31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in consultation with the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), has decided upon proposed ministerial and administrative arrangements to apply consequent upon the Northern Territory’s attainment of selfgovernment on 1 July 1978. The Minister for the Northern Territory, the Honourable Evan Adermann, will continue in that position for a transitional period of three months. It is intended that on 1 October 1978 the Northern Territory portfolio will be abolished and residual functions will be absorbed into the Home Affairs portfolio. It is proposed also that Mr Adermann should become Minister for Veterans’ Affairs from the beginning of July. The present Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, the Hon. R. V. Garland, will of course remain Minister for Special Trade Representations.
In mentioning the Minister for Special Trade Representations, I inform the Senate that the Minister leaves Australia today for discussions in London, Brussels, Geneva, and Paris. He is expected to return on 18 June. During his absence the Deputy Prime Minister will act as Minister for Special Trade Representations and the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) will act as Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs.
– I present the following petition from 6 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members and ex members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully showeth:
On 14 February 1975, the then Australian Government deprived the officers and men of the Australian Citizen Naval Military and Air Forces of the distinctive and historic decorations and medals for long service and good conduct, namely the Reserve Decoration, the Efficiency Decoration, the Air Efficiency Award, the Efficiency Medal and Long Service and Good Conduct Medals, awarded for long and meritorious voluntary service in the citizen forces:
The proposed substitution of the National Medal for these decorations and medals varies the principle of selective recognition of efficient voluntary service in the citizen forces in that it recognises the period of service only and embraces also full time service as well in the defence forces as in the police, fire brigade and ambulance services:
This deprivation caused and is continuing to cause serious discontent amongst personnel of the Citizens Forces who willingly and cheerfully give of their spare time outside their normal full time civilian careers, to serve Her Majesty and Australia:
The Reserve Forces of Australia have been recognised by the present Government as a valuable- and costeffective component of the Defence Forces. Anomalously, whilst the Government is actually supporting recruiting for these Forces it has imposed and continued this deprivation which as foresaid has depressed the morale of the Citizen Forces:
Her Majesty has not cancelled the said Decorations and Medals.
Your petitioners therefore h umbly pray.
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals for Long Service and Good Conduct to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Army Reserve (CMF) and the RAAF Citizens Air Force.
-I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: In view of the fact that Cabinet failed to settle Australia ‘s negotiating position for the multilateral trade negotiations, has any deadline been set to provide instructions to the Prime Minister as to what is Australia ‘s position? If so, what is that deadline? In view of the Prime Minister’s public commitment to support the United States in arguing for the proposed 40 per cent tariff cut and the fact that this matter has now been referred back to an interdepartmental committee for further consideration, what will be the position if the interdepartmental committee fails to come up with recommendations that are in line with the Prime Minister’s already publicly-stated position?
– As I said to my honourable friend yesterday, it is not my place at Question Time to discuss what happens in Cabinet or what may happen in Cabinet. It is not my role, as a Minister answering for the Government in this place, in any way to get involved in the decisionmaking process of my colleagues in the Cabinet room.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Minister representing the Prime Minister: May I take it from that answer that the Government in fact has not made any policy decision in respect of this 40 per cent tariff cut and that the Prime Minister, despite his public statements of support for it, will not be in a position to speak on this matter on behalf of the Government should he be required to do so before the Government has made a decision?
– The Leader of the Opposition is attempting to get me to disclose what is happening in the Cabinet by asking his question in another way- by alleging that we have not made any policy decision. I am not prepared either to confirm or deny that. As the honourable senator would know, I am not at liberty to disclose what happens at Cabinet meetings. As I said yesterday, Cabinet decisions are announced at the proper time by the responsible Minister and not by me at Question Time in the Senate.
– I address my question to you, Mr President. Have you received any complaints from Commonwealth Police stationed in Parliament House concerning the lack of adequate accommodation for meal areas and mustering purposes? I understand that for the 59 officers, including four policewomen, the total area provided is only 187 square feet and that there is insufficient seating and locker space. Will you undertake a review of the problem which may have an effect on the morale of the force?
– I have had no direct communication on this matter but I shall have it looked into as the honourable senator suggests.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Education. Is it a fact that the guidelines issued by the Tertiary Education Commission on 3 June 1977 for the 1978-80 triennium specified that there would be no new universities or colleges of advanced education established during the triennium? If so, why is it intended to establish Casey University and was the decision to establish that university in the purview of the Tertiary Education Commission when those guidelines were prepared?
-I think that at all times the idea to establish an Australian Defence Force Academy was regarded as being a matter for the Department of Defence and the Minister for Defence rather than for the Ministry of Education. However, one cannot deny that the Department of Education is concerned with the establishment of the Academy as there is a similar educational content in both. From my recollection, certainly the Tertiary Education Commission in 1977 would not have had any reason to contemplate whether or not there ought to be a Casey Defence Force Academy because it had not been suggested to the Commission that there might be one. Therefore, the Commission would have proceeded on other grounds. Of course, the fact is that while we had put a caveat on the development of further universities and colleges of advanced education, we went ahead with the establishment of the Australian Maritime College. I do not think that anybody objects to that. Equally, the guidelines are not holy writ. They can be varied. I think that the narrow answer to the honourable senator’s question is that the establishment of this institution is a matter for the Department of Defence and for the Minister for Defence and not one for the Minister for Education in terms of the institution.
-I wish to ask the Minister for Education a supplementary question. Although I understand the answer that he has given, of course the Casey University will be a university so described. It is in the light of that comment that I asked my question and not in the light of it being described as a defence academy. It is a university so described. Did the Tertiary Education Commission consider that aspect in drawing up the guidelines?
-It is true that the Casey Defence Force Academy will be a tertiary institution of university type. I pick my words very carefully -
– You would need to in this situation.
-I always do. I take it that what the honourable senator who interjects means is that the Australian Labor Party is opposed to having a Defence Force academy.
– That is so.
– The Opposition spokesman says that that is so and that can be recorded. I pick my words carefully for the reason that a Defence Force academy of university type has characteristics that are not totally related to the ordinary non-military university. That is the only reason that I use the words in what the honourable senator might call a prissy fashion.
– I did not say anything about that. I said ‘a careful fashion’.
-That is very sweet of the honourable senator, and I acknowledge his good fellowship. I have no reason to believe that the Tertiary Education Commission had the matter in its purview at the time that it brought down its report.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Administrative Services. I refer to the accounts which are received by senators and members of the House of Representatives from his Department relating to the use of the motor vehicle service. I refer in particular to a recent set of accounts that I received which included two charges of $26.56, each of which relates to the use of a motor vehicle in Canberra, one for a period of 15 minutes and the other for a period of 20 minutes. The explanation which has been given to me by the Department is that when a Commonwealth car instead of a taxi is asked for on Saturday, Sunday or public holidays, as is indicated by the attachment to the accounts, there is a minimum charge for 90 minutes of $26.55 and that is why the charges appear excessive. Is it a fact that there is a cost to the taxpayer of $26.55 when a Commonwealth car is used for a short period on the weekend or is that some sort of accounting exercise? If there is a cost to the taxpayer of $26.55 will he take steps to see that the service is discontinued and that members of Parliament use taxis at much less cost?
-As I understand it, within the transport section of my Department there is a trust fund to support the costs of the service, and charges are averaged out over all the services provided by the Department. I must confess that I was somewhat surprised the other day to learn from one of my other colleagues, Senator Rae- I do not think he would mind my mentioning it- that he had experienced the same sort of problem with some accounts he had received in both Launceston and Melbourne. I had understood that the practice was to be that whilst there was an hourly charge rate it was to be divided by four into 15 minute segments and that people were to be charged from the time they were picked up to the time they were dropped. So if one were using a car for 15 minutes one would pay $6 or whatever the charge was from pick-up to drop, or from time ordered for pick-up to drop.
One of the great problems in the car transport service is that far too many people keep the cars waiting for far too long. I know that my predecessor in this job put a limit of 10 minutes on waiting time. If one was not at the pick-up point within 10 minutes of the time for which one ordered the car the driver was instructed to drive away and one had to re-book a vehicle. No driver likes doing that. The transport service well understands that people cannot always present themselves within 10 minutes of the time for which the car was ordered. There are great problems, especially for members of Parliament. It is not always easy. If we order a car for 10 a.m. or 10 p.m. and a constituent rings, we cannot just say: ‘I am sorry, the car is waiting,’ and hang up the phone. We just cannot operate like that. Therefore I have been very reluctant to enforce the 10 minute limitation which was imposed before. I am having my Department re-examine this whole question. I can well understand Senator Chaney ‘s feeling that for a journey within the city of Canberra lasting 15 minutes it would appear that the taxpayer is paying $26.50. 1 imagine that one could almost fly to Sydney for that figure.
– Not these days.
– Was it in the good old pre-Whitlam days that one could fly there for $26.50? Against that, of course, one is only paying in Whitlam dollars these days. That has to be taken into account. I will certainly discuss this question with Senator Chaney. I would be appreciative if any other honourable senator who has had a similar experience in this area would let me know of it. It appears that somebody is being overcharged somewhere.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer inform the Senate whether the Treasurer was the Minister who vetoed the plan of the Commissioner of Taxation to have a team of investigators visit Norfolk Island? If it was not the Treasurer was it the Minister responsible for that area, the Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers? Will the investigation now take place and will a report be presented to Parliament?
– I have no evidence that the events mentioned happened. If Senator Melzer will let me have the substantive evidence on which she bases the question I shall transmit it to the Treasurer and seek advice.
– I ask my question of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I refer to the question I asked him yesterday concerning an incident involving flight QF7 in Perth on 17 March. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that the captain of flight QF7 requested that the Pearce Royal Australian Air Force base be contacted to arrange for an emergency landing and that this was done? Is it also a fact that when the civil air controllers attempted to contact the Pearce base to confirm levels of readiness the RAAF did not answer its telephone?
-I have no direct information about that from my colleague whom I represent in this place. I shall pass the honourable senator’s question on to my colleague in the House of Representatives to see whether I can obtain an early answer.
-My question to Senator Carrick follows the question asked by Senator Melzer. Since when has it become necessary for a Minister to have substantive evidence to support a question asked by an honourable senator? Did not Senator Melzer ask whether certain things had been done or not done? Is the Minister saying that he is refusing to answer the question or even to take it any further until such time as Senator Melzer supplies some ‘substantive evidence ‘, as he calls it?
-No, indeed. If I gave that impression I am sorry that I did say in good faith that I had not seen any source of information at all. That may be a defect in my own perusal of evidence. Perhaps I should rephrase my response. If Senator Melzer will give me the source of her information, the facts upon which she relies, I shall take them forward. I make it perfectly clear that I was not putting any sanction on the situation at all; I just had not seen any evidence in this regard and I did not know. But if Senator Melzer wants to rely purely on the words in her question I shall pursue the matter purely on the words in her question.
-Mr President, may I clarify this? Is Senator Carrick saying now that he wants the source of information before he answers the question? Surely the question stands in its own right the same as any other question asked in this place. We are not obliged to divulge sources of information every time we ask a question. Can the Minister not tell us he will get an answer from the Minister responsible even if we have to wait a week for it?
– I am sorry. I was trying to be awfully helpful. The last thing I said before Senator Wriedt rose to his feet was that if Senator Melzer wants to rely solely on the wording of her question I shall get an answer to her question. That ought to be total.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for National Development been drawn to the report of the Australian Atomic Commission for the year ended 30 June 1977? Does the report indicate that there will be a market for Australian uranium in the 1 980s?
– My attention has been drawn to that report. Indeed I have read the report as I could be expected to do in my representative capacity. Senator Young asked whether the report indicates that there will be a market for Australian uranium. My understanding is that the report states that Australian uranium sales to the mid-1980s might amount to 33,000 tonnes or even to the upper limit of 55,000 tonnes. While there has been some weakening in the uranium market in recent years, this amount still represents a very considerable level -
– I raise a point of order. I am not certain whether this question should be ruled out of order. I seek your advice, Mr President. A statement is to be brought down later on this very matter by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I would have thought that at that stage we would seek information surrounding that statement. Is that statement on the Notice Paper? I think it is. If it is, the statement ought not to be the subject of a question and answer.
– No point of order is involved. I call Senator Carrick.
– How do you know what is in the statement?
– The statement is here. For goodness sake! I am not clairvoyant. The statement is in front of me.
- Senator Carrick will answer the question in the way he wishes.
-If Senator Georges would like to give me a copy of the statement some time it would add to my storehouse of knowledge.
– Why have you not got a statement? We have it.
– Because I am putting it down.
-I was saying that, whilst there has been some indication of some weakening in the uranium market in recent years, the amount I have mentioned still represents a very considerable level of possible sales of exports from Australia by new mines. In the statement of the then Minister for National Resources to Parliament on 25 August 1977 he pointed out that the Ranger inquiry assumed that production and sales of Australian uranium would begin in 1981-1982 at a rate of 2,000 short tonnes and that this would increase to 10,000 short tonnes in the mid 1980s- 1985 and 1986. The Minister said that these estimates were broadly in line with the Government’s assessment of the world market situation in the first half of the 1980s and that after 1985 the likely exports that Australia could make would increase substantially. The estimates and advice of the Atomic Energy Commission were, of course, available to the Government in the course of making a decision in relation to the development of Australian uranium resources as announced to Parliament in August last year. As the Minister said to Parliament in August last year, the Government believes that the market outlook provides a basis on which carefully regulated development of Australia’s uranium resources can proceed. The Government’s uranium policy is being implemented on that basis.
-Did the Minister for Administrative Services either directly or through Mr Pearson or any other officer approach the Distribution Commissioners concerning the 1 977 redistribution in Western Australia, particularly the division of Kalgoorlie?
-The answer to the question is no.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for National Development been drawn to an announcement that Japan ‘s Electric Power Development Co. has reached agreement in principle with four New South Wales coal companies to supply up to 40 per cent of its steaming coal requirements after 1982? Is this announcement of particular importance to the western coalfields area of New South Wales which are a major site of production of steaming coal? Is the Minister confident that the Wran Government in New South Wales will ensure the provision of the necessary infrastructure such as coal loading facilities which will allow New South Wales coal miners and communities to benefit from this new opportunity?
-I saw, as I think all honourable senators would have seen, the report in the Press. All honourable senators, particularly those from New South Wales, would be delighted if there were to be not only an available market but also the facilities to put New South Wales coal miners to work in order to avail of that market. To understand the import of the question, as Senator Peter Baume no doubt does, honourable senators should know that New South Wales as distinct from other States has particular problems in coal mining. Senator Mulvihill will understand this. We have to compete in terms of deep pit mining as against, shall we say, the much easier and lower cost open cut coal mining of Queensland. Wherever facilities can be provided to help the deep pit mines to compete, New South Wales will benefit, as will the employment situation.
The western coal mines, particularly those in the Lithgow area generally, have been in very grave difficulty in that, having explained to the New South Wales Labor Government their disability in getting port facilities, nothing has been done with regard to those facilities. Indeed, the plan to set up a coal loading facility on the northern shore of the Botany Bay was in fact set aside and there are not the facilities elsewhere. The haul to Port Kembla is enormous and therefore costly. As the problems are piled upon the western coal mines, their likelihood of being driven out of overseas markets becomes more real. The fact is that at this moment in New South Wales there is no practical method of handling the expanded markets in terms of coal loading facilities. The Government itself has been recreant over recent years in making any such plans.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Administrative Services, whose answer to Senator Walsh’s question was so brief that I did not hear it. I ask: What communications, either directly or indirectly, has the Minister had with electoral distribution commissioners in any State other than Queensland?
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science. Has the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation any research projects underway concerning the use or testing of seaweed concentrates for either fertiliser or food additives? If not, has there been any request for such work to be done?
-At present the CSIRO has no testing work under way in relation to seaweed. A number of honourable members and honourable senators from the Government side of the chambers, particularly from Tasmania, have inquired from time to time on behalf of a producer in Tasmania. I recall that Senator Rae recently raised that matter. A firm in, I think, Hobart has been interested in the use of seaweed as a fertiliser. If I recall correctly, its work has been done on bull kelp. Its managing director wrote to me and asked that the CSIRO evaluate its type of product. As I recall, the product was to be for export and the firm wanted to have some identification with the CSIRO in the work that it was doing. However, the small amount of testing that was done at that time- some two years agodid not really represent intensive work by the CSIRO in research into seaweed.
I think there is a great advantage to be gained from the evaluation of the uses of seaweed. Perhaps those honourable senators and honourable members who come from areas that have salinity problems would recognise that great work could be done by attempting to evaluate how certain forms of grass and weed are able to grow in saline conditions. Perhaps with an expanded budget the CSIRO will be able to follow that line of thought. There is also the possibility of the harvesting of such a quick growing product doing something for the fertiliser industry. The honourable senator has raised a very important matter. The CSIRO is not in a position at the moment to accept the challenge of taking up that type of research, but I will put it to the Organisation.
-I direct a twopronged question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Firstly, can he give the Senate an up-to-date briefing on the effect of the political supression that has occurred in Peru in the last 10 days? Secondly, in expansion of my comments on the adjournment debate the other night, is it true that a number of political and trade union leaders have been exiled to the Argentine and have become political refugees? Would we assess them in the same way as we have people from one or two other areas in the past?
-I think Senator Mulvihill asked me a question on this matter on 25 May. I should have given the answer yesterday at the end of Question Time but I regret to say that I forgot all about it. I have been advised by my colleague in the other place as follows:
The Australian Ambassador to Peru has sent the Department of Foreign Affairs a full report of the recent political happenings in that country. It would not be proper for me to comment in detail on what is occurring there, but our information is that recent developments have taken place following the Peruvian Government’s preparations for elections in June this year for a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution to prepare the country for a return to parliamentary democracy. In March this year the Government of Peru announced a political amnesty, allowing exiles to return to the country. The recent political violence in Peru appears to have erupted both as a result of the activities of Peruvian political parties, some of whose leaders returned to Peru as a result of the amnesty, and of certain harsh economic measures the Peruvian Government had taken in order to get overseas credits.
The information of the Minister for Foreign Affairs is that 13 Peruvian citizens have been deported to Argentina and that they did not flee Peru to seek refuge there. They were deported for political activity in Peru. It is unlikely that they would have an interest in coming to Australia to build a new life. They are political figures who are awaiting an opportunity to return to Peru to continue their political activities. If any of these persons were to wish to come to Australia, the Government would need to examine very closely the question of whether they could be regarded as political refugees.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. I take it that I can interpret the latter part of the answer to mean that our Embassy in Rio de Janeiro would be alerted to play a part if these people sought some form of political sanctuary.
– From my interpretation of the answer I understand that would be the case.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Does the Minister recall my asking him a question on 4 May 1978 relating to the deferral of the election of a Producers’ Consultative Group to be established under the provisions of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Act 1977? Does he recall further that on 8 May 1978 he told the Senate, in answer to my question, that the Minister for Primary Industry had informed him that ‘commitments of the Australian Electoral Office late in 1977 necessitated a variation of the timetable originally proposed for this election’? Does the Minister further recall that during the adjournment debate on 8 May 1978 he said:
I can well understand why the Australian Electoral Office was unable to cope with the requirements of the Government. In November a Federal election was announced and the Electoral Office would have been more than busy during November, December and January?
Does the Minister agree that his comments during the adjournment debate indicated that he had concluded, as I had, from the statement of the Minister for Primary Industry that the Electoral Office had informed the Government that it was unable to proceed with arrangements for elections of the Producers ‘ Consultative Group? Did the Electoral Office give any such indication to the Government? If not, why did the Government not request the Electoral Office to proceed with the conduct of these elections? When did the Government take this decision? Can the Minister give the Senate the Government’s reasons for not announcing this decision at the time it was made?
-There are many parts to the honourable senator’s question which require some detailed answers. I believe it would be appropriate- I have a note from the Minister for Primary Industry- to answer the question in full at the end of Question Time. I trust that will be acceptable.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Has the Minister any information about the results of attempts to overcome staff shortages in the hospitals and dental clinics in the Northern Territory? My question is prompted by reports that there is a waiting time of three to four months for an appointment to see the eye doctor at the Darwin Hospital.
– I have no up to date information on the position in the Northern Territory. I am aware that Senator Robertson and others have asked questions previously on this subject and I have undertaken to ascertain the position. I will ascertain the up to date position with regard to staff shortages and obtain any other information that is available.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Can the Minister confirm a report that the Victorian Government, through its Minister for Agriculture, will not join the Federal Government’s dairy underwriting scheme but will go it alone with a separate State-funded scheme? Can the Minister give an estimate of the cost to Victorian taxpayers if that decision is implemented and can he comment on a further report that any such State scheme may be financed in part by a substantial milk price increase to the consumer?
-On behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry, I am unable to say whether the Victorian Government has indicated that it will not join in the scheme. At the present time the Federal Minister has had no indication from Victoria, and that must be awaited. One or two radio and television programs have made some suggestions but no message has been conveyed to the Minister for Primary Industry as at this time. I am unable to indicate the exact level of contribution that may have to be made to the Victorian producer if the scheme is not proceeded with. I think it might be as well to get the correct answer from the Minister for Primary Industry, if it is possible for him to answer. In relation to the first part of the question, I do know that no communication has been received to date by the Federal Government.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Education, and I put it understanding that recurrent and equipment funds for the Maritime College in Launceston are to be provided each year from the education vote, to be decided by the Advanced Education Council in the normal way, having regard to the priorities of all the colleges. I therefore ask: Is it a fact that funds for the operation and maintenance of the proposed Casey university will not be provided through the Tertiary Education Commission but through a separate defence vote? If that is so, why is the university to be treated differently from other universities and how will its priorities compare with those of tertiary education generally?
– The Maritime College is a non-military totally civilian college which will be run as a college of advanced education. It will therefore come under the Advanced Education Council, which is part of the Tertiary Education Commission. Each year and menially the Tertiary Education Commission will make a study of the Maritime College and report to the Government on the matter. That is in line with the procedure for any other civilian institution. As I said, the Casey University- Australian Defence Force Academy, as its name suggests, is a military academy.
– Now where is the misrepresentation? It has been declared as a university.
– I know interjections are disorderly but they are helpful and I rely on them because they usually expose the weakness of the Opposition’s argument. The Casey Defence Force Academy will be erected on or close to the grounds of Duntroon. The persons at that Academy will be members of the defence forces. I do not think that there will be any civilians, although there may be some civilian attachments to it. It will be related wholly to the Defence Force. As such, it is logical that it should come under the Defence Force budget. It may well be that the Tertiary Education Commission will be given some kind of review or oversight of aspects of the Casey Defence Force Academy. That has not been determined yet.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. I refer to the report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, which the Minister stated he has read. Has he noted under the heading ‘South Australian Study ‘ on page 45 that it is stated:
In support of its aim for industrial development in South Australia, the South Australian Government in 1 975 set up a Committee on Uranium Enrichment. This Committee was charged with preparing a report on the general applicability and feasibility of establishing commercial plants for the manufacture of uranium hexafluoride and for the enrichment of uranium on a South Australian site.
Is it a fact that the Committee, which is still in existence, has presented three interim reports on this proposal to the South Australian Government? As this project would provide a tremendous stimulus to sadly flagging industrial development in South Australia, can the Minister say whether Mr Dunstan has abandoned the race for such a plant and is allowing the enterprising Court Government in Western Australia to beat him to the punch on the establishment of a uranium enrichment facility?
– I am not able to answer the last part of the question because, as I understand it, the South Australian Government is still granting prospecting licences in the hills around Adelaide in South Australia. The other day I saw a picture of Mr Dunstan digging in his own garden, so I presume that free enterprise is operating. I am aware of the report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. I regret to say that I cannot recollect page 45 of the report. I am aware that in the report there is evidence of a study by the South Australian Government and I am aware that there was at that time and subsequently enormous interest in South Australia in the possible development of an enrichment plant to produce uranium hexafluoride.
The interest is two-fold. Enrichment adds enormous financial value to the quality of a resource which, in the ground, has no value. Yellowcake does have some value. In employen terms, it is enormously significant. In the process that would probably be chosen, as many as 500,000 electric motors could be required for the centrifuge program, and this could lead to the employment of many people. So there is a very considerable interest in the matter. I am unaware of recent developments by the South Australian Government. I am unaware whether there have been three interim reports. I can only hope that the Government in a State in which industrial opportunities for people are sadly lagging -
– That is a lot of nonsense. You are carrying on a campaign of knocking South Australia all the time. We have big mouth Tonkin and big mouth Jessop knocking South Australia.
- Mr President, I can understand the defensive nature of Labor Party supporters in South Australia who are trying to defend the declining Dunstan Government and the peripatetic Premier of South Australia who wanders around the world but comes back with nothing in his carpet bag. I can well understand their defence mechanism. They are very helpful to me. In regard to the situation of the Dow petrochemical works, that has been lagging for ages, and the alternative work in Whyalla, about which Senator Jessop and other South Australian Liberal senators are so keen, the only answer that the Labor Party has is decibels of noise.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. The Minister will know of the matter I raise because questions have been asked of him before about the Chrysler Australia Limited retrenchments in South Australia. When an announcement was made that 1,100 people were to be retrenched, the union involved met the Prime Minister and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and received an assurance, which was later published, that maximum retraining effort would be given to ensure that those people who were retrenched would be retrained and made available for whatever occupations were available.
I ask: Does the Minister know that since that time the departmental representatives in Adelaide of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations have rejected a complete and comprehensive union retraining scheme and that the scheme which has been proposed is one to retrain 40 employees under the auspices of the Department of Further Education, as a result of which there is currently a dispute and representations have been made to the Government? Will the Minister ask the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations to review whatever proposals have been put to the union on the basis of what I have mentioned, so that the whole of the retrenched work force might be given fairly good opportunities for retraining?
– I am aware of the major problem which has been raised in Senator Bishop’s question. As to the actual discussions which are taking place or which have taken place between officers of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations and the union concerned, I am unaware of those recent developments. I shall refer the question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, who I am sure is particularly concerned about the matter and endeavour to get an early answer from him.
-Will the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications tell members of the community at large what action they personally can take to voice their opinions as to whether any particular radio station should or should not have its licence renewed? Would their opinions be taken into consideration if they were so expressed? Does the Minister consider that the public should have a say in this regard? I am referring to the continual representations I receive regarding radio station 2XX, which is a station that is guilty of putting over offensive material, and the fact that people -
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. I think it is Senator Walters ‘ red jacket which inflames me. The honourable senator has asked her question. The question is clear. She does not need now to debate the question by bringing in material that is offensive.
- Senator Walters, I ask you to couch your question in direct terms.
– My question is inspired by the fact that people feel that there is nothing that they personally can do.
– I sympathise with Senator Georges; I can quite understand how anyone would be stimulated by Senator Walters.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. I think that the Minister should be requested to withdraw that remark because it is sexist in nature and should not be made.
– That is not a point of order.
-Senator Walters asked me first of all, in general terms, what action any member or members of the community could take to express a viewpoint as to whether a particular radio licence should be renewed. Radio licences of a general nature- that is, those within the commercial field- come before the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal at regular intervals. Under the Broadcasting and Television Act the Tribunal has the responsiblity of receiving public approaches and analysing those approaches. Therefore members of the public, both individually and in groups, have a direct ability to influence the renewal of licences. Any person or persons holding strong views should be encouraged to acquaint themselves with the facilities available to them through the Australian Broadcasting Tribual. The problem is that 2XX was set up basically to operate under a university licence but now it is seeking to widen its licence in order to operate as a community station. I must confess that the precise nature of appeal for such a change escapes me for the moment. I will obtain that information.
A number of matters in relation to 2XX have been raised in the Senate recently, substantially by Senator Harradine. I am in the process of directing them to the attention of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Certainly until now the Minister has had the responsibility under the Wireless Telegraphy Act to determine the renewal or otherwise. I do not know whether we have moved beyond that yet, as we intend to do. We propose in the future to take this matter away from the jurisdiction of the Wireless Telegraphy Act and to put such licences under scrutiny so that in the future the public will have the recourse that I described in the first situation.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications whether he is aware that the frequency modulation broadcasting station at the College of Advanced Education in Hobart, station 7CAE, which has been operating now for two or three years and which I think most people who live in Hobart would agree provides an excellent service to the Hobart community, has been advised by the Department that to maintain its licence it must invest in a whole range of new equipment and take up a site which will make it extremely difficult for it to continue its operation. I believe that this would involve a capital outlay of some $80,000 by this largely voluntary broadcasting station? I ask the Minister: Will he take up this matter with his colleague and ensure that no demands are made of station 7CAE which would virtually put it off the air. As I understand the position, if it is made to abide by these very stringent new regulations obviously it will not be able to continue broadcasting.
– I take seriously and note sympathetically the request that Senator Wriedt makes. It is not the intention of the Government to. put such sanctions on special frequency modulation stations as would drive them off the air. I do not know what minimum technical requirements are necessary. The Government would be advised by technical experts. I will seek to find out the reasons for the situation facing station 7CAE and let the honourable senator know. At the same time I will convey to the Minister concerned the honourable senator’s sentiment, which is shared by me, that consistent with the maintenance of the minimum technical requirements a sympathetic approach should be made to the maintenance of the station.
-Is the Minister for Education aware of recent reports of State inquiries into post-secondary education? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the latest report of the Tertiary Education Commission contains information bearing on this matter? Has the Government formed a view concerning the need to rationalise post-secondary institutions?
– This is a very complex question; therefore I will have to truncate the answer. Perhaps I can expand on it in future education debates. I am very well aware of what the Tertiary Education Commission has reported. The Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training is looking at all aspects of education in the post-school area and therefore is looking at the aspects of universities, colleges, and technical and further education. At the same time the State governments, acting under their constitutional powers, have set up a series of committees to look at post-secondary education. The Victorian Government has just completed an inquiry by the Partridge Committee; some time ago the Western Australian Government inquiry was completed by the Partridge Committee; the South Australian inquiry has just been completed by the Anderson Committee; and in New South Wales the Butland Committee has completed its inquiry. All around Australia at this moment there are inquiries because there is a belief that there is a need to co-ordinate and to rationalise the various institutions, particularly because there is a bit of cannibilisation and erosion of the interface of these institutions. I that the Williams Committee will report within a couple of months and that then there can be a major dialogue and a major public debate in Australia on a vital matter.
-Has the Minister for Social Security ascertained the identity of the senior Commonwealth policeman quoted in the Sydney Sun-Herald on 28 May as saying that social security cheats have ripped off more than $100m in bogus unemployment benefits’? Who is the officer concerned and what proof does he have for making the statements concerned? How many persons are currently under investigation by police and Department of Social Security officials in connection with these claims, and how many have been charged?
– I am not able to answer specifically the number of questions raised by Senator Mcintosh. I shall see what information is available on the matter that has been brought forward by him and see that he is advised.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry is about the scheme of cash grants to beef producers introduced last year whereby $10 a head was paid to beef producers for certain disease processes and to help with cash flow. Are these grants to beef producers to be treated as income which will be taxable, if they have received a taxable income? Also, can the Minister tell the Senate how much this scheme has cost the Commonwealth so far?
– I cannot answer accurately either of the questions. The first question should be answered by the Treasurer. From a practical point of view I believe- I shall advise the honourable senator if this reply is not correctthat the income paid in such a way would be considered part of the assessable income during the year of the payment. In relation to the amounts that have been paid, I shall attempt to find that out for the honourable senator. If I can get that information soon I shall give it to him later in Question Time.
-Mr President, my question is directed to you. It relates to your ruling in the Senate on Tuesday on the question of sub judice and your direction to my colleague Senator Button that in proceeding to debate the matter that was then before the Chair he should not quote matters of fact which have been stated in court. I draw your attention to the fact that on the same day in the House of Representatives, as recorded at page 2780 of Hansard, the Speaker ruled that a member of the House of Representatives could quote from the transcript of evidence before the court but was not entitled to put any construction on the matter. In view of the fact that a ruling was given in the Senate that we could not quote from a transcript of evidence before a court and a contrary ruling was given by the Speaker in the House of Representatives on the same day, in order to bring some common approach to the question of being able to quote in both Houses of Parliament from transcripts of proceedings before a court are you prepared to discuss the matter with the Speaker in another place? In addition, are you prepared to submit the whole question to the Standing Orders Committee for detailed consideration and report to the Senate?
– I ruled quite definitely that any matter brought in evidence before a judicial inquiry should not be debated here. I abide by that ruling. I indicate again that matters of sub judice are matters for very fine assessment. No Standing Order covers them. In my judgment and in the interests of justice I shall adhere to the approach on which I insisted the other day.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs a question. Papunya in the western sector of the Alice Springs area has been going through considerably troublesome times in the last few years with the result that three officers from Commonwealth departments concerned with the Aboriginal people prepared a report to the Government. In view of the continuing problems, can the Minister advise what action is being taken to implement the report or otherwise? Is it the intention of the Government to retain its responsibility for the health of the people in the area? If so, will it continue to be through an active role or merely that of oversight?
– It so happens that the Papunya report was part of a joint initiative of a number of Ministers, of whom I was one. The three Ministers were Mr Viner, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Hunt, the Minister for Health and me, the Minister for Education. Therefore I hope the Minister for Social Security will pardon my traversing her domain. It was felt that Papunya, which has serious problems, should be thoroughly analysed so that there could be first of all a true picture of how the present circumstances, unfortunate as they are, came about. In that way we would be assisted in knowing what reforms should be made in the future. I think that Senator Kilgariff, who is closely associated with the area, would understand that. The report has come to hand. It has been analysed by the various departments. Mr Viner informs me that he will be soon inviting his fellow Ministers to come together to analyse the report. The Prime Minister, in the knowledge of that report, has requested us to do so. In the immediate weeks ahead the Ministers will meet to look at the report on Papunya and to advise on specific areas over the whole range of Aboriginal affairs.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs: Has the Federal Government given the Uniting Church in Australia an interim grant of $80,000 to cover the costs of administration of Aurukun and Mornington Island, given that the Queensland Government has refused to provide any finance for the two communities since 1 April this year? Can the Minister also advise whether the Commonwealth is negotiating with the Queensland Government on how much of that $80,000 should be borne by the State Government? If so, what progress has been made on the negotiations?
– I am not aware of the amount of any funds that have been made available by the Commonwealth Government to the communities at Aurukun and Mornington Island. I am aware that the Commonwealth has consistently said that it will provide funds, if necessary, to see that self-management of the two communities can be undertaken by the Aborigines. I understand that this week Mr Viner had meetings with State and community representatives on the formation of joint committees. I assume that many matters were discussed at those meetings. I am unaware whether any discussion took place with regard to apportionment of funds or financial responsibility. I will refer that part of the question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and see that Senator Keeffe is advised.
-Senator Georges asked me a question yesterday regarding the Australian Services Canteens Organisation. I have been informed by the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence that a decision has been taken to run down and eventually close ASCO. Plans for the run-down and the alternative arrangements are at present being developed by ASCO and the Services. The main reason for the closing down is that the proximity of most bases to major commercial centres has not only greatly reduced the need for ASCO but also has meant that ASCO can no longer trade profitably. The number of staff involved is 483 full time, 70 part time and 424 casual. Every effort is being made for the redeployment of staff in other areas. The Department of Employment and Industrial Relations and the Public Service Board are being consulted.
– In recent days Senator Wriedt has asked me one question concerning air safety and another concerning Federal affairs, both of which referred to tables and documents published in Treasury documents and elsewhere. I said that I would seek the advice of expert officials before I gave him the information. Incidently, I advised Senator Wriedt that I would be providing these answers today.
The first matter relates to a question asked by Senator Missen on 29 May about air safety, and about which Senator Wriedt also asked a question. I am advised that Senator Wriedt does not understand that the table in Budget Paper No. 1 to which he referred includes other items as well as airways and fire service capital expenditure. I have been advised that the table incorporated in Hansard on 29 May in answer to Senator Missen ‘s question is entirely correct. The 1975-76 figure to which Senator Wriedt referred includes provision for several extraordinary payments, such as $5.4m for the acquisition of an F28 aircraft for the testing of air navigation aids and $5.25m for the construction of a temporary international terminal at Brisbane Airport. As the table incorporated in Hansard shows clearly, there has been no reduction of effort in providing air navigation facilities and ensuring their proper maintenance. In fact the table shows that $8m was provided this year for airways and fire service capital equipment against only $6.5m spent in 1975-76, the year referred to by Senator Wriedt. As my colleague the Minister for Transport has reiterated time and time again, air safety is not and will not be prejudiced because of economic or other circumstances. That is the advice of the official advisers.
-On or about 26 May Senator Wriedt asked me about Commonwealth payments to the States and local government authorities. Because it related to papers that were not immediately before me and because I wanted to be absolutely specific, I undertook to seek the advice. That has been tendered by the Treasury. Specifically, Senator Wriedt referred to pages 7 and 12 1 of 1977-78 Budget Paper No. 7 and to page 121 of 1977-78 Budget Paper No. 1 and asked whether any of these tables represents what the Government considers to be total payments to the States and whether total figures appearing in the tables on pages 7 and 121 of Budget Paper No. 7 are identical. If there is any variation in the information which Senator Wriedt would like me to give, I would be happy to obtain it for him.
I am advised that table 2 on pages 6 and 7 and table 101 on pages 120 and 121 of 1977-78 Budget Paper No. 7 relate to total funds available to the States and local government from the following sources: General and specific purpose payments to or for the States; State Government Loan Council borrowing programs; and payments direct to local authorities. The ‘net’ figures are net of repayments of Commonwealth advances to the States and local government authorities and sinking fund payments on State Government Loan Council borrowings. Although the same particulars form the basis of both tables, they are organised rather differently in each. For example, total funds for recurrent and capital purposes respectively are shown explicitly in table 2 but not in table 101 while total payments to or for the States, that is, an aggregate excluding State Government Loan Council borrowings, and aggregate funds available to the States and local government authorities on a gross basis are shown explicitly in table 101 but not in table 2.
The table on page 121 of 1977-78 Budget Paper No. 1 is entitled ‘Payments to or for the States and Local Government Authorities NEC and Natural Disaster Relief. It covers general revenue funds for the States, State Government Loan Council programs, assistance related to State debt and certain forms of financial assistance for local government. It also includes outlays for natural disaster relief, not all of which may be paid to the States. The table does not include specific purpose payments which are classified to function elsewhere in Budget Paper No. 1. The table therefore omits a major pan of the funds available to the States and local authorities.
Reference should also be made to the treatment in the Budget Papers of State Government Loan Council programs. The capital grants component of the programs represents a Commonwealth payment to the States and is so classified in Budget documents. The borrowings component of the program is not included in the totals of payments to the States in Budget Paper No. 7. I draw attention to the category entitled Total Payments’ in Table 101. However, the national accounting item entitled ‘Grants and Net Advances to the States and Local Government Authorities’ used in Budget Paper No. 1 and other Budget documents does include these programs. The equivalent aggregate is described in Budget Paper No. 7 as the total of Commonwealth payments to or for the States, the State Government Loan Council borrowing programs and payments made direct to local government authorities on a net basis. If, upon reflection, Senator Wriedt desires further elucidation, I will ask the Treasury to provide it to him.
-Senator Lewis asked a question of me earlier today relating to the beef industry. I indicate to him that under the beef industry incentive payment scheme, in order to help the immediate cash flow position of beef producers, cash grants of $10 per beast are paid for beef cattle for a number of disease control procedures in the spaying of young beef heifers. The scheme does not apply to dairy cattle. It will apply until September 1978 and there is a limit of $2,000 per producer. In response to the particular point raised by Senator Lewis, I advise that at the close of business on 21 May 1978, 50,044 claims had been approved for payment of a total amount of $74,720,000. A further 1 , 1 50 claims are being processed.
-Senator Martin also asked a series of questions of me earlier today. I respond as follows: I recall Senator Martin’s question of 4 May relating to the election of a Producers Consultative Group to be established under the provisions of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Act of 1 977. 1 recall saying in my answer:
Commitments of the Australian Electoral Office late in 1977 necessitated a variation of the timetable originally proposed.
I also recall saying:
I can well understand why the Australian Electoral Office was unable to cope with the requirements of the Government. In November a Federal election was announced and the Electoral Office would have been more than busy during November, December and January.
I am informed that at no stage did the Australian Electoral Office indicate that it would be unable to hold an election for a Producers Consultative Group. Last July, when announcing the formation of the Producers Consultative Group, the Minister for Primary Industry said that he had agreed to elections for this Group and indicated that this may take some time. Indeed it was not until late in February that organisations agreed on electoral zone boundaries for the PCG representation in Queensland. There followed, of course, the announcement of the Federal election. It was the Government’s view that this would occupy the Australian Electoral Office for much of the November, December and January period. The final Senate figures were not settled until 13 January 1978.
Also, on 30 November 1977 one of the four major groups, one which I might add previously favoured an elected rather than a nominated group, wrote to the Minister for Primary Industry seeking substantive changes to the PCG electoral procedures he had announced in July. Also, by early 1978 considerable progress had been made in moves towards unity of producer organisations at the Federal level, with the result that a proposal for a national farmers federation emanated from a working group, favouring in its draft provisions a nominated PCG group. This working group comprised three of the four producer groups. The Minister for Primary Industry again wrote to the four major groups on 13 April this year seeking their views on now proceeding with an election for the PCG membership or deferring it for review towards the end of 1 978.
The Government has taken no decision on whether PCG membership should be other than elected. Although not all organisations have responded formally, indications are that organisations representing the vast majority of relevant primary producers have now taken a position against an elected Producers Consultative Group. The Minister no doubt took this fact into consideration in not proceeding to an election earlier this year following the finalisation of the Federal election. There has been no announcement of a Government decision because no decision will be taken until all organisations have responded to the Minister’s letter.
– On behalf of the Leader of the Government, for the information of honorable senators I present the second report of the Task Force on Co-ordination in Welfare and Health entitled ‘Consultative Arrangements and the Co-ordination of Social Policy Development’, together with the text of a statement by the Acting Prime Minister relating to the report.
Senator RYAN (Australian Capital Territory) by leave- I move:
The Opposition welcomes the presentation of the second report of the Task Force on Coordination in Welfare and Health. The recommendations regarding administrative and consultative arrangements have been preempted somewhat by the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) at the end of last year regarding the Health and Welfare Policy Secretariat and its establishment, which I understand is still recruiting staff. I therefore wonder what has held up the tabling of this report, which seems so much in line with steps the Government signalled nearly six months ago.
I should like to make some remarks questioning the fate of the first report of the Bailey Task Force. It was set up in 1976 to make recommendations within a few months which were to be acted on in the 1977-78 Budget. That did not happen. The organisations, government departments and others active in the welfare field and the field of children’s services were very much affected by a decision on how those services were to be carved up, and they are still awaiting that information. For instance, they are waiting to find out whether handicapped services are to be fragmented, as the first report recommended. They are waiting to find out whether they will have to go to the Sates for approval for funding, whether there will be block funding for CHAC SHACK, CARP and so on, or whether in fact the first Bailey report has been buried. Supporting mothers were told that the recommendations were that this form of income support should be a State charge. If no change is intended, then the Government should make a statement. The homeless persons’ program was financed for one extra year only on the grounds that the type of administration and funding suitable for the program were still under consideration, following the first Bailey report. Now that we have the second Bailey report, and the Government has had the first Bailey report for 1 8 months, a statement of the Government’s intentions on the recommendations of the first report is well overdue.
The Opposition welcomes the basic consultative arrangements envisaged in the second Bailey report. Given the overlapping areas of health, welfare, community development, veterans’ affairs and so on, a serious and continuing effort to co-ordinate the program and policies seems eminently sensible. However, I am interested to know how much this welfare co-ordinating policy unit had to do with the recent proposed changes to Medibank. Dr Sidney Sax, who has had a pre-eminent role in shaping the Medibank changes since the Whitlam Government went out of office, has been the head of this unit since it was established last year. Therefore I wonder what welfare considerations came into the thinking of the unit and the Government in, for instance, proposals for the abolition of bulk billing and the widening of the 15 per cent gap to a 25 per cent gap, changes which directly affect low income earners and the poorest of all pensioners, those not entitled to pensioner health benefit entitlements. This is a most serious income change for the very people whom a welfare coordinating unit should be conscious of assisting. I would like to think that Dr Sax and his staff are now working on ways of alleviating the hardship of these people and simplifying the much more complex system which, when implemented, will disadvantage many migrant, Aboriginal and other people with low literacy. However, the Opposition is pleased to have this unit established and hopes that it will continue with the matters that I have just raised and also other matters which were raised by the Opposition as well as by the Government.
Debate (on motion by Senator Carrick) adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 1 1 of the Road Safety and Standards Authority (Repeal) Act 1976 I present to Parliament a report on the operations of the Road Safety and Standards Authority for the period 1 May 1975 to 9 June 1976.
– Pursuant to section 21 (2) of the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Termination Act 1976 1 present the report on the general administration and operation of the Papua New Guinea Superannuation Scheme and the Contract Officers Retirement Benefits Scheme for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– Pursuant to regulation 8a (2) of the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) (Superannuation) Regulations made on 30 May 1977 under the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Act 1973 I present the report on the operations of the Papua New Guinea Superannuation Board and the Contract Officers (Papua New Guinea) Retirement Benefits Board for the year ended 30 June 1 974.
– Pursuant to section 42 of the Australian Film and Television School Act 1973, I present the annual report of the Australian Film and Television School for the year ended 30 June 1977.
-by leave- I move:
Again I notice that we have a report for the year ending 1 976-77 being presented some 1 1 months after that close of that period. I made the comment yesterday that that is far too long to wait for a report if the Senate is to consider the details of that report. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the summary of resolutions and recommendations of the sixteenth meeting of the Australian Forestry Council held in Perth on 30 September 1977.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 26 of the Tobacco Marketing Act 1965 I present the annual report of the Australian Tobacco Board for the year ended 31 December 1977.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) I present the interim report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on an inquiry into the effects on Australia of the Law of the Sea Conference, entitled ‘Australia Antarctica and the Law of the Sea ‘.
Ordered that the report be printed.
The statement read as follows-
In March 1977 the Joint Committee gave the SubCommittee a reference in the following terms:
To consider investigate and report generally on the effect on Australia ‘s maritime boundaries of current developments of the Law of the Sea including extention of the territorial sea, fishing and/or economic zones including exploitation of resources and particularly how these developments might affect Australia’s Antartic Territory and the problem of pelagic fisheries in the EEZ’
Last year the Sub-Committee commenced to receive evidence and submissions, the work being recommenced after the election, and the re-constitution of the main committee on 7 March 1978.
The Committee is aware that developments in the field of Law of the Sea have not been concluded. Before an acceptable regime or rules of international law can be established more negotiations must be undertaken. Honourable senators will be aware that as I speak the three Bills which will amend the Fisheries, Continential Shelf, and Whaling Acts repectively which were recently passed by the House, are still the subject of debate in the Senate.
The Seventh Session of the Third Law of the Sea Conference, which was expected to be the final Session, from which a Convention would be drafted, has been adjourned to meet again in New York in August.
The Committee felt that an interim report should be presented to outline some of the difficulties involved and to show the progress made to date on the development of a Law of the Sea regime as it affects Australia and the Australian Antartic Territory.
The interim report traces early developments in attempts to regulate both the use of the world ‘s oceans as a highway for shipping and utilization of the ocean’s resources both living and non-living. These efforts culminated in the establishment by the United Nations, of the Third Conference on the Law of the Sea. Australia has attended all the sessions of this Conference. The first Session of the Third Conference was held in New York in 1 973, the Seventh Session as mentioned has just recently been adjourned in Geneva. Notwithstanding this there has been some general international acceptance of some of the new developments. The most important of these is the almost universal acceptance of the right of coastal States to declare 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zones Fishing Zones around their coastlines.
The interim report deals with a number of Law of the Sea matters directly affecting Australia including: Australian existing policy, foreseeable changes in Australian legislation, effects on the Australian fishing industry, exploitation of minerals, surveillance, Antarctica, and foreign policy implications.
The report because of its interim nature does not contain recommendations for future Government policy. The report does, however, put forward a number of suggestions and conclusions including: the Committee is satisfied that the Government is treating the question of the Law of the Sea Conference with the degree of seriousness and granting it the degree of priority which this subject deserves. The Committee is not convinced, however, that the Government has given this issue the publicity which is necessary if the issues are to be understood by the general public. The Committee feels the Government should prepare a White Paper which in addition to stating the Government’s policy will also canvass the entire issue of the Law of the Sea Conference, and the Government hopes for a new multilateral Convention resulting from the Conference; the advantages of establishing a joint CommonwealthStateIndustry committee to prepare guidelines for joint venture fishing enterprises; doubt that seabed mining excluding hydro carbon developments will be undertaken in Australian waters in the foreseeable future; necessity for international agreement on the exploitation of the resources of the Antartic; need for a co-ordinated policy on future surveillance arrangements.
A map entitled ‘Australian Maritime Boundaries’ is published with the report. The lines on this map are not intended to prejudge any negotiations. It is published to show the important nature of the issues involved.
I trust that the new procedure for parliamentary reports as announced by the Prime Minister in this House on 25 May will be adopted regarding this report, namely within six months there will be a Ministerial statement.
I commend the report to the Senate.
The second matter I should like to direct the attention of honourable senators to is this: In the past six weeks or so this report, which has been tabled, in a major degree has been due to the efforts first of all of the Chairman of the SubCommittee, the honourable member for Higgins in another place, Mr Shipton, and secondly of my colleague Senator Bishop, who is sitting across from me and who was the Acting Chairman of the Committee when the final action was taken on this report. In a large degree the report as it stands at the present moment is due to the great wisdom, parliamentary knowledge and understanding of parliamentary procedures of Senator Bishop acting in that role.
Lastly, I should like to make a slight observation about a paper which is circulated to all honourable senators and is known as the ‘Order of Business’, with a heading: ‘This document is issued as a guide to Senators’. I noticed only this morning when I took my seat in the Senate- this is what I should like to direct your attention to, Mr President- that the following appears under the item for presentation of papers by senators presenting reports from committees:
Senator Sir Magnus Cormack to present a report from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Territorial Boundaries.
The report I presented is not a report from the Sub-Committee. A Sub-Committee has no status in the Parliament. A Sub-Committee only reports to its parent committee; the parent committee accepts responsibility or otherwise for tabling reports. This is a slight slip, but it is not an administrative slip which I should like to see perpetuated in the Senate.
-by leave- As there might not be an opportunity at a later stage to make reference to Senator Sir Magnus Cormack ‘s leadership of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, I am sure that honourable senators present today would like to have the opportunity to make comments about that. I am sure that the Senate realises already that Sir Magnus is one of the greatest exponents of parliamentary theory and practice and that certainly has been demonstrated, particularly in the Committee on which we served. I think I would be supported by all members of the Committee in saying that to a large extent the excellent reports which have come from the Committee- the Committee has been influential not only in the parliamentary sense but also in the government sense and in the public arena- have been due to the style of chairmanship of Sir Magnus Cormack. Not only is he a practical chairman, but also, as all of us who have served with him in this Senate know, he has the style of chairmanship which I think leads honourable senators and honourable members to join together to gain the maximum benefit from their missions. I certainly should like to place on record my appreciation of the work he has done for that Committee.
Senator WHEELDON (Western Australia) by leave- It is with very mixed feelings that I rise to speak today. I certainly feel very pleased to be able to pay a tribute to Senator Sir Magnus Cormack but, at the same time, I have a very great feeling of grief that he will not be a member of this chamber after 30 June. He has been a member of the Senate for the 13 years I have been a member of it. I have served with him, as it happened perhaps coincidentally, on a great number of committees but particularly, as my colleague Senator Bishop has said, on the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. I think that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has been one of the most distinguished members of this Parliament with whom I have ever had the honour to be in contact. He has contributed a great deal to this institution. He has always been most courteous in his dealings with all of us.
Although we have known that he has very strong views on the matters with which we have dealt- in fact, I do not suppose it would be any secret that many of his views and many of mine would be remarkably different- what has been most conspicuous about him has been the courtesy he has always shown to Committee members with whom he has worked and the manner in which he has enabled other members of the Committee to put their points of view. I refer to the completely non-partisan way in which he has conducted himself within committees of the Parliament and to the efforts which he has always made to assert the authority of Parliament. If the Executive is exercising undue authority over the Parliament, that is certainly not the fault of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. I do not think there has been a greater exponent of the rights of the Parliament than Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, in the various important functions which he has performed, including the office which you, Mr President, now hold. It was with great regret that I learned that he will be leaving the Senate. I know that all of us will miss him very much. We wish him well in his future career after he leaves the Parliament. Certainly all of us hope he will continue to take the same active part in public life as he has taken in the past.
– by leave- I join Senator Bishop and Senator Wheeldon in paying tribute to the chairmanship of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. I think that I probably served longer with him on that Committee than anyone else. In this sensitive area he has achieved a greater degree of bipartisanship, in the qualities which he has shown, in his moderation and in his courtesy, than one could ever hope to achieve. That the Committee has worked so well and so harmoniously is to the great credit of its Chairman, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. Senator Wheeldon referred to his strength in upholding the rights of Parliament. If he is remembered for nothing else in the Parliament, he will be remembered for that. There has been no greater supporter and defender of the rights of the Parliament over the executive than Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. When any dispute has arisen about the committees he has always strenuously and successfully upheld the rights of the Parliament. We will miss him greatly. We will miss not only his courtesy but also his great knowledge, great wisdom and, above all, great friendship.
– by leave- I thank the Senate for granting me leave to speak. There is no need for me to repeat the words that have been said. In the hectic days which will follow today in the rush to get legislation through we may overlook saying those things that need to be said about people like Senator Sir Magnus Cormack and the others who will be leaving this place. I know what will happen next week. We will be so concerned with the legislative program of the Government in the last few days of sitting that we may not say what ought to be said. I am therefore grateful to Senator Wheeldon, Senator Bishop and Senator Sim for saying those words about Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, which I heartly endorse. He was Chairman of a committee on which I served- if I am being irrelevant here I hope I will be forgiven- and that was the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. His style and penetration during the period he was Chairman resulted in the report which was presented to the Parliament and which, in future, will bring about the changes being made to the securities industry that Senator Sir Mangus Cormack felt to be so eminently necessary.
-by leave- I have not had the opportunity to serve with Senator Sir Magnus Cormack for as great a time as previous speakers but it has been ample time for me to recognise his contribution as a great parliamentarian and as Chairman of a committee which, from time to time, achieves some important things. Very briefly I offer my congratulations to Senator Sir Magnus Cormack at the time of his concluding a distinguished parliamentary career. I particularly congratulate him on his performance as Chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. I am sure that he has performed his task equally as well as if not better than any of his predecessors and perhaps better than any of us who will follow him. It is clear to me, as I am sure it is to all members of this Parliament, that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has carried out his task in this area with dignity, with a great deal of capacity, with determination and impartiality, and, above all, with a sense of humour which solves any tight situations that may and, remarkably, do occur from time to time. I congratulate Senator Sir Magnus Cormack on his contribution to that Committee and to the Parliament. I wish him good health and happiness in his retirement.
– It has been deeply pleasing to me to hear the tributes which have been paid so spontaneously this morning to Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, and which have emanated in this instance from his service on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. It is an expression of appreciation with which we all concur. It is a delight to preside over a chamber when one hears that sort of tribute being paid to a fellow member. I join most warmly in supporting what has been said.
– by leave- I make this statement on behalf of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony). The purpose of this statement is to set out the nature of the regulation and control which the Government will exercise over the export marketing of uranium. The Parliament will recall that the Government announced on 25 August 1977 a comprehensive policy for the further development of Australia ‘s uranium resources. That policy was based on the findings and recommendations of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry conducted under the Hon. Mr Justice Fox as presiding commissioner. The Government’s policy is one of carefully regulated and controlled development having full regard to the protection of the environment and the welfare of the Aboriginal people.
Australia’s decision, as announced on 25 August 1977, to proceed with further uranium development has received wide acceptance in Australia and abroad. Our policy was decided only after most careful consideration of the report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. It is a policy based on the totality of the national interest and our obligations as a responsible member of the international community. Our policy clearly recognises the important role Australia must play in moves against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the strengthening of nuclear safeguards. Australia has announced a stringent policy of nuclear safeguards to govern future export contracts and we are proceeding to implement that policy through the negotiation of comprehensive bilateral safeguards agreements with other countries. We are also taking an active role in all of the major international forums where nuclear non-proliferation and safeguards are discussed. Mr Justice Fox is continuing to serve our country in this important area as Australia’s ambassador-at-large on nuclear non-proliferation and safeguards.
Australia’s policy is based squarely on our recognition of Australia’s obligations as a country well endowed with energy resources to make those resources available to other countries, many of which have no real alternative, in the wake of the world energy crisis, but to turn to nuclear energy as a means of supplying electricity to their peoples. The Ranger Inquiry laid particular stress on the orderly development of our vast uranium resources. The development of those resources, whilst serving the objectives just mentioned, must also be regulated and controlled so as to ensure full protection of the environment, the welfare of the Aboriginal people and yield the economic benefits to Australia and its people that were described in the report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. An important step in the implementation of our policy was the introduction of legislation into the Parliament on 10 April 1 977. That legislation puts into place much of the basic framework which will govern the process of development.
In this statement I will describe the decisions the Government has taken in relation to the regulation and control of exports. Central to this aspect of our policy is the recommendation of the Ranger Inquiry that a uranium marketing authority be established. In his statement of 25 August 1977 the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) stated that the Government accepted the thrust of the recommendation of the Ranger Inquiry and that we would establish a uranium marketing authority or similar marketing arrangements to achieve the objective of orderly development. However, he explained that we would not take a final decision on that matter until the legal implications of foreign anti-trust laws have been fully examined. But he made clear that in the arrangements we made we would ensure that the Government had at all times proper knowledge, oversight and control over the arrangements under which Australian uranium is exported. That control would always ensure that the Government would be in a position to move immediately to terminate uranium development permanently, indefinitely or for a specified period as recommended by the Ranger Inquiry.
Against the above background the Government has considered carefully its attitude in regard to the machinery which should govern future exports of Australian uranium and I shall now explain to the Senate the decisions we have taken at this stage. The export of uranium is presently controlled under the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations of the Customs Act 1901. Uranium exports are prohibited unless a certificate in writing under the hand of the Minister for Trade and Resources, or an officer duly authorised by him, is produced to the Collector of Customs. This will continue. Apart from Mary Kathleen, at present formal development approval has been granted only to the Ranger project. Should mines other than Mary Kathleen and Ranger subsequently receive Government development approval and as the flow of exports increases it may be desirable to provide for specific legislation, to govern exports, which would replace the existing Customs Regulations. But the Government sees no need in this sitting of Parliament to introduce legislation for that purpose nor would we wish to do so prior to consultation with the States on the scope and content of any future legislation.
The procedures we intend to adopt flow directly from the Government’s determination that exports of Australian uranium will only be permitted in the national interest. In considering exports we will have regard to the principles I have already stated, some of which I now repeat briefly, namely: The orderly development of Australia’s uranium resources; making supplies of uranium available to other countries for use in the generation of electricity and for other peaceful purposes; ensuring adherence to the policies of Australia in relation to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and the application of safeguards against the use of uranium other than for peaceful purposes. In the exercise of his powers under the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations the Minister for Trade and Resources has a wide discretion. For the reasons already mentioned it is both necessary and desirable that he should continue to have such a discretion. But it is also desirable that uranium producers should be informed of the way in which that discretion will normally be exercised. I shall accordingly now indicate the procedures that will need to be followed.
The Minister’s approval for the export of uranium from a particular project will be given only after full consideration by the Government following the completion of environmental procedures and compliance with the Government’s foreign investment policy. I can say now, however, that Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission will be permitted to export uranium, the latter from the Ranger deposit. The mining and marketing of uranium from the Ranger deposit were the subject of arrangements which the Whitlam Government entered into with Peko Mines Ltd and the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd. Our Government has previously stated on 25 August 1977, when approval for Ranger was announced, that the arrangements between the Whitlam Government and Peko-EZ would be honoured.
Having regard to the various considerations of national interest I have previously mentioned and the diversity of our deposits, it will be necessary for the Minister to exercise some control over the quantities of uranium being exported at any one time. It will also be necessary that the Minister determine in advance that the contracts which the uranium producers propose to enter into for the sale of their uranium to overseas buyers contain appropriate terms and conditions consistent with Australian Government nuclear safeguards policy. The Minister will also determine terms and conditions relating to the duration of the contract, the quantity of the uranium to be sold under the contract, the method of shipment of the uranium, the price payable for the uranium, the manner- including the currency- of payment, and the use to which the uranium is to be put by the purchaser. It will be necessary that the Minister’s requirements on the terms and conditions to be included in a particular contract be indicated to the producer before the contract is entered into. Uranium producers will accordingly need to seek the approval of the Minister before making any firm offers or entering into any legal commitments.
When a contract has been entered into in accordance with the requirements that the Minister has notified beforehand, the producers will be required to lodge a copy of the contract with the Minister, whereupon it will be formally approved and form the basis for subsequent export approvals covering the uranium to be exported in fulfilment of the contract. I should mention, however, that contracts approved prior to 2 December 1972 will not need further approval. Shipments of uranium will continue to be controlled, as is the case at present, on the basis of individual consignment. The Minister will not issue a certificate under the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations in respect of any consignment unless all aspects of Government policy are satisfied, including: That the uranium is being exported from a project which has the status of Government development approval; that the export is for the purpose of performing an approved contract; and that Australian safeguards policy is fully complied with.
I have referred to the Government’s previously stated view that a uranium marketing authority or similar arrangements should be established. In view of the complexity of the matters that must be brought to account in considering new contracts, it is clear there would be advantages in the establishment of an authority. This body would be appropriately named the Australian Uranium Export Authority. As our industry develops and mines other than Ranger proceed to the development stage there will be a need for the Minister for Trade and Resources to have available advice from such an advisory authority on the range of matters that I have just outlined. At the present stage of our development and until there has been adequate opportunity for consulations with the States the Department of Trade and Resources will be able to perform these functions. We do not therefore see a need to proceed with legislation in the current sittings, and prior to consultations with the States on the nature and desirability of legislation.
I envisage that at the appropriate time in our progress with uranium development a uranium export authority should be established to be charged with the duty of advising the Minister for Trade and Resources on the matters I have just outlined in relation to exports under new contracts. Such an authority would also carry out a number of important ancillary functions namely: To assemble and to correlate information relating to the known reserves of uranium in Australia and in other countries; to obtain and analyse information on the supply of and demand for uranium in Australia and other countries; to analyse trends in the international uranium market; and to obtain information on the commercial arrangements for the upgrading and enrichment of Australian uranium within and outside Australia. The authority would draw upon information from available government and other sources for these purposes. The authority would also liaise with, and provide information to, the Uranium Advisory Council. I might add that in view of the nature of the advice that the authority would need to provide, it would not be appropriate for its members to be chosen from the companies which were participating in the marketing of uranium.
Action taken in accordance with the procedures I have outlined in this statement should not give rise to any questions under the anti-trust laws of other countries. In that connection I would add that, whilst the Government does not wish to be taken as accepting that it is appropriate for other countries to apply their anti-trust laws extraterritorially without due regard to matters affecting our national interest, we urge our producers not to resort to arrangements which would jeopardise them under those laws. Antitrust enforcement action that has in recent years been taken in other countries, notably the United States, has made it clear that Australian producers could jeopardise their positions under the anti-trust laws of other countries by resorting to restrictive trade practices in their marketing operations with overseas buyers.
The machinery and the procedures I have just outlined will ensure that the Government maintains strong regulation and control over uranium exports in the national interest in a manner consistent with the Government’s policy of uranium development announced on 25 August 1977 following receipt of the Report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. It provides a proper basis on which Australia may proceed to the stage of new export contracts and clarifies as to the existing approved and prospective projects the procedures and machinery which the Government will apply in dealing with export arrangements. I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the statement.
Leave granted. Senator WITHERS-I move:
– The statement that we have just heard is a statement put down by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), now the Acting Prime Minister, in the House of Representatives. It is a statement which claims once again that our uranium policy is based on our obligations as a responsible member of the international community. Whatever justification there is for those remarks no one will believe them. The views of the Government and the Deputy Prime Minister are well known. His policy is to dig up uranium as quickly as he can and sell it as quickly as he can. So this appealing to high moral principles is just not credible with this Government. For example, no reference whatever is made to the enormous problems involved in the waste disposal which are not only the subject of daily discussion throughout the world but are also becoming a consistent feature of negotiations on bilateral safeguard agreements. We are also aware of the enormous decline in the construction of nuclear power plants in the United States of America. We have heard figures cited in this chamber in recent weeks on this subject. As usual the policy statement that we have just heard ignores these events and creates the impression that the Australian Government is desperately keen to press on with uranium at any cost. It is not a question of high moral principle; it is a question of getting these projects going as quickly as they can be commenced.
Turning to the details of the statement, it is incredible that the statement persists with the view that the Government’s policy is based on findings and recommendations of the Fox Report. The Deputy Prime Minister claimed that the Government’s policy is one of carefully regulated and controlled development. One of the most important recommendations of the Fox Report was that there be sequential development of uranium deposits. For reasons that have never been spelled out this Government has chosen to ignore that recommendation.
Ignoring the recommendation on sequential development will have two effects: Firstly, there will be competition between the various producers to get their uranium onto the market. This will disrupt the marketing of uranium and is likely to result in Australian uranium being sold at artificially low prices while producers struggle to get long term contracts overseas. Secondly, the rejection of that recommendation will result in substantial damage being done to the Northern Territory, and particularly the Aboriginal lands in the vicinity of the uranium deposits. The Northern Land Council has made it clear that it wants sequential development. It has pointed out that Narbalek should proceed followed by Ranger but that there are severe doubts as to whether the Pancontinental deposit should ever be proceeded with. However, this Government intends to give the green light to all the producers with the result that Pancontinental is pressing ahead with its plans in the face of major environmental objections.
Clearly, the Government’s policy does not ensure full protection of the environment. It does not ensure the welfare of the Aboriginal people and, if disorderly marketing takes place, it will not necessarily yield any economic benefits to Australia.
The Government’s position on bilateral safeguards is far from satisfactory. While it claims it is negotiating safeguards agreements based on the previously announced safeguards policy, no particulars of the contents of this agreement have ever been released. It is well known that the various countries which are in the market for uranium have very different requirements and will be putting different pressures on the Australian Government. In the last few days we have heard questions asked in this chamber on this matter. By refusing to explain how these negotiations are progressing, the Government is leaving itself open to the suspicion that it will sell out its safeguards policy as soon as it thinks the public reaction will not be as strong as it currently is. While on this issue, I should mention that it is becoming increasingly clear that Mr Justice Fox, Australia’s Ambassador-at-Large, is becoming disenchanted with the prospects of obtaining adequate safeguards on uranium. In any event, there are two major stumbling blocks to Australia ‘s safeguards policy: Firstly, the policy is based on a premise that there will be safe methods of disposing of radioactive waste. A recent congressional report on nuclear power costs in the United States of America stated:
The estimated costs of those that are known have risen dramatically over the last few months. Secondly, the safeguards policy is based on an attempt to control the reprocessing of spent fuel. As every day goes by this policy is becoming more difficult to implement. The Canadians have withdrawn their strong control over reprocessing and are now prepared to supply Europe without maintaining strict controls. The Japanese have just entered into a contract with Britain to reprocess American uranium without obtaining the approval of the American Government. This seems to have escaped the attention of the Government in the last few days. A question was asked on it this week. A number of European countries are proceeding with fast breeder development regardless of President Carter’s attitude. In these circumstances, it is unrealistic to believe that Australia can control reprocessing of its uranium. All of these matters raise major objections to the line the Government takes on uranium.
The Minister’s statement proposes that a uranium export authority should be established to advise the Minister on a range of matters dealing with export contracts. It will assemble information dealing with uranium reserves, it will seek to analyse trends in the uranium marketparticularly future supply and demand- and it will be involved with commercial arrangements on a number of aspects dealing with uranium. As such, the authority will probably overlap other arms of government. However, such an authority was recommended by the Fox Report and, with a substance such as uranium, is no doubt very necessary. In some ways it is a pity that this authority is not operating at present as it would be able to advise the Government that in view of the substantial downturn in the demand for uranium, the development of Australia’s uranium deposits should be on a quite different basis to that contemplated by the Government.
An aspect of the Minister’s statement which is more worrying is that part which deals with the control of the Minister over the terms and conditions to be included in uranium contracts. The statement points out that the Minister will determine the duration of the contract, the quantity to be sold, the method of shipment, the price payable and the use to which the uranium is to be put. All of these are quite unexceptional and it is the least that the Australian public would expect from the Government.
However, there is a real worry that if the Minister is determined to get as much uranium onto the world market as possible, he will take a very lenient view about any of these matters and not exercise the control which is required. This is a worry to all of us and we in the Opposition will be closely watching any developments which take place. It is to be hoped the Government will be more forthcoming about these contractual details than it has about the bilateral negotiations which have taken place to date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) I inform the Senate that, in accordance with the resolution of the Senate of 3 1 May 1978, the President has received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate nominating Senators Button, Durack, James McClelland, Robertson, Webster and Withers to be members of the Commonwealth Parliament delegation to attend the Constitutional Convention established to review the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution.
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 Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have incorporated the context of the second reading speech.
The speech read as follows-
The Bill which is before the Senate has two main parts. The first concerns the alterations to the International Monetary Agreements Act which are necessitated by the second amendment of the International Monetary Fund ‘s Articles of Agreement, and certain minor alterations to that Act which need to be made for other reasons. The second pan of the Bill will empower the government to consent to the increase in Australia’s quota subscription to the fund proposed under the IMF’s sixth general review of quotas, and to take up an increase in Australia’s subscription to the authorised capital stock of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. In March 1976 the Board of Governors of the IMF adopted a resolution approving increases in quotas of member countries of the fund, and in April 1976 the Board of Governors adopted a resolution approving wide-ranging amendments to the Fund’s Articles of Agreement which was called the second amendment since an earlier scheme of amendments, related to establishment of the special drawing right, was adopted in 1969. Following approval by the Board of Governors both resolutions have been put to member countries for their individual consent, with members being required to give or withhold consent to the second amendment as a whole, and to give or withhold consent to the quota increase proposed for their own country by the sixth general review of quotas.
The second amendment entered into force on 1 April 1978, when it had been assented to by the majority of members specified under the Fund’s Articles of Agreement. Since then the amended Articles of Agreement have governed the Fund in its dealings with all members, including those members which had not by that time given their assent to them. It remains, of course, for member countries such as Australia to pass legislation giving the Fund’s amended Articles effect under their own law, and that purpose will be fulfilled by the present Bill. The Majority required to give effect to the sixth general review of quotas was reached at the same time as that for the second amendment. This has meant that those members that have consented and paid the additional subscription involved may now operate on the basis of an increased quota while the quotas of other members including Australia remain unchanged. With the passage of this Bill, the Government will be able both to consent to the increased quota for Australia and to make the consequent payment.
Following the approval of the sixth general review of quotas by the IMF Board of Governors, the Board of Governors of the International
Bank for Reconstruction and Development approved a resolution entitling most member countries, including Australia, to take up specified increases in their subscription to the capital stock of the Bank so as to maintain approximately the long-standing relativities between IMF and IBRD subscriptions. The purchase by the Bank’s members of additional capital stock requires the making of agreements between each member and the Bank, under the normal terms of which 10 per cent of the additional subscription is paid-in and the balance remains on call. This Bill will provide authority for the Treasurer to make an agreement under which Australia will purchase an additional 779 shares in the capital stock at the Bank under those terms.
I wish now to comment on the second amendment of the Fund’s Articles. The task of updating the Fund’s Articles of Agreement commenced in 1974, following completion of the study of reform of the International monetary system by the Fund’s committee of twenty. When, after a two-year process of consideration and negotiation in which Australia participated actively, the amendments to the Articles were settled within the Fund’s Executive Board and presented to the Governors of the Fund for consideration, the Treasurer of that time cast Australia’s votes in favour of approving them. The final outcome, while inevitably reflecting compromise between the differing interests and views of members, involves a comprehensive revision of the Fund ‘s operating arrangements, in the light of the substantial changes in the international monetary system which have occurred over the past decade. Among its more important features, the second amendment introduces new and flexible provisions dealing with international exchange arrangements, a gradual reduction in the role of gold in the international monetary system, changes in the characteristics and expansion of the uses of the special drawing right that are intended to enhance its status as an international reserve asset, and the simplification and expansion of the Fund’s financial operations and transactions.
The changes relating to international exchange arrangements involve a recognition that the international monetary system has been transformed from the par value system, defined at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944 and embodied in the Fund’s original Articles, to a looser system of floating exchange rates for the major countries. The essence of amended Article IV, which deals with exchange rates, is to abandon requirements as to the exchange arrangements adopted by member countries and instead to define principles which members are committed to follow in their exchange rate policy. It sets out the general principles for the orderly operation of the international monetary system and for surveillance by the Fund of the exchange rate and external policies of individual member countries. Article IV recognises that stability in exchange markets is largely dependent on the adoption of appropriate domestic economic policies by member countries. Agreement on the principles involved was reached last year following discussions in the Fund’s Executive Board and Interim Committee. It is, of course, in the interest of all countries that members of the IMF avoid the adoption of disruptive exchange rate practices, such as competitive devaluations or other manipulations of exchange rates, that are mutually self-defeating and adversely affect levels of economic activity in the world. The Government strongly supports the principles on which this amended Article is based.
A second set of changes to the Fund ‘s articles concerns the role of gold. The second amendment will reduce the role of gold in the international monetary system at large and in the operations of the fund. Gold will no longer be the Fund ‘s numeraire or unit of account for expressing the values of currencies used in Fund transactions and of the Fund ‘s special drawing rights. The amendments provide, among other things, for the abolition of an official gold price and for the avoidance of fixing of gold prices by official authorities. They will also end all obligatory payments in gold within the fund. The amendments provide also for the disposal of 50 million ounces- equivalent to one-third- of the Fund’s gold, and for the possible disposal of the remainder of the Fund’s gold. The disposal of gold by the Fund has already begun, under arrangements agreed to in August 1975 and January 1 976 by the Interim Committee. Over a four year period, 25 million fine ounces of gold will be restituted by the Fund to members in proportion to their quotas, at the official gold price of 35 SDR per ounce, which is of course only a fraction of the current market price for gold. Australia has so far had 284,600 ounces of gold restored to it, through transactions which took place in January 1977 and January 1978. Under the same arrangements, another 25 million fine ounces of the Fund’s gold are being sold for the benefit of developing countries.
A third set of changes made through the amended Articles is a concomitant of these changes concerning gold. The special drawing right- or SDR- was created in 1969 with the aim of establishing a controlled supplement to the global supply of reserve assets. Through the second amendment to the Articles members have subscribed to the principle of making the Fund ‘s SDR the principal reserve asset of the international monetary system. It is well understood, however, that this will be an evolutionary process; the second amendment explicitly requires that special drawing rights may only be allocated if there is a global need to supplement the existing stock of reserve assets, and in such a manner as will avoid exacerbating excess demand and world inflation.
The main provisions concerning SDR in the amended Articles are a liberalisation of the conditions governing transactions in SDR among members of the Fund, a broadening of the range of operations within the Fund for which SDR may be used, and greater flexibility in the determination of the rate of interest on SDR holdings. The Australian Government has consistently held the view that a necessary condition if the status of the SDR as a reserve asset is to be enhanced is an increase in the yield accruing to holders vis-a-vis the yield on established reserve assets such as the United States dollar. In this context it is interesting to note that a decision was made at the recent meeting of the Interim Committee in Mexico City to raise the interest yield on SDR. The remaining changes involved in the second amendment to the Fund’s articles provide among other things, for the simplification and expansion of the Fund’s financial transactions, in particular those conducted through the General Resources Department of the Fund, and for the possible establishment of a twentymember council as a new organ of decision making in the Fund.
I wish to turn now to the alterations to the International Monetary Agreements Act which are incorporated in this Bill insofar as they relate to the amended articles. With only one exception, they are alterations required to make the Act consistent with the amended Articles of Agreement of the fund and to facilitate operations which are provided for in the amended Articles, particularly those involving SDR. The exception is that this Bill provides for amending the Act so as to empower the Treasurer to issue securities in connection with payments required to be made by Australia to the Fund and Bank. Under the present Act this power is conferred on the Governor-General and not on the Treasurer. The change is proposed on the ground of administrative efficiency. There is no question of constitutional or legal principle involved, since the change will make practice in this matter consistent with that in other situations where the
Treasurer is empowered to authorise the issue of securities.
The second amendment of the Fund ‘s Articles of Agreement does not alter in any significant way the IMF’s basic functions of assisting member countries in balance of payments difficulties by the provision of short to mediumterm finance and by the provision of guidance to members in formulating appropriate corrective policies. The fundamental policy commitment which members make through membership of the Fund is to overcome their balance of payments difficulties without resort to restrictions on current international transactions, and thus to avoid damaging an open and prosperous world economic system. This basic function which the IMF performs is a valuable contribution to the functioning of a stable international monetary system, and I commend to the Senate the amendments of the Fund’s Articles which strengthen the Fund and improve its efficiency.
The Bill also concerns the important matters of additional Australian subscriptions to the IMF and the IBRD. Both the former and the amended articles provide for general reviews of quotas to be conducted, at intervals of not more than five years, to enable the size of the Fund to be expanded periodically, if necessary, to keep step with the growth of international payments and calls on the Fund’s resources. The quota increases proposed for each member in the resolution in March 1976 to which I referred earlier would raise the total of present quotas, amounting to 29.2 billion SDR, to 39 billion SDR.
The sixth general review of quotas provides for an increase in Australia’s quota from 665 million SDR to a quota of 790 million SDR. The size of quota increases proposed for particular members is determined partly by reference to movements in such variables as trade, GDP, and reserves and partly by a discretionary process through negotiation. The increase in Australia’s quota is somewhat less than adequate, having regard to the increases proposed for some other member countries of the fund whose growth in income and trade has been no greater and in some cases less than Australia’s. For this reason the Treasurer at the time this was decided abstained from voting on the resolution on quota increases put before the Fund ‘s Board of Governors. But, having registered our point, it is now appropriate for Australia to take up the increase which has been proposed.
The increase in Australia’s quota involves enlargement of Australia’s potential drawing rights from the fund which are available for use at a time of balance of payments need. It also involved a corresponding increase in the amount of foreign exchange Australia may be required to provide to finance drawings from the Fund by other members when Australia is in a strong balance of payments position. Any such calls on Australia’s holdings of foreign exchange would, however, be offset by an increase in Australia’s reserve position in the fund and no change in the level of Australia’s international reserves would therefore be involved- although there would, of course, be an alteration in the composition of reserves. The increase in Australia ‘s quota will also bring a corresponding increase in the number of votes Australia has in decision-making within the Fund, although since our proposed quota increase under the sixth general review is less than proportional to the overall increase, Australia’s relative voting strength will be marginally reduced. The desirability of preserving our voting strength makes it the more necessary to consent to the quota increase proposed.
I point out that the quota increase will have no effect on the Budget or on the level of Australia ‘s reserves. In accordance with the amended articles, the payment of the additional quota subscription will take the form of transferring to the fund an amount of Australian currency equivalent to 125 million SDR, in the form of a non-negotiable non-interest-bearing promissory note. I conclude with a brief mention of the proposed increased Australian subscription to the capital stock of the IBRD. As I have already mentioned, the decision by the board of governors of the bank, to approve an increase in the bank’s authorised capital stock, was taken so as to approximately maintain the long-standing relativities between IMF quotas and IBRD subscriptions. As a consequence, the increased subscription entitlements of member countries approximate to their relative quota increases in the IMF. The increases authorised for individual countries are shown in the attached table, which I ask leave of the Senate to have incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
– The second reading speech continues: Many of the countries listed in this table have already taken up the additional shares to which they have become entitled. As I mentioned earlier, Australia is entitled to take up an additional 779 shares in the capital stock of the IBRD. The total commitment involved is about $US94m. However, 90 per cent of this amount will remain on call as security for the IBRD’s own borrowing operations on world capital markets, and only 10 per cent, that is $US9.4m, is actually payable. Of the latter sum, $US940,000 is payable in cash while the balance $US8.46m, will be paid in the form of a promissory note which will be encashed in approximately equal instalments over four financial years commencing 1978-79. The IBRD is an effective and efficient institution in the provision of development assistance to developing countries, and it plays an important role in our region. This has been recognised by Australian governments over the years since the establishment of the Bank in 1947 by the consistent support Australia has given the Bank’s activities. The proposed increase in the capital stock of the IBRD will assist the Bank in continuing its operations at an effective level and Australia’s proposed subscription will serve to confirm our support.
I commend this Bill to the Senate and draw the attention of honourable senators to the desirability of early approval of the Bill in order to enable the Treasurer to exercise the proposed increased voting rights for Australia at the next regular elections of executive directors of the Fund and the Bank in September.
Ordered that the debate be now adjourned.
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 have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill provides for the validation until 31 December 1978 of duties collected in pursuance of Customs Tariff Proposals Nos. 13 and 14 (1978) introduced into the Parliament on 24 May and not covered by Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978 now before the Parliament. Under section 226 of the Customs Act the collection of duties in pursuance of Customs Tariff Proposals is protected against legal challenge for six months or until the close of the session of Parliament, whichever occurs first. The introduction and passage of a validation Bill is therefore a necessary machinery measure which takes over from section 226 pending the introduction of a Customs Tariff Amendment Bill, anticipated for the Budget sittings, to enact the changes contained in the Proposals.
The tariff changes validated by this Bill relate to the report by the Industries Assistance Commission on metal working machine tools and additions to Schedule I of the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement. Full details of the changes concerned were supplied to honourable senators at the time the relevant tariff proposals were introduced. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Mcintosh) adjourned.
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.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) 12.4)- I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
Australia has adopted a distinctive approach to trade union training. It has three elements: Firstly, public funding of union training; secondly, the planning, development and provision of training by an independent Authority set up by Act of Parliament. This is, I believe, unique; and thirdly, the establishment of a National Trade Union Training College and Trade Union Training Centres in each State. The approach recognises that trained trade unionists, no less than trained management, are of critical importance to the community and that without public support for trade union training little progress is likely.
I wish, on behalf of the Government, to pay tribute to the architect of all this, the honourable member for Hindmarsh. It is particularly fitting that he should be permanently remembered in the name of the National Trade Union Training
College, the Clyde Cameron College. Honourable senators will recall that the legislation providing for a Trade Union Training Authority passed through this Parliament some three years ago. It received the support of all parties, and I trust that this bi-partisan support is maintained as the present amendments progress through both Houses.
The Government has consistently expressed its support for the concept of trade union training. However in 1976-77 it found itself faced with a number of important policy issues regarding its future development in Australia. These issues included:
Should trade union training be part of a wider industrial relations training or continue to be separate? What was in the best interests of all concerned?
Was the organisational structure of the Authority, with an Australian Council, six State Councils and Directors of the National College and State Centres, all with some executive authority, the most efficient and effective?
What were the training needs of trade unionists? The Australian Council for Union Training had adopted an annual training objective of 1 per cent of trade unionists, but this did not have any established basis.
Should trade union training provided by the Authority be solely public funded or should there be some commitment on the part of the trade union movement itself, in line with the arrangements overseas?
The Government felt that it needed a fresh examination, and a more detailed one than was possible by the Australian Council of Union Training. As honourable senators will be aware, in 1977 it established a tripartite Committee of Inquiry into Trade Union Training. The Committee of Inquiry examined over 400 submissions and had discussions with approximately 100 persons throughout the country. The Committee completed its report in August last and it was tabled in this Parliament. I would like to take this opportunity to express my public appreciation of the work of the Committee and the assistance which it has been to the Government.
Detailed comments on the recommendations of the Inquiry were invited from the Australian Council for Union Training and from the employer and union peak councils represented on the National Labour Consultative Council. There were further discussions in NLCC and the Australian Council and a top level deputation from the peak union councils put additional views. All the comments have been carefully considered and have helped considerably in determining the future development of the Authority. On the key issues, the Committee recommended:
Trade union training should not be integrated into a general system of industrial relations training.
There should be a complete evaluation to determine the specific extent of training required, both as to numbers and course content.
Trade union training should continue to be funded by Government, with funds to be provided commensurate with the Authority’s training programme.
The Trade Union Training Authority should be retained as an independent statutory body, an independent training institution. However, TAFE has the potential to provide training and offers scope for the rationalisation of training resources.
The Government has accepted the general thrust of these conclusions. The report also proposed some changes in the composition of the Australian and State Councils for Union Training, while at the same time retaining the basic structure. The Government considers that it is necessary to go further than the Committee recommends to provide for more efficient and effective management of the Authority. As I have indicated, currently there is an Australian Council of 16 members and six State Councils each with specific powers, as well as a Director responsible for the affairs of the National College and six State Directors responsible for the State Centres.
Following detailed consideration, including the consultations which I have previously mentioned, the Government has decided to establish a small Executive Board of eight members. The Executive Board will be part-time and will be responsible for the formulation of the policy of the Authority. Complementary to this, a new position of National Director will be created. He will be responsible for the conduct of its affairs in accordance with policy determined by the Executive Board and any policy directions it gives but, as a member of the Board, will participate fully in the formulation of that policy. The Government also proposes to expand the responsibilities of the present position of Director of the Clyde Cameron College. The position will be retitled Director of Studies. As the name implies he will, under the National Director, be responsible for the management and provision of all training by the Authority, not only at the College but in each of the Trade Union Training Centres. These changes will provide for more effective policy formulation and management of the Authority.
Honourable senators will appreciate that streamlining of the executive and management responsibilities will naturally change the present role of the Australian and State Councils for Union Training. The Government sees advantage in maintaining these bodies to advise on trade union training programmes and their effectiveness. The importance of the advisory role, particularly of the Australian Council, is underlined by the direct link which the legislation provides between the Council and the Executive Board. Not only will all members of the Executive Board be drawn from the Australian Council, but the Board will reflect the different interests represented on the Australian Council. Thus the Board will comprise a Chairman, who will be the Chairman of the Australian Council, the National Director of the Authority, the employer and Departmental members of the Council, and four union members drawn from the union members of the Council.
I should like to refer to the proposed involvement of employers on the Executive Board and the Councils of the Authority. Honourable senators who have had the opportunity of reading the Report of the Committee of Inquiry will be aware of its emphasis on greater employer involvement in training activity. The Authority has already provided for employer input to some extent at the College and the State Centres, and participation of employers at all levels will further facilitate this. Perhaps even more important, however, employer representation at both the policy and advisory levels will bring a broader insight and perspective to trade union training; this is important, bearing in mind that industrial relations involves both employers and unions. Added to this, such areas as paid educational leave concern the employers no less than the unions. The amendments also provide for the Authority’s closer involvement with TAFE. As honourable senators will see from the Bill, under the new arrangements the Tertiary Education Commission will be represented on the Australian Council and the appropriate TAFE bodies on the State Councils. This is in line with the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry.
In making the changes proposed in the legislation the Government has been particularly conscious of their possible impact on the staff of the Authority, The legislation protects all present officers and employees of the Authority. They will be able to continue in the service of the Authority under the terms and conditions they currently have.
The Government is conscious of the need to maintain a proper balance of interests in relation to trade union training. On the one hand it is important that the trade unions are able to participate effectively in the formulation of policy and programs and have confidence in the Authority’s activities. Thus union interests remain in the majority on the Australian Council and each of the six State Councils for Union Training. Equally, trade union training, provided through a statutory authority and funded by the taxpayer, must have regard to community interests, and the Government believes that the balanced membership of the Executive Board recognises that need. The changed structure within the Organisation will make for a more effective pursuit of the objectives of the Authority, namely the planning, provision and oversight of trade union training in Australia. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Mulvihill) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3 1 May, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– Before the Senate adjourned last night I had virtually completed my remarks on the Iwasaki episode and was about to start on that section of my remarks which I intended to make the major part of my contribution. Since then I have received a letter from the Townsville and District Natural History and Conservation Society which deals with the Iwasaki resort. I propose to read it into Hansard. It is addressed to me and is phrased in these words:
Could you please put before the Australian Government our Society’s objections to the Iwasaki Resort Project, on the following grounds.
If the Iwasaki Project is allowed to proceed, it will alter the character of the area- coast and inland- detrimentally. Mangroves will be destroyed in controlling mosquitoes, sandflies, et cetera, or for scenic reasons, and so fish breeding grounds will be wiped out to the detriment of the fishing industry of Yepoon and Rockhampton.
This is a strategic area, near the entrance to the Barrier Reef, and in the event of future hostilities, a small army landed there by submarines coming through the reef passages, could hold the area and control the entrance to the Barrier Reef.
Nations change their policies and alliances. During the first World War, the Japanese were our allies. In the second World War they joined the enemy and werefighting against our soldiers. During the last mentioned war, the hospital ship Centaur’ was sunk by submarine out from Brisbane on the Queensland coast. This ship was brilliantly lit with the Red Cross displayed, but this did not save it, and many valuable lives the world could ill afford to lose, were lost. (This is just an example).
The Iwasaki Project will also conflict with Australian obligations under the International treaties ( Migratory Birds and Wetlands of International Importance ).
We request that the Government does not make its decision on the Environmental Impact statement funded by Iwasaki, but to ask you as our representative to demand an inquiry under section 1 1 of the Environental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974.
We also ask that the Australian Government block the project by denying Mr Iwasaki permission to bring in overseas funds for this project, for the reasons stated above.
That letter gives further weight to what I said in this chamber last night. Until such time as the environmental impact study is carried out and the matter of the introduction of foreign capital is properly investigated this project should not proceed. If the Government sticks to the letter of the law, of course, the project will not proceed at all.
I now return to deal with Aboriginal land rights. I concluded last night by saying that the Aurukun Council was perfectly justified the other day in turning back a number of State officials who tried to take over Aurukun. The other story that has been told in this Parliament- I am not accusing Ministers or anybody else of telling untruths about it- is that obviously some sort of deal has been made between the State and Federal governments and that less than the whole truth has been told to the people of Mornington Island and Aurukun. I feel that if background arrangements are being made these people ought to be told and the Parliament ought to be told. The things that have happened over the last few weeks- I propose to go into more detail shortly- indicate quite clearly that the Federal Government ought to use its legislative powers now to take over both of these settlements and to give full land rights to the people there.
It appears that the Federal Government has lost all interest. I was disappointed this morning when I asked the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) who represents the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in this place a question about funding for these two communities to find that the senior member of the Cabinet did not know what money had been passed over or whether any money had been passed over at all. We cannot attack the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I understand he has left the country and is wandering around somewhere in the Pacific islands. The person who is now acting in his stead has not shown a great interest in Aboriginal affairs before.
– Who is that, senator?
-Mr Staley, I think. He has not shown a great interest in Aboriginal affairs before. Under these circumstances, I think it is fairly obvious that the Queensland Government will be able to go ahead totally in accordance with its doctrines and political philosophy. The last week we talked in this chamber about these two settlements, Senator Kilgariff claimed that we were using the issue as a political football. He then proceeded to join in the debate. He should not be inconsistent by claiming that the debate had been initiated for the wrong reasons and then take part in it. I wonder how he feels today, after the problems in Katherine a few days ago, when the Majority Leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly at a public meeting virtually said to the’ Feds ‘: ‘ Stay out of the Territory’. I pass that remark merely because I think that, if one participates in debates of this nature, one must be consistent.
One of the most horrible incidents that occurred in recent times was a television interview between the present Acting Deputy President, Senator Bonner, and Mr Hinze, the Queensland Minister for Local Government and Main Roads. It was just as well, as the compere of This Day Tonight, Mr Clive Hale, commented at the end of the interview, that Mr Hinze was in Hobart and Senator Bonner was in Brisbane because it was a very lively debate. I want to quote some of the statements that were made by the Queensland Minister. I think they were irresponsible and certainly unethical. They should not have been made in a public place or in a parliament. They ought to go into the record to show the type of people with whom we have to deal in the great struggle for land rights for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland.
It has been alleged in this chamber and the other place that the Aborigines in both settlements- certainly in Aurukun- agreed to a six months’ trial period. Those communities never agreed to that at all. It is a political argument that has been used against them, but what happened in that instance was not by their choice. Senator Bonner claimed in the course of the interview that all the amendments to the Local Government (Land Rights) Bill- ‘land rights’ is a misnomer of course- had not been accepted. Even if all the amendments had been accepted, it was still an unacceptable piece of legislation and should never have seen the light of day. It is merely a dressing up of the Aboriginal Act which has been used to restrict the freedom of Aborigines in Queensland for so many years. Senator Bonner went on to say:
They’ve only accepted some of them. They have still not given security of tenure to the Aboriginal people. They have given a lease of SO years with no guarantee, no guarantee and I emphasise those words, no guarantee of a further lease after that. They have not given self-management to the Aboriginal people and the State Minister himself, Mr Hinze, has the power to dismiss the Council whenever he so chooses.
Of course those words are quite true. The Queensland Minister for Local Government and Main Roads can sack a council whenever he wishes. There is no guarantee that the shire clerk, whoever he may be, will be a qualified person. There is no guarantee, if an administrator is appointed, that he will not just fulfil the role of an ordinary Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement manager. We will see some of the political tricks that some managers can get up to when I quote in a few moments from the NQ Land Council Newsletter.
I quote again from the transcript of the interview conducted on This Day Tonight on 1 8 May 1978. Senator Bonner said:
Why don ‘t you get around your own State and have a look at the problems faced by Aboriginal people in your own State? All you would need to do is get out of George Street and go up onto Spring Hill to see some of the conditions the Aboriginal people have to live in there . . .
That statement was well said because the conditions under which some people live- I refer in particular to the reserve known as ‘The Gorge’ which was settled after the moving together of two groups back in the mid- 1930s- are such that some homes are still without running water and electricity. The houses are becoming derelict because the Department will not even provide paint. That situation is repeated many times throughout Queensland. The Queensland Minister’s rejoinder to Senator Bonner was:
And all that I want to say to you now, Senator Bonner, all that I want to say to you now, Senator Bonner . . .
It sounds like a broken record. That is where the Minister was interrupted. Senator Bonner then said: and all the money that you have spent on Aboriginal people in Queensland came from the Federal Government in the first place. Put your hand in your own pockets and do something.
I support that remark because, quite frankly, when Federal funding became the order of the day after the carriage of the 1967 referendum, the first act of the Queensland Government was to reduce spending in its then Department of Aboriginal Affairs and to rely on Federal funds. I have heard several Queensland Ministers, and the Premier in particular, make statements that the Queensland Government is supplying the money for the construction of facilities at Aboriginal communities and for the provision of wages and salaries.
I said a couple of weeks ago, and I repeat, that the funding that ought to be made available to Aboriginal communities for the payment of wages has in fact not been provided. Because of the two Acts, it is not possible to make an award stick so far as a community is concerned. In fact a trade union, some two or three years ago, actually made a case to try to get award wages for people living in the Palm Island community. It was not heard by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission because of the application of the two Acts governing the whole lifestyle of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. On another occasion I visited a local authority for which grants that had been made directly from the Commonwealth to provide special employment facilities for Aborigines were held up for many months by the Queensland Government because it was opportune to do so since it was the eve of an election.
The fact that Aborigines did not receive the grant that had been made available to maintain full employment, apparently for political purposes, mattered very little to the Queensland Premier. That was very disappointing. The only mistake that the Premier made when the funds were passed on was that the authorities forgot to deduct the interest that had accumulated. This sort of political wheeling and dealing is going on all the time with regard to the Aborigines in my State. In his now famous finale, Mr Hinze said:
Well 111 say to you that you are an unmitigated - . . Senator Bonner, you are an unmitigated liar because you are saving now to Australia that all of the funds that are being spent in Aurukun and Mornington come from the Commonwealth. I repeat, you are an unmitigated liar.
Since 1967 the Queensland Government has made available very little funding in percentage terms compared with previous funding, to Aborigines in that State.
I believe one other aspect ought to be investigated. Many of the settlements have economically viable projects. At Yarrabah, the Aborigines are producing cattle, at Palm Island small amounts of bananas and other tropical fruits are being produced and at Cherbourg and other settlements artifacts are manufactured; but the proceeds go directly to the Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement and not to the people on the communities. So, for the Queensland Government, these are money making ventures.
I was pleased, surprised and confused by a statement made by Mr Knox, the Deputy Premier, which was published in the Courier-Mail a few days ago. He said:
No one wanted a confrontation at Aurukun . . . there was no thought of using police to get Queensland Government officers into the former reserve.
The article went on to describe how the State authorities were refused admission to Aurukun, and then stated:
He said the new Act provided for Government officials to go into the local authority area. “There are persons trying to subvert the change, ‘ Mr Knox said.
It’s very much in the interests of the aborigines to allow the officers in.’
The situation, of course, is that once the local government areas are operating effectively the Councils in both areas will have no rights at all. They will be merely dictated to in a similar way to what is happening now with regard to managers of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement. There are other communities in Queensland which would like to have their areas declared freehold lands or invested in a trust, but they are now unsure. In fact, they are not prepared to make any moves at all in case they get the same treatment that was handed out to Aurukun and Mornington Island. This is why I say that the Australian Government has proved as spineless as the Queensland Government in providing land rights for people in those areas. The Telegraph of 19 May 1978 carried an interesting sideline on the interview with Mr Hinze. It said:
Irate ABC This Day Tonight viewers have described local government Minister, Mr Hinze, as racist and patronising and many said they were ashamed that he was seen to be representing Queensland on national television, a spokesman for the current affairs program said today. The switchboard of TDT was jammed for hours last night following an angry clash between Mr Hinze and Queensland Liberal senator Neville Bonner over legislation involving the former Aboriginal reserves at Aurukun and Mornington Island.
- Mr Hinze is a friend of Senator Collard, is he not?
-Yes. They belong to the same party. They usually protect each other. The article in the Telegraph continues:
One woman caller said if she had been Mr Bonner she would have smashed Mr Hinze between the eyes. There were 200 callers in the following morning by 9 a.m. and the switchboard was still working overtime.
Incidentally, those who supported Mr Hinze numbered only a handful of people. The rest, of course, were opposed to what he said. The campaign for land rights for Aborigines is widespread in spite of what we may have heard in recent statements coming out of the Northern Territory and from the National Party Government of Queensland. On 17 May the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies issued this Press statement:
The Council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies today unanimously affirmed its support for the views expressed by the general meeting of the Institute held in Canberra on 1 1 May about the importance of Aboriginal people conducting their own affairs. The continued development of the outstation movement is an important element in ensuring that Aborigines have freedom of choice. The Council said that the freedom of the Aboriginal people to choose their own lifestyle is of the utmost importance. This is a right which should be enjoyed by all Australians.
The Council joined with the general meeting in expressing the hope that any arrangement reached between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments regarding Aurukun and Mornington Island local areas will not lessen such free choice by Aboriginal people.
The Council believes that the best means of ensuring this freedom of choice throughout the Commonwealth is to ensure land and other rights for Aboriginal people through legislation parallel to that already enacted or at present proposed by the Commonwealth for the Northern Territory. The Institute expressed grave concern that in the absence of such legislation the rights of Aboriginal people will not be respected. It called on all State governments to legislate for such Aboriginal land and other rights.
That statement was released at the time of the biennial meeting of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal studies. It is not often that the Institute goes into print. The fact that the Aboriginal and other delegates, many of whom are well known in the academic world, saw fit to produce a statement of that nature indicates quite clearly that there is wide-ranging support for land rights for Aborigines. Recently I received a communication from the Mount Isa Mines company advising that Tawallah Station and Bing Bong in the Northern Territory have been purchased on behalf of that company. A few days ago the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner, made much noise about the granting of land rights for the people of Borrooloola. He said:
Aboriginals of Borrooloola will be granted title to the unalienated Crown land on the Borrooloola town common and Vanderlin Island and West Island in the Sir Edmund Pellew group.
Centre Island, which contains sacred places, was not included in this grant. The sacred places belong to members of the Rhumbarriya tribe, which has a large representation still in the area. The decision to buy Bing Bong for $250,000, which I believe is an outrageous price, was to help the mining organisation to have free access to the sea. The company claims that Tawallah and Bing Bong will be developed as rural or pastoral concerns. They have been registered in the name of companies apparently formed for that purpose. The granting of these small areas of land in the Borrooloola area is a travesty of the spirit of the legislative details set out in the Northern Territory Land Rights Act. The Press statement continues:
Mr Viner said that the decision announced today was an historic one for the Northern Territory Aboriginals and was evidence that the government’s undertakings expressed in the Land Rights Act were being honoured.
The Minister said he is seeking some further information on a recommendation by the Land Commissioner that a I km strip be reserved, traversing the Borrooloola town common, to provide a transport corridor and stock holding yards in the event of mineral development by Mount Isa Mines of deposits on their adjacent McArthur River lease.
Mr Viner said he would make an early decision on the need for such corridors in the light of this information.
If that corridor, which I understand is likely to be a fairly wide corridor, is granted to the mining company, it is likely that it will go through sites of significance in the Borrooloola area, which is only a small area which has now been granted to the local Aborigines.
The whole question of land rights in the Northern Territory is being totally distorted. We have heard a couple of people raving on about how 50 per cent of the land will be handed over but the Minister, in his wisdom, produced a Press statement- I think it was yesterday- saying that this is not in fact true. The Press statement obviously has been issued to placate the distressed whites in the Northern Territory. The Press statement claims that there is a great deal of confusion. It states:
There was no question of claims resulting in 50 per cent of the Territory becoming Aboriginal land. The Reserves amounted to some 1 8 per cent of the Territory, much of it desert, and claims to vacant Crown land amounted to about 10 per cent.
I recall that when the relevant legislation was being debated in this chamber, the Opposition tried to have the Tanami desert incorporated as part of Aboriginal land. This move was resisted by the Government. If the Tanami desert, which is Walburi country, is to be given to that tribe, it must fight it out all the way through the courts.
The North Queensland Land Rights Committee, which is assuming a role of very great importance in the current land rights struggle, made these remarks in relation to the Aurukun takeover:
Aurukun and Mornington Island have made Australian headlines for the past month. The people there have been pawns in the continual tug of war between Federal and Queensland Governments over the future of the Aboriginal people.
March 1 3th saw the Queensland Government announce a takeover of the two reserves from the management of the Uniting Church and the Federal Government posturing about intervention. April 1 1th saw the Federal Government back down in a compromise agreement with the State Government.
What were the issues at stake? For Queensland Aborigines-
1 ) land rights
abolition of Queensland Act
Aboriginal affairs to be a Commonwealth not a State responsibility.
This is why the State Government has dug in its toes:
For the State Government, the issues were
1 ) easier access to larger deposits of bauxite
removal of management status of Uniting Church because of policy differences with the State Government
) squashing the Outstation Movement where 6 tribal groups have moved out of Aurukun back to their land
assimilation of Aborigines into white Australia society.
Those are responsible statements made by a responsible organisation, but the unfortunate situation in Queensland is that the disenchantment and disillusionment is extending to other areas. Under the new Minister, Mr Porter, who is quite ruthless and totally brutal in his administration of the Acts, and he is now being helped by Mr Hinze, new guidelines are being observed. For instance, Mrs Lottie Seaton, who occupied a small home at Cordelia on which the rent had been paid, in spite of the fact that Mr Porter said she was a bad tenant, had her house burnt down by a DAIA officer only a week ox two ago. She did not even have time to remove all her personal possessions and they too were burnt. When there was a bit of an uproar over the incident, the Minister announced that alternative accommodation had been found for her in Townsville. The alternative accommodation was a motel-like unit in Aitkenvale Aboriginal reserve at Townsville, where I understand the charges amount to something like $5 a head for people who stay overnight. As Mrs Seaton has six or seven children and was on a supporting mother’s benefit she had no hope of staying there. Incidentally, the accommodation is limited. People are not allowed to occupy it for long periods of time because it is supposed to be a place for transients.
A similar occurrence took place at Bundaberg, where a family was evicted, and in my own city of Townsville a week or two ago an Aboriginal man was found lying injured beside the main
Ingham Highway. Someone rang the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement and the official who answered the phone said that it was none of his business where the Aboriginal was lying or whether he was hurt or not. He refused to have anything done for the man. My wife was able to contact a local official of the Catholic Land Rights Movement who immediately procured a vehicle, went out and picked up the elderly gentleman, and was able to obtain first aid for him. That is the general attitude. Dealing with Yarrabah, where there was a confrontation during the early part of the Aurukun dispute, I wish to quote from the North Queensland Land Council Newsletter of 10 May:
On Thursday May 4th, the Yarrabah Council (spurred on by the white Manager) pitted itself dramatically against Yarrabah residents and Aboriginal organisations in nearby areas e.g. Cairns and Innisfail. The Council threatened to set up roadblocks against the outside world and it released a 1 5 name list to the Cairns Aboriginal Legal Service of people who were banned from Yarrabah for the day. The list was headed by Clarrie Grogan, Mick Miller and Barbara Russell and friends (North Queensland Land Council) and Rose Colless (sacked Commissioner). It was followed up by all employees of the Cairns Aboriginal Legal Service and others.
What stirred up the hornet’s nest? At a public meeting at Yarrabah on the 14th April the NAC member for QEF, also a resident of Yarrabah -
That is Mr Alf Neil- . . was asked to send a telegram to Mr Viner requesting him to visit Yarrabah to explain the Federal (SelfManagement) Legislation under which the residents of Yarrabah (not the Council) had requested to come.
There has been a continual needling of the people in this area, inspired by the Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement, and it has been able to get one or two Aborgines to go along with it. But the vast majority of people at Yarrabah want the land themselves. On the evidence that I have seen, I believe that there is a long range plan to dispose of the Yarrabah community, and particularly the lands adjoining the village itself, to international tourist developers in the same way as the Queensland Department wants to get rid of Great Palm Island and the Gorge reserve of some 60 acres. I wrote recently to the Queensland Minister seeking, for the information of people on Palm Island, the boundaries of that reserve. Many people have had the impression over the years that a lot of the adjoining islands were included in the Palm Island community. They are not, and obviously they have been excised somewhere along the line. It has probably been done sneakily in the dark of night. Nevertheless, there are limitations on the area of that reserve, and it would be interesting to find out how many other reserves have been mutilated.
A gentleman named Mr Bunney, the Corpor-ate Manager, Public Affairs, of Comalco Ltd, wrote to me on 26 May objecting to something I had said in this place. I will read his letter for the record:
I read with interest the Hansard report (24.5.78) of the discussion initiated by you in the Senate on the subject of Aboriginal Land Rights.
In reference to Weipa mining areas, you stated that when these areas were ‘taken over . . . people were pushed off their land. They were not allowed to go back. Their homes were burnt ‘. The imputation is that mining at Weipa was responsible for or required the removal of Aboriginal landowners.
This is demonstrably incorrect. Could I draw your attention to page 1 1 of Comalco ‘s publication on Aboriginal Islanders at Weipa which, in a letter to me last week, you indicated having read with interest. Under the heading Mapoon Mission (page 1 1 ), we quoted a 1962 public statement by the Presbyterian Church in Brisbane:
Discussions about the closure of the Mapoon Mission occurred before any mining company became interested in the area. No representation by any company has caused the decision for the transfer of the people.
The Mapoon Mission area has no mineral significance for the company and is well outside its mining lease area.
Nor, in any way, were the Weipa people pushed off their lands. Details of the history of this community and the contribution made by the company to the Church for the upgrading of their houses are included in the Comalco booklet (pages 13-14). I would draw your attention, however, to the fact that the original community of about 200 people in 1 957 has grown to more than 600 today.
Many of the public statements about the history of the Aboriginal people at Mapoon and Weipa and their relationship with Comalco are incorrect. It is important to have concerned public discussion on issues such as the welfare of Aboriginals, but we believe such discussion surfers when it is not based on fact.
I do not know why the mining company should be so sensitive that it had to write that letter. I am not the only one who has made accusations. Frank Stephens, a well known academic, has written at least two books dealing with this subject. Jean, Jimmy and others from Weipa have told their side of the story. I repeat: There was an unholy alliance between the church, the State Government and the mining company when Weipa was first established. Comalco has a less than satisfactory record in the preservation of sites of significance and in regard to the destruction of Aboriginal lands, which has led to a lot of erosion. The mine is on an Aboriginal reserve, on lands that belong to the local tribes. I have never accused the mining company of carrying the guns into the mission area or of attempting to burn down homes, but the Presbyterian Church at that time was not playing the role that the Uniting Church is now playing in Mornington
Island, Aurukun and a few other places, and there was collusion over what went on in the area. I propose to reply to Mr Bunney and point out what I believe to be the correct aspects of the removal of the Aboriginal people, not only in this mining area but also in other areas where mining takes place.
We heard the Leader of the Opposition this morning commenting on the paper produced by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) entitled Uranium Export Policy’, which is a ministerial statement of today’s date. The Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory will suffer as a result of the development of uranium mining. The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, under its present majority control, will not bring in the type of complementary legislation that is needed to back up properly the land rights legislation that went through this Parliament in 1976. For all effective purposes, there are still no land rights for Aborigines in Australia today, with the exception of minor freehold areas and leasehold areas that have been purchased on their behalf. I am speaking now in the national sense. I am not speaking about those State governments who have co-operated and have set aside areas of land for Aboriginal people under various types of land trusts. The real responsibility that was given to the national Parliament by the carriage of the referendum in 1967 has not been adhered to by this Government; it is being totally ignored by the Government of Queensland. If something does not happen legislatively within the immediate future it will be a very sad day for the Aborigines.
I make this final appeal to the Minister and to the Government which he represents, that the Aboriginal land rights legislation which we passed a few weeks ago be now implemented, that the areas of Mornington Island and Aurukun be taken over and that the people on both settlements be allowed to exercise selfdetermination and manage the areas as they want to, knowing that they have title to that land which, under the Queensland legislation, is being stolen from them.
– I take the opportunity, on the first reading of this money Bill, to speak on the subject of the ban on the export of genetic merino material to countries other than New Zealand. In several references in recent Press statements and speeches, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has indicated clearly the Government’s intention to relax or remove this ban in the near future. On two occasions I have endeavoured to obtain through the Minister representing the
Minister for Primary Industry a statement of Government policy on this matter so that it could be laid before both Houses of Parliament before they rise for the winter recess and debated. I have received no positive response to that request, so I assume that the Government has no intention of placing a paper or a policy statement before the Parliament. I assume also that some time before the Parliament resumes in midAugust the Government will have proceeded with its policy on this matter. It seems likely that the Government will reactivate or resurrect the policy of a previous Liberal-Country Party Government from 1969 to 1972, which permitted the export of up to 300 merino rams a year to countries other than New Zealand but which maintained the ban on all other genetic material. I will return to that later.
For reasons which will become apparent as I continue my speech, the issue, in my judgment, is of monumental unimportance. What are important are the Government’s sleazy tactics in this matter, of refusing to make a statement to the Parliament at the time when it is going to announce its policy, and the dishonest and irrational arguments used by supporters of the relaxation of the embargo. I refer particularly to the argument of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, adopted by the previous conservative Government in 1969, that up to 300 rams be allowed to be exported. That argument was adopted by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government and I expect that it will be resurrected in the near future by this Liberal-National Country Party Government.
The historic reason for the embargo is a quite rational one, assuming that its crucial assumption is correct. It was imposed because it was believed that, if Australian merino genetic material were available to wool growers in other countries, there would be a substantial increase in wool production in those other countries which obviously would adversely affect the prices received by Australian wool growers. If it were so, that Australian genetic material would substantially increase production in other countries, it follows inevitably that prices would be depressed. So the crucial factor in this debate is whether Australian merinos have any significant genetic superiority vis-a-vis merinos in other countries. The answer to that crucial question is not known. It is possible and technically feasible to test the relative genetic merit of Australian and overseas flocks. It would be extremely difficult to do so and it would take at least two years for a test to be completed. But since the gene pool from which the Australian merino was originally bred is still scattered around the world and is available to breeders in other countries, it appears unlikely that the Australian merino does have significant genetic superiority. If overseas breeders have not already produced animals, the wool production potential of which is equal to ours in terms of both quantity and quality, they could be produced from the same gene pool from which the Australian merino was derived.
A coalition government faces a very severe political difficulty in pursuing a policy of relaxing or removing the embargo, because in 1973, under the Labor Government, a referendum of wool producers was held to determine their attitude on this question. Two questions were put on the ballot paper. The first one was:
Should the Australian Government permit unrestricted exports of merino rams and merino semen to countries in addition to New Zealand?
There has never been a ban on exports to New Zealand. To that proposition, 83 per cent of those who voted voted no. The second question was:
Should the Government permit the export of no more than 300 merino rams in each 12-month period to countries other than New Zealand in addition to unrestricted exports of merino rams to New Zealand?
To that question, 71 per cent of those who voted voted no. The Country Party, which for decades has proclaimed that it was waiting for the industry to tell it what to do, requires considerable ingenuity to rationalise defying such a clear expression of woolgrower opinion. The best that the present Minister has so far managed is the puerile argument that only 26 per cent of all growers voted to retain the embargo because less than 50 per cent voted altogether. Therefore, the Minister has argued, the industry actually wants the embargo to be lifted. If that principle were to be applied to governments, it would mean that in every country of the world where optional voting prevails- I think that that is every country except Australia- the parties which are now in government would be in opposition, on the ground that less than 50 per cent of the total people entitled to vote voted for them, and the parties which lost the election would be in government. It is a puerile and absurd proposition.
In a statement on behalf of the Minister, in the Senate on 3 May last, in reply to a question from Senator McLaren, Senator Webster dismissed the possibility of holding another referendum, on the ground of cost and also because, as he said, it would probably result in a similar fiasco to the 1973 referendum’. Senator Webster did not explain why he and the Minister, whose statement he was reading, judged the result of the 1973 referendum to be a fiasco. I presume it is judged a fiasco because it produced a result which the Country Party did not want, and quite possibly another referendum would produce a similar result. Like the generals in the Dominican Republic last month, the Country Party believes in accepting the results of referendums and elections only when they are acceptable to it.
Let me express a personal view on this matter. I do not necessarily accept that the only determinant of this question should be the result of a referendum of wool growers. The responsibilities of governments extend beyond any wool growers or any other sections of the community. Governments are responsible to the whole community. In spite of that very clear expression of woolgrower disapproval, it is apparent that the Country Party will proceed and implement the policy which it implemented in 1969. On the arguments used for and against the embargo, as I have already stated, the real, crucial factor- that is, the relative genetic quality of Australian and overseas merinos- is not known. We can infer, I believe correctly, that there would be little or no difference. But there is hanging over this whole issue that uncertainty.
The arguments used for retaining a prohibition on the export of genetic material, whilst logically correct and sound, incorporate two assumptions which, I believe, are wrong. The first is the assumption that the Australian merino does have a very great genetic superiority over other merinos. The second is that the stud rams which would be exported have very great genetic superiority which could be passed on to the national merino flock were they not exported. I believe that that proposition is wrong also, but more of that later.
As for the arguments of those people who are in favour of exporting rams, not only are their assumptions wrong but also their arguments are illogical and dishonest. In particular I refer to the arguments put forward by the Australian Wool Industry Conference in the late 1960s and adopted by the then Liberal-Country Party Government in a statement issued to Parliament on 20 March 1969 by the then Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Anthony. In announcing this decision he stated:
The terms of the decision are:
Export approvals will be issued only for merino rams that have been sold at public auction sales nominated by the State member associations of the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders.
That gave the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders a monopoly on exports. The Minister continued:
No attempt was made to justify a policy which allowed rams to be exported but continued an embargo- a total prohibition- on the export of ewes or semen.
Let us examine the logic of that. If it was correct that these stud rams had valuable genes which could be passed on to the national flock and if there was a case for allowing the export of genetic material, we could have had it both ways by exporting the ram semen and retaining the animals. But the Government expressly forbade that happening and gave no explanation for the internal contradiction in its policy. The Minister’s statement continued: (iti) A prohibition will be placed on the export of fertilised merino ova.
Again no reason was given. The only possible rational reason for restricting the export of fertilised ova would be to maintain what was believed to be a commercial monopoly of superior genetic material which Australia held, but we had already given that away by saying that we would export rams. However, the Government said: ‘We will export rams but we will not export ewes’. No justification was given. The statement continued:
Paragraph (v) stated that the conditions (i) to (iv) would be reviewed annually by the Australian Wool Industry Conference, and so on. So, regardless of the crucial fact in this issuenamely, the relative genetic standing or genetic superiority, if it has any- of the Australian merino sheep- there were internal contradictions in that policy and those contradictions were never explained and have never been resolved. That policy appears to be the one which the Government is about to resurrect.
The central assumption or argument behind the relaxation of the embargo on rams was based on ideas originally circulated by the International Wool Secretariat, adopted by the Australian Wool Industry Conference and ultimately adopted by the Government. As they were presented by the AWIC in the late 1960s, I will quote some extracts. I mention first:
If present trends continue wool will become a minor raw material no longer able to influence the stability of the wool textile industry. It is in Australia’s interests to see that the likely increase in demand for wool, through increasing world population and rising living standards, is met.
That is a variant of an argument put forward by people such as Sir William Vines and Sir William Gunn that wool’s proportion of the total textile market is declining, that that is disastrous and so on. Such a claim is pure nonsense. What matters to Australian wool growers is not what percentage wool claims of the world textile market; it is the price they receive for wool. There is nothing incongruous about a minor fibre receiving a high price; indeed, the two are more likely to be positively correlated.
The AWIC continued:
Lifting the embargo is unlikely to influence the price of apparel wool because any increase in production achieved through this action would be gradual. In the long term, however, ability to hold wool’s price would be assisted by increased availability of supplies . . .
As Professor Lloyd later stated, how that would happen is a matter for wide-eyed conjecture. The AWIC continued:
While demand influences price, the supply/demand relationships for wool as an international commodity are not highly elastic.
That is crucial. Incredibly, the AWIC continued:
Short supply does not necessarily mean high price, just as adequate supply does not necessarily mean low price.
As anyone who has ever read an economics dictionary or an elementary text book on economics should know, inelastic demand, by definition, means that a moderate increase in supply will result in a very large decline in prices. In other words, what the AWIC, the International Wool Secretariat and the Government put forward as the major argument to justify this policy was based upon an inversion of truth. The chief proselytiser, if not the actual architect, of that deception was the one-time Director of the International Wool Secretariat, one William J. Vines, who was mentioned again last week as now Sir William Vines and was named by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as the Director of the Sir Robert Menzies Trust. I believe that it is most appropriate that a man such as the Prime Minister should appoint a proven fraud and charlatan such as William Vines as Director of a trust for another fraud and charlatan whose parliamentary lies were responsible, inter alia, for the deaths of 492 Australians in Vietnam. The relaxation of the embargo on, or the total abolition of, the export of genetic merino material in all probability would have little or no effect on world wool supplies, but there is this element of uncertainty that it might do so. It is also argued by opponents of the exports that it would, however, have undesirable effects within Australia. That is possible, although again unlikely.
The Australian Wool Industry abounds with myths. One of the most popular of these myths is that the Australian merino is a highly contrived and artificially produced animal which, if the merino flock is not continually reinforced with high quality rams bred in studs, will in some way degenerate. That proposition could be true only if there were some correlation between the indices of production- the vital indices of production are wool quantity and wool quality; that is, fibre diameter- and reproductive performance. Some decades of objective study have shown that no such correlation exists. So, the inescapable conclusion is that even in the very long term a merino flock bred on a random basis- that is, run as wild sheep with no selection of parents, either male or female- would not change. Genetically, it would remain stable. The Australian merino flock has had for decades a hierarchical structure of breeding; that is, there is a handful- say, 12, 20, 25 perhaps- of parent studs which produce rams that are then used as sires in what are called daughter studs’, which ultimately produce the couple of hundred thousand merino rams or thereabouts which annually sire the entire merino lamb drop. Because of that hierarchical structure it follows inevitably that the genetic quality of the flock is tied to the parent studs.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Government Business, Order of the Day No. 1, taking precedence-
Debate resumed from 3 1 May, on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Senate has before it the Loan Amendment Bill 1978. We have become accustomed to the introduction of this type of legislation, especially in the last three or four years. This Bill seeks to amend the Loan Act 1977 to increase amounts which may be borrowed for defence purposes to meet a prospective increase in the Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit for this year. Such a deficit must be met either by transferring expenditure normally included in the Consolidated Revenue Fund to another account or by increasing receipts. The normal procedure is to transfer some defence expenditure to the Loan Fund as defence expenditure is used, simply because that avoids the necessity to go to the Loan Council. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill, but seeks to move the following amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill:
At end of motion, add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that the substantial increase of the deficit above its budgeted level is evidence of the failure of the Government ‘s budgetary policy and calls on the Government to adopt policies which will generate economic recovery. ‘
There is only one reason why the Government needs this Bill. That is simply because its economic policy has failed. The basic reason why the Government needs the Bill is that the deficit has blown out far beyond the Government’s expectations. In part that is due to the Government’s incompetence at managing the economy. In part it is due to the Government’s irresponsibility in making a series of wild electoral promises which have now finally borne fruit.
The Government’s fiscal policy is in tatters. Receipts are substantially below those estimated at the beginning of the financial year. Notwithstanding stringent cutbacks in certain areas, outlays will exceed those nominated in the Budget. On the receipt side, pay-as-you-earn tax receipts will be substantially down on Budget estimates. Sales tax receipts and customs duties will also be below Budget estimates.
The main reason for tax receipts being down is the increase in the number of unemployed. Notwithstanding increases in the work force, the number of jobs available is starting to decline. Naturally State governments have prevented unemployment figures being considerably higher than they have been. This has occurred because State governments have continued to maintain real growth in employment. Now the Government even wants to change that. It is talking about cutback payments to the States specifically for the reason that they are employing too many people. Sales taxes and customs duties are down because demand is flat. There is no real growth in sales because of a continuing downturn in consumer demand. There has been a continued rundown in stocks, thus leading to a drop in the level of imports. As a result, receipts from these sources are below Budget estimates.
The whole situation has been exacerbated by the cutbacks given to the high income earners from 1 February this year. In an attempt to bribe the electorate, substantial tax cuts were conferred upon high income earners, allegedly on the basis that they would stimulate the economy and provide incentive for those who wanted to work. The fact is that those in the higher income tax brackets are inclined to save, or spend their income on imported goods. Transfers of income into their hands do less to stimulate the economy than transfers of income into the hands of low income earners. Thus the Government achieves two results. Firstly, the tax cuts do not provide a stimulus which can be achieved by cuts in sales taxes or the expenditure of the revenue forgone on capital works. Consequently the economic situation is not helped by the Government’s measures. Secondly, revenue forgone creates an enormous budgetary problem. The Government can no longer afford to finance its activities, thus causing further stagnation in the economy or raising other taxes, thus defeating the whole rationale of the tax cut.
This revenue forgone when combined with the decline in receipts ensures that the total receipts are fairly below Budget estimates. The situation is likely to be even worse next year when the full effect of the Government’s measures is felt. On the outlays side, the Government has had to pay for its electoral promises which were not included. Putting those aside, the major reason for the increase in outlays is the rise in unemployment benefits. This is directly related to the Government’s handling of the economy. In seeking to transfer resources from the public to the private sector, the Government is bringing the economy to its knees. Due to lack of demand and a need to increase efficiency the private sector is employing less and less labour. By cutting back the government sector, resources are being transferred not to the private sector but to the growing unemployed sector.
What is the Government’s response to the situation? It promises us more of the same. Recently the suspended Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) announced that the Government is seeking maximum restraint in expenditure next year. He is particularly looking to cut back funds to the States for major programs such as education and social security. The reason for the Government’s need to cut back its expenditure is clear. Because of its fiscal decisions, it will have insufficient revenues to pay for its activities next financial year. The chickens will be coming home to roost. We can rely on that. The Government is facing the choice between reining back expenditure to such a degree that economic decline will continue or alternatively having a Budget deficit which exceeds any Budget deficits in recent years. It is important to remember that amending the Loan Bill in this fashion is a most unusual step to take. For reasons best known to itself the Government has offered no proper explanation on why it is doing so. This is how the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) described the reason for the introduction of this Bill:
Because of a number of unforeseen developments, it now appears possible that the earlier authority could prove to be insufficient, given the inherent uncertainties which still surround many of the estimates.
That was broadly the explanation given by the Minister for introducing the Bill. But the Minister has made no attempt to explain what are the unforeseen developments. He has not come to this Parliament and pointed out to members of the Parliament the reasons why the Government needs this extra authority. He merely refers to unforeseen developments and seeks parliamentary authority to borrow a further $300m. That is not good enough. At this stage we have not the slightest idea of what the current deficit will be. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) has given us some indication that it will very much exceed the Budget estimate.
It has been suggested that the deficit might be $800m more than planned for in the Budget. However, none of this emerges in the Minister’s second reading speech. To a large degree we are really groping in the dark. It would be idle to deny that this whole process is associated with massive overseas government borrowings. About those borrowings we are told very little. We do not know to what extent they are used to finance the deficit. We also do not know to what extent they are usefully used in this country to generate public works to increase employment so that we can afford to repay these debts. The Minister tells us nothing about any of these important things.
It has now become almost traditional when the original Bill is introduced into Parliament for considerable information to be sought. The Senate will recall that last October when a Bill of this nature came into this chamber, I sought and obtained from Senator Sir Robert Cotton, who was then the Minister responsible for that Bill, considerable information which is set out on page 1315 of the Senate Hansard of 12 October 1977.
Clearly the situation has changed between the time that information was provided to the Senate and the introduction of this measure. It is legitimate to ask for full particulars of the change. If the Government saw fit to provide the information last October, how much more necessary is it to provide that information to the Senate now? The Senate cannot be expected to authorise the Government to borrow an extra $300m just on the Treasurer’s say so that he needs the authority because of a number of unforeseen circumstances. On that basis I indicate that I will be seeking additional information from the Minister during the Committee stage.
We are aware that 1975 was the first year in which a Federal Opposition, namely the then Liberal and Country Party Opposition, delayed the passage of a loan BUI for a period, from memory, of several weeks. During that time when that loan Bill was held up and the normal accounting procedures of the Parliament could not take place despite the fact that the Bill was a mechanism that had been used in this Parliament for many years, a series of questions was asked and a great deal of detailed information was given by the Government of the day. At the end of that time we saw of course that nothing improper had taken place or had been intended by the Treasurer in 1975. Consequently, in 1976 and again last year the same procedures were adopted. The Parliament quite rightly sought detailed information on the loan Bill and made amendments to it.
Again I indicate that we in the Opposition will seek that information during the Committee stage of the debate. Some people may argue that this is only a stalling procedure and that Oppositions will go on year after year seeking this additional information. I do not think it should be brushed aside as lightly as that. Much of the information that has been provided over the past three years has been invaluable to an understanding of government financial policy. I believe that even though it does involve some delay in the Parliament and perhaps a delay in the legislation it has now become an established procedure. I believe that the Parliament benefits from information which has been given in the past and which I trust will be given again on this occasion. I close my remarks by indicating that I will be seeking further information from the Government during the Committee stage on much the same lines as it has been sought in the past.
– I simply note the comments of the Opposition that it does not oppose this Bill and that it will be seeking further information about it during the Committee stage. The Government is prepared to provide whatever information is required by the Opposition. I believe that the information that I have before me will enable us to deal with any questions that are asked by the Opposition. Some of the comments made by Senator Wriedt in the general way in which he canvassed the Government’s economic policy should not go unanswered. It seems to me that his understanding of our attitude towards cuts in personal income tax shows the basic difference between the philosophy and policy of the Opposition and those of the Government.
Indeed, the philosophy behind the tax cuts is a very important one to the Government. We committed to the Australian people at the time of the election last year and previously that no longer would personal income tax continue to rise because of consequential rises through inflation. At the time of the last election that was probably a fundamental issue in the minds of the Australian people. So there is no apology for the tax cuts in personal income tax. I suggest that if the Opposition wishes to raise questions as we proceed through the Committee stage we will be prepared to deal with them at that time.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Wriedt’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator the Hon. T. C. Drake-Brockman, D.F.C.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– As I indicated during the course of the second reading debate I propose to ask a series of questions which, as I mentioned then, ask for what has become almost standard information which the Senate has sought on Loan Bills. As this Bill provides an amendment to the Loan Bill 1 977 1 ask the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) whether she will obtain from the Treasurer (Mr Howard) the following information: Firstly what is the Government’s current estimate of the deficit for this financial year? Secondly, how is the deficit made up? Thirdly, how does the Government propose to fund or to finance the deficit? The Opposition should like also a comparison of the amounts provided, under headings which I shall outline in a moment, up to 3 1 May this year with similar amounts for the previous financial year up to the same date. The headings are:
The fourth main point on which I am seeking information is: How much has the Government borrowed or contracted to borrow overseas during the current financial year and to what extent will those borrowings be used to finance the deficit? Fifthly, how much of the funds borrowed overseas will be held in international reserves? Sixthly, how have the funds borrowed overseas been disbursed and, in particular, what public works have been undertaken to increase employment as well as the productive potential of Australian industry so as to ensure that Australia will have a capacity to repay the loans? Seventhly, does the Government confirm the overall target for the rate of growth in the volume of moneythat is the M3 factor- announced in the Budget Speech? If the overall target has been varied, what is the up to date figure? Eighthly, what is the reason for the urgency of the Bill? If the Bill is not passed, what would be the alternative source of finance available to the Government? Ninthly, what are the unforeseen developments referred to in the second reading speech which make it possible that the earlier authority is insufficient? Tenthly, given that it is now 1 June, what are the inherent uncertainties that still surround many of the estimates?
All of these factors are relevant to the present financial position of the Government. It is an unusual circumstance that we are called upon to authorise an additional amount of money of this magnitude. As I indicated earlier, we will not attempt to stop the passage of this Bill. I am sure that the Minister would accept the fact that this information is sought for the guidance of all honourable members of this chamber. We hope that the information given will be as detailed as it has been in the past to be an additional help to all of us. I ask the Minister that she in turn pass these questions on to the Treasurer to ensure that we are fully informed of what the Government is doing in this area at present.
– I wish to raise a point. I notice that the Bill is concerned with arranging for extra finance for the defence forces. A question was asked this morning by Senator Justin O ‘Byrne concerning the proposed Casey University, as it is sometimes called, or the Military Academy as it is now being called. There is some confusion here as to what it is. I want to be assured that the money provided under this Bill will not be allocated for this purpose before Parliament has a chance to discuss the advisability of such an establishment and before Parliament can determine what character that institution shall take.
It is all very well to say that perhaps I ought not to be concerned because the establishing legislation is not before the Parliament. But I recall that when I served on the Public Works Committee it was often revealed to us that certain decisions and expenditure had been undertaken even before the Public Works Committee had approved of that expenditure. For instance, purchase of a site and a substantial amount of site improvement had been undertaken on the understanding of course that it was only a matter of time before the Parliament and Public Works Committee agreed to it. We must appreciate that this is not a satisfactory state of affairs. I should like to be assured that none of the finance for the defence forces provided in this Bill will flow in that direction.
- Senator Wriedt has raised some questions on behalf of the Opposition. He has supplied a copy of them and also has read them into the Hansard record. Before dealing with those questions I want to provide the background of the Bill because there seems to be a need to do that. Then I shall give some information at this stage and undertake to get from the Treasurer (Mr Howard) the detailed information required in the questions when he has had time to consider them. The background to the Loan Amendment Bill 1977 is that the Loan Act of 1977 provides authority for borrowings for the purpose of financing defence expenditures from the Loan Fund in 1 977-78 to a limit of $ 1,100m. This procedure is the simplest and indeed the traditional method for removing a Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit and has been adopted by successive governments for many years.
Senator Wriedt has already referred to the detailed discussions that were held in 1975. 1 was indebted to the then Government for the information that was made available to us then. In following years Senator Cotton and a number of Treasurers have co-operated in the provision of information that has been required. This Bill seeks parliamentary approval to amend section 3 of the Loan Act 1977 by increasing the limit to $ 1,400m. We were asked for the reasons. In somewhat brief terms, the reason for the Bill which is now before the Committee is that at the time of the consideration of the Loan Bill 1977 the prospective Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit was such that the authority provided for the proposed limit of $ 1,100m was considered adequate. Changes have occurred in the estimates since then and it is now possible that that authority could prove to be insufficient. We could probably have a detailed discussion on the changes that have occurred but perhaps this is not the appropriate time to do that in view of the Appropriation Bills that will be before us a little later on. On present figuring a limit of $ 1,400m could now be required to provide the necessary authority.
I say in answer to Senator Georges that the Bill does not authorise any defence expenditure over and above that approved and appropriated by the Parliament in the Appropriation Acts. As the honourable senator would realise, matters of finance for Casey University have not yet come before us. When they do he will have an appropriate opportunity to discuss the matter outside of any discussion that we have on this Loan Amendment Bill. I was also asked a question concerning the urgency and timing of the Bill. Because an extension to the present limit cannot be retrospective in its effect, it is essential that the Bill be passed into law as soon as possible. The Government hoped that it would have been dealt with by the end of May. The Government feels that it is urgent and should be dealt with and passed today.
Senator Wriedt in one of the questions that he raised asked what unforeseen developments have arisen since the Budget was cast last year which have influenced the level of the Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit. The information which I have indicates that the Budget of last August envisaged an overall deficit of $2,2 1 7m. Comprehended within that deficit was an estimated Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit of $90 lm. The figuring behind this deficit can be ascertained from table 3 of Budget Paper No. 4 entitled ‘Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30 June 1978’. Revised estimates now indicate that the Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit for 1977-78 is likely to be greater than previously thought. I was asked what would be the precise deficit. The Government does not indicate at this stage the projected deficit for the whole of the period to 30 June. It is not appropriate to provide that information at this time. Figures are released each month showing financial transactions of the Government. The results for the 1 1 months to the end of May will be available probably next week, but beyond that period the Treasurer is not releasing a projected figure which would have real meaning for the Budget deficit at 30 June.
Another question sought some explanation of the reason for the change in the deficit that had been predicted in the Budget last year. Senator Wriedt made some comments on shortfalls of Budget receipts. It is a fact, as has been already stated by the Treasurer, that the increased deficit mainly reflects shortfalls on the estimate of Budget receipts. Collections of a number of indirect taxes and income taxes on individuals are forecast to fall substantially below the Budget estimates and also refunds of pay-as-you-earn collections are estimated to exceed the Budget estimate by a significant margin. Of course, many uncertainties surround the estimates for these items. For example, it proved very difficult to anticipate the full year effects of the Hayden income tax rebate scheme. It was not until the year had progressed considerably that it was found that there were changes in the estimates.
On the outlays side, the latest estimates indicate a relatively small increase on the Budget figures. There are additional expenditures in the social welfare area. We could name unemployment benefits as being one of the items which is ahead of the Budget estimate of last year. I think it would be probably fair to say that in every area of social welfare pensions and benefits there are increased numbers and increased expenditures beyond what may have been the estimate. I could be incorrect on one or another of the Budget estimates for pensions and benefits in my area of responsibility, but the figures are estimates at the time they are cast. It is reasonable to say that not everyone knows precisely the number of aged people who will become eligible for a certain level of benefit; nor are we able to predict any more than with reasonable accuracy how many people will receive sickness benefits, invalid pensions, widows’ pensions or whatever benefit one may choose to nominate.
The outlays show a relatively small increase. Additional expenditures for the beef industry and natural disasters are likely to be significant items, but on the other hand substantial shortfalls will occur on the original estimates for health and public debt interest payments which partially offset these additions. We are saying that the expenditure side of the Budget is fairly reasonably on target, but the shortfalls on the income side of Government revenue show a decline in what was anticipated.
I think a general question was raised as to why authority was needed to transfer a further $300m of defence expenditure to the Loan Fund. I point out that payments from the Consolidated Revenue Fund cannot legally exceed the money available in it. The simplest and traditional means of avoiding the situation is to enact a Loan Act. Under such legislation authority is given to borrow money for defence purposes and to reallocate defence expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Loan Fund. It has been the practice in recent years to limit the amount which may be transferred. I think we have had discussions over the years on that point. Another procedure which is used is to be found in the provisions of certain Acts which enable expenditure under those Acts to be charged either to the Consolidated Revenue Fund or to the Loan Fund. These are called dual appropriations and they relate mainly to capital grants to the States for purposes such as education, housing, roads and urban and public transport. The authority available under the Loan Act 1977 and the dual appropriations may not be sufficient to cover the Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit. Given the volatility of estimates we cannot be certain. Even allowing for optimism by some departments in their expenditure estimates and the inherent uncertainties which surround any estimates, we would be leaving ourselves open to the charge of impropriety if we did not take all steps necessary to meet any prospective Consolidated Revenue Fund deficiency at 30 June 1 978.
It is for that reason that we have introduced the Loan Amendment Bill 1978. It is for that reason that we would like an expeditious passage of the Bill. It could well be asked: Why have we arrived at the figure of $300m? The response is that the amount has been calculated by deducting from the latest estimate of defence expenditure, for which appropriations of the Consolidated Revenue Fund have been approved by Parliament, the amount of expenditure charged against those appropriations before the enactment of Loan Act 1977. As I said earlier, Loan Acts cannot be retrospective in their effect. The amount of defence expenditure since that date which may, under the provisions of the Loan Act 1977 be transferred to the Loan Fund, is $ 1,100m. On present estimates we believe that we will have charged almost $ 1, 100m of defence expenditure to the Loan Fund by the end of May 1978.
In order to have an adequate and continuing margin of safety and proper authority to enable transfers to be made to the Loan Fund, it is essential that this Bill be enacted. Because figures have shown that $300m is required, we are seeking this amendment to the Act. As Senator Wriedt indicated, he has provided a number of detailed questions to us today. I undertake to refer them to the Treasurer and to provide what information is able to be provided to the honourable senator. With that assurance I ask the Senate to pass this Bill which provides the funds I have outlined.
– I thank the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) for her answers to date. I hope that nothing she has said in any way means that we will not receive in writing from the Treasurer (Mr Howard) detailed answers to all the questions. I assume from her closing remarks, that that will be the case. I would like to make two brief comments. One is in the form of a question. Senator Guilfoyle mentioned the Government’s proprietary being at risk if proper provision were not made in the Loan Fund for the transfer of defence expenditure. I think by implication the Minister is saying that the mechanism that is being used now is obviously a proper mechanism. We have never questioned that. We have sought information but we have never questioned the propriety of it. But it was questioned in 1975. 1 do not want to dig up old bones and old arguments but, if the Government believes that these procedures are in fact proper, let me put it on record that they were equally proper procedures in 1975 when the then Labor Government was accused of doing something improper with the loan fund and the country’s finances, that is, in respect of this area of transfers from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. I am glad that it seems that finally we have reached a position of unanimity in the Parliament that what was done in 1975, was as proper as what is being done today.
The Minister indicated that $ 1 , 100m had been spent by 31 May. Under this legislation the Government seeks an additional $300m. I accept her point that $300m- to be on the safe side, I will use the words that I think she used- would be adequate. Apparently $ 1,100m has been transferred over 1 1 months but another $300m is now being sought for the remaining one month of the financial year. Of course I am aware that revenues fluctate from month to month but I ask the Minister: Is $300m an abnormally high amount for the remaining part of this financial year or does it simply reflect the normal fluctuations in revenue and expenditure?
-I apologise for the stupidity of my question.
– It was not a stupid question.
– It was a stupid question because I saw the word ‘defence’ in ‘loan amendment for the purposes of raising moneys for defence purposes’. It was not until the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) gave her explanation that I realised that this is merely a device by which moneys can be raised to meet general expenditure. In those circumstances, of course, I can see that my attack should have been in another direction and that perhaps I should be questioning this means of raising moneys. The Minister said that it is traditional, it has been the practice and it is a means by which the Loan Council can be by-passed. Is that correct? I may not be correct, but it seems that that is so. Next time I will be a little better informed as to the devious methods by which the Treasury works in order to meet its commitments. I thought I had better make that explanation to let the Minister know that I am a little wiser now than I was when I asked the question. I doubt that I am completely convinced that the method that is being used ought to be allowed, no matter how long such a practice has been used. When the Minister says that it would be ‘improper’ if the
Government did not meet its commitments before 30 June, the same could be said about the method by which we are going about it.
– I shall deal with the matter raised by Senator Georges first. Perhaps he has not followed with as much detail as other honourable senators discussions in previous years about the traditional method of this transfer and perhaps he did not hear us say that this practice is not subject to Loan Council approval. Perhaps he will recall that in the Loan Council agreement the words ‘for defence purposes’ are used. That is why this has been a traditional means of transferring these funds.
– One could use the term ‘devious way’.
– I do not know that is a term I would use or that the honourable senator would use. Other people might use it. Senator Wriedt ‘s question concerned the level of funding of $300m at this time. As I said, and it was acknowledged by him, on our present estimates we believe that we will have charged almost $l,100m to the Loan Fund by the end of May. For an adequate and continuing margin of safety, we have estimated that another $300m is required for this last month of the financial year. The Defence expenditure does not come forward evenly from month to month and I am advised that $300m for what could be a monthly requirement at this stage is not unusual. It has been estimated as the figure which is required to take us to the end of June.
– The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has acknowledged that the deficit this year will be substantially higher than the Government projected. In her capacity as Minister representing the Treasurer (Mr Howard), I ask her whether it is still the Government’s belief, as stated ad nauseum by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), that an increased deficit inevitably means higher inflation in the succeeding period.
– I do not know that anyone has said that the deficit will be substantially higher. I think the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has made statements with regard to the deficit and the decrease in income. I think the honourable senator should acknowledge that there has been remarkable progress in lowering the inflation rate throughout the past year. The Government ‘s economic policy primarily has been poised towards this objective and I think it is an objective that could be unashamedly acknowledged as being successful.
– With respect, my question has not been answered. I asked the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) in her capacity as Minister representing the Treasurer (Mr Howard), whether the Government still believes, as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has stated ad nauseum, that an increase in the deficit inevitably means higher inflation in a future period than we have had in the past. With respect, whether inflation in the immediate past has gone up or down has nothing to do with that question, the Prime Minister’s previous statements on it or the present belief of the Treasurer.
– I think that what the honourable senator has just said was different from what he said earlier because the previous question was based on the substantial increase that is anticipated in the Budget deficit for the current year. With regard to the general statements that have been made concerning the need to control expenditure, that control of expenditure has resulted in a reduction of inflation. That was one of the points of the economic approach that was taken by this Government and it has proved to be successful. The Budget deficit, which does show an increase over what had been budgeted at this time last year, as we have been saying all afternoon and previously is principally as a result of a reduction in the income received by the Government. A reduction has occurred in receipts from income tax and other indirect taxes. To assert any statements without acknowledging those factors does not require an answer from me on this Bill.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a third time.
– Before the suspension of the sitting and the adjournment of the debate I was referring to the feared effects upon the Australian wool industry of the export of merino rams and, in particular, to the fairly widely held belief that genetic material that is valuable to the Australian flock would be irretrievably lost if merino semen and ova were to be exported. I do not believe this to be the case. The Australian sheep flock is structured in a hierarchical fashion. Because a sire leaves 100 to 200 lambs in a lifetime and a ewe leaves only three or four, the genetic destiny of the flock depends on the quality of the sires. Ninety per cent of the rams used are bred in registered studs and within the stud industry there is a hierarchical structure with 12 or 20 parent studs with daughter studs and then other studs which produce the rams that sire 90 per cent of all the merino sheep in the country. That hierarchical structure has applied for several decades. Any difference there might have been between the genetic quality of those parent studs and the flock as a whole is halved each generation, that is, in the average time it takes for one sheep flock to be entirely replaced by its offspring. The technical term is ‘generation interval’. A generation interval probably is less than four years in the Australian flock as a whole. So at every generation interval any genetic difference which may have existed 30 years ago has been halved so many times that we can be quite certain that the genetic quality of the entire commercial merino flock now is comparable to the genetic quality on average of the parent studs about three decades ago.
That is an important point because it shatters the widely held belief that there is some innate superiority in these parent studs which cannot be transmitted to the flocks that are bred from them. In time the flocks that are bred from them- this is the whole commercial flock- become genetically identical. However, a time lag is involved. If continuous improvement was being made in the parent studs, inevitably, given the hierarchical structure of breeding, this continuous improvement would be reflected in the entire national flock. If there were no environmental variables to affect wool production we could measure the progress of the parent studs in genetic terms simply by looking at the improvement or otherwise in the average weight of wool cut per head in the entire flock. There are, however, environmental variables which, in the short term at least, can be much more significant and much more important than any genetic variation. Nevertheless, that is the only evidence we have. If we look at the average cut per head over the last 40 years we will find that there has been a rising trend at a compound rate of about 0.3 per cent per year. If there were no environmental variables we could say, therefore, that the Australian parent studs have, over most of this period, achieved about that same rate of genetic improvement. There are, however, a number of environmental variables that would have tended to increase wool production regardless of any genetic changes. The most important of these is the widespread planting and top dressing of legume-based pastures, which have provided a higher protein diet throughout the year, the elimination of rabbits by myxomatosis and the better control of internal parasites. At least some of this very modest rate of improvement which has been recorded in the last 40 years is due to environmental and not genetic factors. So the rate of genetic improvement, if any, in the parent studs is something less than 0.3 per cent a year.
It has been amply demonstrated and objectively measured in experimental flocks at Cunnamulla in Queensland and Trangie in New South Wales in particular that it is possible from selection within closed flocks- that is, flocks which do not introduce any breeders from outsideto achieve genetic improvements well in excess of this figure of something below 0.3 per cent. In fact, it has been demonstrated that it is relatively easy to achieve increases in wool production at a compound rate of at least one per cent a year derived solely from genetic origin. So the Australian sheep flock is not dependent upon the parent studs or the stud ram breeding industry. The entire flock is almost identical genetically to the parent studs of 30 years ago. The parent studs appear to have made little progress in that 30 years period. So there is very little difference between the entire 90 million-odd flock merinos in the country and the parent studs. If one accepts that conclusion, and it is the only logical conclusion which can be derived from the facts which are available, it follows that ram buyers would be insane to pay much more than mutton prices for the highly promoted merino rams that are sold in various stud sales, sometimes for tens of thousands of dollars. So it follows quite reasonably that the people who sell those rams do not want that conclusion- that is, that there is little, if any, genetic difference between the entire commercial flock and the average of the parent studs, to be more precise- to be known or accepted.
When one looks at the absurd and fraudulent arguments which have been put forward, principally by the Prime Minister’s friend, William J. Vines- Sir William Vines as he is now- and by the International Wool Secretariat when he was its director and the Australian Wool Industry Conference, and which have been taken on board and repeated by Liberal and National Country Party politicians who have taken an interest in this matter, it would seem that there has been some sort of conspiracy to provide a fallacious rationale for the export -
– Perhaps Senator Sim would like to take up the point. He is at liberty to speak on this matter.
– You are so stupid, you are not worth replying to.
- Senator Sim says that it is not worth replying to. Since he has chosen to intervene in this debate by way of interjection, I wonder whether he would care to go on record as supporting the proposition advanced by William J. Vines, the IWS and the IWIC that an increase in wool supply increases prices.
– If you go back you will see -
– Does Senator Sim agree that an increased wool supply will induce higher prices?
– You are out of it.
– Does he believe that an increase in wool supplies would induce higher market prices? He declines to answer that direct proposition. Obviously he does not agree with it. Obviously he also is repudiating the IWS and William J. Vines. I put another question to Senator Sim. Does he believe, since he has chosen to intervene in this debate, that, under conditions of inelastic demand, a moderate increase in supply would have little effect on prices? If he does believe that proposition- he does not answer, so I must assume that he does not believe it- he is not entirely ignorant about the meaning of economic jargon because, by definition, if demand is inelastic a moderate change in supply will induce a very marked reduction or change in prices. His silence confirms my rebuttal of the spurious and puerile arguments advanced by William J. Vines and accepted by the Liberal and National Country Parties.
– You sound like a junior member of an undergraduate ‘s debating forum.
– Obviously Senator Sim has endorsed my view.
– Do not talk nonsense.
- Senator Sim continues to interrupt when I am talking but when I put a question to him he does not say a word. Does he believe that if demand is inelastic an increase in supply will not affect prices? He keeps butting in when I am talking but he will not answer when I put a question to him. I suggest that he should put up or shut up. I place on record once again that although Senator Sim asserts without any foundation or rational argument whatsoever that what I am saying is nonsense, when I ask him whether he agrees with propositions that are crucial to the matter being discussed he refuses to answer. By refusing to answer, by his silence, he also rejects the arguments advanced by the people who have in the past argued that the ban on the export of merinos be removed.
– The basis of your logic is wrong. That is why Senator Sim would not answer you.
-What is wrong? Perhaps you would care to tell me?
– Order ! I think the interjections should cease. We will listen to Senator Walsh and other honourable senators can speak later.
– I do not mind the interjections, Mr President. I realise that they are disorderly but I rather welcome them. For many years I have wanted to come to grips in debate with the people who have accepted the fraudulent arguments advanced by the IWS, by William J. Vines, by the AWIC, and accepted by the Liberal and National Country parties. If Senator Young wants to take up this matter later, I will repeat the questions to him. Does he believe the propositions, which were central to the IWS, AWIC and Liberal-National Country Party case, that an increase in wool supply would induce higher prices? If he does not believe that, he also rejects their case. Does he believe that, given inelastic demand conditions, increased supply would have little effect on prices? If he believes that, he has just stood truth on its head or demonstrated that he does not know what the jargon means.
– You are overlooking the fact that there is a lot of similar wool overseas. It will only be upgraded. Just get back to the argument.
- Senator Young refers to upgrading. It is an interesting concept that he has raised. He has said that upgrading would not affect the quantity produced, it would only upgrade the wool that is produced overseas. Obviously what he means is that if Australian merinos were available overseas, although the total wool production may not be changed the quantity of fine merino wool produced, which is the overwhelming majority of the Australian clip, would be increased. Senator Young believes that. If that happened, the price for that type of wool would fall. Nevertheless, Senator Young has made the suggestion that the quantity of fine merino wool produced in other countries would increase. If that happened, according to the AWIC and William J. Vines there would be an increase in the price of fine merino wool. Senator Young is at liberty to believe that if he wishes. People can believe within very wide parameters whatever they choose to believe, but it just happens that it is nonsense. The other question postulated by the AWIC, and by William Vines and the IWS and all the other men of conventional wisdom in the industry, was that in fact the supply would increase. They then said: ‘But the demand for wool is inelastic and, given inelastic demand, an increase in supply will have little if any effect on price.’ By definition, inelastic demand means that a small increase in supply has a major effect on price. That is not just a question of belief, it is a question of knowing what the terms mean and being able to reach a logical conclusion, which the IWS and William Vines, and apparently Senator Young, are incapable of doing.
If it is correct, as I believe, that there is little genetic difference between the Australian merino flock and the merino flocks overseas, and if there is little difference, as I believe, between the genetic quality of the parent studs and the entire national flock it follows that little would change in any way if we exported any number of merino rams from these studs or the ewes to go with them. Nothing much would change at all. Because I believe that nothing much would change I do not believe that there should be any restrictions on these exports. But the argument has never been presented in those terms. I do not normally embrace conspiracy theories, but I am tempted by the conspiracy theory that the most influential studs, which are particularly powerful in the National Country Party, of course, had to concoct some spurious rationale for exporting merinos without destroying the stud ram myth. The stud ram myth is that the animals they sell have such enormous genetic superiority that the expenditure on them of tens of thousands of dollars can be justified.
I notice that there are a few smirks on the other side of the chamber. I do not know whether any of those people are going to join in the debate. If they do, instead of displaying their anachronistic ignorance by repeating all the myths about the Australian sheep industry and particularly stud ram breeding, instead of again giving that a run, I suggest they address themselves to the crucial points in this debate. Those points are the relative genetic quality of the Australian merino flock and merinos overseas; the relative genetic quality of the parent studs and the entire Australian merino flock; whether an increase in wool supply would induce an increase in wool prices, as the AWIC and William Vines, and apparently Senator Young and Senator Sim, believe; and whether they believe that, as the AWIC document states, under inelastic demand conditions an increase in supply would have little if any effect on prices. If they believe that last proposition, they are wrong. It is not a question of belief, it is a question of whether they know what the words mean and whether they can reach logical conclusions from that knowledge. Anyone who believes that last proposition either is not capable of reaching a logical conclusion or does not know what the jargon means. I do not know into which of those categories, if either of them, honourable senators opposite fall.
There is a third possibility, that is, that they are putting forward a fraudulent argument. Either they do not know what the jargon means, they are incapable of reaching a logical conclusion, or they are presenting a fraudulent argument. I presume that the people who wrote the AWIC document would have been capable of reaching a logical conclusion. I assume they would know what the economists’ jargon ‘inelastic demand’ means. That leaves only one possibility; that is, that they were presenting a fraudulent argument. That fraudulent argument was adopted by the government of the day. It seems highly likely that it is about to be resurrected by the present Government. If it is going to be resurrected I hope that the Minister has the courage, if he is going to behave in the way I expect, to lay on the table in both Houses a statement of Government policy for debate before we adjourn for the winter recess.
It is possible, of course, that the Government will be tempted by the idea of removing the embargo for other reasons. Some industrial trouble arose on this issue a few years ago and the Government might think it could get some political mileage from reactivating that industrial trouble. Many of the unions concerned had fears about the export of merino rams which I believe were ill-founded, but that cannot be decisively proven. Nobody knows objectively, because it has never been measured, what is the relative genetic level of Australian and overseas merino flocks. The unions were afraid that the Australian wool industry’s competitive position would be jeopardised by exports, and that conclusion is quite correct if the Australian merino had substantial genetic superiority. I think it is unlikely that it has, and therefore to that extent the unions ‘ action was inspired by a false premise. But I should point out that that was a premise which was never tackled by the people who advocated merino ram exports.
The best argument that they could put to the unions or to anyone else was the fraudulent argument of the AWIC, the International Wool Secretariat, William Vines and the Liberal and National Country parties. If the Government is going to permit the export of merino rams it has a strong obligation not only to the unions concerned but also to the whole industry, the whole nation, to put an honest and rational argument, and it has so far failed to do that. What about some honesty in this matter from the Government and the people who have been putting the case for exports?
As I said in the beginning, in my view in any real sense the whole issue is one of monumental unimportance. I think that the effects within Australia or outside Australia would be negligible whether we maintain or remove the embargo. What is important is the furtive way in which it appears that the Government plans to re-introduce the measure and the total dishonesty and/or ignorance and stupidity of the case which to date has been presented by people who favour or who are aligned with what appears to be the Government view. My view- I do not think it is terribly important in an economic sense whether this is accepted or not; in the abstract sense of whether rational argument prevails over nonsense, superstition and ignorance, it is important- is that all restrictions ought to be removed but that any benefits, as Professor Lloyd once said, would have to be calculated with a fine pencil.
However, one policy which cannot be supported is the policy which the previous Liberal and Country Party Government adopted. This applies regardless of all other exclusions. If there is a valid case for prohibiting the export of semen, ova or merino ewes, that case is equally valid when applied to merino rams. In other words, regardless of the crucial uncertainty and everything else, there is no way in which a policy to export rams can be rationally justified while retaining an embargo on the other genetic material.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
I present Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1977-78 which, together with Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1977-78, which I shall introduce shortly, comprises the Additional Estimates for 1977-78. In these Bills, Parliament is asked to appropriate moneys to meet essential and unavoidable expenditures additional to the appropriations made under Appropriation Acts (Nos 1 and 2) 1977-78. The additional appropriations total $365.452m. Of this, $283.232m is sought in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and $82.220m in Appropriation Bill (No. 4).
The additional appropriations sought in the Bills are offset to some extent by savings in other appropriations made by Appropriation Acts (Nos 1 and 2). These savings, which have resulted partly from the Government’s determined efforts to achieve expenditure savings wherever possible, are expected to amount to $209m. A document detailing these savings under the relevant appropriation headings has been distributed to honourable senators. Notwithstanding the additional appropriations that are now sought, current expectations are that total outlays in 1977-78 over the whole range of expenditures, including those financed from special appropriations, will exceed the Budget estimate by only a relatively small margin. Taking account of the urgent additional and unforeseen requirements that have arisen since the Budget, this situation reflects the Government’s adherence to its policy of expenditure restraint, a policy which it has firmly resolved to maintain.
I now outline the main areas where there has been found to be an unavoidable need for the additional appropriations that are the subject of Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1977-78. The most significant area relates to salaries and wages. Honourable senators will recall that the Budget contained an allowance of $90m for prospective salary and wage increases for Commonwealth employees but that that amount was not appropriated in individual salary votes. Parliament is now being asked to appropriate a net $77m in respect of increases in award rates since the Budget. Appropriations of $7m are included for the rearrangement of functions between departments and the creation of a Department of Home Affairs last December. These appropriations are offset by savings in original appropriations.
Under the heading of Other Services, additional funds totalling $3. 6m are sought for migrant education services, and $6m for aged persons homes and hostels. An additional $14m is included for the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development for payments under the Home Savings Grants scheme. The Department of Employment and Industrial Relations requires an additional $30. 7m to meet an increase in payments to employers and trainees under the National Employment and Training scheme. Other additional provisions include- $5. 7m for the Australian National University for cost supplementation; $5. 7m for the Community Health program; $2.1m for the Community Youth Support program; $3. 7m for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and $8. 6m for the Australian National Railways.
I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
– Despite a too widely held belief in the community to the contrary, there are many unemployed persons in the community who actively seek out work, even to the extent of travelling vast distances in looking for work. Unfortunately, those who take such active steps to look for work are often disadvantaged because of their burning desire to obtain work. For the information of the Senate I wish to read a copy of a letter I received from the Social Security Appeals Tribunal in relation to representations that I made on behalf of a person who was not granted unemployment benefit. I read this letter because it is pertinent to my argument.
– I rise on a point of order. We are in the second reading stage of the Appropriation Bill. I seek your guidance, Mr President, as to whether this subject matter is dealt with in the Bill.
– To be correct, we should adhere to the matter which is contained in the Bill. I believe that Senator Colston desired to speak to the first reading but, at this stage, he must confine his remarks to the matters in the Bill before us.
-I should imagine that what I am to speak about is contained in one of the lines under the Department of Social Security.
– I would have thought that the Senate would not have been as particular as this. I suggest to whoever raised that point of order that, if we are now to be so formal we could be in difficulty over the next few days. I would have thought that such formality might have applied at the Committee stages of this Bill and that Senator Colston, on the second reading of this Appropriation Bill should be able to speak without identifying a line. He should be able to speak to a particular subject which is covered by the appropriation.
– There was no attempt whatever on any part to prevent debate on this issue. Since we have had an extensive first reading debate I thought that it would be appropriate simply to seek the President’s guidance on this particular matter, as you suggested, Senator Georges.
- Senator Colston, if you can relate your remarks to matters which are relevant to this Appropriation Bill as a whole, I will allow that.
-I believe that division 590 is the relevant division to which I will be speaking principally. As I was saying, the letter that I am about to read is pertinent to the argument that I am making, that those who actively look for work are disadvantaged if they travel vast distances in doing so. In reading the letter I shall substitute the name ‘Mr Smith’ for the actual name of the person to maintain the confidentiality of that person. The letter reads as follows:
Dear Senator Colston,
I refer to your representations on behalf of (Mr Smith) regarding his eligibility for Unemployment Benefit.
After ceasing work in Canberra in October 1977 (Mr Smith) moved to Ipswich where he registered for employment and claimed Unemployment Benefit on 1 November 1977. Unemployment Benefit was granted from 8 November 1977 and continued to 20 February 1978. (Mr Smith) subsequently moved to Noosa Heads, where he is living in a caravan park.
The north coast holiday resorts such as Noosa Heads have few opportunities for employment. The Commonwealth Employment Service reported that (Mr Smith) had placed himself in a situation where he is likely to remain unemployed for a lengthy period and consequently did not satisfy the Work Test which is a prerequisite for payment of Unemployment Benefit. (Mr Smith) is an electrician by trade and it is understood that there are reasonable opportunities for work in this field in the Ipswich and Brisbane areas. As (Mr Smith) left this area to move to the north coast he cannot be regarded as taking reasonable steps to obtain employment.
In view of all the circumstances, the Tribunal is not able to recommend grant of Unemployment Benefit to (Mr Smith).
However, there are certain facts concerning this case which suggest that this person should have been entitled to receive the unemployment benefit. Those farts were not brought out in the letter from the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. I shall mention what those facts are in a moment. Before I do so I mention that this person submitted his appeal to the Appeals Tribunal before I became aware of the case and I am not sure that he placed all the facts before the Tribunal.
As far as I know the facts are that this person moved to the Ipswich area believing that as an electrician he would be able to obtain employment in that area. He was not able to do so, however, and qualified for the unemployment benefit. But he was out of work for some timefrom early October until late February the following year. During that period he decided that he would take any work of any kind at any place just as long as he was granted work. He was told that work was available on the north coast- by north coast I mean the area just north of Brisbanepicking beans on a farm. So he proceeded there to try to obtain the job to which he was referred. I am told that he reported to the Commonwealth Employment Service in Ipswich that he was doing so and that he reported to the Commonwealth Employment Service at Nambour on his way to this job which he thought was available of picking beans. However, when he arrived at the farm the farmer told him that he had already employed labour and no work was available.
He was on the north coast and had his caravan with him so he continued to look for work in that area. Not only did he continue to look for work in that area, but he also continued to look for work in the Brisbane area, as I shall indicate shortly. But he was not able to find work on the north coast. He found a very suitable place to locate his caravan at Noosa Heads and looked for work in that area. Subsequently, as I mentioned, he was refused the unemployment benefit. Eventually he did gain some work and this work was in Brisbane. He obtained the work due to a direct approach by a senior officer of his industrial union. Initially he travelled daily from Noosa Heads to Brisbane to work as an electrician. Later, leaving his caravan at Noosa Heads, he took a flat in Brisbane so that he could stay there during the week and return to where his caravan was parked at Noosa Heads of a weekend. He is still doing that. His caravan is still at Noosa Heads. He has obtained work in Brisbane and is working there during the week. I think that, if all these facts had been made available to the Appeals Tribunal, it would have made a different decision. In fact, I am sure that the Tribunal would have come to a different conclusion.
I do not intend to take this case any further in this debate, but I have raised it to show that this person had a genuine desire to look for work and, having looked for work which he thought was available, but which he found was not available, was disadvantaged because his unemployment benefit was then withdrawn. If he had stayed in Ipswich and had not looked for work he might have been able to continue to receive his unemployment benefit. What I do want to canvass in relation to this incident is the question where a person should move to in Queensland if he is looking for work without being accused of moving to an area which is a low employment area. Strangely after looking at the figures I conclude that the only area in Queensland to which people can move to look for work without being accused of moving to an area of low employment is the Gold Coast. I shall explain how I came to that conclusion by referring to employment statistics for Queensland for April 1977 and April 1978. Mr Deputy President, I have shown a statistical table to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard so that I may refer to it.
The document read as follows-
-The table is headed Queensland Unemployment Statistics- April 1977 and 1978’. This table contains Commonwealth Employment Service statistics which were supplied by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. The table shows all the employment districts in Queensland, the number of registered unemployed in April 1977 and April 1 978 and the percentage increase or decrease in each of those employment districts between 1977 and 1 978. 1 have selected the figures for April because at present they are the latest official figures available. I wish to go through these figures briefly. Incidentally, when I mention the name of an employment district the district does not necessarily cover just the town or city by which that district is named. For instance, the Cairns employment district includes the city of Cairns and the shires of Cook, Douglas, Mulgrave and Torres. So, when the table names a town or city to indicate an employment district it means that that employment district centres on that town or city; it does not mean that the district covers only that town or city. The districts are mentioned in alphabetical order with the exception of the Brisbane metropolitan area.
Atherton is the first employment district mentioned. In 1977, 705 people were registered as unemployed in the Atherton employment district. In 1978, 791 people were registered as unemployed, an increase over the year of 12 per cent. Ayr is the next employment district mentioned. In that district there was a 23 per cent increase in the number of people unemployed during the 12 months from April 1977 to April 1978. We can continue down the list and find that in the Bundaberg employment district there was a staggering 62 per cent increase in the number of people unemployed during that period. In the Cairns employment district, to which I referred earlier when defining the boundaries, there was a 25 per cent increase in the number of people unemployed during that period. In the Charleville employment district the increase was 33 per cent; in the Gladstone employment district the increase was 23 per cent and the Gympie employment district was the only district in which the percentage increase was a single digit figure. In the Gympie employment district there was an 8 per cent increase in the number of unemployed in 12 months.
At Ingham the increase was 19 per cent; at Innisfail it was 39 per cent; at Ipswich it was 15 per cent; and at Longreach, in far western Queensland, it was 6 1 per cent. At Mackay, a city on the coast of Queensland, which is usually regarded as a flourishing city, there was a 28 per cent increase. At Maryborough, which is another flourishing city on the coast of Queensland and which is not far north of Brisbane, the number of unemployed in April 1977 was 1,085 and in April 1978 it was 1,759, which represents a 62 per cent increase. Looking down the table I come to an area which is in a different situation. I refer to the Mermaid Beach employment district, which is centred principally on the Gold Coast. There were 2,207 unemployed in 1977. In 1978 the figure dropped to 2,126. So there was a 3 per cent decrease in the number of unemployed at Mermaid Beach. But then the table goes back to its familiar pattern. There were increases of 22 per cent at Mt Isa, 32 per cent at Nambour and 45 per cent at Rockhampton. At Southport, which is again on the Gold Coast, there was a 3 per cent decrease. So for the Mermaid Beach employment district and the Southport employment district there was a 3 per cent decrease in each case. In all the other districts the figures for which I have not read there was an increase in the number of unemployed between April 1977 and April 1 978. At Toowoomba there was a 52 per cent increase; Townsville, 14 per cent; Warwick, 64 per cent; and in metropolitan Brisbane, 41 per cent. The argument I am presenting is that, except for two employment districts in Queensland, between April 1977 and April 1978 there was an increase in the rate of unemployment. The rate of increase, other that those two decreases, ranged from 8 per cent to 60-odd per cent.
What happens if a person goes from the metropolitan Brisbane area to Mackay to look for work? Are we going to say that he has gone to a place where there are good employment prospects when there has been an increase of 28 per cent in the number of unemployed over a year? If, instead of going as far as Mackay, he goes to Bundaberg where there has been a 62 per cent increase he will be in the same position. How can he move anywhere which will enable the Social Security Appeals Tribunal, the Department of Social Security or the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations to look at his case and to say that he has not moved from an area of high employment to an area where there are little employment possibilities?
The only place to which he can go is the Gold Coast because, over the 12 months, there has been a decrease in unemployment in both the Mermaid Beach employment district and the Southport employment district. This runs counter to the sort of thing we used to hear when the Australian Labor Party was in government about people flocking to the Gold Coast so that they could be- I do not like the term, as honourable senators know- dole bludgers. The story was going round that all one had to do was to go to the Gold Coast and draw unemployment benefit because no work was available there. Now, the statistics seem to reveal that that is the place to go if one does not want to be accused of going to a place where there are low employment possibilities.
I know that within various areas there are pockets where there are greater rates of unemployment than there are at others, but the stark figures for the employment districts show that Queensland is in a parlous position. I can remember well that before I became a member of the Senate promises were made by the then caretaker Government that if it were elected it would cure the ills of Australia’s economy and would create conditions in which there would be full employment. ‘Jobs for all ‘ was the slogan which was coined. There was certainly not jobs for all in Queensland and the situation is becoming worse. The employment statistics that are released every month are rather confusing to people who do not look at them in great detail because we are no longer supplied with seasonally adjusted figures. I believe that if we are to look at employment figures and make sound judgments on them we have to make some sort of seasonal adjustment to them.
I realise that the seasonally adjustment criteria which we used when the rates of employment were not as high as they are nowadays are probably no longer relevant to the sorts of unemployment figures which we have now. But it should not be beyond the wit of statisticians to work out some sort of criteria so that when the figures come out for May one is able to relate them to April because of any seasonal adjustment which may have occurred. Without seasonal adjustment it is very difficult to make any meaningful sense of the figures that come out unless one studies them carefully. I believe that one of the best ways of studying the employment statistics carefully is to look at what happened 12 months previously. Those who have a sound knowledge of statistics know that that is not without fault also because there can be variations from year to year. But that is the best we can do at the moment. It is the best I can do in making comparisons to see whether there has been any general trend. As well, there are two sets of employment statistics released nowadays. Unless one studies them carefully the situation is totally confusing.
This afternoon I have compared the 1977 figures for Queensland with the 1978 figures. They show that a disturbing trend is prevalent everywhere except on the Gold Coast. The trend is towards higher rates of unemployment this year than last year. I bring these matters forward to illustrate two main factors. Firstly, as I mentioned earlier, a person who is genuinely conscientious, who is unemployed, who is looking for a job and who travels throughout Queensland seeking work which he thinks is available in various places but does not find it is probably putting himself at a disadvantage because it is most likely that he will be regarded as having moved to an area of low employment and thus not be eligible for unemploment benefit. In the case I cited I feel reasonably confident that if the person had had some expert help or if he had had some help from a person who had had some dealings with the Social Security Appeals Tribunal he would have worded his appeal in a different way and the conclusion reached would have been different. I believe that unless we look carefully at the position of those who are moving around, genuinely seeking work, we are liable to disadvantage them, perhaps unwittingly.
The second point I wish to bring out this afternoon is that the unemployment figures for Queensland are increasing at a disturbing rate. Those who are interested in this matter should look very carefully at the unemployment statistics when they are released at the beginning of every month. Most probably they will find a trend as disturbing as the situation which I have brought before the attention of the Senate this afternoon.
– When Senator Colston rose to speak this afternoon I was in my office listening to the proceedings and getting my notes ready. I was surprised to hear Senator Knight endeavour to put a curb on what Senator Colston was saying. In my seven years in this Parliament no restrictions have been placed upon any honourable senator speaking to the second reading of a Budget Bill or Appropriation Bill. As I have always understood the Standing Orders, during the Committee stage we must relate our remarks to the various lines of the legislation with which we are dealing. I do not know why Senator Knight tried to put some restriction on Senator Colston. In my opinion there is no way any restriction may be put upon a speaker at the second reading stage of a Budget Bill or Appropriation Bill. Almost anything that any speaker would have to say could be related to some section of the Budget or the Appropriation Bills. My speech will be farranging but if the Acting Deputy President decides in his wisdom that I am straying I will soon relate my remarks to some portion of the Appropriation Bills which are before us.
-Which shows how seriously you take it.
– I am very serious. I will first relate my remarks to some of the promises made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his policy speech which he has not carried out and he has not lived up to. I think Senator Colston touched on the very point when he spoke about the present unemployment figures. Later I want to remind the Seriate of some of the promises made by the Prime Minister in his policy speech when he spoke about unemployment and when he castigated the Whitlam Government for the unemployment figures. Page 2 of the Prime Minister’s policy speech, which was under embargo until 8.30 p.m. on 2 1 November 1977, states:
We all know what the real answer to unemployment is: it ‘s generating growth and development-
We have not seen much growth and development in the last six to eight months since this Government has been in office. The country is stagnating. The Prime Minister’s speech continued: it ‘s industry providing new jobs-
As Senator Colston has pointed out quite rightly- he had the figures to prove it- industry is not providing new jobs. Industry is shrinking. More and more people are fronting up to register for unemployment benefit because they cannot find jobs under this Government. So that is another promise made by the Prime Minister which has gone out the window. One of the most important points in the speech was: it’s training people to fill new jobs- and keep them.
This Government will not even make funds available to provide training for people who have been retrenched from jobs. Senator Bishop raised this matter in the Senate this morning. I will refer to it later. This is something of which the present Government when in Opposition made great play. It said that the Labor Government did not provide proper training for people. Yet we find that in the Chrysler works in South Australia 1,100 people are faced with retrenchment in the next 18 months. The union has made application to Mr Street for funds to retrain these people and he has refused to do so. I will refer later to an article on which Senator Bishop based a question this morning. It was published in today’s Adelaide Advertiser. The Prime Minister’s policy speech also stated:
Because of our job assistance strategy, because of the growth and development our policies have made possible unemployment will fall from February and keep falling.
Once again I refer to Senator Colston’s remarks. Unemployment has not fallen. It is increasing and it will go on increasing under this Government because of its policies. On page 3 of this policy speech the Prime Minister spoke about the Whitlam Government. He said:
When they were in Government, they stopped growth and development.
When bringing down the last Budget, for which we are now seeking additional funds, the Government admitted that it was curbing expenditure on development. Mr Fraser was talking with a two tongue in order to fool the people. The Government cannot fool the people all the time. It will not be long before there is another election and then it will have to answer for these promises. It will be the duty of the Opposition to remind the people of all the promises that the Government made and of the promises that it has not fulfilled over the months. On page 6 of his policy speech the Prime Minister said:
We have cut down increases in your rates by giving local government a fixed share of all personal income tax receipts. This year it was 1.52 per cent. Over the next three years, we will increase that share to 2 per cent.
We are being inundated with letters from local government bodies all over Australia. Because of the restrictions this Government has placed upon funds for local government, they are asking for a 2 per cent share in the next Budget. They want it. My office is full of letters. I am spending a good percentage of my time answering these letters. People write to us all asking us to approach the Prime Minister and ask him to grant the 2 per cent not in three years’ time but in the coming Budget. The Prime Minister has copies of the letters and I have received a reply from him. He does not say he will do it. He ignores the fact that local government is in dire straits. All he will say is that because of the economic conditions he cannot make any promises that he will do it. So of course the Government will have to answer for that and we will see that it does. One can look right through the Prime Minister’s policy speech and wherever one looks one will find promises that were made. He made another great promise. He said that Australia did not want a tourist for a Prime Minister. Where is the Prime Minister today? The Parliament is still sitting; the country is in crisis; his Ministers are having problems, he has replaced them; he has a royal commission looking at the problems facing some of them. Where is he? He has flitted off overseas. I will refer to a few statements that were put out while the present Government was in opposition. I will refer to what it had to say about Mr Whitlam. If those statements were true then, they are truer now. The country is facing a greater crisis today than it did under the Whitlam Government. I am one of those people who believe that the Whitlam Government did not face a crisis. The only crisis we faced when we were in government occurred when we redistributed the wealth from the people who could afford to do without it to the people who sorely needed it. That is why we got into trouble. The money-bags of the country rose up in arms and in conjunction with the Liberal Party, the banks, the insurance companies and the Governor-General of the day they had us thrown out of office. I now refer to some of the statements put out by the Liberals when in opposition. They could well be applied to the present Prime Minister. A statement dated Sunday, 24 February, came from the Liberal Party headquarters. It is a statement by the Rt Hon. P. R. Lynch, Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He was the shadow Treasurer at the time. Of course, we all know what has happened to him. He is one of the Ministers who have gone by the wayside He said:
Overdue decisions on pension increases, -
He was blaming the Labor Government. Our record for pension increases is one of which I think we can be proud. We brought in a twiceyearly increase for pensioners. They have some security; they know that they will get an increase. The present Government of course has continued that program, but it was not the innovators of it; the Whitlam Labor Government was. What did the Fraser Government do when it came into office? One of the first things that it did to help the pensioners was to endeavour to take away the $40 funeral allowance. I can well remember the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) standing up in her place, when she had charge of the passage of the Bill, defying the honourable senators behind her, saying: ‘We have to take it away; it has to be’. Of course, the Government would have taken it away had it not been for a few rebels on its side. They crossed the floor and voted with the Labor Party for the retention of the $40 funeral benefit. So much for criticising us for what we did for pensioners. Mr Lynch went on to say: . . a training program to alleviate structural problems in the labour market and a much-needed comprehensive review of the government’s economic policy have all but been frustrated by the Prime Minister’s prolonged absences.
When we look at the record and sum up the figures in the answers to questions that are posed through the Estimates committees following the next Budget, we will find that the Prime Minister has had just as many trips overseas as Mr Whitlam had in the space of time. They have been much more costly and, I might add, much less fruitful. I will refer to what Dr Helen Caldecott had to say this morning on AM about the Prime Minister and his policy on uranium. Mr Lynch went on to say:
One must always remember that responsiveness to the specific needs of the Australian people is the primary responsibility of the government.
That is what we did when we were in government. We were responding to the needs of the under-privileged of this country. But the silvertails and money-bags of Australia did not like it. They did not like to have to contribute to the welfare of the ordinary man in the street. As I said earlier, they engineered everything at their disposal to see that we were thrown out of office. Mr Lynch spoke about the program to alleviate structural problems in the labour market and about training people out of work. I have quoted the relevant passage from the Prime Minister’s speech. I want to read also a telex received today by members of the Labor Party representing South Australia. It expressed concern and referred to the article in today’s Adelaide Advertiser by Mr Bill Rust, the industrial reporter. The article on page 3 of today’s Adelaide Advertiser states:
Car union’s retraining plan rejected.
A trade union plan to retrain retrenched SA car-industry workers has been rejected by officials of the Federal Department of Employment and Industrial Relations.
Vehicles Builders Union officials are irate. The union plan was to retain the 1,100 Chrysler workers due to be retrenched by the end of next year, including the 300 who were dismissed or resigned on May 12, for work in the smash crash-repair industry, using funds from the Federal Government under the National Employment and Training Scheme.
The VBU SA branch secretary, Mr D. J. Foreman, yesterday sent a message to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, in Canberra saying that Tuesday’s meeting of union and employer representatives with officials of the Minister’s department had proved fruitless because of the officials’ attitude.
Because of their attitude, we feel promises made by you and the Prime Minister to representatives of this union at our meeting in Canberra on May 9 (regarding the availability of unlimited funds for retraining) have been broken ‘, his message said.
Your officials yesterday proposed an ad hoc scheme under the facilities of the Department of Further Education.
This would be totally inadequate as the suggested number of people to be retrained was 40 out of an expected 1 , 1 00 to be displaced in this State by Chrysler Australia Ltd alone’.
That is the magnificent offer of this Governmentthat of the 1,100 people to be displaced it will find funds to retrain 40 people. That is a magnificent gesture after what the Prime Minister said in his policy speech and after what Mr Lynch said in his Press statement issued from the Liberal castle over the road. The article continues:
The message said a survey by the union and employers had shown that DFE facilities would not meet the required level and costing would be ‘enormous’.
This would not have been the case with the rejected union scheme.
Your officials appear to have no idea of the needs of vehicle industry as expressed by this union and employers ‘ the message said.
From comments passed by officials of your State branch, it is apparent that the retail sector of the industry is the biggest user of the NEAT scheme.
However, the direct opposite is the case with the retail sector of the vehicle industry.
We feel this highlights the ignorance of your officials who met us and totally ignores the needs of employees and employers in this sector of the industry’.
Mr Foreman said the Department’s inspection of Chrysler’s Tonsley Park facilities on May 1 1 had decided they were inadequate for the union ‘s retraining plan.
As a result, the union had formulated an alternative proposal which had now been rejected by Mr Street ‘s departmental officials.
VBU organiser Mr Pat Meehan said that the union plan had been rejected by the departmental officials because representatives of the South Australian Automobile Chamber of Commerce said they could not guarantee employment after the workers had been retrained. This is ridiculous. There is no guarantee for school teachers or anybody else to be employed once they are trained. That article was written by industrial reporter Bill Rust and was published in the Adelaide Advertiser today. That puts the whole situation in a nutshell. As I said earlier when I rose to speak, the present Prime Minister has made magnificent promises to increase employment, to reduce unemployment and to retrain people who need a job. Yet he has done none of these things. He has increased unemployment and will not even make funds available to retrain these people who sorely need retraining. So there is another promise that has gone out the window.
Today we are witnessing a concerted effort by both the State and Federal Liberal members to paint a black picture in the minds of the people who live there and in the minds of the business people who may be considering going to South Australia to set up a business. Every day in newspapers are reports of Mr Tonkin mouthing criticism of the South Australian Government. Practically every day in this place we hear Dorothy Dix questions put up by Senator Messner, Senator Young or Senator Jessop to Senator Carrick. He then prates on about the terrible state of the industrial sphere in South Australia. Of course he is completely wrong. All these senators are doing is trying to knock the State for political purposes- nothing else- when they should be here helping the State. They are trying to get people into a situation where they believe that under a Labor Government in South Australia they are going down the drain. Nothing could be further from the truth. In South Australia we have one of the best State governments, next to the Wran Government, that Australia has ever seen. We witness the performance of State Liberal leader, at present Mr Tonkin. This comes to the nub of what is going on. He is struggling not only to maintain his own party’s support in the face of concerted efforts by the member for Davenport, Mr Brown; Mr Tonkin is struggling to maintain his party’s support because Mr Brown, one of the young turks of the State Liberal Party, is doing all he can to usurp the leadership of Mr Tonkin.
Mr Tonkin is also worried at the latest public opinion polls. They show that the people who support him total 27 per cent. I interjected here today to remind Senator Carrick of Mr Tonkin’s popularity rating in South Australia- 27 per cent- as against the Premier’s, 56 per cent. So the people of South Australia are not too worried about the ability of the Dunstan Labor Government to look after their affairs. They have also taken into cognisance that Mr Tonkin has never been in a position to run a State. He would not be able to do it.
The people of South Australia are also mindful of the fact that there have been many changes of leadership in the South Australian parliamentary Liberal Party over the years since Playford left office. Whom did we see following him? Mr Hall. We all know Mr Hall because he was a member of the Senate. I will refer to him and his connections and the statements he made about Australian Security Intelligence Organisation funding before I sit down today. After Mr Hall we had Dr Eastick. Now we have Mr Tonkin. Who will be the next in the line? It will be Mr Brown if he can get his way. If we look at the executive arm of the Liberal Party in South Australia we find that it goes through directors like quicksilver through a duck. Almost every two months there is a new director because the members cannot agree. These are the people who tell us on one hand that in the Federal sphere they are going to uplift employment figures and put the economy back on the rails but on the other hand in South Australia these people cannot even run their own party affairs because they are being torn apart by a power struggle within their party. On every issue Mr Tonkin tries to knock Mr Dunstan and on the other hand tries to emulate him in many things. When Don Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia, put out a cook book which was a top seller it was not long before Mr Tonkin also published a cook book. I am sure that if anybody used some of the recipes in it he would be poisoned with the Liberal Party ingredients.
Let us have a look at the unemployment figures and the record of South Australia in industrial disputes. We have people standing up in this chamber every day trying to frighten business enterprises away from our State. Yet we have the best industrial record of any State. I have some figures here to prove that. In 1977 working days lost in South Australia were by far the least of any State in Australia. I shall compare South Australia’s figures with those of our neighbouring State of Victoria which has a Liberal Government under Mr Hamer. South Australia has 9.3 per cent of the Australian work force. In 1977 our percentage of working days lost was 1.8 per cent. Have a look at the Australian figures. The days lost through stoppages and industrial disputes in South Australia amounted to 1.8 per cent of the total of days lost in Australia yet we have a work force of 9.3 per cent of the Australian total. Let us have a look at the figures for Victoria, over the border under a Liberal Government. It has 27 per cent of the Australian work force. Its loss of working days through industrial disputes was 35 per cent of the Australian total. This is magnificent under a Liberal Government!
How did that come about? I shall tell honourable senators. In South Australia the Labor Government does its best to sit down in consultation with the trade union movement and to resolve problems before they get out of hand. But what do we find in Victoria? We find always a policy of confrontation. The Government is not prepared to talk to the trade union movement to iron out the problems; it has confrontation. Of course the figures are on the record and can be obtained from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. They prove what I am saying is correct. Whilst Labor is in government in South Australia we will endeavour to carry out that policy of sitting down and talking over problems that arise in industry. Problems will arise. They always have and they always will. While on the one hand employers are trying to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of the work force at the least possible cost and on the other hand the trade union movement is trying to get a fair deal for its members industrial disputes will always be with us.
We need a government that is prepared to sit down as a mediator and try to solve problems as quickly as possible. That is what the Dunstan Labor Government in South Australia has been able to do. Every time that Liberal senators from South Australia rise in this chamber and try to belittle the State that they come here to represent and try to put it on the rocks I will get up and defend South Australia and do so with figures similar to which I gave while debating the Softwoods Forestry Agreement Bill. Honourable senators opposite have not come back with any argument with the figures I gave then.
I turn to primary industry. This Governent in its policy speech, told us about all the magnificent things it would do for the farmers and for primary industry. I refer again to a chart which was given to the Estimates Committee which was dealing with the Department of Trade and Resources. Where does the Government place its greatest importance within the seven divisions that now exist in the Department of Trade and Resources? The greatest emphasis is placed on uranium. The Department has two divisional heads looking at the uranium question- two principal advisers- one concerned with development and the other with export. Yet in the two commodity areas which are of major importance to the primary industry of this country there is only one principal adviser. This document needs to be circulated far and wide among the farming community to let the farmers and those who live in country towns see where this Government’s priorities lie. They do not lie in making a better life for the man who produces the food that we eat and who contribute to our greatest export income. The members of the Government are not concerned about finding overseas markets for the produce of farmers. They are more concerned about finding overseas markets for uranium. Dr Helen Caldecott was talking about this matter on AM this morning. I think it might be appropriate if I referred to what she had to say when interviewed. The transcript reads:
RAY MARTIN: In all of these protests there is a prominent Australian.
He is referring to protests against the mining and selling of uranium. Ray Martin then went on to introduce Dr Helen Caldecott. a paediatrician from Adelaide who is now teaching at Harvard University. Of course she is well aware of the problems that may exist if we start mining uranium in Australia without necessary safeguards. We spent three or four days in debate recently trying to extract from the Government what safeguards it intends for uranium. The Government has not come up with any advancement on the safeguards which it put down in this Parliament in May 1977. This is why people are concerned. Dr Helen Caldecott is reported as saying on the AM program this morning:
Our Prime Minister from Australia, Malcolm Fraser, is here at the United Nations to promote disarmament. He is about to sell all the Australian uranium on the open market, all of which will be used to make atomic bombs. He is a prime example of a hypocritical powerful, selfish, greedy politician.
I agree with her words. I said in the debate on the uranium Bills that this is all the Government is concerned about. The document from the Department of Trade and Resources proves that the Government attaches prime importance to the mining of uranium. It says, in effect: ‘Never mind at all about the safeguards ‘.
I want to refer also to statements that were made in previous years by people who are now Ministers of this Government. Criticism was made of the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, for his overseas trips, particularly on one occasion when he left the country a day before the Parliament rose. Now we find that the present Prime Minister has gone overseas at least a week before the Parliament has risen- at least a week; it might even be longer. Let us look at the House of Representatives Hansard for 17 October 1 974, page 2549. 1 quote Mr Garland.
– Honourable senators opposite do not care about Garland though.
– No, they do not really. Mr Garland was the first Minister to come under a cloud when the Liberal-Country Party coalition was put in as a caretaker government. Mr Garland was involved in electoral matters in circumstances similar to those now being investigated by a royal commission. The two could be connected. Mr Garland said:
I criticise the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for his absence from the chamber. Surely it is a primary responsibility of any Minister to be in the House of Parliament in which he sits when the estimates for his Department are being debated so that he can hear the views being put forward by honourable members.
If it was good enough in 1 974 for Mr Garland to say that about Mr Whitlam, why is it not good enough now for the Prime Minister to be sitting in the Parliament when all these problems and crises are facing the Government. A new crisis crops up every day. Where is the Prime Minister? He is somewhere overseas. I refer again to the Hansard of the same day. A concerted attack was being launched by the then Opposition, which is now the Government, against the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, because he was absent. I will quote Mr Howard. We all know his track record and how he became the present Treasurer of this country because of methods used by Mr Lynch. We have as yet not found out the truth. Mr Lynch and his family did not have to pay tax on whatever they earned because of the setting up of a family trust. It was quite legitimate under the law of the time but I would say it was morally wrong in the face of what the Government has always preached. Why should members of the Government take that action when they preach that others should not? Mr Howard said:
In a practical sense a Prime Minister in the Westminster system holds office while he enjoys the support of the party commanding a majority in the lower House of Parliament.
Let us examine that statement briefly. He made those remarks in 1974. What was his attitude on 1 1 November 1975 when a vote was taken in the House of Representatives? I happened to be sitting in that chamber at the time. A motion of no confidence in the caretaker Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, was passed. Did Mr Howard then come out with a storm of protest? Of course he did not. He was quite happy to go along with what the now Prime Minister had done- skulking behind doors and sneaking over to Government House and entering into negotiations behind the back of the then Prime Minister.
Another person is now looming on the political scene. He will be a member of this chamber shortly. He is a man who is now disenchanted with the Liberal Party; and not for the first time. I can remember that some years ago he was disenchanted with the Liberal Party. I refer to Senator-elect Chipp. When he was dropped from the Cabinet once before he ran around the place calling the Liberal Party all the names to which he could lay his tongue. When he was accepted back into the fold everything was nice. Mr Chipp has now heaped a lot of criticism on the present Prime Minister. I agree with a lot of it but I do not agree with his moral values. He was one who took part in the negotiations in the party room.
He sets out in his book- all the toings and froings about Government House to engineer the overthrow of the Whitlam Government. He did not squeal about what happened then and say that it was undemocratic. What did he do? As soon as the caretaker government was installed he grabbed a caretaker portfolio with both hands. He opted to be a Minister in a caretaker government. What happened after the election? Mr Fraser did not select him as a Minister. Mr Chipp turned sour again. We know the sequence of events since. When he comes into this place in the Budget session he will often be asked to answer for some of those criticisms. I refer to what Mr Howard said on page 2558 of Hansard of 17 October. I agree with his view. In talking about overseas trips he said:
I have no cavil at all with the right of the present Australian Prime Minister to make overseas trips. The only quarrel we on this side of the chamber have with the actions of the Prime Minister in this respect is that he demonstrates a deplorable lack of perspective. If indeed the most pressing problems facing the Australian nation at the moment were problems of our international relations which demanded the Australian Prime Minister being away from this country . . .
There has been no greater crisis in the history of this country, apart from the time of war, than that which exists now. Looking back over the record we find people who are now Ministers criticising Mr Whitlam for going overseas. Now their own Prime Minister is doing the same thing and they are being completely dumb. They are not saying a word about it. Mr Howard went on to say:
But the sad fact is that the problems that really concern Australia at the moment are domestic economic problems.
What he said in 1974 is exactly true in 1978; only more so. He continued:
These are our major problems at the moment. We do not challenge the principle of the Prime Minister going overseas, but we challenge his lamentable lack of perspective.
What I challenge now is the present Prime Minister’s lack of perspective in going overseas and leaving his Government in the hands of his Cabinet Ministers, many of whom are under suspicion for many actions that they have already taken. No doubt the actions they will take in his absence will be in the same category. On 24 November 1974, a statement was made by the Acting Prime Minister, Mr Anthony. Talking about Mr Whitlam, he said:
If he stayed at home a little more instead of strutting the world stage he might find out what is going on.
Questions were directed to the Leader of the Government (Senator Withers) in this chamber this morning about the proposed 40 per cent tariff cuts. What answers were given to the Opposition members? Senator Withers could not tell them- or he would not tell them; he knows what is going on. We are greatly suspicious about that aspect. I will repeat the Acting Prime Minister’s words on 24 November 1974. His Press release stated:
If he stayed at home a little more instead of strutting the world stage he might find out what is going on.
I think it was Senator Wriedt, our Leader, who posed the question this morning about tariff cuts. Will we have to wait for Mr Fraser to make his announcement in America in a few day’s time on what the tariff policy will be? Why did he not take notice of what his Acting Prime Minister said when, in Opposition, he criticised Mr Whitlam for strutting around the world. The Prime Minister is doing the very same thing but he will not achieve the same good results as Whitlam, I can assure honourable senators.
On page 28 of Hansard of 28 November 1974, from which I have already quoted, Mr Nixon, the Minister for Transport, when he was in Opposition said:
Let us put this whole trip into perspective. The Australian economy has never been in such tatters since the depression.
Those chickens are coming home to roost now. He continued:
The whole of the nation is uncertain. Industry, employers, and employees are uncertain as to where this nation is heading. We have an inflation rate which is the highest ever in our history.
On many points he was right if that statement were applied to today but he was not right, as senators on this side have said, in saying that when Labor was in government we had the highest inflation rate in history. I have had tables incorporated in Hansard on more than one occasion to give the complete lie to the claim of honourable senators opposite that we had the highest inflation rate in history when we were in government. At that time inflation reached about 1 7 per cent. In this document Mr Nixon said that it had reached 20 per cent or more.
Let us take our minds back to the second year of the Menzies Government in 1951. What was the inflation rate then? It was 25 per cent, and the record proves it. It was at least eight per cent more under a Liberal government than it had ever been under a Labor government. Of course Government supporters make great claims now that because of the Government’s policies inflation has been reduced. How has that been done? Hundreds of thousands of workers have been thrown on to the scrap heap. As I said earlier, the Government will not even provide a few dollars to retrain these people so that they will have some prospect of earning a decent living and going forward as decent honest citizens. But the Government will not do that. It made all these promises in its policy speech; it made all these criticisms of us when we were in government. But now we can throw them back to Government members because they are doing the very same that they accused us of doing.
Now I will look at another statement which was put out by Mr Peacock, another Minister. Goodness me, he is never home. He is always flitting around the world and I would say that our foreign policy has never been in greater tatters than it is today. This statement is headed: The Liberal Party of Australia, Federal Secretariat’ from ‘The Hon. Andrew Peacock, M.P., Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs’. It was made on 27 September 1974 about Mr Whitlam ‘s trip. He said:
The obvious aim of this junket is to strive for a temporary restoration of the Prime Minister’s waning image at home, even if that means downgrading his own Cabinet Ministers in the eyes of the world community.
There you are! The chickens are coming home to roost again. The Labor Cabinet was never in the chaos in which this one is. We never had the suspicion thrown on our members. On at least two occasions when it was felt that two of our Ministers had inadvertently made statements to the Parliament that were not true, those Ministers were removed from the Cabinet. But this Government will not do that. Of course it will not. Where is its democracy? These Ministers are left to hold office.
In another Press release put out on 9 December 1974, Mr Lynch, who has now been relegated, described Mr Whitlam ‘s trip as ‘gross irresponsibility at a time of economic crisis’. As I said, we have never had any greater crisis in this country, apart from war time, than today under this Government. The Prime Minister is strutting around the world stage just as members of his Party accused our Prime Minister. If we go a bit further another Press statement put out by Mr Phillip Lynch four days later stated:
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Phillip Lynch, today accused the Prime Minister of living in an ivory tower.
He should be made to eat those words now because his Prime Minister is doing the same. Another Press statement put out by Mr Lynch a few days later, on 13 December 1974, stated:
Australians looking to their Prime Minister for leadership will be saddened and disappointed but hardly surprised in view of his obvious preference for the world stage.
Again that comment applies to the present Prime Minister. I think from the documents that I have just quoted and from other events that will take place in the next few months, people who sit opposite will have to be very careful in the way they criticise the Labor Party and its members both when it is in government and even in opposition. Those statements will always come back to haunt them. One would think that because those people made those statements they would not do the very same themselves; but they do, and they do so repeatedly.
I shall conclude my remarks by talking about a person who has now departed this chamber. It will be recalled that for quite some time on an Estimates committee I have sought information on the expenditure of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation; but I cannot get that information. I have asked for it repeatedly but it is a closed book; nobody knows. An appropriation is given for ASIO in the Budget each year. But we cannot question it. It never spends any less or any more than has been appropriated. So members of Parliament cannot ask questions. Even on the supplementary Estimates this year, I asked a question whether the accounts of ASIO were audited. I addressed this question to a representative of the Auditor-General. I was told that they were not audited. I forgive the officer for making a mistake; he did not know, just as we do not know many things that go on in ASIO and how it spends its money. In a letter dated 5 May, addressed to Senator Sim who is the Chairman of the Committee, Mr D. R. Steele Craik, the Auditor-General stated:
Dear Senator Sim,
At the Committee Hearing yesterday Senator McLaren asked my representative, Mr Taylor, whether or not my Office audited the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and was answered in the negative. As my Office does, in fact, audit the accounts of ASIO I take this opportunity to correct the record.
The accounts of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation are audited by my Office under arrangements agreed in 1949 between the then Prime Minister and Treasurer and the then Auditor-General. These arrangements provide for a normal audit of transactions and include as pan of that audit the provision of a certificate by the Director-General of Security in respect of a minor portion of the expenditure and by the responsible Minister certifying that that portion of the expenditure was properly made in the interests of the Public Service. I accept these certificates in completion of the audits. This arrangement is patterned on the British practice dating back to the late 1 9th century.
Would you please accept my apologies for the incorrect answer. This correction might be included in the record and the information passed to Senator McLaren.
R. STEELE CRAIK
Now we find out that in fact the Auditor-General looks at portion of the expenditure of ASIO. I wanted to know how this money is spent and where it is spent, but I was always told that these facts could not be found out. Following the replacement some time ago of the South Australian Police Commissioner, Mr Salisbury, a former Premier of South Australia and former senator tried to big note himself, as quite a lot of the South Australian Liberal senators do, by making certain allegations. I refer to an article in one of the newspapers under the headline ‘Hall blames the Left ‘.
– He is right, too.
-Is he right? He went on to say that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was providing funds for the Special Branch in South Australia. I have been trying to find out what ASIO does with its funds. The time now is twenty-five minutes to five. No doubt Mr Dunstan, the South Australian Premier, already has made a public announcement on the findings of the Royal Commission that was conducted into the sacking of Mr Salisbury. Unfortunately I do not know what the findings were.
– She supported everything he did.
- Senator Cameron has just told me that the findings of Justice Roma Mitchell, the Royal Commissioner, have been in support of everything Mr Dunstan and the South Australian Government did. That is one example of a member of the Liberal Party trying to big note himself. Of course we know that even the Jaguar club was co-opted by the Liberal Party to come out in support of Mr Salisbury. There has been a full public inquiry. Mr Hall was subpoenaed to give evidence. When he was asked to give some fruitful and definite information as to the funding of the Special Branch in South Australia by ASIO he could not come up with any proof. But, of course, he hit the headlines for his allegations. This sort of thing is occurring every day in South Australia. If it is not Mr Tonkin, it is Mr Brown, Mr De Garis or Senator Jessop hitting the headlines with empty statements, but when pressure is put on them they cannot produce proof. I refer to what I was saying when I commenced my speech. The people of South Australia will not be fooled by statements like that. I have reams of Press statements and newspaper articles concerning Mr Hall.
– Who was that, again?
– He was a member of this place at one time. Senator Hall he was then. Senator Mulvihill would know some of the things I had to say about him which he could not deny. Of course, he is a political non-entity now.
– But you are a stayer, Senator McLaren.
– Yes, I am a stayer. But I take umbrage at the fact that a former Premier of a State made false statements to the effect that ASIO was funding the South Australian Special Branch to enable it to spy on every Labor member of Parliament and every trade union official in that State. He made those statements as though he had some authority to make them. He was the Premier for two years and people reading those statements believed them. They thought that as he was once the Premier he would surely know where the funds were coming from. We now find that the funds were not coming from ASIO at all. Mr Hall cannot produce any proof. So we must assume that ASIO was not, in fact, funding the Special Branch. What I want to know- the Government can explain this away and protect Mr Hall by making a statement on this matter in the Parliament- is whether ASIO did fund the Special Branch in South Australia. Let us know the facts. We cannot obtain them from the Estimates because it is a closed book.
Each year an appropriation of approximately $6m is sought for ASIO but nobody knows what ASIO does with it. Even the letter from the Auditor-General stated that the AuditorGeneral’s Office takes the word of the Minister that it has been properly spent
After the next Federal election and the Labor Party is returned to office I hope that we will be able to explore these matters. It is all very well for honourable senators opposite to laugh but at the moment the Government is falling apart at the seams. If honourable senators opposite look at the opinion polls- we have quite a way to go yet; the rot is only just starting to set in- they will see that their leader is only one per cent ahead of Mr Hayden in popularity. It is rumoured that the Government intends to increase postage rates after 30 June. This rumour is running rife through the corridors today. The Government will not wait for the Budget to increase postage charges. It will do it now and hope that the people will forget it. All these things will add up. The rot has set in. I prophesy that after the next election we will be back on the other side of the House. We will put every person in this country who wants a job back to work. We will instil confidence in the people of this country. We will not make false promises, as Mr Fraser did. We will put the people back to work and we will not be railroaded out of office by the silvertails and a Governor-General who was bought by the Liberal Party. We will not be railroaded out of office like that. We have learnt our lesson. We know how honourable senators on the other side operate.
We know how they used this chamber to bludgeon us when they were in opposition and we were in government. I have said on many occasions that this chamber is only a rubber stamp when honourable senators opposite are in office and a House of frustration when they are in opposition. Democracy goes out the window when they are in government. But for the untimely death of one of our colleagues, Senator Millner, they might not be seated where they are today. They walked over a dead man’s body to gain office. That is not morally right and it is not democratic. I hope that the remarks I have made today have caused some honourable senators opposite to read some of the statements I have made. They are on record. They should then ask themselves how they are being treated by members of the ministry. Honourable senators opposite are being treated as puppets. They are being used as political fodder.
– I wish to take advantage of this opportunity to speak to a lengthy answer that was given in this chamber this morning by Senator Carrick. Like Senator McLaren, who has just resumed his seat, I begin by saying that the Government can fool the people for some of the time but they are not going to be fooled all the time. In the last two and a half years we have seen an attempt by the Government to cloud the public mind on a very important issue, that is, financial relations with the States. CommonwealthState financial relations is not a very exciting subject. It is not the sort of issue into which one can inject during debate the sort of colour which we have just seen from Senator McLaren. But it is important to realise that when this Government came to office it changed the system of payments to the States. This year the Federal Government has a total outlay of $26.6 billion and $10.2 billion, or 38 per cent, of that amount goes in payments to the States in one form or another. So what the Commonwealth does with State finances is critically important to the economy. I put it to the Senate that the policy decisions that have been taken by this Government, in making it extremely difficult for the States to maintain their capital works, are among the main reasons why the Australian economy is stagnant and will remain stagnant.
Senator Carrick, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs, and I have disagreed over the past couple of years about payments to the States. The central point on which we have differed is the area in which these payments are made. Let us consider the manner in which the payments are made. There are three areas. The Commonwealth pays the States under what are called general revenue grants. These grants permit the States to do whatever they like with that money. The second area is the area of specific purpose payments. These payments are made to the States for a particular purpose. The third area, of course, is the area of loan funds. On 27 April 1976 Senator Walsh asked Senator Carrick the following question:
Does the Minister assert that the federalism policy means a more generous financial deal for the States than under the previous Labor Government? Secondly, given the fact that total Federal payments to the States increased by more than 58 per cent in constant value dollars in the period 1972 to 1 973, can he guarantee that the total payments to the States in the next 3 years will increase, also in constant value dollars, by more than 58 per cent?
Senator Carrick said:
In response to Senator Walsh, my answer is an unqualified yes.
He went on further in the answer to say:
What is going to happen in the next few years is precisely what I told Senator Wriedt, that is, that we will ensure that at no time shall the payments to the States- the amount of money which goes to the States- fall below what would have happened had the pre-existing formula persisted over that period.
That is the formula that was used under the Labor Government. During the course of that answer Senator James McClelland interjected and said:
What about tax indexation?
Senator Carrick seemed to be quite unconcerned about that when he said:
Let me explain rather patiently that tax indexation, which I take it is not being opposed by the honourable senator, is designed, as he would hope, to help to abate inflation and therefore to increase employment.
In that answer Senator Carrick gave an unqualified guarantee that payments to the States in real terms in the first three years of his Government would increase at the same rate as they did under the Labor Government. That is the first point I wish to make. On 28 April 1976 Senator Walsh again asked a question concerning Commonwealth-State financial relations. He asked:
I ask for the purpose of clarification whether his unequivocal yes -
That is in the reply by Senator Carrick to the previous question- applies to both sections of the question I asked, bearing in mind that the second section sought a guarantee from him that total payments to the States in the next 3 years would increase by more than they did in the 3 years of Labor Government, that is, by 58 per cent in constant values?
The Minister replied:
I repeat: Since the national growth will add to the income tax collections- by people being restored to work, by people paying tax and by the ordinary growth of employment and production-there will be prospectively in the next 3 years, over and above the minimum guaranteed base, further revenue accruing to the States.
On 25 May 1976 1 asked Senator Carrick a question relating to the first Budget of this Government under the new federalism policy. These were my words:
If one takes inflation into account, in fact there would have been no real increase. Senator Carrick said in reply:
I take it that Senator Wriedt, when referring to payments to the States, is referring to Commonwealth reimbursement to the States, that is, the untied grants.
I interjected later on and said:
I am referring to total payments.
Senator Carrick then understood that I was referring to total payments and said:
I am not aware of the overall figure because a number of decisions regarding the total payments of specific purpose grants have been reserved for review. A number of reviews have to be made as yet. Of course decisions will have to be made in the August Budget. I cannot answer specifically in terms of percentages, but if an additional answer can be given I will refer the question to the Prime Minister . . .
The reason I have quoted those questions and answers is to establish the fact that in the first months of this Government it became almost an impossibility to get a definition from the Government of what it meant by total payments to the States. I emphasise that if one is to get the true position of the deal this Government is giving the States then one must talk in terms of total payments. One cannot take one section such as general revenue or specific purpose or loan funds and isolate it from the others. That is why I put a series of questions to the Minister last week, and this morning he gave a definitive answer to the question. He said:
Because it related to papers that were not immediately before me and because I wanted to be absolutely specific, I undertook to seek the advice. That has been tendered by the Treasury.
He went on to point out that of the three tables that I had put to him in the question two in fact did tell the story of total payments to the States. The tables are at pages 6 and 7 of Budget Paper No. 7 and at pages 120 and 121. In all the debate and questions and answers and crossfire that I have had with the Minister over the last two years on this issue I have always quoted from the tables that appear on pages 6 and 7 of Budget Paper No. 7. 1 am glad now to have confirmation from the Treasurer (Hr Howard) that I have been quoting from the correct tables. It also appears that the Treasurer believes, and I agree with him, that the total payments figure is also shown on pages 120 and 121 of Budget Paper No. 7. In his reply this morning the Minister continued:
I am advised that table 2 on pages 6 and 7 and table 101 on pages 1 20 and 1 2 1 of 1 977-78 Budget Paper No. 7 relate to total funds available to the States and local government from the following sources: General and specific purpose payments to or for the States; State Government Loan Council borrowing programs; and payments direct to local authorities.
After two and a half years I hope that neither Senator Carrick nor I have to argue any more about what we mean by the term ‘total payments to the States’. I add in passing that now that we can use the table with complete safety as a source of authority, I will mention again the sort of deal that the States are getting as shown by this table. In 1973-74, the first year of the Labor Government, the Government that was alleged to be the one that was going to squeeze the States out of existence and wanted to prevent them from being economically viable in their own right, total payments to the States were increased by 2 1 per cent. In the second year we increased them by 53 per cent and in the third year we increased them by 32 per cent.
Then there was a cataclysmic drop in the rate of increase in the first year of this Government. It saw fit to increase payments to the States by what turned out to be an adjusted figure of only nine per cent. In 1977-78 the total shows an increase of nine per cent. So in the three years of the Labor Government we increased payments to the States by an average annual figure of around 34 per cent- these are my own calculations, they are not in the table- whereas under this Government’s new federalism policy there has been an annual increase of about 1 1 per cent. In other words, if the average rate of inflation in the three years of the Labor Government can be taken at 14 per cent, we were increasing payments to the States in real terms by two and a half times the inflation rate, whereas this Government has barely kept up with the inflation rate in its first two years under new federalism.
The Minister also said in his answer this morning that the table on page 121 of Budget Paper No. 1 does not show total payments to the States. His actual words were:
The table does not include specific purpose payments which are classified to function elsewhere in Budget Paper No. I. The table therefore omits a major part of the funds available to the States and local authorities.
Although the Minister did not go on to say so- I hope that he will indicate this either in this debate or on some future occasion- I assume that he would not regard that table as being a proper table from which to make any judgment about the total position of Commonwealth payments to the States. That is the first reason for my raising this matter this afternoon. As I said, I am pleased that at last we have a definite statement by the Government of what constitutes these total payments. The other reason for my raising it is that a fortnight ago I was involved in a television debate on this matter with the honourable member for Denison in the other place, Mr Michael Hodgman. Mr Hodgman, who I understand is the chairman of the Liberal Party Federalism Committee or plays some part in it, was quite adamant that I was using the wrong table, the table which has since been confirmed to be correct by his own Minister. Quite early in the debate I raised the point that we must clarify what the figures mean. As shown in the transcript, I said:
It is important to clarify that the figures I’m presenting show the total position of Commonwealth payments to the States. Mr Hodgman in fact is only selecting one area, that is what we call general purpose payments under the tax sharing arrangements. They constitute less than half of the total payments.
Mr Hodgman said: ‘No.’ I said that I was quoting from page 7 of Budget Paper No. 7, which is one of the two tables which the Minister has now told us are the proper tables from which to quote. The debate progressed. Mr Hodgman said, according to the transcript: . . the figures from which that graph -
That was a graph that he had drawn up for the purpose of illustrating his argument- was prepared are on page 121 of the Budget Speech for 1977-78.
He was referring to Budget Paper No. 1, which the Minister has indicated to us is not the table that shows the total payments for the States. I take this opportunity to put that on the record. I also put on the record the fact that the honourable member for Denison was invited by the television channel to come back and comment on the figures, as I was invited to do. He declined the invitation because he said he was too busy. I do not believe that he was too busy; I believe he realised he was wrong. But it is for him, if he wishes, to declare publicly that he was wrong. That is his concern, not mine.
Those of us who follow this issue of the new federalism policy, which has massive implications for the States, realise the importance of being clear as to what these figures mean and as to what are the Government’s intentions. I thank the Minister and his colleague the Treasurer for giving us a quite clear and definitive statement of the Government’s policies in relation to the States and of precisely how much money is going to State revenues from the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle) proposed:
– I beg the Minister’s pardon, but it was a little difficult to hear. I just want an assurance that the resolution proposed means that we deal with the matters in the order in which they were taken in the Estimates Committees, department by department. Will we be precluded from proper consideration of them in any way?
– Let me read again the third point, which covers matters other than the matter of dealing with them in order. The third point is: that leave be given to honourable senators to move motions expressing opinions or making recommendations based on the reports of the Estimates Committees; that such motions be moved when the appropriate vote is under consideration; that where more than one motion is proposed in relation to a particular vote the motions may be debated together but in all cases the motion or motions shall be disposed of before the question is put on the vote before the Chair and that any resolutions be reported when the Chairman makes his report to the President at the conclusion of the proceedings in the Committee of the Whole.
– I am most obliged, Mr Chairman, I just want to be quite clear that that means that individual senators will have the opportunity when we come to an item- as distinct from a motion arising out of the Estimates Committee report- of moving a request on the first Bill and an amendment on the second.
– There are no problems in that regard.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed expenditure, $ 14, 1 55,000.
Proposed expenditure, $483,000.
Proposed expenditure, $754,000.
Proposed expenditure, $374,000.
Proposed expenditure, $3,523,300.
Proposed expenditure, $3,687,300.
Proposed expenditure, $39, 1 77,000.
Proposed expenditure, $7,653,500.
Proposed expenditure, $70,399,000.
Department of the Special Trade Representative
Proposed expenditure, $76,700.
-On behalf of Estimates Committee A I move:
This motion arises out of the Committee’s report to the Senate. In its report the Committee stated that it was disturbed by two matters which arose during the examination of the Department of Foreign Affairs. I think that either Estimates Committee C or Estimates Committee E also raised this same matter. In the first case the Committee was advised that the Foreign Affairs Department’s bid for funds was $143,000 for representation at overseas conferences. This figure was subsequently reduced to $50,000 by the Department of Finance and included in Appropriation Bill (No. 3). Upon questioning by members of Estimates Committee A it was revealed that the dispute between the two departments had been removed from the Additional Estimates to another area, the Advance to the Treasurer.
The second case also involved the Department of Foreign Affairs seeking the inclusion in the Additional Estimates of an amount of $24,000 for ‘a new initiative’, to establish a committee on Australia’s relations with the Third World and to examine Australia’s future relations with these Third World countries. The Committee was advised that the Department of Foreign Affairs had been advised by the Department of Finance that the amount was to come from the Advance to the Minister for Finance. The Committee in its report made reference to these two matters.
The Committee draws the attention of the Committee of the Whole to the Parliamentary Handbook on Commonwealth Financial Affairs, published in March 1977, which was issued by the Department of Finance, in which it is stated that the Advance to the Minister for Finance is:
The Committee reported that prima facie these appeared to be misuses of the funds approved by the Parliament for the Advance to the Minister for Finance. Accordingly, it recommends to the Committee of the Whole that the matter be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations for inquiry and report.
– May I interrupt and seek your advice, Mr Chairman? Is a copy of the motion going to be circulated? Those of us who are following the honourable senator’s argument would like to see the actual wording of what is being put to the Committee.
– I am afraid I do not have any copies of it.
– I suggest that that be done as soon as possible.
– In view of the matters involved the Committee believed that this matter was one which required urgent consideration. The Acting Minister for Finance (Mr Howard) responded to the criticism of Estimates Committee A in two letters addressed to the Committee Chairman dated 22 May. The Minister said in his letters that such differences of view between a department and the Department of Finance as to what was needed were ‘not uncommon’ but that in nearly all cases they were resolved by negotiation between the departments concerned, subject to ministerial endorsement of the outcome.
The Minister stated that in the few cases in which departments cannot reach agreement- his words were: ‘in effect, their perceptions of foreseen needs differ’- the matter is decided by the Government.
The Minister stated that in the case of the Department of Foreign Affairs bid for overseas conferences: it was not practicable for the matter to be considered and determined by the Government prior to the cut-off date for the printing of the Bills.
Therefore, the amount provided in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) was that recommended by the Minister for Finance, namely, $50,000. The Minister further stated that, in the event, a drawing of $70,000 from the Advance to the Minister for Finance had been approved, making the total for the item now $120,000. In the other case, relating to Australia’s relations with the Third World, the Minister stated that agreement between the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Finance was not reached in time to meet the cut-off date for the printing of the Appropriation Bills. The Minister then stated:
I most strenuously resist the proposition that these processes constitute mis-use of the Advance to the Minister for Finance. This Government is very much aware of the requirement that the Advance should only be used for urgent or unforeseen needs.
In the view of the Committee, neither of these items were urgent nor were they unforeseen. The Committee stands by its statement that prima facie this constituted a misuse of the funds advanced to the Minister for Finance. This matter is not new. Over many years- indeed, for some 25 years- the Joint Committee of Public Accounts from time to time has reviewed the workings of the Advance to the Minister for Finance and on a number of occasions has been critical of the procedures involving the use of this Advance. The Committee commented on page 9 of its fourteenth report, which was tabled in 1 954, that:
In the light of the comments of the Auditor-General and of the explanations by the Treasury, it would seem that the ‘Advance Account’ is changing its character, and, instead of being used primarily for emergent and unforeseen expenditure, is being used as a sort of ‘Departmental Working Account’ or as a departmental bank account to make available funds that should have been provided in the original estimates.
Since that date on numerous occasions the Public Accounts Committee has drawn attention to this matter, apparently without any result. Also, in the Committee’s eighteenth reports its conclusions included the following:
Returning to the Minister’s reply, I suppose the main point to emerge from the correspondence from the Minister for Finance to the Committee was that if an item in dispute or under negotiation at the cut-off date for the printing of additional Appropriation Bills is subsequently considered justified and the matter is resolved partially or wholly in favour of the originating department, it is not considered to be a misuse of the Advance to the Minister for Finance to finance the difference from the Advance to the Minister for Finance.
The Committee will argue this point: As I said earlier, neither of the items of dispute involving the Department of Foreign Affairs appears to have been urgent or unforeseen. The expenditures were well known in advance of the cut-off date for the printing of the additional Appropriation Bills. That is clear from the explanatory notes. In respect of the first item, dealing with funds for attendance at overseas conferences, most of the conferences would appear to be held annually. To consider them unforeseen on the grounds that the final expenditure had not been agreed upon by the cut-off date would appear to be stretching the ordinary meaning of the word unforeseen’, not to mention stretching the limitation placed on the Advance. The two items under question certainly appear to be straight forward ones. The matter should not have proved so complex that two departments, with all the expertise that they have, could not resolve their differences over them promptly. If the disputes were so complex consideration should have been given to delaying the printing of the Appropriation Bills.
These procedures certainly are open to abuse. Departments may seek to protract negotiations in an endeavour to obtain greater funds, with the net result that parliamentary scrutiny of expenditure in advance of that expenditure being incurred is further bypassed. The principal issue at stake is not the question of administrative difficulties in budgeting, but the question of the degree of parliamentary scrutiny and control on expenditure. The Committee has recommended that the matter be further examined. I am bound to say that the Committee found the Minister’s response unacceptable. Perhaps it is time that greater consideration was given to the nature and timing of the whole budgetary process. The comments in the eighteenth report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts might once again prompt such consideration. It is interesting to note that the United Kingdom, the United States and many other countries bring in their budgets in April, well before the end of the financial year, so the parliaments in those countries examine the expenditure well before the money is to be spent.
The second matter to which Estimates Committee A draws the attention of the Committee of the Whole is with regard to the ordinary annual services of the Government. The Committee has drawn attention to two items under this heading. If the Committee had had more time, it may well have drawn attention to other items under this heading. One item was the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting in Sydney and it related to compensation of $190,000 for businesses affected by security arrangements. That came under the Department of Administative Services. The second item related to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Committee reported to the Senate that it appeared that these two items had failed the test of ordinary annual services. I draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that the expression ordinary annual services of government’ is employed in section 53 of the Constitution to classify the expenditure in respect of which the Senate’s powers of amendment are restricted to requesting the House of Representatives to make amendments and in section 54 to protect the Senate against the tacking of extraneous matters to an Appropriation Bill for the ordinary annual services of the Government, which, in accordance with section 53, the Senate may not amend but may request amendments. It is therefore of fundamental importance that expenditure should be carefully divided into Bills for the ordinary annual services of government and Bills for other than ordinary annual services.
The matter to which Senate Estimates Committee A draws the attention of the Committee is the decision as to what proper form of Appropriation Bill does not belong to the Government. This emphasises the importance of continuing the parliamentary practice or improving the definition of it which determines the form in which the amendable Bill and the contents of the non-amendable Bill will be acceptable to the Parliament. The Acting Minister for Finance (Mr Howard) stated in his reply in relation to the compensation for business item that it has been the custom to fund ex-gratia payments from the ordinary annual services Bill and that compensation payments become necessary in the course of the Government providing ordinary annual services, in this case adequate security arrangements for visiting dignitaries and others.
In relation to the first statement, perhaps the Senate has been at fault in the past in allowing the custom of ex-gratia payments to be funded from the ordinary annual services Bill. But that in itself is not sufficient reason for the Senate to allow that practice to continue. I suggest that an ex-gratia payment, by its very nature, can be neither ordinary nor annual. As to the second statement, there seems to be a very tenuous connection between compensation for businesses affected by security arrangements and the normal type of workers compensation that is rightly regarded as an ordinary annual service. Finally, Estimates Committee A draws the attention of the chamber to the report of a committee appointed by Government senators some years ago. That committee in its report stated:
The Committee appreciates that departmental difficulties may arise in deciding which activity should, and which should not, be classified as new policy. We suggest that, in cases of doubt, such doubts should be resolved by excluding the appropriations from the Appropriation Bill for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
I suggest that the attention of the Government should be drawn to that report.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired. The Committee is taking the appropriations in group A together. Senator Sim has moved a motion. Perhaps it would be better if we dealt with the motion first before we deal with the votes in group A. Is it the wish of the Committee that we adopt that procedure? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– I support the motion which has been moved by Senator Sim on behalf of Senate Estimates Committee A, which states:
That the Committee of the Whole having considered the report of Estimates Committee A recommends that the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations-
The use made of funds approved by the Parliament for the Advance to the Minister for Finance.
I shall speak briefly to the motion, which arises from the deliberations of Senate Estimates Committee A, although at a later time I shall speak on individual votes which are covered within the report of the Estimates Committee. As Senator Sim has said, this matter is of great importance to the Australian Parliament and particularly to the Senate because it is for the Parliament to determinenot for the Executive and not for the bureaucracy- how the accounts which are to be presented to Parliament for its ratification will be presented. In this case we found, as I think Senate Estimates Committee C also found, that there was a misinterpretation of the phrase ‘ordinary annual services of the department ‘. After all members of the Committee had given great thought to this matter we were unanimously of the view that we should recommend to the Senate that the matter be referred for inquiry and report to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations.
As a member of the Senate I was rather concerned at the attitude adopted- I say this with great respect- by the Acting Minister for Finance (Mr Howard) in his letter to Senator Sim, who was Chairman of Senate Estimates Committee A, on 22 May. It will be recalled that Senate Estimates Committee A presented its report to the Parliament in May- I think it was 9 May- and that shortly after that date an article appeared in the Australian newspaper that a Senate committee had criticised the Government and the Department of Finance for the way in which the accounts had been presented to Parliament.
Within a day or so we had a letter from the Acting Minister for Finance conveying doubtlessly his Department’s view and, I guess, what must be regarded as his view as to how the Parliament should treat the matters which were presented to it by the various departments which came before the Senate. I remind all honourable senators that when the Estimates are before the Estimates committees there is present at all times an officer of the Department of Finance. If the officers of the Department of Finance cannot answer questions at the time they are being deliberated upon by members of Estimates committees then I suggest, with respect to the officers concerned, that the Department should send more senior officers who might be able to answer the queries. Frankly, I think there is a great degree of arrogance in the attitude adopted by the Acting Minister for Finance in his letter of 22 May. He stated:
The words ‘prima facie’ I take to be an acknowledgment, on the Committee’s part, that it did not seek to discuss its conclusions with me or officers of the Department of Finance. Particulary given the sensationalised treatment given to that conclusion in the Australian on the day following the Committee’s report that was unfortunate so far as I and my Department are concerned.
If the Acting Minister for Finance or any other Minister thinks that a committee of the Senate, after listening to evidence presented to it by officers of the Department when a Minister who represents a particular Minister is present and is giving answers, is obliged to present a draft report for the concurrence of the Executive or the bureaucracy before the report is actually presented in final form to the Parliament, then frankly I think he has another think coming. I believe a great degree of arrogance comes through the whole letter, which obviously has been written for the Minister by an officer of his Department. Let me add one or two things to the very excellent remarks that have been made by Senator Sim. About the item of compensation for businesses affected by security arrangements, the Minister’s letter said:
It has been the custom to fund ex-gratia payments from the Ordinary Annual Services Bill.
As Senator Sim has said, if the Senate has approved of that practice being carried out in the past and if these matters do not recur on an annual basis, we should be having another look at them. Another item referred to in the letter was the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights commemoration involving an amount of $15,000. The Minister said that this was placed in the ordinary annual services Bill. He said:
While I note that the Department of Foreign Affairs described the proposed expenditure as ‘a new initiative’ that was not correct; in fact Parliament approved an appropriation of $10,400 for a similar purpose (the 20th Anniversary) in Appropriation Bill (No. 3 ) 1 967-68.
That was a decade ago. Because a like amount appeared in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) a decade ago the Department and the Minister seem to trunk that they can include it under the heading of ‘Ordinary Annual Service of the Parliament’ ten years later.
– I wonder what happened in 1923.
-That is exactly the point. If governments and departments are going to adopt that attitude then we will have to have a much closer look at the estimates that are presented. The Minister went on to say:
In this particular case it was not practicable for the matter to be considered and determined by the Government prior to the cut-off date for the printing of the Bills.
He further said:
In summary, in both cases what was done was entirely proper and correct as at the date the Appropriation Bills were printed.
That was not at the date the matter came before the Parliament but at the date the Appropriation Bills were printed. I clearly recollect that when the Minister and the officers of the Department were before the Committee the Chairman, Senator Sim, in the first instance asked the Minister whether he had any statement to make for or on behalf of the Department. No statement in explanation of these matters was made by the Minister representing the Minister for Finance in another place or by his officers or by the officer of the Department of Finance who was present. Therefore, because it is an important matter to assert the supremacy of the Parliament over the Executive and over the bureaucracy I have pleasure, on behalf of the members of the Opposition who were members of Senate Estimates Committee A, in supporting the motion moved by Senator Sim.
– I think Senator Sim, the Chairman of Estimates Committee A, and Senator Douglas McClelland have covered most of the substantative and important issues involved in this matter, but I think there are one or two points which ought to be on the record. I refer to page 404 of the Hansard record of consideration given to these estimates by Estimates Committee A on 8 May. With respect to the conference vote to which Senator Douglas McClelland has referred, an officer of the Foreign Affairs Department is recorded as saying:
I think that what it amounts to is that the dispute has been removed from the Additional Estimates to another area, that is, in relation to the Advance to the Treasurer.
Following some questions that had been asked by myself and by Senator McLaren in particular on the same matter, the Committee was once again advised by another officer as follows:
We were advised by the Department of Finance that the amount was to come from the Advance to the Minister for Finance.
That seems to be clear enough. I must raise a question in relation to that and in relation to the letter received from the Acting Minister for Finance (Mr Howard) dated 22 May in which he points out:
In the event, a drawing from that Advance of $70,000, making a total of $120,000 for the item, was approved last week.
That seems to me to raise a question as to when this decision was made and by whom? When was the decision made by the Department, when was the decision made by the Minister and who in fact made the decision? It would seem to me that the Minister should have been the person making the decision and that that apparently occurred in the week before 22 May. Yet on 8 May the Estimates Committee was told that the Department of Finance had informed the Department of Foreign Affairs that this amount could be drawn from the Advance to the Minister for Finance. It seems to me to be the sort of question that must be dealt with by the Senate
Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. It is the sort of issue that is fundamental to the role of this Parliament. Following the remarks made by Senator Douglas McClelland I think that it is worth recalling that in the Constitution of this nation it is the Parliament that comes first; it is the Parliament that has precedence. The Executive is a result of the Parliament. In these cases it is the Parliament that must have the power to scrutinise expenditure or proposed expenditure. When there seems to be some uncertainty as to how the decision was reached and by whom, I would hope that the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations would look at the matter, as is proposed by Senator Sim. The Minister also said: at the cut-off date for printing the Bills, the Government had not been able to complete its examination of the merits of the two different perceptions of foreseen need . . .
Again, that seems to me to raise a fundamental issue. If these matters are to be put by the Executive before the Parliament then quite obviously they have to be resolved beforehand. We have had difficulty in recent times with the flow of legislation to this Parliament and particularly to this chamber. It is a matter to which I believe the Executive and Senator Rae’s Committee must address itself. That is, the preparation of material for this Parliament clearly must be given greater priority and should be given precedence. When it can be said by a member of the Executive to the Parliament: ‘We are awfully sorry but we just did not get it ready in time’ I must say quite frankly that that is not good enough. It seems to me to be the fundamental problem to which Senator Rae’s Committee must address itself under the terms of the motion moved by Senator Sim. In such matters the Executive has to give priority to the requirements of the Parliament. As I have already mentioned, the Parliament has clear precedence in the Constitution of this nation. That is particularly important when this Parliament is dealing with financial matters of such significance through its Estimates committees.
I refer to the question of conferences in general. As is obvious from what has been said already by others and by me in my earlier remarks, there was some uncertainty about the program of international conferences at which the Australian Government could be represented because of the apparent dispute which has arisen as to the amount of money that would be available. The Committee received a letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs which indicated that it required, together with other departments, in the vicinity of $200,000 for delegate officers to attend the conferences which it believed were necessary- it used the term ‘inescapable commitments’ -if Australia was effectively to meet its priorities in its international relationships. It was pointed out that if only $50,000 were provided only one of these conferences, the International Labour Organisation conference, could be attended. The ILO conference is undoubtedly one of major importance and significance although some honourable senators may not necessarily share that view. I think it is a conference which is of some importance and one at which we should be represented. But there is a two page list of conferences at which Australia might not be represented because of this decision. That list already excludes a number of other important meetings. Obviously there was great uncertainty about the international conferences at which Australia could be represented. That obviously had significant implications for Australian foreign policy and the conduct of our relationships internationally and our participation in important conferences.
It seems to me that these sorts of matters ought not to be matters of such great uncertainty right up to the very day when an Estimates committee is getting down to examining, on behalf of the Parliament, the expenditure involved. In fact these sorts of matters should have been solved long before they had to come before an Estimates committee. I hope that in addressing itself to these issues these related matters will also be considered by Senator Rae’s committee. They are matters important not only to this Parliament but also to the conduct of Australia ‘s foreign relations. Therefore that in itself is important to this Parliament and something which each of us has to take as a matter of significance because of our responsibility in these areas as members of this Parliament. That is directly affected by the provision of funds. In situations in which there are disputes between departments, uncertainty even when these matters are brought before the Parliament, I say again that that is not good enough.
– As a member of Senate Estimates Committee A I support the motion moved by Senator Sim and seconded by Senator Douglas McClelland. It was disturbing for me as a member of Senate Estimates Committee A to see what seemed to be two cases of blatant misuse of funds approved by the Parliament under the Advance to the Minister for Finance. To anybody who believes sincerely in the concept of parliamentary responsibility for expenditure this is a serious matter. A situation where a department can spend money without the knowledge of Parliament as has the Department of Foreign Affairs in a number of areas and without an advance from the Department of Finance means the credibility of the Minister responsible must be seriously questioned.
I do not want to say any more about that at this stage, but I want to refer to one matter that took place in Senate Estimates Committee A. The Minister responsible for a department under investigation, Senator Withers, is always tough and always presses the public servants for an answer. I am sure that all members of Senate Estimates Committee A are happy with the answers that they get. Senator Sim, as Chairman of the Committee, certainly always gets respect from the Minister and members of the Committee. But Senator Webster came in and took control of Senate Estimates Committee A and a clash occurred then with the Chairman, Senator Sim. I believe that Senator Webster placed the public servants in an invidious situation. He certainly placed all the senators on Estimates Committee A in an invidious situation. I think that Senator Webster’s performance deserves the condemnation of honourable senators.
-Mr Chairman, I should like a little advice. As Senator Sim said a little earlier, Senate Estimates Committee C was also involved in a similar dispute. However, at the moment I presume you would like me to confine myself to the matter Senator Sim has before the Committee at the moment.
– That is the wish of the Committee.
– I should like first to point out to Senator Douglas McClelland and Senator Sibraa that over the past years Advances to the Minister for Finance, previously Advances to the Treasurer, have increased considerably since 1970-71. There was a peak in 1975-76 when it obviously got out of hand. Since then it has been reduced considerably. If Senator Douglas McClelland has a look at those figures he will find that the appropriations for the Advance to the Minister really got out of hand in 1975-76. However, speaking to the motion before the Committee, I suggest that Senator Rae’s committee also look at the matter of the consideration of the statement on the Advance to the Minister for Finance. I believe it was usually scrutinised in the Committee of the Whole at the end of the year.
– After the Public Accounts Committee has had a look at it.
– Yes. It has not been scrutinised since the double dissolution in 1975. 1 suggest that the Committee look at that and see whether that procedure should not be reintroduced. While the expenditure has already occurred at that time at least the Senate is aware of what is going on. I suggest that the Committee look at this area. I shall talk later on Senate Estimates Committee C.
– As a member of Senate Estimates Committee A I rise to speak in support of the motion moved by Senator Sim and seconded by my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland. I also support the remarks made by my other colleagues Senator Sibraa and Senator Knight. I place on record my congratulations to Senator Sim on the way he has chaired the meetings in the time he has been Chairman of Senate Estimates Committee A. I think the Committee will be voicing its sad loss. Senator Sim has already said that he will not be Chairman in the future. At this stage I should like to say that we thank him very much for the way he has conducted himself. He has been impartial on every occasion and has made members of the Committee feel at home.
We have had a job to do and we know that he has looked after our interests as members of the Committee when we have pursued our tasks. Sometimes our questioning has become a bit heated but Senator Sim, with his good chairmanship, has always been able to control it- until near the end of our investigations when Senator Webster came on the scene and made things a bit awkward. It was embarrassing not only to the officers, as Senator Sibraa said, but also to our Chairman. I place on record my thanks to Senator Sim for the way he has conducted himself in all the time he has been Chairman and particularly on the way he handled the Committee on that occasion when the altercation took place. The situation could have got out of hand. We could have adjourned and perhaps we might not yet have finished our work. I endorse the remarks and the motion of Senator Sim. If he accepts the chairmanship of another committee I wish him well in that job too.
– I have noted carefully the remarks of all honourable senators relating to this matter of the Advance to the Minister for Finance. I have noted of course the wording of the motion which moved as a matter of principle for consideration of the Advance and the use of the funds appropriated by the Parliament in that Advance. Of course they are matters for honourable senators to decide but I believe that some of the things that have been said should have some response. As we have quoted at length- I think sometimes in part only- from the letter of the Acting Minister for Finance (Mr Howard) to Senator Sim as Chairman of Senate Estimates Committee A dated 22 May, I think it would be appropriate to seek to have that letter incorporated in Hansard. It sets out the matters that have been dealt with in part up to this stage.
The document read as follows-
ACTING MINISTER FOR FINANCE
Canberra, ACT 2600
Senator J. P. Sim,
Senate Estimates Committee A,
Canberra, ACT 2600
My dear Senator
There are two particular matters in the Report to the Senate of Estimates Committee A on which I thought I should write to you.
The first concerns the comments in the Report on ‘Classification of Appropriations’ in which two items are described as failing the test of being ‘ordinary’ or ‘annual ‘ services of the Government.
The item ‘compensation for businesses affected by security arrangements’ related to payments in respect of business losses incurred due to security operations following the Hilton Hotel bombing incident. The payments were made on ex-gratia approval of the Minister for Finance. It has been the custom to fund ex-gratia payments from the Ordinary Annual Services Bill.
Compensation payments become necessary in the course of the Government providing ordinary annual services- in this case adequate security arrangements for visiting dignitaries and others. That was why thejudgment was made that the item should be classified as it was.
The other item was ‘ UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights- Commemoration $15,000’. Australia was a foundation member of the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1946. While I note that the Department of Foreign Affairs described the proposed expenditure as ‘a new initiative ‘ that was not correct; in fact Parliament approved an appropriation of $ 10,400 for a similar purpose (the 20th anniversary) in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1967-68.
An appropriation having been provided for previously in relation to long-established policy it was considered proper to include the item in Bill No. 3.
I turn now to the second and more severe criticism in the Report. The Report refers to two items and concludes:
The two cases cited above appear to the Committee, prima facie, to be a mis-use of the funds approved by the Parliament for the Advance to the Minister for Finance’.
The words ‘prima facie’ I take to be an acknowledgement, on the Committee’s part, that it did not seek to discuss its conclusions with me or officers of the Department of Finance. Particularly given the sensationalised treatment given to that conclusion in the Australian on the day following the Committee’s Report that was unfortunate so far as I and my department are concerned.
The first item referred to was in respect of representation at overseas conferences. Here the Committee heard evidence that there was a difference between the amount being sought by the Department of Foreign Affairs and that being recommended to the Government by the Department of Finance. Such differences of view as to what is needed are not uncommon. In nearly all cases they are resolved by negotiation between the departments concerned, subject to receiving Ministerial endorsement of the outcome.
In a few cases, however, departments cannot reach agreement- in effect, their perceptions of foreseen needs differ- and the matter then becomes one for the Government to decide. In this particular case it was not practical for the matter to be considered and determined by the Government prior to the cut-off date for the printing of the Bills. In that circumstance the amount which was provided for was that recommended by me: $50,000. It was agreed, however, that the matter should be the subject of further discussion and that, should that discussion lead to agreement that the needs were greater, then such additional funds should be obtained from the Advance to the Minister for Finance. In the event, a drawing from that Advance of $70,000, making a total now of $ 120,000 for the item, was approved last week.
I would most strenuously resist the proposition that these processes constitute a ‘mis-use’ of the Advance to the Minister for Finance. This Government is very much aware of the requirement that the Advance should only be used for urgent or unforeseen needs.
I hope, however, that it would be understood that where, at the cut-off date for printing the Bills, the Government had not been able to complete its examination of the merits of the two different perceptions of foreseen need before it, it was proper to include the lower figure in the Bill. To have included the higher figure would have been to seek to appropriate funds which, at that point, the Government had not decided were needed.
I turn now to the item relating to the ‘initiative to establish a Committee on Australia’s relations with the Third World . . . ‘ In that case the item was not included in the Bill because agreement, between the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Finance as to the amount to be provided, was not reached and conveyed to the Department of Finance before the cut-off date for the printing of the Bill.
In summary, in both cases what was done was entirely proper and correct as at the date the Appropriation Bills were printed. That it was known, in a general but not quantitative sense, that there might be a need for drawings on the Advance to the Minister for Finance does not, in my view, justify the use of the word ‘ mis-use ‘.
– I thank the Committee. This letter refers to the matters that are the subject of comment from members of Senate Estimates Committee A. I should like to make further reference to the matter of compensation payments. The letter of 22 May states:
Compensation payments become necessary in the course of the Government providing ordinary annual services- in this case adequate security arrangements for visiting dignataries and others. That was why the judgment was made that the item should be classified as it was.
That information was given by the Minister to the Committee Chairman. I have a further comment from the Minister that I think should be given to the Committee as a whole. The Acting Minister for Finance states that he refers to the question raised by Senate Estimates Committee A as to the classification of the provision of $190,000 for compensation to businesses affected by security arrangements for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting in Sydney this year. Committee A considered that the particular item failed the test as an ordinary annual service of government. The Minister wrote:
I am writing to explain that the Government has carefully reconsidered its initial decision to classify the provision as an ordinary annual service of government. While I can understand that some senators may regard the item as new policy, the Government feels as I do that the decision for its inclusion in Bill 3 was correct having regard to legal advisings, the 1 96S compact and past practice. I should add that the appropriation for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting was contained in Appropriation Bill (No. 3). This decision does not mean that all act of grace payments will in future be similarly classified. They will be considered individually on their merits and be placed in the amendable or non-amendable Bill as believed appropriate. The Attorney-General concurs in the views expressed in this letter.
I wanted to place that on record. It is of some regret that some honourable senators have used the words ‘misuse of funds ‘ when referring to the matters that they have been discussing this afternoon. If we are to talk in these terms I think we overlook in the case of the compensation payments the legal advisings that the Minister for Finance has had from the Attorney-General, the 1 965 compact and all past practice with regard to this matter.
Another matter that was discussed was what we term disagreed bids between departments. There seems to be some misunderstanding in the minds of those who have discussed this matter of who actually makes decisions. It is, of course, the Government which finally makes the decisions on the amount to be included. That is the important point to note. It does not relate to whether one department decides that it would be bidding for a certain amount and another department asks that the amount be reviewed, discussed or reduced. Ultimately the amount is decided by Government decision. To talk about these matters needing to be decided before the Bill is printed overlooks the role of Cabinet in its decision-making and the fact that certain matters are considered and decided at certain times by Cabinet. The printing of the particular Bills with which we are dealing this afternoon had a cut-off date I think of 12 April. The date of 12 April meant that the Appropriation Bills were printed in accordance with the requirements that have always been requested with regard to the known figures and the proper inclusion of those amounts. It would be improper to include amounts where decisions had not been taken. It was proper in the case to which we have been addressing ourselves this afternoon to include the lower figure in the Bill and then, when a decision was made, to seek the further funds from the Advance to the Minister for Finance. That is how it is done. In terms of its being a quantitative decision and not a decision with regard to new policy I think it is inappropriate to suggest a misuse of funds. It is an acceptance of a practice in the use of funds that I thought had been established.
The matter of conferences has been discussed. I assure the Committee of the Whole that the matter of international conferences has had considerable discussion at Government level. Of course some wish a wide representation at international conferences. In the past year many significant conferences have developed at short notice. The desirability of having representation or attendance at those conferences needs to be considered from time to time. Conferences may or may not be an annual event. In any case, decisions still need to be made on how many representatives will be sent, what funds will need to be sought and whether additional funds will need to be sought if it is considered desirable for a particular reason to have a later approval of attendance at a particular conference. That is why in some cases additional funds are sought from the Advance to the Minister for Finance.
I think Senator McAuliffe and I well recall our role on the Public Accounts Committee for many years. We made special efforts to visit Canberra and to scrutinise expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer as it was then known. The Public Accounts Committee accepts on behalf of the Parliament, that role. I think I, in common with Senator McAuliffe as Chairman, questioned the growth of the Advance to the Treasurer. I think that everyone would accept that where money can be appropriated in the Bills concerned it is desirable to do so. Where unexpected amounts are required the Advance to the Minister for Finance is the appropriate way in which that finance can be obtained. I have noted what has been said by the members of Estimates Committee A and others in the chamber today. Of course, the matter is in the hands of the Committee of the Whole. It is in its hands to decide whether it wishes to have a discussion in principle of the way in which funds are used through the appropriation to the Advance to the Minister for Finance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– We now return to discussion of the departments in group A.
-I wish to speak on the Estimates for Parliament. I bring to the attention of the Committee the answer that has been provided in the last few days to question No. 270. If that answer is looked at it will be seen that the aggregate for allowances for this Parliament- parliamentary allowances, electoral allowances, Canberra allowances, travel allowances, postage allowances and overseas allowancesin the year 1972 totalled $3.344m and in the year 1977, $7.6 19m. In that period when the consumer price index rose 79.2 per cent the increase in parliamentary allowances rose 128 per cent. I think that matter requires reconsideration and should be brought prominently to the notice of the Committee. I do not think the increases are justified. I deprecate in the strongest terms, in a period when indexation is being applied in industrial spheres and when proper restraint should be placed upon higher salaries much greater than the indexation that applies to half those salaries, the evasion of the issue by providing new and much more generous allowancessuch as postage, foreign travel and other allowances- that add to the situation.
– When it comes to his own, Senator McAuliffe does not mind a 128 per cent increase but if the matter had gone to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the indexed amount would be something less than 79 per cent.
– What was the CPI increase in legal fees?
– I am coming now to an item of legal costs. If the honourable senator shows his teeth on that matter I will be with him. I refer to division 130, subdivision 3, item 15 of the Estimates for the Department of Administrative Services. That item deals with the National Royal Commission into Drugs. It is a most important inquiry, but, nevertheless, the amount that is being asked for the servicing of that inquiry for one year is $8 1 1,900. One of the items that compose that figure is legal fees. The amount involved is $270,000. It was my questioning before Estimates Committee A that elicited the fact that senior counsel at the inquiry is being engaged at a fee of $600 a day. I refer to page 17 of the Estimates Committees Hansard of 2 May. The second counsel is being paid at the rate of $450 a day and third counsel at $350 a day. Each receives an increment of $75 a day when he is working outside his home office. A protest was made by officers that the fee was arranged by the Attorney-General’s Department. The Committee was asked to take the position that the Attorney-General is versed in fees; and we should rely on that. I think the AttorneyGeneral ‘s Department must be a way to the moon if it considers that ordinary counsel could not be engaged. Plenty of ordinary counsel are competent enough. Specialist fashionable silks do not have to be engaged to conduct an inquiry of this sort. In fact competent purposeful men would produce better work.
The fee of $600 a day for a 200-day year represents $ 120,000 for the year; but that is for only 200 days. I protest. If there is any evidence of support in the Committee, I shall move that the item be postponed with a view to requesting a reduction in the fee because I think it is outrageous that counsel’s fee should be $600 a day. For some briefs $600 would not be unreasonable for the first day; in fact $1,200 may not be unreasonable for the brief fee, which involves the study of the case and probably a week’s preliminary work. But after that first day daily refreshers of $600 I think shows that we are into the realm of unreasonableness. I do not think that rate of professional remuneration for inquiries established by the Government should be sanctioned by Parliament.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
– by leave- Honourable senators will be aware of the Government’s concern with the question of compulsory membership of student organisations in universities and colleges of advanced education and with the expenditure of funds by these organisations on activities many of their members would find offensive. The Government has now decided to prepare legislation to abolish compulsory membership of student associations at the Australian
National University and the Canberra College of Advanced Education. The legislation will ensure that fees continue to be compulsory for the provision of amenities and services for students. Both institutions will still be able to collect from students, on a voluntary basis, fees for other purposes of student organisations. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has now written to the State Premiers and has suggested similar legislation by those States which have not already acted along the lines proposed by the Commonwealth.
For some time the Government has viewed with considerable concern some activities of tertiary student organisations. There is no doubt that funds subscribed by students as a condition of enrolment have been used for purposes not related to their interests as students. Many students have opposed such expenditures in conscience. In some instances payments have been made by student organisations for purposes which perhaps a majority of students and their parents would have opposed. Under the present compulsory student fees system there has been inadequate freedom for students to opt out of supporting such activities on conscience grounds. The Government has decided such a situation should not continue. Victoria and Western Australia have already acted to make membership of student organisations voluntary and to prevent funds compulsorily collected for the provision of amenities and services from being used for other purposes.
The Commonwealth Government considers the Melbourne University (Amendment) Bill 1978, prepared by the Victorian Government, to be a reasonable and practical means of ensuring that students are not compelled to contribute financially to activities which are offensive to them. At the same time it preserves the University’s ability to require students to contribute to the establishment and maintenance of legitimate amenities and services. We propose to introduce legislation, hopefully in the Budget session of this Parliament, which will be along the lines of the Melbourne University (Amendment) Bill 1978. In summary, that Bill provides, firstly, that the Council of the University shall not authorise a students representative council to expend moneys raised by the University for the provision of amenities or services unless the governing body of that Council is elected by students in an election at which not less than one quarter of the students entitled to vote have voted; secondly, that the Council of the University is to have a duty to ensure that any moneys it makes available to a student organisation for the provision of amenities and services are applied bona fide to the provision of amenities and services of direct benefit to the University; thirdly, that the Council is to have published and freely available to students at least twice a year an audited statement as to the amount of fees paid by students for amenities or services that are not of an academic nature, the organisations to which any part of these moneys have been paid and the purposes for which they have been expended; and fourthly, a provision that no person shall be required to be a member of any body or organisation in order to entitle him to be admitted as a student or to graduate. I have informed the ViceChancellor of the Australian National University, the Principal of the Canberra College of Advanced Education and representatives of the Vice-Chancellors Committee and the Conference of Principals of Colleges of Advanced Education of the Government’s decision. I move:
-In view of the fact that the Government intends to bring down legislation on this matter, the Opposition will not, through me, make any detailed comment about the contents of the statement which the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has just made to the Senate. If I might, however, I will make one or two brief observations. In the last part of the statement the Minister said:
I have informed the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University, the Principal of the Canberra College of Advanced Education … of the Government’s decision.
The Opposition would be interested to know what consultations took place between people such as the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University, the other people mentioned and the Government in relation to this matter. If there is a fundamental criticism of the approach of the Government it is that, as a result of its own internal political pressures, it has decided to use a steamroller to crack a nut. The fact of the matter is that at the ANU, for example, the question of consciencious objection is catered for already, as I understand it, by the provision of an appeals tribunal of which Senator Rae is a member. As I recall Professor Molony and the Vice-Chancellor of the University are also members.
It seems quite possible that the Government could have thought about developing by consultation machinery of this kind to solve what the Government sees as a problem relating to conscientious objection. If it had embarked upon that course it could not be accused of interfering in the freedom and independence of universities, as it will be accused as a result of this statement and the legislation which, presumably, is to follow in the Budget session.
– It is just giving the students a bit of freedom, that is all.
– I appreciate Senator Walters’ generosity but it has nothing to do with the point I am making. There are one or two other minor points that one might make about the Minister’s statement. I do not know why this Government always is concerned to apply selective criteria to particular situations about which it becomes agitated as a result of representations by the Young Liberals organisation or bodies of that kind. An example of the selective criteria which are applied her is that the council of a university shall not authorise a students representative council to expend money unless that council is elected by one quarter of the students entitled to vote. From where is that magical figure plucked? From where is that magical criterion plucked? Does this Government apply that sort of provision to trade unions in its industrial legislation? Of course not. It would not have a bar of it because it knows that it would not get away with it. Does it apply that sort of provision to its own councils as a government? Does it apply it to the Liberal Party? Does it apply it to companies in relation to shareholders? Does it apply it to any corporations in Australia? Of course it does not. It plucks out of the air this extraordinary criterion in relation to student organisations, presumably on the basis of some view of patronage to student organisations and the nature of public concern about student organisations.
All sorts of criticisms can be made of this rather slapdash statement, which is an emotional response to emotional considerations in universities. For that reason, we regret that the Government has taken this course, and I hope the Minister will be careful to note that in criticising the way in which the matter has been handled I have said nothing critical of the notion of conscientious objection and I do not intend to do so. Nonetheless, we say that the response to the problem is a slapdash and inadequate one, full of strange criteria that are not applied by this Government in other situations and have not been applied by any government in this sort of situation. Having said that, we will await with interest the contents of the legislation in the perhaps vain hope that in some respects it may reflect some of the observations that have been made about the statement the Minister has just brought down. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 3) 1977-78 In Committee
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting Senator Wright was speaking on the Estimates for the Parliament, which come within the ambit of the report to the Committee of the Whole of Senate Estimates Committee A. He chose to speak on the aggregate amount of $374,000 that is sought by way of additional appropriation for the Parliament in the Appropriation Bills. I refer members of the Committee to the schedule that appears on page 5 of the document entitled ‘Particulars of Proposed Additional Expenditure for the Service of the Year Ending 30 June 1978’, where it will be seen that the amount of additional appropriation required for the Parliament for the remainder of this financial year- an amount of $374,000- is considerably less than that required for the multitude of government departments that are set out in the schedule.
I take exception to the comments made by Senator Wright concerning the salaries and allowances payable to members of Parliament as he related them to the Committee. The honourable senator lumped together the amount of salary and the amount of allowance payable to a member of the Australian Parliament and compared the total amount of salary and allowance, as determined by an arbitral tribunal, with the general salary allowance determined by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. On that basis he said that the salary and allowance of members of Parliament had been increased since 1973, I think, by 126 per cent compared with a general all-round increase of some 79 per cent. Let me refer the Committee to some remarks of the Remuneration Tribunal in its 1977 review. If Senator Wright wants to doctor the books, as it were, let me take the opportunity to put the record straight. On 20 June last year the Remuneration Tribunal reported to the Government on the level of salaries that in its opinion should be payable and the level of allowances that should be awarded to members of the Australian Parliament. It is not as though it were something that was grabbed by members of Parliament or determined by them. It was determined by proper judicial authority. In paragraph 14 of the Remuneration Tribunal’s review, under the heading ‘Ministers, Office Holders of the Parliament and Senators and Members’, the Tribunal said:
Some submissions have pointed to the fact that Federal parliamentary salaries are lagging considerably in relation to those in the States. This is confirmed by the comparative table of Federal and State parliamentary salaries at Appendix G. The reasons for this are not to be found solely in the restraint shown by the Tribunal in its determinations of June 1 976 and in earlier determinations but also in the fact that Parliament itself disallowed the Tribunal’s determinations of July 1974 and August 1975, which provided for increases in the basic parliamentary salaries.
The Tribunal went on in paragraph 1 5 to reassert the view that it had expressed in 1974 when, as I have mentioned already, Parliament disallowed the proposed determination of the Tribunal. In its 1974 review the Tribunal had stated:
That the parliamentary salary should not be so low as to constitute an entry barrier to gifted and highly-qualified persons is beyond argument. The salary level at which this barrier may be created for an increasing number of welleducated and experienced persons in the professions and in technological and business pursuits is a matter of judgment. We deem it of special importance that the Parliament attract as members sufficient numbers of able persons to ensure in the ministries of the future the breadth of expertise and experience required to meet the demands of government.
Having repeated its 1974 comment- and I point out that the Chairman of the Tribunal is His Honour Mr Justice Campbell, a prominent Queensland Supreme Court judge- the Tribunal continued:
We continue to hold this view, but do not consider it an appropriate time to establish fully the relativity for Federal parliamentary salaries which we believe must pertain in the longer term.
Paragraph 1 7 of the review states:
Remuneration at these levels is normally established by consultation and not by award or determination by tribunals. Considering the ‘basket’ of positions looked at in 1 974, and using the material available to the Tribunal, including salary surveys by firms of management consultants, a basic salary of the order of $27,000 would appear to be appropriate now.
For Senator Wright to get up here and have the gall to say that salaries and allowances of members of Parliament have increased by 126 per cent while the salary component of the consumer price index as awarded by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has been increased by only 79 per cent is really begging the question.
– He was talking about allowances only.
– I thought it was salary and allowances.
– The point you are making is right, but he was referring only to allowances.
– I will come to the question of allowances in a minute, but I thought he was referring to salary and allowances. The Tribunal went on to say:
We have concluded by majority that, on this occasion, we should determine a salary equivalent to the application of national wage increases to the $20,000 salary determined in 1 974-that is, a salary of $24,369.
What the Tribunal said in fact was that had it not exercised restraint, had it awarded what it considered was a fair amount, the salary payable to members of Parliament would be $27,000, but because it had decided to exercise restraint it had determined a salary of $24,369. If Senator Knight is correct in his understanding of what Senator Wright was saying, then I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard Appendix H of the Remuneration Tribunal’s 1977 review which sets out a comparison of electorate allowances for members of the Federal Parliament and of the State lower Houses of Parliament of Australia between the years 1 959 and 1 977.
The document read as follows-
– If we take the latest figures available, as shown in that table, we see that the highest electorate allowance payable to members of the Australian Parliament- that is, to country members, as they have the largest electorates in Australia- is $6,750. The highest electorate allowance for members of the New South Wales Parliament is $9,900; for Victoria $7,035; for Queensland $8,830; for South Australia $6,800; for Western Australia $9,000; and for Tasmania $6,641. From that we can see that, in regard to electorate allowances, members of the Australian Parliament are substantially worse off than their State counterparts, with the exception of Tasmanian members, yet the State electorates are nowhere near as large. I suggest that that makes a mockery of the comments made by our colleague Senator Wright.
I wish to make some other comments in relation to the estimates for the Parliament, for which an additional appropriation of only $374,000 is required. Throughout the community, particularly since the events in Canberra in November 1975, the Parliament is considered by a great number of people as being an outmoded institution, one which no longer achieves reform and advancement through Parliamentary debate and deliberation.
– It is all very well for Senator Walters to close her eyes to these things but that feeling is running through a large section of the Australian community. I do not like it any more than Senator Walters likes it. I believe in the institution of parliament. I believe in parliamentary democracy and I believe in achieving reforms and advancement by way of debate, discussion and common sense rather than by the law of the jungle, which has been promoted as a result of the events that took place in this Parliament in 1975. Whether Senator Walters likes it or not, there is a feeling amongst a large section of the younger generation of Australians that this Parliament is a mere rubber stamp for the members of the Executive, when Ministers rush Bills through to give them and their departments more power and influence. There is a great deal of cynicism amongst the Australian people when they read, as I suppose they will be reading in the next week or two, that at the last minute some ten, 20 or 30 Bills were rushed through the Parliament in the last couple of days.
– May I ask you this? How many times did you apply the guillotine?
– We are all guilty of it. We have all been guilty of it. We had only two periods of 1 8 months in office. We did not have a majority in this chamber, as the present Government has. Therefore we had to listen to the points of view that honourable senators opposite put up and often imposed upon us. What I am saying is that, if the present members of the Executive do not take more heed of the deliberations of this Parliament, we can shut up the shop and give it away. I urge that in the very near future we have a closer look at the way in which we conduct our proceedings. I am suggesting for a start that we have a look at the British system in the House of Commons where before each session the Government has to give an indication to the Parliament of the Bills, except those of an emergency nature which may arise from time to time, that are to be brought in during that session so that members of the Parliament know a month, two months or three months in advance what the legislative program of the Government is to be.
I suggest that the Parliament should take its role, compared with the role of the Executive, much more seriously than it appears to have been taking. The Government as a whole has allowed the Parliament to become subservient to the will of the Executive. I suggest that we need to have a very close look at this matter. I suppose that the Parliament could be considered to be a necessary bureaucratic evil. As I listened to the evidence that unfolded before Senate Estimates Committee A I was astounded at the control the bureaucracy has over the affairs of this Parliament. I am sure that our colleague Senator Knight will have something to say about this. I think it is scandalous that we have to go to the Public Service Board, cap in hand, every time we want something done for the people who record the proceedings of this Parliament. Honourable senators should have a look at the salaries and the working conditions of the members of the Hansard staff of this Parliament -
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
-I want to refer to the Department of Administrative Services and in particular to the salaries of electorate secretaries and research assistants of members and senators of this Parliament. Before doing so let me reply to Senator McLaren and Senator Douglas McClelland. This afternoon I heard Senator McLaren accuse the Senate of being a rubber stamp, but earlier he extolled the virtues of the Senate and referred to an occasion when several honourable senators from this side of the House chose to exercise a point of view which was different from that held by the Government.
– Only in one instance, and I quoted it.
-We know about that. The honourable senator quoted it. We on this side of the chamber, being afforded independence by our party, have the right to stand up here and say: ‘The Government is wrong. We are not going along with it’. We have the guts and the right to stand up and be counted, but you have the incredible -
-Order ! Senator Jessop, you would do a lot better if you spoke through the Chair.
- Mr Chairman, I know that you understand the point I am making and that is that the Senate is an independent House of review, and so it should be. I hear members of the Opposition in this place say, with confounded impertinence, that this is a rubber stamp, when they have no rights in government to exercise a different point of view, and I become almost sick in my stomach to listen to them. That really makes me cross. It is a credit to honourable senators on this side of the chamber that we have that capacity. Members of the Liberal Party and the
National Country Party have the right to disagree and to exert an independent point of view. That is what the Senate is all about. These hypocrites on the Opposition side -
– Order! You must not say that. I ask you to rephrase your comment.
-I shall rephrase it. These people who stand up in this -
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Chairman. I ask that Senator Jessop withdraw that remark.
– Order! I took the point of order before you did, Senator. Senator Jessop, continue with your speech.
– Thank you, Mr Chairman. But I do become somewhat irritated when subservient senators on the Opposition benches -
– Subservient to what?
– Subservient to the executive of your Party, to the trades hall -
– I am rising to a point of order, Mr Chairman, because I find that remark personally offensive.
– The point of order is not upheld. It was a political comment and you can reply to it later.
– Thank you, Mr Chairman. I want to quieten down a little bit because I realise, Mr Chairman, that you have a responsibility as Chairman. I like to exercise my sense of responsibility in this place. That is why there have been occasions- more than one- when I have chosen to differ with my Party. It has not done me any harm. It has enhanced the Liberal Party in the eyes of the public and it has condemned the Labor Party in the eyes of the public because its members have no right at all to exercise an independent point of view.
– I suggest that you come back to the point.
-I had to reply to that, Mr Chairman, because you allowed the Opposition speakers considerable latitude when they accused the Senate of being a rubber stamp. I am trying to demonstrate that there is no need for the Senate to be a rubber stamp. If individual senators representing their States in this place are prepared to get up and put a point of view, that demonstrates that this Senate is a genuine house of review. If every honourable senator did that it would be an entirely different chamber.
– You want to practice what you preach.
– I must reply to that.
– How many times have you crossed the floor? You are like the DLP- you never cross the floor to vote against the Government.
– Order! Senator McLaren!
-I have to go back to the referenda stages of the debate and remind -
-Senator, may I bring you back to the issue?
– You may, Mr Chairman, and I respect the reprimand. But I do hope that you will not allow me to be inflamed any more by the subservient senators of the Opposition.
– How can I possibly allow that to pass unquestioned? Senator Jessop referred to ‘the subservient senators on the other side of the chamber’. Mr Chairman, if he wants to come in here and inflame us, this whole debate will just degenerate into a slanging match which will go all night.
– Order! You must not tend to disparage another senator.
- Mr Chairman, I certainly would have no desire to do that, but I do hope that the Opposition senators will heed your advice to me and will not tend to inflame any further the independent senators on this side of the chamber. I should like now to revert to discussing the item about which I am concerned, namely, the item dealing with the salaries of the staff of honourable senators. I raised this matter during the hearings of Senate Estimates Committee A. I want to reiterate in the Committee of the Whole what I had to say then. I remind the Minister (Senator Guilfoyle) and the Government of their obligation to provide our staff in our electorate offices with sufficient salary to reimburse them for the responsibilities they undertake. During the hearings of Estimates Committee A I asked the Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers, whether ministerial staffs were afforded overtime payments. I was informed that that was not the case. I have since been told that some people on ministerial staffs seem to be receiving overtime payments. So I asked the Minister to have another look at that and to tell me whether in fact that is correct. During the Estimates Committee hearings I raised the point that our electorate offices in our States are extremely busy. The only way in which we can recompense our staff members for extra work which they do to serve our electorates is to give them time off in lieu of overtime.
– An interjection which was made on the other side of the chamber ought to be withdrawn.
– I do not take any notice of the inane interjections, which are frequently untrue, which come from the other side of the chamber. I am trying to reinforce the argument I have put that our staffs deserve a better deal. For example, there are five State electorate offices in the electorate of Barker. The electorate of the honourable member for Barker, Mr Porter, extends beyond the five State electorates. Within his electorate there are five State electorate secretaries who are attracting a combined salary of $50,000 a year to serve about 20,000 people in those State electorates. Yet the combined salaries of the officers in the electorate office of the Federal member total about $20,000 a year and those people have to serve an electorate comprising about 60,000 people.
– His office is not within the electorate; it is in King William Street. He does not even live in the electorate.
– I think the situation with respect to salaries is unfair. In the electorate of Grey for example -
– He does not live in the electorate. He has no office there. He is within sight of the Town Hall clock all day.
– I believe that the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) does live in his electorate.
– Yes, he does. He has his office there too. The honourable member for Barker does not have his office in his electorate.
– I am trying to be patient with the interjections, Mr Chairman, according to your advice.
– Just ignore them.
– I suggest that honourable senators opposite quieten down because I am trying to put a case, not for the Government senators or the Government Federal members alone, but for every member of this Parliament. I think it is about time the Commonwealth Public Service Board recognised the importance of increasing the salaries of the staffs of honourable senators. I remind honourable senators that at the present time the secretaries of State members of parliament have a submission before the State Public Service Board. I understand that they are going to receive a considerable increase in their salaries. Their old salary was about $10,127 a year, only about $300 less than the salary of our secretaries.
I think this is an indictment of the Federal Government and of the ministry which controls this area. I think we have to make our voices heard in this place if we are going to ensure that our secretaries and our research officers are paid a salary which is commensurate with the responsibilities they hold. I know that Senator Douglas McClelland supported this view during the Estimates Committee A hearings. I believe that Senator McLaren supported it as well. I hope that is recognised by the Minister and by the Government and that something is done by the Government to ensure that the Commonwealth Public Service Board recognises the capabilities of these staff members and their value to the electorate.
– Prior to Senator Jessop speaking I mentioned what I regard to be the scandalous salary arrangements and working conditions of members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Reporting Staff. I am dealing now with Division 103, relating to the Parliamentary Reporting Staff. The total appropriation for the Division is $40,500. I draw the attention of the Committee of the Whole to the report of Senate Estimates Committee A in regard to the conditions of the Hansard staff. Because this is an important matter and because the situation is bordering on the scandalous- if it is not scandalousI read page 7 of the report into the record. The Committee stated:
During the Committee ‘s examination of the Department of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, the Committee pursued in some detail the problems which face the Department in attempting to maintain the exceptional service it provides to the Parliament. We have been aware that for some time, Hansard has found great difficulty in attracting suitable staff due to the salaries paid to the reporters, as compared with those of the States and Court reporters, and the volume of work and hours of duty expected from the Commonwealth Hansard staff.
To underline this point, the Committee refers senators to a Table of Comparison on pages 135 to 137 of the Estimates Committee Hansard for 4 May 1 978.
I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard those details which are set out in the Hansard for Estimates Committee A of 4 May 1978. The details concern statistical information relating to the Department of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff.
The tables read as follows-
DEPARTMENT OF THE PARLIAMENTARY REPORTING STAFF
28 April 1978
PARLIAMENTARY REPORTING STAFF
Principal Parliamentary Reporter (Permanent Head)
Assistant Principal Parliamentary Reporter Leader of the Staff ( Representatives )
Leader of the Staff (Senate)
Supervisor (7 positions)
Senior Reporter(7 positions)
Reporter ( 1 6 positions)
Reporter-in-Training (6 psoitions).
Administrative Officer (Clerk Class 8 )
Clerk (Class 5)
Clerk (Class 4)
Clerical Assistant Grade 5 (2 positions)
Clerical Assistant Grade 2
Attendant Grade 2
Senior Technical Officer
Trainee Technical Officer
Journalist Grade A ( 7 positions)
Total permanent establishment- 59.
PARLIAMENTARY REPORTING STAFF
Principal Parliamentary Reporter- $27,6 1 7
Assistant Principal Parliamentary Reporter- $25,241
Leader of Staff-$22,085-$22,9 1 3
Supervisor-$ 1 9,605-$20,430
Senior Reporter-$ 1 8,778-$ 1 9,605
Reporter-$ 1 6,695-$ 1 7, 1 1 1 -$ 1 7,52 8-$ 1 7,945 $18,361-$18,778 Reporter-in-Training-$ 1 1 , 1 68-$ 1 1 , 494-$ 11,818 $12,143-$12,467
Journalist Grade A-$ 1 5,7 1 8-$ 1 6,070-$ 1 6,422
Senior Technical Officer-$ 1 3,587-$ 1 3,925-$ 14,266
Trainee Technical Officer-$8,624-$9, 1 54-$9,5 1 8
Clerk Class 8-$ 1 6,832-$ 1 7,5 1 1
Clerk Class 5- $12,5 1 7-$ 12,855-$ 13, 1 94-$ 1 3,534
Clerk Class 4-$ 1 1 , 1 5 9-$ 1 1 , 50 1 -$ 1 1 , 83 7-$ 1 2, 1 77
Clerical Assistant Grade 5- $9,7 1 3-$9,98 1 -$10,248
Clerical Assistant, Grade 2-$7,79 1 $7,915-$8,036-$8,158
Attendant/ Reader-$ 1 0,52 1 -$ 1 0,792-$ 1 1 , 065
Attendant Grade 2-$8,886-$9,076
Attendant Grade l-$8,339-$8,537-$8,707.
STANDING COMMITTEE STATISTICS
Commonwealth- 28 standing committees
New South Wales- No standing committees
Victoria- 8 standing committees
Queensland- No standing committees
South Australia- 3 standing committees
Western Australia- 1 standing committee.
All Hansard staffs report select committees and ministerial conferences as directed. The Queensland staff is required occasionally to report courts during parliamentary recesses.
ASSIGNMENTS OTHER THAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES
Assignments undertaken by the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, other than parliamentary committees, include:
Australian Agricultural Council
Australian Minerals and Energy Council
International Whaling Commission
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association
Australian Environment Council
Australian Transport Advisory Council
Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting
South East Asia Treaty Organisation
Prime Ministerial Conferences
Australian Water Resources Council
Australian Parliamentary Seminar
Australian Forestry Council
Narcotic Drugs Conference
Five-power Meeting on Defence
Asian and Pacific Council
Weights and Measures
Safety in Industry Seminar
Civil Defence Conference
Petrol Prices Conference
Sirex Wasp Conference
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
Royal Visit Directors
Aboriginal Welfare Conference
Advisory Council on Bibliographical Services.
On occasions, State parliamentary committees meeting in Canberra are reported by the Parliamentary Reporting Stan”. Recently a meeting of State and Commonwealth Public Accounts Committees was reported by the Parliamentary Reporting Staff in Sydney. In 1975 the Hansard staff reported a meeting of a Tasmanian select committee inquiring into motor vehicle insurance which took evidence in Canberra. In 1970 a meeting in Canberra by a Select Committee of the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly was reported by the Staff.
CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT
Supervisors and reporters do not receive overtime for additional hours worked as their salaries are above the overtime salary barrier (Clerk Class 8). They receive 7 weeks recreation leave as do officers in the other parliamentary departments with the exception of the House of Representatives where the entitlement is 8 weeks recreation leave.
With the exception of the Technical Section and Journalists, the support staff works 40 hours in session and 34½ hours in recess periods with overtime payable after 40 hours duty in session. The support staff receives 4 weeks recreation leave.
Officers in the Technical Section work 36% hours a week. Overtime is payable after 38 hours duty a week. Recreation leave entitlement is 4 weeks.
Journalist Grade V.
Journalists are paid in accordance with the Australian Journalists Association Metropolitan Dailies Award. They receive 4 weeks recreation leave.
Note: All clerical officers in the Administrative Section of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff perform duties directly associated with the production of the Hansard Reportpreparation and checking of formal matter, liaison with senators and members, and the insertion in the report of their corrections, checking the report against the Journals and Votes, consultation with and the dispatch of copy to the Government Printer.
-As the Senate Estimates Committee has reported, we were informed that constant approaches to the Public Service Board for salary increases have been unsuccessful. We were informed that no overtime is paid to reporters and, indeed, as is set out in our Committee report, in the last 12 to 15 years 50 per cent of total retirements from Hansard has been on the grounds of ill health. I do not think we would find anywhere else in the Australian work force that there is such a high percentage of retirements on the grounds of ill health. It is an incredible situation in the Parliament that, of those who have retired from the Hansard staff over the last 12 to 15 years, 50 per cent have been retired on the grounds of ill health. I suggest that the answer to that situation is clearly given when one pursues the documents which I have had incorporated in Hansard. For instance, one will see that in 1977 the total hours of sitting of the Commonwealth Parliament were 1,038. For the purpose of comparison the State closest in sitting hours was New South Wales with 525 hours. This Parliament sat for nearly twice the number of hours that the New South Wales Parliament sat. For the information of my colleague, Senator Colston, I point out that the Queensland Parliament sat for a total of 213 hours. Yet we find that the salary of reporters on the Hansard staff of the Queensland Parliament is over and above the salary paid to Commonwealth reporters.
As far as the sitting days of upper Houses are concerned- I mention upper Houses because the Senate is the upper house in this Parliament- the Senate sat for 84 days in comparison with the next closest upper House which was New South Wales which sat for 50 days. As far as the sittings of lower Houses are concerned, the House of Representatives sat for 73 days and the New South Wales Legislative Assembly sat for 60 days. Again, for Senator Colston’s benefit, I point out that in 1977 the Queensland Parliament sat for 40 days.
I mention those matters to give some indication of what is happening in the Parliament. If one reads the report of the Senate Estimates Committee A one will see that, as a first step, we have urged the Presiding Officers to approve payments to those eligible parliamentary staffsnot only the Hansard staff but also other staffs which work in this place- of an allowance in lieu of overtime. We note that ministerial and Opposition private secretaries receive such an allowance but the people who are now at the table reporting these proceedings and other members of the staffs who work in the Parliament do not get any allowance in lieu of the long hours worked. In relation to Hansard, we have said that this action will go some of the way, we hope, in attracting suitable staff to its service.
I can see the time coming when, if Parliament does not do something about the situation, we will not have people available to report the proceedings of the Parliament. Last September an advertisement was inserted in the newspapers by the Principal Parliamentary Reporter calling for reporters. One application was received, was processed and was approved. At the last moment that person decided not to accept appointment to the Hansard staff because in comparison with elsewhere throughout Australia, the working conditions were poor and the hours were too long. There have been very few recruits to the Hansard staff in recent years. There have been a considerable number of retirements and a considerable number of breakdowns. The situation is reaching a critical stage.
I urge that something should be done about the problem. Frankly, I think it is scandalous that the Parliament has to go cap in hand to the Public Service Board to have matters, which should be the preserve of and determined by the Parliament, approved by the Public Service Board. That is why I said earlier that, if we do not take a stand in relation to the influence of the bureaucracy in this place, Parliament is in for very heavy weather in the future. I make those comments in a genuine attempt to assist in overcoming a very critical situation which will exist in the near future as far as the reporting of debates of the Parliament is concerned.
– I follow on what Senator Douglas McClelland has said. I acknowledge his expertise and experience in this area because of his background as a reporter. I support what he has said about the Hansard staff. It is worth recalling that the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, or Hansard as it is generally known, has a very long tradition, dating back to the eighteenth century. Most important to this institution as a parliament is that Hansard’s role is fundamental in the reporting of proceedings not just in the chambers but in the committee rooms of Parliament House and throughout Australia. That is one of the matters to which I wish to refer subsequently. An enormous amount of effort is spent in travelling and reporting. Frequently, the circumstances are rather difficult. The preparation of the facilities and setting up the machinery that is necessary for Hansard to carry out its activities, at times in rather difficult situations, are additional factors to consider.
It was in 1901, straight after Federation, that the Australian Parliamentary Reporting Staff was established. I understand that at the time it consisted of nine ‘gentlemen ‘. It was only in 1 969 that the first woman was appointed to the Hansard staff. The parliamentary reporters are a very highly skilled group without whom this Parliament could not function effectively because it is essential that its proceedings are reported quickly and accurately. This is the special skill for which Hansard is properly renowned. Senator Douglas McClelland has quite rightly referred to the difficulty in obtaining Hansard reporters for the Commonwealth Parliament. Considerable competition for staff comes from State parliaments and from the courts. It is my understandingI think this is of interest- that Tasmania which has not a parliamentary reporting staff has now decided to create a Hansard staff. I understand that that decision was taken only last month. The Tasmanian Parliament will be advertising for such staff. Therefore there will be an even heavier demand on the very limited pool within Australia of highly skilled reporters. I think that ought to be cause for the Parliament to consider ever more carefully the information which is now contained in the record of the proceedings of Estimates Committee A with respect to the salary scales, the terms and conditions of employment and the problems faced in many instances by members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Reporting Staff. I think it is worth pointing out that much of the information contained in the Hansard record of those proceedings was obtained through the process of the question and answer procedure that was followed during the consideration of the Estimates by Estimates Committee A.
Senator Douglas McClelland has gone into some detail with respect to the relative numbers of reporting staffs in other areas, the hours of sitting in other parliaments and so on, but it is worth emphasising that the Parliamentary Reporting Staff of this Parliament is now under considerable pressure. There have been difficulties with respect to recruiting and there are difficulties with respect to salary. Quite frankly, as Senator Douglas McClelland has said, the salaries of the members of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff of this Parliament are not commensurate with the demands that are imposed upon the people who have to undertake this work not only in Canberra but also throughout the rest of Australia, and at the oddest of hours. The job entails extensive travel. All members of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff have to travel quite widely, as members of this Parliament would know. Frequently parliamentary committees travel to and meet in places as far apart as Darwin, Alice Springs, Perth, Hobart and Melbourne and members of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff have to be on hand to report those committee proceedings. They have to carry the materials necessary to report those proceedings, particularly the tape recording machinery that is often used in these situations. They do not have an easy task. They have to meet airline schedules, they have to travel in Commonwealth cars and they have to be away from their families, just as members of this Parliament. They have to face all those problems.
It seems to me that all those matters ought to be recognised- as I see it, they are not adequately recognised- in the salaries and terms of conditions of service provided for members of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff. It seems to me also that perhaps the Public Service Board has been somewhat inflexible in this case. As Senator Douglas McClelland has indicated, many pleas have been made over many years for improved salaries and, in particular, for improved terms and conditions of service but these pleas have been ignored. There is a need now in this Parliament for additional Parliamentary Reporting Staff. I think that in an endeavour to obtain them, particularly given the fact that another State Parliament is to establish a Parliamentary Reporting Staff, there is a need now to look much more carefully and, on the part of the Public Service Board, much more flexibly at the question of the terms and conditions of the members of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff of this Parliament. As I have said before, the service Hansard provides is crucial to the Parliament, but it is also important to the public that what is said and done in this place is recorded quickly and is available to the community as soon as possible. I think it is important in this debate on the deliberations of Estimates Committee A to put on record the fact that there are members of this Parliament who are keen, in their interests and in the interests of this Parliament and of the community as a whole, to support a proposal for improved conditions for the Parliamentary Reporting Staff.
There are certain points that I feel ought to be emphasised. The first is that members of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff are paid a salary but are not paid overtime. Obviously they have to work very odd hours. As I have mentioned, they work the same hours as Parliament sits but, apart from that, they have frequently to travel at weekends to far-flung corners of the continent. They do not have the option of receiving overtime for that.
I understand that they can take leave in lieu of overtime but the point is that if they all took all the leave for which they were eligible in lieu of the overtime they worked it would only compound the very serious problem of the availability of staff. If people were to take sick leave and recreation leave, which are both essential anyhow, it would only compound those problems. It therefore becomes impossible to take leave in lieu of overtime. As I understand it the members of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff rarely seek leave in lieu of the overtime they work and therefore obtain no benefit for it. For working odd hours, disrupting their family life and travelling all over this continent while serving this Parliament, serving the Australian community, they receive no benefit. To me, that is not only inequitable but also, given the role of this Parliament, rather foolish.
I think Senator Douglas McClelland suggested that some form of allowance should be paid. That seems to me to be an appropriate suggestion. Ministerial officers receive an allowance. However, I see some difficulty in equating the work of members of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff with that of ministerial officers. I do not see that as an entirely appropriate comparison. It would seem to me that there could be a case for establishing a special employment category for the Parliament Reporting Staff. I have already referred to the fact that the traditions of the reporting staff go back to the eighteenth century and that in this Parliament they go back to Federation. Surely we ought to recognise that and recognise the particular problems and the particular demands that go with the job. It seems to me that there is a case for considering not some sort of parallel arrangements with other employees in Parliament House but some special employment category that would take into account the special terms and conditions of service of the members of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff.
Senator Douglas McClelland has also referred to the remarkable percentage of retirements that have occurred because of ill-health. I think that speaks for itself, given the pressures of the job and the demands of the job, and it ought to be taken into account. It seems to me that the points made by Senator Douglas McClelland are valid. In the interests of this Parliament and of the community we ought to ensure that the members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Reporting Staff are paid properly and, even more importantly, that they are provided with additional benefits to make up for the particular and peculiar problems and difficulties that go with the job, which is a job with a long tradition and one that is very important to this Parliament and to the Australian community.
I would like very briefly to mention three other matters relating to Parliament House. The first is a matter which I have raised with the President of the Senate and before the Estimates Committee. It relates to the provision of guard boxes for the Commonwealth Police guarding Parliament House. Winter is upon us and the nights are cold. I believe that it is unfair to compel these people, who are serving the Parliament, to stand out in Canberra ‘s cold winter when, as 1 understand, police boxes are available. They might not be aesthetically ideal but they would be warmer for the people involved. If it is not possible to use those guard boxes, perhaps we could look quickly at what alternatives are available. I understand that this is being done. I would simply like to put on record that I hope that it is done quickly because the temperature is dropping rapidly.
The second point also is related to the Commonwealth Police. As security arrangements in Parliament House have been intensified in recent months the number of Commonwealth policemen and policewomen working here has increased proportionately. Their accommodation now is most inadequate. I understand that the Presiding Officers are aware of this matter. I have had a look at the accommodation available and I can only say that ‘inadequate’ is the kindest possible expression which could be used to describe it. I hope that some action will be taken as quickly as possible to provide more adequate accommodation in terms of a place to eat, to keep personal effects and so on during the hours of duty for the Commonwealth Police who are guarding Parliament House. On the question of security, I note that the need for guard boxes and the need to provide proper facilities for those who are guarding Parliament House obviously is important to the security of this building. Time does not permit me to say any more about that at this time. I end on the note that I believe it is important to the Parliament and therefore ought to be pursued with some speed.
– I have only a couple of points to make. Senator Jessop almost ruined the submission I am about to make to the Committee; nevertheless I will make it. I do so at this time because I can use the example of the actions of the President of this chamber to support the case that I wish to make. If honourable senators look at the minutes of the proceedings of Senate Estimates Committee A for Thursday 4 May 1978 they will notice that the President of the Senate appeared before the Committee and all the officers of the Senate did courtesy to the Committee by attending and responding to questions from the Committee.
I think it ought to become an established practice that when departments appear before estimates committees they should follow the example set by the Senate officers and be represented at the highest level. I can see in the chamber tonight one deputy secretary of a department. Whereas it is not as important to attend these proceedings as it is to attend the estimates committee proceedings, nevertheless it is a courtesy which that department has extended to the Senate. This practice is not consistent. When we were examining the estimates of one department it was represented by junior officers. I believe that does no good to the estimates committee. The department does not produce officers that can give the information. If the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) is in attendance before the Committee she should be supported by at least the head- the secretary- of the department, or the Deputy Secretary. On no occasion should a senator need to complain that a department is represented by junior officers. Nor should the junior officers be placed in a position before a committee of having to answer questions which they are not as well equipped to answer as the senior officers of the department.
I merely make the point that the witnesses before the committees should be at the highest level possible, but in the Committee of the Whole perhaps it is not as justified when one considers that from time to time the debate in this chamber is reduced to a rather extraordinarily low level. That is not a criticism of Senator Jessop alone but Senator Jessop is the first person who comes to mind because of his recent performance here. I think it is extraordinary that he should perform in that way. One must consider that if we are to ask that departments be represented at the highest level our performance in this place should also be at the highest level. Having delivered that homily I will sit down.
– I am very interested in what Senator Georges had to say. I want to refer now to the Department of Administrative Services again and to remind the Committee of what I was saying earlier and why Senator Georges was so upset I was just demonstrating that on this side of the House we are not rubber stamps and we are capable of exercising independence which is a point of jealousy as far as the Opposition is concerned. I remind the Committee of what Senator Withers said with respect to senatorial staff in our electorate offices. As recorded at page 1 75 of the Hansard record, when I raised this question, he said:
The whole problem is where does the staff of senators and members fit within the schematic arrangement of the Public Service. In fact, the Coombs report said that they ought to come right out of the Public Service and have nothing to do with the Public Service Board because they do not fit within the framework. They are a peculiarity or an oddity.
I do not know whether I would agree with the oddity part of it but they have a peculiar position to fulfil. I think that Senator Knight mentioned that point when he was referring to the Parliamentary Reporting Staff. I would even go further and say that our parliamentary staff here have that same peculiarity and ought to be considered in a different way from ordinary public servants because they have a peculiar function to perform and a very significant one. I often feel that the Parliament lets the side down, lets the people who support us down, when it does not recognise that. We should recognise what the Minister said in answer to my question, that there ought to be a special category.
I go on to refer to a line dealing with the Parliament. I shall refer specifically to the secretarial staff of Senate standing committees. Here we have quite a problem. We have developed a committee system here which requires expert officers to advise us, expert people, well trained, with degrees who service the committees. Yet we are faced with the problem of a brain drain- not to within the Senate staff or the parliamentary staff but a brain drain from the Senate staff outside into other Public Service areas. That has been evident in recent times when we have lost the services of experienced secretaries of standing committees simply because we have not been paying them enough. I believe that if we upgraded the senior secretaries of standing committees to class 1 1 or even higher we would retain that expertise that is necessary to service the committees of the Senate that have proved to be valuable in the advice they have put forward to the Government of this country.
Senator Rae brought out this point himself. He suggested that there is a case for a special category to be evolved not only for senators ‘ staff but for the staff of the Parliament generally. In conversation with me he suggested that perhaps, dealing with electorate secretaries in particular, senators and members ought to be given a sum of money that they can spend as they wish- up to, say, $30,000- to employ one, two or three people with that amount to serve their offices according to their wishes. It should be left to the members of Parliament to assess the value of the staff that they have and the salary that they ought to be paid. I believe that suggestion ought to be considered by the Government. I would appreciate the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) conveying that suggestion to the Cabinet, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) or whoever is responsible in this area. I reinforce what has already been said by Senator Knight and Senator Douglas McClelland when referring to the Hansard reporting staff. They made a point that Hansard reporters ought to be treated in some special way as well. I support those views and I ask the Government, through you, Mr Chairman, to give that serious and favourable consideration.
-I support the remarks about the Hansard staff that were made by Senator Douglas McClelland and also Senator Knight. In supporting their remarks I should also like to point out that the parliamentary officers of the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Library and other departments of course are in exactly the same position as far as overtime is concerned as was spoken of here tonight with regard to the Hansard reporters. When one looks at the estimates considered by Senate Estimates Committee A one sees many examples of frivolous spending on items essential for no other purpose than the grandstanding of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I refer particularly to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting that was held in Sydney at the Hilton Hotel. Members of the Australian Labor Party and I believe that Australia has a very important role to play in our region. However, I am not convinced that the tremendous expenditure on CHOGRM was altogether justified. I think it would have been perhaps more fruitful, since a Commonwealth
Heads of Government meeting had recently been held in London, if the Prime Minister had sponsored a regional Heads of Government meeting not specifically and not exclusively for Commonwealth members.
It has been said that one reason that the Prime Minister convened this conference was no doubt to camouflage an otherwise shoddy performance in foreign relations which has been credited to him. Unfortunately I think that the cynical conclusions that many journalists and commentators came to have some basis. Many of them thought that this was an exercise attempting to give a touch of grandeur to the Prime Minister. Certainly one is tempted to share in that conclusion when one sees the detailed breakdown of the way that the money was thrown around at the CHOGRM conference. I personally think that an equally productive series of meetings could have taken place in more orthodox surroundings in Canberra where not only would a lot more public money have been saved but also better security could have been provided.
The total administrative cost of the conference was $772,000. During the course of the Committee’s deliberations it was determined that this very high figure did not represent anywhere near the entire cost. That figure does not include the wages of Commonwealth or State police engaged in security operations nor does it represent the total cost of the mobilisation of the armed forces after the bombing tragedy. I think that if there were some way in which this could be worked out we would be looking at a figure well in excess of $ 1 m for running the CHOGRM conference.
I refer to one outrageous item of expenditure. I refer to the cost of the retreat at Bowral and to the transportation of the heads of government and support staff and secretariat members between Canberra, Bowral and Sydney. The total amount paid to the proprietor of the Berida Manor was $42,000 for 2 days accommodation for the heads of government and their support staff. I asked a question on this matter in the Estimates Committee. I thought that a large number of people would have been at the Manor for some time. I could not work out myself how the bill could possibly be $42,000. I would like to give some details of the breakdown of the costs that I was given during the hearing. I still find the figure very hard to believe. I hope that the answer I was given is in fact wrong. Senator McLaren and myself both asked a question concerning the number of persons covered in the $42,000 cost at Berida Manor, Bowral. We were told that 12 heads of government, 7 accompanied by their wives, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat and 8 staff were resident in Berida Manor. That is a total of 28 people. Although the CHOGRM members stayed at the Manor for only 2 days the cost covers a period of one week. That is reasonable. I can understand why, for security reasons, it was closed before and after the stay of the heads of government. What this means is that 28 people stayed at the Manor for a week at a cost of $42,000. 1 have heard that it is a place where one goes to relax and to reduce weight. But at those prices a person would certainly be reducing his wallet if he stayed there for long.
– At your own expense, but not at government expense.
-That is right. At this time I think it is worth raising and placing on the record of the Senate the belief that I have about the way in which the Government handled the situation after the Hilton bombing. At the time it happened I think one could draw only one of two conclusions. The bombing could have been perpetrated by an organised urban terrorist group such as the Baadar-Meinhof gang, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the Red Brigade, the Japanese Red Army or any of those other extreme groups. If a group like this had been behind the bombing it would have been pleased with the Government’s reaction. Part of the views and philosophies of groups like this is that they must provoke extreme reactions from the state. That is one of their objectives. Therefore, the Australian Government’s reaction by bringing in the Army would have been exactly what the terrorists wished. I do not personally think that any of the groups I have mentioned were involved at all. But otherwise, if one looks at it, the bombing was perpetrated by some disturbed person or some persons acting on some specific grudge against one of the heads of government. In that case the Commonwealth or State police would probably be better equipped to handle the situation than the armed forces. All in all I believe the conference was much more expensive than it needed to be. As I have said, it could have been held in Canberra without the two-day excursion to Berida Manor. It could have maintained the informality which the Prime Minister wished to have as a characteristic of the talks.
The other thing that concerns me about the CHOGRM conference, considering the very generous compensation payments that were made to businesses affected by the Hilton bombing incident, was the fact that no ex-gratia payments were made to the families of the bomb victims. On 22 February this year I asked a question in the following terms:
I do not want to go through the full answer I received. I will summarise it. I was told that State workers compensation legislation applies to the families involved and that the Government was setting up a trust” fund for the education of the children. I certainly approve of that; it was the least that could be done. The reply stated that no contradiction was involved in the payment of compensation to the shopkeepers. I say that a real contradiction was involved. When I asked a question in Estimates Committee A about the details of the ex-gratia payments I was told that details of ex-gratia payments by the Commonwealth were not normally made public. I was told that in this instance disclosure of the amounts paid to each business could be of concern to the business involved because the profitability of them could be revealed. The reply stated that so far 49 claims had been received from businesses entitled to compensation and that amounts totalling $156,842.78 had been paid to 43 claimants and that the remaining 6 claims were being assessed. A small number of claims are still to be submitted. I am not opposed, of course, to these businesses receiving compensation. I think that they should be con.pensated. The working out of the compensation is probably an accurate and proper record.
The fact is that besides the education of the children concerned, the widows of the men who were blown up in that Hilton bombing have received no ex-gratia payment. When one sees that the Commonwealth is paying out well over $ 1 50,000 one sees that there is a good case for a $20,000, $30,000-honourable senators can think of a figure- ex-gratia payment being made. Of course these people have not been ignored. The Municipal Employees Union in New South Wales- the union of which I am still a memberhas done a magnificent job. So far it has collected $90,500 which will be given to the widows of the Municipal Employees Union members who were blown up in that bombing. The organisers throughout the State are still going around seeking funds. They believe that they will receive well in excess of $100,000. 1 put the point of view to the Committee that perhaps that amount of money should have been made as an ex-gratia payment in the same way as money was given to the shopkeepers who were disadvantaged because of the explosion.
I want to raise another issue. It relates to a major area in which the Government’s erratic decision-making has cost the public a considerable amount of money. I refer to the decision to close down diplomatic missions in Chicago, Bombay and Los Angeles. In a mad rush to curtail Government expenditure the Prime Minister ordered the closing of these missions. By the end of the year it had become obvious that these posts were important to the conduct of Australia’s business overseas. In other words, the decision was ill-considered and poorly planned in the first place. The missions were subsequently reopened and as a result not only was Australia unrepresented in these important centres for more than a year but also was there false economy in the sense that no money at all was saved because the Australian Government was paying rent on unoccupied facilities, in the case of Chicago where the premises were leased, or, in the case of Los Angeles, where the premises had been purchased and were then sold but will now have to be repurchased or, alternatively, purchasing or leasing arrangements of some sort will have to be made.
I wish to give some details of what I consider to be quite a scandalous situation with respect to the Los Angeles post. I shall give the Senate a fairly brief history of this post. It was opened as a trade post in 1 964. It became a consulate-general in 1970. Some residential property was bought and, following closure of the post in 1976, was sold. The Consulate-General ‘s residence, bought in 1973 for $183,551, was sold in 1976 for $276,086. The special trade commissioner’s residence, bought in 1974 for $151,515, also was sold in 1976 for $211,124. The Consul’s residence, bought in 1974 for $74,000, was sold in 1976 for $109,622. Of course, some people would say that is a very fine return for the amount of money that the Commonwealth put into those residences. Now with the decision to reopen the posts those residences will have to be re-purchased.
I was in California in February this year and I made some inquiries about property from people who are involved in the business. They told me that that same sort of appreciation of which the sale of these residences is an example has occurred between 1976 and 1978. When we reopen the post we will have to pay an extra $50,000, $60,000 or $70,000 on top of the figures for which we sold these buildings in 1976. All the other residential accommodation in Los Angeles was leased under private lease agreements by individual officers. The post was closed in June 1 976. The decision to reopen it was announced in February 1978. Office accommodation at 3600 Wilshire Boulevard was leased from July 1971 for a period of 10 years at a rental of $US6 1,707 per annum subject to escalation. Following the closure of the post in June 1976, efforts were made to sub-lease the whole of the former office accommodation for the remainder of the lease period, that is, to July 1981. Approximately one half of the space has been sub-leased and the revenue so derived to date amounts to $A4 1,000. The total amount paid out in rent on the office space from the time the post was closed is approximately $125,000 to date. The net outgoings are therefore $84,000, that is, $125,000 less revenue of $41,000. This is a classic example of a government making a decision that was supposed to cut costs but which in fact has cost us not only that $84,000 in lost rent but the hundreds of thousands of dollars that will be involved in re-purchasing the property.
I just close with this note concerning those offices. Efforts to sub-lease the remainder of the space were unsuccessful up to the time that the planned reopening of the post was announced. The existing unoccupied office space will be utilised when the post reopens. This is perhaps a classic example of a government that tried to cut costs by closing diplomatic posts that should never have been closed in the first place. It was not in Australia’s interest to close them and they are now being reopened at a great expense to the taxpayers of Australia.
– I wish to raise several matters with regard to Estimates Committee A. Firstly, when I sought information whether any expenditure had been set aside for the purchase or the rental of property in England for the exGovernorGeneral, I was not very happy with the reply I received from the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers). I asked:
Is any part of the additional appropriation of $1,250,000 set aside for the purpose of providing office accommodation in England for the previous Governor-General?
Senator Withers in reply said:
I knew that was coming.
Of course, he did. I had pursued the astronomical costs over the years to keep the previous Govenor-General in office. Senator Withers said:
There is no provision in these estimates. The honourable senator should not ask me to tell him where to look for it because I will not.
Surely we can find it somewhere.
Senator Withers in reply said:
Well, you look.
The only way we can do so is by questioning representatives of every department.
Senator Withers said:
That is right.
That is the sort of treatment we receive in this Parliament when we seek to ascertain how taxpayers’ money is being spent on people who are paid gigantic salaries. Tonight, we even heard Senator Wright complain about the enormous amount of money that is paid out to senior counsel for appearances before Commonwealth and other inquiries. He was most emphatic in the words that he used. I think he went so far as to say that he would move that the appropriation be postponed. He is not in the chamber tonight so he will probably not do anything about it.
When we ask questions on certain expenditures, the Minister for Administrative Services who is in charge of those matters will not tell us where we can find that information. We will consider the Appropriation Bills for the 1978-79 Budget and their explanatory notes later this year. I ask the Government to take on board my request that some index at least be provided to indicate where we can find details of that expenditure so that we may see where it is being spent, how it is being spent and how much is being spent.
Another matter of grave importance that I raise concerns the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Division 515 of the AuditorGeneral ‘s Office. It relates to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. On 15 September 1977, I sought information in this respect:
A situation has applied for a number of years in which a certain amount of money is appropriated and exactly that amount of money is expended, not a cent over or a cent less. Now, there is an increase of $2, 1 30,000 this year over last year. Is the Organisation taking on extra work? Can we have some explanation as to the reason for that increase?
Of course we were given the usual answer. Senator Withers said:
It is traditional not to answer any questions on this matter. I intend to take that stance.
When dealing with the Auditor-General’s Office, I sought some information whether the AuditorGeneral in fact audited the accounts of ASIO. I referred to this matter in my speech in the second reading debate here this afternoon. I was told in the first instance that the Office did not audit those accounts. But a letter arrived the next day to say that the officer was wrong. I have no complaint about that. I was given a wrong answer but it was corrected the next day. In fact the AuditorGeneral ‘s Office does audit some of the accounts of ASIO.
What disturbs me is the fact that now we know that the Auditor-General’s Office audits these accounts we find an ex-Premier making statements that ASIO in fact funds the Police Special Branch in South Australia. I will refer to some statements made by Mr Hall in a newspaper and then quote some of his statements when he gave evidence under oath to the Royal Commission. In the Melbourne Sun of 23 January this year, an article about Mr Hall stated:
He said Sir Robert Menzies, as Prime Minister, had agreed with premiers in the early 1 950s that special branches would work ‘with and for’ the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
Since then ASIO had made monthly payments to the special branches, and as a result was ‘the owner and sole user of files prepared for it ‘.
Senator Hall said he believed ASIO provided the locks which secured the files.
Of course he is talking about the locks of the Police Department in Angas Street, Adelaide. Mr Hall is quoted as saying:
I believe as a consequence that the most important and most significant files in special branch were and are, in fact, the property of a Commonwealth authority, ASIO.
Of course with Mr Hall being an ex-Premier of South Australia, people reading that article would have thought that he would be absolutely correct and that he would have first-hand knowledge, as Premier and also Treasurer at the same time, that ASIO was making funds available to the Special Branch in South Australia. I refer to the transcript of evidence at the Royal Commission when Mr Hall was being cross-examined under oath. It states:
Mr WORTH: You referred, in your article in the Advertiser on 23 January, . . .
I suppose that would have been a similar article to the one in the Melbourne Sun by Laurie Oakes from which I have just quoted-
. to payments being made by ASIO, and you will see in the passage in Hansard, quoting the Premier, he criticises you for having made that statement. On what basis was that statement you made, attributed to you, in the Advertiser, made.
THE COMMISSIONER: I have a great deal of trouble if you are not willing to disclose the name of the person, but on the other hand, I do not want to press names into this mission. Are you willing to disclose his name or not.
There we have an example of a person under oath before a Royal Commissioner who, having made statements publicly that he knew that ASIO was funding the Special Branch in South Australia, was loath to reveal the name of the person who gave him the information. That should not have been the whole basis of his public utterances because he is a former Premier and a former State Treasurer. He should not have had to rely on something that some person told him on that Sunday. The transcript continues:
THE COMMISSIONER: I am not going to press it at this stage; I am not going to take any notice of anybody whose name is not given to me. I will not place any reliance on it. It is from a person whose name he cannot disclose to me, except that he got it from a third party.
I also made that statement on the basis of Mr Salisbury’s letter to the Premier on 10 October 1975, where there were three references to the payment of money by the organisation of ASIO to the Special Branch of the South Australian Police Force. That rather intrigued me in the sense that my informant had told me on the Sunday that that had occurred;
So we have a former Liberal Premier of South Australia, a former Liberal Treasurer, a former Liberal Movement Senator who came into this place and then transferred his allegiance back to the Liberal Party as a Liberal senator, saying that he knew- earlier today I showed the front page headlines of a newspaper about it- that ASIO was, in fact, funding the Special Branch in South Australia. I ask the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to tell us tonight just to what extent ASIO funded the Special Branch in South Australia and the date of the funding. If the Minister cannot, it will put Mr Hall on the spot as far as being a person who is prepared to peddle untruths just to get some headlines in the Press is concerned. The taxpayers of this country, especially those of South Australia, want to know that, particularly in view of the findings handed down today by the Royal Commissioner that the South Australian Premier, Mr Dunstan, was completely vindicated in his dismissal of Mr Salisbury. Somewhere along the line there has been a fabrication of the truth. The people of Australia want to know how much money was paid out by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation when Mr Hall was Premier of South Australia to the Special Branch in South Australia for the purpose of spying on trade union officials and members of the Australian Labor Party. I hope that the Minister will be able to stand in her place and say that. I notice that she has a number of officers here to advise her. No doubt there is somebody from the Office of the Auditor-General who could say just how much of the taxpayers’ money has been turned over to the Special Branch in South Australia for the purposes I have mentioned.
– I want to raise a couple of matters. I ran out of time before. One is the office facilities that are provided for members of the House of Representatives. I refer specifically to those honourable members whose electorates were affected by the redistribution. John Brown, the honourable member for Parramatta, is one of the people concerned. The difficulty he has to put up with at the moment is that he has an electorate office nearly 20 miles from the nearest boundary of his electorate. This has been the situation since the last election campaign. It is a disgrace. It deprives his electorate of a fundamental facility in a democracy, that is, easy access to parliamentary representatives.
– Ha, ha!
– I heard somebody laughing but the situation, of course, is that the honourable member for Dundas, who was previously the honourable member for Parramatta, is still occupying the office in the electorate of Parramatta. I realise that there are some difficulties in obtaining an office in Dundas. The Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers, has said that Mr Brown can take an office somewhere else in Parramatta. The thing that concerns and worries me is the fact that people in the Parramatta electorate are going to the office of the honourable member for Dundas still thinking that he is the honourable member for Parramatta. I do not know whether he still tries to look after those people, but, as far as the parliamentary Labor Party is concerned, it thinks that it is a quite disgraceful situation.
While I am on the subject of facilities for MHRs, I say that there are some members who are certainly disadvantaged by the areas in which they live. It might be said that a lot of these people are National Country Party members. I am certainly not opposed to those members getting the sort of facility that I have in mind. I refer particularly to two electorates in New South Wales. One is Gwydir, which is split in half by a mountain range. The other is Riverina, which includes towns like Griffith and Leeton as well as Broken Hill, which is hundreds of miles away and for which a case could be put for having perhaps two or even three electorate offices and certainly for having extra electoral assistance.
I wish now to make a few remarks on a subject which has just been raised by Senator McLaren, that is, the funding of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. It is all right to say that nothing has been done about this matter since 1949; that, in fact, Labor governments have been the same as Liberal governments and said that there should not be any scrutiny of it; and that nobody will answer any questions anyway. I do not think that in the long term this situation is to the benefit of this country. I think that the financial responsibility of the nation’s security organisation is to this Parliament. ASIO receives a fairly large share of the Austraiian Government’s budget, yet for a long time it has virtually been able to spend freely, seemingly responsible to nobody in the Parliament, and no scrutiny of any sort has been allowed by the Parliament as a whole. I remember talking to a member of the United States Congress, Representative Otis Pike, who was a member of a committee that investigated the Central Intelligence Agency in America. I do not think anybody would accuse Representative Pike of being anti-American. He gave to me what I think was a very good piece of advice. He said: ‘When you have a bureaucracy like the Central Intelligence Agency, which is responsible to nobody you have a bureaucracy which builds up because it is not responsible to anybody and in a few years you have a monster that is very hard to control’. The same situation may occur with respect to ASIO. A particular section could be set up to deal with a particular thing, such as the Hilton Hotel bombing, and it is not closed down. So it goes on and on. I certainly would not want to be a member of any committee that was scrutinising ASIO. I talked with some members of the United States Congress who had, in fact, been serving on these sorts of committees. They told me about some of the tremendous tensions under which they were placed because of the particular job they had to handle.
The proposition I am putting forward is that if there is no parliamentary scrutiny the loser will be the intelligence community. If this situation goes on and on and there turns out to be some sort of scandal within ASIO concerning the Government, there will be a situation similar to the situation that has occurred in the United States with the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Because of the scandals, there is a sense of belief within the American community that these organisations cannot justify their existence. As I have said, I think this really hurts the intelligence community. Before we have this sort of thing occurring in Australia we ought to be looking to some sort of parliamentary scrutiny. I am not saying what sort of scrutiny it should be. That is for other people to put forward. But I certainly think, in view of the amount of money that is spent and in view of the facts that have been brought out during this debate by Senator McLaren, that this is something that we ought to be looking at very seriously.
– Many honourable senators have made comments, given opinions and stated facts this evening during the debate on the estimates before Estimates Committee A. There are some matters which will need to be referred to the appropriate Ministers. Of course, they will receive attention. Matters have been raised with regard to parliamentary allowances, payments to counsel, salaries and allowances, the Remuneration Tribunal, the conditions of employment of staff of Ministers, members and senators, the conditions of members of Parliament and a whole range of matters in that category. Many questions have been raised, although none has sought information from me at this time. I will see that they are referred to the appropriate Minister who can then give his attention to the matters that have been raised. Senator Jessop brought forward a suggestion about the employment of staff by senators and asked that consideration be given to discretion being exercised by senators up to a certain amount of money so that staff who best suited the needs of individual senators could be employed by them. That matter will be drawn to the attention of the Minister.
Many honourable senators paid tribute to the excellence of the work of the Hansard reporting staff in this Parliament, and I think with great sincerity. It is believed that they are an important part of the parliamentary process and that some consideration should be given urgently to the conditions under which they work, and the way in which they are required to perform many hours of duty which do not attract overtime payment. I think I would be on very safe ground if I said everyone in the Parliament shares the views that have been expressed this evening. Certainly I would want to be associated with any views on the Hansard reporting staff that noted their expertise, their integrity and the service they give to us. I think that what has been said this evening is an important contribution towards recognising their services, and I hope that practical recognition can be given at some time. Senator Georges and others made reference to the officers of the Senate. Many of those remarks had been made in the hearings of the Senate estimates committees and again they will be drawn to the attention of the Minister concerned.
Senator Sibraa referred to expenditure on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting. He put his own point of view in that regard, but I wonder whether he is informed as to the need for regional conferences and the exchange of views between members of Commonwealth nations. He expressed his point of view on the way in which he would conduct a conference, but to hold a conference of the standard and with the services and other usual appointments is something else again. He spoke of what he thought was excessive expenditure on the retreat of the conference. Yet anyone who attends a conference usually regards that informal period where many views can be discussed closely as being an important part of the conference.
Senator Sibraa also referred to the matter of the expenditure of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, which was also raised by Senator McLaren. I have no difficulty at all in saying to Senator McLaren that the number of officers who are here this evening is of no consequence. ASIO expenditure is not a matter that is disclosed to the Parliament and it never has been. Despite the fact that Senator McLaren says that the people of Australia wish to know about it, I think he may have personal reasons for wanting to know about it because of a situation that has developed in his own State. I have no intention of departing from the bipartisan arrangement that no discussion of the expenditure in relation to ASIO is undertaken either in the sittings of the estimates committees or in the Parliament itself.
Senator Sibraa also referred to the possibility of ex gratia payments to the widows of those who were killed in the Hilton Hotel bombing incident, and that matter will be drawn to the attention of the Minister. I remind the honourable senator that a trust fund has been established by the Government for the children of those who were killed in the accident. I point out that State workers compensation payments are available to some of those concerned, and I would note the matters that he raised with regard to that incident. I do not know that there is anything that I wish to add about the remark made by Senator McLaren in which he again sought information on the purchase or rental of property in the United Kingdom. I have no information on that matter that I wish to bring forward. Many other matters have been raised, and I will see that they are dealt with in the appropriate way and that the record of the Committee’s discussion is placed before the Ministers concerned.
– The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) replied in a more polite way than did the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers). She has no information for me with regard to the expenditure on the previous Governor-General’s residence. No doubt we will pursue that when the Budget papers are presented and I will pursue it then at great length. The Minister also said that, in accordance with previous practice, she would not disclose how much money ASIO spent or where it spent it. All I am seeking is a direct and positive answer. Yes, ASIO has funded the Special Branch in South Australia, or no, it has not. That is all I want to know. I think that the credibility of ex-Senator Hall is on the line. He said that ASIO did fund the Special Branch in South Australia. Yet when he was asked on oath before the Royal Commission to tell the Commissioner to prove his allegations he could not come forward with any proof. We want to know whether ASIO in fact funds the Special Branch in South Australia, just a simple yes or no answer. I will then be able to pursue the matter further when the Budget is brought down. Although there was no extra appropriation for ASIO on this occasion, there certainly will be an appropriation in the Budget.
The other matter I want to refer to relates to a question I asked during consideration of Division 140, parliamentary and ministerial staff allowances. Senator Jessop tonight made a great plea for extra remuneration for the staff of members of parliament. In the course of his discourse he quoted the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter). In the division of Barker there are five State electoral offices, and Senator Jessop compared the total amount of money paid to them with the amount paid to a Federal member. He did not tell us that some of those State members, like the honourable member for Barker, do not even have an office in the electorate. They have an office in Adelaide and visit the country on very few occasions.
Another matter I wish to pursue relates to a question that Senator Wright and I both raised. We sought details of the privileges given to former Prime Ministers and the information was provided to us by way of answers to questions asked during the Estimates Committee examinations. This is the first occasion on which I have had an opportunity to probe and ask further questions. We find that Mr McEwan, who was Prime Minister for a very short time, as a former office holder of the Parliament, receives an amount of $18,200 for car hire. Mr Forde, who no doubt was Prime Minister for just as long as Mr McEwen, gets the magnificent allowance of $1,000.
– Take the interval of years.
– Never mind about the interval of years. I will pursue the matter further, Mr Temporary Chairman. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; progress reported.
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 Guilfoyle) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the superannuation scheme provided under the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1948. The amendments have regard to suggestions that have been made from time to time by senators and members, and also to the provisions of the various schemes that provide superannuation benefits to members of the State Parliaments. The Bill provides additional retirement benefits for those senators and members who, during their parliamentary career, become Ministers or office holders in the Parliament. All State parliamentary schemes have such a provision. So too did the Commonwealth Parliamentary scheme prior to the amendment that was made to it in June 1973.
Members of the scheme will be required to contribute 11½ per cent of the additional salary, or allowance in the nature of salary, received as a Minister or office holder. This is in addition to the present contributions of 11½ per cent of the parliamentary allowance currently required to be paid under the Act. In broad terms, the retiring allowance otherwise payable on retirement will be increased by the ratio that the parliamentary allowance plus additional salary received bears to the parliamentary allowance payable during the whole of the parliamentary service. When the previous ministerial scheme was introduced in 1964, service as a Minister or office holder prior to the commencement of the scheme was recognised in certain circumstances. This Bill does likewise but also provides that recognition of such service will be subject to the exercise of an option for repayment of contributions previously refunded under the old Ministerial scheme and the payment of contributions for service since June 1973. In respect of service after the date of royal assent to this Bill, all existing and future Ministers and office holders will be required to pay the additional contributions.
The Bill also provides for the discontinuation of the existing Prime Ministerial retiring allowances scheme and for Prime Ministers to contribute in the same way as Ministers and office holders. Appropriate options have been provided for members who have qualified for benefits under the existing Prime Ministerial scheme. Another amendment will enable senators and members to qualify for maximum retirement benefits after completion of 1 8 years parliamentary service in lieu of the 20 years required under the existing Act. In addition, entitlements in future will have regard to days served in excess of a complete year. Existing senators and members will also be able to qualify for a retiring allowance on completion of 12 years service or service in four Parliaments should they voluntarily retire from the Parliament. The present Act requires contributors to have served 12 years and to have attained the age of 45 before becoming entitled to a retiring allowance on voluntary retirement.
Unlike the State parliamentary schemes, the existing Commonwealth scheme does not allow a person to commute any part of a retiring allowance. Whereas some State parliamentary schemes provide for 100 per cent commutation this Bill provides that a senator or member who retires after the date of royal assent to this Bill may elect to commute up to 50 per cent of his or her retiring allowance. Commutation will not, however, affect the rights of the contributor’s widow or widower to an annuity. Another amendment provides for the future halving of the level of contributions related to the basic parliamentary allowance after a senator or member has had 1 8 years parliamentary service. The reduction in contributions, in respect of service after the date of royal assent, will be from 1 1½ per cent to 53/4 per cent of the parliamentary allowance payable from time to time.
The Bill also provides for the non-cessation of annuities when a widow or widower remarries after the Bill receives the royal assent and for the payment of benefits to dependent children where a contributor or former contributor has died or dies unmarried. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Georges) agreeed to:
That the debate be now adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I first received notice of the proposal of this Bill at 6 o’clock last night. I received information that negotiations with regard to it had been going on between Government and Opposition and between Government and some members of my Party. I regard the proposal as corrupt insofar as it offers lump sum payments of quite considerable dimensions to retiring senators and insofar as it creates a ministerial retiring allowances fund at this time. I therefore announce that I no longer am a member of the Parliamentary Liberal Party and on the debate I shall speak in that situation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– A few moments ago when I sought leave to continue my remarks I was trying to get some more information about payments to former Prime Ministers. During my few remarks some very derisive comments came from Senator Davidson who sits opposite. It was apparent from his remarks that he is quite happy that a previous Prime Minister, Mr McEwen, can spend an amount of $18,000 each year for car hire whilst Mr Forde, another former Prime Minister, spends only $1,000.I do not agree that a former Prime Minister such as Mr McEwen, who was Prime Minister for such a short time, should get $ 1 8,000.I want more details of that.
If we look at some of the details we find that in Victoria Mr McEwen has unrestricted use of an official car with a regular driver and access to pool transport elsewhere. I want to know where that regular driver resides. Does he reside on Mr McEwen ‘s farming property, or does he reside in Melbourne and every time Mr McEwen wants the use of a car he rings up and that car comes from Melbourne, some hundreds of miles out to his property? When Mr McEwen goes to Melbourne does he drive him to Melbourne, and when he is finished does the regular driver drive him home and then drive back again? I am most concerned about this matter and I want an answer to that question. Mr Gorton also appears to have spent $1 8,000 for car hire in a year. That is $18,000 for a former Prime Minister. It should be known that that is on top -
– What about the big hooknosed bloke?
– To whom do you refer as the big hook-nosed bloke? Mr Anthony? He is the only one I know who fits that description. I will not refer to another Prime Minister because he is no longer with us, but he was getting an astronomical amount of money also, quite apart from his parliamentary pension. In that regard we have seen a member of the Liberal Party offer his resignation tonight, right in the dying hours of his parliamentary career, no doubt hoping to cop the headlines of the morning Press. There was no objection from him in other years.
– Don ‘t you dare say that.
-I have said it.
– You are a rabbit. You are a miserable rabbit.
– Order! senator McLAREN- That is all he has done it for, of course- to cop the headlines. He made no objection in other years when these appropriations have come before the Parliament.
- Mr Chairman, I distinctly heard Senator Archer interject and call Senator McLaren a miserable rabbit.
– And now he says ‘yes’. I suggest, Mr Chairman, that in deference to this chamber and to the Committee you should ask the honourable senator to withdraw his remark.
– Order! Firstly the honourable senator was interjecting out of his place. Secondly, I had called him to order before you took your point of order, Senator.
– I am not taking any notice of the interjections because when senators talk about -
– Order! It being 10 p.m., under Sessional Orders I put the question:
That the Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmantive.
The Chairman having reported accordingly-
-Order! In conformity with the Sessional Order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
-I recognise that there may be some difficulty with the timing of my remarks. One of the most reprehensible remarks that I have heard in my life was made in this chamber just before the question was put for the adjournment of the Senate. I think that fairness requires that this night an opportunity be given to me to respond, even though to do so might be a technical breach of Standing Orders. I hope that there will not be an objection if I simply say -
– I rise to a point of order. If the forms of the House were misused earlier I do not think Senator Rae can correct the situation by misusing the forms of the House again. I think he will have to be patient and wait for another occasion.
– Speaking to the point of order, Senator Rae has said nothing so far which could possibly give rise to a point of order. He might do so subsequently, but so far he has not done so. He has indicated that it is possible that he might do so, but so far he has said nothing to give rise to a point of order. I submit that at this stage the point of order is absolutely too early.
– The point of order is not sustained.
– A remark was made about a man for whom I think every honourable senator has considerable regard for his capacity, for his long service to this chamber and for his courage. Whether we agreed with him or whether we did not agree with him, I do not think it is fair or reasonable for honourable senators to leave this chamber this evening with the comment which was made unchallenged.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. Clearly Senator Rae is referring to a debate which took place during the prodeedings of the -
– I am talking about a comment which was totally out of order during the debate.
- Senator Rae has said that he is talking about a comment which was clearly out of order which was made during a debate which took place earlier this evening. Clearly if the comment were out of order Senator Rae should have taken a point or order during that debate. Clearly he is quite outside the Standing Orders in raising the matter during the adjournment debate and in referring to a debate which took place earlier today.
– I should like to speak to the point of order because Senator Douglas McClelland has kindly done exactly what I wanted. I can now speak about the comment. I can now refer to one of the most lamentable remarks that I have ever heard, which was made by-
– No, he cannot do that.
-Order, Senator Rae! If you are referring to an episode which took place earlier or to words that were stated earlier, as no objection was raised or no point of order taken at that stage, I cannot see how you can continue now.
- Mr President, may I speak a little further to the point of order? The point is that because of the sequence of events- the remark was made just before the compulsory putting of the question on the adjournment at 10 o’clock- there was not an opportunity for any honourable senator on this side of the chamber to speak in response to the remark, nor in the circumstances was there the opportunity to pursue a point of order. A point of order was being taken in relation to an interjection by my colleague, Senator Archer, who naturally took equal exception to the remark which was made.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order about what Senator Rae is saying at the present time. He will just have to be patient and seek leave tomorrow to raise the matter. He cannot on the adjournment refer to any incident which took place during the normal debating time. You have ruled that way already. He is quite out of order. He is now in conflict with your ruling. I suggest that he ought to be told so.
- Mr President, may I make a suggestion? As I understand it, technically Senator Rae is out of order, but quite obviously he feels very strongly about something which was said earlier tonight. I did not hear the comment and, having spoken to one or two of my colleagues, I know that they did not hear it either. So we really do not know what the problem is. But obviously Senator Rae feels very strongly about it. Would it not be better for the matter to be deferred until tomorrow so that we can read the Hansard record and see what was said that caused offence? I assure Senator Rae that, as far as the Opposition is concerned, he will be given leave tomorrow to make a statement about the matter if he desires to do so at that time.
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt, for his comment. May I explain what the problem is and why I think something ought to be said about it tonight? Tonight one of our colleagues in this place made an announcement to which an extremely disparaging remark was made. The remark was totally irrelevant to any matter which was before the chamber.
– What was the disparaging remark?
– By way of interjection Senator McLaren wants me to repeat his disparaging remark. I simply wish to have an opportunity to say that I think that that disparaging remark was totally unfounded. The record will show that it was totally unfounded. The person about whom the reference was made has consistently held a very strong view in relation to the subject which was before the chamber at the time and which caused him to take the step he took tonight. I think that to attempt to belittle such an action by a man who has served in this chamber for as long as he has, with the marked distinction with which he has served in this chamber -
– I must rise to a point of order. I suggest to you, Mr President, that the Opposition, through our Leader Senator Wriedt, has made a reasonable suggestion to Senator Rae. If Senator Rae proceeds at this time in this manner it will mean that we will enter into debate. You cannot allow Senator Rae to proceed in this way without also allowing us to enter into a debate on a matter which has been the subject of a debate during the ordinary time for debating. That is all I am saying. If you allow Senator Rae to continue you must also allow someone else to follow him in the debate. We are having on the adjournment a debate on matters which have been discussed during the normal debating time. That is contrary to Standing Orders.
– Continue, Senator Rae.
– Thank you, Mr President. I believe there is little more that I need to say tonight. What I have been able to do by one means or another is to point to the fact that an unfair remark was made about a man who has made an announcement which undoubtedly will be reported. If that remark were to appear to be the only comment on the announcement, it would be totally unfair. The remark was unfounded in fact and unfounded on any basis of decency.
– I do not want to upset Senator Rae, but I do want to clarify a point, Mr President. Have you ruled that the point of order which was raised is not upheld? It is important that we know that for the record.
– I think very special circumstances, including timing, exist in this matter.
– I think we all acknowledge the gesture which Senator Wriedt has made. I believe Senator Rae has pointed out that he has indicated the unwarranted and unfair remark which was made. In fact, it seems to me that the person who made the remarks is not even aware of what he said. That is something we have often come to expect from the other side of the Senate. Having heard Senator Rae say that he feels that some redress has been able to be made, in the way in which he has done it, I believe the matter can be left until tomorrow when the record will show exactly what was said.
– I am content.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Statistics of appeals awaiting decision by Tribunals by type of pension benefit or allowance at the end of each quarter are not available.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1 978:
What is the estimated total difference between the projected expenditures for 1978 and 1979 for the various education commissions under the guidelines announced on 26 May 1976 and 3 June 1977.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The estimated total difference is $25. 9m for 1978 and $34.7m for 1979 in December 1976 cost levels. As I stated when I announced the guidelines for 1978-80 on 3 June 1 977, the Government in making its decisions, had to reconcile the aspirations at all levels of education with its policy of containing inflation, which necessarily involves restraint in public expenditure, and reducing the level of the deficit in the Commonwealth budget.
I would draw the honourable senator’s attention to the fact that the figures quoted make no allowance either for the additional $50m which will be provided for TAFE capital programs in the next biennium or for the additional funds which will be made available for handicapped children. The provision of these additional funds was foreshadowed in the Prime Minister’s election policy statement.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 14 March 1978:
Has the Housing Allowance Voucher Experiment now been changed to the Housing Allowance Experiment; if so, why.
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The word ‘voucher’ has been deleted from the title of the Experiment because payments to households will now be by cheque instead of by voucher.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources, upon notice, on 16 March 1978:
– The Minister for Trade and Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The plan of management must be determined in accordance with the procedures laid down in Sections 1 1 and 12 of that Act.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 4 April 1978:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australian Information Program in Japan (Question No. 322)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 4 April 1978:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 6 April 1978:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Note (3) In the FY 1974-75 only 21 Psychology Unit exceeded the national average with an average of 55.8 training days.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 3 May 1978:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Courses under this kind of disciplined control are not available outside the existing Service colleges, which are not adequate to meet the long-term demand for Service officers.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 3 May 1978:
What evidence exists for the assertion by the Reserve Forces Committee National Chairman, Mr Alan Edwards, that those who leave the Army Reserve within two years of recruiting do so, ‘mainly because of the pressure of training on their work’, as reported in the Brisbane Courier-Mail, 15 April 1978.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As frequently happens following Press interviews, only an abridged version appears in the news media and much of the detail is left unpublished. In this case the words attributed to Mr Alan Edwards which form the basis of the honourable senator’s question are accurate but incomplete.
In answer to a question about employers’ attitudes, Mr Edwards replied to the effect-
About 6,000 novices are recruited nationally each year. But about 4,000 of these leave the service in two years (and about 25 per cent of this loss is due) mainly because of pressure of training on their work ‘.
The words in brackets are the significant omission from the published report.
The statement was based on research conducted by the Committee of Inquiry into the Citizen Military Forces (the Millar Committee) during 1973-74. However, the figures quoted in the Millar Report have been updated in light of activities of the Committee for Employment Support of the Army Reserve, established in the latter half of 1 977.
Income Tax: Wine Makers
– On 4 May 1978 (Hansard, page 1396) Senator Jessop asked me, as Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice concerning the reintroduction of the former section 3 1a of the Income Tax Act so as to assist winemakers in overcoming their present difficulties. I undertook to refer the honourable senator’s question to the Treasurer, who has provided the following answer: a major cause of the wine industry’s present difficulties is the trend which has occurred in recent years in consumer demand for the industry’s products, including a switch from red to white table wines. This adverse development is unrelated to the basis of valuing wine trading stock.
On its return to office in 1 975, the Government gave long and careful consideration to the question of the taxation treatment of wine stocks. The outcome of that examination was announced in a press release issued by the then Treasurer and the Minister for Primary Industry on 14 April 1976. It was decided that there was no case for restoring section 31a, but several measures were instituted which considerably eased the transitional arrangements for the repayment of tax deferred under that section.
The Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce recently examined the present taxation arrangements with respect to wine trading stock at some length as part of an examination of the taxation situation of the wine and grape industries. In its report published in August 1977 it, too concluded that no concessional form of valuation for wine and brandy stocks such as previously existed under section 3 1a should be reintroduced, and that the deferred taxation which arose under the operation of section 3 1 a should be repaid in full under the existing very sympathetic transitional provisions.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 3 May 1 978:
Is a gold coin to be minted soon; if so, (a) when will it be minted; (b) what will be its face value; (c) will it have exact metric measurements; and (d) will it bear a portrait of Sir John Kerr.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The Government has under study a number of policy, technical and legal matters related to the question of a gold coin. Any decisions will be announced at the appropriate time.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 June 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780601_senate_31_s77/>.