31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) left Australia on 12 August to attend a meeting of Trade Ministers in New Delhi. He is expected to return on 29 August. During his absence the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) will act as Minister for Special Trade Representations.
-I present the following petition from 326 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate assembled. The petition of the undersigned electors of South Australia respectfully showeth that:
Child Endowment has not been increased since May, 1976.
Recent Newspaper, Radio and Television reports indicate that Child Endowment is to be reduced in this year’s Federal Budget.
Dependents Tax Concessions were abolished in May 1 976 in place of which Child Endowment was increased.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should take action to:
Retain Child Endownment at its present level so that families are able to maintain their present purchasing power.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 38 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australian respectfully showeth:
That Item 6469 on the Medical Benefits Table, relating to curettes and abortions, should not be removed or modified in any way.
That this item covers a legally and medically approved procedure, and its removal or modification would have the most serious social, economic and medical repercussions for many thousands of Australian women.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully sheweth:
That whereas our constitutional parliamentary democracy was clearly developed as a Federation to preserve for all time to the Australian people their cherished right to live as free men and women, enjoying complete liberty of worship, assembly, speech, movement and the communication of knowledge and information.
An whereas our existing Australian Flag and our national anthem, ‘God Save The Queen’, are perpetual reminders of these hard-won freedoms and of the wise British principle of the division of power, so well reflected in our own Australian Constitution with its careful separation of powers as between the Crown and Commonwealth Parliament, the Senate, the State Parliaments, the Governor-General and State Governors, and the Independent Courts of Justice,
An whereas all such rights, liberties, heritage advancement and prosperity, etc., are of no avail if our Armed Forces are unprepared or incapable of repelling invasion of our shores or withstanding othermilitary threats,
So therefore must all these things be accorded the highest national concern and priority.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Jessop.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Chipp.
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully say that we are concerned about the discrimination which exists against the children of those parents who are in receipt of the Supporting Parents Benefit in comparison with children of Single Parents who receive the Widows Pension. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament take immediate steps to ensure that this year’s budget allow for Lone Parents to be given the right to receive a pension with the same benefits as are given with the Widows Pension, and we also request that Parliament take immediate steps to instigate one ( 1 ) category of Lone Parent Pensions to eliminate the discrimination currently experienced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Sheil and Senator Hamer.
To the Honourable, the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the provision of payments for abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will so amend the Medical Benefits Schedule as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Chipp and Senator Evans.
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:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive Reserve Forces
Decorations and Medals for Long Service and Good Conduct to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Army Reserve (C.M.F. ) and the R.A.A.F Citizens Air Force. by Senator Lewis.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. I refer to a question which I asked him last week as to what new facts came to his knowledge between the drafting of the first terms of reference of the McGregor Royal Commission on 24 April and the extension of those terms of reference on 30 May. I remind the Minister that he replied that he was not aware of any further information:
Apart from the fact that Senator Withers and Mr Pearson had given evidence and that Senator Withers had answered a question in this place . . .
I ask the Minister: Does it not follow from this that the only change in circumstances was that Senator Withers’ involvement previously known only to the Government and the Australian Electoral Office, had become public knowledge?
-At that stage-23 AprilSenator Withers’ involvement was not a matter of public knowledge. I was asked specifically whether there were any new facts or any new material between those two dates. The question was really in relation to whether there was some sort of new material that had come into the possession of the Government. I was answering a question in relation to that. I certainly mentioned the other question of what had actually transpired, the evidence that had been given and so on. I do not think that there is anything I have to add to the answer that I have given.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. I again ask the Minister, then, what new facts came to his knowledge.
– There were no new facts or material, to use the honourable senator’s expression, I think in the previous question, other than those to which I have already referred.
– Will the Minister for Social Security enlarge on the guidelines the Government proposes to lay down regarding means testing payments of family allowance on the basis of a child ‘s income?
– I am not able to do that at present. I am aware of the concern that is expressed in the community with regard to the means testing of family allowances to take account of the basis of a child’s income. I say again, as I said last week, that, in taking this decision, the Government had in mind circumstances where, as a result of trusts and other income-splitting devices, children receive separate income whilst their parents continue to receive the family allowance. The Government is concerned to ensure that the decision does not have unintended consequences, particularly in cases where children receive small amounts of income as a result of part-time jobs which they undertake. In the light of the comments and the concern which has been expressed the Government is reviewing this decision with a view to eliminating any unintended consequences whilst preserving the principal purpose behind the decision, that is with respect to those cases where children are in receipt of trust income and other income-splitting device income. Legislation is being drafted at present and in this legislation it will be clarified as to which income will be subjected to the means test. I say again that this legislation will ensure that any unintended consequences do not occur.
– My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, follows on the question asked by Senator Button. As the Minister has indicated that he is not able to give any further information or is not able to indicate any other reason why, apart from the fact that the knowledge became public, he altered the terms of reference, I ask him: Had that information been public knowledge on 23 April, would the terms of reference- that is, the terms of reference which he himself authorised- have remained the same?
-That is a completely hypothetical question. I do not see how one could expect that it could be answered, but I make it quite clear that the drift of two questions that I have been asked so far today seems to require me to emphasise the facts which I detailed at some length in this place last week, which are that the terms of reference drawn up on 24 April were drawn up in such a way as inevitably to bring out the facts relating to Senator Withers’ involvement. That decision was explicit in the terms of reference.
If anyone looks at the terms of reference and at the explanatory memorandum which was tendered in evidence, they will see, as I have already said and as I say again, that the information provided to me by Senator Withers and by Mr Pearson was sent to the Royal Commission. In fact Mr Pearson’s evidence, apart from other things, was the first evidence brought out at the Royal Commission, and Senator Withers was one of the early witnesses at the Royal Commission. I would have thought that there was a clear indication from that fact- from the terms of reference, from my subsequent conduct, and from the conduct of Mr Pearson and Senator Withers- that there can be absolutely no suggestion that anybody was trying to hide any of the facts.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security a question. It follows a question which was asked by Senator Walters and seeks some clarification, insofar as that is possible. Can the Minister say whether a clear distinction might be drawn between earnings obtained by a child’s own efforts and earnings from sources which do not require direct effort on the child ‘s part? Is it a fact that such a distinction would ensure an equitable result in the application of the Budget announcement relating to family allowances?
– As I said in response to Senator Walters, the Government does not wish the Budget decision to have unintended consequences, and when preparing the legislation it will review the decision to ensure that that does not occur. As I said earlier today and last week, some children are in receipt of a trust income, and income-splitting devices are used within families. If these devices arc used the Government believes that family allowances should not be paid and that a means test should be applied to such an income received by children.
The matter raised in the first part of Senator Knight’s question as to whether there would be a distinction with regard to earnings obtained by a child’s own efforts is being reviewed by the Government and will be clarified in the legislation. Other areas such as the maintenance which is received from the father of the children and paid to a former wife, incomes from scholarships and Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowances, need clarification since the announcement of the Budget decision. When the draft legislation is completed I hope to be able to make a specific announcement so that there is no uncertainty about the means test which will be applied to incomes in the hands of children. I hope that can be done quite soon, but I do not want to be more specific than that now in case I do not state the legislation as it will be written, which could then cause further confusion.
-Would the AttorneyGeneral cast his mind back to the meeting of senior Ministers which took place in Sydney on 7 August this year at which the decision regarding Senator Withers’ position in the Cabinet was made? At that meeting did the Prime Minister state why he wanted written confirmation in the form of a note from Mr Robinson of something Mr Robinson is alleged to have told the meeting concerning his recollection of what was said at the meeting of Ministers on 17 January 1978?
-The Prime Minister has already made a statement in relation to this matter. I do not propose to add anything further to what the Prime Minister has said.
– I direct a supplementary question to the Attorney-General. If he is referring to the statement made by the Prime Minister, I ask him: Is he aware that such statement is quite silent on why the Prime Minister wanted a written communication on something which is already sworn in evidence before a royal commission?
-I have nothing further to add to my answer.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to a recent report that the members of a congressional delegation from the United States of America which visited the People’s Republic of China in July were informed that China now recognised the existing realities in regard to Taiwan. Has the Minister any information that will confirm this report?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and endeavour to obtain an early answer.
– I address a question to the Attorney-General which follows the question asked by Senator Button a moment ago. Has the Attorney-General been instructed, warned, persuaded or told in any way by the Prime Minister not to answer any further questions in respect of yesterday’s statement by the Prime Minister?
– The answer is no.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications about the current Telecom dispute. Is it true that the promotion procedure to which the Australian Telecommunications Employees Association is now objecting was suggested by the ATEA once a few years ago and accepted and introduced by Telecom Australia? Would the current proposals for promotion and advancement by the ATEA in fact allow quicker promotion, or is the ATEA executive building up false hopes to keep its members on side? Has Telecom given guarantees that no permanent Telecom employee will lose his or her job because -
- Mr President, I take a point of order on the question. As I understand it, the matter about which the honourable senator is talking is presently before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. So far as I am aware, the dispute has not been settled. The claims of the employers and the union are being put today before a commissioner. I suggest that in those circumstances the matter should be left where it is.
-I shall allow the honourable senator to ask his question. The Minister may reply to it in any manner in which he desires, bearing in mind the point of order which the honourable senator has raised.
– Has Telecom given guarantees that no permanent Telecom employee will lose his or her job because of computerisation of exchanges? If this new technology was now in use, could Telecom’s day-to-day operations be jeopardised by irresponsible union officials and the country consequently held to ransom?
– I thought you supported trade unions? Have you changed your mind?
– I support responsible trade unions. Because of the massive loss of revenue to Telecom, is the proposed reduction in charges, as announced by Telecom to be effective from November, now in peril? If so, when can we expect the proposed reductions to take effect?
– It is certainly no desire of mine to exacerbate the situation. I acknowledge the thrust of Senator Bishop’s interjection. Indeed, we would all hope that there would be a full and happy resolution of this matter. Nothing that I wittingly do will add to the dispute. It is true that a number of honourable senators have asked me for information on this matter and I will refer to the brief that I have. In respect to the first point raised by the honourable senator, I am advised that the present technical structures for manning Telecom exchanges were introduced in about 1970, with the agreement of the unions concerned. The second point he raised dealt with current proposals for promotion and advancement. I am advised that the Australian Telecommunications Employees Association proposals would allow easier promotion for technical staff, without possession of necessary qualifications. In addition, the ATEA wants to have the maximum pay of tradesmen raised to that of technicians, an increase of about $1,000 a year. With respect to the third point- the question of Telecom guarantees- my advice is that Telecom has recognisedtheneedtoprotectitsstaffand,inthe negotiations before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, it agreed that there would be no sackings arising from the introduction of computerised exchanges. There would be no sackings as a result of new technology introduced in the next 10 years. No staff would have their pay reduced because of the introduction of computerised exchanges. Generous redeployment and relocation allowances would be paid to any staff affected by computerised exchanges.
As to the fourth part of the honourable senator’s question, which refers to new technology, my advice is that there is no guarantee that the introduction of new technology would, of itself, avoid future possible industrial disputes which could affect the operations of the telecommunications network. As to the final part of the question, I point out that the continuation of the dispute could have an effect on Telecom’s ability to introduce recently announced reduced charges. Under its enabling legislation, Telecom is required to cover all its operational expenditure and at least 50 per cent of its capital expenditure from internally generated resources. Obviously, in a protracted dispute, Telecom would have to consider all the options open to it. Mr President, I hope I have confined myself to the factual ingredient.
– Table the document. It is supposed to be a question without notice.
– I have no objection to the interjection. I said that I had been given an indication, that I had sought the facts and that I was reading from a brief.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the
Treasurer, concerns the collection and dissemination of statistics by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a matter about which I have had correspondence with the Treasurer. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the Bureau of Statistics has been forced to decrease its supply of statistical information in traditional areas of study because of staff shortages and lack of funds? Is it true, for example, that statistics will no longer be collected in the important areas of foreign investment and ownership of Australian businesses? Is it also true that statistics will no longer be collected concerning unfilled job vacancies? Does the Minister agree that this is in breach of Article 6 (c) of the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 88 which has been ratified by Australia? Can he assure the Senate that the Bureau will, in the future, be allocatedsuchfundsaswouldpermitistocon- tinue its vital task of providing a variety of information to the Government, industry and the general public?
– The substance of the five or six questions asked by Senator Missen has a background in another place. I have information which I think should meet his points. If I do not refer to a particular aspect he might remind me and I will seek further information. ‘I am advised that the Government’s commitment to continuing financial constraint means that all departments and authorities have been required to exercise a very critical scrutiny of all their activities and to explore ways and means of redeploying limited resources to best effect. After a review of the forward work program proposed by the Bureau of Statistics and of the consequences for that work program of various levels of staff in the year ahead, a staff ceiling was set that required some curtailing of this program.
After taking into account ministerial views on relative priorities as between alternative ways of doing this, the Commonwealth Statistician decided that studies relating to foreign ownership and control of Australian industry and the job vacancies collection should be terminated. The termination of foreign ownership and control studies does not mean that all foreign investment statistics will be dropped. Although not a substitute for studies of foreign control, there will continue to be a range of official statistics on foreign investment in Australia. Balance of payments statistics will continue to show the inflow of funds from overseas into Australian enterprises. Regular quarterly bulletins will continue to show some dissection of the inflow of foreign investment and associated income flows. Corresponding annual bulletins will show fairly detailed dissections of the inflow of foreign investment together with information on the level of foreign investment in Australia and income payable overseas on that investment.
Regarding the job vacancy surveys, honourable senators will be aware that statistics of vacancies registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service will continue to be published each month. Although the CES series provides an incomplete coverage of job vacancies because it comprises only registered vacancies and registration is voluntary, it does give a reasonable indication of trends. In view of this continued availability of vacancies data I do not agree that the decision to cease the job vacancy surveys is in breach of the Article 6 (c) of the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 88.
– Does the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs continue to maintain, as he did in this chamber last Wednesday, that no part of the moneys raised by the 1.5 per cent increase in personal income tax is available for distribution to State and local government authorities under the tax sharing arrangements? If so, does the Minister agree that some $8. 5m will be denied to local government throughout Australia by his definition of the extra levy as a surcharge? Does the Government agree with the Minister’s definition?
-I had intended to make an explanatory statement on this matter at the end of Question Time today. I am grateful to Senator Tate for what I think is his first question. I congratulate him on his question. I will take the opportunity to give an explanation now. During Question Time on 16 August I was asked a question and, indeed, a supplementary question concerning the effect on the States’ personal income tax sharing entitlements of the proposed temporary increase of 1.5 percentage points in personal income tax rates. My answer then was that the States would not share in the increased revenues. I referred to the possible operation of the guaranteed minimum entitlements and to point No. 8 of the points of understanding between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to tax sharing. Point No. 8 states:
The yield or costs of special surcharges or rebates applied, in appropriate circumstances, by the Commonwealth will not be included in the base figure from which the States’ entitlements will be calculated.
My advice at that time was that it was likely to be regarded as a surcharge. At that time I had not had the opportunity to discuss the matter with the Treasurer. I understand that if a particular element of income tax is to be designated a special surcharge for the purpose of the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act, it is a matter for the Treasurer.
Following discussion with the Treasurer 1 can now inform the Senate that it is not proposed to designate the temporary increase in income tax rates as a special surcharge for the purpose of the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976. I understand that the Treasurer will issue a statement on the matter shortly. This means that the increased revenues derived from the increased income tax rates will be included in the base for purposes of determining the tax sharing entitlements for 1979-80. 1 mention that so far as the position in 1979-80 is concerned it would seem unlikely that the amount payable to the States in that year under the tax sharing arrangements, as they stand at present, would in any case be affected by the way in which the 1.5 per cent temporary increase in the standard rate of personal income tax is treated in relation to the arrangements.
I add that the last Premiers Conference referred to officers for examination and report the matter of a review in accordance with 9 (b) of the points of understanding. That point records the Commonwealth’s assurance that it will participate in a review of the arrangements when there are changes in Commonweauth tax legislation which have effects on the States’ entitlements of such significance as to warrant a review. Finally, I mention that local government tax sharing entitlements for 1 979-80 will in fact benefit as a result of the temporary tax increase. I thank the honourable senator for his question.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware of the anxiety of people living on the Eyre Peninsula, who are not currently receiving a good television service, concerning the Government’s program for television extension in that part of South Australia, particularly in the Streaky Bay area and surrounding areas? In view of the undertaking I was given by the Government in 1976 that Eyre Peninsula would be provided with a good television service within 12 months, can the Minister provide me with detailed information concerning the plans of Telecom Australia to upgrade and to extend television services on Eyre Peninsula? Where will the new stations and translators be situated? In what order will they be constructed? When will this program be completed?
– One could scarcely be unaware of the problems of telecommunications on the Eyre Peninsula if one were in the Senate and subjected to what has been a constant stream of questions over recent weeks and months by Senator Jessop. I think the Senate is well aware of his very keen interest in this matter. The residents of the Eyre Peninsula also are well aware of it. I am in a position to advise the honourable senator that improvements to the national broadcasting service for the Eyre Peninsula recently have been approved by the Government- and that is good news. The full program will be implemented over the next three financial years with some initial work to be carried out thisyear.Apparently some Labor senators who are trying to interject do not think it is good news. It will be realised that the project is a large undertaking and can be fully implemented only over a period of time. I understand that the program includes the establishment of a number of new stations and translators which will extend the national service to virtually all residents of the Eyre Peninsula- and that again is good news. It will mean also that those areas already receiving television signals but with only poor reception will have the reception materially improved. It is expected that specific projects will be undertaken at Port Augusta, Port Lincoln, Kimba, Lock, Wuddina, Minnipa, Poochera, Wirrulla, Streaky Bay and Smoky Bay. It is difficult at this stage to predict exactly when each component will be commenced as sites have to be purchased and equipment ordered. However, the full program should be completed by 1981 and will cost in excess of $2m. If I can get any further specific information, I will let the honourable senator know.
-My question which I address to Senator Carrick follows the reply which he gave to Senator Tate. I ask: Are we to understand that the incorrect answer given last week, which the Minister concedes was incorrect and which he has now corrected, was the result of his not having spoken to the Treasurer to obtain the Government’s policy in respect of the new tax sharing entitlement of the States or was it given because the Government had not made a decision as to how it would treat the additional income tax collected under the new arrangements? Did the Cabinet in its deliberations on this matter not decide then in view of the importance of the over $200m involved in revenue in transfer to the States? Did the Government make a decision during the Cabinet deliberations?
– The reason for my answer was that I responded on the basis that it was a surcharge. In point of fact it was classified by the Government and the Cabinet as a temporary tax increase. It was my fault because I had not in fact realised at that time that I should have looked at the memorandum of understanding. Realising that I may have made that mistake, I consulted the Treasurer and, of course, the Treasurer has produced an explanation. I apologise to the Senate for giving it inadvertently incorrect information.
– I ask a supplementary question. I accept the Minister’s answer, of course, but am I clear in my understanding that theGovernmentinfactdiddecidebeforebring- ing down the Budget that the increased revenue from the additional income tax would in fact be shared by the States, notwithstanding the points of understanding?
– The Government in fact decided that the 1.5 per cent increase in tax would be a temporary tax increase and not a surcharge. That decision meant that the tax would therefore be shared by the States and local government. It was from the definition that the result flowed.
– My question, which I address to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs, concerns the River Murray and the urgent need to safeguard the quality of water in this major source of water supply for the people of South Australia. Is the Minister aware of the urgency of stopping the pollution of the river which is still originating in Victoria and New South Wales? What initiatitives are being taken by the Australian Government to gain the co-operation of the States involved to find a permanent and satisfactory solution?
– The question of controlling the pollution in the River Murray and of controlling the flow and supply of water in the River Murray in its journey through some three States is of major significance. It is doubly important to South Australia because, quite inadvertently, nasty States to the east of South Australia tend to tip their saline deposits and other matter into the river. There is, of course, a River Murray Commission, as Senator Teague would know. Its job in life is to look into this matter. In very recent days there have been meetings at which, I understand, the Federal Government has participated. I do not have first hand information as to the specific matters before those recent meetings. I will seek out that information and let Senator Teague have details.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, follows an answer she gave earlier during Question Time to the effect that there was a good deal of confusion about the Budget proposals for income testing of the family allowance and that a review of the legislation in relation to the family allowance was being undertaken to ensure the elimination of any unintended consequences of the Budget proposal. Was it intended by the Government, when it introduced the Budget, that family allowances would be income tested on the basis of income derived from the personal exertions of children? If so, will the Minister now give an unqualified assurance to the people of Australia that family allowances will not be income tested on the basis of income derived from the personal exertions of children? If the Minister cannot now give that assurance to the people of Australia, can she provide a break-up of the $90m referred to at page 86 of the Budget Papers as being a saving due to the new family allowance arrangements?
– As I indicated earlier, the drafting of legislation is proceeding at present. I am able to answer Senator Harradine by saying that it is intended that personal exertion income achieved by children will not be subjected to the means test. I did not wish to start enumerating areas of income that would be subjected to the means test in case I was not strictly in line with the legislation. The legislation is being drafted, and when that drafting has been finalised I will issue a statement which is in accordance with the legislation. The intention of the legislation is that income from the personal exertions of children will not be subjected to the means test.
– That is a change from last week.
– I said earlier, senator, that the Government has reviewed the decision and has taken into account the concern that has been expressed and the inequity that I believe would have occurred if that personal exertion income had been subjected to the means test. As soon as the legislation is finally drafted I will announce publicly the areas of income which will be subjected to a means test.
With regard to the second part of Senator Harradine ‘s question in which he mentioned the $90m that was referred to in the Budget Papers, of that figure I think some $37m was the estimate of the saving that would be made as a result of the means testing of the family allowance. The other items- I do not have a breakdown here but I could give it to Senator Harradine- relate to the change of the method of payment and the dates on which payments would be made for the year to 30 June 1979. 1 may be imprecise, but something like $37m or $38m relates to the means testing of the family allowance. The other point concerns the dates on which the payments fall in the current year. I undertake to make a public statement as soon as possible on the income that will be subjected to the means test. It will not include personal exertion income.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science. It was recently announced that a significant breakthrough had been made with regard to the development of nuclear fusion. Can the Minister give the Senate some details?
-The honourable senator mentioned to me some time ago a newspaper article which contained some interesting information concerning energy in the future. I have been advised by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation of recent announcements in the media that a research team in the United States has conducted a nuclear fusion experiment which, for a brief period of about one-tenth of a second, exhibited a net output of energy. If these reports are confirmed, this would represent a significant step towards controlling nuclear fusion- an area in which there have been only theoretical predictions to date. However, because of the immense technical problems associated with the commercial production of energy from nuclear fusion, this development is unlikely to have any immediate effect on the world energy scene. On the basis of current estimates it will be at least 25 years before energy from fusion becomes commercially available. If the honourable senator wishes to know more about nuclear fusion research he should direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, who carries the responsibility for the Australian Atomic Energy Commission.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for
Foreign Affairs. What impediments did the United States Government place upon the Australian silver medallist in the Commonwealth Games pole vault event, Don Baird, when he went from the University of California to Edmonton? Did the fact that he is married to an American national have a bearing on his position? Are any overtones of dual nationality involved?
- Mr Don Baird is studying in the United States. Prior to his departure for Edmonton he called the Australian ConsulGeneral in San Francisco to seek help in contacting US officials about a visa. Mr Baird was given the names and telephone numbers of officials in the US Immigration Service in Los Angeles and was advised to call the Consul-General again should he require further assistance. The ConsulGeneral heard nothing further from Mr Baird and assumed that the problem had been resolved. A subsequent inquiry addressed by the Consul-General to US officials revealed that they had no record of any approach by Mr Baird. The officials explained that numerous circumstances could have caused delays to Mr Baird ‘s request and they have expressed willingness to facilitate his re-entry, if eligible. I think I have probably covered the specific point mentioned by the honourable senator in the general answer I have given, but I will follow it up as a further inquiry.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Voicing the concern of many people in the north, the Chief Minister for the Northern Territory Government and the Mayor of the City of Darwin have called upon the Federal Government to take all necessary precautions to ensure that no winged insects, et cetera, that may endanger Australian primary industries, particularly forestry, enter Australia in Vietnamese refugee boats, many of which are now rotting hulks in the reaches of Darwin harbour. Is the Minister able to state what actions have been taken to safeguard Australia from this danger and whether they have proved sufficient? What action is being taken to dispose of these refugee boats? As there is little doubt that many more refugee boats will arrive in the future, what action is to be taken to prevent our primary industries from being endangered?
– I understand that the quarantine service throughout northern Australia adopts appropriate quarantine measures for Vietnamese vessels or other vessels of similar risk status which arrive in Australia.
These measures include such things as a search for any live animals or plants. Any animals or plant material located are destroyed. Food residues and garbage are removed and disposed of according to quarantine requirements. Any soil or sand ballast is suitably treated. Drinking water is discharged into the sea. Timber structures within the vessel, including any temporary fixtures, are examined. Where insect infestation is detected treatment is undertaken either by fumigation or by removal and destruction of infested timbers. On completion of quarantine procedures the vessels are no longer a risk to Australian primary industries, including the forestry industry, and are then released from quarantine. I am advised that a number of Commonwealth departments are concerned about the question of the disposition of refugees vessels not owned by the Vietnamese Government and that the whole question is presently under consideration by these authorities. I will see that Senator Kilgariff is advised of any further information that becomes available on these matters.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General and I ask: Were any persons other than Ministers and senior public servants present at the setting of the terms of reference for the McGregor Royal Commission on 23 April and again in relation to the enlargement of the terms of reference on 30 May?
– I have already answered a question in relation to how the terms of reference were drawn up. They were drawn up by me on 24 April in consultation with my own advisers and one or two advisers from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The honourable senator asked whether any other persons were present.
– Persons other than Ministers or public servants.
-The Solicitor-General was present. I suppose that literally he is not a public servant.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Science. Having previously asked questions on the efficiency of and need for emission controls on motor vehicles, to which I have not yet received complete answers, I now ask the Minister whether any research has been done on the effectiveness or otherwise of emission control. If so, can the Minister state what has been the result of such research? Does emission control reduce the amount of lead emitted as well as the amount of carbon monoxide and other exhaust gases? If so, by what percentages are they reduced? Is the Minister aware that emission controls on motor vehicles can cost between $150 and $500 a vehicle, with fuel consumption increasing, causing at least a nine per cent drop in kilometres a litre? Is it not a fact that these costs, together with the increases in fuel prices announced in the Budget, will add an enormous cost to the Australian motorist and transport generally merely to assist pollution problems in big cities such as Sydney? I ask: Why should Australia and Australian motorists be penalised by such costly fuel wastage when we are all being asked to conserve as scarce an energy source as petrol?
– I think every honourable senator will acknowledge the wisdom of Senator Young’s question. It is a matter of great concern to people who live in the outback that they should have to be involved in emission control, which is required purely for those who reside in the city. It is worth noting that the Surface Operations Division of the Department of Transport is responsible basically for conducting research into the development of emission standards for motor vehicles. I suggest that the honourable senator address those parts of his question relating to that matter to the Minister for Transport. Much research has been undertaken into emission control standards in the United States of America, where it is claimed that by 1 977 the controls had brought about a 75 per cent reduction in emissions of carbon monoxide and a 50 per cent reduction in emissions of nitrogen oxides in that country. As similar standards have been set in Australia I believe that comparable results could be expected here.
Although emission controls do not include standards for the amount of lead in vehicle exhaust fumes, several States have passed legislation in recent years aimed at reducing the amount of lead used in petrol so that the 1973 levels of lead in the urban atmosphere are not exceeded. Because of the increase in petrol consumption that accompanies the use of petrol with a low lead content, the National Energy Advisory Committee- NEAC- recently released a report entitled ‘Motor Spirit Octane Ratings and Lead Additives’. The honourable senator may be aware of that report. It recommended that this legislation should be reviewed. Instead, NEAC has recommended the use of lead filters in vehicle exhaust systems. NEAC’s recommendations were accepted at a March meeting of the
Australian Minerals and Energy Council when State and Federal energy Ministers agreed to halt the current phase-down in lead levels in petrol pending further study. The Government is aware of the cost to the motorist of emission control equipment and also of the slight increase in petrol consumption that accompanies its use. Whilst the Government is concerned with the possibility of a critical shortage of liquid fuel for transport in the near future and is therefore implementing a national energy conservation plan, the Government is also aware of the serious and long term -
- Mr President, I take a point of order. On several occasions you have warned the Minister for Science about his lengthy replies to arranged questions. I suggest that he is again exceeding the instructions you have given to him in the past.
– There is no point of order. I call Senator Webster.
– I was saying that the Government is also aware of the serious and long-term effects to public health because of the rising urban pollution caused by motor vehicle exhaust emissions.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Education, refers to study leave in universities and colleges of advanced education. The Minister will recall that on 1 1 May, when presenting the draft report of the Tertiary Education Commission, he made an announcement to the Senate in this regard. At that stage the Minister stated that he thought there would be major changes. As the Minister well understands, since that time university staff associations and academics have met honourable senators in connection with this matter. I notice that in the Budget Papers there is a statement that the matter will be reviewed and tightened up. I ask the Minister whether he is in a position at this stage to state whether there will be major changes, what stage has been reached in the consideration of the submissions of those people and when he is likely to make an announcement about the matter.
-Senator Bishop has asked about the progress of the inquiry into study leave and the foreshadowing of possible goverment action. I remind the Senate that the Tertiary Education Commission set up from amongst its numbers a committee of inquiry into study leave. Some month or two ago it produced a working paper or a first report. It indicated that it was a paper designed to be circulated and to result in responses from those interested. That paper has been circulated. I think that there has been very considerable interest and I think some hundreds of responses have been made. The Tertiary Education Commission will be in the process of putting together its final report after study of all submissions. I am not aware when the report will be available but it will be some months yet- perhaps later this year. What the Government has said in the Budget in effect is this: Whilst acknowledging the general belief that there is a need for some review and some tightening up of study leave, the Government will await the final report and respond to it, but that this response will be as from January next year.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. In view of the fact that the Queensland Government-appointed administrator is going into Aurukun and Mornington Island on Wednesday, 23 August, what is the Commonwealth Government’s attitude now?
– The Commonwealth’s position is that it remains concerned about the unilateral action of the Queensland Government to dissolve the councils and to appoint an administrator. As I said in this place last week, the Commonwealth Government stands firm on the agreement of 11 April between the Commonwealth and Queensland Ministers that was designed to provide for selfmanagement and the provision of land to the communities under special Queensland legislation.
Following a meeting on Monday, 2 1 August, between the administrator’s co-ordinating and advisory committee and representatives of the Church, attended by representatives of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs without prejudice to the litigation of the councils concerning the act of the Queensland Government, the Minister has been informed that the administrator intends to prepare for early elections, before the wet season, to hasten preparations for the granting of the 50-year lease under the Act, to pay recurrent expenses with local government funds, to set in train the necessary administrative arrangements, such as the preparation of the budget, and to consult regularly with the former councils. The Commonwealth Government remains committed to giving the agreement of 1 1 April and the Queensland law setting up the Aurukun and Mornington Island shire councils an opportunity to work. It believes the legislation can provide self-management and land for the two communities.
– Come on. The agreement has broken down. How can you persist?
– The Government is persisting while it is possible to have the agreement of 11 April enforced and working. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner, saw Aurukun representatives last night, and they agreed with his view about making the legislation work. They did not raise with him the question of acquisition. If the administrator continues the Commonwealth Government will want to see that the tasks that he has specified are undertaken and whether their performance will put the Aboriginal councils in a position to operate effectively immediately the new elections have been conducted. This is a matter of some concern, and if further information is available through Mr Viner I will see that Senator Bonner is advised.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and arises out of replies that she has given in respect of family allowances. Is the Senate correct in drawing the conclusion that the family allowance proposals contained in the 1978 Budget were badly conceived and that arising from the public outcry the Government has changed its mind? Can the Minister say now what procedure the Government proposes to take to ascertain the incomes that children receive from trust accounts and /or partnerships? Who will be legally responsible for providing the information- the mother, the father or the child? When this information is available will it be checked against the records of the Taxation office?
– In response to questions today about family allowances I have indicated that the Government was concerned at the reaction in the community with regard to this decision and that it has reviewed the decision. Originally in the mind of the Government was the fact that family trusts are set up and income splitting occurs. It believed that where a child could not be regarded as a dependent child the family allowance would be means tested. I adverted to the fact that when the family allowance scheme was set up the original tax rebates for dependent children were used as part of the source from which funds were able to be drawn. Taking that into account the provision in the Budget this year was a reversion to the tax rebate dependant test. However, because of the concern that has been expressed in the community the Government has reviewed the decision and will make it clear when drawing up the legislation that it does not intend to include in the means testing arrangement income which results from the personal exertion of the child concerned.
The next part of Senator Gietzelt ‘s question related to the procedure which the Department of Social Security will need to use to obtain from the parents of children details of the incomes received by the children. This procedure will be developed in my Department to ensure that it has information that will be in accordance with the legislation.
asked further whether that information would be checked with the records of the Taxation Office. It will be understood that at times my Department has access to information in other Government departments when such information is required for the operation of the Act which my Department administers. At this stage I am not able to say whether such information will be required in the light of the information that will be drawn as a result of procedure that will be adopted by my Department. My Department will seek the information that it requires to administer its Act in the terms of the legislation which will be passed here. That procedure I will be able to announce at the time that the legislation is introduced.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. The Australian Trade Commission in Christchurch has reported that two cheddar cheese plants in New Zealand are being converted to produce 2,000 tonnes of parmesan and 1,500 tonnes of edam a year respectively. As these two cheeses are not covered under the exclusions of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement, has the Government taken into account the likelihood of Australia being seen as the best market for these extra cheeses? Will the Minister ensure that the Industries Assistance Commission, which is inquiring into imported cheese, is made aware of the situation?
– At present, world market conditions are more favourable for specialty cheeses than for cheddar. Earlier this year the Minister for Trade and Resources again brought to the attention of the New Zealand
Ministers the representations received from Australian cheese manufacturers and industry associations in connection with significantly increased imports of cheese from New Zealand in recent months. It was agreed that the matter be referred to the appropriate authorities for consultation. Since then I understand that discussions have taken place between Australian and New Zealand officials and between representatives of the Australian Dairy Corporation and the New Zealand Dairy Board. I understand that the development referred to by the honourable senator has not been brought to the attention of the Industries Assistance Commission but that arrangements will be made for this to be done.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. In the evidence that Senator Withers gave on 22 May to the McGregor Royal Commission, Senator Withers told the Commission that he informed the meeting of Ministers, at which the Attorney-General was present, that the change of name had followed his taking the matter up with Mr Pearson and that everybody at that meeting had said: ‘So what?’. What was the Attorney-General’s reason for saying ‘So what?’ to Senator Withers? Did this response indicate that he approved of Senator Withers ‘ actions?
– I do not propose to make statements about what meetings I was at, which other Ministers attended or what Ministers said. I take the view that that is a matter of privilege among Ministers and should not be disclosed unless there is a decision of the Government to do so. The bases of the Government’s decisions taken at the meeting on 23 April have been made clear. It has been made clear that I had investigated and considered the question of the legality of what Senator Withers had done and expressed a view about that. I do not propose to say anything more than has been said already about the views I expressed at that meeting.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science and is about the demon drink. There are Press reports that customs officers are investigating the sale of poisoned whisky and have seized some whisky, rum and vodka. I understand that some of the seized bottles contain sufficient methyl alcohol to cause blindness and damage to nerves. The Minister will be aware that the Australian Government
Analytical Laboratories have responsibility for protecting the Australian consumer through examination of imported goods referred to it by client departments. Can the Laboratories meet the demands of client departments, and are random checks carried out to protect the consumers?
– I am not as familiar with this problem as I could be. However, I know that one area under my control, the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories, has a responsibility for the testing of imported goods and goods for export. The Australian Government Analytical Laboratories, as part of its functions, analyses a variety of imported goods referred to it principally by the Australian Bureau of Customs. When goods are found to be dangerous or of a suspect nature or fall within any existing import prohibition, the report of analysis and laboratory comments are drawn to the attention of the client department that referred the matter to AGAL. It pays great heed to those matters affecting the Australian public and in many instances has been able to satisfy the complete demands of the client departments. So far as I am aware, AGAL is able to cope with all requirements made of it. Indeed, it has extended its work into testing the tar content of cigarettes and other things at the request of certain client departments. It is a most capable department for doing that work. However, I feel that the proposition of random sampling, put forward by the honourable senator, should be directed for comment to my colleague the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs.
-My question, which is addressed to the Attorney-General, follows an answer given by him to Senator Wriedt a minute or two ago in which he said that Cabinet discussions were privileged unless it was a decision of the Government to disclose the nature of those discussions. Was there a decision of the Government to disclose the matters which the Prime Minister disclosed in a public statement yesterday?
– The Government makes decisions. Those that are announced are announced and that is that. I do not have anything more to add to the matter.
– I lay on the table explanatory notes of departments and authorities relating to the Estimates of Proposed Expenditure for 1978-79. A list of departments and authorities from which notes have been received has been circulated to honourable senators.
– I lay on the table the following paper: Advance to the Minister for Financestatement for the year ended 30 June 1978 of heads of expenditure and the amounts charged thereto, pursuant to section 36a of the Audit Act 1901.
Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle) agreed to:
That consideration of the statement in Committee of the Whole be an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– Pursuant to section 42 of the National Gallery Act 1975 I present the annual report of the Australian National Gallery for the year ended 30 June 1977.
-by leave- On behalf of Senator Ryan I move:
I seek leave for Senator Ryan to make her remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the monthly report of the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund for July 1978.
-by leave- On behalf of Senator Robertson I move:
I seek leave for Senator Robertson to make his remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present a copy of the analyses of the initial proposals of the Distribution Commissioners for the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania for the 1977 electoral redistribution. Honourable senators will receive copies of these analyses as soon as they are available. I seek leave to make a statement in relation to the tabling of these papers.
-The Australian Electoral Office has over the years adopted the practice of preparing research papers on a variety of electoral matters including analyses of initial proposals prepared by Distribution Commissioners. Analyses of initial proposals by Distribution Commissioners have been prepared at least since 1973 for the information of the Office and the Minister responsible for the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Research papers are disseminated to State offices of the Australian Electoral Office in order to keep them abreast of developments which may affect the day to day operation of the offices.
The analyses of the 1977 initial proposals of the Distribution Commissioners which I have tabled were not circulated to the States, as has been alleged by the Opposition on 15 August 1978, at the direction of Senator Withers. The Australian Electoral Office has advised that Senator Withers was unaware of the distribution to the State offices which was done by the central office of the Australian Electoral Office merely as part of the administrative processes to which I have referred. The initials on the covering note to the Queensland office to which reference has been made are those of the Director of Research in the Australian Electoral Office, Dr R. P. L. Howie, and not those of Senator Withers, the then Minister.
-by leave- The tabling of these documents is quite an important event for the Parliament. Honourable senators will be aware that a continuing debate about the degree to which Ministers have been involved in the redistribution proposals has arisen out of these proposals. Of course, that debate has excited the attention not only of the Parliament and the media but also the attention of the public generally. Whilst debate has been centred on the problems in Queensland, the memory lapse of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the manner in which the Royal Commission was appointed and other relevant details, perhaps we have lost sight of the fact that considerable changes were made in New South Wales. Perhaps these changes ought to be considered by the Parliament in a little more detail. It seems a remarkable state of affairs that this process should have begun in 1973 as the statement made by the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Durack) suggests. Of course, we cannot hold him responsible because he has only recently become the Minister for Administrative Services.
It was not until 1973 that research papers were initiated by the Australian Electoral Office to analyse the proposals which initially were put forward to the Parliament by electoral commissioners in the various States. It would make very interesting reading to find out why the electoral commissioners in New South Wales drastically altered the redistribution proposals which applied in New South Wales. There is no doubt that the three electoral commissioners in New South Wales carried out a more complicated and comprehensive redistribution of boundaries than any of the States. That is what was said in the Financial Review on 23 August last year. Of course, the analysis made by the media and the Liberal Party was that some advantage would be given to the Labor Party as a result of that redistribution.
In view of what this Government conceded occurred in relation to the redistribution in Queensland, one wonders whether there was similar interference, influence or impropriety in respect of the New South Wales proposals because such drastic alterations were made to them. It seems strange that we had to rely upon a question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party in the House of Representatives to bring to public notice that in fact research papers were prepared by the Australian Electoral Office for the consideration of State electoral commissioners but not for the consideration of the Parliament until such time as the matters were raised in the Parliament itself. It seems to me that, if in fact the government of the day considers there are certain improprieties associated with just a mere change of name in Queensland, one is entitled to ask, with respect to a research paper which analyses the original proposition and the reasons for the drastic changes that were made in New South Wales: ‘We would like to know what the views of the Commonwealth Electoral Office were in relation to the very drastic changes made to the composition of seats in New South Wales’. That factor in fact sets the tone for the subsequent election results. We know, of course, what happened in respect of the decisions taken by the New South Wales Legislative Council on redistribution proposals in that State. In 1975 the then Liberal Government put forward a resolution which was adopted by the entrenched conservative majority in the New South Wales Legislative Council that there should not be a redistribution for six years. That motion, of course, was designed to maintain the election of a Liberal-Country Party government.
This matter raises very pertinently in the public’s mind the manner in which redistributions are carried out. Obviously redistributions, the naming of electorates and the way in which electoral boundaries are drawn have a relevance to the ultimate decision taken by voters. Certainly drastic alterations were made in respect of New South Wales. Whilst the overall result of the 1977 election was such that the State Government was returned, the question is certainly raised in my mind whether in fact there is such a thing as a fair distribution. We are aware of the grave problems that existed for many years in South Australia. We know of the maladministration- and that is the only word that could describe the distribution proposalsand the gerrymandering in that State. Of course, this comment could apply similarly to Queensland today where it requires almost twice as many votes as are required to elect to Parliament a member of the Labor Party as are required to elect a member of the National Country Party. Certainly this raises in my mind the need for the Parliament to examine whether there ought not to be a better system.
I am currently looking at whether we ought not to adopt a system of proportional representation which would overcome the influences that obviously existed in respect of Queensland and, one is entitled to draw the conclusion, may have existed in respect of changes that were made in New South Wales. If one looks at voting patterns in New South Wales one can see the absurd position in which the Labor Party and the Liberal Party polled somewhat the same number of votes and yet the proportion of seats is overwhelmingly in favour of the Liberal Party. We find that the number of votes received by the Australian Democrats equalled the votes of the National Country Party yet the Democrats were denied representation in the lower House whereas the Country Party has representation in that House. Therefore the system does not reflect correctly the views of the electors.
The present electoral process was initiated by the Australian Electoral Office in 1 973. However, it seems very strange that the Parliament has not hitherto been given an analysis as to the reasons why changes are made in the boundaries of Federal electorates. There is no doubt- and this is borne out by the conclusions that were reached by Mr Justice McGregor- that a mere change of name has effects and influences. One is entitled, therefore, to say that those who draw up the electoral boundaries have a much greater influence on the final result of an election than perhaps they should otherwise have. Therefore the appointment of commissioners, the guidelines upon which they work and the influence of the Minister concerned, whoever he may be, obviously plays a considerable part in this whole process. It is an influence which can nullify the express wish of the electorate. Therefore we would welcome an opportunity to have access to the analysis that has been prepared by the Australian Electoral Office. We would welcome the opportunity to debate the matter further, based upon what the public servants themselves feel were or could have been the influences in respect of the final decisions.
Until a few moments ago I knew nothing of the presentation of this report so I am not in a position to be able to speak off the cuff about what happened in the other States. Certainly I am aware, having sent for copies of the newspapers, of the way in which the media interpreted this matter and the way in which Mr Carlton, the Secretary of the Liberal Party in New South Wales saw the proposed changes for the State of New South Wales. I would certainly welcome an opportunity, as, I am sure, would all members of the Parliament, to examine in detail the research papers that have been presented. I hope that we will establish the practice for all time that those papers be made available to the Parliament so that we may see whether, in fact, influences have been brought to bear which affect the future or otherwise of members of parliament, potential members of parliament, political parties and the express will of the electorate. In those circumstances I would like further opportunity to study the research papers and I seek leave to continue my remarks.
– There is no motion before the Chair. Anybody wishing to speak would have to seek leave to do so.
-by leave-I read the statement which the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) tabled. I have the gravest difficulty in -
- Mr President, I do not wish to refuse leave but I really want to have some order in the proceedings. If we are going to have a debate on this matter, that is fine. If Senator Button is to be the only speaker, that is fine. If it is going to be a debate, I think we ought to have things formalised.
– If an honourable senator seeks leave to speak and the Senate gives leave, he may speak.
-I am sure that nothing I may say would engender a debate. I have read the statement which has been made by the
Attorney-General in relation to this matter. Frankly, I hope that my seeking information from the Minister will prompt him to tell the Senate at some stage the purpose of the statement. I would have thought that when dealing with such an important subject matter as this, the Minister might have indicated to the Senate the future intentions of the Government in relation to these sorts of papers, the purpose of tabling this paper at this time and why the -
- Mr Bowen asked for them to be tabled.
– That is the answer to one question, for which I am grateful. Perhaps the Minister, when he speaks later, can answer the other question dealing with the intentions of the Government in relation to future matters of this kind. I ask that question particularly because in connection with this matter I had occasion to look at a quite important statement on electoral matters made by Senator Withers in his former capacity as Minister for Administrative Services on 4 November last year. It is a statement which I suppose has become memorable, indeed historical, because in discussing the redistribution proposals the then Minister touched on the role of a Minister in relation to redistribution matters. Senator Withers commented:
I do not know why honourable senators opposite should Tear me if I were able to write the rules. I assure them that if I did write them they would be fair and just- fair to us and just awful to them.
In reply to an interjection regarding the Queensland redistribution and name changes, he went on to say:
The name of Gold Coast was changed to Fadden. I think that is more in keeping-
Senator Douglas McClelland interjected:
Gold Coast became McPherson.
Senator Withers replied:
Yes. There was a great deal of playing around.
That was a memorable understatement in relation to what has taken place in 1978. In the light of that statement by the then Minister and the statement which Senator Durack has just brought down, I particularly want to advert to the findings of the Royal Commission in relation to these analyses. I think it is important because, by way of probing earlier, I asked the Minister what were the intentions of the Government for the future regarding these documents. Some very important material is contained in the report of Mr Justice McGregor in relation to this precise question. On page 175 a discussion of this document, the so-called political analysis, is recorded by the Royal Commissioner. He refers to the evidence of one of the Queensland Distribution Commissioners, Mr Seymour. His Honour stated:
Mr Seymour was shown it. His reaction was to feel ‘uncomfortable with this piece of information ‘. He said there was ‘limited discussion ‘ about it and . . I thought it was introducing into the discussions, into our deliberations, matters which lay outside the terms of the Act, and I, for that matter, did not wish to study it or become familiar with it in any way, and I indicated that at the time ‘.
His Honour then commented:
This view taken by the witness then seems to me to be a correct assessment.
The view was supported specifically by Senator Withers, as the Minister responsible, in his evidence to the Royal Commission. With the greatest respect to the present Minister- I know he is new in this role- honourable senators on this side certainly have regard for the former Minister’s views about these matters. The Royal Commissioner stated:
Senator the Right Honourable R. G. Withers expressed himself unequivocally thus-
Do you agree that Distribution Commissioners should not pay regard to what may be the consequences of the distribution provisions on voting for a particular party or a particular candidate?
Senator Withers answered:
Oh I think it is none of their business.
I raise these matters because today the very documents to which the Royal Commission was referring are brought down in the Senate. I raise the matter not in any partisan context at all but to draw attention to the views of the former Minister and a Queensland Distribution Commissioner given in evidence, quite clearly expressed and quite consistent, presumably without the Minister or the Distribution Commissioner knowing what the other person’s view was. A quite consistent view was shared by the two of them about this type of political analysis.
The statement which has been made today seems to be designed only to pot some Labor Party senator for saying on 1 5 August this year that Senator Withers knew all about this situation, to deny that and, as it were, to table the documents in the Senate without any statement by way of explanation or any understanding being given to the Senate as to what is the intention in the future. I know, and the Minister undoubtedly will tell us, that this practice has been going on for a long time. All I am putting to him is that nobody seems to understand the rules about the way in which it ought to work. Certainly on this side of the chamber we do not understand. Certainly the Queensland Distribution Commissioner giving evidence did not understand the way in which it is supposed to work. In effect, Senator Withers was saying that it should not work at all on the minds of the Distribution Commissioners. As I have said, I am not making a partisan comment. All I am saying is that there has probably been a fair degree of sloppiness in the way these matters have been handled in the past. One would hope for a statement from the Government laying down pretty clear guidelines about the way it is intended that this should happen in the future.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) by leave- This has assumed the proportions of a mini-debate.
– No, it has not.
– There have now been three speakers. I have been asked some specific questions and I think I ought to make a brief reply. I said that this was becoming a minidebate because in tabling these papers today in no sense was I putting down a statement of policy. Last week Mr Bowen in another place asked the Minister who represents me there to have these analyses tabled. I have tabled the papers today, and they have been tabled in another place by the Minister who represents me there, in response to Mr Bowen ‘s request. I simply mention the matter in relation to who sent them around because in fact clearly there was a misunderstanding by Mr Bowen as to who had done it. Certain allegations have been bandied about freely in relation to Senator Withers and I thought that that point of fact should be cleared up. That was the only reason I mentioned it.
Senator Button and Senator Gietzelt have raised important matters. The Government has not yet had an opportunity to consider fully what Mr Justice McGregor said in his report about this matter. Other aspects of his report have been given more immediate attention. I can assure the Senate that I have a personal concern in relation to the distribution of these documents to the electoral officers at the time a distribution takes place. It is clear that they have been prepared for Ministers over a long period of time, and probably the question that should be asked is what is the proper thing to do with them, rather than an attack being made on their preparation. I am alert to the concern that has been expressed. For my part, I intend to give it serious consideration and I will be making a recommendation to the Government in relation to it. I expect there will be some response in due course from the Government to what Mr Justice McGregor has said and some of the concerns that have been expressed will be met.
-by leave- On a point of procedure, I want it to be clear that Senator Gietzelt withdrew the request to continue his remarks. In fact the position now is that the papers have been tabled and three senators have spoken by leave. It is therefore the right of any honourable senator to raise matters concerning these papers by some other form or procedure. In particular, this matter now will not appear upon the Notice Paper in any way, which may limit further debate on it.
– There is no motion before the Chair at the moment. It was just a matter of seeking leave, and that has been done.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a Department of Transport manual entitled Road Safety Guidelines for Town Planning ‘.
Senator CARRICK (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate)Pursuant to section 6 of the Environment (Financial Assistance) Act 1977 I present an agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and Western Australia made under the provisions of that Act.
– I present the report from the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations on its inquiry into the Australian Housing Corporation Annual Report 1974-75.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report.
– I move:
On 7 June 1978 the Senate, at my request, referred the Australian Housing Corporation Annual Report 1974-75 to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations for investigation and report. As Chairman of the
Committee, I was concerned to ascertain why the report was not presented to the Parliament until almost three years after the close of the 1974-75 financial year, the year to which the report related. The Australian Housing Corporation Annual Report 1974-75 is solely concerned with the activities of the Defence Service Homes Scheme in that year. Consequently, the Committee approached the body currently responsible for administering the scheme, the Defence Service Homes Corporation, to seek the reasons for the delay. The Corporation provided a written explanation, and the Committee held informal discussions with Corporation officers.
The reasons for the delay are complex and are set out in the Committee’s report. Therefore, I do not intend to repeat them in detail today. In summary, there were two major problems. Firstly, the Defence Service Homes Scheme had to operate under two different accounting standards in 1974-75 because the Australian Housing Corporation Act was enacted one week before the end of that year. This made reconciliation of the accounts for reporting purposes extremely difficult. Secondly, the form of the accounts was not approved by the Department of Finance until March 1978. The Committee concludes in its report that if it is necessary to change the accounting system of Government organisations, then the change should, wherever possible, be implemented from the start of a new financial year. This practice would prevent the recurrence of some of the problems which occurred with the Defence Service Homes Scheme in 1 974-75.
In addition, the Committee concludes that an important matter of principle arose in the context of the inquiry, in relation to the way in which government authorities should report to the Parliament. The reporting requirements in the Act under which the Defence Service Homes Scheme operates provides that the Minister present the report and financial statements in an approved form, together with the Auditor-General’s report, within 15 sitting days of their receipt. Consequently, the responsible Ministers did not breach the letter of the law in not reporting on the scheme to the Parliament between October 1975 and June 1978. However, the Committee considers that the spirit of the law, which is surely that Parliament be kept informed on at least an annual basis, has been breached. For almost three years the Parliament was kept in ignorance of the operations of this important statutory corporation.
The Committee therefore considers that the reporting requirements of the current legislation are inadequate and that a new section should be added to the Act. This section should provide that if a report, with accounts in a form approved by the Department of Finance, and /or the Auditor-General’s report, is not ready for presentation to the Parliament within nine months of the end of the previous financial year, then the Minister should, within 15 sitting days, present an interim report to the Parliament on the Corporation’s activities, together with informal financial statements and an explanation for the unavailability of the audited accounts. The obligation to submit formal audited reports later, but as soon as possible, would remain.The Committee believes that parliamentary democracy requires that Ministers, as the representatives of the Executive branch of Government, keep both the Parliament and the people informed of the activities of departments and statutory authorities, rather then permit bureaucratic differences to provide an excuse for keeping those activities hidden from scrutiny. If the above provision were introduced, Parliament would be kept informed on a regular basis of the activities of the Corporation. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-Mr President, I present the report from the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations on its inquiry into the ‘Expenditure on the Hire of Pot Plants by the Commonwealth Public Service ‘.
Ordered that the report be printed.
- Mr President, I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report.
– I move:
As the report itself is short and self-explanatory, my remarks on it will be brief. Following a recommendation by Estimates Committee E in October 1977, this matter was referred on 28 February 1978 to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations by the Senate for investigation and report. The Committee obtained from each Commonwealth department information on the cost incurred in the hire of pot plants, and on the reasons for the decision to hire them.
The amount expended by each department is set out in the report. The total cost for all departments in 1977-78 was approximately $408,000. Although the average amount spent per department was approximately $14,000 the range of expenditure was wide- from a low of approximately $500 for the Department of the Northern Territory to a high of approximately $60,000 for the Department of Taxation. Perhaps that Department needs more relief that can be provided by pot plants, Mr President.
The reasons given by departments for their decisions to hire pot plants are also set out in the report. Therefore I will not elaborate on them now except to say that the Committee considers the reasons acceptable at the present time, subject to a qualification which is set out in the report. That is a qualification which has been expressed by the Department of Construction whose comments and recommendations are an annexure to the report. The Department says in its report:
This concept is a management tool and if chosen simply for prestige reasons, or if used without understanding, will be a bad, ineffective, and can be expensive, exercise.
With that qualification, the Committee reports to the Senate that it believes the reasons given at the moment to be acceptable reasons. Mr President, I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to offences committed at sea or in foreign ports or harbours, and matters connected therewith.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
The desirability of reviewing the existing law relating to offences at sea was referred to by the Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Garfield Barwick, in 1974 in the case of The Queen v. Bull (131 CLR 203, at page 235). He observed that it is inappropriate today that the power of a court in Australia to try extra-territorial offences should be derived from and be limited by Imperial legislation. In 1 977 in the subsequent case of Oteri v. The Queen (5 ALJR 122) the Privy Council drew attention to a feature of the existing law in the following terms:
It may at first sight seem surprising that despite the passing of the Statute of Westminster, 193 1, and the creation of separate Australian citizenship by the British Nationality Act 1948 (Imp.) . . . Parliament in the United Kingdom when it passes a statute which creates a new criminal offence in English law is also legislating for those Australian passengers who cross the Bass Strait by ship from Melbourne to Launceston.
The present Bill will correct that position, in situations coming within the Commonwealth ‘s consitutional powers. Its purpose is to apply Australian criminal laws in those situations, the laws applied being those of a relevant State or Territory. To avoid misunderstanding I should add that the extra-territorial application of specific federal criminal laws, such as those relating to customs offences, will continue to be dealt with as now under the specific Commonwealth legislation in question, for example the Customs Act, and are not embraced by the present proposal.
The objective of the Bill deserves, and, I believe, will receive, wide support. There is, however, an additional important reason why this legislation should go forward and to which I should draw attention.
The Bill now before the Senate represents the first fruits of the consultations and agreements between the Commonwealth and the States initiated by this Government to deal with the situation it faced following upon the decision of the High Court in the Seas and Submerged Lands Case in late 1975 (135 CLR 337). Certain agreements in principle were reached at the Premiers Conference of 21 October 1977. At the Premiers Conference on 22 June this year a major step forward was taken to implement the principles agreed upon. In particular it was agreed that the powers of the States should be extended to the territorial sea including the seabed. Other matters dealt with included the establishment of joint Commonwealth-State authorities for offshore mining and fishing in which the Commonwealth has a proper role perhaps not fully recognised under existing arrangements.
I had occasion to observe at the time of the Premiers Conference that in the Seas and Submerged Lands Case, the complete sovereign power and rights of the Commonwealth Parliament over off-shore areas of Australia, that is from low water mark outwards, was affirmed. The result of that was that the Commonwealth Parliament has the power to override all State legislation in the area. The object of this exercise which we have been engaged in since last year has been to endeavour, on the basis of federalism, to restore to the States powers, many of which were thrown in great doubt as a result of the High Court decision. What the States have been seeking is some permanent solution of the problem so that they will not be concerned all the time that-
Legislation to implement these other decisions is being prepared. I believe that it is very important that the Bill now before the Senate, which represents the first item of the package, should be supported and passed as soon as possible.
It has been prepared in close consultation with the States and the Northern Territory, in the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General, as part of a complementary scheme of Commonwealth and State legislation on offences at sea. A model complementary State Bill has also been prepared for introduction into State parliaments and a similar Bill is to be introduced into the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. For the purpose of the complementary scheme, the Northern Territory, which of course now has self-government, has been treated as a State.
I turn now to the Bill itself. Very briefly its effect is to apply the criminal laws of an appropriate State or territory to offences on or from Australian ships on overseas, inter-State and Territory voyages, and in certain carefully circumscribed cases to offences on or from foreign ships beyond the territorial sea. Also, the Commonwealth Bill will apply the criminal laws of the adjacent State or Territory to offences in offshore areas beyond the territorial sea that come under Australian jurisdiction, for example, on off-shore installations better known as oil rigs. The complementary State Bill deals with offences on intra-State voyages and offences within the territorial sea.
For these purposes sub-clause 3(1) of the Commonwealth Bill defines ‘criminal laws’ so as to include all laws that make provision for or in relation to offences. However, there are important qualifications to this general application of criminal laws. Clause 12 excludes from the criminal laws applied by the Bill laws incapable of applying at sea or laws expressly worded so as not to extend or apply at sea. Nevertheless this may leave some offences applicable which, it would be readily agreed, should not be so applied. It is proposed therefore by sub-clause 18 (2) that the regulation-making power in the Bill should authorise regulations providing that provisions or classes or provisions of the criminal laws in force in a State or Territory are not to apply by virtue of the Bill. A precedent for such an excepting power is contained in sub-section 4(6) of the Commonwealth Places (Application of Laws) Act 1970.
Honourable senators will appreciate that, by reason of the requirements of international law, it is necessary, outside the territorial sea in particular, to observe a distinction between Australian ships and ships coming within the jurisdiction of other countries. For this purpose, a definition included in sub-clause 3(1) refers to ships registered in Australia or an external Territory under the Imperial Merchant Shipping Act or under any Commonwealth Act replacing that Act. Paragraph (b) of the definition refers to any other ship that is Australia-based or owned or Territory-based or owned, not being a ship registered in a foreign country. The definition of foreign country ‘ in sub-clause 3(1) therefore refers to any country other than Australia or an external Territory. The distinction made in the Bill is, as mentioned, between Australian ships and other ships and so no special reference is needed to ships of other Commonwealth countries.
A particular provision that may intrigue honourable senators is contained in sub-clause 3 (4), which defines when a person ceases to be a survivor’ for purposes of the application of criminal laws under the Bill under paragraphs 6(l)(b), 7(1) (b) and 8(l)(b). A feature of the Bill is that it expressly covers the situation of shipwreck survivors. Those of us who have studied criminal law will well remember the case of Dudley and Stephens- 1884 14 QBD 253-the harrowing facts of which related to the killing and eating of a cabin boy by the survivors of a wreck in order to survive. While such cases are thankfully very exceptional, the point is that situations of enormous stress can occur following a shipwreck and there should be no room for doubt about the applicability of criminal law in such situations.
Clause 4, which follows in part section 6 of the Commonwealth Places (Application of Laws) Act 1970, authorises an arrangement with a State for the exercise or performance of a power, duty or function by an authority of the State under the provisions of the criminal laws in force in any State or Territory as applying by virtue of the Bill. This provision, along with clauses 5, 13 and 14, is designed to facilitate to the maximum the implementation of the Bill by the law enforcement authorities of the States.
The main substantive provisions of the Bill are to be found in clauses 6 to 1 1. Clauses 6 and 8 relate to offences on or from ships, including Australian ships wherever they might be at the time, even in a foreign port, while clauses 9 to 1 1 deal with offences in the off-shore area and are directed to offences in which ships need not be involved, for example, offences on off-shore installations. In view of the current trend in the Law of the Sea pointing to an increase in offshore jurisdiction both in area and content, particular care has been taken to prepare legislation that will be adequate to meet future developments when they occur.
I shall deal first with offences on or from ships. Clause 6 applies State or Territory criminal laws to acts committed by a person on or from an Australian ship in the course of a ‘prescribed voyage’ and to acts committed on or from Australian ships in foreign ports. The criminal laws so applied are those of a State or Territory with which the ship is connected by registration. If the ship is not so registered, other kinds of connection with a State or Territory are to be recognised under sub-clause 6(2). A ‘prescribed voyage’ is denned in sub-clause 6 (3) so as to include- (a) a voyage from a State to a place in a foreign country, in another State, or in a Territory; (b) a voyage from the Northern Territory to a place in a foreign country, in a State, or in another Territory; and (c) any voyage from a Territory other than the Northern Territory or from a foreign country.
Clauses 7 and 8 deal with foreign ships. It is convenient to refer to clause 8 first. It applies State or Territory criminal laws to acts on or from foreign ships beyond the territorial sea of Australia or an external Territory by an Australian citizen who was not a member of the crew of the ship. The criminal laws applied are those of the State or Territory in which the person was domiciled at the time or he had his last place of residence in Australia or the external Territories. Section 381 of the Navigation Act 1912 already claims jurisdiction in such cases, and the Bill in this regard is therefore following a well-worn path.
Clause 7 is not limited to Australian citizens and applies in relation to acts committed on the high seas on or from a foreign ship in the course of a voyage to a place in Australia or an external Territory, or which is fishing or is licensed to fish in the Australian fishing zone. As will appear, the jurisdiction is carefully circumscribed, and I should add, is likely to be seldom used. Thus, the effect of sub-clause 7 (2) is that only the last leg of a voyage from overseas to Australia is included for purposes of the clause- for example, in a voyage Tokyo-Manila-Sydney, only the Manila-Sydney leg would be included- plus any leg of the voyage around Australia, for example, Sydney-Melbourne. While sub-clause 7 (3) has the effect of applying to such acts the criminal laws of the State or Territory which the offender enters or to which he is brought, sub-clause 7 (4) makes it a defence that the act constituting the offence would not have constituted an offence under the law of the country of which the offender is a national.
In addition, the consent of the AttorneyGeneral is required by sub-clause 7(5), and under sub-clause 7 (6) this is to be given only if he is satisfied that the government of the foreign country under whose jurisdiction the ship comes- the flag state- has given its consent. However, the requirement of consent does not apply to piratical acts, since all countries have jurisdiction to try piratical acts on any ship.
The Government regards the carefully confined jurisdiction conferred by clause 7 as reasonable. It views it as a subordinate and seldom needed means of ensuring, as far as practicable, that crimes do not remain unpunished. The ability to extend local criminal laws to offences on foreign ships arriving in Australia follows a precedent set by New Zealand in 196 1 and is justified by the need, having regard to the remoteness of Australia from other places, to be able to deal with situations of acute distress that can occur and that do, I might add, occur from time to time. The jurisdiction would apply, as I have already indicated, only if the offender enters or is brought into a State or Territory.
As I have mentioned, clauses 9, 10 and 1 1 of the Bill constitute a second group of provisions dealing with offences outside the territorial sea in off-shore areas that are within Australian jurisdiction or may come within Australian jurisdiction in the future. They cover acts arising out of the exploration or exploitation of the resources of the Australian continental shelf and, looking to the future, arising out of other activities coming under Australian jurisdiction in any 200-mile economic zone that may be proclaimed by Australia. Clause 1 1 enables the application of criminal laws to other acts by Australian citizens or residents in off-shore areas outside the territorial sea, for example, within the 200-mile zone. In all cases the criminal laws of the adjacent State or Territory are to be applied.
Clause 12 has already been mentioned. Clauses 13 to 16 deal with certain procedural and technical matters which are also referred to in the explanatory memorandum that is being circulated. Clause 17 provides in effect for a change in venue if the Judge of a Supreme Court of the State or Territory in question is satisfied that other proceedings have been instituted or are proposed, and that it is expedient that the proceedings be stayed. Matters to be taken into account include whether the continuation of the proceedings would impose any special hardship on the accused.
Mr President, the Government proposes that the Bill should not be proceeded with until there has been time for full examination and discussion. On the other hand, there is obviously a need to reorder the position on offences at sea as soon as possible, and in that regard for this Parliament to deal with those cases that come under the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers. I therefore commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 28a I lay on the Table my Warrant nominating Senators Bonner, Coleman, Collard, Colston, Davidson, Jessop, Melzer, Mulvihill, Robertson, Sibraa, Townley and Young a panel to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested to do so by the Chairman of Committees or when the Chairman of Committees is absent.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 38 1 lay on the Table my Warrant appointing Senators Peter Baume, Button, Grimes, Messner, Scott, Sibraa and Watson to be members of the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the leader of the Australian Democrats in the Senate nominating Senator Mason to be a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That Senator Mason, having been duly nominated in accordance with Standing Order 36aa, be appointed a member of the Standing Committee on Science and the Environment
– I inform the Senate that I have received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) relating to the membership of joint committees as follows:
The Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory requesting that Senator Archer be discharged and nominating Senators Colston and Teague to be members; The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence requesting that Senator Scott be discharged and nominating Senators Kilgariff, Martin and Sibraa to be members; The Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House requesting that Senator Mcintosh be discharged and nominating Senator Evans to be a member.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That the request of variations in the membership of joint committees be agreed to.
– In conjunction with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, I wish to announce that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has appointed Mr Harold Gibson Weir to succeed Mr A. L. Moore as Head of the Department of the Parliamentary Library. Mr Weir is aged 57 and has a bachelor of arts degree from Adelaide University and professional qualifications in accountancy and psychology. Like the last two Parliamentary Librarians, Mr A. P. Fleming and Mr A. L. Moore, Mr Weir has had considerable administrative experience in Australia and overseas.
Mr Weir was one of the early appointments to the Legislative Research Service where has was in charge of education and welfare research from early 1968 to mid- 1973. Since August 1976 he has been closely associated with the development of the Parliamentary Library as Assistant Parliamentary Librarian and more recently Deputy to the Parliamentary Librarian. In the three years before that, he was an Assistant Director and later Secretary of the Australian Institute of Criminology where he played a significant part in the establishment and development of the J. V. Barry Memorial Library. Mr Weir was an officer of the former Department of Labour and National Service and has worked in State government departments in New South Wales and South Australia. Under the Colombo Plan for two years he was Australian adviser on the faculty of the United Nations Asia and Far East Crime Prevention Institute in Tokyo.
In response to the increasing and more complex information needs of this Parliament, its Library has now become ‘an intellectual resource centre’ with well-qualified professional staff about equally divided between legislative research specialists and librarians. A major task of Mr Weir will be to review this organisation and to improve its effectiveness still further in the interest of continuing services to Parliament and in co-operation with other resource facilities such as the National Library of Australia.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate to this Bill.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Bounty (Agricultural Tractors) Amendment Bill 1978 and the Bounty (Books) Amendment Bill 1978 being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Webster) together read a first time.
– I move:
With the concurrence of the Oppostion I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows.
Bounty (Agricultural Tractors) Amendment Bill 1978
The purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to give effect to the Government’s decision to provide assistance to the manufacture in Australia of agricultural tractors with an engine output exceeding 105 kilowatts. Following advice from the Industries Assistance Commission in its report No. 142 of 18 August 1977 on agricultural wheeled tractors exceeding 105 kilowatts, it has been decided to accord assistance, by way of a bounty scheme, providing for payment to Australian manufacturers of a bounty payable at the rates set out in the schedule to the Bill. The bounty, which is payable from the date on which the Act receives royal assent is made under the same terms and conditions to that applicable to agricultural tractors with an engine output of 105 kilowatts or below, including the quarterly adjustment of the schedule to reflect import price movements. In relation to import price movements, provision has been made for the regulations to prescribe a factor by which amounts payable as bounty may be varied from time to time. This factor has, to date, been ascertained by reference to the Reserve Bank of Australia import price index for the ‘machinery except electric’ group. The amounts of bounty shown in the Schedule to the Bill are those recommended by the Industries Assistance Commission, updated to the first quarter 1 977 values by application of the factor so calculated. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Bounty (Books) Amendment Bill 1978
The purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to give effect to the Government’s decision to continue assistance by way of a bounty, to producers of books in Australia for a further period of 12 months. The extension of the bounty assistance is being made as an interim measure pending implementation of a decision on the longer term assistance to the Australian printing industry, which includes book manufacture. The question of long term assistance is currently being reviewed by the Industries Assistance Commission and the Commission’s report in this regard is expected by 31 July 1978. Because the Australian book manufacturing industry is already being asked to quote for work in 1979 the Government, in making this decision, has been mindful of the advice from the Commission that the future of the industry would be seriously affected unless the operation of the book bounty scheme is extended. Clause 8 of the Bill continues the Government’s policy of expanding, wherever possible, the jurisdiction of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in relation to administrative decisions which affect the rights or entitlements of persons under Commonwealth legislation. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Webster) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Suspension of Standing Order
– Order ! It being after two hours since the time fixed for the sitting of the Senate, under Standing Order 127,I now call on the Orders of the Day.
– In order to enable Senator Button to make his speech relating to his Notice of Motion for the establishment of a Senate select committee and in order that Senator Mason may make his maiden speech in support of his Notice of Motion, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
I am indebted to Senator Carrick, Leader of the Government in the Senate, for making the time available both to Senator Mason and me. The Freedom of Information Bill was introduced into the Senate on the last day of the parliamentary sessional period ending in June. I want to state very briefly my reasons for moving this motion. This history of the freedom of information legislation has straddled a period of at least two governments and, in a sense, possibly three governments. The growing power of executive government and the limitations on the right of the citizen to obtain information from the government departments in an increasingly complex state has been a source of continuing concern to a small, but interested and important section of the community. The Senate will be aware that the report on this matter from an interdepartmental committee was tabled in the Parliament on 9 December 1976 and that Mr Ellicott, the then Attorney-General, told the Parliament the appropriate legislation would be pre- pared. The Government’s commitment to this legislation was confirmed by the GovernorGeneral in his speech to Parliament following the 1977 election. Of course, the legislation had been referred to also during the Labor Government’s term of office and at the time of the 1975 election.
The interdepartmental committee which looked into this matter was told to use the United States Freedom of Information Act as the basis for its proposals. As the Senate will recall a Bill was prepared by Mr Paul Munro, a commissioner of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration in the terms of a minority report of that Royal Commission. I briefly recapitulate the arguments in favour of freedom of information legislation. It is simply that the complexity of modern government has rendered the system of ministerial accountability less effective than it might be. It no longer serves the need of a modern democracy based on the Westminster system. The party system as it presently operates is regarded by many people as a barrier to effective ministerial accountability because it results in what is seen to be political responsibility rather than administrative accountability. In countries such as the United States the provision of freedom of information legislation has been seen as a solution to some of these problems.
I think you, Mr Acting Deputy President, will recall that when this matter was first discussed by Government senators in this chamber some 18 months ago- with a degree of excitement- I described the legislation on freedom of information to be introduced by this Government as being an anatomical freak, that is, it was a gelding before it was born. In my view there was no hope of this Government introducing legislation for freedom of information which would have any significant teeth and which would go anywhere near as far as did the legislation in that unusual and, in a way, great democracy, the United States, where legislation of this kind was first brought into existence after the Scandinavian countries. Why should this matter now, in 1 978, be referred to the Senate Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs? In part it should be referred to the Committee for the reasons I expressed in 1 976 in the Senate. It should be referred to the Senate Committee more particularly because only by adopting that course is there any hope of the legislation being changed into any fo’rm which will satisfy the aspirations of many Government supporters. It is not a matter about which we on this side of the Senate want to reiterate our own views.
We have a firm view that the legislation is inadequate and for that reason should be referred to the Committee. Many Government senators share the same view. This is a unique opportunity for Government senators to exercise that function which they often refer to, that is, the function of the Senate as a House of review. Perhaps for those honourable senators who come from States which have already introduced freedom of information legislation this is a unique opportunity for them to represent the views of their States in this chamber and adopt the sort of position which their State governments have adopted. More particularly it is a great opportunity for the Senate to show that it is a House of review in relation to these matters and that it considers this legislation, which has come from the House of Representatives, as inadequate. For that reason this Bill should be referred to an important Senate committee.
I said that I was more concerned about the views of Government supporters than I was of my own. I refer the Senate to some of the views of Government supporters which have been publicly expressed on this matter. I refer firstly to the honourable member for Denison, Mr Hodgman, the Chairman of the Government Law and Government Committee. I know that Committee has been pursuing legislation of this kind for a long period. On 12 June this year he said that there were strong and compelling reasons for the referral of the Freedom of Information Bill to a Senate committee. Specifically, he stated:
While I am not prepared to condemn the legislation as inadequate, I have expressed regret that a number of proposed amendments from the backbench have not been accepted up to the present time by the Government.
That is an extraordinary statement. He was not prepared to condemn the legislation as inadequate even though his views, as Chairman of the Committee, had not been acceded to. Mr Hodgman pointed out that Cabinet had rejected a list of 27 recommendations from his Committee in relation to this Bill. If one compares the present Bill with the draft Bill which was prepared in 1977 one sees that very few amendments of any significance have been made as a result of the initiatives of the Government backbench committee. So much for Mr Hodgman and his Committee which apparently argued strongly for an appeal to be available against a decision by a Minister who could, for example, deny access to information. I refer now to Senator Missen who has been diligent in the pursuit of freedom of information legislation in Australia. His degree of diligence has taken him to the United States of America to study the freedom of information legislation there. He made the following points about the present legislation:
It doesn’t relate to past or existing documents that were created before the Act operates. There is a small exception however . . .
He pointed out that the consequence of this is: . . a mountain of government material now in existence won ‘t be subject to compulsory disclosure.
He also made the point:
The time limits are elastic and there are provisions for extension of those periods beyond 60 days.
He described the provision for appeals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal as: . . not comprehensive and, under many of the exemptions, conclusive certificates can be given by Ministers. In these cases the tribunal will have no power to investigate the validity of the claim, nor will it have power to examine the excuse of ‘public interest’ which will often be a justification for refusing to disclose.
He made the further point:
There is no provision for payment of costs to applicants, where there is wrongful refusal to disclose. This will act as a deterrent against applications being pressed.
Senator Missen has made six or seven other points of a similar kind in articles in the Melbourne Age and elsewhere which go right to the heart of the notion of freedom of information legislation. In the Melbourne Age article Senator Missen departed from my anatomical analogy and used a horticultural analogy. He said:
It might be said that you have what appears to be a shining apple, but when most of the fruit has been eaten away there is not much benefit.
That is an interesting- one might say extraordinary- analogy. It is one which is clearly and graphically in the mind of apple-eating Senator Missen and one which, in a sense, sums up his attitude to this legislation. In addition to Senator Missen, the Liberal member for Casey in Victoria, Mr Peter Falconer, has stated publicly:
An overriding criticism of the Bill is that it is the product of officialdom- by the very official from whom the public seeks greater information.
I referred earlier to the report of the interdepartmental committee and, of course, on a totally non-partisan basis, to the fact that in the time of the Australian Labor Party Government this legislation was in the hands of an interdepartmental committee. Whatever the political implication, the fact is that Mr Falconer’s criticism is right. It is a valid criticism of the Bill and one which justifies referring this legislation to the Senate Committee on Constitutional and Legal
Affairs, which at least is composed of elected members of Parliament and not of officials who presumably would be concerned about the consequences of any freedom of information legislation. In relation to the Bill Mr Falconer went on to say:
It can be regarded as a helpful start as a draft Bill, but not yet appropriate for passage through Parliament.
I refer to that statement because that is the nub of what we are saying in seeking to have this matter referred to the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee. The Bill is not appropriate for passage through Parliament at this time. Having said that, I urge the Senate, as I did earlier, to act in the capacity which is sometimes claimed by it, that is, as a House of review, and to refer this matter to the appropriate committee where it can receive the attention which, in the views of members on both sides of both Houses, it clearly deserves.
I commend the motion to the Senate.
In conclusion, I should like to indicate that I have to leave now and I will not have the opportunity of hearing Senator Mason speak to the next notice of motion. I congratulate him on his maiden speech, even though I have not heard it. The subject matter of his notice of motion is of considerable interest to me and to all members on this side of the House. I am sure he will treat it in a most interesting and important way. I wish him well.
Debate (on motion by Senator Carrick) adjourned.
– I call Senator Mason. Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
– I move:
Since this is my first utterance of any consequence in this place I would like to congratulate you, Mr President, on your election as President of the Senate.
– Thank you.
– I express my pleasure in serving under you, Mr President, for the next few years. I would also like to thank the Leader of the Government, Senator Carrick, for his thought in providing time for. me to speak to this motion. I would like to mention first- I think it is important- that this is an expression of Australian Democrat policy rather than my own view exclusively. We believe that true democracy depends very much on regular consultation with the electorate- much more regular than general elections every three years. Beyond that, we believe that the strength, productivity and morale of a democracy depend perhaps more than is realised on the rights of citizens themselves to initiate legislation, even if this right is perhaps not exercised very often. Hence, this motion is not intended as a mere exercise in political theory but is put forward as a practical and urgent matter for investigation. Honourable senators might well ask why it is practical and urgent. I should like to give my reasons for that assertion. The first is the difficult situation in which we find our country at this time. The economy is stagnant, unemployment is rising, there are bad prospects for our balance of payments, our industry is going off-shore in sheer desperation, we have a declining share of the mining market and our markets have warned us, notably Japan, that our share of those markets may well decline further in the future.
Mr President, if we are honest I think we can rationally expect worse to come rather than better unless the will and morale of the Australian people improve. When we have people as cautious and well-informed as Professor Watson Munro of Sydney University saying publicly that within eight years only wealthy Australians will be able to run a motor car; when other authorities suggest that petroleum may well be rationed by then and that petrol prices may be trebled; when we consider the dependence of this country on motor transport and motor spirit- perhaps we are the most dependent of all developed nations on motor transport because we do not have the railroads and we do not have the canal systems of other developed countries- there is great cause for concern for these reasons by themselves. The stubborn and higher rate of youth unemployment is another cause for great uneasiness. These things, I suggest, are constants in our future. They may become cliches but they cannot by any means be safely ignored.
I believe it is possible that this country is facing a decade of greater crisis than it has ever experienced other than at times of war. The penalty of not winning through this crisis would be very severe indeed. Whilst I do not agree with all of the views of Professor E. W. Wheelwright of the Economics Department of Sydney University, one he expressed recently and publicly that took my attention is that Australians could become the poor white trash of Asia by the year 2000. 1 do not believe that that is a statement we ought to dismiss too lightly. All honourable senators know that there is widespread public disillusionment with our parliaments. I believe it is due to the increasing domination of parliamentary business by the politics of confrontation, failure- I believe for good reasons- to deal with the real problems of this country and a preoccupation with purely political matters. In other words, a sort of inward turning is occurring.
With respect to Senator Withers- I mention his name here- the Withers affair itself seems to me curiously to have occupied much of the valuable time both of this Senate and the other place. I wonder what the attitude of the electorate and the community generally is towards this affair. I know the reaction of a number of people with whom I have taken the trouble to discuss this matter. I have discussed it with all sorts of people from taxi drivers to bank managers over the last week and they find it utterly incomprehensible. They cannot see any reason for it or any sense in it. I believe they resent the fact that such matters take up the time of our Parliament when there are other problems of which the public- believe me- are far from being unaware. The stress placed on politics by the Press and the other media- now so much greater than it was even a decade ago- I suggest should be a guide to us all of the increased interest of citizens in politics and in the political mechanism. We are dealing with a much better educated electorate than we have dealt with in the past and one which questions events more than perhaps was the case in the past. We might say that we have a slightly more rebellious and less compliant electorate. These are young people, people under 30 years of age. I applaud those virtues in them. It is good that they should question things. It is very good that they should seek new directions but it is bad if their natural urge to do these things is thwarted because, if it is thwarted, those efforts and those natural drives will be turned in bad directions. If that happens perhaps those of us here may feel that we should share some of the responsibility.
Australians know that federal referenda put to them recently have not been on real areas of concern. For instance, one might contrast the practicality of a referendum on whether we should export our uranium with a referendum on whether High Court judges should retire at the age of 70. 1 suggest that in the minds of 90 per cent of Australians there is no doubt whatsoever as to which of those two is the real issue of importance. If a referendum is to be put to the public I believe it should be about a matter that the public should take seriously. That is why the idea- I believe it is a false idea- that Australians are not interested in referenda has grown up. The referenda have not concerned subjects of great importance or interest to the electorate and the people are intelligent enough to understand that. Increasing numbers of people know that a referendum offering a yes-no option instead of a series of options is influenced a great deal, often decisively, by the way in which questions are framed. I suggest that such things are no longer good enough.
In my opinion this public disillusionment will not stop until two things happen- until Australians are able to feel honestly that the real problems of the near future are being tackled effectively by governments and when Australians are given a greater sense of consultation through meaningful referenda. The time is coming when any political party will use the words ‘We seek a mandate to govern* at its peril because the real place of government should be with the people. Yet the best and most practical reason for considering the introduction of citizen initiative in Australia is the need for an electorate to be not only consulted but also informed. I remind the Senate of the old saying: ‘You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink’. If Australia is to ride out the coming crisis of the Western world it will be only through active interest and knowledge among Australians at large of the great historical forces now operating. In order to get into motion new industries, new directions and new investments such as the necessary massive investment needed in petroleum substitutes, a great deal of frugality and sacrifice will be necessary for this country.
I will not deal with this question of motor spirit extensively but it is one of the great crises about which the Government will soon have to consult the electorate in order to gain its support for a very massive investment which is necessary now and which the years will reveal as being increasingly necessary if we are not going to be on our knees in 10 years time before the Middle East oil barons, seeking enough petroleum merely to keep us alive, much less any for our strategic considerations. I will not canvass that situation at this stage. I have merely used the fuel ethanol idea as an example.
I have stressed several times the need for an informed electorate. The habit of being informed, of course, will take time for Australians. They are not used to being consulted by governments. Australians are modest, decent people. They are compliant and good. They do not put themselves forward. One might say that in a way they are easily led and easily influenced. But I do not believe that they are incapable of making decisions sensibly and rationally on their own behalf.
Some senators and some members of the House of Representatives to whom I have mentioned this matter of citizen initiative are opposed to this concept. They say that an illinformed, emotional decision might be made. Some regard the recent success of proposition 14 in California in such a light. In this motion I have mentioned the idea that initiatives should come from a petition of not less than 2 per cent. It could perhaps be greater. That I think is one of the matters that the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs should consider. Yet, even if 2 per cent were the figure arrived at, that would be a matter of 170,000 signatures on a petition which is a not inconsequential minority of people. Those people would by no means have the right to carry legislation. They would have to convince their fellow Australians that the idea they were putting forward was feasible and sound and it would have to be carried by a majority. So I suggest that the Australian society contains a sufficiently large number of sensible rational people to see that referenda do not come through on the basis of initiatives which are wholly irresponsible.
Another objection might be that too many referenda might prove unwieldly and expensive. The conventional wisdom, of course, is that Athenian style democracy cannot work except in a very small state. Of course, for many centuries this proposition has been true. But like so many things in our society now that statement needs to be questioned. Because of recent and on-coming advances in communications technology it is now increasingly feasible for rapid and cheap consultation of large numbers of people through the electronic media using computers to count them. We have an institution called the TAB that does it regularly. Only in this week’s Press- in Monday’s Sydney Morning Herald if I recall correctly- it was stated that two-way cable television will be available in substantial parts of the United States within five or six years. One of the uses suggested was that it could easily be used cheaply and quickly for consultation of the referenda type. In fact a decision on a matter could be arrived at within a matter of hours. Even the sorts of referenda we have now could be altered so that they are not as expensive. I believe referenda are far too expensive. There seems to me no need for referenda to be counted on a single day. It is possible that people could take two weeks to vote. Perhaps a person could do this when he went to a post office. He could cast his vote in a referendum at that time. The referendum could then be counted at the end of two weeks. In this way it could be a fairly low key operation. As in California, a number of propositions could be raised at the same time.
This motion is in no way motivated by an intention that all Australians should be consulted about everything or, indeed, about most things. It ought to be freely acknowledged that the function of parliaments is to make laws and that it is or should be the function of members of Parliament to see that they are the best laws and those most appropriate for that time. But from time to time issues arise in all communities which are of almost universal public concern and which are as a result controversial. I would instance as present examples: Whether or not we should mine or export uranium and whether or not marihuana should be decriminalised or legalised. There are also a whole series of questions relating to the law on abortion. Government initiated legislation on such issues will plainly be unpopular with large numbers of people. These people would be much more likely to accept with good grace a decision of the majority of” their peers. This, I think, is one of the strongest arguments I could bring forward for the idea of citizen initiated referenda.
It is of some interest to note that when so many of the States of the United States of America introduced citizen initiative about the turn of the century it was regarded then as a radical solution to the problem of a decline in faith in representative democracy. Two types of initiative apply in the United States. The petition referendum, which this motion advocates, is in use in 14
States, the most famous of those being, of course, California. The other form is the optional type in which the legislature itself may order a referendum on any issue it has passed, ensuring that a specific number of voters approve of it before the proposed law can go into effect. Even that suggestion, I believe, has merit because it does allow some kind of check, some sort of consultation, of the total body of electors on controversial legislation.
There has been great division of opinion throughout the world on proposition 14 in California because it has led to the celebrated socalled tax revolt which also, as we know, has had some publicity in this country. 1 do not believe that that publicity has been put forward in any kind of responsible or sensible way but I would say that citizens ought to have some option of deciding how their money is spent. I suggest that here again is a way in which incentive and responsibility can be returned to the community. I believe that an informed Australia would perhaps even be persuaded to tax itself more heavily if it were convinced that extra money would be a genuine investment in its own future and its children’s future and if that decision were its own decision. I know a cynical response to this is easy enough to make. Cynicism is always easy but it achieves nothing and I think we need something better than nothing at this stage in Australia.
I return to the point that unless we can get incentive and productivity back into this society we have bad trouble ahead of us. That incentive and productivity might, for instance, be the force that helps reduce the appalling incidence of youth unemployment. The state of youth unemployment disturbs me most profoundly. I have felt for some time that, if we have urban terrorism on our streets within the next decade in this country, we will have only ourselves to blame. That feeling was uncomfortably reinforced when I read about yesterday’s violence manifested at the anti-Budget marches in Sydney and Brisbane. I will add that I was distressed earlier today when I heard the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) answer a question on this matter in the other place. He was asked what he thought about the marches and his only comment was that he believed he was distressed and concerned that somehow it had come from a demonstration organised by Mr Wran and Mr Hayden. Here again, I suggest that, if the Prime Minister looked closely at this matter, he would see there were other manifestations in this violence, that this is something that is perhaps a harbinger for the future. I think we ought to regard the situation in this light and see whether something can be done about it. As one with three children I suggest that we cannot allow young people to go straight out of school and to be frustrated to the extent they are being frustrated now and to allow them to go to employer after employer and be told: ‘We have nothing for you’ and then say: ‘We will not let you actually starve; we will give you a small amount of money, just enough to live on, but for God’s sake do not ever go near a beach or the bush because if you do you will be called a dole bludger’. I say that we cannot do that to young people and expect to get away with it.
What I am trying to stress is that the causes of the malaise in our society are very deep-rooted. They will be remedied not by trivial band-aiding but only by a conscious and determined move towards a better form of democracy. I have been appalled to learn in talking to many young people, often well-educated, the number who have lost faith permanently in the system of parliamentary government. Tens of thousands of them are not even on the electoral rolls. I have put to many such people the idea that they have a responsibility to be on the rolls and to vote but 1 have been laughed at for my pains. It has been spelled out to me by these young people that there is no hope of any better society through the parliamentary system because even most members of parliament have no power to influence events. Political power, these young people say, which should rest properly and equally with the people, is in the hands of increasingly few men- now possibly, virtually in the hands of one man. Many of these disillusioned young are, of course, no longer quite so young. That disillusionment began with the Vietnam war.
I mention to honourable senators that I understand it is quite common for young people not to be on the electoral roll. They say that they have decided to act that way because they do not want someone coming along one day and sending them to another Vietnam. They are opting out of society. Is it our right to say that, because they have done that, they should continue that way or should we try to do something and get them back into society in a proper way? I repeat that these young people are often among the best educated, most hopeful and intelligent people in our society.
My point is that, with every year that passes, more and more people are in this disillusioned segment of our society. What is needed from government I believe is a generous gesture towards these people and indeed towards the whole society, increasing both its rights and its responsibilities towards deciding the circumstances of our future. I support the motion with this thought: It might be rather a nice feeling for members of Parliament to know that they were supported increasingly by an active, informed electorate rather than a suspicious, uninformed grey mass which can be wheedled into voting one way or another at general elections for the most puny, self-interested and non-productive reasons. Surely it is small wonder that the real issues of importance in this country, the real problems of the near future are swept into the too-hard drawer. It is small wonder that any government- even a Democrat government, if there were one under these circumstances- is afraid to say to society: ‘Look, unless we do these things now, at this cost, we will be in bad trouble in 10 years from now’. Somebody, sooner or later, must say these things.
We are a wealthy country, richly endowed by nature. We now have coming into its responsibilities the best educated generation of Australians that ever lived. Yet our economic problems are severe and are becoming worse. I repeat that I believe that these problems go back to a lack of motivation by our people to extend themselves, to meet the challenges that lie ahead. At this point I also blame the Government for its dissimulation in not making the community fully aware of the nature and danger of those challenges.
Australia can be contrasted directly with a nation that is in relatively good shape economically with, I notice from the latest figures released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, one of the lowest inflation rates in the world. That country is also a small nation, and it has a remarkably small share of natural endowments. It has been able to persuade people of three different languages and origins to live amicably together. It has been able to keep out of two world wars. It has universal military training which its people embrace with great enthusiasm and competence, and it is regarded as one of the leading manufacturing nations of the world in its own specialist fields. That nation is, of course Switzerland. In Switzerland the right of citizen initiative has applied and has been jealously guarded by citizens for well over 100 years- in fact, from 1848, the year in which the loose confederation of 22 Cantons became a federal state. I quote from Professor George Thurer, a member of the pro Helvetia movement and a distinguished Swiss academic who said:
The Swiss people themselves have today the last word in a number of important decisions- a feature which is almost unique in European states. The Swiss voter does not merely elect legislators and magistrates, but guards the right to accept or reject individually the most important issues of domestic policy. He has the prerogative of the ‘Initiative’ and the referendum. This extremely high degree of the people’s political responsibility for the affairs of state could only be reached by experience and practice, rooted in the soil of the communities with their innate sense of freedom . . .
I suggest that this is not an unworthy objective for this country to emulate. I put it to honourable senators that in this matter there is some urgency. So far as the need to get greater co-operation with government by the Australian people is concerned, the clock stands at eleven. The need for getting on with an active investigation of a mechanism to introduce citizen initiative in this country is an urgent one. This motion which has been put forward by the Australian Democrats may be dropped. It may get no further. It may be carried on. I do not know what will happen to it. I would say only that if it is not discussed and proceeded with, everybody in this chamber should share the responsibility in a decade’s time, I think, for the consequences of what might happen if it is not proceeded with. Certainly such a suggestion is a limitation on the power of parliaments, an extension of more power to the people themselves and a trust in them, but I believe that in the interests of Australia it must come and must come soon.
In a world in which democracy is so much on the retreat- I am sure that all honourable senators know that and would agree with me on that point- surely there is every reason for Australia to step boldly forward on a road towards more democracy rather than less. There is little doubt that at least some of our Asian neighbours look with interest at politics in Australia. A good example to them from us may prove to be of vital importance in the future. This is yet another reason why we should consider joining that enlightened group of nations, mostly small nations and middle powers like ourselves, such as Switzerland, Holland and the Scandinavian nations, who have an active interest in better forms of democracy. I am by no means a subscriber to the theory of the great unwashedthe idea that people, for their own good, have to be led around by the nose. Nor do I see myself, as a senator, as having any God-given mandate to lead anybody around by the nose. So I make this final point: Either one believes in democracy or one does not. I commend the motion to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 24 May, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– Before proceeding to debate the Commonwealth Employment Service Bill 1978 and the associated Bill, I would offer my congratulations to Senator Mason who has just resumed his seat. Senator Mason has just made his maiden speech in this place, and I believe that he raised some matters of fundamental importance to the Australian parliamentary system. I was particularly gratified to hear the emphasis Senator Mason placed on the plight of the unemployed youth in our community, and I expect from his contribution that we will be able to look forward to support from Senator Mason and the Australian Democrats in this place for active and effective measures to come to terms with the problems of youth unemployment.
The Senate is debating the Commonwealth Employment Service Bill 1978 and the associated Bill. These Bills have been brought into the Parliament by the Government in response to the Norgard Committee of Inquiry into the Commonwealth Employment Service which was set up in 1976. Such an inquiry was not untimely as the Commonwealth Employment Service had been operating virtually unchanged in its present form since 1 945 when it was first set up. Of course many things in Australia, particularly the employment situation, have changed drastically since then. The Opposition supports the legislation in principle. We will not oppose the legislation, but we will move a second reading amendment at the appropriate time. However, I must point out that whilst the Opposition will co-operate in all ways to ensure that the services offered by the CES are updated, we find many inadequacies in the legislation before us. We find the legislation an inadequate response to the Norgard report and the many sensible and practical recommendations made in it.
It is important to emphasise that this legislation to upgrade the CES is being introduced in a particular context. It is being introduced in the context of record unemployment. At this stage there are at least 410,000 Australians unemployed, that is, there are 410,000 Australians registered as being unemployed. There are, of course, many more who are not registered. The question we have to ask in this context is this: Is this legislation an adequate response to the situation, to the crisis of unemployment that confronts us? Is it an adequate response, particularly given the structural nature of the unemployment that confronts us? The Opposition considers that it is not. According to the second reading speech of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) the Bill has three main elements. They are the establishment, functions and powers of the Commonwealth Employment Service; the position and responsibility of the National Director of the Commonwealth Employment Service, including the status of the staff of the Service; and the establishment, functions and membership of a national advisory committee on the CES and provision for the establishment of regional and local advisory committees. So far so good.
Whilst this legislation will marginally improve the existing CES operations in the ways the Attorney-General has set out, it cannot be seen as the ultimate panacea to the tragic employment crisis in Australia today. According to the Attorney-General, the Bill is designed to provide a legislative framework for the CES which is appropriate to its development as a modern manpower service. However, to this extent it should be noted that the Norgard Committee report pointed out that what the CES needs more than any of the improvements suggested above is the political will and support of the Government to upgrade its activities so that it can function as a modern manpower service. I repeat those words: . . a modem manpower service.
Indeed the Minister in his second reading speech used the phrases ‘manpower service’ and ‘manpower program’ several times. The question I put to the Senate is: What is the manpower policy of the Government that this new updated CES will carry out? In the view of the Opposition, and I believe in the view of the public, the Government has not total manpower policy. The current employer subsidy schemes do not constitute a manpower policy. The Opposition does not condemn or oppose these schemes, in particular the Commonwealth Youth Support scheme. But in relation to the total labour force problems the Opposition is of the opinion that the existing programs are merely superficial; they merely shift the same limited number of jobs around the ever increasing pool of the unemployed. To that extent the payment of what is now a decreased subsidy to employers to take on unemployed persons for a certain period cannot be regarded or put forward as a manpower policy.
The Minister also mentioned in his second reading speech the National Employment and
Training Scheme. He referred to it as one of the manpower programs which this Government is currently administering. I think that is a rather gross overstatement on the part of this Government considering, firstly, what the Government did as soon at it came to office in respect of the allowance payable to NEAT trainees. Honourable senators will recall that the allowance during the Whitlam Administration had been an amount similar to the minimum wage- about $97.50 a week. It was reduced immediately the Fraser Government came into office to an amount more approaching the unemployment benefit, which, of course, was an absolute discouragement to many persons from undertaking training; many persons had to drop out of training schemes and of course many more people were not able to get into them because of the low level of allowance paid. Secondly, it must be stressed that even during the period of the Labor Government the NEAT scheme by itself was not a manpower policy scheme; it was a scheme which paid an allowance to people who were willing to undergo training in various skills or educational institutions that were available at the time.
In my view and in the view of the Opposition, there is a very big difference between a scheme that simply pays an allowance or a subsidy to people seeking training and a scheme which is actually a manpower policy scheme. I will not take up the time of the Senate now by denning what, in the view of the Opposition, would be an adequate manpower policy scheme, but certainly it would have characteristics such as these: If the Government were serious about having a manpower policy scheme, it would seek out and support areas of stable employment in both public and private sectors. Having found those areas and having supported them, it would then set up and conduct training schemes to train unemployed persons to fit into them. Simply paying subsidies alone does not constitute a manpower policy scheme.
I stress that even in the current unemployment crisis there are still areas of employment where jobs are available if unemployed persons had the skills to take them up. One illustration of this point is that the Government runs its current immigration intake program on the basis of skills categories. Every month or every few months the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) puts out a list of skills categories under which persons wishing to migrate to Australia can qualify as being eligible for immigration. In doing this the Government admits that there are areas of skill which are needed in
Australia, which are not available in the Australian work force and for which qualified migrants then become acceptable to come to Australia. If the Government can identify those areas of needed skills for the purpose of its immigration program, surely it could identify them for the purpose of establishing a proper work force training program. Of course it has not done that.
If the Government does not want full employment- its present economic strategy appears to be evidence of this- the Commonwealth Employment Service, no matter how much it improves its efficiency, cost effectiveness and so forth, will not be able to overcome by itself the problems of the unemployed. Only last week the Treasurer, Mr Howard, admitted that the dole queue will grow in the next year. As reported in the Age on Thursday, 1 7 August, he said that the Federal Government had budgeted for an average of 25,000 more people being on the dole this financial year than in 1977-78. There we have an admission- surely it would not be an overstatement from the Treasurer- that unemployment will grow. Although the Treasurer did not state this, no appropriate response is being made by the Government to this growing pool of unemployed.
There are several other difficulties with the legislation before us. As the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) pointed out in the debate in another place, what the Service needs most is the utmost co-operation of a sympathetic government which will be willing to give the Service the autonomy and the resources required to develop initiatives to overcome the unemployment problem. Nowhere in the legislation before us do we find such adequate resources or the autonomy. The Norgard report states that the management of the CES should be vested in a statutory authority wholly and solely concerned with employment and manpower methods, including analysis of the labour market and formulation of manpower programs. The Government has decided against implementing this recommendation; it has decided against making the CES a statutory authority but it has not explained why it has made this decision.
I must say at this point that members of the Opposition do not entirely support the idea of an independent authority, as recommended by the Norgard report. Nonetheless we would be interested to hear why the Government rejected this proposal. The legislation gives the CES little independence, which in our view would not be a major shortcoming if the Government had arrange of manpower programs, the implementation of which would keep the CES occupied. But of course it does not have such programs.
At this stage of the debate I think it is important to look at the current labour market, the imbalances, the special groups of unemployed, the changing structure of Australian industry, the need for more co-operation between training and educational institutions and the labour market in order to judge the efficacy of the legislation. The total picture, of course, is absolutely appalling. I shall quote now some figures from the labour force survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in May 1978. For the last 12 months, in every respect there was a deterioration of the labour market. In May 1977 the unemployment rate for women was 7.3. per cent; a year later it was 8 per cent. In May 1977 the unemployment rate for men was 4.5 per cent; a year later it was 5 per cent.
Let us look at the smaller categories of unemployed. If we look at the hardest hit group, young persons 15 to 19 years of age, looking for their first jobs, we find that in May 1977 there were 16,100 women unemployed; a year later there were 23,900 young women in this category; that is, 18.7 per cent of women between 15 and 19 years of age looking for their first jobs were unemployed. In May 1977, 13,400 young men were unemployed; a year later 18,000 were unemployed; that is, 14.8 per cent of young males looking for their first jobs were unemployed. Similarly, the situation for migrants has grown worse. The unemployment rate now for migrant women in the 1 5 to 19 years age group is 1 9.7 per cent and for males 19.2 per cent. For all migrants the unemployment rate currently is 9. 1 per cent for women and 5.6 per cent for men.
Further indication of the imbalance in the unemployment situation is revealed in the Australian Bureau of Statistics publication Employed Wage and Salary Earners June 1971 to June 1975 and Employed Wage and Salary Earners June 1977’. This publication shows that manufacturing employment fell by 142,700 in that period and construction employment by 34,900. In January this year there were 64.49 males for every unskilled job vacancy. Vacancies are falling faster in unskilled areas, which is a matter of great concern. Between 1975 and 1978 vacancies for unskilled workers fell by 56.9 per cent. The comparison with other areas of the work force shows a fall of 25 per cent for professional, clerical and administrative workers, 54.6 per cent for skilled workers, and 30.07 per cent for semi-skilled workers.
Dealing in more detail with the ABS publication ‘Labour Force November 1977’, I will cite the number of unemployed to give an indication of the nature of the unemployment we are currently facing. In the manufacturing industry there were 72,400 unemployed; in construction 27,400; in the wholesale and retail trade 67,800; in the category of people looking for first jobs there were 44,200 unemployed; in the category described as tradesmen, production workers and labourers there were 1 19,600 unemployed; male electrical workers 27,900; building workers 20,200; sales 29,200; and service, sport and recreation workers 34,100. I bring those figures to the attention of the Senate to demonstrate the nature of the unemployment crisis. It is not spread evenly throughout the community. It is a crisis that has come about through the collapse of the manufacturing sector and the building and construction industry. In the light of those major structural problems we find the provisions in the legislation before the Senate inadequate.
There are other questions that I wish to raise in regard to this legislation. I welcome the fact that in his second reading speech the Minister acknowledged that the Commonwealth Employment Service should provide specialised services for disadvantaged groups. These services have not been provided to date, but I should say at this point that the Opposition offers no criticism of the CES officers for failing to provide these specialised services. We recognise that the Government’s policy of staff ceilings, the low level of training for CES officers, and other factors emanating from Government policy are reasons why CES officers have been unable to provide specialised services for disadvantaged groups. There is clearly a need for more resources and, in particular, for more training of CES officers if the special needs of disadvantaged groups are to be met.
In his second reading speech the Minister seemed to acknowledge this need, and indeed referred to training. The Opposition waits with interest to see exactly what training schemes will be supported by the Government. In regard to the question of providing further training for CES officers, I refer to the opening yesterday of a youth employment centre in Sydney, which was televised on national television. This centre, which offers a co-ordinated service to unemployed youth and which should be of some assistance to youths seeking jobs, is a self-service centre. It struck me as being rather ironic that in a climate where the Government should be attempting to create more jobs and more services for the unemployed its major initiative has been to set up a self-service centre; that is, an understaffed centre with very few people to give personal advice and counselling to young people. The Minister may care to explain that apparent contradiction.
The Minister did mention that there are categories of persons who need special services, including the handicapped, Aboriginal people and migrants. However, he did not mention what is perhaps the largest and most neglected category, the category of unemployed women. It emerges very clearly in the statistics I have just read to the Senate that unemployment amongst women in all age groups, but particularly in the younger age groups, is significantly higher than unemployment amongst men. To the Australian Labor Party that is an intolerable position. For the benefit of those honourable senators who may need this fact restated, I will say briefly that it is the Opposition’s view that every person has the right to employment, regardless of marital status. What is happening with regard to unemployed married women is that their plight is being hidden. Their unemployment is simply not being measured by current techniques for measuring unemployment in the community. This stems partly from the fact that an unemployed person whose spouse is in employment is not entitled to unemployment benefit. I do not wish at this stage to enter into a debate on the rights and wrongs of that situation, although I do believe it is fundamentally wrong. Because unemployed married women whose husbands are in employment are not entitled to benefit they usually fail to register at CES Offices.
Another situation about which I have received many personal complaints occurs when married women are laid off, thus being deprived of the income upon which their families were dependent, either solely or partly, for the maintenance of their standard of living. When they go to the CES and say that they are married the CES loses all interest in them. I have had many reports of married women actually being discouraged from reporting regularly to the CES. Of course, once they are discouraged they drop out of the labour force and are no longer counted as unemployed persons. We do not really know how many unemployed women are in this category; that is, unemployed but not counted in any of the mechanisms for counting the unemployed. However, a recent study in the United States showed that for every 100 women who were laid off, 70 of themthat is 70 per cent of women who had lost thenjobs dropped out of the labour force and were no longer counted. Such people very quickly become discouraged because they know that there is no chance of getting unemployment benefit and they do not go to the CES offices. When the ABS household surveys are taken and the question is asked, ‘Have you been actively seeking work in the last week?’, they say no because they know that there are no jobs for them and they are thus out of the labour force.
We have reason to believe that there are many unemployed workers who have become discouraged and whose numbers are no longer counted. From my own experience and study of this problem I believe that the situation of unemployed married women is a very grave one indeed. I have no indication that the legislation before us will offer any better services to unemployed married women seeking employment. However, if the CES offices are going to become more efficient and better co-ordinated, if they are going to have more and better trained staff- all the things suggested in the Minister’s second reading speech- then I hope that married women who lose their jobs will get assistance from the CES in the same way as any other person who loses his job.
Another objectionable feature of the legislation is that the role of the CES in determining eligibility for the payment of unemployment benefits is continued. In the view of the Opposition, that is not a proper role for the Commonwealth Employment Service. In the view of the Opposition, this role has caused a lowering of the status of the Service in the eyes of the unemployed, who have to go there and register fortnight after fortnight in order to fulfil some of the eligibility criteria for the receipt of social security benefits. They cease to regard the Commonwealth Employment Service as a service for placing unemployed persons in employment, which is its proper role. I note that all the peak labour councils are of the view that this particular role of the Commonwealth Employment Service should be removed. It is their view, and it is the view of the Opposition, that this function diverts the very scarce resources of the CES away from its main function which, as I have just stated, is the placing of persons in jobs. Paragraph 2.35 of the Norgard report recommends a new procedure to relieve the CES of this function. At this point I should like to record that the Opposition considers it most unfortunate that the Government has not included this particular recommendation of the Norgard report in the legislation.
In conclusion, I say that the Opposition welcomes some measures of the legislation. We do welcome the setting up of advisory committees at national, State and regional levels. We do welcome the inclusion of employer and employee representatives on those committees. I suggest that the committees could have been even further strengthened had they included representatives from educational bodies. However, we do welcome these moves. At this stage I would like to make clear that the Opposition is willing to cooperate in any proper way with any serious, genuine measure the Government comes up with to improve the plight of the unemployed and indeed to improve the efficiency of the CES. We are willing to co-operate and we are therefore supporting the legislation.
We see inadequacies in the legislation, some of which I have enumerated and some of which will be enumerated by my colleagues subsequently in the debate. But fundamentally, because we are in total co-operation with the principle that the situation of the unemployed needs to be assisted by improved CES services, we support the legislation. However, on behalf of the Opposition, I move the following amendment to the motion That the Bill be now read a second time ‘:
At end of motion, add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that the Commonwealth Employment Service as envisaged under this legislation would be grossly inadequate as a vehicle for an effective manpower policy’.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, Mr President.
-We are debating the Commonwealth Employment Service Bill 1978, which is a direct result of the report of the Review of the Commonwealth Employment Service which the Government in October 1976 requested Mr J. D. Norgard to conduct. One of the comments made by Mr Norgard- this was also mentioned in the second reading speech of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack)- was that the CES offices were, at the time of his investigation, a 1946 model trying to cope with a 1977-style problem.
Let us look at how that problem arose. I agree that, in 1 946, there was no unemployment problem and therefore the CES offices really did not have to be of any great consequence. As a matter of fact, in 1973- just as the Labor Party came to power- the CES offices did not have very much to cope with. As a matter of fact, even a year after the Labor Party came to power- that is, in 1974- the CES offices did not have much to cope with because at that stage the Labor Minister for Labour and Immigration said that we had ‘overemployment’. That is a direct quote. In 1974, unemployment stood at 2.1 per cent. One year later- that is, two years after Labor came to office- unemployment rose from 2. 1 per cent to 5.2 per cent. So, in one year alone, it rose by 3. 1 per cent. The next year that Labor was in power- that is, in 1975- unemployment rose by another 0.4 per cent. So, when we came to office in January 1976, unemployment stood at 5.6 per cent.
– What is it now?
– I will come to it, Senator Georges. Do not be impatient. In January 1977, our first year in officeunemployment rose by 0.2 per cent. So unemployment went from 5.6 per cent when Labor left office to 5.8 per cent in our first year in office. Senator Georges can ring the Parliamentary Library and get the statistics himself. They are perfectly accurate. Senator Georges asks me what the unemployment rate is now. At present it is 6.2 per cent. I can advise him of that because I have just telephoned the Bureau of Statistics.
– That is not a decrease, is it?
– No, it is not a decrease. It is up by 0.4 per cent. In the three years we have been in office, unemployment has increased from that terrible figure of 5.6 per cent in January when we came to office by only 0.6 per cent.
People have been brain-washed into believing that we do not care about unemployment. I would like them to look at how Labor coped with the terrific increase in unemployment in one year.
– You are there now. What are you doing about it.
-Just a minute. When Labor was in power it had to cope with 3 1 1 , 596 unemployed. Let us look at how it coped. The Labor Government introduced a Regional Employment Development scheme. We all know what happened to the RED scheme. It just did not work and Labor abolished it before it went out of office. Labor then introduced the National Employment and Training scheme. In the full year 1975-76 the NEAT scheme coped with 10,500 out of the 311,596 unemployed. Apart from that, all Labor had was a 1 946 model of a CES. Labor did nothing to assist the CES offices to cope with this tremendous influx of people who lined up before their counters.
Let us look at the youth unemployment during that period. When Labor came to office there were 80,395 youth unemployed who were under 21 years of age. When Labor left office there were 152,543 youth unemployed. Now the Labor Party is trying to say that we are the ones who are not concerned about unemployment. It tried to cope with these tremendous unemployment figures with the RED scheme, which it abolished, and a NEAT scheme which only worked for those who were advantaged and who had the brains to cope with it. I will explain to honourable senators in a minute a little about that point I have made. Labor also had the old 1 946 model CES offices. That is the way in which it attempted to cope with the tremendous unemployment that it brought about. Let us look at that NEAT scheme. As I said a little earlier, when Labor was in office 10,500 out of the 311,596 unemployed were assisted under the NEAT scheme. During any one time, only 5,188 people were being trained. Five thousand of those were professional or semi-professional people. Under Labor’s NEAT scheme it gave to those professional or semi-professional people $96.80 a week. Only 186 unskilled people were being trained under the NEAT scheme. Only 1 86 people were receiving on-the-job training. This is an absolute disgrace. The NEAT scheme was abused badly by those who had the brains to abuse it and could afford to do so.
– What do you mean by abuse, Senator?
– It was abused to the extent that when we decided to alter the emphasis we cut quite severely the amount that was paid.
– By half.
-No. We gave $60-odd instead of $96. When we did that we changed the whole emphasis to what it should have been in the beginning, which is on-the-job training, not encouraging people to go to university to get higher degrees and to be paid $96.80 a week for doing so. We changed the whole emphasis so that the money was given to people who had been made redundant so that they could be retrained on the job, which was the original intention of the NEAT scheme.
– No, it was not.
-The honourable senator should read in Hansard what the Labor Party Minister said when he first introduced the scheme. It was to retrain those who were put out of jobs so that they could go back into the work force; not to send them to university to become doctors, lawyers and so on. That was not its intention. The intention was to retrain them back into the work force, which is where the abuse occurred.
I can assure the Senate that when we first changed the emphasis and reduced the amount that was paid the sorts of complaints I received were ‘Labor promised me $96.80 a week, and I am committed. I am buying a car, I am buying a house. How can I possibly take a cut to $68?’ Honourable senators opposite should not tell me that it was the intention of their Government that people should go to university to train as semiprofessional and professional people and be able to buy houses and cars with the taxpayers’ money. That is not an exageration; that is exactly what happened.
– But it was good for the economy.
– That is a rather sarcastic statement. I am quite sure that the taxpayers had no intention of having their money paid to people so that they could buy cars and nouses at the taxpayers’ expense. However, we changed the whole emphasis, and over 85 per cent of people being trained under the NEAT scheme are doing on-the-job training. This is a change of emphasis away from the professional skills back to where it should have been in the beginningonthejob training.
I have detailed how the Labor Government tried to cope with the unemployed. Let us consider how our Government has tried to cope with the unemployed. We have a NEAT scheme, and I have just explained the difference between the two NEAT schemes. We have also the Special Youth Employment Training Program; the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Fulltime Training; the Community Youth Support Scheme, a relocation scheme which assists people, particularly young people, to move from areas where there is no employment to an area where they are likely to find employment; a fares assistance scheme; a scheme of training for industry and commerce; an education program for unemployed youth and now an upgraded Commonwealth Employment Service. The schemes about which I have just spoken provide a spot for everyone if he or she chooses to have it. Anyone can enter any one of those schemes. Youths who have no skills or training can enter one or more of those schemes. There are any number of schemes for youth, the middle aged and the family man. Anyone can join one of the schemes so that at least he or she will be trained. The Government has made some effort to assist people not only with a NEAT scheme, which the Labor Party had and which was aimed directly at the professional and semi-professional -
– It was not at all.
– I have just given to Senator Georges figures which show that out of the training of one group at one time 5.000 people were being trained as professional and semi professional -
– That is right, but they were unskilled in the first place.
-And 188 people were being trained by on-the-job training.
– What is wrong with people trying to get professional qualifications?
- Senator Georges knows as well as I do that the emphasis was completely wrong because it was aimed at wives of professional people who decided to get university training. They did not try to get training onthejob; they went to the universities and received their $96 so that they could buy another car and pay off a house. That was a disgrace, Senator Georges knows it was a disgrace and the Labor Party Minister said as much. I cannot understand why Opposition senators have not at least the grace to admit it. Let us look at what this Government has done about setting up programs and upgrading the Commonwealth Employment Service. Do not let anyone say that we do not care. We are the ones who have set up the schemes.
– But unemployment has not gone down.
– I admit that unemployment has not gone down, but when a heavy cement truck is running downhill at 80 miles an hour one can hardly apply the brakes and expect it to stop within five yards. One applies the brakes and it stops slowly. That is what we have done with unemployment. Unemployment was running downhill and rose by 3.1 per cent in one year. We have applied the brakes and since we did so unemployment has risen by 0.2 per cent, 0.4 per cent and so on. We have applied the brakes and the rate is slowing. So for heaven’s sake do not try to hang that one on us.
– Can we talk to you next February?
-Yes, by all means, Senator Georges. Let us look at the CES offices, as they were. A tremendous amount of pressure was put upon them. As I visited CES offices in my State I found that they could not cope because their staff ceilings were fairly low. I take the blame for that because our Government brought down the ceilings. The offices found, because of the tremendous employment with which they had to cope, the new programs that the Government was instigating and the fact they were expected to make up statistics and do all the other things that were expected of them, that they were having their troubles.
We set up the Norgard inquiry which said quite frankly that CES offices were overworked and could not cope with all the additional schemes, statistics and so on. Honourable senators will remember that at that time the Minister immediately raised the staff ceilings and increased the numbers remarkably. This made a tremendous difference. Since the Norgard report all CES offices have a new look. The whole emphasis now has been put on tidying up the administration because it had been the same old administration since 1946. As the Minister pointed out in his second reading speech, this upgrading will take several years. Apart from its main function, which is to help job seekers, he also spelt out the other functions fairly clearly. He said that it would also be the responsibility of the CES to promote and implement approved manpower programs and other measures designed to ensure a high level of employment in the community. This has never been spelt out previously. In the past the function of the CES was only to assist job seekers, but now the administration has been set out very clearly in the Bill. Special emphasis is also to be placed on those in the greatest need, which is again set out very clearly in the Bill. Special emphasis will be placed on those in need, such as Aboriginals, migrants, the handicapped and the young.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting of the Senate, I was referring to the additional functions that are set out in the Commonwealth Employment Service Bill. Whilst the Commonwealth Employment Service has been performing these functions, they have never been set out clearly as part of its services. The Minister stated that it would be the function of the CES office to register persons for unemployment benefit purposes, to publish labour market and employment service information and to collect statistics and other labour market information. The CES will undertake the training of its staff. Other functions are also listed. In the past, there has never been a head office of the Commonwealth Employment Service. Officers of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations have worked as employment and industrial relations officers. This Bill allows for the setting up of a national advisory committee on the CES which will be headed by a national director. He will be responsible for all the administration and will issue an annual report on 31 August which will be presented at Budget time. On that national advisory committee also will be two union representatives, two employer representatives and an officer from the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations.
I stress that the officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service are not in direct competition with private employment agencies. I am sure that all honourable senators have had representations made to them in this respect. The private employment agencies deal mainly with business people and companies looking for employees.
– Do you mean they take the easy ones and leave the rest to government agencies?
-No, I do not believe that at all. I believe that these private agencies are approached by companies such as Myer Ltd and people generally who are seeking employees. They do not often find employment for people off the street. That is quite understandable because if these private agencies took people off the street, the people concerned would have to pay a fee to the agency concerned. Therefore, the tendency is for unemployed people to go to the CES offices, where they receive this service free. What I am saying is that companies approach the private employment agencies and ask them to seek the right sort of person for them.
– That smacks a bit of the old school tie to me.
– I just do not believe for one minute that the honourable senator is being serious if he considers that it smacks of the old school tie principle for an employer to approach a private employment agency seeking someone with certain qualifications. There is a difference between the CES offices and private employment agencies which I have outlined. People go to the CES agencies looking for a job, whereas companies approach the private employment agencies looking for employees. When an employer who is seeking employees approaches a CES office- certainly, quite a few employers go to the CES offices and ask for employees of their choice- he has to pay for the advertisement that a CES office makes on his behalf. Much of the lobbying taking place is possibly giving the wrong impression. The inference often drawn is that the taxpayer is paying for those advertisements. This is not quite right.
The general principal of a government being in competition with private business is against my philosophy and against everything in which I believe. However, I do not believe that there is complete competition between the CES and private employment agencies. The two services deal with different areas. In addition, as a signatory to the relevant International Labor Organisation convention, Australia is committed ‘ to providing a national and comprehensive manpower service’. They are the words used by the Minister in his second reading speech. The Government stands by this commitment to provide a comprehensive national manpower service. It is committed to helping solve the unemployment problem. We need only look at the record to see that unemployment rose to tremendously high levels- it rose 3.2 per cent in one year aloneunder the Labor Government. The Labor Government did nothing for unemployed people, except set up the Regional Employment Development scheme, which it ultimately abolished as being useless. The Labor Government also set up the National Employment and Training scheme, which was directed primarily at the well educated people who could use and abuse the scheme. Whilst the majority- about 5,000 people- were being trained for professional and semi-professional jobs, only 188 people were being trained for other jobs. That is the record of the Australian Labor Party.
– Come on.
- Senator Georges has entered the Senate chamber to interject again. He comes in here muttering as he usually does. The record of the Liberal Party of Australia is one of setting up schemes to assist those people that the Labor Party made unemployed. Now, the Labor Party has moved an amendment to our Commonwealth Employment Services Bill which is quite incredible. The Opposition seeks to add the following words to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time:
But the Senate is of the opinion that the Commonwealth Employment Service as envisaged under this legislation would be grossly inadequate as a vehicle for an effective manpower policy.
If the Opposition is sincere in moving that amendment, why did it not do something about improving the CES offices? Why did it not do something about introducing legislation like this legislation? It was a Labor government which brought about an unemployment rate of 311,590-odd people. The position is absolutely incredible. In one year, the unemployment rate rose by 3.1 per cent. Yet now the Opposition is accusing the Government of not being interested in the problem.
- Mr President, before I address my remarks to the subject that is before the Senate this evening, permit me to congratulate Senator Mason on his maiden speech and his innovative idea of making his maiden speech by way of speaking to a notice of motion and not as a contribution to a general debate in the Senate chamber. I hope that in the future, when he weighs the pros and cons of debate that will take place in this chamber, his imagination will come down on the side of good common sense.
I would also like to reply to a point made by Senator Walters. I know that when she referred to the Re-establishment and Employment Act of 1945 as an old model car, she made the observation in good faith. She made that remark facetiously, but I think that on reflection- I am sure her illustrious father would agree with me- she would agree that 1945 was a very difficult time, being the end of World War II. Servicemen had to be rehabilitated and the wonderful women of this country who kept the wheels of industry moving and the home fires burning had to be gradually withdrawn from industry and replaced by the men who were returning from the Services. I think people of all political persuasions would be unanimous in saying that the problems faced by the CurtinChifley regimes in the rehabilitation of the nation were almost as serious as the problems with which we are confronted today. I think Senator Walters made her criticism lightheartedly. I know that on reflection she would be appreciative of the efforts made by Dedman, Chifley and Curtin at that time.
I address myself now to the serious matter before the Chair which the Senate is debating and that is the Commonwealth Employment Service Bill 1978 and an associated Bill which amends the Re-establishment and Employment Act. My colleague, Senator Ryan, who led in this debate for the Australian Labor Party, indicated that we would be supporting the measure. Even though we are not wholeheartedly in support of what the Bill envisages it is nevertheless a step forward in an attempt to upgrade the Commonwealth Employment Service. There are many shortcomings in this Bill which must be obvious to anyone who reads it. Before I deal with those shortcomings let me take honourable senators’ minds back to 1945, to the situation referred to earlier by Senator Walters. At the conclusion of World War II the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945 was being introduced into the Parliament by the then Labor Party Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, the Honourable John Dedman. I think his words are worth recalling. When he introduced the Bill he stated:
First among the Government’s objectives is the maintenance of a high and stable level of employment. To achieve the objective measures must be devised to ensure that at any dme more potential jobs exist than the number of people seeking them and that, as far as possible, employment must be of the right kind and in the right place.
That was the philosophy of the Labor Party 33 years ago and I sincerely commend it to honourable senators on the Government side. That should be the philosophy and policy of the Government at this time. Today unemployment is running at the rate of 410,000. I put it to honourable senators on the Government side that that is completely unacceptable in any civilised society. I am being honest when I say that the position is not helped- if anything it is worsened- by the deflationary economic policies that the Government is pursuing today. I charge the Government with this worsening unemployment position as a result of its utter failure to implement adequate retraining policies and adequate manpower policies and its utter failure to implement adequate immigration policies. That is the crux of the whole situation today.
When considering our experience over the last 30 years, since the original Bill was introduced in 1945, one would have thought that we would have learnt something and that we would have been able to come up with more imaginative ideas and some more proposals than those contained on the Commonwealth Employment Service Bill 1978 which we are debating this evening. We have not learnt anything in the 30 years that have transpired since the original Bill was introduced. One would have thought that we would have more ideas and that the Government would have come up with a proposition under which it would devote a great deal more of this country’s resources to the Commonwealth Employment Service. As I said previously, when I compare the government activity that took place in 1 945 and the ideas that were advanced then with what is contained in this Bill in 1 978, 1 regret to have to make this critical observation: The Bill is a sham. It has been an exercise in window dressing.
I am greatly concerned, and I have no doubt that every honourable senator in this chamber is concerned, about the future prospects for employment in this country. I think the situation is very grim. It is one in which we should not play politics. That is why I was very happy this afternoon to hear Senator Ryan say that the Opposition was prepared to help in any way whatsoever, and to speak with the Government to bring about some cure for the unemployment problem which we are experiencing today. Let us have a look at the unemployment situation. The number of persons employed in manufacturing industry has declined from 1.3 million in 1971 to 1,145,000 at the end of 1977. This represents an unemployed rate of 149,000 people. That is not a very satisfying situation. Civilians employed by private enterprise fell in number from 3.32 million to 3.24 million in the same period. This represents some hundreds of thousands of people.
I have here an interesting statistic. During the Fraser Government’s administration the number of civilians employed by the Government rose from 1.34 million to 1.5 million. This must be of as much interest to Government senators as it is to honourable senators on this side. It simply means that, despite the claims made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) about the transfer of resources to the private sector, that simply has not occurred. It is not the case. This is what he has told the country is happening because he thinks he is appeasing big business in its attitude to the Labor Party. But the only increase in employment in that area has happened in the civilian area of the public sector. It is the areas of the manufacturing industry, the construction industry, the textile industry, the footwear industry and the clothing industry which show the real decline in the labour force. This is an alarming state of affairs. I suppose, on the good side, that only in the areas of retail trade, community services, the entertainment area and the tertiary industry area has there been any increase or real expansion in employment.
Employment in the mining sector has risen from 75,500 people to 79,000 people in the last six years but that represents only 1.6 per cent of the total employment in this country. Just as an aside I say to honourable senators that whilst it represents only 1.6 per cent of the total employment of this country it earns $3 billion of our export earnings. That is a very pertinent observation. The question of unemployment is not an easy problem to solve, whether the Labor Party can solve it or whether its competitors, in government, can solve it. A multiplicity of reasons exists for the present level of unemployment. It would be difficult to come up with the solution to it and, for the moment, I will leave it stand at that.
I should like to address myself to some of the more pertinent matters that are contained in the legislation we are debating. I wish to address myself to the recommendations of the Norgard inquiry, an inquiry that was set up and established by the Government in an endeavour to advise it on the matters that we are debating this evening. After reading the Norgard report and studiously looking at the legislation we are debating this evening, I regret to say that I think the observation I am about to make is an honest observation. It would appear, to all intents and purposes, that the Government has completely disregarded or ignored the findings of the Norgard inquiry. I refer Government senators opposite to the Norgard report in which it was stated:
However, what the Commonwealth Employment Service needs more than any of the improvements suggested above is the political will and the support of the Government to upgrade its activities so it can function as a modern manpower service.
I think that is extremely important. Obviously from the legislation that is before us this evening, the warning given by the Norgard inquiry has not been taken up by the Government. It is one thing to say, as the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Durack) said in his second reading speech, that the purpose of the Bill is to provide a legislative program for the Commonwealth Employment Service which is appropriate for its development as a modern manpower service, but the point surely must be that the Government has no manpower policy whatsoever. This new authority, as Senator Walters told us, is going to redeem us and lead us to the promised land but it has no authority and has no policy that it can carry out on behalf of the Government. I respectfully suggest to Government senators that the Government does not need any new authority to carry out programs which it has in operation at the present time in respect of manpower policies.
Surely the Minister and the Government must realise that in relation to the total work force problem the present programs are not even scratching the surface. They have not even made a ripple; they have not even caused a noise. The manpower program as such needs direction from the very top. It is calling and screaming out for leadership. That leadership is not forthcoming. The Government seems to have ignored completely the recommendations of its own inquirythe Norgard inquiry which it established. Its response to the report is the creation of a semi-independent quasi statutory authority with obscure lines of communication, with obscure lines of information and with obscure lines of responsibility. The Norgard report states that the CES is operating without clear objectives or priorities and that its limited resources are pretty thinly spread across the multitude of tasks that it has to undertake.
What irritates me is that the Government’s response to the strong criticism is a Bill which establishes no real priorities. It merely describes the functions already being performed by the CES and under which it makes no financial commitment whatsoever- I challenge the Minister to refute this- to the provision of additional resources other than the appointment of a national director. That may be desirable and it must be some improvement; nevertheless, it is only a token response to an urgent national problem. At this stage I invite the attention of the Senate to one other aspect of the Bill that concerns me. I refer to clause 6 which states:
The functions of the Commonwealth Employment Service are-
to promote and implement approved manpower programs and other measures designed to ensure a high level of employment in the community;
Whilst I said earlier that there is a multiplicity of reasons for the massive unemployment that exists today, not the least important contributory item is the Government’s financial policy. The stark fact that the Minister who is in control of the Bill in this House must face is this: There are some 410,000 people unemployed in this country today and, on the best statistics that are available to us, there are only 19,500 employment vacancies. That is the stark fact that this Government must face today. Even if manpower programs matched each vacancy there would still be 390,000 persons unemployed who could not find a job
The Government’s policy set out in the legislation now before us which directs the Commonwealth Employment Service to implement improved manpower programs without any clear overall objectives will not create jobs. On an arithmetical basis it is just an exercise in futility for the Government to introduce new manpower policies for the Commonwealth Employment Service without giving any clear defined objectives in the Bill. We have a situation in which, as I have said, there are 410,000 people out of work and 19,500 vacancies. I submit that the situation can be remedied only with a change of Government policy.
Having dealt with the Government’s inadequacy in relation to manpower policies, I turn to the very vexed question of the administration of the unemployment benefit scheme. The Norgard Review said in its report that no subject raised more comment than the role of the Commonwealth Employment Service in this aspect of the administration. It further said:
All areas of experience in this field were of the opinion that the role of the Commonwealth Employment Service in this area should be abandoned.
That is a very important observation. All the experience that was available to the Norgard Committee came down on the side that the CES should abandon the handling of unemployment benefit schemes. The role of the Commonwealth Employment Service in the administration of the payment of unemployment benefit is a clear contradiction in terms of any agency that was originally established to promote and implement manpower policies in the spirit in which the original Act was introduced in 1945 by the Labor Government under John Dedman.
Of course, the Parliament is aware of the Government’s attitude to the payment of unemployment benefit. We have heard it expressed in answers to questions asked from this side of the House. We have heard it announced publicly through the media of this country. When I say the Parliament is aware of the Government’s attitude, I include in that statement the Opposition’s awareness of the Government’s attitude to the payment of unemployment benefit and all the rules that it has laid down in order to harass those eligible to receive the benefit. That is an honest criticism of the Government’s attitude, observed by me, towards people who are out of work. By adopting that attitude, that policy and that philosophy the Government has brought every Commonwealth Employment Service agency into disrepute because the criticism flows to them.
We know that the Commonwealth Employment Service and its agencies will continue to spend hours, days and even weeks collecting and processing information which, I submit, is of no earthly good to its own objective of placing people in employment. The Commonwealth Employment Service and its agencies are on heresy hunts at the direction of other departments. I charge the Government to deny that this Bill neither allows total withdrawal of the Commonwealth Employment Service from this area nor gives it total responsibility. I level this accusation at the Government which says that it wants to improve the status of the Commonwealth Employment Service. The Government has left the CES in a grey area, in no man ‘s land. There appears to be no attempt by the Government to heed the advice of its own inquiry- the Norgard Review. At paragraph 2.35 the Report states:
Briefly, the procedure would be that people wishing to claim unemployment benefit should be required to register with the CES. As a matter of preference, the Review would not wish to have the CES issue, receive or check DSS benefit claim forms, but recognises that the CES ought, as a community service, have the necessary forms available.
That is a very important point. The Report continues:
The claim form would be endorsed by the CES to the effect that the person was registered for employment and passed to the DSS. Thereafter the CES would take no part in the benefit procedure except to inform the DSS that the person was no longer registered or to report on unsatisfactory attitudes to employment . . . Should a person appeal against withdrawal of benefit as a result of a report from the CES the Review would hope that the CES would be called upon to speak at the appeal hearing.
That is the recommendation of the Norgard Review and it has been completely overlooked by the Government. The Government has ignored the advice of the inquiry which it established. Finally, the Act lays down that all claimants for unemployment relief must pass the work test. The fourth section of the so-called work test is the most controversial. It refers to ‘not making an effort to obtain employment on his or her own behalf. This controversial test obviously is being incorrectly applied. That is my charge against the Government. Mainly it is the Department of Social Security which makes the inspection and determination through its own investigation officers. I think I am correct in saying that.
Honourable senators will recall that last October the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) ordered a major survey of recipients of relief. Subsequently there were alarming headlines in the Press that some 30,000 people were briefly removed from benefit entitlement and then readmitted. I think I am correct in making that claim. Logically this must mean that they were incorrectly harassed and inconvenienced. One may well ask: Why did the Department conduct this investigation in the first place and take action then which caused this embarrassment to the unemployed and placed peoples, helpless because of their economic circumstances, at the whim of officers of various departments? I conclude by saying, in accordance with what Senator Ryan said earlier, that we support this Bill because we think it goes marginally towards improving the existing Act. We give it some sort of qualified support. I suppose it is better than the previous Act. I agree with Senator Ryan’s comments that it does not go anywhere near towards meeting the problems of those who are unemployed today, and I have pleasure in seconding her amendment.
-Firstly, let me join with other honourable senators in congratulating Senator Mason on his maiden speech. He certainly put forward some interesting ideas. It is a great pleasure to hear others making their maiden speeches so that I am no longer the new boy in the Senate. The Senate has heard this afternoon and this evening some very interesting discourses on unemployment, firstly by Senator Ryan and now by Senator McAuliffe, to the extent that at one stage I had to check to see which Bill we were discussing. I thought we might have got around to debating the Budget Papers. The debate on the Budget Papers is when the matter of unemployment should be raised. Unfortunately the discourse on unemployment is not relevant to this Bill. Admittedly, the Bill is entitled the Commonwealth Employment Service Bill, but it does not deal with the question of unemployment as such. The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the establishment of the Commonwealth Employment Service as a unified and identifiable organisation; to detail the functions of that Service; to allow for the appointment of a National Director of the CES and to make provision for the establishment of an advisory committee structure at the national, regional and local levels.
The solution to unemployment lies in the economic area. It does not lie in a controlled state whereby some manpower policy is imposed by a government on the people of the nation, such as the Regional Employment Development scheme which was a disaster. The suggestion from Senator McAuliffe seemed to be that in some way or other this manpower policy ought to di- red people as to which jobs they should fill. That is not the solution to the unemployment problem. The solution will, of course, lie with the economic package in the Government’s policy as disclosed in the current Budget, and I am sure that it will prove to be successful. In addition, the Opposition’s ideas about unemployment unfortunately are not accurate. Both Senator Ryan and Senator McAuliffe failed to acknowledge the original cause of unemployment. It is acknowledged far and wide around the country that the people of Australia are still paying the penalty for the disastrous actions of the Labor years from 1973 to 1975. The other matter about which they could perhaps have had something to say is that the continued reason for unemployment lies in the real wage-cost overhang, the fact that real wages are continuing to expand in excess of increases in production. They are the matters which will be subject to the Budget debate. As I said, the Bills before the Senate at the present time do not deal with unemployment but with the Commonwealth Employment Service.
I acknowledge that when I saw these Bills I had some philosophical doubts because, of course, it could be suggested that this is a socialised industry. No doubt that is what the Opposition would love to have. These doubts of mine have been resolved by a paper issued by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). I believe that I should read into Hansard some matters from that paper which I believe to be of importance. The first is the suggestion that it is insidious nationalisation of a private sector group. The Minister has pointed out that the Professional Employment Office was established under the name of the Higher Appointments Office back in 1945 and that what is happening to it is a necessary improvement of a public service which the Norgard inquiry reported as being essential. I should add that the National Labour Consultative Council has strongly supported the Government’s proposal for modernisation and that the Chairman of the Standing Committee of that Council is Mr George Polites, Director of the Confederation of Australian Industry. It is important. 1 think, that all areas of industry in Australia- by all areas I mean employers organisations, trade unions and people seeking employment- approve of these proposals.
The next criticism is that the cost is not justified. The Minister has stated- I think it is realistic- that the 1977-78 cost of the Commonwealth Employment Service was approximately $47m. He asks: Is it suggested that such expenditure is justified as long as the Service is inefficient, but that a slightly higher expenditure to ensure an efficient Service is not justified? I think that is a fair and reasonable question. Suggestions have been made about advertisements, which I think have been answered properly by Senator Walters, so I will not refer to them. A suggestion has been made that public sector employment will be increased at the expense of jobs in the private sector. The Minister has pointed out that for some time the levels of staff in the Commonwealth Employment Service have been determined by a formula which relates the numbers required to the work load. I think that is a fair and reasonable answer to that criticism.
Another criticism that is being levelled by the private employer firms involved in this sort of activity in competition with the CES is that no plausible reason can be shown why the employment situation can be improved by the action that the Government intends to take with the Commonwealth Employment Service. Of course this is the criticism which Senator McAuliffe also was making. But it is pointed out that an improvement in the overall employment position will be achieved as a consequence of the economic situation and not as a consequence of some direction from some manpower policy. Finally, a suggestion has been made that the Commonwealth Employment Service should charge fees comparable to those charged by agencies in the private sector. I do not know that the Minister’s answer in this regard is as good as his other answers, but it is pointed out that, in 1 976 only 4,700 placements out of a total of 465,000 placements were made by professional employment agencies. It is difficult to imagine that with this level of business the private employment agencies are seriously concerned about competition.
– What about the up to date figures?
- Senator Missen will be providing up to date figures later. He has not given me those figures so I cannot quote them to the Senate at this stage, but no doubt he will provide them in due course. As I said before, I am somewhat concerned about whether the Commonwealth Employment Service should charge fees comparable to those charged by private employment agencies. My philosophical doubts have been resolved in ways in addition to the answer given by the Minister. The organisations which have been critical of this Bill were given the opportunity to appear before the Norgard inquiry, but they did not do so. When referring to the Norgard inquiry, I might add that it recommended that a statutory authority be established. May I congratulate the Government for not taking up that suggestion. As a member of the Senate Finance and Government Operations Committee, I would like to say that obviously there are far too many statutory authorities in existence at the moment. I am pleased to see in this Bill that the Government has decided to appoint a national director. It will not give him the independence which would be created by a statutory authority but will keep him under the control of the Minister, which is precisely where he should be.
– I support you on that.
-Thank you, Senator McAuliffe. Another factor which I believe to be of great importance is that the Commonwealth Employment Service provides a decentralised service. Unfortunately, in this country people constantly think only of the capital cities, in which these private firms are established. But the Commonwealth Employment Service has officers throughout rural Australia. It is a service which is vital to provincial towns, but it cannot continue to compete unless it provides the whole range of facilities which one expects of an employment service.
As to the question of fees being charged by the Commonwealth Employment Service, I think that the matter which weighs most heavily in my mind in approving of this area of the Bill is the contrary philosophy of a free flow of market forces. There can be no doubt that employers will choose the best available service. In my book no private employment service worth its salt would fear competition from a government service even if no fee were being charged by the government service. Employers will not worry about the fee if the service is good. It then becomes a question of whether the private firm can provide a service to employers which is such that employers will look to that firm rather than to the Commonwealth Employment Service. Private firms nowadays can and do undertake psychological and other tests with a view to matching applicants for positions. Firms providing this sort of service will succeed with employers and in the placement of potential employees. On the other hand, inefficient employment firms naturally will go by the board. I do not believe that this Government should prop up inefficient services by hamstringing the Commonwealth Employment Service. Accordingly, I approve of the legislation, notwithstanding my philosophical difficulties about a nationalised industry. I support the legislation.
– I support the amendment expounded by Senator Ryan and my Queensland colleague, Senator McAuliffe. This debate has shown an unusual trend, particularly in the remarks of Senator Lewis concerning the idea of private employment services providing the best facilities for job placement. Of course he was looking at it from the employer’s point of view. If people study the second reading speech of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack), they will notice that there were about 1,200,000 referrals for employment but only 400,000 placements were effected.
I think we must realise- I think this idea was first epitomised in my interjection on Senator Walters- that some of these small employment operators more or less cater for a small select group. But the complex and therefore the more costly groups to employ, whether they be people with limited English or even people with physical limitations, are left to the government services. So I think it is important that we have a very efficient government service. I do not deny that in specialised industries such as aviation and railways Qantas Airways Ltd or a State railway system have every right to their own services. Senator Lewis made a remark about aptitude tests being applied. Even shunters at the Enfield marshalling yard need a certain aptitude. A man might have a high IQ, but if he does not have muscular co-ordination he could lose a foot in his first week in the shunting yard. Proper tests could quickly reduce as far as possible the dangers of misplacing applicants, human frailties being what they are.
I have advocated the all-embracing system because whilst we are dealing with, as it were, the anatomy of the Commonwealth Employment Service, we should also be looking at the best way to employ people. I am talking now about all the criteria of the jobs that are being offered. I think that the Norgard report stated that for every reduction of one day for which a person is not placed in employment we save $ 1 .8m.
In discussions about whether or not we should have private employment agencies, I like to look at it from the point of view of the job seeker. In metropolitan Sydney and in the other States it is probably a case of people using either public transport or limited petrol when they are job seeking. Senator Mason when he was speaking earlier reminded me of that Kennedyism about those who dream of things that never were and ask why not. Senator Mason referred to us being wedded to certain ideas, and it is for that reason that I support the Swedish idea of the computerisation of job needs. In a vast country such as Australia I believe that people should be able to go to an employment office which has all the necessary information available so that they can decide which job they will apply for. At the moment they have the choice of either taking their chances and looking at the Sydney Morning Herald at 5.30 in the morning, going to the employment office, or. in some cases going to a private employment agency, and I agree that there are some agencies that might have a link with some commercial positions. This sort of consolidation would have no implications of the George Orwell concept of a police state; it would be simply a matter of efficiency. Whatever problems our postal services have had would be magnified if every 30 miles there was a private enterprise postal system. In the United States Western Union also has its problems, like any other postal system. In relation to job seeking, I believe that every device possible should be used to make it easier for applicants to view the field and see what is offering. That is the area where I believe the system can be improved.
However, I want to take my argument further than that. When we are talking about job placement and the national committee with representatives from both employer and employee groups, the one thing that is lacking relates to timing. If Senator Collard were here he would appreciate that during the steam era when applying the injection system of water going into a boiler, it had to be done at a particular psychological time. In relation to the employment section I cannot see spelled out any means of getting advice from the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs about how many people are in the pipeline. I will illustrate that in two ways to indicate that I am not just generalising. In February and March of this year La Fiamma and // Globo carried advertisements for motor mechanics who were skilled on Fiat cars. They made the point that they did not receive many applicants here. I know that two Italians who were in Australia as tourists went back to Italy and applied from there. It is in this sort of case that there is a failure to mesh employment and immigration.
The Department of Employment and Industrial Relations agreed that there was a shortage of motor mechanics in selected areas but the vote in the Department cut out in early June. The result was that no trade tests were conducted in Italy and they have only recently started again. Employers are waiting for skilled operatives, but the Fiat people I am thinking of have been waiting for an excessive length of time. I wish to hammer the point that the employment service is responsible for job placement but unless there is a better meshing with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs that is the sort of situation that can arise. It is conceded that sometimes an overseas applicant may be a link in the chain and will provide work for other less skilled people. I make that criticism and I ask the Minister to tell me how we can achieve this link with the Department of Immigration. It is true that at the moment there are co-ordinating committees in the capital cities that evaluate demand, but in the case I have instanced, because the Immigration money ran out in early June, there has been a time lag on trade tests in Europe.
The other example I know of is nearer to home, and although I am a socialist I am going to refer to an employer’s dilemma. The Snap Carpet Cleaning Co. at Drummoyne has a staff of 40 and needed a skilled mechanic to keep some of its new American machines in good operational order. The company checked with the eight nearest employment offices, and I re-checked with them and was told that nobody was offering who had a knowledge of those machines. I spoke to the proprietor of the company, an American woman, and she confirmed all that had been said. 1 then checked with senior employment officers in Sydney who said that they could not get anybody. I then wrote to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) about the case. It was an unusual thing for me to do because I have always believed in upgrading and retraining people who are here in order to clear our own surplus before bringing in somebody from overseas. However, in this case it was obvious that nobody was offering here. It is in this sort of instance that lack of co-operation is evident. This afternoon I received a phone call from the woman saying that the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs had said that the South Korean mechanic they had employed had to leave next week.
I know that at times there are justifiable deportations and I have never advocated the wholesale conversion of tourists to permanent residents. We eulogise the capacity of the employment service to find jobs for people, and I go along with 90 per cent of what is said, but if we want to create the perfect manpower system and if eight employment offices have said that nobody is offering, how is it that the message does not get through to the Minister for Immigration and his people? This woman is faced with a difficult situation. If the Commonwealth Police are called on Friday to escort this man off the job, where does she get an exceptionally competent mechanic to service the equipment? Those are specific problems in relation to this sort of policy. It is all right to talk in generalities, but where a vacancy exists and a firm’s income is involved the worker has to be provided. There is a lot of icing sugar on this legislation, but when one looks beneath it there are a lot of gaps in the structure.
I would like the Minister to indicate to me ways in which there could be a link with the Immigration Department. In referring to job placement, what happens in the case I have mentioned of the Snap Carpet Cleaning Co. at Drummoyne? I know my colleague Senator Gietzelt will agree with me tht it is in areas such as the western suburbs of Sydney, where there is a large mixture of school leavers and migrants, that there are many difficulties. To give another illustration of our manpower policy and the fact that we do not get enough details, Firestone Aust. Pty Ltd, which is a multinational company operating at Granville, has a classification of tyre builder on a rate fairly close to a tradesman’s wage. A man would need a fairly good physique to maintain the tempo of output required and there is a tendency for men when they get to about 50 to feel that they have had enough of the hard work and that it is time for them to get an easier job. Sometimes they take a job that is not paid at such a high rate.
Some of the Uruguayan members of the union involved asked Firestone whether they could nominate as migrants brothers who were tyre builders in Uruguay because Firestone, being a multinational, operates there. The Department of Immigation says that if a person has a firm job offer he can come here but the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations tells Firestone that it has to upgrade men or bring in men who are unemployed. One of the smart-alick operatives at Firestone said that he did not think there were enough people in Granville with the desire to work. This was one of those on-the-spot decisions probably made by somebody whose buttocks have got fat while he sits in a chair. It would be a long while since he has worked on the production line. I know that my colleagues understand what industrial relations are all about. I hope that we will have a form of more open government and that when Firestone will not co-operate, and it is a multinational, it will be told that its ratio for upgrading people or taking on unemployed people in Granville has got to be improved. If it is left the other way, and this is the punch line, and job placement is not consolidated under one authority there will be problems.
There is no doubt that some employers do keep black lists. I know of an instance involving senior female operatives, process workers, who are members of the Electrical Trades Union. When one girl had the temerity to question the limited toilet facilities they thought she was a bit pink, a bit subversive. This is not just an idle matter. One finds out about such situations when a girl who has been a confidential secretary in a firm leaves that firm and perhaps tells people at a party what went on with some of her glorious bosses. That does happen. The fact is that we are dealing with human values.
So, I simply say this: I know as well as anybody that the allocating of jobs by the CES is a very difficult assignment. But I believe that under the current system not enough detailed information is given as to how we balance out the number of jobs against the number of migrants we bring into our work force. Furthermore, emergency cases must be considered. I refer for instance to the conversion of a tourist visa to a permanent visa is a definite job is available for the visa holder. I instance in particular the case involving the Snap Carpet Cleaning Co. at Drummoyne. I do not know what will happen there after next week if the production line stops. We cannot attribute the blame for the stoppage on a wild cat strike. We can either blame the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs or say that bad judgment on the part of the CES office was the cause because it did not suggest it had anyone suitable on its books. Perhaps we can blame the private enterprise employment agencies because they were not able to provide a suitable person either. These are all human matters which involve production.
I do not want this legislation to be regarded as some sort of cosmetic operation so that once we have passed the legislation we have solved the problem. The problem is far too complex for that view. I say again that the computerisation system employed by the Scandinavian countries definitely works better than our own system. There is no question about it. If we can consolidate everything we know our needs. I have read some of Tony Street’s handouts about job retraining and that sort of thing, but I believe we are still somewhat groping in the dark. I do not know what the Government can do to overcome psychological obstacles. I cite the case of a boy going to work in a foundry. I know that there is still the danger of sillicosis in that industry, although much progress has been made. When the boy compares that with going to work as a junior clerk in an air-conditioned office often he, in compliance with the wishes of his parents, will settle for the latter job. Consequently our technical skill suffers. I take that situation a little further. In most of the metal trades, Qantas has a reputation of being a glamour employer while some of the others do not. They are the areas in which a lot of public relations work has to be done to sell many of these jobs in order to provide the future upgrading of our technical skills.
I would like the Minister to explain to me specifically how the Government would deal with these situations where a particular skilled job is available but nobody in our permanent male work force is available and a person on a tourist visa has the job. I ask the Minister where is the liaison between the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. On the other aspect, I wonder whether the Minister could tell us, even when this legislation goes through the Parliament, how far we are from the use of computerisation to assess and deal with our labour demands.
-Along with other honourable senators I congratulate Senator Mason who made his maiden speech today. I congratulate him on throwing forward another idea. It is good that we have some new ideas going around the Parliament. I congratulate him too on having made his maiden speech on a non-broadcast day. That is an unfashionable sort of thing to do but I join with him in saying that it is better to give the speech on the occasion that suits one and to be free then to get into the debate whenever one wants. Again I congratulate him on his speech and wish him many other excellent speeches in the future.
We are debating the Commonwealth Employment Service Bill 1978. One would perhaps doubt that to some extent on hearing tonight some rather vague dissertations on the subject generally of employment and various other matters.
– From your side.
-No, Senator Georges, even from your side there have been somewhat vague statements that have had very little to do with the Bill. I hope I will make some reference to the Bill even though I will be somewhat critical of it. Unfortunately I did not have the ready assurance and support which my colleague, Senator Lewis, had from the document of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). I am afraid I do find some difficulties in that criticisms of it have come to me from many sources. They are criticisms which I think ought to be explained in this Senate. At the same time, I think one should say that the Bill does cover a general purpose, which I think is admirable. It is a Bill designed to bring up to date and to give legislative expression to the Government’s commitment to upgrading the Commonwealth Employment Service into a modern and effective manpower service. Insofar as the Bill does that, I think those are excellent objectives. The provisions, as referred to in the second reading speech: are designed to establish the CES as a unified, clearly identifiable organisation, to provide a legislative framework for the CES which is appropriate for its development as a modern manpower service . . .
I think it is desirable that this should be done and that this should be recorded in legislation. The problem that I find with the Bill and the criticisms which are made by many people are that it may do more than that: It may become an umbrella under which justification is sought to be established for it taking over much of the private industry which has been engaged in the employment service. I think it is only fair that those aspects should be noted.
In the drawing of this Bill, of course great attention has been paid to the Norgard Report. This legislation implements many of the recommendations of the Norgard Review. But perhaps it should be pointed out also that the
Norgard Review did instance some areas of warning for the community. This is pointed out at paragraph 9.16 of that report wherein it is stated:
The Review strongly believes that it would be a misuse of taxpayers funds to pump such additional funds into the CES specifically to enable it to take over activities which are currently handled adequately by commercial agencies.
That was said by the Norgard Review and the criticisms that have been made suggest that there is danger that competition with private industry may be excessive and may lead to a government monopoly. The position is that there are, of course, commercial activities engaged in the placement of people in employment. They sometimes operate in specialised areas such as engineering and medical services. They carry out, as Senator Lewis has said, very useful services for placing people in employment. The fact that these commercial agencies do not cover the whole field of employment does not mean that they do not have a right to exist. Equally, the fact that they have perhaps developed very considerably since the Commonwealth Employment Service was set up does not mean that they do not have an equal right to exist because they provide a very useful service to this country and to employers- and that service must be respected.
The criticism which has been made of this Bill is very substantially dealt with in a number of letters that have been received by members of the parliament. One element that has been drawn to the attention of Liberal senators in this Parliament is the fact that our Liberal Party platform specifically issues a warning in regard to the purposes for which economic freedom is to be seen to be existing and strengthened. In that platform the following appears:
Liberalism aims to create a society in which individual economic freedom exists. It recognizes that free enterprise is the crucial factor in achieving general economic progress. It acknowledges the importance of effective competition as a preventive of the defects of monopoly power and as the incentive to creativity and productivity.
It is of course greatly opposed to monopoly power. I think we have to be concerned that monopoly power does not become predominant in our society. The Victorian Chapter of the Institute of Management Consultants in Australia Incorporated, in material written to various members, has this to say in that regard:
Should the Bill pass ali stages we will see the strange situation of Liberal-National Country Party Government allowing a government department to operate in a manner which is in direct conflict with accepted Liberal philosophy regarding free enterprise.
That may be too extreme a statement. It may well be that what could be said about this Bill is that there is indeed a possibility that this could happen. A lot will depend on the policy of the Government to see that this is not done. Therefore, the criticism is directed perhaps less to the terms of the Bill than to the fact that they may be misused. When one looks at the terms of the Bill one realises that one of the proposals contained in it relates to a manpower program. Among its objectives is an endeavour to enhance a person’s opportunities to secure employment and to facilitate the movement of labour between occupations. Of course, that is a desirable objective. When one looks at the functions of the Commonwealth Employment Service which are described in clause 6 of the Bill one finds that paragraph (b) states one of the functions as being: to assist employers and intended employers wishing to fill vacant positions of employment to fill them with available persons who are suitable for the performance of the duties of, and who meet the employer’s or intended employer’s requirements for, the positions;
Very clearly there is in the Service a recognised purpose of assisting employers which may well be done to a degree which may threaten private industry. When one looks at this possibility one recognises that this matter was considered perhaps rather briefly in the second reading debate on this Bill in the House of Representatives. I will refer to two interesting, I think, observations. They are among the few references to this possibility. In concluding the debate Mr Street, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, said:
I compliment the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) on a very constructive speech. I agree with him on the benefits to job seekers of competition in the market place between those in the business of placing people in employment.
So the Government is committed to the recognition of the importance of private employment services operating in the industry. The Australian Labor Party in this chamber has moved an amendment to add to the motion for the second reading the following words: but the Senate is of the opinion that the Commonwealth Employment Service as envisaged under this legislation would be grossly inadequate as a vehicle for effective manpower policy.
One realises from that that the policy desire of the Labor Party is to have a Commonwealth Employment Service which is so vigorous that it will wipe out the private industry altogether. To show that I do not misunderstand in any way the Labor Party in this regard I refer to the statements which were made by its spokesman, Mr Young, at page 2272 of Hansard of 1 1 May 1978 dealing with this Bill. He said:
I note that the Minister said in his second reading speech the Government does not want a monopoly in the vacancy filling business. I cannot see any earthly reason why the Government should not have a monopoly.
In other words, it is clear that the Opposition at the very least would like to use this Bill subsequently to enforce a monopoly; and the fears of people who have written to many senators are that this may come to pass.
What is the major objection that has been raised? This is not an objection to the major features of the Bill because many things contained in the Bill are excellent. Therefore, I am taking this out of context and to some extent out of perspective in dealing with one major objection to it, but I think it is important that that be done. A major objection is that under this Bill there may be a very grave risk of a totally unfair degree of competition between the Commonwealth Employment Service and the private employment agencies operating already in the area. This was well said in a letter dated 20 July 1978 to me from a firm of accounting and management personnel called Read Carson and Associates in which the firm said:
The private placement industry and the PEO have coexisted for many years because each performs a separate function. On the one hand, PEO assists unemployed and disadvantaged white-collar or professional persons to find jobs- and we have no quarrel with that role for the PEO. On the other hand, the private placement industry assists Managements by locating, interviewing and screening executives for new and vacant positions. Most of the candidates recommended by consultants to clients are employed already and many are seeking promotion to more senior levels. For this service, our clients are prepared to pay a fee.
We do strongly object to an aggressive Governmentfinanced encroachment into a well-established and wellaccepted private industry by the TOTALLY UNFAIR practice of price cutting, i.e. charging no fee to clients.
I believe that there is force in the criticism that if the Commonwealth Employment Service moves vigorously into competition in this area and charges no fee, it will not be surprising if employers prefer with increasing frequency to take the free service rather than the service for which they must pay. The fact that this is a fear has led to wide protests. There has been quite justifiable criticism- I think Senator Lewis raised it- of the private employment agencies that they have not raised their objections at an early stage. Correspondence shows that they were engaged in lengthy correspondence over many months with the Minister, Mr Street, and only in June were they talking about approaching members of Parliament and making clear their real protests. Since then there has been a lot of correspondence, particularly with senators from Victoria. It is regrettable that the private agencies did not make their objections at an earlier stage.
Nonetheless, the objections should still be considered. Even if they do not have any effect, as they will not, on the passage of this Bill, they should be considered more carefully by the Government so that in the policies adopted and carried out by this Bill there will be no risk that what they fear may come to pass will in fact come to pass.
It has been drawn to my attention by another company in this area that advertisements are being placed by the Professional Employment Office on behalf of large companies in the community. For example, I have an advertisement which has been placed in Melbourne on behalf of Myers, a very powerful firm which is now a client of the PEO but which was previously a client of private employment agencies. This is just one example of a very substantial loss by private firms to the Government, lt is suggested by the firms that the PEO is now going out positively to obtain work, particularly since February of this year. These are the up-to-date factors which I referred to Senator Lewis by way of interjection. It is claimed that operating by way of trial only in Sydney the PEO has raised its share of the market in the professional field, which was two per cent a year or two ago, to 1 1 per cent at present. The private agencies fear that this may be 50 per cent within a couple of years. I do not know the basis for the 50 per cent figure, but it appears very reasonable to me that the type of positive seeking of work by the PEO is likely to lead to a very considerable rise in its percentage because people naturally prefer to take advantage of a free service if they can. I suppose that the position is somewhat akin to Trans-Australia Airlines, a Government organisation, seeking to obtain the service of executives by offering free travel from Canberra to Sydney and Melbourne. Naturally, people would use that service and would not use the private service. It is feared that if a charge is not made by CES unfair competition will be created.
The point has been made to me also that in the policies which have been adopted, the PEO has not been altogether co-operative with private industry. When PEO has advertised a certain person ‘s name, it has refused to deal with the private organisation which telephone and seek an interview. I am told that there is a lack of cooperation in this area, which I think at least is unfortunate. I know that the Minister has said- this point has been mentioned tonight- that the Commonwealth Employment Service must not charge; it must provide a free service. This statement is based upon the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 88 to which Australia is a signatory. My view, quite frankly, is that the Convention does not justify the conclusions that have been drawn. Ankle 1 of the Convention states:
Each Member of the International Labour Organisation for which this Convention is in force shall maintain or ensure the maintenance of a free public employment service.
The point I make is that that article does not mean that all aspects of the service should be provided free of charge. It is free for those persons who seek employment. Article 6 of the Convention deals with the purposes for which the Convention was made and states:
The employment service shall be so organised as to ensure effective recruitment and placement, and for this purpose shall-
assist workers to find suitable employment and assist employers to find suitable workers, and more particularly shall-
The article goes on to state that the employment service shall do various other things. But the main purpose is to register applicants for employment, to take note of their occupational qualifications and to obtain from employers precise information on vacancies. Of course, the whole intent of the article is to ensure that there shall be an attempt made to obtain employment for persons and that such persons shall not be charged for the service. The service cannot be provided free in the full sense of the word. It is not free in regard to advertisements that may be placed. This has been pointed out tonight. People who advertise are charged for the cost of advertisements. Of course, they have an advantage in that no professional charge is made for the placing of the advertisement. However, they pay for the cost of placing the advertisement. In a sense, this service has been interpreted by the Minister as being free in every respect. It is not. In practice no attempt is made to make the service free in that sense. The meaning of the word free’ has worried the High Court of Australia over the years when it has dealt with the interpretation of section 92 of the Constitution. It is a difficult word to interpret. But I do not think that there is justification to suggest that under this ILO Convention there is no entitlement to charge when competitive services are provided to an employer.
I have said that the many representations which honourable senators have received in recent weeks have been based more particularly on a fear of where the policy might lead, a fear of competition which may destroy legitimate industries which have been working skilfully over some years. As stated in the Minister’s second reading speech, it is intended that the CES undertake ‘a substantial intensification of the program for staff training’. That is good. The Bill also deals with the provision of ground floor, shopfront accommodation for the CES in central business districts. This may lead to a very effective form of competition which will be all the more effective because there is no charge. Therefore, I believe that restraint must be exercised by the Government to ensure that there is fair competition with the private enterprise firms which legitimately operate in this area. Private agencies deal with the state of employment in professional areas. I realise that they are not concerned with the great bulk of unemployment. The very considerable area of unemployment which is substantial and which needs great attention from this Government and the community involves the young and the unskilled. Very little unemployment exists in the area which will be covered by the rather costly services to place people in employment. That is not the main unemployment area and the work to be done by the CES there will not have any substantial bearing on the rate of unemployment in this country.
I emphasise that the private industry has raised serious concerns with honourable senators. It is not supported by many substantial interests. Perhaps the employer organisations have not supported private industry. That is short sighted but not surprising. When people are able to obtain something free, they will take it. Nonetheless, there is reason for some concern. I hope that the Government will look at this matter closely. Whether or not appropriate provisions are included in the Bill is not the point.
– Why not?
-I am saying that the Bill does not give any protection to those firms. What I am concerned about is the policy which may suddenly flow from that. I suppose that the Bill could contain some provision to protect the private industry. I would be very happy if it did. Unfortunately, it does not. Failing that, I hope that the Government will at least ensure the enforcement of a policy that did not allow to continue a development which might threaten the existence of private industry. On that criterion, but with some criticism and with some reservation, I support the Bill. I hope that the matters I have raised will be considered by the Government most seriously.
– The Australian Democrats support the thrust of the Commonwealth Employment Service Bill. Many of the speeches have been directed towards unemployment. I will not refer to that matter because my colleague, Senator Mason, in his maiden speech, referred to the way the Australian Democrats feel about unemployment. We regard this Bill as a rather technical measure to restructure the Commonwealth Employment Service consequent upon the report of the Norgard inquiry. We generally support the Bill, as Senator Missen did, but we express some misgivings along the lines that he expressed. I agree almost entirely with what Senator Missen said, but I am disappointed that he did not give notice of some amendment. Had he given notice of an amendment for the protection of private enterprise in this sector, he would have had the immediate support of the Australian Democrats. That is indicative of the frustration one feels in this Parliament. It is a small disappointment to me today in my first nitty-gritty debate in this Senate to find that even if Senator Missen had moved an amendment to clause 6 (a) of the Bill, which to my mind gives unfair advantage to a government enterprise vis-a-vis private enterprise, he would have received little support from the Australian Labor Party. One would have found Senator Missen and the Australian Democrats, as three members out of a total of 64 members in the Senate, supporting that amendment. I sympathise with Senator Missen when he says that he supports the Bill but gives the Government some warning on this issue.
Let me reiterate, perhaps in a different way, the arguments advanced by Senator Missen. What concerns the Democrats in this Bill is clause 6 (a), which appears harmless but actually states that one of the functions ‘of the Commonwealth Employment Service is to assist persons seeking employment’. That is fine, we are 100 per cent in agreement with that. What we query are the words ‘or a change of employment to obtain suitable positions’. That is a strange sort of phrase for a Liberal Government to be writing into a Bill.
We of the Australian Democrats Party are totally in favour of competition. We are champions of free enterprise. We believe that the best form of competition is between public enterprise and private enterprise because we do not entirely trust monopolistic private enterprises. We believe that the only true way to keep private enterprise honest is to have it compete fairly with public enterprise. That is why I think Australia has the best domestic airlines system in the world. Most honourable senators have travelled in most countries and have seen the incredible situation in a country like New Zealand where there is a government-owned monopolistic airline that is so inefficient, so rude and so arrogant to its passengers, whereas in Australia if we travel on either Ansett Airlines of Australia or Trans-Australia Airlines we are met with efficiency and the utmost courtesy. One could extend this argument to the banking system. We have true competition in Australia. The Commonwealth Banking Corporation, a government owned bank, is competing with private enterprise banks. We believe that we have one of the most efficient banking systems in the world.
I am very disappointed that the Government has now ceased the competition in the health fund area. It has disbanded the Government health fund which I would have thought would have kept private health funds honest in true competition. By stating that the Australian Democrats are firmly in favour of competition and that the best form of competition is for the Government to compete with private enterprise- or the other way around- which prevents collusive tendering amongst private enterprise I think I have put our situation. Clause 6(a) represents a serious threat to thousands of people in the management consultant and personnel agencies in Australia who have done a fine job in providing a facility where people, whether of executive or below executive status, want to change jobs.
If the Liberal Government were to say that it would expand the capacity of the Commonwealth Employment Service to allow people in executive positions to change jobs, we would not object to that. But what sort of madness has gripped the Government? Now where are the Liberals who say that they champion free enterprise but who are allowing a government department in competing with private enterprise to charge no fee? An analogy is that the Government could say: ‘Let us have competition’ but then allow TAA in competing with Ansett to provide free flights. This is exactly what this Bill does to private enterprise people in the management consultant and personnel selection agencies. I think my analogy is true except that the significance of competition between TAA and Ansett is not as real because there are not hundreds of thousands of employees engaged in management consultancy or personnel agencies. But I think the principle is sound. Senator Missen eloquently made the point.
I am sorry to say, Mr President, that this is the first area of frustration I have had since I came into the Senate. Why did not Senator Missen move an amendment or give notice of an amendment to clause 6 (a). Has that matter been discussed in the party room? I am sure it has. If it has not been discussed in the Liberal Party room where are the Liberals, those people who champion private enterprise? If an amendment were moved in this place it would be a fascinating amendment to debate. I wonder where the Australian Labor Party would go? Does it really want a monopoly in this area?
– There is not much doubt where it would go.
– It adds to the tragedy that true Liberals like Senator Missen do not stand up and move amendments. I came into this chamber under the possible misapprehension that it was in fact a House of review where honourable senators could make powerful, eloquent and logical speeches as Senator Missen has done. However, Senator Missen sat down and said that he would support the Bill. That, to me, is a total exercise in a lack of logic, although I admire and respect Senator Missen for what he said. Like Senator Missen, I too have been furnished with some information on the matter about which I am talking. I shall read from a document from a friend of mine who is in the personnel agency profession. He wrote:
The Private Placement Industry and the PEO- that is the Professional Employment Office, a sub branch of the Commonwealth Employment Service for professional people- have co-existed for many years . . .
They have no objection to that because they both perform a valuable, separate function. He continued:
On the one hand the PEO assists unemployed and disadvantaged white-collar or professional persons to find jobs . . .
Not one member of the Senate would disagree with that. All of us, as senators or members of the House of Representatives, have pity for the healthy 45, 55 or 60 year-old people from whitecollar or professional jobs who have been retrenched and who are seeking employment opportunities but cannot find them. In my experience the CES has performed magnificently in this area. If I make a phone call to the CES, within a week it has some opportunities for the 55 year-old unemployed white-collar worker. My friend continued: we have no quarrel with that role of the PEO. On the other hand the Private Placement Industry assists Management to locate, interview and screen executives for new and vacant positions where a choice is required to be made available and where the candidates would mostly be employed already and would be seeking promotion to more senior levels.
Are we- I keep using the collective pronoun as if I were a member of the Liberal Party- or is the Liberal Party saying that the CES is to go into competition with private enterprise in this field and that it will charge no fee, that it will provide this service totally free? I have a respect for Senator Austin Lewis. He said that people would soon find out that the private placement agencies were much more efficient than the Government department and that therefore people would not go to the Government department. Those of us who have been in business or politics for any time will know that if we can get a secretary for a company or a senior executive through the Government department without paying any fee, of course we will try that department first of all. To me this Bill represents a real threat to a great number of people who have chanced their arm and have had the guts to risk their capital, their family and income to make Australia better.
The Australian Democrats are a private enterprise party- not a socialist party- as I thought the Liberal Party was. We have sympathy for those sorts of people. We believe that this Bill lets that sector of the community down. One thing that disturbs the Australian Democrats is that there seems to be less and less regard for the small business person in Australia. There is a low regard for free enterprise in terms of trans-national companies or big business. We are devasted to know that in the last two years something like 15,000 small business people have gone bankrupt under the Liberal-National Country Party Government. I think the time has now arrived when it is no longer credible for members of the Liberal Party to blame the former Australian Labor Party Administration for the continued rate of bankruptcy in the small business sector. After all, it employs something like 40 per cent to 50 per cent of the work force.
I find a remarkable incongruity in this Bill when one reads the Liberal Party credo as contained in the Liberal Party platform. It states:
It acknowledges the importance of effective competition as a preventive of the defects of monopoly power and as the incentive to creativity and productivity.
I have spoken many times about the monopoly power of trans-national and multinational companies which is terrible and terrifying. But there is no greater monopoly for a small business person to take on than a Government monopoly. That is why I thought I was a Liberal. I was opposed to government monopolies. There are ways in which one can take on the multinationals- hard though it might be- but a government monopoly is unbeatable because one cannot beat the machine. This Bill virtually gives into the hands of the bureaucrats or some empire builder the opportunity to run out of business almost every management consultant and personnel agency if they choose, simply because they are providing an identical service at no cost. For private enterprise to remain in business it has, of course, to charge some fee.
- Senator, could I ask you what your suggestions would be in positive terms? You have been dealing with negatives. Could you suggest positives to the Senate? I say that with respect.
-I thank you, Mr President, for your indulgence in allowing Senator Young to interject and I thank him for his interjection. A positive term is that I have no objection to the Government entering into this field. As I have said, I think it ought to enter in order to keep the private sector honest. What I am saying is that we ought to copy the United Kingdom model, for example, where in cases identical to this a fee is charged by the government department which is in line with the charges levied by private industry. An analogy is that TAA is bound by an Act of this Parliament not to undercut Ansett. I think that system works fantastically well.
– I do not.
-You do not?
– No, not the airline system.
– With great respect, I said before you came in that I think we have the best airline system in the world because of the competition between the public and private sectors.
– I apologise for interfering.
– In answer to Senator Young’s interjection, I do believe that it is possible for a minor amendment- not necessarily to this Act but perhaps by regulation- to be made which would force the CES to compete fairly with the private employment agencies. That is all I ask. As a private enterprise person and with great respect to the Public Service, if we make it compete fairly then I would back private enterprise to beat the public sector every time. That is all we ask in this Bill. I have been very tempted to move an amendment but knowing that on this particular occasion we would receive absolutely no support from my friends on my right, and after having heard the powerful speech from Senator Missen who is on my left, knowing that this matter has already been canvassed in the Liberal Party and that no one opposite is prepared to move over and support such an amendment, I simply register my objections and my fears during the debate on the second reading of this Bill.
– in reply- The debate on the Commonwealth Employment Service Bill 1978 has ranged widely over the subjects of employment and manpower policies. Latter speakers in the debate have indulged in a discussion of the philosophies of private and public enterprise. However, the Opposition has supported the measure as indeed have all speakers in the debate including Senator Chipp who seems to be very upset about some aspects of the Bill. Nevertheless, the Australian Democrats are supporting it. I thank honourable senators for their support of the Bill even though criticism has been made of certain aspects of it. However, the Opposition has given notice of an amendment that in its opinion the Commonwealth Employment Service, as envisaged in this legislation, will be grossly inadequate as a vehicle for an effective manpower policy. The Government, of course, entirely rejects that proposal. We will vote against that amendment.
In the debate on this Bill there has been a great deal of discussion- particularly from Opposition senators- about manpower policies and the relationship of this Bill to manpower policies. Indeed, fairly strong criticism has been made that the Government lacks manpower policies. I have heard the Opposition speak on this subject quite a few times in recent months. The point that intrigues me is that although the Opposition keeps saying- it has become a litany really- that the Government does not have a manpower policy, I have not heard the Opposition tell us what it believes a manpower policy is. If honourable senators opposite were prepared to state what their manpower policy is or what a manpower policy is as they understand it, this could well be a debate about words. I do not know. I only mention it because the Opposition really has not told us what it is talking about when it talks about a manpower policy. However, the fact of the matter is that the Government has no doubt as to what a manpower policy is because it strongly believes that the policies it has been pursuing are clear.
The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) in another place has indicated the Government’s policy on many occasions. In this place I have reiterated them on a number of occasions. We have some very clear policies in this regard. We certainly are very clear as to what we mean by them. When we talk about manpower policies, in particular we are talking about programs such as the National Employment and Training scheme, the Special Youth Employment Training Program, the apprentice support program, the Community Youth Support scheme and the relocation assistance scheme. These are matters which we have very clearly pursued. We have greatly expanded the NEAT scheme since we have been in government. We have made it a much more effective scheme. Indeed, the total number of people employed in the scheme when we came into power was about 7,000, whereas today the figures show that 36,000 people are involved in that scheme and that a total of 94,000 people has gained some skills under it. The SYETP, of course, was pioneered by this Government after it came into office. The Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training scheme was a totallynewinitiativeofthisGovernment.Those clearly are what we have in mind as manpower policies and we will, of course, pursue them as manpower policies and programs.
I should like to emphasise even further the Government’s commitment to these schemes. Theoutlays in this area under the present Budget will be more than $170m in the current financial year compared with $ 122m in the previous year. There has been a great increase in the Government’s financial commitments to these schemes in this finacial year. The CES, of course, figures importantly in what the Government sees as its manpower policies. The CES is now 33 years old. Until the Government set up the Norgard inquiry, no real attempt had been made to have a look at the scheme and to modernise it so see whether it needed to be brought into line with modern requirements. Of course, the Norgard investigation and report was a milestone in that direction.
The Bill gives effect to some of the major recommendations of the Norgard Review. I emphasise that the basic thrust of the Norgard recommendations does not really depend upon this legislation. The government has already acted to a considerable degree on the recommendations of the Norgard inquiry. When Mr Norgard revealed the deficiencies in staffing as a result of the demands that were being made upon the Commonwealth Employment Service, one of the first actions the Government took of course was to increase the numbers of staff available to the Service. A great deal of the implementation of the Review’s recommendations is of an administrative kind. For instance, funds are being provided in the current financial year to allow the CES to add 21 offices to its present total of 234 local offices and to move another 2 1 into better locations. At least eight zone offices will be introduced to strengthen regional management and to improve performance and a further 18 are planned. In addition, training programs have been commenced to improve the skills of Commonwealth Employment Service staff. Funds are provided in this year’s Budget for marketing programs designed to promote the services of the CES to employers and job seekers. There are other matters which include better vacancy collection and circulation methods. I am simply giving these examples to show that the Government’s efforts in this area are by no means dependent upon and awaiting upon this piece of legislation. The Government has been taking very strong, positive administrative action backed by substantial financial contributions to improve the Commonwealth Employment Service and to provide it with the needs of this day. They are the reasons in substance why the Government will oppose the amendment put down by the Opposition.
Some other matters have been raised, principally by Senator Lewis, Senator Missen and finally by Senator Chipp. The views expressed by those honourable senators seem to be based upon a concern that the new, expanded, modernised and strengthened Commonwealth employment scheme will provide in some way a threat to the existing private employment agencies. I think that several comments ought to be made. Some of them have certainly been made, particularly by Senator Lewis and to some extent by Senator Missen. However, I will reiterate them. First of all, there has been since 1945-1 think since the establishment of the Commonwealth Employment Service- a higher appointments office within the Commonwealth Employment Service. This is the body that is now known as the Professional Employment Office. It is really the original office under a new name. As part of the newly strengthened and more vigorous Commonwealth Employment Service, there is some new activity in that area as well.
However, what must be emphasised is that the private employment agencies were virtually nonexistent when the Commonwealth Employment Service was established in 1945. A very vigorous private industry in the shape of private employment agencies developed almost entirely during the time the Commonwealth Employment Service has been in existence. Senator Lewis quoted the relative number of placements that have been made by the CES and the private employment agencies. To reiterate the figures for professional employment placements, in 1976 the Commonwealth Employment Service made 4,700 placements out of a total of 465,000 placements. Therefore the CES was involved with a very small proportion of these placements. Even if there was an expansion in the numbers placed this area would still be a very small proportion of the total activities of the Commonwealth Employment Service.
– It is rising fast.
-The fact of the matter is that the private employment offices are in many ways dealing with specialised employers and in many cases they provide a special service. This is certainly something that can be kept under consideration. The Government certainly would keep it under consideration. It is certainly no part of the Government’s policy in upgrading and expanding the Commonwealth Employment Service that it should drive the private employment agencies out of business.
Some other suggestions were made in respect of the Commonwealth Employment Service charging for its services in this field. However, there would be considerable practical difficulties as to what type of placements one would charge for. The Commonwealth Employment Service has been involved in placing people for such activities as international conventions. The CES has provided a free service through the whole of its existence. Really, I think almost a major and fundamental change of approach would be involved if the CES started to charge for certain placements. This is apart altogether from the difficulties of deciding which placements should be charged for. If the CES were to indulge in a policy of charging it would almost be driven to making charges for all its placements which, of course, would be quite unthinkable. For those reasons, the Government rejects the Opposition’s amendment. It rejects the major criticisms that have been made about the policies it is pursuing in relation to this new look Commonwealth Employment Service. I hope that the Bill will receive a speedy passage.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Ryan’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
– May I ask the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), following his reply to the second reading debate, whether concern has been expressed- I refer to the title of the Bill- with regard to all of those small agencies that may go out of business through the expanded operations of the Commonwealth Employment Service. I ask the Minister whether he can tell this chamber what the position would be if the Government found over a period of time that some of those agencies were going out of business because the CES was expanding its operations. I would be pleased if the Minister could inform the Committee.
– I do not know that I can say any more than I have said in my speech in reply to the second reading debate. It is certainly not the Government’s policy, by upgrading and strengthening the Commonwealth Employment Service, to drive out of business the private employment agencies which have built up over recent years what are in many cases very flourishing, valuable and helpful businesses. The Government just does not believe that that will happen. All I can do is emphasise the fact that the policy behind these Bills deals with quite different purposes. It is certainly not the purpose to create one great monolithic, monopolistic employment agency.
– I direct a question to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) concerning clause 13 of the main Bill. It deals with the establishment of the National Advisory Committee. My question was not answered by the Minister in his reply to the second reading debate. My question is: Where is the link between the National Advisory Committee and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs? If the Committee is to look at our manpower policy to assess the number of people from overseas related to the number of people unemployed in Australia, why do we not have somebody from the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on this committee- that would be employer assessment- or, conversely, a representative of ethnic employees? Perhaps the Minister can explain the link between the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations in regard to overall planning on manpower needs.
– I think I should apologise to Senator Mulvihill. I overlooked his point in my reply to the second reading debate. I am advised that the answer to the question he raised about liaison between the two departments is that both departments work from the same labour market information. The latest information appears in the August 1978 issue of the document ‘Employment Prospects by Industry and Occupation- a Labour Market Analysis’. It is published every six months. Both departments are working from it. Where specific issues are involved departments consult with each other. Of course particular problems are dealt with upon representations being received, but the departments consult with each other a good deal and certainly when a specific issue is raised. Trade testing in European and other countries is carried out continuously irrespective of whether funds are available to bring migrants to Australia. So, in short, this national committee is designed to advise particularly on the administration of the Commonwealth Employment Service and its problems. Perhaps the question asked by the honourable senator raises a wider issue of policy with specific reference to immigration matters. All I can assure the honourable senator is that on both the general and specific levels a great deal of consultation takes place between the two departments.
– As a corollary to the response given by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), I wish to ask another question on the same topic. It is a hypothetical question but it concerns events which could actually happen. If the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs favoured the importation of tyre builders from Uruquay and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations favoured an employer such as Firestone Australia Pty Ltd upgrading employees, and there was an impasse between the two departments, would such a matter concerning a major component of Government manpower policy go to Cabinet for a final decision?
– I think that a very major confrontation would have to be involved for it to have to be resolved by Cabinet. But no doubt that situation could arise. I think that really the answer is that the matter, if it were major, would be sorted out at ministerial level.
– I pose a question to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) following the matter raised by Senator Young. I take it that Senator Young was asking whether any compensation be paid to private employment agencies if they were phased out? I ask the Minister: Who would be better equipped to counsel people seeking employment- properly trained officers, as mentioned in clause 7 of the Bill, or people running agencies? With the growing number of people who cannot find work today and who have to go to the Commonwealth Employment Service to seek counselling and advice, my concern is that agents are not fully equipped to be able to counsel young people. Would the Minister say who is best equipped to counsel these people? Clause 7 states:
The Service may do all things that are necessary or convenient to be done for or in connexion with the performance of its functions and, in particular, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, may train members of the staff of the Service in the performance of their duties.
Is it also the intention of the Government to train people who conduct agencies in the performance of their duties?
– I do not think for one minute that Senator Young suggested that compensation should be paid to private employment agencies that may be forced out of business because of any increased activities of the Commonwealth Employment Service. He simply raised the question as to what was the Government’s policy and attitudes to the private employment agencies. Certainly there is no intention by the Government to provide training for the staff of private employment agencies. I have already indicated that, as part of this whole improvement in the Commonwealth Employment Service, it is intended to expand greatly the training and competence of its staff. But that is confined to the Commonwealth Employment Service and does not extend to other agencies.
I do not think that the question regarding who has the greater counselling expertise can be given any specific answer. I would think that in some areas a private service may well have very great expertise. As I said in my second reading speech, that is one of the reasons why the private services have developed in recent years; they provide a specialised service. I am no expert, but I take it that they would not have started or expanded as businesses had they not been able to provide some expertise. They must be providing that expertise in some cases. It is certainly the object of the Government’s policies that the expertise of the staff of the Commonwealth Employment Service should be improved.
– The matter that I raised was with respect to people who run agencies in connection with other businesses, such as land agents or small shops. In Murray Bridge there was one such agent. When the Australian Labor Party was in government I was able to persuade the then Minister for Labor and Immigration, Mr Cameron, to open a Commonwealth Employment Service regional office in Murray Bridge. Some very severe criticism was made of the Government for opening the office. I am convinced that that office is much better equipped to help the unemployed people in the area than was the land agent who was most perturbed that he lost the agency.
Will the Government train people who are not skilled in handling unemployment problems but who are skilled in selling houses, motor cars or some other small business product and who as a sideline run a Commonwealth employment agency. That is the type of agency to which I was referring, not the people who specialise in employment services and nothing else.
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 10.29 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 4 April 1978:
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) The instructions referred to did not involve any change in the eligibility criteria for unemployment benefit, they merely clarified the existing roles of the Commonwealth Employment Service and the Department of Social Security in the administration of the unemployment benefit work test. The press statement issued by my colleague the Minister for Social Security on 30 August 1977 stressed this point.
If the honourable senator requires any further information on this subject, I suggest that he pursue the matter with the Minister for Social Security whose Department is responsible for issuing the instructions concerning eligibility criteria for unemployment benefits.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 4 April 1978:
– The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I would also mention that when responding on 22 September 1977 to a request from Mr J. McMillan, a Lecturer in Law at the University of New South Wales, for access to submissions made to the Independent Inquiry into the Repatriation System (the Toose inquiry) by the Returned Services
League and the Australian Services Council, it was indicated that my Department had contacted the abovenamed organisations concerning the request and had been informed by those organisations that they would have no objection to supplying copies of their submissions if they were approached directly.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 25 May 1978:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(a) Several US military satellite communications (SATCOM) programs contribute to the communications for the US World-wide Military Command and Control System Communication. The Defence Communication System is the generic title given to the US general purpose world-wide defence communications system which is supported by the Defence Satellite Communication System.
The existing satellite ground terminal at North West Cape has been an element of the US Defense Satellite Communication System in the period of its installation since 1967-i.e., 1967-1973 and 1977 to date.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 24 May 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The fees for nursing homes approved under the National Health Act (other than Government Nursing Homes) are gross fees and are those approved as at 1 June 1978.
The patient’s liability to meet these fees from his own resources is reduced by the amount of Commonwealth and/or nursing home fund benefits payable.
Nursing homes classified as Government nursing homes are not subject to Commonwealth fee control nor are they required to submit details to my Department of the staff employed.
Patients accommodated in nursing homes approved under the Nursing Homes Assistance Act are required to meet a prescribed fee which may be reduced or waived in (l)-(5)- individual cases of hardship. As from 1 October 1977 proprietors have been required to charge insured patients an additional fee equal to the nursing home fund benefit and benefits are paid by the hospital benefits organisations with which the patients are insured. In Victoria the weekly fees charged since 1 1 May 1 978 are:
The information given on the location of nursing homes within the Electoral Divisions of Casey, Diamond Valley and Deakin has been confirmed with the Electoral Offices for those Divisions.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 25 May 1978:
Is the United States Airforce Satellite Communications (AFSATCOM) program and/or the Defence Satellite Communication System (DSCS) part of the overall Defence Communications System currently operating or to be operational in the future, at the North West Cape Naval Communications Base.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
DSCS-see answer to Question No. 475 (2).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 25 May 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 7 June 1978:
Does the Government intend to upgrade facilities at the Alice Springs airport by providing a taxiway to facilitate the movement of aircraft.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There are no plans for the provision of an additional taxiway at Alice Springs airport in the near future.
The justification for a new taxiway depends mainly on the density of traffic and the extent of congestion with aircraft on the movement area.
The Department’s current assessment is that Alice Springs airport does not require a new taxiway in the foreseeable future. However, the trends in air traffic will be watched with the view to determining if and when a taxiway will be required in the future.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development the following question, without notice, on 1 March 1978:
Has the Government given any consideration to removing sales tax on the conversion equipment that is required for vehicles so that they can run on liquefied petroleum gas and also to the removal of the small excise on LPG used in motor vehicles? If not, will the Government give serious consideration to these suggestions as a means of conserving a scarce energy source which also will bring about a reduction in the pollution that is caused by traffic in cities?
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government will be giving attention to all aspects of LPG usage in motor vehicles when the recommendations of the Sixth Report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum are under consideration in the near future.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, without notice, on 9 May 1978:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, USA and USSR (which exports nuclear fuel) are all members of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group and have signified to the Director General of the IAEA their acceptance of a set of guidelines for nuclear exports which ensure that such exports do not contribute to proliferation. Australia has also signified its acceptance of these guidelines which are published in IAEA document INFCIRC/254.
The national policies of some countries impose requirements going beyond these guidelines. Australia’s stringent policy has been described by the Prime Minister ( May 1 977 ) and the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (August 1977). Canada’s policy was described by the Minister for External Affairs in January and December 1 976 and the policy of the USA is embodied in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act signed into law in March 1978.
Neither Niger nor South Africa are parties to the NPT and neither have signified their acceptance of the guidelines mentioned above. South Africa has stated that it has undertaken to supply uranium to non-nuclear weapon states only under IAEA or equivalent safeguards.
Dr Yuri Orlov
– On 24 May 1978 (Hansard, pages 1722-3) Senator Missen asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, a question, without notice, concerning the trial of Dr Yuri Orlov and a possible boycott of the 1 980 Olympic Games as a consequence. The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In an earlier answer the Government ‘s deep concern at the recent trial and harsh sentence imposed on Dr Orlov was made clear. The Government has also deplored the trials and sentencing of other courageous men and women associated with the human rights movement in the Soviet Union. We have made our views clear to the Soviet authorities, both publicly and privately, and will continue to do so.
The question of Australia’s participation in a particular Olympic Games is not one for the Government to determine. It is a matter for the Australian Olympic Federation. However, as far as the Government is concerned, we are conscious of the fact that the 1 980 Moscow Olympics will bring large numbers of athletes and other visitors from all over the world, thereby exposing the Soviet Union to greater contact with liberal values and standards of political rights. This is a view shared by other Western governments.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 August 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780822_senate_31_s78/>.