerning a regional shipping line in the South Pacific; a consultant to report on various proposals for the establishment of a regional shipping line; and technical advice provided by Australian Government experts.
Since 1976, Australia has made a cash grant of $100,000 to the Line and has offered a loan of $180,000 to assist the Line in meeting its establishment costs.
Australia has also expressed its willingness to consider sympathetically requests for technical assistance and training in connection with the Line.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 3 May 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The question of availability of a drug in Australia is considered by the Poisons Schedule (Standing) Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council which bases its recommendations on such aspects of the drug as toxicity, clinical need and indications for use.
Should the matter of availability of a Prostaglandin E2 suppository arise I will be guided in any decision which has to be made by the recommendations of the expert Committees which I have mentioned.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 5 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 8 May 1 978:
Will the Government correct the injustice being suffered by recipients of Australian Government Employees’ Compensation pensions, which have not been adjusted since 1976.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The question of increasing the rates of benefits in the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act was last considered in connection with the 1977-78 Annual Budget.
Successive Governments have reviewed the rates of compensation benefits having in mind increases in the Adult Minimum Wage and the comparable benefits payable under State legislation.
At the time of the last review, the compensation benefits payable to Commonwealth employees were greater than the level of similar benefits in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria; that is, greater than the levels payable to the majority of the Australian workforce.
There have been changes made by a number of States since the last review. These changes will be taken into consideration in the review of the Compensation Act which is currently being conducted in connection with the 1978-79 Annual Budget.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice, on 8 May 1 978:
To what extent is the Department of the Northern Territory responsible for actions taken by members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly Executive in relation to Willeroo Station.
– The Minister for the Northern Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Willeroo Station, Northern Territory (Question No. 4S0)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice, on 8 May 1978:
Which officials from the Department of the Northern Territory accompanied members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly Executive and Mr Rex Jettner to Willeroo in December 1977, and what was their role.
– The Minister for the Northern Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No officers from my Department accompanied the Legislative Assembly members in December 1 977 to Willeroo.
Uranium: Sale to Philippines
-On 23 February 1978 Senator Button asked me a question without notice relating to the siting of a nuclear reactor in the Philippines and whether it is the Australian Government’s intention to make uranium available to the Philippines. The Minister for Trade and Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Philippines is a party to the Treaty on the NonProliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), has a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in connection with the NPT and is a member of the IAEA. The Philippines will be an eligible customer for Australian uranium provided it concludes the necessary bilateral safeguards agreement with Australia.
Safety aspects including siting of reactors are an important but separate matter from non-proliferation safeguards. It is primarily for the authorities in the countries concerned to ensure that proper safety and environmental precautions are taken and, of course, we look to and expect the Philippines authorities to take such precautions.
Universal Textiles, Tasmania
-On 14 March 1978 (Hansard, page 517) Senator Wriedt asked me, as Minister representing the Prime Minister, a question, without notice, concerning the decision by Universal Textiles Australia Limited to reduce significantly its operations in Hobart with the resultant retrenchment of 300 employees. The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Commonwealth has held consultations with Universal Textiles Australia over several years. The company has at no time made a specific request for financial assistance, and its decision to relocate on the mainland production activities currently undertaken at Hobart reflects its commercial judgment. The Tasmanian Government has looked at possible means of maintaining operations and employment in Hobart but it has confirmed the company’s own assessments that the present operations at Hobart are not commercially viable.
Arrival of Vietnamese Refugees in Darwin
-On 6 April 1978 Senator Robertson asked me:
The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government’s approach of locating officers in Thailand and Malaysia is to give genuine refugees the opportunity to apply to come to Australia through regular channels. The officers’ presence in the region has been widely publicised and refugees have no need to resort to illegal means of entry.
Transfer of Public Servants to Canberra
Senator Webster-On 7 April 1978 Senator
Archer asked me the following question:
1 ) Can the Minister advise, or would he have the Minister whom he represents ascertain, whether the National Capital Development Commission or the Department of the Capital Territory have estimated the total population increase likely in the Australian Capital Territory in 1978-79 as a result of the 500 transfers mentioned, and based on normal projections for the transferees, their immediate families and the normal ancillary back up provisions?
Also, taking all other factors into consideration, what total population increase in Canberra is projected for the year 1978-79?
The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
1 ) Projections prepared during 1977 by the National Capital Development Commission incorporated the anticipated effects of the transfer program. Approximately 50-60 per cent of public servants transfer with their positions, with the remaining positions being filled through local recruitment. On past experience the transfers during 1978-79 could produce a subsequent population increase of up to 3,000 persons.
Seven thousands persons.
Torres Strait Islands
– On 11 April 1978 Senator Sheil asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the following question without notice:
In a Press statement issued on 31 March this year the Foreign Minister announced that recent research had shown that three of the Torres Strait Islands- Kawa, Mata Kawa andKussa- were not among the islands annexed to Queensland at the end of the last century. Accordingly these islands are to be recognised as part of New Guinea. As all the evidence and maps that I can find show these islands to be part of Queensland, will the Minister publish the research that led to this decision?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer the the honourable senator’s question:
As I indicated to the Parliament on 1 1 May during the course of the statement on Torres Strait, it has been arranged for copies of a paper summarising the relevant research on the status of these islands to be made available in the Parliamentary Library for the use of honourable senators and members.
Oil Exploration: Tax Concessions
– On 12 April 1978 (Hansard, page 1 165) Senator Young addressed a question without notice to Senator Withers in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources in the Senate. The question related to the need to extend the new income tax concession in respect of share subscriptions for offshore petroleum exploration and development to onshore petroleum exploration and development. Senator Withers undertook to refer the question to the Treasurer, who has provided the following answer
As the honourable senator will be aware, the Government considered the question of reintroducing deductions for share subscriptions in respect of mineral exploration and development as part of its examination of the Industries Assistance Commission Report on the Petroleum and Mining Industries of May 1976 but, in the event, decided that it would not be appropriate to reintroduce these concessions at that time. It also looked at the matter of the deductibility of share subscriptions in the 1977-78 Budget context in the light of further submissions by industry organisations and mining companies. The Government gave these further submissions most careful consideration but decided that, apart from the new income tax concession in respect of share subscriptions for offshore petroleum exploration and development announced by the then Minister for National Resources in his statement to Parliament of 24 August 1977 in connection with development of the North West Shelf gas fields, it should not change the present basis of deductibility of mineral exploration and development expenditures.
– On 12 April 1978 (Hansard, page 1 169) Senator Townley asked me, as Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice concerning the allowance of income tax rebates for dependants who live overseas. I undertook to refer the question to the Treasurer who has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Income tax allowances in respect of the maintenance of dependants residing overseas are at present available in the form of rebates of tax. For a taxpayer to be allowed the maximum rebate for a parent or parent-in-law, for example, it must be established that the taxpayer is a resident of Australia, that he contributed during the whole of the year of income to the maintenance of the dependant, that no other person contributed to the maintenance of the dependant, and that the dependant’s separate net income did not exceed a specified amount ($189 in the 1977-78 income year). The maximum rebate allowable is reduced when the taxpayer contributes to the maintenance of the dependant for part only of the year, when more than one person contributes to the maintenance of the same dependant, and when the dependant’s separate net income for the year exceeds the specified amount. These requirements are exactly the same for all taxpayers who are residents of Australia, regardless of whether the dependant resides overseas or in Australia.
The overall responsibility for administration of the income tax law has been placed, as the honourable senator knows, on the Commissioner of Taxation and it is. therefore, the Commissioner’s responsibility to determine whether a person residing overseas is oris not a dependant of a particular taxpayer. The Commissioner has advised that, because of the difficulties in making independent checks of the correctness of claims for dependants residing overseas, particularly parents and parent-in-law of the taxpayer, it is often not easy to be sure initially, whether the dependant does, in fact, exist or of the extent to which the dependant relies on the taxpayer for support.
These difficulties have been largely overcome in the past by requesting taxpayers who make rebate claims for dependants residing overseas to furnish additional information to support their claims after lodgment of their income tax returns. When lodging their 1977-78 returns, however, taxpayers who intend to claim rebates for overseas dependants will be asked to furnish, in statements attached to their returns, full information in support of their claims. Details of the information which will be required will be given in the Guides that are to be issued to assist persons in completing their returns.
In assessing whether it is ‘fair and sensible’ to allow income tax relief for the maintenance of overseas dependants, it should be noted that often dependants are overseas temporarily or are waiting to follow the claimant taxpayer as migrants to Australia. Reliefs in respect of dependants so placed were allowed before 1 973 when the previous Government introduced the current all-embracing arrangements which extend to dependants who never have been in Australia and may never intend to come here. There are obviously differing views on the fitness of these expanded arrangements, and at this stage I can only say that I have noted the honourable senator’s views.
Greater Overseas Alliance for National Restoration of Vietnam
– On 2 May 1978 Senator Douglas McClelland asked me, as representative of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs:
Was an organisation formed in Sydney last Sunday, by about 200 members of Sydney’s Vietnamese community, known as the New South Wales Chapter of the Greater Overseas Alliance for National Restoration of Vietnam which has as its aim the ultimate overthrow of the Government of Vietnam? Does the Government associate itself with or dissociate itself from this organisation and its objectives? Has the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs called for a report from his Department on the organisation? Bearing in mind the Government ‘s announced policy of providing for general freedom of information, will the Minister undertake to make the report available to the Parliament?
The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
I am aware that the media have reported the formation of an organisation called the New South Wales Chapter of the Greater Overseas Alliance for National Restoration of Vietnam. I do not have any personal knowledge of such an organisation but will have the matter examined.
Subject to certain conditions the Migration Act 1958 empowers the deportation of an immigrant who advocates the overthrow by force or violence of the established government of any civilised country, or is a member of an organisation which entertains and teaches doctrines directed to this end.
The Government has consistently said it expects migrants from all sources not to import into Australia those differences and divisions which may have marked their life overseas.
Vietnam Government: Intention to Overthrow
-On 2 May 1978 Senator Sibraa asked me, as Minister representing the
Minister for Foreign Affairs, the following question without notice:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs and relates to the question asked by Senator Douglas McClelland concerning the formation of a group of Vietnamese refugees whose explicit intention is the overthrow of the Vietnamese Government. Is the Minister concerned that the setting up of such a group in Australia could severely hamper our diplomatic and trade relations with the present Government of Vietnam? Further, what would be the attitude of his Government if the group in question operated a radio broadcasting unit in order to maintain contacts with groups inside Vietnam?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
Meat: Imports from New Zealand
-On 4 April 1978 Senator Archer asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources, the following question without notice:
I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources to a report in the Australian of 9 March that A new shipping service began last Monday with the arrival of the Waitaki from New Zealand ‘, and that ‘She has slots for 30 refrigerated containers, and a considerable pan of her cargo is expected to be meat exported to Australia by the Waitaki freezing works in New Zealand ‘.If this report is correct, can the Minister advise who is the Australian agent for these imports, the type of meat likely to be imported, the reason for such importation, whether the cargo on the first voyage included any meat and, if so, how much?
In responding to that question I undertook to inform the honourable senator of the result of further inquiries which would be made. My colleague in the other place has advised that further inquiries have confirmed that there is no evidence that the Waitaki discharged any meat in Sydney or Melbourne on its maiden voyage.
Northern Australia: Coastal Surveillance and Defence Operational Capability
-On 10 May 1978 (Hansard, page 1546) Senator Bishop asked me, as Minister representing the Prime Minister, a question, without notice, concerning coastal surveillance and defence operational capability in Northern Australia. The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In addition to defence, coastal surveillance meets a number of important civil requirements, particularly fishing, immigration, health and customs. A Permanent Heads Committee has been examining the forward requirements for coastal surveillance and its report is expected shortly. The honourable senator can be assured that the Parliament will be kept informed.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 May 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780524_senate_31_s77/>.