31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 1 1 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members and ex-members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully sheweth:
On 14 February 1975, the then Australian Government deprived the Officers and men of the Australian Citizen Naval Military and Air Forces of the distinctive and historic Decorations and Medals for long service and good conduct, namely the Reserve Decoration, the Efficiency Decoration, the Air Efficiency Award, the Efficiency Medal and Long Service and Good Conduct Medals, awarded for long and meritorious voluntary service in the citizen forces:
The proposed substitution of the National Medal for these Decorations and Medals varies the principle of selective recognition of efficient voluntary service in the citizen forces in that it recognises the period of service only and embraces also full time service as well in the defence forces as in the police, fire brigade and ambulance services:
This deprivation caused and is continuing to cause serious discontent amongst personnel of the Citizens Forces who willingly and cheerfully give of their spare time outside their normal full time civilian careers, to serve Her Majesty and Australia:
The Reserve Forces of Australia have been recognised by the present Government as a valuable- and costeffective component of the Defence Forces. Anomalously, whilst iiic Government is, actually supporting recruiting for these Forces it has imposed and continued this deprivation which as foresaid has depressed the morale of the Citizen Forces:
Her Majesty has not cancelled the said Decorations and Medals.
Your petitioners therefore 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 (CMF) and the RAAF Citizens Air force.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
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 the 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 Evans. Petition received.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Australian Government employees strenuously oppose the proposal by the Australian Government to abolish Paternity Leave and restrict the provisions relating to Maternity Leave which are currently contained in the Maternity Leave (Australian Government Employees) Act 1 973.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should reject the passage of any legislation which has as its purpose the abolition of Paternity Leave and the restriction of the Maternity Leave provisions.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Jessop. Petition received.
– I refer the AttorneyGeneral to the current inquiry by the Industries Assistance Commission into the Australian sugar industry. It was alleged at the public hearing yesterday that CSR Ltd is using its monoply power to threaten potential witnesses and discourage them from giving evidence to the inquiry. Such action by CSR would appear to be in contravention of the prohibitions contained in section 46 of the Trade Practices Act concerning monopoly practices and in contravention of section 37 of the Industries Assistance Commission Act and the supporting Crimes Act concerning the subpoenaing of potential witnesses. Will the Attorney-General request the Trade Practices Commission to investigate these blatant standover tactics as a matter of urgency?
– I have not seen the report to which Senator McAuliffe referred, but I gather that the allegations were made at the hearing of the Industries Assistance Commission yesterday. I have noted his comments. Certainly the matter he raised would be one which would require some inquiry. Whether it would be appropriate for the inquiry to be conducted by me or by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs would depend on the nature of the allegations. I will certainly have them investigated, and appropriate action will be taken if it is necessary in my opinion.
– My question, which relates to the lending arrangements for rural industries, is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Because of confusion expressed to me by the rural community, I ask the Minister: What are the differences between the lending facilities of the new Primary Bank of Australia and the rural loan facilities of the Commonwealth Development Bank? Are the interest rates the same in each case? Under what circumstances would a primary producer be advised to use one facility in preference to the other?
- Senator Walters asks me three questions relating to the differences between the roles of the Commonwealth Development Bank and the Primary Industry Bank of Australia. She asks me to elucidate the differences so that the rural community may understand. Her first question is: What is the difference between the two facilities? The Primary Industry Bank of Australia is a refinancing organisation which enables primary lenders to have an additional source of finance. On the other hand, the Commonwealth Development Bank is a supplementary direct lender. So one bank is a refinancing organisation and the other is a direct lender. Finance from the Commonwealth Development Bank is available only when the borrower cannot obtain finance elsewhere on reasonable and suitable terms and conditions. Those are the primary differences- one bank is a refinancing institution and the other is a supplementary direct lender.
My advice is that no announcement has yet been made by the Primary Industry Bank of Australia about its interest rates. For loans over $100,000, the Commonwealth Development Bank charges an interest rate of 10 1/2 per cent. Loans to primary produces above this amount are subject to negotiation. As to the question of the preferred organisation, the primary producer seeking a loan should, in the first instance, approach his trading bank or other rural lender of first instance. If these organisations are unable to provide the finance, they will then decide whether they ought to approach the Primary Industry Bank of Australia for refinancing or whether it would be appropriate to refer the client to the Commonwealth Development Bank. If the honourable senator has any further aspect that she would like to develop, she might let me know.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. In connection with matters which I think he will recall that we have been discussing, I ask: As at 23 April this year was it his understanding that Senator Withers’ action in telephoning Mr Pearson about the naming of the seat of McPherson was done on behalf of Mr Eric Robinson?
– The answer is no.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security about the changed subsidy arrangements for services provided under the States Grants (Home Care) Act. Will the new arrangements mean any decrease in the Commonwealth’s financial commitment or will they in fact be in the context of an increased contribution by the Commonwealth Government, indeed an increase in real terms at that?
– The changed subsidy arrangements announced in the Budget are a result of the announcement at the Premiers Conference that in some parts of the States Grants (Home Care) Act there would be a change in the subsidy arrangements with the States. It was decided the subsidy arrangement for senior citizens centres would continue to be on the basis of $2 for $ 1 . For the other parts of the States Grants (Home Care) Act the arrangements have been changed to a subsidy level of $ 1 for $ 1. The decision on these subsidy changes is in line with the federalism arrangements of the Commonwealth Government. A decision is to be taken by States with regard to the priorities of programs which they choose to support. The appropriation under the States Grants (Home Care) Act has been increased in this Budget. The change in the subsidy arrangements has not resulted in a diminshed support by the Commonwealth Government. In fact, greater expenditure is to be undertaken this year by the Commonwealth Government under these new arrangements.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of claims made in the Parliament of Papua New Guinea by the Papua New Guinea Deputy Opposition Leader, Sir John Guise, that the Queensland Government is directly involved in the blackbirding of Papua New Guineans for cheap labour, and that ships operated by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement in the Torres Strait are luring Papua New Guineans on board with promises of wages and conditions which do not materialise? Has the Minister any information on this matter? If not, will he cause an immediate investigation to be made by the Australian Government?
– No information on the matter has been provided to me by the Minister for Foreign Affairs whom I represent. I have seen some reports of the kind to which Senator Mcintosh referred. I will refer his question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and endeavour to have the matter looked at as quickly as possible because I agree that it is a matter which does require action.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Science. With the intended ban on the import of imperial measuring devices to take effect on 1 October, does the Minister propose to include in regulations prohibiting these imports an exemption for those Australian manufacturers engaged in the production of items manufactured to imperial system specifications for export to those countries not using the metric system?
-The problem of metric conversion has been with this country since the Senate led with a committee, headed by former Senator Keith Laught, which advocated in the late 1960s that this country should eventually convert to the measurement of physical quantities solely in metrics. The honourable senator asked a question relating to a recent decision by the Government to impose a ban on the import of imperial measuring devices. That decision obviously is in line with the proposition that within 10 years we will have converted to the metric system in most areas where the public is involved. That situation should be reached in the early 1980s. I recognise that this creates difficulties for some people, but with the recent departure of some honourable senators from this chamber the problem will not be expressed here as frequently as it was previously.
The honourable senator asked about the continued use of some imperial measuring devices. I recognise that the engineering industry, for instance, will have a genuine ongoing need for imperial measuring devices for some years to come. It must be understood that imperial standard devices will be required for such things as long-life capital equipment that has been designed originally to imperial standards and has to be maintained until it is obsolete or worn out. It is accepted by the Government that they will be necessary in that case or perhaps in the case of a company which is manufacturing for export in imperial measurements. I can assure the honourable senator that the regulations will provide for the import of devices such a micrometers, vernier calipers and dial indicators which are essential for that type of work.
This provides me with an opportunity to stress that metric conversion is approaching completion in Australia and in the region surrounding Australia. It should be noted that Canada and the United Kingdom are now well advanced in the metric system. In the United States, when President Carter had settled down after his election, he established a Metric Conversion Commission. As I recall, it first met in March of this year. One can therefore say that the statement that 99.8 per cent of the population of the world live in countries that are using the metric system or are currently converting to it, is an obvious indication that Australia must progress in the same way and make the change in line with the world trend.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. The Prime Minister, in his statement to the Parliament on 15 August, after describing the events surrounding the meeting in his office on 1 8 January said:
I rang Senator Durack to tell him what happened at the meeting, and at my request Senator Withers, as the responsible Minister, reported further to Senator Durack on the matter.
I ask the Attorney-General: Firstly, what did the Prime Minister tell you had happened at the meeting on 1 8 January and what instructions did he give you in relation to your investigation and, secondly, what information was given to you by Senator Withers when he reported to you on the matter?
-The Prime Minister rang me- I was in Perth at the time- to inform me of the meeting which had been held and which I do not think I need to describe again. He gave me only some very general information about what Mr Donald Cameron had been saying and he gave me the request or instructions, to use a legal term, to do what I have already detailed at length in an answer to a question earlier this week. He told me, of course, that he had also referred the matter to Mr Byers and that it was to be a joint matter for Mr Byers and me. Subsequently I had some conversation with Senator Withers which did not take the matter of detail any further but which just really confirmed generally the matter.
The point was that we were asked to look at it as law officers and as legal advisers to the Government. We were to hear Mr Donald Cameron and to see what he had to produce. It was not really a matter on which it was desirable that either the Prime Minister or Senator Withers should say very much to me or to Mr Byers as to what their views or reactions were because it was referred to us to form our views as professional advisers to the Government on the basis of what Mr Donald Cameron said or produced.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. I refer to the announcement by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development on 28 June that the Housing allowance experiment scheme was to be abandoned by the Commonwealth Government. I ask the Minister: Is it true that, as recently as 13 March this year, the public was informed that the scheme would be proceeded with and that any talk of cancelling or deliberately delaying the scheme was nonsense? Is it also true that the housing allowance scheme was included in the Government’s 1977 Federal election campaign program and was referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech as one of the Government’s plans to ‘help those in need, increase opportunities and bring about greater social justice’? Given this, can the Minister explain why this bold social experiment has, at this late stage, been cancelled? Will the Minister give some indication whether any parts of the scheme are to be incorporated into existing projects?
– The housing allowance experiment was designed to test alternative methods of providing assistance to low income households renting in the private market. It must be emphasised that the experiment was not a pilot scheme for a national housing allowance program. It was, in fact, a very limited scheme although it may have indicated the feasibility of such a program. The experiment was designed to provide answers to a range of housing policy questions.
The housing allowance experiment was reviewed by Cabinet in June 1978. The decision taken not to proceed followed the Minister’s statement of 1 3 March 1 978 and the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, which I acknowledge. Victoria and Tasmania where it was planned to launch the experiment have been offered the complete experimental documentation and specialist staff to conduct their own experiment. To date neither State has responded to that offer. If Senator Missen seeks further information I will be happy to get it for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development or it may more appropriately be addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to the Budget statement:
An amount of $20m has been provided for home savings grants in 1978-79; it is expected that this will result in waiting periods of up to nine months before grants are paid.
Were young people who had saved in order to qualify for a home savings grant entitled to believe that funds would be available when they qualified for the grant? If so, was the reduction in the amount allocated for home savings grants deliberately effected so that the Government could renege on its obligations under the Home Savings Grant Act?
– My understanding is that ever since the home savings grant came into existence there has been some waiting period and some necessary delay between the time a person qualifies for the grant and getting it. I do not think that circumstances have changed except that the waiting period may be longer. Certainly, there is no question of the Government reneging in any sense on the undertaking.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science. Last year’s Budget contained an allocation of $ 1 .6m for the purchase of LANDSAT, the earth resources technology system of satellites, which is recognised as a valuable supplement to information obtained by aerial photography and ground survey for resources management purposes. Also, I understand that the LANDSAT facilities will have the antenna installed at Alice Springs with data processing to be done in Canberra. I ask: Is the Minister in a position to advise when the project is likely to commence? How many people will LANDSAT employ directly? Will its operations be funded from the public purse?
-The acquisition of LANDSAT facilities was announced in the Senate in the 1977-78 Budget and work has progressed steadily during the past 12 months. The honourable senator’s question is of interest because it has been announced that the receiving facilities will be established in Alice Springs. This is a unique site for the facility. It will receive reflections from LANDSAT and it will cover the whole continent of Australia. The data acquisition facility will be located at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation land resources management field centre located between the Alice Springs township and the airport. The station equipment will be installed in a caravan and construction work, initially at least, will be limited to the hard standing area for the van and concrete footings for the antenna.
Construction work will be arranged through the Department of Construction and the cost is not expected to exceed $100,000. It is expected that this facility will employ about seven people one of whom will be a public servant and the other six will be employees of the service contractor. That is the method by which Australia has, over a number of years, interfaced with other receiving facilities such as those at Tidbinbilla, Orroral Valley and Honeysuckle Creek in the Australian Capital Territory. Housing for the public servant will be arranged through the Department of the Northern Territory. The contractor or his employees individually will be basically responsible for their own housing. It is planned that the facility will receive data from each daylight pass over Australia of the LANDSAT series of spacecraft. Generally, the station will be manned about eight hours a day, seven days a week. I think the facility will be important for the Northern Territory and for Australia as a whole.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate even though its subject matter concerns several Ministers. I would like to point out that the Leader of the Government in the Senate and other Ministers would have been aware of the section of the Ranger uranium environmental report of Mr Justice Fox which advised that the creek systems of Goodparla and Gimbat be included in the Kakadu reserve in the Northern Territory. As deep concern is being expressed by many people, particularly the Tasmanian Conservation Trust, that the areas of Goodparla and Gimbat are to be excluded from the reserve, would the Minister allay the very strong rumours to this effect by restating government policy on the matter?
– I do not have first hand information here at this moment. I will seek that information and let the honourable senator know. If I can get that information by the end of Question Time I will intrude it then.
– Is the Minister for Science aware of the claim by Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger Director of the Institute for Atmospheric and Marine Sciences at Flinders University, that indecision by the Department of Science is progressively excluding participation of Australian scientists in the area of iceberg technology? Is the Minister concerned that continued indecision could put Australia at a disadvantage compared with other countries when iceberg technology becomes a viable proposition? Is it a fact, as the professor claims, that in recent months a number of Australian developments in the field of iceberg technology have systematically been patented on a world-wide basis by a French-Saudi Arabian consortium called Iceberg Transport International? If this is so, what action can the Government take to protect Australian research initiatives in this field?
-The matter of iceberg towing has been raised in the Senate on one or two occasions, and it is particularly important to South Australia, I believe, because earlier reports suggested that South Australia is the point to which icebergs may be nudged with moderate ease, if that word is to be used with regard to their towing. They would land somewhere below Kangaroo Island. I imagine that is what prompts the question from Senator Jessop. I have mct Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger on a number of occasions, and I noted his remarks in the Press about a month ago. They were in line with the honourable Senator’s challenge to the Department of Science as to whether we were lagging in this field. I would suggest that Professor Schwerdtfeger may be correct in his allegation.
It is very difficult to assess whether resources could be put by Australia into the testing of what have been theories about the towing of icebergs. Undoubtedly in the future it will become a very important industry to the world, and Australia must not lag behind. I have attempted to see, as has the Department of Science, that this does not occur. We have studied several reports, originating as early as 1973, from various individuals. I know that in 1 975-76 there was a report to which Professor Schwerdtfeger was a party. One representative of the Antarctic Division within my Department, Dr Budd, was also a member of the committee which looked at this subject.
There are theories relating to the towing of icebergs. I have been on an icebreaker which demonstrated to me that it is possible to push icebergs. I hear the laughter from the Opposition, but only six months ago the Opposition showed that it was behind in things- it still is- when its members laughed and giggled when I said that perhaps the most valuable contribution that Antarctic resources would make would be the supply of fresh water. I remember, as honorable senators do, the giggles which came from the other side.
Senator Jessop is very much up with the times and the science of this matter. The Department of Science provided one of its staff to go to a seminar to look into this matter which was basically funded by one of the Arabian countries. Indeed, that area has a great interest in seeing whether fresh water could be taken there. I will look into the basis of the question which the honourable senator has put to me and attempt to give some assurance that the Department of Science will not lag behind in this area.
-Can the Minister for Science inform the Senate of the current state of research at Mawson in the Antarctic into auroral luminosity fluctuations.
-The honourable senator’s question on this subject must be a real Dorothy Dix question. I do not intend to take up the time of the Senate drawing diagrams because you, Mr President, would ask me to sit down. If the Leader of the Opposition can spell the words properly I ask him put the question on the Notice Paper and I will attempt to answer it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications which relates to citizen band radio. Is it true that only one officer is available in Western Australia to investigate complaints against interference from CB radio? Would the Minister agree that the delay of many months before complaints can be investigated is unsatisfactory and that the problem is becoming more serious because of the increase in the use of CB radio and because of the increase in the illegal and, in many cases, dangerous broadcasting of so-called pirate calls?
- Senator Thomas’s question is important. There has been an enormous expansion in the use of citizen band radio, both legally and illegally. The result is interference in the spectrum. I think that all honourable senators will know that the spectrum is one of the really valuable and limited natural resources that we have. I am not aware that only one officer is available to investigate complaints in Western Australia. I can understand that if that is so enormous pressure would be placed on that officer. I will take up the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications in another place, and see whether I can get further information.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. There is a deal of confusion over funding now available for aged persons accommodation. These facilities were being funded on the basis of $230m being provided over a triennium. Will the Minister advise whether this amount has been fully allocated? If not, what amount remains to be allocated? Have all the allocations been taken up? If not, how much of the unused allocations can be released for other people to use? What are the Minister’s expectations about the future funding for aged persons accommodation?
– I was not aware of any confusion with regard to the aged persons accommodation program. We are now in the last year of that triennial program. It involved $225m to be spent over the three-year period. Approvals have been given which will absorb the total of the $225m, but the projects will not all be completed by the end of this year. There have been delays in proceeding with the approvals of many organisations. However, I am able to assure the Senate that any organisation which has had an approval for work granted in any of the three years will receive funds as they are called for. The funds provided in the Budget this year will enable all organisations with projects presently approved but not completed to call for their funds and they are being made available as required. The future of the program is that the $225m will be totally absorbed by approvals that have already been given. If there is any amount remaining to be allocated, it will be small because of escalation in building costs. However, the Government has announced that there will be a fourth year of funding in this program. In late September or October I hope to be able to announce projects approved for funding during the fourth year. That is all I am able to say at the moment. As soon as I am able to clarify the approvals that can be made for the fourth year I will announce them publicly.
– I address my question to the Minister for Science. The Minister will recall that in the 1975 policy statement of the coalition parties undertakings were given to establish a national information office to monitor, store and disseminate scientific information and technical data, and further, to investigate the need for an independent authority to evaluate and assess new scientific and technological processes, products and developments. In view of the fact that these two bodies could make a major impact upon the advancement of scientific and technological development in Australia, can the Minister say what progress has been made in fulfilling these election promises?
-The platform of the coalition parties contained an undertaking that we would establish a national information office. I fully recognise the importance of scientific and technical information in contributing to Australia’s scientific progress. It is clear that the fullest utilisation of the knowledge developed through scientific endeavour is possible only if efforts are made to disseminate the information that is obtained about science. With regard to the national information office referred to by the honourable senator, prime carriage for that matter originally lay with the then Minister for Administrative Services. At the present time it lies with the Minister for Home Affairs whom I represent in the Senate. I suggest to the honourable senator that he place his question on notice and perhaps have advice from Mr Ellicott on it.
However, in part answer to the matters raised in the question that impinge upon my Department I point out that within the limited resources that have been available over past years my Department has developed a pilot edition of a directory to research projects in the higher education sector, which is compiled from Project SCORE data collected by the Department and is published in conjunction with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. It is hoped that the directory will provide a comprehensive description of projects being carried out in the higher education sector. It is expected to be of value to industry and to the scientific community at large.
I am anxious that my Department develop a full capability in the area of science information and if budgetary constraints had permitted that might well have existed at the present time. There are broader aspects of this subject. We have an interface and responsibilities with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development. I believe that honourable senators could well be alert to the great importance in the forthcoming years of technological transfer, and the production of scientific data banks as well as other information data banks which will be readily available throughout the world and which will have an enormous impact on our society. The honourable senator’s question is a very important one.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. In view of her answers to questions asked earlier this week, can the Minister give an estimate of the number of mothers who will not receive the family allowance next year because of their children ‘s separate incomes from family trusts and partnership arrangements? What percentage of children having an income would this represent?
– I am not able to give any figures on the means testing of the separate income of children from family trusts or from income splitting devices that may have been established. I will seek from the Treasurer any information he may be able to give and I will see that the honourable senator is advised.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, concerns repatriation hospitals. Would the Minister agree that the community would receive a far wider scope of hospital services, the staff of repatriation hospitals would be given a greater stimulus and the traditional patients of these hospitals would benefit if the Government gave consideration to extending the role of repatriation hospitals to provide for the community use of emergency departments?
-Yes, I do agree with the statement made by Senator Watson in relation to the policy to be pursued on repatriation general hospitals. It has been policy for some time now for repatriation general hospitals to take in a certain number of community patients who are not otherwise qualified for admission, for the very reasons that Senator Watson put forward. Of course, that is subject to absolute priority being given to the eligible veteran community. The other development that has taken place in repatriation general hospitals is the establishment of emergency accident centres and that has taken place in pursuance of the professional considerations to which Senator Watson has referred.
There are emergency accident centres at the Department’s repatriation general hospitals at Heidelberg in Victoria and Concord in New South Wales and construction of such a centre is under way at the repatriation general hospital at Greenslopes in Queensland. In the other StatesSouth Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania- the Department’s hospitals are located nearby other acute care hospitals at which emergency centres already exist. It would appear to be a duplication of expensive hospital resources if the Department of Veterans’ Affair,s were to set up emergency centres in those States. However, in each case the establishment of such centres is dependent upon satisfactory arrangements being made with State hospital authorities.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. He will recall my question on 17 August about a difference of $4.1 m between the figure given in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech and that given in Budget Paper No. 4 in relation to funds allocated under the States Grant (Petroleum Products) Act 1 965. Is it a fact, as is being claimed by some petroleum resellers, that the real increase in the petrol price will be 2 lc a gallon and not 16 cents a gallon as stated in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech?
-So that there can be no doubt about the precision of the answer, I will seek the information from the Treasurer and make it available to the honourable senator.
-Is the Minister for Science aware of the concern felt in Western Australia about the ability of weather forecasters to alert the community adequately to oncoming adverse weather? Can the Minister assure people living in remote areas of Western Australia, particularly those living along the northern and north western coastline, that they will receive sufficient warning of the movements of cyclones during the coming cyclone season?
-The weather information service is of importance to many people in industry, including the pleasure industries, but it is perhaps of greater significance to those Australians who are adversely affected by cyclones. There has been uncommon weather experienced in Western Australia and recently cyclone Alby occurred in lower southern latitudes. I know that this matter is of concern to all representatives from Western Australia. Over many years imprecise weather information has been considered to be the order of the day. One of the difficulties in relation to Western Australia is that it is affected by weather that comes in from the oceans to the west of it in respect of which it has been nearly impossible in past years to gain information on the movement of cloud or wind. Senator Rocher will know that in the last few years Australia, with Japan, has adopted the use of a geo-stationary satellite and the information from imagery we are able to get now is distributed throughout Australia and will give us some idea of the movement of cyclones, particularly as they approach the Western Australian coast.
It is still impossible to predict the way in which a cyclone will move but this facility should be of great assistance to some of the very important industries that are likely to be established along the north west coast of Western Australia. Also, information will be available from a weather watch and wind finding radar system which is currently being installed at Learmonth in Western Australia by the Commonwealth at an estimated cost of $765,000. This comprises buildings and site works to a value in excess of $600,000. The balance is for equipment and other miscellaneous work. It excludes the value of the basic radar sets which are being redeployed. The honourable senator will realise that there is an interest in seeing that we are able to do some tracking of the cyclones that may approach that area of the coast.
I think it is a particularly important matter. I know that Sydney would be looking for one of these radars if more funds were available. They are required in many spots around the Australian coast. However, the honourable senator will be very pleased to note that one is being installed in Western Australia. I hope to commission it on 1 November this year.
- Mr President, my question is directed to you. Reports circulating in Parliament House yesterday indicated that a certain area had been placed out of bounds. Were these reports correct? If so, what was the reason? Was there any danger to the people in the area at the time? You may perhaps care to make a statement if you do not wish to answer the question now.
– I will report back to the Senate in respect of the matter to which Senator Primmer referred.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. In which countries did the Minister have discussions on uranium enrichment during his recent overseas visit? Did these discussions include discussions on different methods for the enrichment of uranium? Was the possible establishment of an enrichment plant in Australia also discussed? Have discussions in Australia progressed very far on the eventual establishment of an enrichment plant in this country? Is it a fact that URENCO, a West German, British and Dutch consortium, has had discussions in South Australia on the establishment of an enrichment plant in that State? Are other States pressing for the establishment of an enrichment plant in their own States?
– The Deputy Prime Minister had discussions on uranium enrichment with French officials and the URENCO consortium during his recent visit overseas. France has registered an interest in co-operating with us in the establishment of a uranium enrichment industry in Australia. As Senator Young said, URENCO, which is a tripartite consortium of the United Kingdom, West German and Netherlands governments, has previously registered an interest in co-operating in establishing a uranium enrichment plant in Australia. A URENCO team visited Australia in October last year and again in July this year.
In addition, there is already under way a Japan-Australia enrichment study which was launched by the Whitlam Government in 1974. The first stage of this study is nearing completion, and Japan has already registered an interest in proceeding with a further stage of this study. Uranium enrichment offers real possibilities of substantially increasing export earnings and employment from the development of Australia’s vast uranium resources. This, of course, was clearly perceived by the Whitlam Government which launched the JapanAustralia enrichment study.
The Deputy Prime Minister reaffirmed in Parliament on 25 August last year that the Government, as a matter of policy, wishes to see the maximum processing of Australian raw materials prior to export. Consistent with this attitude the Government is anxious to collaborate with other countries in examining the feasibility of establishing a uranium enrichment industry in Australia. Not surprisingly, State governments are interested in uranium enrichment. They are conscious of the industrial potential and employment possibilities which establishment of an enrichment plant will offer.
Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland are all interested in uranium enrichment, and the URENCO team has had discussions with the governments of those States. Most notable of all is the interest registered by South Australia. The South Australian Government has established its own enrichment study group which receives technical assistance from the Australian Atomic Energy Commision. The reports of the South Australian Government study group have received wide publicity in the South Australian Parliament- I think much to the embarrassment of the Premier. The South Australian Premier has had some difficulty in reconciling his attitudes on uranium. He is well known for his-
- Mr President, I take a point of order about the lengthy replies by Ministers to Dorothy Dix questions. The matter was brought to your attention earlier this morning during an answer by Senator Webster. Many honourable senators on the Opposition side would like to ask a question, but they cannot do so. I suggest that the matters which the Ministers are putting to the Senate may well be contained in a letter to the honourable senator who asked the question. I trust that you will admonish some of the Ministers.
– I felt that the Minister for Social Security was replying with pretty factual material. As I have said before, it is most desirable to couch questions in as brief a form as possible and to make replies as brief as possible. It is the desire of many honourable senators to ask a question, but I find an inability to give them all the call, as I would like to do in the interest of the Senate being given general information on a wide range of matters. I call the Minister.
- Mr President, I will conclude quite briefly. Senator Young asked whether there was interest in the development of an enrichment plant in this country. I will complete my answer by saying there is conflicting information about the potential development of an enrichment plant in South Australia because of the conflicting attitudes of the Premier of that State. I understand that the people of that State have a great deal to lose by the continued opposition by the Premier to uranium development, despite the study groups which he has set up. I have indicated that some four States are interested in the development of a plant.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, in his statement on 8 August, said:
That is, senior Ministers- were of the view that Mr Justice McGregor’s report had to be accepted.
Does it follow from that statement by the Prime Minister that Mr Justice McGregor’s report, including findings as to the meaning of impropriety, had been accepted by the Government in totality?
– The statement was made by the Prime Minister. I have nothing to add to it. If indeed Senator Wriedt seeks further elaboration, he may put his question on notice and I will have the Prime Minister’s attention directed to it.
– My question, which concerns the generation of steam on a fluidised bed, is directed to the Minister for Science. I refer to research carried out-
Honourable senators interjecting-
- Mr President, I wonder whether I could seek your control of the Senate while I ask my question.
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order. If that is the attitude the honourable senator is taking, I ask that his last statement be withdrawn because it is a grave reflection on your ability to control this chamber.
- Mr President, I intended no reflection on you. I withdraw the statement. My question, directed to the Minister for Science, concerns the generation of steam on a fluidised bed. I refer to research carried out in England on a new combustion technique to generate steam on a fluidised bed of sand. Has the Minister knowledge of this new technique and of any benefits which might flow from it? Can he say whether his Department will examine the introduction of this new technique to Australia?
– I have not studied the report of the research to which the honourable senator has referred, but I am sure that honourable senators would recognise the importance of the question. It is a most important matter. It is a relatively new scientific discovery. At present the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is studying the use of fluidised beds for combustion.
This long-established technique is being applied by the Organisation in a number of important areas at the present time. For instance, the Organisation is using the fluid bed reactors in its investigations into the synthesis of liquid fuels from coal in its flash Pyrolysis route, which has been discussed in this Senate on a number of occasions. The honourable senator has referred to the situation in England in relation to transport, which is not a matter that has been looked at in Australia. We are looking at the operation at a coal washery site in New South Wales, and the results obtained to date demonstrate that coarse rejects and partly thickened slurry material burnt readily on a fluidised bed have the potential to produce heat and power, which is particularly important. However, I think that the basic part of the honourable senator’s question in relation to transport should be directed to the Minister for Transport, and I will do so.
– The Attorney-General will know that in June last year the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act was passed by this Parliament and assented to but has not yet been proclaimed. He will also know that the Act provides in section 19 that the Government may make regulations exempting various decisions from judicial review under that Act. I ask the Attorney-General whether the failure to proclaim the Act is the result of the Government’s inability to make up its mind as to what the Act should not apply to. After 14 months, has the Government not been able to work out which Acts, Ministers, departments or officials it wants to hide from judicial review? Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate when it can expect to see the exemptions under section 19 and when this important legislation will be proclaimed?
– There is a suggestion in Senator Evans’ question that it is based on some misunderstanding of what the Act is about. He talked about regulations being made to try to hide proceedings from judicial review. The Act is designed to improve greatly and facilitate judicial proceedings in the administrative review procedures of the courts. That is its purpose. The Act does contain a major development in that it provides that reasons can be sought and are required to be given if a person believes he is aggrieved by an administrative decision. I think that ought to be explained by way of background.
It is a fact that the Act, although passed some time ago, has not yet been proclaimed. The reason for that is that the Act provides that regulations can be made for the exemption of certain classes of administrative decisions. The Government has been looking at this very difficult problem and has sought the advice of the Administrative Review Council, which is an independent statutory advisory body under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act. That body has been working on the problem, I have been getting reports on its work, and I know of the detail it has been going into. I understand that the work has now been completed by those who have been working on it and I am expecting the official report of the Review Council to be made available quite shortly. Once it has been received I will be in a position to make a recommendation to the Government about the making of the regulations. The Act will then be proclaimed and will be in force. I want to emphasise quite clearly that it is the Government’s intention and policy that the Act should come into operation as soon as these matters can be resolved.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. What is the bed /population ratio for hospitals in Australia recommended in the recent Sax report entitled A Discussion Paper on Paying for Health Care and what is the ratio at which the Department of Health is aiming for Australia? I ask the Minister also: When the new Calvary Hospital opens in Canberra, what will be the bed /population ratio for the Australian Capital Territory? Finally, with the opening of the Casuarina Hospital in the Northern Territory, what will be the bed/population ratio in that Territory?
– I understand that the recent Sax report entitled A Discussion Paper on Paying for Health Care does not recommend a bed/population ratio. An earlier Sax report in 1974 recommended a ratio of 4.5 to 5 acute hospital beds per 1,000 population, with appropriate qualifications. The Department of Health is currently discussing with State health authorities future hospital provisions with the aim of rationalising hospital resources and improving efficiency and productivity. Following these discussions, it is expected that a program of rationalisation will be formulated. It should include a hospital bed /population ratio which reflects the true needs of the Australian community.
With regard to Canberra, I understand that after completion of the Calvary Hospital the ratio will be in the order of 4.4 beds per 1 .000 population. With regard to the Northern Territory it is expected that the ratio will be in the order of 8.44 beds per 1,000 population. This higher figure recognises the special health problems of both Aboriginal and dispersed rural populations in the Northern Territory.
-I direct a question to the Attorney-General. In view of the answer which the Attorney gave to Senator Button earlier today that it was his understanding as at 23 April that Senator Withers’ action in phoning Mr Pearson regarding the naming of the seat of the Gold Coast was not done on behalf of Mr Eric Robinson, why were the terms of reference drafted so as to exclude a finding that Senator Withers’ action was on behalf of much wider interests than those of Mr Robinson?
– I have already answered numerous questions on why the terms of reference were drawn in the way in which they were and why they were subsequently extended. I do not think that I have anything to add to the answers I have already given on that subject.
- Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.
– I will speak on the adjournment if I do not get to ask a question now. It does not matter to me.
– You cannot go on with that sort of behaviour.
– It will be par for the course every night if you want it that way.
– Order! I have called the Leader of the Government.
- Mr President, I do not understand the implications of Senator Mulvihill’s statement. If I may-
– I ask leave to make a short statement on the request by the Leader of the Government that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.
Senator GEORGES ( Queensland )-Mr President, by convention we have accepted that Question Time shall be limited to one hour. If you run your mind back to previous years, you will recall that Question Time extended until such time as all honourable senators had asked a question. But for the convenience of the Senate we truncated that arrangement. The rule now seems to be that the Leader of the Government in the Senate gets up at the end of one hour and asks that all further questions be placed on the Notice Paper. What is happening in this place is that, by way of prepared questions given beforehand to the Minister concerned, a very lengthy answer is given. In spite of many rulings on your part- and I know that you have ruled that nothing can be said against a person notifying a Minister beforehand of the nature of the question to enable him to get the information he requires- what has happened is that prepared questions are now being placed to the Minister so that he can give lengthy answers so as to exclude the right of honourable senators to ask questions. Mr President, if that is to be a continuing practice and if your ruling that questions and answers ought to be short is to be denied, we may have to take this matter to the Senate Standing Orders Committee.
Senator Mulvihill is saying that the Opposition has many devices it can use to ask questions. Several money Bills are coming up and if we are denied that right at question time then we will take up these matters at the first reading stage. There is also the device of taking up the matters on the adjournment debate. If the Government wants to extend the program of this Parliament unnecessarily we ought to allow this practice to proceed. If we do not want to extend the program of the Parliament it would be wise for the Government to see that the practice which was made very clear this morning, especially by Senator Webster, is not continued. If it is allowed to continue then, of course, the co-operation that the Opposition has given will become limited.
– by leave- Let me make it perfectly clear that the Government will do all it can to make the hour of question time available as widely as possible to all honourable senators. It has no intention to do otherwise. You, Mr President, have shown your desire and your achievement in this regard. I am bound to say two things: Firstly, this matter is heavily in the hands of the Opposition. I suggest that if the Opposition Whip were to analyse what has happened in recent days he would find, quite properly, that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) has asked quite a number of questions.
– And the Deputy Leader.
– Yes, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. They have priority of call so the opportunity for Senator Mulvihill and others to get the call is a matter for the Opposition. There is also the question of whether Ministers should respond to questions by using information available to them at the time. As a Minister for three years in this chamber I have had more approaches from Opposition senators than from Government senators. They are proper approaches and I welcome them because if honourable senators ask me a question in the Senate I can give them detailed answers. This, in my judgment, is a bona fide matter and I hope it will continue. Mr President, we will endeavour to keep our answers as short as possible but I ask the Opposition in good faith to understand that it has it in its own hands to rationalise the distribution of questions among its members.
– by leave- We are back to a subject which we have debated so many times in this place. Of course it is accepted that the Leader of the Opposition can have the call at any time he desires. I point out that today I asked two questions, neither of which was lengthy, nor were the answers. I also asked a question of Senator Webster. It was a particularly short question. Of course, the answer was particularly short because he did not know it. The point I wish to make and one which we all know- I accept the point made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick)- is that there are occasions when a member of the Opposition advises a Minister that he is going to ask a question. That is a legitimate process which we all accept. Because of the representation system in this chamber it is quite often unfair to put a question to a Minister representing another Minister and expect him to answer it. We all accept that. But it is a different argument when we have people like Senator Webster farming out Dorothy Dix questions day after day, long questions with long answers. He comes in here prepared and then he reels off a whole screed taking up time. If we were to time individual senators in this chamber today I guarantee that the only contest Senator Webster would win would be for being the longest speaker during question time. That is our problem. I suggest with great respect that it is in your hands, Mr President, in co-operation with the Leader of the Government in the Senate to ensure that this abuse of Question Time does not continue. There are many legitimate issues and matters on which all of us want to ask questions and which are of concern to this Parliament, but the sorts of answers given by Senator Webster are easily dealt with by correspondence and any intelligent Ministers would deal with them by correspondence.
– by leave- If I have unwittingly become the catalyst of all that has just happened, it was not by choice. I say, first of all, to Senator Guilfoyle that I have the quaint idea that if a back bench senator wishes a quick transmission of information or ministerial response he or she can use either Question Time or the adjournment debate. I can answer the Senate that I have no desire to be a 1978 Parnell and upset the whole of the Standing Orders of the Senate, but I believe that as we are going into a recess for a fortnight people outside will want immediate answers. If we cannot get them by other means at least we can use those avenues.
I say to Senator Carrick that he will appreciate that long before this incident that was put so well by my colleague Senator Georges, in his submission, the adjournment debate has been an effective device. I know that Senator Carrick does not take umbrage at its use. If a conservation group contacts me and I wish to get something from the Minister tonight I will do so rather than wait for a fortnight, because the process of democracy has to be speeded up. I know that one or two of our new senators have raised this matter. I know that Senator Evans has done so at forums. That is my motivation; it is not malice.
-by leave-I support what Senator Georges, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) and Senator Mulvihill have said in relation to the problems of Question Time. It is true, as Senator Georges said, that in years gone by we were sometimes here for up to an hour and a half or even longer trying to get questions answered. I remember that one of your predecessors, Mr President, would not give me the call because we had a minor personal difference. At the end of Question Time that day I had eight questions to ask, but I got the first call the next day. It is true that time is the big problem as far as Ministers are concerned. One day when we were not getting the call I actually timed the answers. One Minister took 8 minutes 35V4 seconds to reply to a question. There are no prizes for guessing who the Minister was. Neverthless that happened. Consequently, this sort of thing is continuing all the time.
I am not complaining that I did not get the call today, but I have been called to ask one question in the last few days. I have never told a Minister beforehand that I was going to ask a question because I always take a punt that Ministers are clued up and know what their replies are to be. I cannot be accused of having done that. If my question is a question without notice I intend it to be a question without notice. If the Minister is caught flat-footed, that is his shortcoming and not mine.
I suggest, Mr President, that the ruling you have given here on numerous occasions that questions ought to be brief and that the replies should be equally brief must be adhered to. If it is not adhered to, as Senator Georges said, it may be necessary for us to use other avenues which are open to honourable senators to raise matters of public importance. There is nothing wrong with the Leader of the Opposition asking a series of questions. Certainly yesterday or the day before when he was directing his questions to a particular Minister, that Minister could not be accused of giving long replies, some of them being only two or three words as he rose and sat down again. That did not hold us up for that long. I think that ought to be looked at in retrospect and correctly. I hope this discussion will satisfy this matter and will raise the point sufficiently for you, Mr President, and the Ministers to take note of it. I hope that when we come back in a couple of weeks we will not have the same problem.
Senator CARRICK (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate)- by leave- If I may, I should like to include here three quick supplementary answers that have arisen out of questions, and I will be brief. Indeed, with good will we will all try to help each other with regard to this matter.
-Two days ago Senator Teague asked me a question about the River Murray, and I said that I would get the information as soon as possible. Since it affects three States I take the opportunity of giving the answer here. I remind honourable senators that at the initiative of the Commonwealth the Commonwealth-State River Murray Working Party was established in 1 973 to investigate ways in which river water quality could be maintained and controlled. The main recommendation of the working party was that the powers of the River Murray Commission be expanded to enable it to take water quality into account in its operations and investigations. In the latter half of 1976, the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia accepted the recommendations of the working group and agreed to interim authority for the River Murray Commission to implement the recommendations pending the necessary legislative action by the four governments. The River Murray Commission has now completed its review of the changes which will be necessary to the River Murray Water Agreement to give effect to these recommendations. I am informed that the four governments are now considering a substitute new agreement. I think that that is of some significance.
The Commonwealth also took another farreaching initiative in October 1977 when it convened a Commonwealth-State ministerial meeting to discuss the development of a co-ordinating plan of action on a broad regional basis to tackle serious salinity and drainage problems in the Murray Valley which are beyond the powers of the River Murray Commission. I am pleased to inform the Senate that consultants engaged to investigate these problems have recommended in an interim report presented last June a number of projects for urgent implementation. The objective of these projects is to reduce the inflow of saline water to the Murray. These recommendations are now under consideration by the Commonwealth Government. I can assure Senator Teague and the Senate that the Government is taking a very close interest in this matter.
– I was asked a question by Senator O ‘Byrne about Gimbat and Goodparla. The report of the Ranger uranium environmental inquiry stated:
Consideration should be given as soon as possible to the resumption of Goodparla pastoral lease and part or whole of Gimbat and their incorporation in the National Park thus permitting the inclusion of most of the headwaters of the South Alligator River.
As was stated in the second reading speech on the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill 1978, the Government accepted this recommendation. The significance of these leases to the Kakadu National Park is well recognised and the Government will be looking at the matter at the appropriate time.
Senator CARRICK (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate)Pursuant to section 7 of the Advisory Council for Inter-government Relations Act 1976 I present the Advisory Council’s first report entitled: Short-Term Interchanges of Staff’.
Senator GEORGES (Queensland) by leave-I move:
In view of the interest that staff members may have in this matter, I think that it should be placed on the Notice Paper. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Are there any further papers to be presented?
– What about the others on the list?
– That is entirely up to us. No.
– There are no other papers for presentation.
- Mr President, I seek your clarification on this matter. A paper was circulated which indicated that certain papers were to be brought before the Senate. I take it that we have not overlooked these papers and that they have not slipped by us in any way. Is it correct that the Government now does not wish to put down these papers?
– I am sure that the fact that certain papers are not being presented now is due purely to the absence of the Ministers concerned from the Senate chamber. There is no significance at all in the fact that they are not to be presented now. These papers will be made available to the Senate.
-Mr President, I seek your leave to ask a question in relation to a list that came to the Opposition showing that certain papers were to be presented today. The Senate will rise today and papers that are available will not be tabled for another two weeks.
– The Senate is about to commence a fortnight’s recess. One of the papers to be tabled is from the Minister for Defence ( Mr Killen). It contained details of special flights by the Royal Australian Air Force for the period 1 January 1978 to 30 June 1978. It is of vital importance to honourable senators who are members of Senate Estimates Committee A to look at the explanatory notes on this matter. If the papers are not tabled today, we will go away for a fortnight without being able to peruse VIP flight details and see who has been using VIP aircraft, or who has been misusing them, as has been the case in the past. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) to make this document available at least to the members of Senate Estimates Committee A, which will deal with the Estimates for the Department of Defence and the appropriation for the Governor-General.
-by leave- In all my years in the Senate, I have never seen this happen before. A list of papers to be presented has been circulated. Under normal circumstances the list should have been gone through by the respective Ministers or someone acting on their behalf. It is not the fault of the Opposition if the Minister concerned is away at a special Cabinet meeting, or something equally serious. There is a responsibility for this information to be made available to a parliament which is in open session. If these papers are of a controversial nature and the Government does not want them tabled or the Parliament to have access to them for another fortnight the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick), who is at the table, should say so. I agree with my colleage Senator McLaren that the papers are of some importance and they ought to be properly tabled.
Senator CARRICK (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate- by leave- The reason why the papers have not been tabled is that the Opposition in another place has moved a censure motion and therefore has held up the tabling in that place. It is normal for the tabling to be done simultaneously in both Houses. I understand that these things will happen. Indeed I have only just been informed of the reason. I will do my best to try to have the papers tabled during the course of the day. I appreciate the significance of what honourable senators have said.
– The papers may be presented at any time when the Parliament is sitting.
-I present a report and transcript of evidence from the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources of its inquiry into the Commonwealth ‘s role in the assessment, planning, development and management of Australia ‘s water resources.
Ordered that the report be printed. Senator THOMAS- by leave- I move:
I present this report with pride and pleasure. I commend it to the Senate, to the Government and to the people of Australia. I would like to thank members of the Committee with great sincerity for the interest and co-operation which they showed during the quite lengthy inquiry.
The Committee is sorry to lose Senator Townley and Senator McAuliffe but it welcomes with a great deal of anticipation and pleasure Senator Teague and Senator Tate. On behalf of the Committee I would like to thank Mr Charles Edwards, the Committee Secretary, who did his usual outstanding job and Derek Abbott who came on the scene a bit later on. I would also like to thank Rob Alison who was a member of the Committee secretariat for some time.
The reference for this important inquiry was put down in December 1976. The Committee held public hearings beginning in August 1977. In all the Committee held 10 days of public hearings and 61 individual persons gave evidence; also, 8 1 submissions were received by the Committee. We conducted six field inspections. On behalf of the Committee I would like to thank those individuals and organisations, particularly officers from government departments, who gave submissions.
The Committee came down with a large number of recommendations- 34 in all- and many supplementary recommendations. With the forbearance of the Senate I would like to read the summary at the beginning of the report which sets out the position that was taken by the Committee. The report states:
Under the Australian constitution the responsibility for water matters rests with the States. The only specific areas of Commonwealth responsibility are in respect of meteorological observations, Commonwealth Territories and Foreign Affairs.
The Commonwealth has only been involved in the development of water resources in co-operation with the States since the Australian Water Resources Council was established some thirteen years ago. The Commonwealth’s role during this time has expanded in co-operation with the States particularly as a funding agent based primarily upon the financial assistance provisions of Section 96 of the Constitution.
Although the Commonwealth’s role in the field of water resources is relatively small it is potentially of great effect and the Committee considers it to be a very important role. A review, upgrading and continuation of the Commonwealth “s activities in water resources is necessary.
There has been a trend in recent years by the States to consolidate responsibility for water matters within a single department or authority to facilitate future planning, development and management.
As yet there has been no similar development at the Commonwealth level. There are currently over twenty different Commonwealth departments and agencies involved with water. Although the Department of National Development has primary responsibility there is a need to reduce the number of Commonwealth departments and agencies involved in water matters.
The Committee is very critical of the past ad hoc approach taken by the Commonwealth and the uncompleted projects in Queensland and the Ord River scheme in Western Australia are examples of what should not be allowed to occur again. There needs to be a change of emphasis and approach to the funding of large State water resources projects by the Commonwealth. Under the previous water resources program the terms and conditions were contained in correspondence between the Commonwealth and States and were usually not made public. The nation ‘s best interests will be better served if the Commonwealth has a clearly stated water resources policy setting out the areas, terms and conditions upon which it will provide financial assistance to the States for capital works. The recent National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Act 1978 will assist in achieving this provided it is supported by the introduction of a Commonwealth water resources policy and program aimed at achieving the objectives of the Australian Water Resources Council national approach to water resources management.
The Committee recommends that Commonwealth policy and non-policy activities be separated and that a Bureau of Water Resources be established as an independent statutory body and be responsible for all non-policy functions. It would be based on an upgraded and expanded secretariat to service the Australian Water Resources Council. This bureau also could be given a degree of technical expertise by incorporating some functions currently being undertaken by the Bureau of Mineral Resources and Bureau of Meteorology.
The role of the Bureau of Meteorology is of paramount importance in the assessment and planning of water resources but the position persists where the Bureau is not located within a resource Department. Meteorology is one of the few areas where the Commonwealth has a direct constitutional role but it has not been given the support that it warrants. In recent years this has seriously reduced the Bureau ‘s ability to meet the ever increasing demands being made on it. The Committee recognises that the area of water resources is only a part of the present responsibilities of the Bureau of Meteorology but for the purpose of carrying out its responsibilities with regard to water resources, the Committee recommends that the Bureau of Meteorology be shifted from the Department of Science and established as an independent statutory authority responsible to the Minister for National Development.
The Committee considers that there should be a clear statement of the Commonwealth ‘s acceptance or otherwise of the objectives of the national water policy statement agreed to by the Australian Water Resources Council in October 1975. At present the Commonwealth does not have a stated water resources policy based on a clear overall strategy to achieve stated Commonwealth objectives.
I commend the report to the Senate.
– As a member of the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources I join with the Committee’s Chairman, Senator Thomas, in commending the report to the Senate and in thanking the secretarial staff for the magnificent work they did in helping to compile this report. I also thank the Hansard staff who had to travel with the Committee when public hearings were conducted on Saturdays and Sundays in other States. The decision to hold weekend hearings is one for committees but the secretarial and Hansard Stan’s do not have that option and often their weekends are thrown into confusion when they are told they have to travel with committees which will be holding weekend public hearings. That is what we did on several occasions. Senate committees often receive credit for tabling excellent reports but it should be realised by all that our support staff plays a major role in any inquiry that committees conduct.
I want now to make some remarks about our public hearings and the confusion that some government legislation has created in the minds of water users in the States. During our public hearings and visits to various States we found that people who were in dire trouble with water resources were under the misapprehension that the Commonwealth Government’s water resources legislation which went through this Parliament in March of this year and which provided an amount of $200m over a period of five years which, in effect, means $40m each year over five years, provided a direct grant from the Commonwealth Government to the States for their own use. Of course, those honourable senators who were in this chamber during the debate on the national water resources legislation would know only too well that that is a complete misnomer, even though Mr Newman, the Minister at the time, insisted in the other place, with particular reference to South Australia, that there was a gift of $32. 8m, I think it was, to South Australia.
It took me quite some time in the debate in this chamber to extract from the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, that in fact it was not a grant to the States. Only 30 per cent of that amount of money is a grant, and 70 per cent is loan money repayable at a bond rate of interest over a period of years. This is the misapprehension that was created in the minds of the people in the States. They thought that the $200m was a direct grant and that they could get a large slice of that $200m for some of the work that had to be carried out. That was so particularly in the Bundaberg area, where they are very short of water this year because of the drought.
People were under the same misapprehension in regard to the allocation of the salinity problems in the Wakool area of New South Wales. During our inquiry we found that there is a very serious problem with salinity in the Wakool area around Deniliquin. Day by day a lot of people are seeing their pastures and their irrigation being whittled away by salinity. Those people thought that because of the legislation there was a $200m grant and that they could get any amount of money out of that to solve their problem, when it is not so. As I said during the debate, I would hope that it can be explained to people that in fact the Commonwealth is not making a direct grant of $200m. Part of it is a direct grant to the States, but the major portion of it is on a loan basis.
The other point about which I am concerned was mentioned by Senator Thomas in his opening remarks. He said that the Committee’s inquiry was advertised in the national Press on 15 December 1976, inviting submissions. He then went on to say how many people had made submissions, the number of persons who gave evidence and the number of visits we made on site. My concern- I raised this matter during hearings- is that South Australia has a great salinity problem, and we hear great protests from the South Australian Opposition about the salinity problem, sometimes accusing the Government of South Australia of doing nothing about it, yet we did not receive one submission from any organisation in the Riverland of South Australia. We did not receive a submission from the Leader of the Opposition in that State as to water quality, yet we find Mr Tonkin now going on record as saying -
– He is the State Leader?
-He is the State Leader of the Opposition. Mr Tonkin has gone on record protesting vigorously about the dangers for the River Murray if a paper pulp mill is built near Wodonga. I refer to a Press statement issued by Mr Tonkin reported in the Canberra Times of 8 July. He is reported as saying that he had been forced to make a direct approach to the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, because the State Government did not appear interested in the paper mill ‘s likely effects on River Murray water quality. He went on to say that he had sent letters on the matter to the Premier of Victoria, Mr Hamer, the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Wran, and that a reply was expected from Mr Fraser next week. That was on 8 July. If Mr Tonkin is so concerned about River Murray water quality, why did not he or his party or the shadow spokesman, Mr Arnold, the member for Chaffey who lives at Berri on the River Murray, make a submission to this public inquiry so that we could look at it and analyse their protest? No such submission was made.
The only submissions received from South Australia were from Professor W. D. Williams of the University of Adelaide, the National Council of Women of South Australia (Inc.) Adelaide, the Nature Conservation Society of South Australia (Inc.) Adelaide, the South Australian Government and people in the Callington and Strathalbyn districts in South Australia who are concerned with water quality in that area. They are the only submissions that were made to this inquiry from South Australia, despite the fact that the Secretary advertised the inquiry in the national Press and despite the fact that I told people in the Riverland of South Australia at meetings that we were conducting this inquiry and that if they had a problem with salinity they should make a submission and let us examine it. No such submission was made. When we see people like Mr Tonkin criticising, for purely political purposes, the quality of the River Murray and saying that the State Government is doing nothing about it, we must take his criticism with a grain of salt.
The State Department made a very good submission. Mr Tonkin deigned not to make any submission. It can be construed that what he is doing is only purely for political purposes. It is nothing more than that. The report of the Committee is a very good report, and when honourable senators look at the centrespread and the photographs that have been reproduced in colour they will realise the problem that exists with salinity, particularly in the Wakool area. When they look at the photographs of a magnificent crop of sugar cane under irrigation in the cane growing area and compare it with a poor crop which has no irrigation and no water- the illustrations are there- they will see that the Committee has done a good job. We hope that the Government will take notice of our recommendations, that Mr Fraser will honour the promise he made that Ministers will make a statement within six months of presenting a report to the Parliament and that some action will be taken along the lines of the recommendations made by the Committee to lay to rest the fears of the people who rely heavily on water and who are concerned about their incomes. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Act 1969, 1 present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
-by leave-On 31 May 1978 the Standing Committee on Social Welfare received from the Senate the following reference:
The management and financial affairs of the Ralkon Agricultural Company Proprietary Limited, Narrung, South Australia.
I wish to inform the Senate briefly of the action taken by the Committee on this reference, which, I am bound to say, has caused the Committee some concern, for it raises as a particular issue the responsibility imposed on legislative and general purpose standing committees by the Senate’s current practice of adopting, without debate, proposals to refer matters to them. This procedure, in effect, throws on the committee receiving a reference the primary responsibility for determining whether or not an inquiry would be appropriate. Most committees have limited time to allocate to the screening of references given without consideration and debate in the Senate itself. The Committee members are inclined to the view that in future they may use the appropriate forms of the Senate to ensure that there is a debate on any proposal for a reference to the Standing Committee on Social Welfare.
I turn now to the subject-matter of the reference. The Ralkon Co. is an Aboriginal farming enterprise incorporated on 2 October 1975 under the South Australian Companies Act by the Point McLeay Community Council Inc. to farm at Point McLeay two South Australian Aboriginal lands trust blocks and one farm acquired by the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission. After receiving substantial funding, totalling approximately $466,000, the company came into dispute with the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs and further funding has been refused.
As a preliminary to any possible inquiry, the Committee obtained brief statements on the history of the company and the background to the dispute from Senator McLaren, as sponsor of the reference, from the company and from the Department. On our reading of this information, we were doubtful whether a committee inquiry would be appropriate and believed that a more judicial kind of examination would be desirable. We therefore canvassed other possibilities and came to the conclusion that the Commonwealth Ombudsman might have jurisdiction.
On 8 June we informed the company of our view that recourse to the Ombudsman could be appropriate and might be available. At that time, the company’s response was negative. After receiving and considering all the preliminary information that had been sought, the Committee, on 2 1 July, directly advised the company to ask the Commonwealth Ombudsman to examine the matter. The company has now done so and at the Ombudsman’s request we have supplied him with the material in our possession to assist him in making a final decision on the question of his jurisdiction. The Committee has resolved that it will await the outcome of the approach to the Commonwealth Ombudsman and take no further action in the meantime.
– by leave- I thank the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare, its chairman, Senator Baume, and its secretary for the consideration that they have given to the reference concerning the management and financial affairs of the Ralkon Agricultural Co. Pty Ltd. Senator Baume would know that before I referred this matter to his Committee I had discussions with him. I had also raised the matter in the Senate on many occasions. I had felt that I had come to a dead end in my requests, so did the Ralkon Agricultural Co. Pty Ltd at Narrung. It was at the request of that company that I referred this matter to the Committee. After the company had received communication from the secretary of the Committee, pointing out the Committee’s view that the matter ought to be referred to the Ombudsman, I was asked what I thought about it. I said that it ought to do what the Committee suggested.
I think Senator Baume would bear with the Aboriginal people at Narrung, although they may have been somewhat tardy in agreeing to the initial request of his Committee. They had wanted to seek some further advice, quite apart from asking me. I am happy now that they have agreed to have the matter referred to the Ombudsman. I hope that he can solve the problem, which I know is very difficult. In the interests of the Aboriginal people who run this enterprise, which in my view is very viable, I hope that when the Ombudsman conducts his inquiry justice will be done to all people concerned.
– by leave- I wish to set the record straight on a matter which has been raised in the Press in the last couple of weeks, relating to Senate Estimates Committee B. I refer to two newspaper reports, both written by Warwick Costin. One report appeared in the Sunday Sun on 6 August 1978 and the other appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on 6 August 1978. These reports relate to certain operations of Estimates Committee B in considering the estimates of the Australian Broadcasting Commission when supplementary estimates were looked at earlier this year. I would like to get into the record parts of the reports which are relevant to the Estimates Committee’s proceedings. The article from the Sunday Sun, headed ‘Aunty comes clean on its Soap ‘, in part states:
A bureaucratic mix up has revealed that the ABC paid almost S 1 50,000 Tor a television flop.
The ABC disclosed the price to a Senate committee believing it would be kept secret.
The administrative misunderstanding began when a Senate estimates committee asked for details of the show.
A Liberal backbencher, Senator Harold Young, asked an ABC official if the price paid for Soap could be supplied ona confidential basis.
Committee members were given an assurance that the price paid was no more than the going rate for comedy material.
A week later a letter from the ABC’s general manager, Mr Talbot Duckmanton, revealed the figure was $5,764 for each episode shown nationally with one repeat.
We would ask that this advice be regarded as confidential ‘, he said.
Stunned commission officials were told soon after that the letter would have to be made public.
A standing order . . . says committees shall sit in open session unless otherwise ordered- and no order was made.
Mr Duckmanton ‘s letter was included in the committee ‘s report which was tabled in the Senate.
The report in the Sunday Telegraph, headed Soap fiasco gets Aunty in a lather’, substantially makes the same points but it also includes the words:
The Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, said: ‘I imagine the cost would be confidential to the committee and not for Hansard. ‘
That quote gives the impression that it is taken from the Senate Hansard report of Estimates Committee B. I want to get the record quite clear on this matter. Pages 195 and 196 of Hansard of 4 May for Estimates Committees A, B, D and E are relevant. If honourable senators are interested, they can refer to what was actually said at that Committee’s hearings. I just want to pick up a couple of points and say that I believe that there is no basis at all for those articles, let alone for any alleged belief that the ABC might have that it had received an assurance of confidentiality in relation to certain information and certainly no basis for being ‘stunned’, as is alleged in the article, when the information was made available to the Senate.
It is possible that somebody could pick up that Hansard and misunderstand a statement that I made. I wish to quote just a small part of it. When Senator Young asked for the information- I ought to indicate that Senator Young in not a member of the Committee but was present as a senator asking questions, as is his right- the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, said:
There may be some qualification on that in terms of the disclosure of a commercial contract.
In that case it could be submitted to the Committee.
Senator Carrick said:
I only make that qualification to allow the officers to make the information available at a confidential level if necessary.
The intention of my remark was that a request for confidentiality could be made to the Committee. Such a request can always be made. In the past that Committee has had requests for confidentiality. The reason that I interposed that Senator Young was not a member of the Committee was that I want to make it clear that everybody else there present was aware of requests that had been made to the Committee for confidentiality and would also have been aware that on every occasion the request was rejected and the rejection was accepted by the person making it. Of course the situation is that a Senate Estimates committee cannot accept evidence in confidence. A request can be made to the Senate to give the Committee permission to accept the evidence in confidence. We have had such requests. On those occasions we have advised that we did not believe that the Senate would accede to a request but that it was up to those people making the request to proceed if they wished to do so. On all the previous occasions it was our opinion that the information was not such as would earn the support of the Senate for a request for confidentiality, but the initiative rested with the Senate if the request was made. No requests for information to be kept confidential have ever been made by a department to the Senate in the time that I have been on that Committee.
In the particular case to which I was referring, it was the expectation of the Committee- there was certainly no argument about it- that if the ABC felt that the information should be kept confidential, because it would in some way be prejudiced in its commercial transactions, it was open to the ABC to make its case. No such case came to us at all. Indeed in the report of Estimates Committee B to the Senate, which was tabled on 11 May 1978, there is a paragraph on page 3 which I would like to quote to indicate that the Committee was aware of this position at the time. It states:
Again, during evidence given by officers of the Austraiian Broadcasting Commission, the question of confidentiality of evidence was raised. This question is one which has been raised in the past concerning the commercial interests of the ABC. The Committee points out that it has no power to take any in camera evidence or to receive any evidence of a confidential nature. Decisions relating to confidentiality rest in the hands of the Senate.
The position simply is that the Committee was not asked to make the information confidential and it recognises that it does not have that power.
The information in question was included in additional information tabled on 24 May 1978 and 29 May 1978. If honourable senators are interested, they ought to look at a letter from Mr Duckmanton addressed to Senator Carrick, the Minister for Education. It appears on pages 26 to 29 of that report. Honourable senators can note that on page 28, under the heading ‘Television series- “Soap” ‘, it is stated:
The price per episode was $5,764 for two showings Australia-wide. We would ask that this advice be regarded as confidential.
I reiterate that that was a letter from Mr Duckmanton to the Minister. The request for confidentiality never went to the Committee. I understand that it was pointed out informally to certain people in the ABC, who would have known anyway because they have been attending meetings of that Committee and the Committee has dealt with the matter of confidentiality many times with them, that that is not the sort of request for which the Committee would feel any strong support. In any event, the request should not go to the Committee, or even to the Minister. It should go to the Senate. That is the procedure, and I believe that the ABC and the people involved in its Estimates understand that clearly. During the time I have been on the Committee it has been discussed many times and I understand that before I came into the Senate it was discussed many times. Certainly the principle was established well before I came in to the Senate, which is more than four years ago.
As I have said, I rose to get on record the Committee’s attitude and its actions and to point out that the implications of the articles printed in the newspapers were quite false. I am very disturbed that certain anonymous ABC officials, who have been ‘stunned’, according to the article, could make statements like that to members of the Press. I believe that it brings into some disrepute the workings of an Estimates committee, and quite undeservedly so. As chairman of the Committee, I was never contacted for any comment on this subject. I just happened to pick up my newspaper one fine Sunday morning and there it was. As far as I am aware, no other member of the Committee was contacted either. I think it is important that the Senate should know that Estimates Committee B does recognise its obligations to the Senate and it did not abrogate them by giving any unwarranted undertaking of confidentiality during its hearings on the estimates of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– This is the first occasion in ten years in this Parliament that I have taken the time of the Senate to make a personal explanation. I do so because of the mischievous activities of certain people, including the Federal member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), which arose out of a meeting held in Hobart last Sunday afternoon and subsequent interviews on the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio program AM. I received an invitation from the Tasmanian Committee for Human Rights in the Soviet Union to speak at a protest meeting organised for last Sunday afternoon. Other speakers included the honourable member for Denison, Senator Harradine, and a Mrs Kroll.Simmul, President of the Estonian Society in New South Wales. During the course of my remarks I made it quite clear that I was not going to engage in an anti-Soviet harangue, that I was concerned about human rights in all countries of the world, including the Soviet Union, and that I was opposed to any moves to stop the 1980 Olympic Games being held in Moscow. Those remarks did not find favour with certain elements at the meeting. I further indicated that we would all do well to exercise more tolerance towards each other, a comment which was clearly understood but equally clearly not liked by some people present.
After all the speeches were completed and during the question time which followed, I was again asked by a State Liberal member of parliament about my views concerning the Moscow Games. I again stated in the clearest terms my opposition to any attempt to prevent the Games being held in Moscow. Motions were then moved at the meeting concerning the position of human rights in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. A motion was put to the meeting which in general terms condemned suppression of human rights in the USSR. I supported the motion. On the AM program on Tuesday it was implied that 1 was involved in a committee to initiate moves against the Moscow Olympic Games. I replied to that statement yesterday morning on the program, stating in the clearest terms that I was not involved in any such committee and restating my attitude towards proposed moves against the Games. However, this morning on the AM program Mrs Kroll-Simmul said that I had supported such a proposal, even though she conceded that I had spoken against it. She appeared to be under some mistaken impression that I had been persuaded by the speakers to change my mind, completely overlooking the fact that during the question time and after the speeches had been delivered I restated my opposition to the proposal. The ABC contacted Mrs Kroll-Simmu at the instigation of the honourable member for Denison.
– Surprise, surprise.
-Surprise. I regret that she has allowed herself to become involved because of the personal political motives of the honourable member for Denison. It is quite apparent to me that the actions of the honourable member for Denison are designed to cause me some embarrassment and that Mrs Kroll-Simmul is being used for this purpose. I am aware that certain opinions I expressed at that meeting were not approved of by certain people present. I made the point that I was not at the meeting for the purpose of any party political point-scoring operation, but unfortunately the meeting was allowed to drift in that direction. At the end of the meeting a person who I understand was the secretary of the committee apologised to me for the way in which the meeting had gone and said he felt embarrassed about it. On my return home I received a telephone call from an Estonian gentleman, whom I did not know, and who had been in the audience. He also expressed his concern and embarrassment over the conduct of the meeting and advised me that there were many people there who supported my views. He did not want me to believe that the bitterness of many of those in attendance reflected the thoughts of others who were present.
I regret very much that the committee has allowed itself to be used in this manner. I am writing to it today indicating that in no circumstances will I attend any further meetings organised by it in which either the honourable member for Denison or Mrs Kroll-Simmul is involved. The honourable member for Denison is a mischievous political show pony who would use any platform -
– I take a point of order, Mr President. 1 have believed for some time that the comments being made about a member of another chamber were not within the Standing Orders but, believing that within reason Senator Wriedt should have an opportunity to state his case, I did not take objection. I believe that his comments have now got to the stage of vulgar abuse and should be withdrawn.
– It is so that under Standing Order 418 no offensive reference to a member of this House or the other House is allowed.
- Mr President, I am now offended by what Senator Rae has said. The first offence occurred on the part of the honourable member for Denison and it was a serious offence.
- Senator Wriedt, would you withdraw?
– You wish me to withdraw the word ‘mischievous ‘?
– Very well. I will rephrase it by saying that the honourable member for Denison is a political show pony who would use any platform, organisation or issue for his own political promotion.
– I take objection to that.
- Senator Wriedt, will you withdraw the words ‘ mischievous show pony’?
- Mr President, I take a point of order. On what basis are you ruling that the words should be withdrawn? Senator Wriedt has already withdrawn the word ‘mischievous’ and now the words ‘show pony’ must be withdrawn. If that is the case, we are not going to be able to defend ourselves against actions of people in another place. Surely Mr Hodgman, if he so desires, can defend himself against that comment. It is not necessary for us here to limit our methods of expression to innocuous statements. Our leader has been under considerable pressure, and I think that under pressure we should be allowed to express ourselves.
- Mr President, I took the point of order but I have not spoken to it. The expression ‘mischievous show pony’ is objectionable. The fact is that we have listened in silence to the statement and we have heard other things said. There are more things that could be said about how Senator Wriedt voted. However, he is now making an allegation against a member of the other chamber and that is contrary to the Standing Orders. I certainly object to the remark that has been made by him being allowed to stand.
– On the point of order, we all know the relationship between Senator Missen and Mr Hodgman and we all accept it. We are reaching a ludicrous situation in this chamber when a member -
– On a point of order, Mr President, I question the remarks that have just been made by Senator Grimes with regard to Senator Missen and Mr Hodgman. What was the ulterior motive behind that comment?
- Mr President, I seek your guidance as to what the honourable senator is objecting to. If the cap fits he can wear it. He put on the cap.
– I am accused of some son of relationship. Of course I know Mr Hodgman. I serve on the same party committee with him and in various organisations with him, but I do not know what Senator Grimes is referring to.
– I meant no more than that, Mr President, if that keeps the honourable senator happy. We are going to be in a ludicrous situation in this House if we allow members of another House or another parliament to use the sorts of tactics repeatedly used by the honourable member for Denison against individual senators in this House and then allow the honourable member for Denison or anybody else to be protected by the Standing Orders in this place so that an innocuous expression like that used by Senator Wriedt cannot be used. I know that Senator Missen, because of his relationship in the Liberal Party with the honourable member for Denison on the same issues, feels that he has to jump to his feet and protect the honourable member for Denison every time. He may even be going to support the honourable member for Denison in his future campaign to become Prime Minister as the honourable member has announced that he is going to be Prime Minister. But we will make this House a farce if we are going to have to pussy-foot around in debate in this manner.
-Mr President, rather than delay the Senate and with respect to my loyal colleagues on my side, if you wish me to withdraw the term ‘completely mischievous political show pony’, I will do so.
– Oh, come on!
– We will carry on with the debate. Objection was taken to the words of an honourable senator in respect of an honourable member in another place being offensive. The Leader of the Opposition very graciously said: Yes, I shall withdraw’. That closes the book.
– The honourable member for Denison would use any platform, organisation or issue for his own personal promotion. He will play on the emotions of any group in the community if that serves his own selfish political ends. His recent statement in Hobart that he will one day be Prime Minister of Australia has certainly raised a laugh here in Canberra, particularly amongst his own colleagues. Nevertheless, it is an indication of an ego consistent with his track record.
- Mr President, I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of that statement so that, later this day, the motion may be brought on if a reply is desired to be made on behalf of the person attacked in that statement.
Leave not granted.
-Is it the desire of the Senate to postpone or rearrange the business?
– by leave- I move:
This means that the Senate will proceed to debate the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation Bill as the first item of business. I say, by way of explanation, that I would hope that by mutual arrangement later today the Loans Bill, which is an urgent Bill, might be carried by the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That unless otherwise ordered, the Senate at its rising adjourn until Tuesday, 12 September 1978 at 2.30 p.m., unless otherwise called together by the President, or in the event of the President being unavailable owing to illness or other cause, by the Chairman of Committees
Debate resumed from 17 August, on motion by Senator Webster:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this Bill is to establish an Overseas Projects Corporation which, in the words of the Minister for Science (Senator Webster), will ‘assist Australian private organisations to compete for overseas development projects so as to encourage the export of Australian goods and services’.
The Corporation is part of a series of measures introduced or to be introduced by the present Government in an attempt to boost Australia’s export performance. The original measures were outlined by the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) on 13 April.
At the end of his second reading speech the Minister said:
The measures adopted are in accordance with the Government’s long term industry policy which includes encouragement for the development of export oriented industries. As well as encouraging the long term development of more competitive industries, the revitalised program will assist in the short term in taking up the slack in the manufacturing sector and help alleviate adverse pressures on the balance of payments and reserves situation.
However, on closer examination, the program put forward, which includes new export incentives and the Overseas Projects Corporation, is hardly adequate encouragement for manufacturing and other industries to enter vigorously the export field. The Australian Government, unlike its counterpart in New Zealand, seems to have some obsolete notions about the method of capturing and holding some of the new markets in the world, and in particular the Middle East and the Central European countries.
Briefly, on the question of export incentives, the Opposition has no objection to these but finds some inconsistencies in the Government’s approach of granting export incentives to manufacturing industries which, in many cases, have to pay high rates of tariff duty or be subject to import quotas when bringing in raw materials for processing into manufactured goods for subsequent export. People like Mr Uhrig, the Managing Director of Simpson Pope Australian Limited, have, on a number of occasions, pointed out the inconsistencies in the current policy and have illustrated very clearly that the Government needs to revise its attitude quite substantially to the structure of export incentives and the imposition of tariff duty and quotas on materials and components which are used mainly in goods suitable for export.
In addition, the Government has failed to act in any substantial way on the recommendations of the Jackson Committee to Advise on Policies for Manufacturing Industry. The White Paper which followed it did nothing to give Australian manufacturers any specific guidelines about government policy related to the development of greater export potential. This may seem unrelated to this Bill before the Parliament but it is of little use to establish an organisation to assist industry when sections of that industry have no inherent capacity to enter into and maintain a vigorous export program.
The present Government has failed to see clearly the longer run demands for helping export industries. Instead, it has compromised the requests from the manufacturing secto which sought a much wider overseas projects corporation and organisations such as the Victorian Chamber of Commerce, which seemed to find any government involvement in this area anathema. When in power, the Australian Labor Party Government had no doubts about the importance of external factors for the Australian economy.
In 1975 the then Liberal-Country Party Opposition, led in that instance by the present Minister for Trade and Resources, opposed very strongly the establishment of an Australian Overseas Trading Corporation. Had that Corporation been established in 1975, it would have brought together a great deal of the work now being done by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation which has considerable skills and talents involved in engineering projects around the world. It would have been an umbrella under which the commercial development and marketing of INTERSCAN could have taken place and, in conjunction with the commodity marketing boards and the large private companies involved in international trading, it could have assisted in the expansion of a number of the markets for important agricultural products.
That Bill provided for the Labor Party’s Corporation to engage in the purchase and sale of goods. That was an important proposal for a number of reasons. Firstly, when dealing with centrally planned economies and some developing countries, the governments of those countries are not always prepared to deal directly with private enterprise. In addition there is always the problem of foreign exchange. Many countries have drastic shortages of hard currencies and while barter arrangements or soft currency payment arrangements are far from satisfactory, they are often necessary to initiate new trading opportunities. There is also the position in the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia where either government purchasers or private industry buyers require the provision of performance bonds together with one organisation acting as a head contractor. In 1976 the present Government agreed to expand the powers of the Export Finance Insurance Corporation to allow it to provide performance bonds. However, the basis is so limited that it has almost been commercially useless. If the Australian Government is serious about its intention to encourage international trade to some of these areas, there appears to be no alternative to having some form of government organisation involved and for that organisation to accept some of the financial and commercial responsibility.
In addition, it has also been shown by a specific example that one of the ways of gaining access into the Middle East market, for example, is through joint venture operations. The establishment of, say, freezing and refrigeration facilities in conjunction with an Arabian firm has not only resulted in orders for agricultural products but also has resulted in joint venture partners supplying building materials and technical services. One of the best examples is a recent venture undertaken by the New Zealand ExportImport Corporation for the establishment of a cool store and related facilities at Bahrain. The facilities have a total capacity of 8, 100 tonnes of cool store space. The partners in the venture are the New Zealand Export-Import Corporation and Arabco Traders. The company is called the Bahrain/New Zealand Trading and Storage Company in which Bahraini interests have a 5 1 per cent interest and the New Zealand ExportImport Corporation has 49 per cent. The operation will ensure a continuing supply of New Zealand products into this rapidly growing and prosperous market.
The New Zealand Corporation provides an interesting contrast in initiatives. The specific provision of clause 7, under this legislation, providing that the Corporation shall not engage, whether as principal or agent, in the buying or selling of goods, is absurd. The New Zealand Corporation on the other hand has been involved in trading and in its annual report dated 31 March 1977 it notes:
When required, the Corporation is authorised to undertake trade transactions on behalf of the Government. In this role it has been actively involved at Government request, in the preliminary work, to establish a port and storage facility in Bahrain as a joint venture between the two countries concerned.
It goes on to say under the chapter entitled ‘General Activities ‘:
As has been indicated earlier, a large number of the firms using the corporation ‘s services fall into the small to medium size range. In almost all cases they have required advice on market prospects and assistance in pricing and documentation with, in many instances, the corporation taking over the selling of their products. This assistance has, in a fewcases, extended further to include some form of financial aid to cover purchase of raw materials and components, entailing in some instances, provision of extended credit. The corporation has also assisted exporters to hold stocks of manufactured goods overseas for sale.
It would be worthwhile for Government members who doubt the importance of the Opposition’s proposals to read this report and understand clearly that the corporation has been supported and expanded by the national government of New Zealand, whose philosophies I understand approximate those of the present Government in this country. The Federal Government has given no good reason why the Australian Corporation should not have trading powers. Perhaps it is because the Minister for Trade and Resources in 1975 foolishly backed himself into a corner. He argued at that time that the Labor Party’s proposed Australian Overseas Trading Corporation was rampant socialism in allowing a statutory corporation to deal directly with foreign investments. It is interesting to consider the words that the Minister used at the time. He said:
I heard the Minister for Overseas Trade, who is at the table, say that this is 1 975. 1 guess it is the year of the socialist as far as he is concerned. Instead of having marketing organisations he would rather the Government took over controls so that he could do deals with his commie countries in selling the primary products of Australian farmers.
In what way that attitude could assist Australian farmers escapes me. It was a recognition that similar activities being undertaken by countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Canada and other industrialised nations were such that without a corporation of the kind envisaged it would be impossible to break into many of these large markets where specialist assistance was needed. If Mr Anthony uses the views expressed by the Victorian Chamber of Commerce in rationalising his current stand, it is worth noting the comments made in the recent report by the Central Policies Review Staff on its review of overseas representation, prepared under instructions from the United Kingdom Government. It is a lengthy document but I would like to quote a couple of paragraphs from it. In paragraph 6.22, in discussing the relationship between government and industry in the provision of export services, the report stated:
There is a contradiction in firms ‘ present attitudes towards Government: On the one hand they seek assistance of various kinds (not only financial); on the other hand they resist any kind of Government influence over their planning and decision-making; they want the assistance to be unconditional.
However, an important point which I am sure the Exporters Manufacturing Council understands is in paragraph 6.22, which states:
There are firms, however, especially those whose experience of government has been considerable, which appreciate the need for a closer relationship with government.
In paragraph 6.23 the report went on to say:
The relationship between government and industry in the exporting field is potentially close because both parties want increased exports. We have been impressed, and so have many of the firms and organisations which have given evidence to us by the export successes that have been achieved by other countries, especially France and Japan, partly as a result of close collaboration between government and industry. We were also favourably impressed by the relationship between ECGD and exporters.
The ECGD is the Export Credit Guarantee Department of the British Government. The report continued:
We believe that the relationship between Government and industry in export promotion has not been close enough, and that the Government is partly to blame. Many of the recommendations that follow are designed to improve it.
That same collaboration does not exist in this country, and because of the confusing and uncoordinated set of proposals which the Government has put up it is unlikely that the degree of co-operation will improve. A number of other aspects relating to the details of our overseas trade arrangements and specific market developments mean that any exporter relying on the new Corporation to assist him, especially if he is a relatively small operator, will be starting very much behind the times.
The Opposition does not oppose the establishment of the Corporation because it hopes that experience will show that the original 1975 proposal, with some modifications to allow for changed international circumstances, will quickly develop. It hopes that Government members will observe closely the success of the operation of the New Zealand corporation. It hopes that members particularly those members who represent rural electorates will observe that the New Zealanders are getting a leg into markets which we would expect our agricultural products to dominate. This may no longer be the case.
The present proposal, because of its deficiencies, must also lead to the creation and strengthening of various State bodies, such as the New South Wales Overseas Trade Corporation, which are attempting to do what this proposed Corporation should in fact be doing. This will no doubt lead to fragmentation and unnecessary duplication of services. The blame for that duplication rests squarely with the present Federal Government because in spite of the confidence of the Australian Trade Commissioner Service and the organisations associated with promotion of our overseas trade, there is no effective body to match the son of competition that comes from our major competitors. The States’ actions are therefore understandable.
Like the Primary Industry Bank, this proposed Corporation is a stopgap measure which compromises certain vested interests but creates no positive force for improving our export position. If we are to maximise the opportunities which are available to this country in the export areas we must ensure the maximum co-operation between government and industry.
-I support the Bill before the Senate. I was quite interested in the remarks made by Senator Wriedt this afternoon in dealing with this legislation. He seemed to range very wide and, quite frankly, very far. No doubt he thought he had a mandate to do so because this legislation is part of a package of legislation dealing with export development encouragements and incentives which the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) put to the Parliament some months ago in a very broad statement. I feel that we as a parliament and a country- not as a partyshould have been very pleased about the package because we now see the various pieces of legislation in it coming forward, all of which will give great encouragement and assistance to the development of export industries in Australia. Whilst one could expand on this area at quite some length, I hope that in debating further pieces of legislation later the opportunity will avail itself to make some of these very important points.
We are dealing today with the proposed Australian Overseas Projects Corporation and I would say, with great respect, that we are not dealing with a trading corporation. I think that it is worth quoting what the Minister for Trade and Resources said some time ago. He said:
There have been some contracts awarded overseas to countries with talents less than we have here. I believe we have the talents here to take on almost any construction job and I hope that Australian consultants, architects, engineers and contracting firms might be in a more competitive position to get into some of the international business.
Basically that is what this legislation is about because the basic function of this Corporation is to assist Australian private organisations to compete for overseas development projects. One might ask why there is a need for such assistance and whether there is such a need. I think that we have only to reflect on what could have been great opportunities for Australia. There have been many, but one in particular that comes to mind is Teheran airport which involved a contract of some $600m. There was no doubt that we had the expertise and the ability to have submitted a tender and, if awarded the contract, to have done a great job. Unfortunately by the time people in Australia knew of such a big contract and had an opportunity to get together it was too late for anybody to submit a tender.
The Corporation will be a blend of private enterprise and Public Service, if I can put it that way. It has been stated that there will be a maximum of eight board members, five of whom will be from private enterprise. I commend this proposal. Whilst I will not criticise the Public Service in any way, I must say that I am pleased to see that wisdom has prevailed and that there will be five people from private enterprise. The main reason for my saying this is that I hope and expect that in these five people there will be quite a diversity of business interests and experience and that they will form a collective group of people with expertise from within industry and from the Public Service with its areas of skill and administration and knowledge of what goes on with regard to overseas development.
Of course, criticism or concern could be levelled at the amount of finance which is basically available. I was surprised and delighted that Senator Wriedt did not criticise this area today. It is stated that $2m will be provided for the Corporation with an initial instalment of Sim which of course will enable it to start work in the 1978-79 financial year. When one looks at some outside contracts- I refer again to the Teheran airport contract which was worth some $600m- and when one sees that the Bill provides that the maximum contingent liability shall not exceed $50m, one thinks that this is a rather minimal amount for some of these big contracts. Then we notice that clause 43 of the Bill spells out quite clearly:
The Corporation shall carry on its business so that its contingent liability in respect of transactions engaged in by it does not, at any time, exceed $50m or, if a higher amount is prescribed, that higher amount.
I stand to be corrected by the Minister if I have not correctly interpreted this clause, but I understand that whilst there is a ceiling on the amount of liability which the Corporation can prescribe basically at this stage, that amount being $50m, greater amounts can be given by way of assistance by the Corporation after the Parliament has agreed to such increases. I think that this is very important because corporations could get carried away with enthusiasm, and the Parliament should have the responsibility when we are dealing with bigger and bigger amounts of money.
When I first read that clause I questioned it, but on reading it properly I commend it because it will leave control with regard to overall funding and financing of projects to the Parliament. The reason why there is no real ceiling on it is that the Parliament can decide what the ceiling will be, and no doubt this will allow a great deal of flexibility. I mentioned earlier the Teheran airport project and how Australia would have had the potential and ability to have undertaken the work but unfortunately missed out on it because we did not have a corporation, such as an Australian Overseas Projects Corporation.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
- Mr Deputy President, I omitted to refer to the new position of Chairman of Committees which you now hold and the high honour which has been bestowed upon you by the Senate. This is the first opportunity I have had to speak in a debate while you have been in the chair. I congratulate you on your elevation and I look forward to working under you. Having known you for many years, I am fully conscious of your ability, tolerance and understanding. Above all, I am conscious of the respect in which you are held by honourable senators on both sides of this chamber. I wish you well in your new position and trust that you will really enjoy what I consider to be a very high honour.
Prior to the suspension of the sitting I referred to the opportunities that had been lost by Australia because we did not have what one may call contact points throughout the world. I mentioned also that the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, had put down a full and commendable statement in the last sessional period of the Parliament in which he stated that encouragement would be given for the development, expansion and assistance by government of export industries. He indicated that as part of the package the operations of the Australian Trade Commissioner Service would be expanded throughout the world. This is directly related to the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation Bill. The
Trade Commissioner Service will be gathering information and intelligence, as it were, for the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation. This is extremely important because it will show Australian enterprise where opportunities exist throughout the world.
When talking about opportunities, one thinks of what Australia has done already in bilateral and multilateral aid. Australia has been involved in many overseas projects. As an Australian, I have been proud when visiting some recipient countries to hear the people commend the efforts that we, as a nation, have made to develop roads, agriculture and dams. One can mention many countries which have received Australian expertise and Australian assistance. Of course, we are going much further now with the introduction of this new Corporation. The Trade Commissioner Service will be looking for opportunities for Australian expertise and private enterprise to assist the development of various countries. Great development opportunities exist for Australia in the Middle East. We can already state what we as a nation have done in South East Asia. Contracts are let internationally for projects in these countries. Australian companies may tender for some of these contracts. One cannot overlook our near neighbours in the Pacific countries. This Corporation will not only give an opportunity for Australian public and private enterprise to involve itself in these areas. From an internationally public relations point of view it will also help Australia. In turn, Australia will have the opportunity to help more countries throughout the world.
This is extremely important because a twoway flow results from involvement in these projects. Australia is seen to be willing to involve itself in assisting the development of countries throughout the world. At the same time, Australian industry can be involved and developed as an export industry. I come back to the functions of the Trade Commissioner Service. When an overseas project is announced, the Trade Commissioner Service can inform the Corporation, which in turn can advise the various companies throughout Australia. They will have the opportunity to decide whether they have the capacity and whether they are keen to compete and tender against overseas companies or countries. I mentioned earlier one contract worth some $600m. This could be a lot for one company. One of the other functions of the Corporation will be to endeavour to bring interested groups together in a consortium which has greater financial backing and a greater collection of expertise. This will lead to greater opportunities for groups of companies to get together to tender for overseas contracts. Above all, there is the Government expertise which I mentioned earlier. The Corporation itself will assist an individual company or a consortium of companies. It will offer a collection of expertise and will endeavour to get Australian companies to cooperate so they can tender successfully for contracts in many major projects throughout the world.
I know there will be criticism by some people in the community and by the Opposition of some aspects of this legislation. I commend the Government for what it has proposed. I think this is a bold new initiative. Perhaps Australia should have considered the establishment of such a Corporation many years ago. At least, we have the legislation before us today. I commend the Government for establishing the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation. I trust that the Senate will give its support to the legislation because through it we can help not only other countries but also Australia.
- Mr Deputy President, this is the first opportunity that I have had to participate in a debate since you have been elected to the position of Chairman of Committees. I am confident that you will uphold the high standard that has been set in that position over many years, the duties of which were so ably carried out by your immediate predecessor. To those new senators who joined the Senate in July and have made their maiden speeches I offer my congratulations on their contributions. I also look forward to the contributions of those honourable senators who are yet to take that giant step in this place. I must admit that I was heartened when this Bill was introduced. I felt that at least it would bear some similarity to the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation Bill which was introduced by the Labor Government in 1975, and which the then Opposition so vehemently opposed. A reading of the second reading speech of the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) could lead one to the belief that perhaps the present Bill is supposed to cover the areas that the then Opposition found acceptable. That is not quite the case. In the second reading speech the Minister said:
Honourable senators will be aware that there has been a massive expansion in investment in large scale development projects in developing countries during the current decade. Following the rise in international oil prices, developing country oil producers in the Middle East and elsewhere have embarked on huge and continuing development programs. In addition, international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are providing large funds for development projects in developing countries to improve basic infrastructure, increase food producing capacity and establish new industrial capacity.
In view of what the Minister said, one would have expected that this Bill would provide for the Corporation to perform a large number of functions. One would have thought perhaps that this Bill was an endeavour on the Government’s pan to stimulate private enterprise by engaging in an activity which would make it possible for at least some of the private enterprise in Australia to participate through this Corporation in those large scale development projects, particularly in the developing countries. But I do not believe that this Bill provides much stimulus at all. It is a very confused Bill. I am very confused by it and I am sure that members of my party are very confused by it. I am sure that private enterprise will be most confused by it. I am convinced that members of the Corporation themselves will be confused by the charter that we are giving them.
Because I have raised the subject of private enterprise I just want to make one thing quite clear. In almost every piece of legislation that is brought forward into this place we see this constant conflict of private and public enterprise. I feel constrained to ask why this should be. Surely one should be complementary to the other and we as a parliament should be proposing that the best should be taken from each to the benefit of all Australia, particularly for those businesses in Australia that look to this Government for guidance. I am not expressing a new attitude. I said exactly the same thing on 23 October 1977 during a debate on the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation Bill. I want to quote briefly part of my speech. I said:
Australia has been standing on the sidelines of international trade for many years while the rest of the educated world is getting in on the markets that we so desperately need. I do not say ‘we’ meaning the Government but ‘we’ meaning the country. There is tremendous potential in Australia for an export market organisation of this nature.
I went on to talk about some of the evidence that had been put before the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade which was at that time inquiring into the prospects for trade between Indonesia and Australia. Those who have read the evidence will recognise that the points made to the Committee generally are as valid now as they were then. I went on to say:
We heard evidence before the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade quite recently in our investigations into Indonesia from large and small businesses, from potential and existing businesses, that they saw a need not only to extend the trade commissioner service . . . but also to set up an organisation that was capable and able to advise them when there were tenders being called so that they would be able to submit a contract to an overall body and so be able to tender for part of the contract rather than for the contract in its entirety, because not all companies are able to do that. At the moment they are prohibited from tendering purely and simply because they cannot tender for all of it. “
I went on to quote from the 1974 annual report of the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers Association which set out that organisation’s attitude towards the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation Bill. The Association stated:
HEMA applauds the decision by the Government to establish an Overseas Trading Corporation on the understanding that its main thrust will be towards the development of export business with countries having centralised economies and the Middle East Sheikdoms all of which have expressed a clear desire to trade with other countries on a government to government basis. Beyond those countries, the corporation will also seek to develop business in countries where, up to the present, there has been little or no penetration by Australian exporting companies.
In principle the proposal does not differ widely from similar institutions in other countries, for example the American EXIM Bank and MITI in Japan.
The Corporation could have special significance for the heavy engineering industry by providing a vehicle for the formation of consortia of engineering companies to enable them to tender, using the corporation as the prime contractor, on a group basis instead of individually as heretofore. By combining the facilities of EFIC, the Export Bank and the Overseas Trading Corporation it should be possible for heavy engineering companies to enter markets which have been neglected in the past because of the lack of such facilities.
That Bill provided for the establishment of a similar organisation to the one which this Bill proposes but the powers that that legislation gave to the Corporation were broader and the intention was much clearer that it had the power to do certain things. This Bill is not clear. It is not clear to me. The clauses in the Bill appear to be contradictory. There is too much conflict. Let me give Senator Young a few examples because I know of his interest in this area. For instance, clause 6 outlines the functions of the Corporation. I do not want to take the time of the Senate by reading all of the clause. However, the clause says that the corporation is to inform, assist and even to agree to carry out the whole or part of a development for the necessary work to be carried out by Australian private enterprise. On the other hand clause 9.( 1 ) states:
The Corporation shall not agree to carry out the whole or a part, of an overseas development project in accordance with paragraph 6 ( 1 ) (d) unless-
an Australian private organisation that is able and willing to carry out, on behalf of the Corporation, some or all of the work to be carried out in relation to the project requests it to do so; and,
b ) the Minister appro oves its doing so.
Sub-clause (2) states:
The Minister shall not give an approval for the purposes of sub-section ( 1 ) with regard to an overseas development project unless he is satisfied that there is no Australian private organisation able and willing to carry out the project, or part of the project, concerned.
That would appear to me to be in conflict with clause 6.
– No, it means that the Corporation can assist and help.
– But clause 9 says that the Corporation shall not agree to carry out any pan of the project whereas clause 6 says it can.
– There is the word ‘unless’ there.
– Obviously the honourable senator went to a different school from the one I went to because to me the verbiage is most confusing. That is not the only confusion that I find in the Bill. There seems to be some contradiction or conflict between clause 7 and clause 8. Clause 7(1) states:
Subject to sub-section (2) the Corporation shall not engage, whether as principal or agent, in the buying or selling of goods.
The clause goes on to say that the Corporation can buy goods for use by the Corporation within Australia and subsequently sell such goods. I would have thought that the proposals before us would have been for the promotion of Australian goods as well as Australian services. However, if the Corporation is prohibited from engaging as either principal or agent in the buying or selling of goods there is no promotional aspect to the activities of the Corporation at all.
– Yes, it encourages private firms to do this.
– Only if the private firms see themselves as capable of carrying out part or all of the contract. If this is the case they may apply to the Corporation. Clause 8(1) states:
Where the Corporation is aware that an Australian private organisation is able and willing to carry out an overseas development project or a part of an overseas development project, the Corporation shall not, unless the Minister otherwise approves, take any action that would result in that project or that part of the project being carried out, in whole or in part, by the Corporation, whether acting as a principal or as an agent, or by an Australian consortium that includes the Corporation.
Therefore this Bill is saying that whilst we are giving the Corporation the capacity to organise, to assist and to inform the private enterprise area of contracts that are available, it must not engage in the act of work to be carried out even though the members that are going to subscribe or participate in that project may be members of the Corporation. I find myself in a rather confused area here.
-No, they cannot override private industry. That is what they are basically saying. Priority must be given to private industry. That is what they are saying.
– But this organisation we are proposing to set up is supposed to be representing those private enterprise organisations. Clause 8(2) states:
Where an Australian private organisation becomes aware that the Corporation-
is negotiating with another person or other persons -
Presumably another private enterprise area- with a view to the formation of an Australian consortium to carry out the whole, or a part, of an overseas development project; or
Sub-clause (3) states:
Where an Australian private organisation-
lodges an objection with the Minister under subsection (2) relating to negotiations being carried on by the Corporation -
It is representing private enterprise. We are agreed on that point, Senator Young? It is representing private enterprise. Let me read subclause (3) in full:
Where an Australian private organisation-
lodges an objection with the Minister under subsection (2) relating to negotiations being carried on by the Corporation; and
b ) satisfies the Minister that it -
The second private organisation-
What on earth is that provision supposed to mean? It is supposed to mean that if we have a private enterprise organisation in the middle of a contract overseas, and represented by the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation, and another private Australian organisation determines that the project is work which it could have done, it can lodge an objection with the Minister and so, cause work on that project to cease?
– That is a democratic right of appeal.
-So, the limit of this Corporation is not having the power–
– It gives the right of appeal which is necessary.
– For goodness sake! Basically, what the honourable senator is saying is that if one private organisation, through the Corporation, is in the middle of a contracted project- for instance building a dam in Saudi Arabia- another private enterprise organisation in Australia which determines that it is able and willing to carry out that project or even part of the project can go to the Corporation and, through the Corporation to the Minister, lodge an objection on the basis I have outlined and have that project stopped. What will that do for Australian private enterprise? What will it do for the Australian Government? What will it do for the Australian people? We are talking about overseas projects.
– Wait a minute. What about the supply of Australian manufacturers. That may have been overlooked. Don’t forget that there are many features to this aspect.
– I will touch on that in a moment. We are talking in the main about substantial projects. We are talking not only about monetary gain for the Australian companies involved, or the private enterprises as this Bill delicately calls them, but also of Australian prestige, Australian expertise, Australian design and technology. In other words, we are talking about selling Australia overseas and about selling Australian development overseas.
– Whether public or private.
– Whether it be public or private, as Senator Wriedt interjects, I touched on that earlier. I once again express my concern that constantly we have presented to this House legislation which sets Australian against Australian, private enterprise against the public sector, when there is no value in such legislation to the people of Australia who look to this Government for the lead. What lead do they get? There is this division all the way through. Why are we not looking for the best of both worlds and saying: ‘Let us put this together, get the best from both sides and sell Australia and Australian expertise not only in Australia but also in the big wide world around us’?
I express my concern that this Bill is not providing power to promote the use of Australian goods overseas. The Opposition is asking in relation to Australian technology whether there is any value in tendering for a job. The technical people who are to do the tendering for a project know that they can rely on Australian private enterprise to provide them with material that they can use and then saying that the Corporation shall not engage in the buying or selling of goods outside Australia. Are we to promote Australian private enterprise, our private industries, our manufacturing industries outside Australia, or are we to curtail the activities of this Corporation by not giving it the power to buy and to sell? I would like to ponder for a few moments what the Australian Chamber of Manufactures has had to say about this Bill. I wonder what the Chamber of Commerce, which was so outspoken in its condemnation of the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation Bill in 1975, has had to say about this Bill. I am constrained to ask whether they are just as confused as I am about it and have had very little at all to say about the Bill. This Government should be playing a leading, guiding and dominant role in the projection of Australian private and public enterprises overseas. We should be looking to this Government to promote Australian development overseas but, unfortunately, this Bill will not do that. I understand that the Opposition will be moving amendments during the Committee stages of this Bill and I will be supporting those amendments.
-I take this opportunity from the floor of the Senate of congratulating you, Mr Deputy President, on your election to the position of Deputy President. I was happy to support your election and I look forward to years of association with you in that position. I also congratulate, in his absence, the President on his re-election. I have enjoyed years of service with him and look forward to further years of service under his presidency. I also congratulate those new senators who have made their maiden speeches although I would like to apologise to Senator Mason, who is not here at the moment, for having been called out of the chamber when he was halfway through his maiden speech. Being a doctor in the Senate does have its disadvantages and I was called to a case at the time. To those who are yet to make their speeches I extend my congratulations in advance because this is the last time that honourable senators will hear my dulcet tones in the Senate for several weeks. I wish them well.
This Overseas Projects Corporation Bill represents a teaming up of private enterprises and government to the best interests not only of Australian firms but also of our overseas image and the betterment of the Australian people. The Bill will engender a lot of trade for us. It is the result of Australian firms having to compete for tenders in countries that have centralised economies. This has created great difficulties for our firms. The Bill will be of great assistance in this respect.
It will help Australian firms in their tendering and, through the provision of information that our firms would not otherwise have available to them, with Government backing and Government expertise, a lot of which already is contained in existing Government instrumentalities, the Corporation will open up further avenues to our Australian firms when they are tendering.
The powers and functions of this Corporation are vastly different from those that were proposed for the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation by the Australian Labor Party in, I think, 1975 when it was in government. I can remember fighting against that Bill.
– That was exports/imports. We are going for projects.
– That is exactly right.
– But you also have these public enterprise hangups.
– This is not public enterprise. This is the teaming up of government and private enterprise to help private enterprise. The Bill which the Labor Government proposed specifically sought to promote trade with countries which had centrally planned economies. In some middle eastern countries that corporation would have acted as a full agent to buy and sell, to import and export, and this would have created unfair competition with private enterprise. I can see how this proposal would have appealed to people with the Medibank mentality but it was anathema to me. We fought that proposal in the Senate and the Bill was blocked here in 1975.
The Bill now before us is a lot narrower than that Bill and is not intended to do any of the things that the other Bill was intended to do. Labor’s Bill was concerned only with the development of overseas projects and, largely, big ones. The Corporation is actually prohibited from entering into trading relationships and is due to commence operations in 1978-79. The legislation has three main provisions. The first deals with the provision of information to Australian firms who want to trade. The second deals with assistance in negotiations- for example, the provision of technical advice or the joining of a consortium. The Corporation can join a consortium only at the request of private enterprise. It cannot act on its own initiative.
– But the provision is still there that if another private organisation objects to the private organisation that is tendering, the whole thing can be cancelled on the basis of the Minister’s objection.
– I think that the honourable senator takes the point too far. The situation would not arise that an agreement had been made, the construction was half completed and the Government then pulled out of the whole deal. That is not contained in the Bill and it is not intended by the Bill, although there is a right of appeal provision in the Bill. The third main provision deals with the Corporation, if requested, being able to carry out the whole or part of any overseas project- it has to be an overseas project- with a view to engaging private firms to do the work. In other words the Government merely acts as an intermediary.
Part III and Part IV of the Bill relate to the establishment of the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation Board and the appointment of a managing director- he will be a man of considerable expertise and he will be a full time appointee- and staff. The Board will consist of seven part time directors, four of whom will come from the private sector, one of whom is required to have particular knowledge of rural industries. Part V sets out the financial and accounting policies and responsibilities of the Corporation. The Bill provides that the Corporation must act commercially. In other words it must charge fees for its services. Accordingly its costs will be inbuilt into the costs of the project and will not be a cost on the Australian Government except for the initial expenses of setting it up. The cost to get it off the ground will be $2m- $lm initially, with another $lm following that. The Corporation is empowered to enter into liabilities of up to $50m in order to establish projects overseas.
The Bill has come about because of evolution. Over the last 10 years there has been a massive expansion in investment in developing countries, particularly in the Middle East. In addition international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, are providing funds for development projects in the developing countries to improve their infrastructures, to increase their food production and to establish new industry capacity. These projects are making a growing contribution to international trade. There is increasing international competition to capture these projects, and it is because of the disadvantage to Australian firms that this Corporation is being formed. Overseas governments, particularly those of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and even South Korea, lend massive help to companies and corporations from their countries in tendering for these contracts. Because of their lack of local domestic capacity the developing countries themselves prefer to have some government commitment to the firms which are tendering for development projects in their countries. Many of the projects in these countries are undertaken by international consortia because of the complexity in the design and construction of projects and the purchases that have to be made. Australian firms mostly have this expertise and capacity and the technical capability required for consulting, contracting and providing services.
These projects are largely big ones, and Australian firms are largely small. So they need extra help. Over the years several Australian firms have requested government assistance simply because of these inequalities in competition, and the Government studied the situation intensively in 1976 and 1977. It sought submissions from many of the firms which were interested in this area. It consulted the Trade Development Council, and the result has been the promulgation of this Bill. I am happy to support the Bill and to give the support of the National Country Party to the Bill.
– I draw to the attention of honourable senators the presence in the Gallery of a New Zealand parliamentary delegation led by the Minister for Tourism, the Hon. H. R. Lapwood, M.P. The delegation has just begun a 14-day tour of Australia and will visit the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales. This visit is the first of an annual exchange of delegations which Mr Speaker and I have initiated with our colleague the Speaker of the New Zealand Parliament, the Hon. J. R. Harrison. On behalf of all honourable senators I extend a sincere welcome to our guests, and I trust that their visit will be enjoyable and interesting. We welcome them most warmly.
– I support the Bill. In general terms I agree with most of the points made by Senator Wriedt. I think there is very little difference between both sides of the House on most points of view. I would even agree with some of the inconsistencies he outlined. I believe that the main difference is really a question of degree and that we are not likely to solve that difference in the course of debate. I think that both sides see the function of this organisation slightly differently and, I guess, always will. I will say that the Bill before the House is certainly likely to be changed in one way or another once the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation has been put into action and once we have an opportunity to see how it works. I could not possibly agree with Senator Coleman that it is a matter of setting one side against the other. It is clearly a matter of bringing the two sides- if they are sides- together. The whole purpose of the Bill is to try to get some sort of arrangement whereby use can be made of both sides for the benefit of all.
I see this legislation as an important advance in government attitude and very much part of the Government’s determination to try to assist industry and trade. It follows the main policy thrust of the Government to generate the productive aspects of our economy. I have spoken with many manufacturers and sellers of services, and there is now much interest in export over and above what there has been in the past. There are new export associations being set up in the various States of Australia. In fact, a new export association has just been set up in my own State. There is a considerable volume of work and goods to be supplied, particularly in the developing part of the world. By international standards Australian industry is very small, and there is a definite need for the consortium approach. I certainly agree that we must have some mechanism whereby firms can get together for the good of all to try to get a greater share of this type of work for Australia.
I read in last year’s April edition of Manufacturing News a list of the type of work that was available at that time. I think it is interesting to see the types of jobs that were mentioned. Such projects included the design and construction of a trade centre at Dubai, $104m; housing construction in Iran, $265m; telecommunications in Iran, $403m; port extensions at Bandar Abbas in Iran, $806m; a fertiliser plant in Iraq, $464m; an aluminium smelter, $500m; a cement plant, $39m; and a liquified petroleum gas plant, $220m. These are the types and size of jobs which are obviously far beyond the means of most Australian firms to carry out on their own. In the November 1976 edition of the journal Overseas Trading published by the Department of Overseas Trade the point was made that the imports of goods and services by Middle East countries in the five years 1976 to 1980 was expected to amount to $294,000m, which is equivalent to more than three times the level of exports from the United States of America in 1974.
It is huge business in every respect. We have to try to make sure that we eliminate the obstacles that would prevent a certain amount of it from coming our way. It has been mentioned that the areas that are probably best served are in the field of engineering and services generally. As a result, at all stages, the Heavy Industry Manufacturers Association, has been very strong in its support for such an enterprise as would allow Australian companies to participate in overseas projects. Already many Australian companies providing goods and services and civil engineering companies are involved. It has to be the aim of us all to see that those companies that are involved get more involved and that those companies that are not involved are able to become involved if that is in any way possible. In the 12 May edition of Overseas Trading the matter is put into reasonable perspective when it is stated:
International trade in technology is a major growth industry. With world trade in technology estimated to be growing at some four times the rate of international commodity trade . . .
Trade in technology is estimated to be growing at four times the rate of commodity trade. This shows that emphasis needs to be placed on the sale of technology and we have to fit in as best we can. As Senator Sheil said, many countries already have an operation of the type proposed for the Corporation. We should certainly participate as well. I would not want to see the Corporation develop into another government department; I would like to see it kept in the situation where the Government can assist and not dominate. I would oppose any proposition that got away from that idea until we have at least had a chance to see whether the intention of the legislation can be achieved.
I conclude by giving six points that summarise the intention of this legislation. The functions of the Corporation will be: To act on requests from private industry to provide support for Australian interests bidding for overseas projects; to provide a range of technical and advisory services on a fee-for-service basis; to be able to call on specialists within the Commonwealth Government on a case-by-case basis; to restrict its activities solely to overseas projects; not to compete against competent Australian firms interested in particular projects; and to be responsible to a board of directors drawn principally from the private sector. I have pleasure in supporting the legislation.
– in reply- The Australian Overseas Projects Corporation Bill is particularly important. I thank honourable senators for their contributions to the debate. 1 think that some honourable senators on the Government side who have spoken have prompted the change that we have seen in recent years in Australia’s attitude to the size of overseas projects for which companies may tender and the development that is taking place in some countries. Perhaps 10 years ago one would have doubted that such projects could exist. Perhaps the idea that we are in a very rapidly moving time might find interest with honourable senators. I have found interesting a science book that brings us up to date with the very great change that is taking place in our society. I would refer the Senate to Hans Kung’s book On Being a Christian, which bears more reference to modern times than perhaps its title suggests. It suggests that it is necessary for governments to move in conjunction with the trading organisations within their countries and to assist where it is beyond the capabilities of private companies to do all those things which are necessary to stimulate overseas trade.
– Does the Corporation have to assist only private enterprise?
-The last speaker, Senator Archer, put the proposition very well that this Bill is designed to see that the Corporation will act upon a request from private industry for assistance to get into particular areas of development. The honourable senator who has just interjected might realise that those of us who took part in objecting to a Bill of a similar nature which was put forward on the initiative of the Labor Government see a great difference between that Bill and the present one. The Bill that was put forward by Labor was a completely socialist, government dominated operation. It is interesting to witness the change in the Opposition’s attitude.
I listened with great interest to Senator Coleman. She said that what the Labor Party wished to do, and what she thought that this Bill should do, was to achieve a balance between government and private industry working together. When the Labor Party was in government not once did we hear of such a proposition. We can even recall very much the words of Frank Crean when he brought down his Budget: We can now see a thrust whereby government will take over from private industry in expenditure areas’. That effectively answers the argument put by the Opposition. I think that anybody who read the second reading speech and studies the Bill could see the difference between the approach taken by the private enterprise side of government and that which the democratically -
- Senator, it is a sop.
– I am attempting to be kind to Opposition senators by calling them democratic socialists, as they now call themselves. I appreciate the comments that have been made. I will just answer one or two of the points that have been raised in the debate. Senator Wriedt referred to the Government’s export initiatives and said that they would not give adequate encouragement. That is a point of view and I suppose the correct position will be revealed only in the coming years of operation. Basically, the initiatives that are proposed consist of a number of measures in a number of related fields. They include incentives, performance bonds and assistance for overseas projects in a number of ways. Legislation necessary to put the incentives into effect will come forward when its preparation is completed and it can be fitted into the parliamentary program. The total package that has been discussed very adequately in government circles with private industry has been acclaimed by exporters and industry bodies, including export bodies. Senator Coleman is looking across to me to find out whether there is a flaw in what I say. I do not know whether the Labor Party in office ever took any of its proposals to industry bodies.
– Of course it did.
– It is amazing how quiet they are. However, that is what the Government is anxious to do now. We have taken these initiatives, and I repeat that the total package was widely acclaimed. I can tell from the way members of the Opposition are going on that they realise industry has acclaimed this legislation. The initiatives were designed to meet the particular needs of the Australian economy, and we believe that that is what will follow. So far as overseas projects are concerned, for the most part Australian consultants and construction firms have the ability and capacity to provide the skills and the expertise and, more importantly, the materials for most projects coming forward from overseas. However, there is a need to combine these skills and expertise so that a single bid may be made for the bigger and more complex projects, and Senator Archer instanced half a dozen cases where it is obvious that this must follow. There is also a need on occasions for the financial backing of the Government on some projects and this body will provide the mechanism to supply that need.
Senator Wriedt made the point that the Corporation should have the power to trade in goods. The Bill being debated is designed basically to establish a Corporation which will assist private industry groups to seek and obtain contracts for large scale development projects overseas, not to engage in trade. I note, and I hope it will be noted abroad, that that is the difference between the approach of the Opposition and the approach of the Government. The Government has specifically excluded the ability of the Corporation to trade. Senator Wriedt believes that it should trade, and I take his point. Were Labor to come back into office it would wish the Corporation to go into competition and trade with private industry. I hope private industry will not forget that. Senator Wriedt said it today.
The Government will not establish an organisation which would displace Australian traders and statutory authorities in their normal activities. That is one of the major reasons why the Labor Government’s proposal to establish an Australian overseas trading corporation was opposed by the present Government and by the majority of private enterprise bodies. The Australian Overseas Projects Corporation will not be given the powers to exercise a trading function. Its function will be to assist Australian firms to participate in overseas projects, which is a different operation from that of trading. It calls for the use of expertise and construction ability. The supply of goods needed to fulfil a particular project would be the responsibility of the Australian firms associated with the project. In this way the operation of the AOPC will bring increased opportunities not only for Australian consultants and contractors but also for Australian suppliers of goods needed for overseas projects. The New Zealand Government, taking into account the circumstances and needs of that country, took the decision to establish a corporation which was empowered to trade in goods. It is the view of this Government that this is a role which in Australian circumstances is well within the capacity of private enterprise trading organisations to carry out.
Senator Coleman raised a point regarding the operation of clause 8 and is concerned that a firm outside a project may be able to stop it. I listened to the honourable senator and I found difficulty, having read the Bill, in reading into it that which the honourable senator did. However, the Senate should note the point she has made, and in regard to the description she gave of what could occur, I sincerely hope that there is no possibility of that occuring in Australia. Clause 8 should not be read as suggesting in any way that the sort of action referred to by Senator Coleman could come about. In the first place, it can be brought into operation only at the negotiating stage and not during the subsequent executive stage. Secondly, clause 8 is a safety mechanism to ensure that the abilities of all firms are taken into account. In particular it should be noted that the clause does not place an obligation on the Minister to direct the Corporation. The Minister would do so only if he were satisfied that there was a genuine case and it was in accord with the objectives of the Act. Senator Coleman’s prompting may be appropriate and certainly I will bring that matter to the attention of the Minister in whose responsibility the Bill lies.
Senator Young questioned whether Parliament would have an oversight of increases in the limit for the contingent liability of the Corporation. In response to that, I note that clause 43 of the Bill provides a limit on the contingent liability of $50m. It also provides that this may be raised to a higher amount if prescribed. This is to be done by regulation, as provided in clause 50, and will enable the Senate to exercise the same control over this action as it does normally when an Act makes provision for regulation. I thought Senator Sheil ‘s comments were most appropriate in relation to this Bill. Certainly he expressed views that I believe will be the outcome of the Bill when it passes through the Senate. Again, Senator Archer mentioned the comments of the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers Association and other industries that are likely to be associated with and benefit from this Bill. He has correctly drawn the attention of the Senate to the real reaction to this measure from industry in this country. In conclusion, I am grateful for the comments of honourable senators. We believe that this is an important piece of legislation, and I thank honourable senators for their support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I move:
I would be out of order if I were to go through all the arguments that were put during the second reading debate, but I think it is important to understand that the amendment I have moved is designed to bring about a realisation of the things that were said during that debate by members of the Opposition side. It is designed to ensure that the Corporation, as a public body, can function as effectively as possible in cooperation with the private sector. The amendment says that we do not want the Corporation to put private organisations out of business. But we know that any organisation- private or public- that has to compete on the world markets for any of these projects ought to be able to range sufficiently widely to enable it to act as a normal commercial body. The clause, as it stands in the Bill, of course makes it more difficult for the Corporation to exercise a proper commercial judgment.
During the course of the debate we certainly saw a comparison of differing views on the Government side. Senator Webster takes the old hard line that anything involving public enterprise is necessary evil. He stood in this chamber today and gave the impression that the whole objective of this exercise was not to promote export projects overseas by Australian enterprise, both public and private, but simply to promote private enterprise. I commend Senator Archer’s comments in this regard. He made the point, just as we have made the point, that there is no need for these hang-ups to exist. They should not exist in this Parliament. For goodness sake, what are we trying to do with Bills of this nature? Are we not concerned about how we can develop our overseas trade, our overseas programs, how we can sell our expertise and market our products and so on? If we can do that more effectively by way of a combined operation of both the public and the private sectors without either being able to hamstring the other, we should be doing so.
I think Senator Archer also made the point that it is a matter of a difference of degree. There is certainly a difference of degree in the minds of some people, but unfortunately not in the minds of people like Senator Webster. He cannot get over his old conservative hang-ups that there is absolutely nothing to be gained by having efficient, competent organisations in the public sector which can in fact work in conjunction with the private sector. That is the sort of mentality and that is the sort of thinking which will continue to drag this country back. While the Senator Websters of this Government have the opportunity to influence government policy, we can only expect the sort of nonsense he carried on with in the course of his reply to the debate on the second reading. It is a mentality and a line of thinking that is harmful to the country as a whole.
We have moved this amendment in the hope that the Government will realise that allowing the Corporation to engage either as a principal or as an agent in the buying and selling of goods overseas will be helpful not only to the Corporation but to our export drive as well.
– I appreciate and have noted Senator Wriedt ‘s comments. I do not accept them at all. He may have his view about the attitude that I take but, as the second most senior senator on the Government side, I have had experience of what Labor is all about in this place. Indeed, one could spend many hours recounting what the Labor Government wished to see done- to the detriment of private industry. I am just not of that view. I suppose Senator Wriedt is entitled to make such criticisms. I think it probably could be said that all Senator Wriedt ‘s comments- and this is taking into account the experience that Labor gained whilst in office- are an apt demonstration of that Government’s competence while in office.
Senator Wriedt said that there was a one-sided attitude on the part of the Government relating to private enterprise. That is just not correct. Had he stopped to read the Bill, he would have seen that the Corporation- this is the direct point that he raised- is not empowered, and we believe that this is correct, to displace Australian traders and statutory authorities in their normal activities. Senator Wriedt takes the attitude that the Government side is saying that there is nothing else to be viewed but private enterprise. He must see from our words that trading organisations such as the Australian Dairy Corporation, the Australian Wheat Board or the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, which are government-based corporations and which have been established for many years for the purpose of trading, will be supported under this type of legislation.
– Do you support them?
-Senator Wriedt wants to keep the argument going. He says: ‘Do you support them?’
– Well, do you?
– Isn ‘t this amazing? I remind Senator Wriedt that we have written it into the Bill. If he reads the Bill he will be able to spend his time reflecting on the fact that he is really dealing with a very well-balanced government when he is dealing with our particular side of government. The Government opposes the amendment.
- Mr Temporary Chairman, I did not want to introduce other matters into this debate but, seeing that the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) has done so, I will at least make a contribution. I tried to get the Minister to admit, but he is not prepared to do so on the floor of this chamber, that the charters and powers of the very bodies he has mentioned- the Australian Wool Corporation, the Australian Dairy Corporation, and the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation- were brought in by the Labor Government. This Government did not do anything to alter those charters and powers because it knows that what we did was right. That is the very point we are arguing now in respect of this Corporation. The same applies to the Australian Industry Development Corporation legislation which was originally introduced years ago by a genuinely Liberal Prime Minister by the name of John Gorton and which his conservative successor tried to torpedo. When we brought in legislation to expand that organisation in order to allow us to co-operate more effectively with the private sector, in what way was that designed to hurt the private sector? What happened to the accompanying legislation- the National Investment Fund? It was rolled in this chamber by people like Senator Webster. Of course Senator Webster cannot even remember these things. He probably does not even know what I am talking about. But all these things are on the record. I just want to make it clear again that the very statutory bodies in the agricultural sector named by the Minister and which he put up as examples of what can be done were set up by the Labor Government- not this Government.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Wriedt’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator Douglas Barr Scott)
Clauses 8 to 12- by leave- taken together and agreed to.
– On behalf of the Opposition I move:
If we look at clause 13 we find that the board shall consist of certain people such as a chairman, a deputy chairman, a managing director and five other directors. The first three named shall be appointed by the Governor-General as part time directors. Nothing in the clause specifies from where those persons are to come. But in sub-clause (3) we find that four directors shall be persons who are engaged in private industry. Sub-clause (4) states:
At least one appointed Director shall be a person who is engaged in private industry . . .
Of course largely the intention of the clause is to restrict the Minister in his choice and confine appointments to persons from private industry. We have no argument with the suggestion that persons from the private sector should be appointed to the board but we believe that there ought to be a sensible balance of representatives from government, also from the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia and a person from the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. Here again we are caught in the same position as we were with the previous amendments. We find the attitude that only persons from the private sector should be chosen. I indicated that during the life of the previous Labor Government we restructured- I mentioned this during the debate on the earlier amendment- some of the statutory authorities engaged in the agricultural sector. At no stage were any inhibitions placed by the Government or by me on the appointment of persons to those statutory authorities. The representation was structured in such a way as to ensure that we could get the very best personnel available in the country for those various statutory authorities.
I might add that at no time was there any suggestion that any of those appointees were other than the best people who were available. They came from the private sector and, of course in that case, from producers, from the Government and from the academic world. We picked the best that we could. We got some excellent businessmen to serve on those statutory authorities. They were not there to do anything for their own personal gain but because of their interest and experience in those industries. We believe that the same principle ought to apply in respect of this Board. There is no reason why the parameter of the Minister should be restricted so that he is not able to go outside the private sector for persons suitable for appointment. The Government has maintained the structure of the statutory authorities to which I referred earlier.
The Australian Meat Board has been restructured and is now the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation. It was restructured on almost identical lines to the pattern set down by the Australian Labor Party Government. The principles are the same. I put it to the Minister that the Government ought to be prepared to accept those principles in this legislation as well.
– Clause 13 gives the flexibility necessary to appoint a board which is best qualified to ensure the successful operation of the Corporation. That is the Government’s view, and I think a reading of the clause would certainly bear that out. If the Government were to accept the Opposition’s proposition that the secretaries to four different areas of government be appointed to the board, the Government of the day would be given complete control of that body. We believe that there is sufficient flexibility in the clause for suitable and competent personnel from departments- should they be available- to be appointed, and the Governments view is that the Opposition’s amendment would tie the Government’s hands down to individuals.
– Again on clause 13 I move:
The purpose of the amendment is clear. There is some danger, of course, that a director could be so involved, and our amendment does not imply that any person who may be appointed to the board would take some action to try to influence the board in its decision to bring about some personal benefit to that person. We know from past experience that these things happen. Therefore, we believe that it is proper that a clause of this nature should be included in the legislation.
– In response to Senator Wriedt, clause 1 8 relates to the termination of appointment and in sub-clause (3) we find the following words:
Sub-clause (4) goes on to say that the disclosure shall be recorded and the Director or acting Director, as the case may be, shall not be present during any deliberations of the board with respect to that matter. I would suggest to Senator Wriedt that the Government is going perhaps a little further than his amendment. He will recognise that the words which have been used are the usual form of words used in relation to a person ‘s interest in a particular matter. Again I suggest that in clause 18 the Government has included more restrictive provisions than would be the case if the Opposition’s amendment were adopted.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Wriedt’s amendment) be added.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator Douglas Barr Scott)
Question so resolved in the negative. Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Webster) read a third time.
– Honourable senators will recall that three statements were not presented at the appropriate time this morning. I now seek leave to make a statement relating to Defence Force personnel entitlements.
– I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard. When the first personal pronoun is used it refers to the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen).
The statement read as follows-
I will be making a statement on planned defence expenditure to the Senate during the Estimates debate. However, there are three matters of detailed decision made by the Government on which I wish to inform the Senate. I state them now as they impinge on conditions of service in the Defence Force. They concern rations and quarters charges, the re-engagement bounty, and postal concessions.
It has been decided that reviews of charges for members of the Defence Force who are required to contribute towards costs of the provision of rations and quarters will be conducted twice yearly, instead of once yearly as at present. The next review will be conducted early in 1 979.
The Government has decided that the reengagement bounty should be discontinued for future enlistments into the Defence Force. The Government has decided to discontinue the bounty because it is satisfied that the payments do not assist recruitment and the retention of members in the Defence Force. I stress that all who have signed on whilst the provision existed will be paid the bounty, provided they fulfil the stipulations associated with its payment. The measure will apply to those who join after cancellation of the relevant regulation.
The Government has reviewed the need for concessional rates of postage on postal matter sent to and by members of the Defence Force serving in Malaysia, Singapore, Ismailia and on board Royal Australian Navy ships deployed in connection with the Five Power defence arrangements. As most of these rates were applicable to members serving in special overseas service areas, and as there are now no areas so designated, the Government has decided to abolish the concession. The reciprocal arrangement whereby United Kingdom forces stationed in Australia receive concessional rates for mail posted back to their homeland will also be withdrawn.
The Department of Defence has been reimbursing Australia Post the difference between the concession rate, and the normal overseas rate, out of the defence vote. It is estimated that an annual saving of $208,000 will result from abolition of the concession rates. The actual timing for the cessation of the concession will be announced at a later date.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present:
-by leave- I move:
The statement I am about to make might be very brief unless my notes arrive from my office very soon. I wanted to speak particularly about the agreement for the supply of uranium to the Philippines. The gist of” the matter with which I have been concerned for a long period and about which we must think very seriously is the supplying of uranium to countries with totalitarian governments. In February of this year I asked a question of Senator Withers, who was then the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Senate. My question related to reports in Australian newspapers and in particular reports of United States Congressional hearings regarding the development of the nuclear power industry in the Philippines. On 23 February this year the Australian Financial Review simply reported that the nuclear power plant in the Philippines was being built close to an active volcano, close to a potential hot mud flow, possibly near a fault line and close to the Subic Bay naval base where more than 5000 American families live. I raised that question with the then Minister in the light of a statement made by Mr Anthony, the Minister for Trade and Resources, on 17 November last year in which he said that he believed Australia should supply uranium to the Philippines and that the Philippines wanted 3000 tonnes from Australia. A number of points of order were taken in the course of my asking that question. I recall Senator Withers accusing me of giving information in my question. Sometimes I accused him of not giving information in his answers. The point was that Senator Withers explained that he was not an avid reader of the A Australian Financial Review, which surprised all of us. He then said that he had no direct information on the matter concerning the building of a nuclear reactor in the Philippines. He went on to say:
The Government’s views on the countries to which it is prepared to sell uranium are quite well known. Such sales are subject to the Commonwealth Government being satisfied that the proper, adequate and stringent safeguards that Australia will require will be enforced in the country to which we sell.
The Minister went on to say that I had raised matters of which he had no direct knowledge but that he would seek information from the Minister for Trade and Resources and let me have a reply to my question at the earliest possible time. That was in February. I do not blame Senator Withers in any sense for the fact that the information was not subsequently forthcoming. It was as much my obligation as it was his to pursue the matter, and I did not. However, the point is that I drew this matter to the attention of the Senate and the Government in February of this year.
While I was in the United States of America in July this year I took the trouble to find out what the United States Congressional Committee which was looking into the development of nuclear reactors in various countries had determined. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that in the course of my statement I shall say nothing at length about the agreement for the sale of uranium to Finland, for very obvious reasons. Finland has a high level of environmental understanding and a high level of technology. In terms of the government to which Australia aspires, it has a government which is very democratic, very conscious of human rights and so on. I regret to say that I cannot make the same sort of comment about the Government of the Philippines, nor could I make the same sort of comment about the Government of Iran which is also a country shopping in the market for Australian uranium.
There has been a great deal of concern by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission and by the Foreign Operations Sub-Committee of the House Appropriations Committee relating to the development of the nuclear reactor in the Philippines which Australia is now to supply with uranium. Honourable senators will remember the glossy white folder we received last year called ‘Australian uranium policy’, or something like that, which was distributed to members of parliament, school children and Godknowswho else in Australia to explain to them that the Government was very concerned about the development of uranium mining and the sale of uranium to overseas countries and that it would insist on the highest possible standards. The fact of the matter is that the agreement has just been tabled and the Opposition has not had the opportunity of seeing it. Although one assumes that the agreements with Finland and the Philippines are the same, there are very important distinctions which have to be made between the sale of uranium to these two countries.
Let me inform the Senate briefly of some of these distinctions. I do not want to go back to the sort of suggestions that were made by Mr Justice Fox. However, I am sure honourable senators will recall vividly the pious statements that were made about our intentions as to where uranium was to be sold. Let me just go back to some of the concerns which have been expressed by the United States congressional committee in relation to the development of the nuclear reactor in the Philippines. First of all, in September 1972 at the instigation of the United States the International Atomic Energy Agency visited the Philippines Atomic Research Centre to make a health and safety inspection. The Agency reported that conditions at the Centre were potentially hazardous. Since then there have been other visits by international agencies to the Philippines, particularly in relation to the building of a reactor in that country. It was reported later in 1972 that the research reactor was operating on only one half normal power due to the failure of one of the compensating chambers in the reactor control system. Upon further inquiry it developed that the failure occurred in April 1971 and that the operation had been carried on at half power since then because there was no one there to fix it. This was the situation, of course, several years ago.
A further piece of information which was advanced by the United States congressional committee and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was the point that industrial, military and transportation facilities’ are nearby the reactor and that a special study of the situation ought to be conducted. Given the large military installation and oil and ammunition storage facilities at Subic Bay concern was expressed that a special study was not conducted prior to the siting of the reactor. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also noted that the same sort of situation pertained in the State of Maryland in the United States where it was proposed to establish a reactor at Perryman near a weapons proving ground. The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission prevented work from proceeding on that nuclear power station in the United States because of the presence of the proving ground. But an entirely different standard was applied in the Philippines.
In 1976 the Filipino Energy Development Board- and this was also reported to the United States congressional committee- found nuclear power to be much more expensive than coal, geothermal or hydro power in the Philippines. The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission was concerned about the justification for the erection of a nuclear power plant in the Philippines in view of the findings of this body of the Philippines Government as to the costs of nuclear power in the Philippines.
The other points I wish to raise were also raised, as I have said, by the United States congressional committee and they, of course, basically involve the question of the siting of a nuclear power station so close to a volcanic fault line. I simply want to make the point that there is a volcano not far distant from the site of the nuclear power station. That volcano has not been active for some time but it was said by experts who gave evidence to the congressional committee in the United States that there is a very real problem in terms of the volcanic fault line near Subic Bay.
– The North Pacific plate is fairly well removed from that.
-I am sorry but I did not hear what the honourable senator said.
– You are referring to the North Pacific plate, are you?
-I do not know anything about the North Pacific plate. I am talking about evidence that was given to the United States Congressional Committee on the siting of the nuclear power station near Subic Bay.
– If you are referring to the former, it is fairly well removed from that.
– I cannot hear the honourable senator very well. However, I am making the point that we would all be able to hear the result if there was a volcanic fault near the nuclear power station in question. A question was asked at the United States congressional committee hearing about safety because of the proximity of two volcanoes to the plant site. In its review of the preliminary site report the Nuclear Regulatory Commission pointed out:
Although some discussion of the volcanic hazards has been presented . . . the subject has not been thoroughly addressed.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded that Mount Natib would under NRC practice be considered active. The Commission went on to say:
Faulting would appear to be difficult to detect in the geological terrain within the site vicinity. Considering the paucity of exposures within S kilometres of the site it is difficult to envision what types of field investigation were conducted.
Certainly field investigations should have been conducted. Other questions to be asked included whether the adequacy of local construction was investigated and whether such a new and relatively inexperienced company was capable of handling a massive nuclear project. In September 1976 the Philippines Atomic Energy Commission asked the United States Embassy to determine whether the NRC would be willing to undertake a technical review of the preliminary report since it did not have the technical expertise nor the breadth of experience in the Philippines. Yet in May 1977 an official of the NRC expressed his concern that ‘we are being asked to provide two man-weeks worth of safety review for a foreign reactor when our average effort to review a licence application in the United States is in excess of six man years’. The point I want to make is that the sort of standards set by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission are not being applied in the Philippines. These standards in the Philippines are totally inadequate.
The siting of the proposed nuclear power plant is very doubtful in terms of what I have said, based on evidence given to the congressional committee. It is a matter of substantial concern to the committee of the United States Congress but, in the light of the agreement which has been tabled today, I doubt whether the same concern has been shown by the Australian Government. I doubt whether that level of concern has been shown also because it was quite clear as early as November last year that Mr Anthony intended to proceed with the sale of uranium to the Philippines. It can be said that it is none of our business what they do in the Philippines but the point is that this Government again and again has said that we will sell our uranium only if we are totally satisfied with the standards that will apply in the recipient countries. Can we be satisfied about the standards which will apply in the Philippines? Can we be satisfied about the standards which will apply in Iran? It may be that the answer is no, that we cannot be satisfied but we still intend to sell uranium. If that is the answer, I would like to hear it said; otherwise it is ridiculous carrying on with debate on the so-called guidelines for uranium exports which suggest that we are bestowing some form of beneficience upon the rest of the world by providing it not only with our uranium but also with our extremely high public standards as a bonus to the export of uranium.
I also raise in this context the question of human rights in the Philippines. This may not seem very relevant to this debate but it is by way of contrast to the sale of uranium to a country such as Finland. Again my information comes from evidence before the United States Congressional committee. A document provided by Congressman Long, the Chairman of that committee, states:
According to a Prof, in the Philippines ‘ Under martial law, the people live in fear. Despite their great apprehension and opposition, many people cannot openly talk against the nuclear plant for fear of harassment- military or other wise ‘.
In July 1 976 a planned information dissemination meeting was blocked by local authorities by not issuing a permit for a large gathering.
It sounds a bit like Queensland. The document continues:
The group could only resort to a whispering campaign. The permit was denied because the local police said they could not give permission since the topic concerned a government project.
In one information drive by the National Power Corporation a Philippine Constabulary officer got angry and shouted at a Protestant Minister who asked questions during the open forum and who mentioned some near accidents in nuclear plants in the US. The officer threatened to have the minister arrested. Due to this incident, the minister was forced to transfer his family to the capital of Bataan, and to accept another assignment.
Unbiased information about the pros and cons of the nuclear project is simply unavailable to the local population, only propaganda.
The important point about that is that there is clearly no availability of public discussion on the siting of the nuclear reactor in the Philippines to which I have referred. The only public discussion which has taken place in any open forum was in the United States Congress which predominantly is concerned not only about the contractual arrangements between the United States and the Philippines to provide hardware for the nuclear reactor but also about United States military personnel at the naval base in Subic Bay. I look forward to reading the agreements between the Australian Government and the Philippines. I hope that everything I have said is wrong and that the agreements indicate that the Government has taken cognisance of the various points which have been of great concern to the United States Congress and clearly, in a more limited way, to the people of the Philippines. Only if the agreements have taken cognisance of those points can the much vaunted and lauded policy of the Government which we were given last year of ensuring that Australia’s uranium would be sold only to countries where adequate and proper safeguards were provided, be put beyond the concern of members of this Parliament, and the policy upon which the Government has embarked in fact be seen to be living up to the rhetoric which accompanied its announcement last year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present details of special flights by the Royal Australian Air Force for the period 1 January 1978 to 30 June 1978. Copies of this report are available from the Senate Records Office.
– by leave- I move:
I wish to make a few brief comments. I notice in the explanatory notes for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, under Division 504 relating to the conveyance of the GovernorGeneral, Ministers of State and others, that for the ensuing 12 months there is an estimated decrease in expenditure of $200,360. It would appear that the new Governor-General is more frugal in his requirements than was the previous incumbent of that office about whom I have complained on many occasions for having the taxpayers of this country pay the astronomical costs involved in his use of VIP aircraft. I am pleased to note that there is expected to be quite a considerable decrease in this expenditure this year. Without having questioned departmental officers- we will have to wait for the Estimates committees to commence their hearings in order to do that- most of this decrease will be brought about by the Governor-General not using aircraft as much as did his predecessor. We know that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is making excessive use of VIP aircraft but, unfortunately, some of that excessive use has occurred since 30 June and, therefore, will not show up on VIP manifests until we receive them at the end of this year. I will be pursuing that matter again in the Estimates Committee. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23 August, on motion by Senator Webster:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Senate has before it the Loan Bill 1978, a form of Bill with which we have become fairly familiar because similar Bills have been introduced into the Parliament for some years now. It seeks to authorise the borrowing of finance for defence purposes to meet a prospective increase in the Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit for 1977-78. Such a deficit must be met either by transferring expenditure normally included in the Consolidated Revenue Fund to another account or by increasing receipts. The normal procedure, as set out in the second reading speech of the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) is to transfer some defence expenditure to the Loan Fund as defence expenditure is used simply because that avoids the necessity of going to the Loan Council. The Opposition will not oppose the Bill but will be moving an amendment to the second reading of the Bill in the following terms:
At end of motion, add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that the Bill is inadequate because it makes no provision for the under-estimating of the deficit which is likely to follow from the understating of unemployment benefit and health payments, over-estimating of receipts from personal income tax and customs duty, and other inadequacies in the Budget forecasts’.
It is pertinent that, until 1975, there was never any argument about the legal requirements in the Bill. It was accepted that in order to enable the Government of the day to fulfil the constitutional requirements imposed, this method of accounting should be adopted and was recognised as such. In 1975, because of the activities of the then Opposition which, of course, were designed to bring down the Government of the day, this Bill also became part of that procedure.
After the Bill was introduced in 1975 it became part of a scheme for the eventual refusal of Supply. For a period of two months the then Opposition asked the Government to provide information on a whole range of matters, some of which appeared to be legitimate, concerning government policy at the time and the financial position of the Government of the day. There is no doubt that other questions were just part of a delaying tactic employed by the then Opposition. I remind senators, particularly the new senators, who were not present during the events of 1975, that two sets of questions were asked of the Government. The first was a batch of 14 questions, and the second was a much longer document. In fact I think it ran to about 15 or 16 pages. I make it quite clear that the Loan Bill of 1978 is virtually the same as that which was before the Senate in 1975. When the Bill was introduced in that year, Senator Cotton, who was then representing the shadow Treasurer in the Senate said:
As I have mentioned previously, the second reading speech was not terribly satisfactory. It is a very short Bill; it contains only five clauses, two of which are of any significance and the others being of little significance.
Senator Cotton’s words apply to the Bill which is before us today. In view of the precarious state of the Australian economy and the tremendous increase in overseas borrowings, it is far from satisfactory. We do not take the view that the explanation for the Bill is inadequate because we accept that this drafting style has been used for Loan Bills for many years. In view of the fact that the precedent of the Parliament demanding all this additional information has been set, the additional information which has been and will continue to be sought is sought again this year. I will refer to that during the Committee stage. The Opposition seeks the information because of the serious discrepancies in the Government’s Budget figures, both in 1977 and, from what we can gauge again this year, in 1978. I repeat Mr Lynch ‘s words of 27 August 1975. He said:
The real question at issue before the House in relation to the overall Budget forecasts is whether this Government has the management and economic capacity to hold the figures which have been put forward in those forecasts. In other words, the Government deficit is now assuming alarming proportions. Its financing is becoming a question of central importance as far as economic management is concerned.
In 1975 Senator Cotton said:
As far as I can see both the Bill and the second reading speech were treated by the Government with a mechanical approach.
In saying that Senator Cotton was directly criticising the Government of the day. He accused it of not treating seriously the matters which were covered by the Loan Bill. If we examine the 1978 Loan Bill we find that the second Liberal Treasurer, Mr Howard, is treating the Bill in exactly the same way. He does not use the word mechanical’ but in his second reading speech he said:
The simplest and traditional means of providing appropriate legislative authority is a Loan Bill of the type I am now presenting.
To use the Treasurer’s own words, it is a simple and traditional Bill, but he was amongst the people saying in 1975 that it was not a simple Bill. He goes on to say in his second reading speech on the present Bill:
It will simply allow reallocations between the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the Loan Fund of defence expenditures to be made during the remainder of the financial year following the enactment of this legislation.
These were the exact words that were used in 1975. The Opposition of the day did not share that view, and I must say that the current attitude of the present Opposition is that we do not regard this Bill as being as simple and traditional as it has been in the past. In 1975 the Opposition used its numbers in this chamber to delay what was an established procedure of government accounting. We made that point on many occasions at that time. I can well recall the great concern of the Government of the day over the failure of the Senate to pass the Bill. It was the first real shot in what was to come, and that was, of course, the eventual failure of the Senate to pass Supply. As we know this Bill cannot be brought into operation by the Treasurer until such time as it is passed through the Parliament and proclaimed. Therefore, in 1975 very significant amounts of money continued to be debited to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, when in fact the Loan Fund should have been used for that purpose. Because the then Opposition was playing politics with a fundamental weapon of government, whether it be a Labor or Liberal government, that right was taken away. I can recall saying at the time that no Opposition had the right to deny the Government reasonable time for the passage of the Bill. This, of course, does not preclude an Opposition from seeking the information which I ‘ have indicated earlier will be sought and which was sought in 1975, 1976 and 1977.
This is the background to the current approach being taken by the Opposition. Having presented a Bill identical in terms to the 1975 Bill, the Government, I have no doubt, expects the Opposition to pass the Bill. Due to the superiority of numbers on the Government side, the Opposition cannot halt the passage of the Bill. Even if we were in that position it would be irresponsible for us not to pass it. I refer to another comment made by Senator Cotton in 1 975. He said:
I do not think that was satisfactory . . . that is the so-called mechanical approach . . from the point of view of both the Senate and the amount of money that is involved. Nowhere in the second reading speech was any case made out for the urgency of financing the size of the deficit in respect of which this Bill is part of the general program.
I suggest that exactly the same situation exists now. In some respects the Government’s failure to make out the urgency for financing the deficit of this size is even more significant because there are justifiable, grave doubts about the accuracy of the Government’s figure. This Government’s record in Budget figure accuracy, let alone mathematical accuracy, is deplorable. I remind the Senate that during last year’s Budget debate, certain proposals were put to the Parliament about proposed tax changes. The first document was admitted to be wrong. The second document contained mathematical inaccuracies and, eventually, much to Senator Cotton’s relief, the Office of the Prime Minister was able to prepare a document which described correctly and with accurate mathematics the impact of the Government’s proposed tax changes. The Treasurer stated in his second reading speech:
In setting a limit on borrowings for inclusion in the Bill, these inherent uncertainties need to be recognised.
As we all know, there is always a degree of uncertainty about the financing of deficits. We know that any government cannot say precisely how it will finance its deficit at the end of each financial year. In fact, Senator Cotton made this point:
How is this to be financed overall?
He was referring to the deficit. He said further:
Let us consider the strains this may put on the system and the dangers it may place on the financial solvency of Australia. All of us should be concerned and apprehensive about the situation.
In spite of the Government’s frequent but incorrect claim that it is reducing the deficit, the position today is very little different to what it was in 1975 if considered in terms of overall government expenditure. Again, we have a quote from 1975 which, I put to the Senate, is equally applicable to the present situation. It is for that reason that the Opposition will be seeking the additional information. I suggest that if we take the overall domestic situation and combine it with Australia’s external position, the overall situation is very much worse than it was in 1975. In 1 975 Senator Cotton made this comment:
The situation may improve, but on the other hand, it may worsen.
That comment applies to the current position, but it would be a sad day indeed if the Australian community were to find that the position we are experiencing now worsens.
Having established, on the Treasurer’s own admission, that there is considerable uncertainty, the Opposition will not oppose this Bill; but it states very plainly that it finds it essential to have answers to the same sorts of questions as were put in 1975 and to which Senator Cotton agreed to provide answers. There is no question that this Government is making very large overseas borrowings. The figures speak for themselves. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the figures which summarise Commonwealth Government transactions from 1968-69 to 1977-78. The figures have been taken from the Budget Papers.
The table read as follows-
– What do those figures tell us? In the years of the Labor Government total overseas financing transactions ran at extraordinarily low levels. At no stage did that Government ever resort to high levels of borrowings. But what do we now find? When the present Government came to power the levels of overseas borrowings started to escalate. Last year that escalation was dramatic- from $357m to $1612m. That is not the end. These figures do not disclose the additional loans which are now being raised overseas to prop up the Australian dollar and to finance the deficit. They are loans which will put this country into hock, to use the favourite phrase of Messrs Fraser and Lynch in Opposition when they were talking about Labor Government policy. Where have these loans come from? Ostensibly they have come through reputable banking intermediaries in Europe, the United States of America and Japan. The reality is of course that much of the money has come from member countries the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. It is Arab money which is being invested in Europe for relending to countries such as Australia and for which Australia is paying negotiating commissions of 2.5 per cent and in some cases more to procure. Yet what are we to believe? Last year at the International Monetary Fund meeting the then Treasurer, Mr Lynch, is reported as saying:
Australia could not be listed as one of these countries from which stimulatory economic policies should be demanded.
We believe that a higher rate of growth next year is both desirable and possible within the framework of the medium term strategy to reduce inflation and unemployment slowly.
Mr Lynch said that on 27 September last year. How wrong his prediction about growth proved to be. How wrong were his views as expressed in last year’s Budget Statement No. 2, that Australia would need only steady to moderate borrowing. No one could call a rise from $35 7m to $16 12m a moderate increase. There appears to be no doubt that for the one reason of shoring up the Australian dollar, the Australian Government will have to maintain levels of borrowings which, if my assessment of the international position about which I spoke last night in my speech about the Budget is correct, could reach as high as $5000m. In addition there is the requirement to finance the domestic deficit. Unless there is a substantial capital inflow, the present Government will be borrowing abroad to provide the funds for a deficit which, on the basis of last year’s record, could be out by 50 per cent. Even in the Budget Speech this year the Treasurer said:
The Budget deficit substantially exceeded the original estimate largely as a result of an unexpected shortfall in revenue.
However, there was no relaxation of expenditure restraint; in fact actual outlays for 1977-78 exceeded the Budget outlay by only one-half of one per cent.
They were Mr Howard ‘s words. That is, in spite of the fact that the previous year’s Budget allegedly was to have the effect of cutting back expenditure. I have no need to remind the Senate of the continuing lecturing of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on how the Government proposed to haul back expenditure. If the Government is incorrect again in any of its major estimates, such as those for social service payments, particularly unemployment benefit, payasyouearn collections or tariff duty collections, the Budget deficit estimated for 1977-78 will be as rubbery as was that of Mr Lynch ‘s Budget in 1 977. This Government has now got itself into an economic and political mess. It has sacked or demoted five senior Ministers. It has a very deep problem. It has different sorts of problems from those of the Labor Government in 1975. As I have pointed out frequently, we were not considering the borrowing of funds simply for the purpose of financing the deficit. That was not the intention of our loan program, apart from the very small level of loans which we could raise in the world money markets and which is shown in the table that I have incorporated.
The Government’s position may well be described as desperate. It is borrowing massive amounts of money overseas to maintain the value of the Australian dollar, fearful of the fact that it may have to take certain other action in the near future when it will have the worst of both worlds. It has not spelt out to the Australian community what has been the cost of borrowing in European currencies, while the United States dollar and the Australian dollar with it have been falling substantially against those currencies. The interest payable may be a nominal 6 per cent to 8 per cent but, with exchange rate fluctuations, it could be as high as 12 per cent or 1 5 per cent. Mr Fraser claimed that one of the results of the 1 978 Budget would be to enhance our reputation overseas. If that is the case, I find it difficult to reconcile his belief with the editorial which appears in the London Times on 23 August. No one would ever call the Times a radical newspaper. Among other things, under the heading ‘Monetarism, Scandal and Mr Fraser’, it stated:
The Liberal Government and the Party are in disarray, the Prime Minister’s halo has gone and the hope that a spell of honest government might restore Australia’s declining confidence in their tribe of politicians has been jeopardised.
The scant degree of approval hardly gives the Prime Minister the ring of confidence that he mistakenly believes that he has overseas. To complete my remarks I restate that this Bill comes to the Senate in almost identical circumstances to previous Loan Bills, and especially the Loan Bill of 1975. I have to point out that the present Government saw fit at the time to disrupt and to interrupt what was an accepted normal accounting process of any government. This was done deliberately in order to frustrate the Government of the day. One can appreciate how the Treasurer would feel if he was to know that the Bill that we have before us now was to be held up for two or three months, as happened in 1975. We know the sorts of problems that would create for him. We accept the need for the legislation. We point out that the maximum amount being sought under this Bill is $2,000m, exactly double the amount that was asked for in last year’s Bill. It would be terrible to imagine that a government could get itself into such a mess that it would want to borrow these several hundred million dollars. After nearly three years in office, this Government now finds itself with deeper problems than those which existed in 1975. 1 indicate that in the Committee stage I will be seeking further information from the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, as Minister representing the Treasurer. Many of those questions will be similar to those which have been asked in the past; others will reflect what we believe to be the new conditions that apply in 1978 with the increasing problems with which the Government now finds itself. On behalf of the Opposition I move:
– I second the amendment.
– The Senate is debating the Loan Bill 1978, which is well established as a traditional procedure for transferring the deficit incurred on the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Loan Fund in order to fund the deficit. It also authorises borrowings up to the limit of that deficit on the CRF. As estimated in the Budget Papers, the Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit this year will be something of the order of $ 1,903m. The Bill authorises borrowings of up to $2,000m, only slightly more than the anticipated deficit. Senator Wriedt has pointed out the difficulties that occurred when his Government was in office in 1975. Might I say that in terms of underestimating revenues and expenses, whereas the Hayden Budget in 1975 estimated a deficit of some $2, 800m, from memory, by about October or November it became perfectly obvious that the revenue estimates were not going to be reached and that in fact expenditures had blown out to considerably more than the Budget estimates. It was well known around financial circles that it was expected that the Labor Government at that time would have a deficit by the end of June 1976 of the order of $5,000m, or almost twice the deficit that was budgeted to be incurred during the 1975 year. Yet Senator Wriedt has claimed today that there are likely to be overestimates in revenue, likely to be underestimates in expenditure, and that consequently the deficit is going to be far greater than that set out in the Budget Papers. I would like to see evidence of that, bearing in mind that his party has never been well known for its arithmetical accuracy.
Nevertheless, let us look at the basic reason for this Bill. The deficit, which on a total basis will be about $2, 800m according to the Budget Papers, does and will have a very significant effect on the money markets in Australia. We know that the fact that the Government needs to borrow so heavily in order to fund the deficit and to keep down inflation is a major cause for high interest rates within the community. A dollar taken from the money markets to fund the Budget deficit of the Government has the same effect as charging taxation to the private sector. The dollar is not available to the private sector for its own expenditure. Very significantly then, the deficit- of whatever size, and certainly the lower the better- has an effect upon the money markets and hence the rates of interest available to the general community. It means that interest rates for housing are higher than they ought to be. It means that businesses cannot borrow as cheaply as they might. It also means that families cannot borrow on hire purchase for their cars as cheaply as they might otherwise do. Consequently, this is a major factor in the decision-making process of families as to whether or not they spend more money on white goods, household appliances, furniture, housing, or whatever. It is a very significant figure in assessing the possible ability of families to increase their personal expenditure.
The interest rate factor is a very significant factor in assisting economic recovery. Might I say, therefore, that the Government’s policy of seeking to reduce the deficit as much as possible, and the Budget proposes a decrease in the deficit of over $500m compared with the result in 1978, points the way towards increased economic activity and is consistent with the Fraser Government’s policy since it came to power in
December 1975. 1 congratulate the Government on its policy and its success in being able to achieve such significant reductions in the rate of inflation and in interest rates generally. The bond rates have already fallen very significantly. We know that they were at 10% per cent some two years ago and the latest loan raised a record sum of $760m in the last few days, offering interest rates at about 8.8 per cent or 9 per cent.
– Is that the sign of a government in which people do not have confidence?
– It sounds to me as though the people of Australia have very great confidence in this Government when they are prepared to invest those sorts of sums. It is clear, notwithstanding Senator Wriedt ‘s derisory comments, that the overseas money markets have a great deal of faith in Australia since they lent huge sums up to $2,000m last year to Australia on the basis that Australia commands a three star rating in the money markets overseas. Clearly, people in Australia who are investing with the Government and overseas money markets have faith in the policies which the Fraser Government is carrying out. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to support the Bill.
– I second the amendment moved by my leader Senator Wriedt to the motion for the second reading of the Loan Bill 1978, which is being debated by the Senate. The amendment states:
At end of motion, add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that the Bill is inadequate because it makes no provision for the under-estimating of the deficit which is likely to follow from the understating of unemployment benefit and health payments, over-estimating of receipts from personal income tax and Customs duty, and other inadequacies in the Budget forecasts. ‘
As Senator Wriedt has pointed out, the Bill is a machinery measure required to secure authority to borrow amounts for the financing of defence expenditure, which then needs to be charged to the Loan Fund during 1978-79. In the Bill the Government is seeking authority to charge to the Loan Fund some expenditures which would normally be met from the Consolidated Revenue Fund but for which insufficient funds are available at the moment. The Bill will authorise borrowings for defence purposes so that defence expenditure can be charged to the Loan Fund rather than to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. That is the basis of the Bill and, put simply, that is what this measure seeks to do. It is the normal procedure. By that I mean that it was normal procedure in years gone by because no opposition was ever raised to the measure being adopted by a government until the present Minister for Industry and Commerce, Mr Lynch, who was then the shadow Treasurer, supported by honourable senators opposite, used the debate to mislead the public.
– We had not been on the Public Accounts Committee then.
– This is what you did. I will refresh the honourable senator’s memory by quoting from page 586 of the House of Representatives Hansard when the second reading debate on the Loan Bill 1975 was taking place. Again I remind the Senate that this was the first time it had happened in this Parliament since Federation. Mr Lynch had this to say:
The Bill before the House seeks authority to borrow amounts for the financing of defence expenditure during 1 975-76. It arises simply because estimated expenditures this year normally charged to the Consolidated Revenue Fund substantially exceed the estimated receipts of that Fund. In other words this is a device to pay for the prospective deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It is a device which explicitly avoids the need for Loan Council agreement in order to fund the Government ‘s deficit.
That is what Mr Lynch had to say when a Bill similar to the one we are debating- the same measure- was brought in by the Labor Party and was before the Parliament. Mr Lynch was supported by the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who, at the time when the overseas loans negotiations were being discussed, had this to say in reply to Mr Whitlam, as recorded at page 3603 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 9 July 1 975:
So why did he want to strengthen the external financial position by a borrowing of $4,000m? To deal with current and immediately foreseeable unemployment: The Prime Minister knows that there is an easier way of doing that without getting into hock to Middle East countries. He can do this by deficit financing, or has he not heard that his Government has been practising deficit financing over recent months with the prospect of greater use of that tactic in the forthcoming year?
Of course another prominent member of the Government today, but who was then in Opposition, also had something to say on this matter. I refer to the Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, who, when the Loan Bill was being debated in the Senate, had this to say, as recorded in the Senate Hansard of 15 October 1975:
So we do refer to the fact that the deficit as it was cast by the Government this year will be at a higher figure than was anticipated and that is for the 2 reasons that already have been mentioned. One of the reasons is that the increases in wages and salaries as they relate to government services are an undoubted increase that can be foreshadowed without any disagreement. They are not included in the Budget and I do not question that point, understanding the way in which Treasury regulations require Budgets to be cast in this country. The other matter that is important and that always seems to be overlooked is the collection of revenue by the Australian Government. The fact that at this stage the Treasurer has pointed to lower collections in revenue, added to the fact that we have increases in expenditure, leads inescapably to the conclusion that there will be a much higher deficit in the forthcoming year than has been envisaged. 1 come back to the original question which I posed and which is the most important question of all, that is, how will the Government finance this deficit if the loan money market does not respond, and if all the difficulties which can be envisaged in our economic climate at present develop what will be the action of the Government to deal with these matters? It is for that reason that I hope that when there is some response later today to this Bill more perspective will be given to the consequences of the use of this Loan Bill for defence purposes and the matters that are so important to the management of the Australian economy.
– Who said that?
- Senator Guilfoyle said that when speaking on the Loan Bill in 1975- and what a prophet she has turned out to be because that is the position that this Government finds itself in today. As Senator Wriedt has already pointed out, former Senator Cotton, who was the shadow Treasurer in this place at the time, together with his colleagues, many of whom are still in this Senate, expressed concern at the level of the Labor Government’s Budget deficit. They asked a series of questions- from memory, I think the number was 30- and delayed the passage of the Loan Bill of 1975 for three months by hankering, inquiring and trying to mislead the people of Australia as to what were the real purposes of the Loan Bill. Let us not forget that the main thrust of the then Opposition’s argument at the time was what the state of the Budget deficit was going to be- that the forecasts were inaccurate, therefore instability would reign in the country. The then members of the Opposition said that they were genuinely inquiring into the situation because they felt it was their duty to do so in the interests of the welfare of the nation and of the people.
Let us look at this Government’s projected Budget deficit. Let us wonder whether it will be any more inaccurate than last year’s estimate, which was 50 per cent greater than the estimate of the year before. How do we know that this year’s estimate is going to be any better? Already it is abundantly clear that the estimates used in arriving at the present deficit raise more questions than the Government can answer. Our examinations show that the deficit this financial year will be substantially greater than the $2, 800m forecast in the Budget. Senator Messner, in his speech, challenged Opposition senators to point out to him why we were so sure that the deficit was going to be greater than has been forecast.
Let us state some of these under-estimates. These are the points upon which we are basing our contentions: First, the under-estimation of outlays of unemployment benefit payments; secondly, the under-estimation of Medibank payments; thirdly, the over-estimation of receipts from the gross pay-as-you-earn taxation payments; fourthly, the over-estimation of receipts from import customs duty; and, fifthly, the effect of changes that have already been made to the Budget, the first of which was announced only two days ago by the Minister for Social Security in this place. The Minister announced a change to the means test on the family allowance. No longer will the pocket moneys of newsboys- the income they earn from selling papers- affect the amount of the family allowance received by their mothers. That has already had an effect on the Budget of some estimated $90m from 1 January 1979 to 30 June 1979.
If Senator Messner or his colleagues on the other side want any further proof, I shall quote from the Niemeyer statement, which is a monthly statement of financial transactions of the Government. The statement gets its name from the last Great Depression in 1929-32 when Otto Niemeyer came out from England to try to correct the finances of this country. The only advice he was able to give the people of Australia was: ‘You have to tighten your belts further’. But one outcome of the Niemeyer visit was that the Government had to provide a monthly profit and loss account, if it can be described as that. I quote from the latest Niemeyer statement that has been issued. It shows outlays for the month of July 1 978 as $2, 424m compared with outlays for the same month in 1977 amounting to $2, 125m- an increase on expenditure of 14 per cent. The receipts for July 1978 were $ 1,342m whereas in 1977 they were $ 1,324m. This means that receipts have remained normal but outlays or expenditure for July, the first month of the new fiscal year, have increased. If we look at the deficit for July 1978 we find that it is running at $98 lm whereas in 1977 it was running at $699m. Already in the first month of this fiscal year there has been an increase of 40 per cent in the deficit. It increased 50 per cent last year and yet honourable senators on the Government side say that it will not increase 50 per cent this year. I commend to them the Niemeyer statement for July and when they read it they can come to their own conclusions.
In case any further proof is needed I shall address myself to the unemployment benefit payment position in the Budget. We on the Opposition side of the Senate believe that these payments will be far greater than the amount projected in the Budget. When the Treasurer, Mr Howard, was addressing the National Press Club in Canberra recently he said that he anticipated a monthly average of some 290,000 persons unemployed during the current financial year. This is against the average of 265,000 recipients of unemployment benefit during last year. The point I am trying to make is that day after day Senator Grimes forcibly told the Senate of this difference in estimation. Even if we accept the assumption of the Treasurer that 290,000 persons a month will be unemployed for the remainder of this year, there appear to be errors in the Budget estimates of the amount of unemployment benefit payable.
Last year the Budget allocation for unemployment benefit was some $705m whereas the actual expenditure was way above that figure at some $794m. The Government has assumed an increase in the number of recipients of unemployment benefit of some 10 per cent. The extra 25,000 persons a month estimate is based on an inflation adjustment for those with dependants. As I have said, the Treasurer when addressing the National Press Club estimated that there would be 290,000 persons unemployed on a monthly basis in the next financial year. Yet the recipients of unemployment benefit last year, on a monthly basis, numbered 265,000. Therefore there has to be some underestimating in the expenditure which is provided in the Budget to meet those additional needs. For the current year, based on last year’s figures, the Budget should have provided for an allocation of some $870m, based on the Treasurer’s figures. That is a conservative estimate. Instead, we find that a figure of only $785m is included in the Budget. One does not need to be an Einstein to understand that this is an estimate of $85m below reasonable expectations. Certainly, it must be accepted that it is $10m below last year’s figure. This is another reason why the deficit will be much greater than we are being told.
Let us look at the changes in the health insurance scheme. The Government estimates that that scheme will cost $62 lm. This is made up of added Budget outlays of some $305m and a reduction of $3 1 6m in receipts because of the cancelling of the health insurance levy. Now the Government estimates that the additional expenditure will be $6 12m. I ask the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) who is in charge of the Bill what account has been taken of the attitude of the doctors. They will have the sole right to determine or define those on low incomes and those socially disadvantaged. That becomes tremendously significant in the Budget estimation. If doctors say that people on low incomes are socially disadvantaged persons the doctors can then bulk-bill and the Government has to pay 75 per cent of the fee. But if a doctor does not do that and if he lets the matter take its course, the Government still has to pay 40 per cent of the fee, or, in the case of more costly procedures, all except $20 of the schedule fee.
I put the situation to the Minister and ask him to apply his common sense. What will the doctor do? If he can define a person as socially disadvantaged or as being on a low income, if he can bulk-bill and if he can get 75 per cent of the fee, will he do that or will he overlook the situation and accept the person as an ordinary patient, let the patient claim 40 per cent from the government while the doctor has to chase the other 60 per cent?
– He will take the 75 per cent.
Senator McAULIFFEOf course he will take the 75 per cent. Even if the Government argues that he will not, who knows whether he will. What account has been taken of this matter in the Budget? Who will pay out the 40 per cent provided by the government? In response to this question in the other place the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) said that the established private health funds would. They will not do it for nothing. There will have to be a fee for service. This is not even taken into account in the Budget. Another point is: How can the Government assess the number of people who might take the gamble and say: I will not join any fund. I feel I am in good health. I will take the gamble. I will pay the maximum $20 or receive the 40 per cent handout from the Government. I will not join any fund whatever’.
– They will be very foolish if they do that.
– I have heard other doctors say that people will be very sensible to do that. It all depends which way one looks at it. There will be people who will take the gamble and say: ‘I will not join any fund whatsoever’. There will be greater payouts. People will opt for the maximum payment of $20. All these things have not been taken into account in the Budget by these great scholarly intellectual economists who were telling us in 1975 what we should have been doing. The Government is in a worse position today than we were ever in during that period. So the sad story goes on and on.
The same grave doubts hang over the way that the estimates of pay-as-you-earn taxation receipts have been calculated. The Government has estimated- I am not going to go into this at length- that average weekly earnings for 1978-79 will rise by 7.5 per cent, whereas other experienced opinions say that it will rise by only 5.5 per cent. It must be obvious that, if the 5.5 per cent figure is correct, there will be a downturn in the revenue yielded by pay-as-you-earn taxation. Then again the Government assumes that Public Service salaries will rise by only 3.85 per cent. In one breath it says that average weekly earnings will rise by 7.5 per cent but then it tells us that Public Service salaries will rise by only 3.85 per cent, which is half of what it feels will be the increase in average weekly earnings. So the sad story of miscalculcation, underestimation in some areas and overestimation in other areas goes on and on. If the increase in Public Service salaries is in step with the Government’s forecast of the increase in average weekly earnings- 7.5 per cent- it is out another $ 100m in its forecasts.
As I said previously, the same story of overestimating receipts continues in the area of customs duties. The same thing applies to customs duties on imports. It is probably right at this time that we should mention the ever worsening balance of payments position and- I do not want to be a prophet of gloom- the inevitable devaluation of the dollar which, unless the balance of payments position rapidly improves, will have to happen. Is not there going to be a disastrous effect on the estimates of receipts from customs duties on imports if a devaluation takes place? While on the subject of the balance of payments, permit me again to quote what the Prime Minister said about putting Australia in hock to overseas interests. This statement was made when Labor was in government. He said:
So why did he want to strenghten the external financial position by the borrowing of $4,000m? To deal with current and immediately foreseeable unemployment:
The Prime Minister knows that there is an easier way of doing that without getting into hock with Middle East countries.
Then he went on to say how it could be done. Then he also said this:
Why was the impact of the funds on the Australian economy utterly ignored? It would have increased the national debt by $1,000 for the average Australian family. The amount approached the total income of all companies in Australia last year.
He was referring to the proposed overseas borrowings from Arab countries by the Whitlam Labor Government. He continued:
It exceeds the value of all wool, wheat and sugar produced in Australia last year. It is almost as much as total government spending on welfare. No comparable loan had ever been raised. At one stroke it would have increased Australia’s overseas debt threefold. Yet the Government claims to be responsible.
What is the position of this Government regarding overseas borrowings? I have before me statistics compiled by the Statistics Group of the Legislative Research Service. In 1976 borrowings were $254m. In 1976-77 they rose to $456m, and until 29 May 1978-the figures for June or July are not available- borrowings are $l,758m, making a total of over $2,000m. Is not this putting the country in hock? If Government senators want any further proof of it let them look at table 6- Summary of Commonwealth Government Budget Financing Transactions, 1968-69 to 1977-78, which the Leader of the Opposition asked to be incorporated in Hansard. That table shows that in 1968-69 total net overseas borrowings were $142m; in 1969-70 there were not any; in 1970-71 minimal; in 1971-72 minimal; in 1972-73 minimal; in 1973-74 the same situation; in 1974-75, with a Labor Government, $2m; in 1975-76 $126m; in 1976-77 $357m; and already in 1977-78 $l,612m. Honourable senators opposite are the people who in 1975 tried to tell the people of Australia that the Labor Government was putting this country in hock. We have never been in so much debt up to our ears as we have been in the last two years of this Government.
– That table tells the story.
– As my Leader suggests, every picture tells a story, and that table will make good reading in Hansard. We turn to yet another Budget miscalculation- the family allowance means test which has since been abolished or considerably watered down and which was to yield $90m, as I said previously, for the six months period from 1 January 1979 to 30 June 1979.
Before I conclude what better peroration could I have to this speech than words which have already been supplied by the Government itself through a former Minister for Housing who is probably one of the most qualified spokesmen on economic matters on the Government side. I refer to the Honourable Kevin Cairns. I now quote from Hansard of 23 August 1978, at page 638. This is the matter which Mr Cairns then referred to Mr Staley, who was representing the Treasurer:
There are good reasons why this process-
He was referring to the Loan Bill procedures- it is an engineering process- is to be done rather early in the Budget Debate. They are concerned with the rate of expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. There are one or two points which I would like to raise in relation to these transfers. I hope that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley), who is at the table, assisted by his advisers will be able to help me with them. The point is that the expenditure last year from the Consolidated Revenue Fund was $24,800m. The expenditure this year is proposed to be about $27, 700m. That is a substantial increase. The amount which is chargeable to the Loan Fund- that is, defence expenditure- this year is $ 1,903m, the amount which was so chargeable and transferable last year was $ 1,359m. So that amount has also been increased. Yet when we look in Budget Paper No. 4 at table 9 headed Estimates Expenditure from Loan Fund for the Year ending 30 June 1979, we see that there is to be a decrease in the expenditure from $4, 100m to $3,700m. So the expenditure is proceeding in the opposite direction. That gives rise to one or two questions which puzzle me in relation to this Bill.
These remarks were made by a Government member and a former Minister. Mr Kevin Cairns went on to say:
The defence expenditure transfer- if I can use that termfrom the Consolidated Revenue Fund is to be increased this year, yet the proposed deficit of the Government, both overall and domestic, will enjoy a substantial decrease. The CRF deficit is going up; the expenditure loan fund funding has to go down. We in politics all appreciate that these are measures appropriate each year. They relate to the rate of expenditure of funds. They demonstrate overall that nothing is as permanent in politics as a temporary expendient It has to occur each calendar year and each financial year. The simple question I put to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications -
I would like to put this question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) now. I join with Mr Kevin Cairns in hoping that I will get an answer. I ask: Why is the transfer to the Loan Fund larger than last year despite the smaller deficit? Mr Kevin Cairns went on to state:
It deserves an answer. It has puzzled me. I have looked through Budget Paper No. 4. 1 know that the Minister will be writing the question down now and if he cannot respond spontaneously I am sure he will respond a little later after consulting advisers and others. I say seriously that we would respect and expect a response to this question in the Parliament.
Senator Carrick has an advantage over Mr Staley. That question was asked by Mr Kevin Cairns on 23 August. Senator Carrick has a days start on the Minister in the other place. I shall conclude my speech on this note: Not only have many questions been asked by honourable senators on this side of the chamber which remain unanswered; apparently, there are also many which have been asked from the Government side in the other place. I enthusiastically support the amendment moved by my leader, Senator Wriedt. I seek leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard a table setting out Commonwealth Government overseas loan raisings for the period from March 1976 to May 1976 to May 1978.
The table read as follows-
– I did not intend to speak in the debate on the Loan Bill, but I was encouraged to do so more than anything else by the address we have just heard from Senator McAuIiffe. If my remarks give the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) a little extra time to answer that important question posed by Senator McAuIiffe a moment ago- it was also put by Mr Kevin Cairns in the House of Representatives- I feel that I will be doing my bit for a little open government. I for one do not like giving anyone a blank cheque. In this case, the Parliament appears to be asked by the Government to sign a blank cheque without all of the appropriate figures being tabled for us. The Government is hanging that, as is traditional, I admit, on the constitutional defence powers. I will deal with this matter later in my reply to the Budget Speech. I state in passing that I deplore the fact that, expressed as a proportion of total Budget outlays, expenditure on defence this year is reduced from the expenditure last year, which in turn was reduced from the expenditure for the year before. In a situation of grave uncertainty in this part of the world, and indeed world wide, it is most disconcerting to see the Government reducing the defence outlay as a proportion of the total Budget outlays.
I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt, which seeks to add at the end of the motion: but the Senate is of the opinion that the Bill is inadequate because it makes no provision for the under-estimating of the deficit which is likely to follow from the understating of unemployment benefit and health payments, over-estimating of receipts from personal income tax and customs duty, and other inadequacies in the Budget forecasts.
Those matters have been dealt with by Senator Wriedt and in the redoubtable speech made by Senator McAuIiffe, whose act is always very hard to follow. I wish to speak only to that part of the amendment which states: ‘and other inadequacies in the Budget forecasts’. The Senate will recall that over a period of days attempts have been made to obtain from the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) details of the break-up of the $90m saving which was mentioned on page 86 of the Budget Paper No. 1 as resulting from the new family allowance arrangements. I give credit to Senator Guilfoyle for being very straightforward in her answers in respect of the Government’s review of this matter. But I point out to the Senate that this legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives before the announcement by the Government of its review of the family allowance arrangements and its statement that to test eligibility for family allowances on the basis of income derived from the personal exertion of children would be an unintended consequence of the Budget proposals. The words used by the Government were that the result was an unintended consequence of the Budget proposals. If the words ‘unintended consequence’ mean that there is to be an adjustment of the results in the outlays for social security payments and family allowance payments, there seems to be no amendment at all to this Bill. A relatively small figure would be involved. Let me detail the position to the Senate because apparently the Treasurer is unable to do so. I will tell honourable senators what I have come up with. As my bank account would show that I am no expert on money matters, but I put it forward as a matter of some interest.
On page 86 of Budget Paper No. 1 it is stated that a number of changes will be made to the family allowance scheme. A test will be placed on the income of children. Parents will not be eligible for a family allowance in respect of children receiving student allowances under the tertiary education assistance scheme and other educational scholarships. The changes also exclude invalid pensioners and persons living abroad from receiving family allowances. It is stated:
Outlays are estimated to decrease from $ 1,038.1m in 1977-78 to $948. 2m in 1978-79 due to the changes detailed above.
That is to say, there is a saving of about $90m or, in point of fact, $89. 9m. We are told that the income test is to operate from 1 January 1 979. At page 62 of the same document we are told that TEAS and other education scholarship recipients would be excluded also from 1 January 1979. The Budget document states:
In recognition of this change, however, TEAS allowances for dependent students and certain other student allowances are to be increased by the equivalent of $5.25 a week.
According to my calculations, having regard to the table contained on page 62, an extra $2 1.6m is allocated for the TEAS and other schemes. So from where will the $89.9m saving come? We can subtract the TEAS adjustment of $2 1.7m which I have just mentioned as representing what the students will lose under the family allowance scheme and what they will be compensated for through the increased TEAS and other payments. That leaves $68.3m.
I have been searching for the past two weeks to discover the break-up of the $89.9m. Some of my questions- and Senator Sibraa asked a question on this subject today- have been directed towards that end. Certainly this is the point of a question I asked in the Senate on 22 August. I do not believe that the removal of the pension entitlements of invalid pensioners and pensioners living abroad will make much of a dent in the remaining $68. 3m. 1 have been informed that these categories would account for only about $10m.
I have been told that last year contained one more pay period and that this year will contain one less pay period and that that will account for $20m. That leaves approximately $38.3m to cover the now-to-be-revised income test scheme. As a matter of fact, Senator Guilfoyle in answer to my question on 22 August mentioned a figure of $3 7m to $3 8m. However, the Government keeps insisting that the income test scheme was to be directed mainly at trusts, income splitting arrangements and so on and that any other consequences would be unintended. Let us say that the $3 7m was intended to be involved in savings for a half year- and mind you it is only half a year because the scheme will come in only from 1 January 1979. During the last financial year $ 1,038m was spent on family allowances. As at 30 June 1978 payments were made for 4.3 million children. This represents an average payment for a full year of $24 1 . 1 repeat that the new income test arrangements are to operate from 1 January 1979.
If we halve that $241 we come up with an average half year payment of $120. If we then divide the $120 into the $37m saving for this particular section of the new scheme we find that a minimum of 300,000 children would have been affected. I say a minimum because the average calculations are based only on those who would have been excluded totally from receiving the family allowances because they had an income of over $20 a week. But the new scheme was to operate on a sliding scale basis, that is ‘ reduced at the rate of 25c in the dollar on account of any income in excess of $312 received by the child’. The more likely number of children affected will be over half a million. Does the Senate believe that there are that many children involved in trusts and other income splitting arrangements? Does the Senate really believe that that is the situation? At least three possibilities arise from what I have just said. Either my calculations are incorrect; the scheme was always envisaged to cover more than just those involved in the trusts angle- and so the statement that the test would also apply to income derived from the personal exertion of children was not factual; or that the Government has no clear idea at all of what savings on Budget outlays will result from that scheme however it is amended.
I know that the Minister might say that in the context of overall Budget outlays which involve a vast amount of money this is not a very significant amount. It is a significant amount. I would not mind having that amount. I make the point that this is one of those other inadequacies referred to by the Leader of the Opposition in his amendment. I rose to detail, as best I can, what I believe to be the inadequacies of the Budget forecast to which I have referred. If inadequacies exist to the extent I have shown one wonders how much is involved in other inadequacies. I have risen this afternoon to ensure that the Senate plays its true role of deep and rigorous scrutiny of expenditures detailed by the Government. I for one do not like to be placed in a position of signing a blank cheque.
– in reply- The Senate is debating the Loan Bill 1978. This is a traditional Bill which is part of the strategy of the management of the deficit each year. It is aimed at financing the defence expenditure through the traditional approach. It looks to an overall Budget deficit forecast of $2, 8 13m or the deficit estimated in the Consolidated Revenue Fund at $ 1 ,903.5 m. I do not seek to canvass the many points that were made because so many of them, however interesting and attractive they might be, can be responded to if honourable senators send questions directly to the relevant Ministers. Much of the debate tonight properly would be found within the general Budget debate but if honourable senators have raised questions to which they seek specific answers, I will be happy to obtain the answers if they would indicate those questions to me.
Senator McAuIiffe raised a question which, I think he said, was asked by Mr Kevin Cairns in another place. I am advised that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) is preparing a written answer to that question and I will obtain that answer for either the Senate or the honourable senator. I understand that Senator Wriedt proposes to ask a series of questions in the Committee stage but has indicated that he will not delay the Bill today. I indicate to the Senate, as I have done to the Opposition, that this is regarded by the Government as an urgent Bill and I hope it can be dealt with before the suspension of the sitting for dinner because I want to call on General Business after we resume. The Government will oppose the amendment that has been moved to this second reading. I give an undertaking that I will obtain written replies to the questions to be asked by Senator Wriedt in the Committee stage.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– As In indicated during the course of the second reading debate, the Opposition will ask a series of questions which the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has indicated he will refer to the Treasurer (Mr Howard) for answers. The questions are as follows:
Question No. 1
What was the total of unused cash balance at 30 June 1978? Question No. 2
How were subscriptions to the last loan derived:
c) institutions under the 30/20 rule; and
) open public subscriptions?
Question No. 3
How does the Government propose to fund or finance the deficit for the coming year now estimated at $2,8 13m.
Is it the intention of the overseas borrowings to support the Australian dollar or ‘to supplement domestic resources available for developmental purposes’? (Treasury Document Round-up of Statistics page 19, August 1978).
The balance and details of the various areas outlined below would be helpful in analysing the position:
net drawings under overseas credit arrangements;
b) net proceeds of overseas borrowings;
net proceeds of bond sales to the non-bank public;
d ) net changes in Treasury notes on issue;
to the non-bank public; and
to the banking system.
net proceeds of bond sales to the banking system; and
f) use of Reserve Bank cash balances.
Question No. 4
What are the implications of maintenance of the 1977-78 level of overseas borrowings by the Australian Government for:
a ) the Australian capital market; and
b ) the money supply?
Question No. 5
What are the existing amortisation and interest payments on total Australian (Commonwealth and States) overseas loans, in Australian dollars, due during 1978-79, 1979-80 and 1980-81?
Question No. 6
What was the ratio of Australia’s exports of goods and services to total external debt in each year since 1 970?
What has been Australia’s external debt service ratio in each year since 1950?
How does this external debt ratio compare with comparable countries such as Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and New Zealand?
Question No. 7
What are the details of the overseas loans entered into or under negotiation by the Commonwealth after 30 April 1978? In particular in what currency are the loans repayable and on what dates and in what currency is the interest payable?
What are the negotiation commissions for each of the loans negotiated or in the process of being negotiated and after taking account of the negotiation commissions what are the effective annual rates of interest?
Question No. 8
At what stage in 1977 was the equivalent Bill or Bills introduced, what amount was finally transferred under the procedures outlined in those Bills, and what was the surplus or deficiency?
Question No. 9
What is the reason for the urgency of the Bill; why should it be passed before the Appropriation Acts for 1 978-79?
Question No. 10
For 1977-78, what was the amount of defence expenditure transferred from Consolidated Revenue Funds to the Loan Fund?
What were the other net transactions of the Loan Fund and the net transactions of the Trust Fund?
Question No. 1 1
What are the specific authorities under which expenditures have been charged to the Loan Fund from 1977-78?
Question No. 1 2
What is the Loan Council program for 1978-79?
Are there any resolutions of the Loan Council relating to Defence loans? 3.What credits are, or would be, available in the Loan Fund which can be used for Defence purposes?
Question No. 1 3
Has approval been given to any of the States for borrowing funds outside Australia, and what are the terms and conditions of those loans?.
Question No. 14
To what extent do the July loan proceeds relate to long term borrowings and short term monies?
How much long and short term monies were obtained from banks and other institutions?
Has any attempt been made during 1977-78 to identify details of stocks taken up by institutions other than the banks and, if not, why not?
What are the results?
Question No. 1 5
Does the Government confirm the overall target rate of growth in the volume of money, the M3 factor, announced in the Budget Speech?
If the overall target has been varied, what is the up to date figure?
Question No. 16
Have any estimates been made about the rate of private capital inflow for 1978-79 and, if so, what is the estimated flow?
If the flow does not achieve the estimates, what is the effect on the current arrangements for financing the deficit and supporting the value of the Australian dollar?
This is the fourth occasion in the past three or four years when we unfortunately have had to go through this process, but perhaps Treasury activities are better for it, notwithstanding the manner in which this procedure came about. I stress again for the record this year that there is no intention, nor would there be even if we were able, on the part of the Opposition to delay, much less to reject, this Bill because we stand on the principle, spelt out very ably by Senator McAuliffe in his contribution, that this is legislation which over the years has been accepted as normal Government accounting procedure to meet the constitutional requirements. We expect, and I am sure that the Minister in charge of this legislation in this chamber will ensure that it is done, that the Government will provide the information sought. I trust that the Treasury officials who will have to work on these questions will be able to give us the answers when we return for the next sittings because it is important that this information be available by the time we deal with the Estimates.
– I will seek the information for the honourable senator as soon as possible.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business after 8 p.m.
Report on Drug Problems in Australia
Mr President, before I speak to this motion I take this, the first opportunity I have had, to congratulate you on your re-election to the high office of President, to say what a pleasure it has been working with you and to wish you every success in this parliamentary term. I have already congratulated my colleague Senator Scott, but I also take this opportunity to congratulate Senator Tate and Senator Evans on the maiden speeches which they have delivered in this place already and to say to my colleague, Senator Evans, that if his maiden speech lacked at all in its observance of all of the conventions relating to maiden speeches, I am sure it more than made up for this in its elegance and erudition. All honourable senators look forward to hearing a lot more from the honourable senator.
– What about me, senator? I feel left out of this.
– I am delighted that Senator Button has interjected. I want to say what a pleasure it was to help him with some of the procedures earlier today when he attempted to intervene in some business this afternoon.
– It is nice to have me back.
-Thank you, senator. In the Sydney Daily Mirror of 22 August there appeared a feature article on drug use. The article was entitled ‘Should pot be legalised? Viewpoint’. On that page the journalists attempted, by way of interviews with a number of citizens and by way of advancing their own opinions, to address themselves to some of the issues related to drug use and the laws which limit and confine drug use in this country. What came out of the article was not so much the specific matters which were raised but a clear indication that the journalists do not understand all the issues and do not have a clear idea of what is involved in facing up to drug use problems in this country. The point that emerged indelibly is that there are issues, that people are worried and frightened of drug use of various kinds, that many people feel threatened and that many people feel not only concern and fear but desperation and some challenge to values which they have held. It is that kind of issue which is of relevance to the report of the Senator Standing Committee which is being discussed at the moment.
I doubt whether it would be of great value to the Senate if I traverse in detail again the contents of this report. When the report was introduced last October we outlined in quite adequate detail the contents of the report. We went over some of the issues involved, and I am very grateful to the Senate for the standard of debate that followed. As I recall, when the report was presented there was a spontaneous debate which lasted several hours. Some of my colleagues, not members of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare, contributed to the debate. I remember Senator Wheeldon and Senator Georges making contributions. It is not really useful to traverse all that ground again. I am grateful also to my colleague Senator Walters who in her speech on the Budget Papers last night brought to the attention of the Senate, for those who may have forgotten them, some of the main recommendations contained in the report of the Committee.
The kinds of issues which several senators thought worthy of attention and emphasis in the Australian community include the following matters. Firstly, there is the issue of whether the use of all substances, legal or illegal, should be reduced. That is one issue, It really does not matter whether we are talking about salicylates or whether we are talking about opium. The issue is whether the level of substances used should be reduced. It is an issue which is important in this society. Secondly, there is the issue of whether senators, indeed all Australians, should perceive legal drugs as drugs and not as something different so that, in fact, there is no difference in terms of one’s perception of the drug problem between alcohol, which I have enjoyed this evening and which I will continue to enjoy, and marihuana. If one is talking about what is a drug and what is not- one might want to treat them differently or regard them differently- one should remember that all drugs are capable of abuse, and that must be understood if we are to take a proper approach to the issues which drug use presents to this community.
The third issue which can be seen perhaps in a growth context or an economic context is whether senators will accept the need- I quote from the report- ‘as an important national goal to reduce our levels of consumption of alcohol and tobacco’. These are the drugs most seriously abused in Australia and the ones which cause the greatest personal and social damage and the greatest economic cost. That is to say, there is an issue in this society as to whether a continuing growth model is appropriate or supportable in a social sense for us as a society. It is an issue on which there may be different points of view; it is an issue nevertheless. A fourth issue might be the requirement for a national strategy to control general issues of drug use in Australia.
I think all honourable senators will appreciate that it is not always edifying or helpful if Senate committees or the members of Senate committees continually come before the Senate obsessed by their own reports, their own words or their own ideas and try to present these again and again for the attention of their colleagues. That is not very helpful. It is neither appropriate nor desirable to ignore the responses which documents tabled in the Senate might produce in the general community. If those responses are significant they might tell us something about the work we are doing on committees and the way in which we should proceed.
Criticism of Senate reports is important, and tonight I intend to identify some of the quite legitimate critical comments which this report from the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare has drawn. I also intend to outline some of the favourable comment which has emerged. Again, it is important for us to get some idea some lead on whether the approach we are taking to the work of committees is seen as having some value in the wider community. I think it is important for all senators to make a judgment as to whether any committee- in this case the committee whose report we are discussing- has been proceeding in an appropriate way.
The most recent response and one which I am grateful to see appeared in the Medical Journal of Australia dated 29 August. I guess it must be a pre-publication issue. It is this weekend ‘s issue of the Medical Journal of Australia, and it has a leading article a full page statement entitlement Drug Problems in Australia- An Intoxicated Society’. Clearly, in the way we doctors have we have stumbled along rather behind the game but eventually as a profession have discovered this report, and the Medical Journal of Australia has given it some kind of comment. I think it is now 10 months since the report was produced.
– It had much earlier comment in the United States, did it not?
-Thank you. Senator Button anticipates some of the comment that I want to make. But I take the most recent comment from this week’s Medical Journal of Australia. Generally it is really quite a detailed critique of what the Senate Committee had done. It presents to the medical profession through its journal considerable detail and. in talking about the Senate Standing Committee, it makes the following comment: . . have undertaken the task of reviewing the Australian scene in relation to alcohol, tobacco, analgesics and cannabis as well as more recognised drugs of addiction. They have amassed a large body of important data from their hearings and fully justify a somewhat dramatic title of their report, which does achieve a good deal of what it claimsthat is, to state the problems of excessive drug use, to highlight the harmful effects caused by improper use and to set a standard and reference point for further debate.
Indeed, if my professional colleagues can make that judgment of the report, I am well satisfied. But there has been wider report, and I am indebted to Senator Button for referring to some of it. Probably the wider comment that is most interesting comes from the British journal, the Lancet. Many people have heard of the Lancet; it is a very widely read medical journal. In January this year it stated:
This report brings a refreshing touch of realism, honesty and objectivity to the whole issue of drug abuse.
It went on to say that the report is to date the most comprehensive survey carried out in Australia on the abuse of both licit and illicit drugs. I mention those favourable comments only because, on the other hand, the report has attracted from a number of concerned groups comment of a quite different kind. For example, Mr C. R. MacDonald of the Australia Media Council- I think he was talking in relation to our recommendations on advertising- stated:
Voluntary agency codes would serve the public interest better than further Government bans.
Mr David Jack, a sporting commentator with the Sydney Sun, stated:
Australian sport will be dealt a death blow if it loses financial support from tobacco.
He made those comments in relation to recommendations made in this report which sought to limit the association between tobacco promotion and sporting activity in Australia. If he is right that is a disgraceful situation in which we find ourselves, and if he is wrong the sooner we determine that fact the better. The Minister for Sport and Recreation in mv State commented on the furore about advertising and the promotion of sport by tobacco companies. He stated:
I do not consider it my prerogative to interfere in the way that sport is administered in NSW.
I comment on that contribution from the New South Wales Minister only to the extent of noting that it is really an abdication of social responsibility to make that kind of comment in the face of the vast body of evidence, which would indicate that it is the duty of every Minister of a responsible government to act on public health information as firm as that which we have in relation to smoking. But critical comment did not end there. In the December 1977 issue of the Hotel and Caterer, which is an industry journal, there was extensive comment under the heading ‘Blueprint for the Destruction of the Industry’. Under that heading the report of the Senate Standing Committee was discussed. Blueprint for the destruction of the industry indeed! Apparently that journal was alarmed by recommendation No. 38 contained in the report. This recommendation merely asked the Commonwealth Government to develop and announce a specific policy on alcohol and alcohol abuse, to include a clear statement of the Government ‘s intention to bring about an overall reduction in consumption. That is very different from advocating the destruction of the industry.
It brings me back to one of the basic issues which I suggested exists, that it, whether we consider alcohol as a legitimate growth industry in view of the kind of evidence which is emerging of the effects which it is having as a health and social hazard and as the major drug which creates problems in this country. Some other interesting comments were made when this report first appeared. One of the most interesting editorials appeared in the Melbourne Age. I thought it put its position in perspective by observing as follows:
Here we must declare self-interest. The issue of the Age which contained the Standing Committee’s findings carried advertisements for both alcohol and cigarettes.
At least that is a more balanced and honest appraisal than has come from some people. The editorial went on to express a preference for voluntary codes of control in terms of advertising, which is the issue that concerned the newspaper, rather than for any advertising ban, which we had recommended and which I continue to recommend.
It is worth mentioning to the Senate that this report produced last October is already being used as a textbook in medical schools in this country, chapters from the report have been reprinted in the United States and Canada and have been widely distributed to members of the medical profession and other people who are likely to use it, and organisations concerned with the control of drugs and abuse have turned to this document in exactly the way that we hoped they would- to regard it as a flag driven into the ground, as the statement of a clear policy about which they can rally if they happen to agree with the propositions which we have advanced.
Perhaps as a result of this report being published, perhaps with the natural interest with regard to drug use problems, generally in Australia, extra information has continued to pour in to the Committee since last October relevant to the kinds of problems to which we addressed ourselves- problems related to alcohol, tobacco, analgesics, canabis and general matters of drug use policy.
For example, honourable senators will probably already be aware of the extra information emerging about the extent of adolescent alcohol use. It is of great importance to this country if the very young are developing unhealthy drinking habits in their early teens, at the ages of 12, 13 and 14 years. The kinds of surveys which have been carried out show that there is a changing pattern of drinking by young Australians.
Since we published this document we have received new evidence. For example, in 1973, 76 per cent of 14 to 16 years olds, were drinking perhaps once a week or more; now 85 per cent are doing so. There is a marked increase in the percentage of that cohort of Australians who are drinking. Forty-three per cent of male school children were drinking once or more a week in 1973; 51 per cent did so in 1977. Through all these surveys a pattern is emerging showing that, the level- whether it is too low, right or too high does not matter- is rising. A question that I would ask honourable senators is: How high should it go before we decided that we have an obligation to do something?
– Doesn’t the Budget do something about that by increasing the cost of drinking?
– I am grateful to Senator Mcintosh. Whilst I am perfectly happy during the Budget debate to look at the budgetary aspects of excise measures, I draw to the honourable senator’s attention the fact that the Budget moves on excise are directly in line with the kind of propositions advanced in this report. Honourable senators might argue with some of the details or the levels or the quantities but we have advanced here as a desirable social policy the use of the excise to try to control the level of consumption of this particular drug of abuse in Australia. Further, the question of drinking among Aboriginal Australians has continued to have prominence. I served on a Senate Select Committee which reported on some of the problems we met and I am sure that other honourable senators have read the report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on some of these problems. Here is an issue about the abuse of alcohol with which we as Australians have just not come to grips. If it is true, as I read, that at Aurukun and Mornington Island the Queensland Government intended to establish wet canteens against the wishes of the local community, that concerns me in terms of the issues we have raised in this report and in which we are interested.
Honourable senators may recall also that in the United Kingdom the Alcohol Education Centre and the Medical Research Council did a survey about the relative risks from alcoholrelated diseases. I am sure Opposition senators will be pleased to know that company directors in Britain were found to have 22 times the average mortality rate from cirrhosis of the liver, and of course that disease is largely alcohol related.
– Too many scotches.
-Too many scotches, you think? Hoteliers and publicans rated next with about eight times the national average, but company directors were 22 times the national average. I must say that I cannot identify from that survey whether members of the various legislatures were included in the surveys carried out. Other evidence about alcohol has emerged and it is worth offering to the Senate. Dr Chegwidden of the New South Wales Health Commission has estimated that in 1 974 alcoholism ranked third as the largest cause of death in Australia behind heart disease and cancer. If some exotic infection ranked third it would be seen as a national disgrace if we were not doing something about it. If there was some preventable cause of childhood mortality that ranked third in all cases of death we would be expected to be involved. But we know that alcoholism ranks third and we also know that denial of the problem- denial in terms of individual sufferers and denial in terms of an adequate response- is what we have in Australia today. Dr Chegwidden went further and estimated that in 10 years time, if the average consumption of alcohol went up at the rates which we outline in this report, alcohol would probably be the main single cause of death in this country. I do not know whether he is right, but the prediction is frightening and should be taken very seriously.
The cost to the national economy in terms of loss of work, wages and production probably ranges between $500m and $ 1,000m. It is big business. Nevertheless, I would not want anyone to think that I do not recognise the potential for employment and development of the wine industry and many parts of the alcohol producing industry. I emphasise that I am not aware that any member of the Senate Standing Committee was ever in favour of prohibition of these drugs. In fact, we have not talked about prohibition as a general strategy at all, and I think I speak for my colleagues on the Committee when I say that I still would not see a prohibition policy in relation to illegal drugs as being rational or achievable or desirable.
Let me say a few words about healthy drinking. I report in an anecdotal sense that I had the opportunity to visit the Hunter Drug Advisory Service in the Newcastle area run by the Health Commission of New South Wales. Excellent work is being done there by Dr O’Neill, who has produced an extremely good anti-smoking sticker, which I had on my suitcase for a year, stating: ‘Kiss a non-smoker- taste the difference’. It is a very good sticker that has been widely accepted around the country and presents a positive health message. In relation to healthy drinking, the Service has started an intervention program and is able to report that some of the employers are finding measurable improvements in attendance at work, a decrease in absenteeism, among certain groups who have been identified as being at risk. To that extent some of the intervention programs look promising and are adverted to in the report. They appear to be working to some extent.
I want to go over a few of the new points which have emerged in relation to cigarette smoking because they will give greater emphasis to some of the points we made and a rounding of some of our concerns. Firstly, there is no doubt from the survey figures available that younger and younger children are being recruited into tobacco use, and we know that tobacco is an addictive drug. It is addictive in the same way as any other drug of addiction and the reason people do not stop smoking easily is that the drug is addictive. Figures are available to show that while average smoking levels in the Australian population are dropping, smoking is increasing among young adolescents and women. In 1975-76 estimated total deaths due to smoking and smoking-induced diseases were between 10 per cent and 1 5 per cent of all deaths in
Australia; that is, between one-tenth and onesixth of all deaths in Australia were smokingrelated. The economic cost to Australia in the same year was estimated at somewhere between $600m and S800m.
In relation to the use of tobacco in sporting promotions and the use of tobacco by sportsmen, I refer honourable senators to the Four Corners program of 18 June last when it was estimated that the leading tobacco companies in this country are investing something of the order of $6m per annum in sport and sport promotion. I again remind honourable senators of the newspaper comment I quoted earlier in which a journalist said:
Australian sport will be dealt a death blow if it loses financial support from tobacco.
I simply submit to the Senate that this is an intolerable situation. If we have developed a circumstance where it is necessary for organised sport in this country to depend upon the promotion of an addictive drug which we know is one of the major causes of all excess mortality and morbidity in the country we should at least be aware of it and be prepared to do something about it. The tobacco companies appear very expertly to be trying to circumvent the ban on television advertising by using fixed advertising at some of the sporting arenas. Further, the advertising is carefully placed in relation to the cameras. Any honourable senator who enjoyed watching the Amco Cup final at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney will know that the tobacco advertising was to be found on three sides of the ground only. The fourth side of the ground, of course, was the point from which the television cameras provided the main coverage and no tobacco advertising was placed there. Research was carried out by a group from the Sydney Teachers College who found that, in the Amco Cup final in 1977, the amount of time in that final which tobacco advertising appeared on the screen, not just for an instant and not just as subliminal advertising but for a significant time, represented about 20 per cent of the total viewing time for the game. I repeat: Abour 20 per cent of the time of the telecast tobacco advertising was telecast.
The interest of tobacco companies in sporting sponsorship must be set against the fact that very few sportsmen smoke. If the latest survey shows that about 40 per cent to 45 per cent of the Australian population now smokes cigarettes, only two per cent of top sportsmen who were surveyed are smokers themselves. It seems incredible that sportsmen should feel so strongly about access to tobacco money for the provision of material resources which they require for their activities.
Further, it has become apparent that people genuinely are concerned about the addictive nature of the habit. Granada Television in the United Kingdom, as a community service, offered some anti-smoking kits. It really did not know what kind of response it would get. It thought that perhaps it would get 5,000 responses. Granada Television received 600,000 requests for the anti-smoking kits when it made the offer to the British community. I repeat: 600,000 requests.
I would like to say a few words about cannabis and what has happened on the cannabis front since this report appeared. Senator Grimes, former Senator Brown and I took a view that the correct way of providing a legal framework for the control of cannabis was to maintain prohibition, but to substitute a civil penalty for the present criminal penalty. Not all our colleagues were in agreement. But I think honourable senators would agree that in the 10 months that have elapsed since this report came down, since the discussion paper has appeared from the South Australian Royal Commission- and I must say a discussion paper of a quality rare in public documents in this country- since the evidence has been coming forward in some of the royal commissions and since people of substance in society have started putting forward views, we on the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare now appear to be like conservatives, lagging behind in the development of policy in this particular drug area. I submit to the Senate, to my colleagues, that the suggestions that we made last year for changes in the law relating to cannabis, though they were greeted with horror then, are more conservative today than some of the authoritative suggestions which have been thrown into the arena, and are certainly worthy of consideration.
In relation to the particular drugs which we studied, it only remains to remind honourable senators that the recommendations we made on analgesics such as Bex and Vincents are now being put into legal effect in many States. The promise that we made to the Senate that we would come back and study therapeutic drugs is now becoming a reality as that study is under way. The Royal Commission on illicit drugs is going to produce some significant findings itself.
It remains only to say a few words about a couple of other issues. The first is the matter which Senator Mcintosh raised by way of interjection a few moments ago- the question of excise. The Senate Standing Committee took a firm view on the evidence available to it that the only quickly effective way of influencing consumption levels of legal drugs in Australia is by revenue policies- by varying the excise or other imposts by government. I do not know what purpose the Treasurer (Mr Howard) had in mind: I do know that I, as an individual senator, wrote to him in advance of the Budget, pressing a consideration of appropriate excise policies for tobacco and alcohol in line with the recommendations that we made in this report.
– That is what will assist in the economic recovery.
– I believe that the excise measures will have an effect upon consumption of both legal and illicit drugs in this country over the next year- and I am not alone in that view. The twelfth annual report of the Australian Tobacco Board recognised this. It sets out its concern that excise policies can affect the total consumption of tobacco. That might be of concern to the Australian Tobacco Board, but it delights me, Mr President. Excise on tobacco was increased in July 1974 and August 1975. Consumption dropped by something over 2 per cent in 1975 and almost 4 per cent in 1976. There was no excise increase in tobacco in the succeeding Budget and consumption increased by 0.9 per cent in 1977. I have no doubt that the present excise measures will affect overall sales of tobacco and tobacco products in this country, and I believe this is a socially desirable measure. The report of the Australian Tobacco Board concluded:
Representatives of the Board have expressed their great concern at the fall in consumption which they consider largely attributable to excise and licence fees.
Perhaps this brings us back to one of the basic issues: What kind of national goal are we pursuing? We are not pursuing a prohibition policy. As I will point out later, that is scarcely compatible with ideas of personal liberty. But neither should we be pursuing or espousing a growth policy in relation to a drug of addiction. Perhaps Senator Mcintosh was correct in his subsequent interjection that governments need to examine the ambivalence of some of their policies when they impose excise to reduce consumption and at the same time give support- and I am talking here of governments of every colour; governments of Senator Mcintosh’s persuasion as well as my own- to tobacco growing and tobacco research. Since I see my colleague, Senator Colston in the chamber, might I say that, if he were to read the report, he would discover that we were sensitive to the problems which excise might have for some of the tobacco producing States, not only Queensland but my own State as well. They are problems which could be structural but which we have taken into account. Likewise in relation to the use of alcohol, this year’s annual report of the directors of Tooths Brewery has blamed ‘increasing governmental controls and imposts’ for the lack of growth in the beer market in this country. The directors see as a highly undesirable situation the fact that the beer market has not increased. They go on to observe:
Any additional significant increase -
I take it they mean in excise- will further adversely affect sales and could in the long term be self defeating if its prime aim is to increase government revenues.
I submit that it is not or it should not be, because the prime social issue is where we want to pitch the level of consumption and where we want to pitch controls by way of revenue policies which will hold consumption down. Many honourable senators will have read John Stuart Mill. In his essay ‘On Liberty ‘ he stated:
The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral is not a sufficient warrant.
I have quoted Mill’s words to raise the final issue which I want to bring to the attention of the Senate tonight and that is the issue of social control. The question is: How inappropriate might social control be or how necessary might it be? The debate concerns social control by someperhaps those in government- on the freedom of action of others. Some people in Australia, adherents to Mill ‘s philosophy, see any regulation of drug use of any kind, whether the drugs are licit or illicit, to be an infringement of their liberty. I certainly do not agree with that view as a pure statement in relation to all drug use. For example, I would not want it to be thought that I recommend complete freedom of use of narcotics, although I note that all narcotics- opium, morphine and heroin- at one time were freely available across the counter in this country and in most Western countries. In fact, their use became limited or illegal only in this century.
In relation to the social control of the legal drugs of alcohol and tobacco, I am not advocating that their usage be banned. That would be social control gone mad. Prohibition does not work. It would not be tolerated. It would give rise to the same situation as the social control policies on marihuana have. That is to say, by advocating prohibition we would inevitably have the growth of an organised criminal class determined to provide a supply to meet demand and prepared to take whatever steps were necessary to overcome all obstacles. I seek to bring to the realisation of honourable senators the simple fact that we must do something in relation to alcohol and tobacco. For in terms of personal damage, social damage and economic cost these two legal drugs are causing the greatest problems to our community and the problems are increasing. On a world scale Australia, an affluent country, well situated and well fed, ranks only tenth in terms of scales of health and health performance. We should rank better. It is likely that our rather suboptimal performance in health is attributable to the lifestyle we lead and, in particular, due to some of the drugs which are used and abused, particularly cigarette smoking which causes an excess mortality of enormous proportions and a major public health problem in this country. It is also due to alcohol abuse rather than to any deficiencies in the health care system or the provision of health facilities.
If people want to improve the health performance in this country, quite apart from the problems such as isolated communities or some of our Aboriginal population, we have to address ourselves to these lifestyle problems rather than imagine that the transfusion of extra resources will do the job for us. This clear evidence of lifestyle induced diseases of immense economic and social significance raises problems with respect to individual liberty in the sense of John Stuart Mill. We have a paradox of a need for some social control against a general desire to accept and stay with the proposition on liberty propounded by Mill and people like him. A number of issues are raised which I think honourable senators might care to consider. These issues have been very adequately set out in a quite brilliant inaugural lecture delivered at the University of Tasmania by the foundation professor of community health at that University, Dr Norelle Lickiss. The issues which she has set out are as follows:
Is there a limit to an individual’s right to choose a lifestyle which will seriously increase the costs borne on his behalf by the community and reduce his own contribution to the creating and sustaining of that community?
That is an issue of which we have to take consideration. She continues:
Is it ethically justified for a person to embark on a smoking career without contributing to the public purse in proportion to the costs his smoking can be foreseen to engender? The question of how freely an individual man or woman chooses knowingly a self-destructive lifestyle raises further issues. Do these lifestyle induced disorders testify to the concept that our society is indeed a bound society -
That is restrictive, contained perhaps by our need for drugs- not a community of free men.
I do not know the answers but I am attracted to the conclusion of Professor Lickiss’ inaugural lecture when she stated:
It appears that we have ourselves, collectively, by the decisions made in the past, the roots chosen and the situations tolerated, created limits for our own liberty.
I accept, as an individual senator and as a member of the Senate Committee, the validity of the doctor’s comments and of those issues. I believe that we as a society have to answer those kinds of questions in relation to drug use and abuse in this country. Mr President, you will be aware that the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare has a continuing reference and oversight of drug abuse in this country. The reference was not discharged with the production of this report. It will not be discharged when we produce a further report on the use and abuse of therapeutic drugs. I believe that the Committee will continue to develop the reference by doing further work. It will continue its study of therapeutic drugs. It will continue its examination of the findings of the royal commissions. As far as possible on behalf of the Senate we will exercise the best judgment we can bring to some of the issues which I have brought to the attention of honourable senators tonight.
-Before moving the adjournment of the debate I shall speak very briefly to some of the points raised by Senator Baume and by this report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare which, as the Senate knows, was tabled last October. If honourable senators notice a particular aura of sanctity or righteousness about me as I speak this time when compared with last time, it is because I have joined my colleague Senator O ‘Byrne in the ranks of the ex-smokers in this country. I have not quite joined the ex-drinkers in this country as has the ex-President of my Party, Bob Hawke, and the honourable senator who interjected a moment ago. As Senator Baume has said those of us who are members of the Committee welcomed and in some cases were surprised at the reception the report received in some very illustrious places. The remarks in the Lancet, the remarks in the Australian Medical Journal and the favourable remarks from drug authorities in the United States were very pleasing.
Running through those remarks was the constant theme that this was a report which had taken a reasonable and sensible approach to the problems of drug abuse in this country and which had taken part in a rational debate on the problems of drug abuse in this country. Indeed, one of the most important parts of the report is a plea for rational debate on drug abuse. As the report says and as, I think, Senator Baume mentioned, for too long in this country and in other countries the whole debate on drug abuse has been clouded by hysteria on both sides, for and against, by the use of anecdotal evidence without any scientific backing up and, which is inevitable, I suppose, particularly in our political system, by the use of this debate by some people to gain a segment of the votes in the community by playing on the prejudices of those people whom they believe they need to support them.
I am afraid that, despite this report and despite the pleas of Senator Baume and other members of the Committee last time, this sort of thing still goes on. I am afraid that too often we still have two schools of thought standing off and shouting at each other without looking at the facts and without looking at the scientific evidence we have available. We have one group taking the libertarian approach, which I believe goes further than John Stuart Mill, in saying that we should be able to do as we please in the community, and we have another group saying we should ban everything that affects anyone in any way.
I believe that we have a responsibility in this Parliament to look at the facts carefully, to look at the evidence that is available and to make our conclusions on the basis of that evidence. The few differences we had on the Committee- they existed only in the section on cannabis- I believe were based on a difference of opinion, mainly a difference of opinion on the interpretation of the facts as they came before the Committee. There may have been some philosophical differences among those who brought the report forward, but the differences were argued in a rational way and were not argued from a point of view of prejudice. They were not like two people sitting back and screaming at each other, which, as I said, has bedevilled this debate for such a long time. If the reports produce nothing else but sane and sensible debate and a sensible scientific appraisal of the facts in this area, I think we will have achieved a lot; and I believe that we can achieve a lot in this country.
The second good thing that the report did, I believe, was to bring forward to the people of this country the realities of the drug abuse situation and to remove some of the myths which surround arguments on drug abuse in Australia. As Senator Baume has clearly pointed out, this report asserted unanimously that the big drug problems in this country are alcohol and tobacco, and in their volume and effects on the social and community life of Australia they far exceed other problems with other drugs in this community. By the way, we attempted to remove some of the myths which are so precious to the hearts of all Australians. The famous myth is that we have the strongest beer in the world and that by being able to drink this beer we are the most masculine and the greatest people in the world. In case any senator has not read the report and is not aware of the facts, we have very ordinary strength beer, we are way down the scale of strength of beer in this world, and there is nothing particularly virtuous in being able to consume vast quantities, despite what is said in Carlton United, Tooths and other beer advertisements.
– You are doing our international image great harm.
– I may be doing our international image great harm, but I am more concerned at the moment about our local image than our international image, although I know Senator Knight has a very great concern for foreign affairs. I differ from Senator Baume in perhaps one regard, and I differed from Senator Walters in this regard the other night. I would like to believe that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) had increased the excise on beer, alcohol and tobacco as a result of our report and as a result of a great concern to decrease the consumption of alcohol and tobacco. As an ordinary citizen as well as a member of the Opposition, I am afraid that I must suggest that I suspect that the Treasurer’s motives were directed more to the revenue side of the Budget than to decreasing consumption. Even with the increases in the Budget it is worth while pointing out that we still pay less, as a percentage of our average weekly earnings, for alcohol at least- I have not checked on tobacco- than we did in the immediate postwar years. Nothing has been done about the very real and useful suggestion, I believe, in the report that we should put a selective excise on alcohol to encourage the drinking of low alcohol beers.
This report came out at an interesting time. While we were still sitting royal commissions were commissioned by the Commonwealth, by New South Wales and by South Australia to look into drug problems. We have had a preliminary report from South Australia which, as Senator Baume says, is of a quality which far exceeds the usual sort of report that we get from royal commissions in this country and is far better and of a far higher standard than the usual debate on drugs in this community. I hope that in future the debate on drug abuse in Australia will be more rational and will be conducted more by reasonable men and women who look at the facts and at the possibilities of control of abuse in a sensible way rather than just consider the two alternatives of prohibition and complete libertarianism. If we look at the problems sensibly and if when we decide on solutions to those problems we evaluate the effects of those solutions so that we are sure that we are achieving what we set out to achieve, we may get somewhere. However, if we continue to shout at each other and to air our prejudices in this Parliament and in the media, and if we continue to condemn those whose views differ from ours to gain political votes in political ballots or according to the prejudices we think the community has, we will continue to go the way we are going as an intoxicated society; and the only difference that will occur is that the variety of those intoxicants will increase, the absolute volume of those intoxicants used will increase, and we will get nowhere. We will head down the long road of the dissolution of our society which can occur, I am sure, in the long term as a result of drug abuse. I seek leave to continue my remarks so that we can continue this important debate on another day.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-The notice of motion standing in the name of Senator Walsh was given on 2 1 February 1 978 and, on behalf of Senator Walsh, I move:
Notice of that motion was given on 2 1 February 1 978. Perhaps it had a salutary effect because on 5 April 1 978, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications in the House of Representatives, Mr Staley, brought down a fairly comprehensive statement relating to public broadcasting. The Opposition commended the Minister on the fairly comprehensive nature of that statement. In those circumstances, the motion now before the Senate is perhaps a little redundant. However, it is probably worth while reiterating one or two facts regarding this matter and pointing to a situation of delay which is now again apparent in the public broadcasting area.
The public reports relating to public broadcasting in Australia go back to 1972. Public broadcasting has well been established in countries like the United States of America since the late 1950s but it was not until 1972 that the first public report on public broadcasting- the report on FM radio- was made by the old Australian Broadcasting Control Board and accepted in principle by the McMahon Government. Then the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts took up the matter. Members of the present Government served on that Committee. In 1974, the Whitlam Government commissioned Sir Francis McLean to come to Australia to provide an independent report on FM broadcasting in this country. This had the result, in a sense, of reversing the policy of previous governments in relation to the FM portion of the spectrum. In 1975, the results of a working party on public broadcasting in Australia established by the Government were published. The committees which presented all those reports, except the 1972 one, were set up or commissioned by the Labor Government. But at no stage did the then Opposition, the present Government, reject the recommendations of these reports.
In 1976, the Green report on Australian broadcasting which was sought by this Government stated that the Australian Broadcasting system should consist of three sectors- a national sector, namely the Australian Broadcasting Commission, a commercial sector and the public broadcasting sector. It stated that all three sectors should have access to FM broadcasting. The Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, which was set up by this Government after it abolished the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in a fit of pique endorsed the idea of public broadcasting in its report presented in July 1977. That report, which dealt with self-regulation for broadcasters, made the very specific comment that there should be further diversity of public broadcasting in Australia. Between July 1977 and 5 April 1978, the Government sat on these reports. It was only with the statement of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications on 5 April 1978 that some comprehensive sort of statement was made and some indication gained of the policy of the Government on this important question of public broadcasting.
The only other comment I wish to make is that I think this Government can probably be accused of delays and prevarication in relation to public broadcasting up until 5 April 1978. With the statement by the Minister on that date, a great deal of hope was engendered into many people in the community interested in and concerned about public broadcasting. In fact, when applications were called for medium power licences in major cities, as I recall it, there were eight applications in Brisbane for three licences, a number of applications in Perth for a limited number of licences, eight applications in Melbourne, and a similar degree of enthusiasm was shown in all the other major cities. The problem has been that, as a result of the staffing policies of the present Government, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal has been unable to deal with public broadcasting licence applications as expeditiously as might have been thought desirable. For example, if one looks at the Adelaide Advertiser of Monday, 21 August 1978, one finds a member of the Broadcasting Tribunal- the South Australian representative, Mr Merrickdescribing the manner in which the Tribunal had to deal with the renewal of television broadcasting licences as totally inadequate. The point was made in the context of that article about the very insufficient staff of the Tribunal. Indeed, I believe that the statement has been made and reiterated by the Chairman of the Tribunal, amongst others, in subsequent hearings in Brisbane and elsewhere. So whilst the Government has acted following the presentation of the Notice of Motion given on this matter, there have still been considerable delays. It is for that reason tonight that I speak to the motion standing in the name of Senator Walsh. I commend the motion to the Senate and I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Webster) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for the allowing of rebates of the excise duty payable on certain categories of indigenous crude oil. The Bill, in conjunction with Excise Tariff Proposals No. 3 (1978) introduced into the Parliament on 15 August 1978, constitutes the legislation required to bring into effect the Government’s decision that all indigenous crude oil is to be priced at import parity levels. As indicated by Senator Carrick on 15 August in outlining to the Senate the Government’s Budget proposals, this objective is to be achieved by increasing the present excise duty, that is the levy, on ‘nonparity’ oil by an amount which will bring the price of that oil to import parity levels.
The rate of excise duty required to raise the current price of Bass Strait ‘non-parity ‘ oil to import parity level is $64.53 per kilolitre, that is, about $10.26 per barrel, and this is the basic proposed new excise duty rate for stabilised crude petroleum oil for the period ending 31 December 1978. However, Bass Strait oil currently priced at import parity, although liable to the higher rate of excise duty, will in accordance with the provisions of this Bill, be allowed a rebate of duty of $45.63 per kilolitre to ensure that the net duty payable will remain at $ 1 8.90 per kilolitre- about $3 per barrel.
Similarly, the quantity of Barrow Island oil which is currently priced at import parity and the total production of Moonie and other smaller fields, currently at import parity price, will also be allowed the same rebate to provide an effective excise duty of $ 1 8.90 per kilolitre. The quantity of Barrow Island oil currently at ‘non-parity’ price will be liable to an effective duty rate of $61.39 per kilolitre, about $9.76 per barrel, to bring its price to import parity level. To achieve this the Bill provides for a rebate of $3.14 per kilolitre from the excise duty liability of $64.53 per kilolitre.
The Bill requires that the Minister for National Development shall, from time to time, determine prices for crude oil to take account of changes in the import parity price and so enable appropriate rates of duties and rebates to be calculated in terms of the relevant provisions. It also allows for the making of regulations related to the administration of the scheme of rebates. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
– I move:
Notice of this motion was given on 2 1 February 1978. The situation of employment compared on the true basis of month this year to month last year has not improved. In fact it has worsened. With unemployment in Australia this month at the highest level since the Great Depression and with about half the number of unemployed under the age of 2 1 years the Commonwealth
Government must now surely realise that it should assign to a Minister- a senior Ministerthe sole responsibility of analysing the nature and breaking the back of the structural problems of unemployment that beset Australia.
The foundation of my resolution is unchallengeable. The most recent evidence of concern in the employment field comes from the Government’s own Department of Employment and Industrial Relations which conducted a survey of job prospects in Australia ‘s major industries over the next 12 to 18 months. The Department of Industrial Relations’ manpower programs section in its six-monthly bulletin recently outlined a very bleak forecast for that period of time. The report predicts that employment levels will drop in most sectors including the manufacturing, building and construction and the mining and quarrying sectors. The only bright outlook, according to the report, is for the tertiary and services sectors, but the report expects job levels to increase in these areas only slightly. The report assesses employment trends in major industry groups for the next 12 months to 18 months and job prospects for the same period in commercial, skilled and semi-skilled and lower technical and occupational groups. It is a report that is well worth reading.
The Department made the comment that the report was mainly a manpower planning tool. An article which appeared in the Hobart Mercury on Monday, 14 August 1978 stated:
It attempted to advise on potential bottlenecks as well as possible soft spots in the labour markets so these weaknesses could be overcome through immigration and retraining.
The report said there were prospects of a rise of 1 ,000 to 2,000 permanent jobs over the next 18 to 20 months in coal and aluminium mining but this gain might be slightly offset by losses in some other mining areas.
The report said the outlook for the building and construction industries was bleak following the failure of an expected 2 per cent cut in building finance interest rates to materialise.
The industry had been severely depressed over the past 1 2 months and both building approvals and commencements had fallen off.
As well, there was considerable excess capacity in the industry and employment levels were expected to fall even further in 1978-79.
The article continued:
Skilled labour shortages, especially in metal and skilled trades sul) existed despite the present depressed economic activity of manufacturing industry but it added that unskilled and inexperienced workers would continue to have difficulty in obtaining jobs and competition for jobs would be very keen.
I will not relate to the Senate tonight the statistical information that is available to all honourable senators as to the drastic unemployment situation that faces Australia. Honourable senators will realise from an examination of those figures that the drastic situation relates to the structural quality of the unemployment. This is why I respond to the type of statement that emerges from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) every six months- I am sure we are about to have another one- to the effect that we should call a conference and see what we can do about the employment situation. Certainly it is important that people be consulted but the call-a-conference syndrome and platitudes by the Minister about reducing inflation first give little hope to the unemployed who have heard that all before. I am sure that we will hear this again from the Minister within the next two or three months. That the current situation can lead to long term dangers for Australia is now widely recognised not only in the trade union movement and among employer groups but also throughout the community. For example, Mr George Polites, the Director-General of the National Employers Consultative Council, whom the Government consults from time to time and whose opinion, of course, on a number of matters is well worth listening to, said:
If this situation - that is, the drastic unemployment situation-
. is allowed to continue for any extended period the economic costs will pale into insignificance compared to the price we will eventually pay in terms of social, economic and political disruption and dislocation.
Those are the words of the Director-General of the National Employers Consultative Council, Mr George Polites, earlier this year. What has the Government done about that situation? The fact that about half of the unemployed are under 2 1 years of age highlights the gravity and structural nature of the problem of unemployment. The sort of political point scoring that goes on from the Government is just not adequate. The Commonwealth Government should ensure, in recognition of the gravity of the problem, that a senior Cabinet Minister has sole responsibility for employment and related matters and authority to devise, in conjunction with his State counterparts, programs to break the back of unemployment. At present employment- together with related matters- in the words of the report of the Norgard Inquiry into the Commonwealth Employment Service, is the poor relation of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations and does not receive the attention it both deserves and needs.
In times of high unemployment and inflation it is too much to expect one Minister to handle the crucial responsibilities of both employment and industrial relations. The current Minister’s dogged but unimpressive performance is witness to that fact. The Prime Minister, in my view- I am putting it to the Senate that it should be the view of the Senate- should relieve the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, of his responsibility in the vital area of industrial relations and transfer this area to an upgraded ministry of industrial relations, business and consumer affairs. This would enable Mr Street to concentrate his undoubted capabilities solely on the employment aspects of his portfolio, including associated manpower development, employment programs, labour market research, industrial training and related employment matters. In addition, no one doubts that a flood of serious industrial programs will soon descend on this country requiring better attention than a hard pressed and overworked Minister faced with record unemployment can give. No one doubts that we are at this moment hi the grip of a serious industrial relations problem requiring the minute to minute attention of the Minister. Of course, in a couple of weeks time there will be other industrial problems, not the least of which will be the live sheep export issue which will require the concentrated effort of a busy Minister who has experienced an inability to give his whole attention to the very important problem of unemployment.
It has been long recognised that insufficient resources and attention have been given to the study of the nature of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, in Australia today. I remind honourable senators that I referred to this fact almost two years ago. Mr Paul Kirby, the First Assistant Secretary of the Manpower and Economic Policy Division of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, gave that very warning that there were insufficient resources being devoted to the study and nature of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, in Australia as far back as August 1976 when addressing the first national conference on technical and further education. At that time, in contrast to the usual ministerial verbiage that we have been hearing about beating inflation first, Mr Kirby, the First Assistant Secretary of the Manpower and Economic Policy Division, made the sobering comment that youth unemployment ‘can be expected to persist in a greater or lesser degree irrespective of economic recovery and improved labour demand’. I think that we should all recognise that for the future of this country that fact is one which deserves the sole concentration of a senior Minister.
It is not without significance that there is a correlation between the increase in juvenile unemployment since the mid 1960s and the increase in the number of married women entering the work force over the same period. The problem cannot be solved by discriminating against married women in the work force, as some have suggested but rather by implementing the Government’s financial measures which will recognise the economic worth of the homemaker and contribute to family support programs, thus reversing the economic discrimination now experienced by single income families. These are the sorts of policies which should be developed and an analysis of the effect they would have on unemployment should be undertaken. But they are not being undertaken. The union to which I belong currently is undertaking a major survey of membership to see what the reaction would be to governmental policies designed to eliminate the discrimination that is currently being experienced by full-time homemakers, to see whether that would be sufficient attraction for women with dependent children to enable them to do their most important work, that is, the nurturing of their children, the future citizens of this country.
According to previous surveys that were conducted by at least one other union, the majority of married women in the work force are there through economic circumstance, whether socially created want or need. They have been forced into the work force through economic pressures. If the programs I have mentioned were adopted, they would provide a true freedom of choice and the option for those people to leave jobs, thus creating job opportunities for the young. I do not agree with the suggestion that there should be discrimination against married women in the work force. I have fought as a trade union official for equal pay for work of equal value. Indeed I moved the resolution at the critical Australian Council of Trade Unions congress on this particular matter. I believe that there should be a true freedom of choice but not by virtue of the fact that there are not sufficient supportive policies of the Government to provide that true freedom of choice for married women with dependent children, to take the economic pressure off them and to enable them to become full-time homemakers.
Furthermore, thousands upon thousands of young married women want to leave the work force and start a family, but they cannot do so because of housing finance problems. How many people do we know in the position where the wife ‘s earnings are going towards the deposit on a home? Once they have borrowed they have to work to maintain the high repayments on the money that has been borrowed. Certainly the call-a-conference syndrome, which we heard earlier this year when I moved that motion and which we will hear in the very near future and have heard recently in the Senate, reflects a need for the permanent consultative body consisting of the States, employers and unions to advise the Minister who is solely responsible for employment and related matters. Certainly this body would play an effective part in advising such a Minister about the problem areas. If that Minister were solely engaged in employment and related matters, he would also be able to look to the future of, say, manufacturing industry, the priorities of that industry and whether it should concentrate on the manufacture of chemicals, heavy engineering equipment or whatever. Together with his senior colleagues, he could give this country some direction, which it does not have today. I commend the motion to the Senate.
– I have distinct reservations about this proposal not concerning the basic critical employment situation but concerning one or two aspects on which I wish to differ from Senator Harradine. We had a very fine Minister for Labor and Immigration in the person of Clyde Cameron who was a great innovater. When this Government came to office it created a separate portfolio of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs from Employment and Industrial Relations. I know that ethnic affairs is a specialised area, although the evolutionary process in most of the States has resulted in their following up a lot of migration and ethnic affairs matters which primarily were dealt with by the Federal Government. Mr Street has divested himself of a number of other fringe matters which were included in his original portfolio. I refer to the functions of Mr Macphee, the Minister for Productivity. As a matter of fact at the hearings of a Senate Estimates committee either last year or earlier this year, when members started to raise questions on some facets of industrial relations, we were promptly told that Mr Macphee had those facts on hand. I am not passing judgment on Mr Macphee for one moment.
Let us accept the thesis expounded by Senator Harradine about the complexities of industrial relations. I am fully aware of them. As late as today, with some of my colleagues, I spoke to people involved in the Telecom Australia dispute. I know of their hopes and aspirations in this advancing technological march. So I know the basic problem about which Senator Harradine is talking. I respectfully believe that as Mr Street’s work load is such that he does not have to handle immigration matters directly, some matters relating to productivity or even some aspects of industrial safety. They have all been transferred to other Ministers.
I refer to the rightful concern about job placement to which Senator Harradine has referred. I have seen classic illustrations of this. I mentioned briefly in the Senate before the problem of multinational companies. It is epitomised in the case of Firestone Australia Pty Ltd which decided that it would be better to bring trained tyre builders from Latin America rather than utilise unemployed persons in Granville. I think that in this issue Mr Street’s Department won, notwithstanding the fact that Firestone had received applications from a number of migrants. I do not blame it for exploiting this avenue, because its workers’ brothers in Uruguay are in the same industry. I agree with Senator Harradine that charity begins at home and that we have to maximise job placement. I wonder about the time that was wasted in the ministerial level between Mr MacKellar and Mr Street. Honourable senators will remember that two days ago in an aside or a dialogue with Senator Durack I quizzed him about who made the final decision in this case.
I think it was mentioned in the debate on the legislation following the Norgard report that for every day saved in getting someone placed in a job $ 1.8m is saved. I will not go on a long filibuster in this debate concerning the ministerial responsibilities of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I respectfully believe that Mr Street has fewer ministerial responsibilities than Clyde Cameron had. That is why I question this motion. Of course he is involved with national disputes. Certainly I am not the last person to sound the tocsin for Phil Lynch, but I know that in a couple of oil disputes Ministers met with Bob Hawke for four or five solid days. The modus operandi that is followed by Tony Street is not the same. As a matter of fact it is just a par for the course that whether one is a Premier of a State or a Prime Minister if the going is good and the decision is favourable, the Prime Minister announces it, but if the decision is a tough one he leaves it to his Ministers. That is one of the things that has happened.
I round off my speech in this way: I agree with Senator Harradine about an increased tempo in job placement. There is no argument about that. At times I feel that if Mr Street’s functions are subdivided, he will then have to conduct conferences with three other Ministers. At the moment he has to have them with Mr MacKellar and Mr Macphee. Yesterday a situation arose. I will have to face it in Sydney tomorrow. The dispute involved the inability of employment agencies to find a competent technician to service 40 carpet cleaning machines. Honourable senators could say that that is not a big time industry, but if each of those machines malfunctions and if the company does not have a technician who understands this type of American machine, people will have to be dismissed. That is only a small scale dispute, but I use it as an example. Instead of Mr Street having to consult with Mr MacKellar in this case, I would rather him have centralised power. He may be like every Minister in every government. Sometimes the decisions that he wants to make are inhibited by a superseding Cabinet decision.
Those are the reservations that I have, not on the basic and just criticism concerning our mounting unemployment problem but on the structure of the Minister’s portfolio. I am not convinced that a further breakdown of the functions of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations would be successful. The modern Public Service has directories, committees and advisory councils, much of which can be bowdlerised into memoranda to Ministers. I will not have it that the Minister does not have enough hours in the day. I admit that he may become involved with national confrontations that get out of hand. I think the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) likes to have his own way. For that reason I doubt that Tony Street is carrying the burden that the honourable senator thinks he is.
Debate (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) adjourned.
I do not intend to delay the Senate tonight for any undue length of time. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) is aware of the interest of many members of the Parliament, indeed I assume all members of the Parliament, in the preservation of family life. The Minister would also be aware of the concern of a large number of members of the Parliament about the pressures that are currently on families in today’s modern society. I had hoped to have been able to make an address prior to this, but since the motion was put down committees have been established in respect of the International Year of the Child. I draw to the Minister’s attention the attitude of European Ministers to the International Year of the Child. A meeting of Ministers responsible for family affairs or their representatives from 1 9 European states was held in Bonn from 7 to 9 September 1977 to discuss ways of promoting the educational role of the family. The discussions concentrated on the particular situation of today’s family, the need to stimulate the educational abilities of the family, and the concept of family-related counselling. The participants welcomed the United Nations initiative of proclaiming 1979 to be the International Year of the Child and passed a declaration promising to exchange experiences and to promote programs benefiting children. The declaration said in part:
The European Ministers hope that this event will stimulate a better understanding of the positions of the child in the social and family context in every country of the world, taking into account the conditions, needs and priorities of each country, and that it will make it possible to develop measures designed to foster the physical, mental and social well-being of all children, and in particular those of the third world.
The Ministers refuted criticism that had been directed towards the family and particularly towards the education of children within the family context, and I agreed with that. Honourable senators know as well as I do that there is no institution within society which is more capable or better equipped than the family to provide educational or a social welfare and health delivery system. If that were recognised and accepted as a fundamental policy by any government it would ensure the reduction of the expenditure on social security as a proportion of the Budget outlays. A report of the conference of ministers states:
Although the rapid social changes of recent years have led to questioning the previously undisputed acceptance of existing institutions, there is no doubt that, even today, the family should be considered the basic element of society. The difficulties it must face in today’s society have undoubtedly become more serious, and they still increase in number when the image of the family, on the one hand, and the social concepts of life in society, on the other, become divergent.
In no country, the Ministers found, is there doubt as to the viability and irreplaceable role of the family. Even today’s nuclear family assumes tasks which cannot be assumed by other social groups- or, if so, only partially. This applies in particular to children ‘s education, especially in the first years of life
On the other hand, stresses within the family due, for instance, to the change from hierarchical family relationships to relationships based on equality of spouses and a greater autonomy of children, or problems in relations between parents and educational institution, or specific educational problems, such as sex education, may be found in all countries.
The Conference acknowledged that State and society have a duty to assist the family in fulfilling its manifold tasks: however, they believed that, in principle, the State should not challenge the basic rights of parents to educate their children.
The Ministers gave priority to parents’ education and family-related counselling services- particularly parents’ education because they believed that preventive measures should be given preference over curative measures.
I quote that to illustrate the direction that is being taken in the European countries, at least by the European Ministers responsible for family affairs, in relation to the 1979 International Year of the Child.
In conclusion, I contrast that with a comment by the Director of the New South Wales Council of Social Service, Mrs Eva Cox, reported in the Australian Financial Review on 2 June 1978, Mrs Cox made these extraordinary remarks:
My concern is trying to avoid tying in IYC with such things as the proposed conference in June of the Nursing Mothers Association ‘s National Breastfeeding Week.
Here is the extraordinary comment:
There is a very real danger of giving glorification through IYC to service all sorts of ideological ends.
That really must take the gong for being the most extraordinary statement from anybody in relation to the International Year of the Child. I am not sure what ideological connotations emerge from breastfeeding. The escapes me. However, that is the type of attitude expressed by the Director of the New South Wales Council of Social Service, Mrs Eva Cox, and I draw that to the attention of the Minister and of those who will be dealing with the direction of the International Year of the Child. Many people within the community will be looking to the attitudes of the committees to see whether they are supportive of the child within the family context particularly. I commend the motion to the Senate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston)- Is the motion seconded?
– Yes. I second the motion, and I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move:
It might seem extraordinary that such a motion as this should come before the Senate. It might seem extraordinary to those members of the
Senate who think about the matter that family planning associations should have anything to do with abortions. After all, the attitude of some family planning associations that abortion is an acceptable or desirable form of fertility control really condemns those family planning associations for the fact that they are not doing the job for which they were established. Nevertheless, there are a number of family planning associations in the various States that receive substantial financial assistance from the Commonwealth Government. In 1976-77 grants totalling $514,264 were approved by the then Occupational and Social Health Projects Branch of the Department of Health for disbursement to the Australian Federation of Family Planning Associations and the Melbourne Action Centre. In 1977-78, the grants totalled $525,364, including - and I want to emphasise this-$ 149,095 for the New South Wales Family Planning Association.
Those members of Estimates Committee D will remember that last year I asked questions of officials of the Department of Health about the attitude of family planning associations to abortions. At my first attempt to obtain information I did not receive a direct reply. Later, one of the officials of the Department of Health replied- and this is to be found on page 132 of the Hansard of Estimates Committee D:
If the question is: Are some of the institutions funded by the Commonwealth, either now or in the past, recommending abortion, I think the answer would be yes.
In reply to another honourable senator, the officials stated that family planning associations did not offer facilities to perform abortions, but that they did offer advice on abortion. Therefore there is not very much dispute about the fact that some family planning associations offer advice about abortion in the context of family planning.
The major objective of this motion is to draw the attention of the Senate, and indeed of the people of Australia, to the development of an attitude in some family planning associations, that attitude being that abortion is an acceptable and indeed a safe method of birth control, fertility control or even of conception. The development of this attitude within government-funded family planning associations is something which raises the question of continued funding of these bodies if there has been a change from their policies when the grants were first initiated. I suspect that that is what has occurred; that since first they tapped the Health money pipeline, there has been this change in attitude in some cases towards the policy that abortion is an acceptable and/or safe form of birth control or fertility control. As I have mentioned previously, to me, a family planning association which advocates abortion as an acceptable form of fertility control is a damning indictment of its own effectiveness.
There are some family planning associations which have recognised the danger of being caught up in this new approach. The Family Planning Association of Tasmania is one such organisation which recognises the danger of being caught up in this new approach. It has a specific policy and this policy appears at page 487 of Hansard covering the supplementary information supplied to the Estimates Committee last year. Objective No. 2 of the Association is:
I ask honourable senators to contrast this with the views of people associated with the New South Wales Family Planning Association who appear to be adopting an attitude which is heading in a different direction altogether. I refer firstly to the comment by Professor Charles Kerr on 7 February 1978, soon after his election to the post of President of the Family Planning Association of New South Wales. An interview in which Professor Kerr was asked his attitude on abortion was conducted over the Australian Broadcasting Commission television news at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, 7 February 1978. The interviewer asked:
What ‘s your attitude to abortion?
Professor Charles Kerr responded:
Abortion is accepted. It’s legally accepted as a means of fertility control; just one option available to women in this State and its fitted into the health system and the medical system. And the Association- if there comes a person who may require an abortion it would proceed in the normal channels, just like doctors doing work anywhere else.
I do not know quite what Professor Kerr means by ‘it would proceed in the normal channels’. I am not ignorant of the fact that Professor Kerr also has a long association with the Preterm Abortion Clinic in Sydney.
But another official of the New South Wales Family Planning Association has gone further. The New South Wales Director of the Family Planning Association, Judy McLean, was interviewed on the ABC Broadband program in March 1977. At that time she stated:
I do not have a specific date for that program but I do have the transcript of it here. I am not unaware of the fact that shortly after I raised that matter in the Senate Estimates Committee hearing, the Australian Federation of Family Planning Associations, at its annual general meeting declared:
This Federation dissociates itself from statements such as abortion is a very safe method of fertility control ‘.
The Government might reply by saying: ‘We certainly provide money to the Australian Federation of Family Planning Associations and they redistribute it to family planning associations’. It is up to the Australian Federation of Family Planning Associations to apply its own policy to its constituent bodies. But what if it does not apply those policies to its constituent bodies? The Government cannot then turn its back on the attitudes of organisations which indirectly exist mainly on the basis of government funding. That is the situation of the family planning associations. It is taxpayers ‘ money about which we are talking. If the Senate passes this motion then it will serve notice on the family planning associations that they can continue to receive public moneys, that is government grants, for legitimate activity in the family planning area but once they cross the line and become merely abortion referral agencies under the guise of family planning, they will receive no further support.
I do not believe one person in the Senate or in the whole Parliament would be prepared to argue that abortion is a very safe method of birth control. It is certainly not safe for the unborn baby. If there is anyone here who supports that argument I would be interested to hear him or her say so publicly. But let us not forget that that argument is advanced by the director of the New South Wales Family Planning Association which receives massive financial support from the taxpayers’ pockets, that is from the Government. I believe the Senate would be failing in its duty if it did not rigorously scrutinise the situation as to whether any of these funds are going towards the implementation of that sort of attitude and that sort of policy. I place these matters before the Senate and I have raised them before Senate Estimates committees. I believe that if this motion is passed by the Senate it will go a long way to ensuring that family planning associations do the job for which they were established and that they do not engage in acting as referral agencies for abortions. I know that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has listened to the comments which I have made. I commend them to her.
– Order! Is the honourable senator’s motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
Debate (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) adjourned.
– In response to an inquiry directed to me by Senator Primmer at Question Time today I advise that at approximately 4.10 p.m. yesterday a police constable on duty reported a package found on the floor of a toilet located off King’s Hall behind the House of Representatives inquiry box. Normal precautionary measures were taken. The immediate area was cordoned off and it was quickly established that the package was harmless. At no time was any person at risk.
– I ask for leave to withdraw the motion standing in my name. It relates to the organisation of the Estimates committees and the staffing of them. I gave notice on 23 February 1978 consequent upon a report of the Senate Estimates Committee presented on 13 October 1977. The Senate Standing Orders Committee with perspicacity took up the matter prior to its being debated by the Senate. In fact, it has dealt with the subject matter of my notice of motion and steps are under way to implement the things which were being sought in my notice of motion. My notice of motion has been overtaken by events and I am delighted to be in the position to withdraw the notice of motion.
Motion- by leave- withdrawn.
Member for Denison- Moscow Olympic Games-ABC Radio Program AM- Kakadu National Park -Excise on Brandy-Senate Order of Business
Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– This morning a statement was made by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt, under privilege which made an attack upon a person who is not a member of this chamber and who is not in a position to reply in this chamber to the attack which was made. I sought leave to move a motion to take note of the report so that the matter could be further raised if a reply was sought to be made. Leave was refused. I take the opportunity to read to the Senate a reply on behalf of the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) of the House of Representatives who was the subject matter of the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition this morning. I do not propose to comment in relation to the matter but rather simply, in what I would regard as a matter of fairness, to give the honourable member the opportunity to have on record what he says in reply to what was said about him this morning. This is a statement by the honourable member for Denison, Mr Michael Hodgman, and it states:
I am somewhat surprised by Senator Wriedt ‘s incredible outburst in the Senate this morning. The fact of the matter is that whether he likes it or not, Senator Wriedt spoke one way in the meeting and then actually voted the other way and was seen to do so by everybody present in the Polish Hall. There would be no difficulty in producing literally scores- or indeed hundreds- of witnesses to support this fact. Those on the stage with Senator Wriedt included myself, Mrs KrollSimmul, Senator Brian Harradine and the independent Chairman, the Hon. Ken Lowrie, M.L.C.
The motion which was carried reads:
This meeting declares that the systematic suspension of basic human rights by the Communist Regime in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is an offense against the whole of humanity. This meeting therefore calls on all Australians to boycott the Olympic Games due in Moscow in 1980 and work for a change in venue. We urge the organising committee to make contact with others throughout Tasmania and the rest of Australia and campaign on the slogan ‘No Moscow Games Without Human Rights’.
Mr Hodgman’s statement continues:
I heard what Mrs Kroll-Simmul said on radio this morning- as far as I am concerned it was factually correct in every detail. Many of us in Tasmania have been worried about Senator Wriedt for some time- we feel he needs a rest. His unbelievable and totally unwarranted attack on Mr Bruce Goodluck, MHR over the sale of the ferry pontoons; his recent incredible predictions about alleged alterations to the Family Allowance Scheme, and now the fact that within four days he has apparently forgotten how he voted on motions at a mass public meeting in Hobart, all give cause for grave concern.
That statement I have read on behalf of an honourable member in another place who was the subject of a comment which was made this morning.
– I go back a little in time. One day, some 101/2 or 1 1 years ago, I was in my front garden. I had been endorsed as the No. 2 Australian Labor Party candidate for the 1967 elections. While I was there a car stopped in front of my house and a person unknown to me at that time came over and introduced himself in a most friendly manner. He said: ‘I am Peter Rae and I am No. 2 on the Liberal ticket. I wish you well in your political career’. Of course, I reciprocated. I have watched Senator Rae over the years and I put on the record tonight that in my view Peter
Rae is a genuine liberal; and what he has said tonight does not alter that view. I only wish to say that I am sorry that he has associated himself with the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) of whom I made remarks this morning, and I do not retract one of those words. I am sorry that as a person who I have seen show the sort of tolerance which I would expect of any person in this chamber over those 10 years he would associate himself with a person whom I described this morning in certain terms which I withdrew out of respect to you, Mr President, and for no other reason.
I can only restate that I am sorry that he has seen fit to associate himself with Mr Hodgman. I am also sorry that this matter has had to be raised in the Parliament. I said this morning that it is the first time in 10 years in this place that I have sought to make a personal explanation. I do not retract for one moment what I said this morning about Mr Hodgman. I believe that he will use any organisation, any platform and any issue to promote himself, and I just regret that Senator Rae has seen fit to associate himself with him.
– I simply want to use this adjournment debate to follow up the latest developments in the finalisation of the Kakadu National Park boundaries. I know that my colleague Senator Jessop and the members of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment have expressed the view that they want regular reports on what has happened. Following the extensive debates on the various pieces of legislation associated with uranium many questions were left unanswered. I know that following the creation of the positions of Chief Scientist and his associates it was assumed that they would be keeping a very close watch on future operations from an environmental point of view.
The reason I have risen to speak tonight is that there has been some sort of extreme speculation in the newspapers in relation to whether certain land tenure problems associated with Ranger would mean that the operations of one of the other two uranium projects would precede it. I raise this matter tonight in an endeavour to get an interim report. Whilst the Ranger inquiry produced a fairly in-depth environmental study, the other two projects were not subjected to quite the same sort of study and, without being too specific, I know that there was some doubt whether the preparatory work on the others might result in what I call a certain fudging or intrusion into the Fox report concept of the Kakadu National Park. I am concerned about that matter because I know that just recently in the Australian Financial Review there was an article headed: ‘Uranium- despite hurdles the search goes on’ by John Burne. In one paragraph I noticed that he said:
The ore body is still open in all directions.
That invites us to understand that other decisions could be made by the Government that would create other beach heads for the extraction of uranium. So, I ask for further information. I do not know whether Senator Guilfoyle has extracts from Newsweek of 7 August from which I will endeavour to cite a comparison. I see that the Minister has the magazine. This article contains a diagram which gives the total acreage of Alaska and in which the areas recommended for certain non-mining categories are broken up. The headings are: ‘National Parks System’, ‘National Wildlife Refuge System’ and ‘National Forest System ‘. I seek leave for that article to be incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
The four planes flew low over the rolling tundra of northern Alaska. The passengers, sitting in nosetothewindow awe, watched migrating caribou sun themselves in the 24-hour arctic daylight, and saw forested slopes where grizzly bears roam. The planes touched down on the placid surface of Selby Lake and Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus, with two dozen aides and reporters in tow, settled in for a day of fishing. Andrus, an avid angler, knotted a plastic leader and selected a mosquito fly. ‘This is a real killer,’ he said- and he showed it as he landed half a dozen trout, then tossed them back.
But Andrus clearly had bigger fish to hook on his trip recently. He was trying to rally support for the Carter Administration ‘s ‘top environmental priority’- a bill that would preserve 100 million acres of Alaskan wilderness, more than one-quarter of the entire state. Alaskans overwhelmingly oppose the bill, but Andrus considers it the last chance to protect the nation’s last frontier. ‘People look at Alaska the way they used to look at the American West,’ says Andrus. They thought the land was unlimited. They were wrong about the West. And they’re wrong about Alaska.’ The House passed the bill two months ago, 277 to 3 1 , but it faces more opposition in the Senate, chiefly from Alaska’s two senators, who worry that it will inhibit exploration for oil and minerals and who resent what they see as Federal meddling. The development-vs.-preservation issue has turned into a hotly lobbied fight over what one environmentalist calls ‘the conservation vote of the century.’
The chief reason for all the fuss is the immense wealth and beauty of Alaska. Its vast raw landscape- the magnificent mountains, glaciers and wild rivers- is overpowering. So is its size. Spanning four time zones and 37S million acres, Alaska is bigger than Texas, California and Montana combined. Yet well under I per cent of it has been cleared, settled or altered by man. Alaska’s 400,000 people- fewer than live in Washington, D.C.- are far outnumbered by animals: 20,000 grizzlies, 250,000 caribou, 300,000 seals, sea lions and walruses. More than 12 million migratory waterfowl- one-third of all the waterfowl in North America- fly there each spring.
The House-passed Bill, which was crafted by Arizona Rep. Morris Udall and Ohio Rep. John Seiberling, and which differs only slightly from the Administration proposal, would preserve 102 million acres of this land, an area the size of California. Ten new national parks would be established and three others enlarged, more than doubling the entire national-park system. Sixty-six million acres would be kept forever wild, which means permanent structures would be banned. A single offshore island proposed as a wilderness area shelters more bald eagles and grizzlies than the rest of the 49 states. One part and preserve, the 12.6 million acre Wrangell-St Elias, is six times larger than Yellowstone National Park, now the nation’s biggest. Other land to be preserved includes remnants of the Bering land bridge that brought people to North America 25,000 years ago, and 5.8 million acres of land that contains North America ‘s highest peak, 20,320-foot Mount McKinley. ‘We’re not talking about saving it all, ‘ says Andrus. ‘Just the best of the best. ‘
The process of dividing up Alaska actually began in 1959, when it became the nation ‘s 49th state. The Federal government gave the state 104 million acres to select and develop as it chose. Under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, Congress gave an additional 44 million other acres to the Indians, Eskimos and Aleuts who had claimed the land as their own. Section 17 (d) (2) of the Settlement Act also directed the Secretary of the Interior to set aside certain national-interest lands’ for preservation. They have since come to be called, in bureaucratic shorthand, the D2 lands, and the process of selecting them has created jurisdictional battles as impenetrable as the fog off the Misty Fiords. When California Sen. S. I. Hayakawa first heard of D2, he said it sounded like a new insecticide, ‘ says Alaska ‘s Sen. Ted Stevens.
But Stevens and Alaska’s other senator, Mike Gravel, know all about D2- and they don’t much like the current bill. Gravel complained that preserving one-quarter of the state would ‘cripple human habitation in Alaska, ‘ and he has threatened to filibuster the bill to death. Andrus never did expect any help from Gravel, but he believes Stevens will eventually support a version of the bill, despite his protests that it will limit Alaskan’s access to the land. ‘We’ll have to have a permit to land a floatplane on a wilderness lake, ‘ he says. ‘It seems the government is taking on sovereignty the world hasn’t seen since the days of the English crown. ‘
Stevens is echoing his constituents, who think they are about to be shut out of lands that have always been open to anyone with the grit to tramp through them. ‘People feel those dirty rats in Washington are coming to steal our land,’ says Steve Cowper, chairman of the state D2 Lands Steering Council. Wally Hickel, who is challenging incumbent Gov. Jay Hammond for the Republican nomination, has come out against the bill, forcing Hammond, normally a toughminded environmentalist, to fudge his position. Angry Alaskans are expected to pass a referendum directing the state to distribute 40 acres of its land to each citizen for every three years of residence, up to 1 60 acres per person.
Aside from Alaskans themselves, the most vociferous opponents of the 02 bill are oil and mining companies, which complain that vast amounts of natural resources could be permanently Mocked up.’ John J. Coffey, Washington manager for the Western Oil and Gas Association, says that under the House bill, only a third of Alaska’s Federal lands would be open to exploration, ‘and until we explore, we may have the wrong third available.’ The I I S. Geological Survey says there may be billions of barrels of undiscovered oilPrudhoe Bay reserves are 10 billion barrels- on the D2 lands of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. There may also be plenty of natural gas, and mining firms claim they have discovered a $6 billion deposit of copper, lead, zinc and silver extending into the proposed Gates of the Arctic National Wilderness in the western Brooks Range.
Since Alaska has been only barely explored, no one really knows the extent of its oil and minerals. But Andrus claims that the D2 boundaries were carefully drawn to exclude 90 per cent of all onshore oil and gas, and 66 per cent of the state’s mineral potential. ‘The hard-rock people won’t be satisfied unless they have access to everything, ‘ he grumbles.
Righting Old Wrongs
That is precisely what worries the nation’s environmentalists, and they have lobbied nonstop for nearly three years. Even Stevens calls it ‘probably the best-organized lobby movement I’ve seen.’ Thirty-one groups, from the Sierra Club to the United Auto Workers, banded together as the Alaska Coalition. They wrote, phoned and talked to their congressmen and packed subcommittee hearings. ‘We went over all the large floor-fight campaigns and identified the winning things we’d done in the past,’ says the coalition chairman Charles M. Clusen. ‘The idea is that we have the opportunity to do right in Alaska what we’ve done wrong in the rest of the country. ‘
Opponents of the bill say most of the Alaska land it too remote to interest tourists. But Andrus and the Alaska Committee disagree. Last year, they say, 250,000 people visited Alaska’s national parks to camp and sightsee and half again as many came to fish and hunt. The Nul-Luk-Vik Hotel in Kotzebue, just north of the Arctic Circle, does brisk business, even at $54 a night (‘You should try Paris,’ advised one traveler, when a visitor complained of the prices).
Setting aside the D2 lands seems certain to attract more tourists. That may dismay Alaskans, who dislike crowds as much as they do Federal interference. But where else in the U.S. can a tourist visit an Arctic desert with 100-foot sand dunes, see a glacier the size of Rhode Island and be stared down by a bald eagle?
-Following that approval, I will be asking the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) in the next fortnight whether he can supply a table giving a comparison between the hectares under those headings in the Northern Territory and the figures for Alaska. I emphasise that in referring to Alaska that legislation is before the United States Senate. As I have followed up this matter by way of earlier questions to Senator Carrick both here and in the Estimates committees, the important element is that we do not have any area that is designated ‘non-mining’. We have said that we will try to control uranium extraction whereas the United States legislation to which I am referring, which is a Bill that was introduced into the United States Congress by Representatives Udall and Seibellin. talks in terms of 66 million acres being kept for ever as a wilderness area and 102 million acres as national park acreage.
I repeat that what I am trying to get at is that, if there is an attempt to beat the gun to start the operations of one of the other proposed uranium mines, excluding Ranger, because of litigation flowing from the considerations of the Aboriginal land rights committee, decisions may be made which get away from the recommendations of the Fox report. I wonder how environmental regulations would be adhered to, because it will be remembered that all the debate on this legislation, which included participation by Territorial senators, was largely on the future of Ranger and that not very much was said about other mines.
I conclude on another point which I think is certainly relevant. Those of us who saw the recent Northern Territory newsletter were impressed with the new coat of arms which had a wedgetail eagle superimposed on the kangaroos. If one reads the article entitled ‘Preserving Alaska’ which I had incorporated in Hansard one will see that an area has been set aside for the bald faced eagle which is the symbol used on the United States coat of arms and kindred designations related to that country. I would like to know whether, when looking at all these matters, we are setting aside any escarpments for the wedgetail eagle. In simple language, I believe that the Senate is entitled to get monthly reports, if necessary. I know that what is termed an Alligator River workshop discussion will take place in the next few weeks; in fact I think it is during the recess. That is very nice, but I like to believe that this Senate is the custodian of national resources and that the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment is the particular watchdog. On that basis I leave those submissions with Senator Guilfoyle in the hope that when Parliament resumes, if not before, I can get a detailed statement, which will show me the relativity between the national park and other types of reserve land acreages in the Northern Territory and Alaska, and an answer to the other points that I have made.
– I raise again a matter on behalf of the wine grape growers of South Australia, a matter which I have raised on many occasions in this Parliament. I say at the outset that I am still awaiting some answers and some information from Mr Fife on the importation of cheap Japanese akadama plum wine which, I understand, now can be bought in Canberra for as little as $1.35 a bottle which must be making great inroads into our local product.
However, the matter I raise tonight has been brought to my attention by Renmano Wines Cooperative Ltd, winemakers and distillers, of Renmark in South Australia. Mr Kraehe. the
General Manager, wrote to me on 21 Augustthat is Monday of this week- and said:
I have attached a copy of the telex which the Australian Brandy Industry has forwarded to the Treasurer following the Budget.
The position for the brandy industry and the Riverland region is critical and I request your support for a change in the date of brandy excise.
I will be pleased to supply additional information should you require it.
Yours faithfully, C.J. KRAEHE General Manager
In July, I received a copy of a submission made by the Wine and Brandy Co-operative Producers Association of Australia to the Australian Government on matters of urgency concerning the Australian wine and brandy industry. No doubt all South Australian senators received a similar copy of this submission. I might add that this is a very comprehensive and well put together submission.
I wrote back to the organisation which asked me to support its representations and said that I would be most happy to do all that I could to support its submission. The Government cannot say that it has not been made aware of the problem that exists in the Riverland and Barossa Valley areas of South Australia. This submission is dated 2 June 1978. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) have had ample time to analyse that submission and acquaint themselves with the problems which are now being faced by the grape growers in South Australia. However, the submission, good and all as it was, had no effect on the Government. Whilst the submission sought a decrease in the brandy excise, the Government went the opposite way and imposed in the Budget a massive increase in the liquor excise. In view of this, the Renmano Wines Cooperative Ltd sent a telex to the Treasurer dated 8 August 1 978. 1 want to read the contents of that telex into the Hansard record. It is headed:
Copy of a communication directed to the Treasurer, with copies to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Primary Industry.
It reads as follows:
The Australian brandy industry has been in a depressed state due largely to disproportionate increases in excise. We have submitted to the IAC inquiry a case for a reduction in excise to stimulate sales. The Federal Budget has now increased excise to $ 1 8.75 per litre of alcohol which will increase the retail price of a bottle of brandy to approximately $ 1 1 with a government share of $7 in excise, sales tax and licence fee. We estimate that this increase will cut brandy sales by 35 per cent in this current year.
Industry stocks of brandy were in reasonable balance with sales projections. As a direct result of the Budget we are now considerably over-stocked so that the industry will take virtually no grapes for brandy in 1979. Annual brandy sales have represented approximately 30,000 tonnes of grapes so that the impact on an already serious grape surplus will be significant.
Approximately 85 per cent of brandy grapes are grown in South Australia ‘s Riverland region where there was a grape surplus of 25,000 tonnes in 1978. The effect on this region will be catastrophic.
The investment in brandy grapes and distillation, maturation and bottling facilities is substantial. The costs of converting, where possible, to wine production are also very large and this change cannot be effected overnight.
We believe that a number of producers will be forced out of brandy distillation unless your Budget decision is reversed. We request a meeting to put our case at the earliest opportunity.
I fully support the plea that has been made to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Treasurer and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). I am not aware whether any of those three gentlemen have agreed to meet with the representatives of the Renmano Wines Cooperative Ltd to discuss the problems that now exist because of the savage increases in the brandy excise. As I said, I fully support their request for a meeting. In view of the fact that the Government, through public pressure, has been able to reverse some other decisions made in the Budget- Senator Guilfoyle who is in charge of the Senate tonight as recently as Tuesday told us that she would introduce amending legislation to the Budget in respect of the decision to stop the payment of family allowances in cases where children earned income- I hope that the Government in its wisdom will do the same in this case.
Set out in this document, chapter and verse and in minute detail, is the amount of money that is collected in excise from the people in the Riverland. The amount involved is approximately $80m a year. Many of these people had to leave their grapes on the vine during the last grape harvest and are now in desperate straits. They will be in worse straits still during the coming harvest if this excise remains in force. The document to which I have referred, which was in the form of a submission, cited the amount of brandy which is imported into this country and which makes inroads into the sales of our local product. I know that the Government will say, as it has said, that it has made a reference to the Industries Assistance Commission on this matter. This is only a smoke screen. This is not only my view; it is also the view of the grape growers in the Riverland and the view of Mr Chatterton, who is the South Australian Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Fisheries. I want to read what was stated in a Press release put out on 9 August 1978 by the Minister. It is headed:
Federal Government uses delaying tactics on wine grapes’. It states:
The Federal Government’s decision to go ahead with an Industries Assistance Commission enquiry into the wine grape surplus is yet another well prepared delaying tactic to avoid any action to alleviate growers’ distress, according to the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Brian Chatterton
Mr Chatterton was speaking at Agricultural Council in Sydney on Monday.
He said that the lack of Federal action on the 1978 grape surplus was excused because it was claimed that a better decision would result if a Bureau of Agricultural Economics study of the industry took place before any plans were made. Earlier lack of action was excused because of delays in the tabling of the recommendations from the IAC enquiry into spirits.
Mr Chatterton said that, while the BAE study had not yet begun, the Federal Government was obviously taking no chances on being hurried into avoiding another crisis in 1979. It had already signalled its excuses by setting up yet another enquiry which would not report until July 1979.
The Minister expressed concern that wine grapegrowers in South Australia were suffering exceedingly from the stubborn refusal of the Federal Government to take any action to deal with the problem.
The Federal Government’s prevarications and carefully prepared delays are similar to those presented again and again to the canning fruit industry when it was in a similar critical situation in 1 975-76, he said.
Then it was the SA Government which came to the rescue of canning fruit growers, made cash flow funds available and restructured the SA industry to provide a sound base for future viability.
Mr Chatterton said that in the case of the wine grape industry, the SA Government would do all it could to help growers survive during this difficult time.
However, it is much more difficult to take unilateral action to restructure an industry that is so dependent for its balance on Federal policies concerning imports of wine and spirits, he said.
The voice of the wine grapegrower simply is not heard by this Federal Government.
No matter how much growers protest and call for justice and protection from overseas interests, they cannot get any response.
This is because the vested interests of whisky and wine importers are all the present Federal Government wants to hear.
Mr President, you will recall that time and time again in recent months I have asked the Government to provide me and the industry with the names of the importers of brandy, wine and whisky. I cannot get that information. I have spelt it out in detail in the Parliament. I do not intend to do so again tonight because it is on the record. Surely in view of the submission that has been made by the industry to the Treasurer, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Primary Industry and the pleas that I have made in this Parliament, something can be done. You, Mr President, were present at a deputation which saw Mr Sinclair earlier in the year. We put a case to Mr Sinclair in his office, and he is well aware of the position. No doubt, Mr President, members of your party from South Australia have made vigorous representations to the Minister also. Yet we still see in this Budget this crippling impost by way of an increase in the excise being levelled against these grape growers, particularly in the Riverland of South Australia.
I hope that when the Treasurer, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Primary Industry read again what I have had to say and have another look at the plea made by Renmano Wines Co-operative Ltd they will, in their wisdom, do as Senator Guilfoyle has done in her wisdom and introduce an amending Bill so that some reduction can be made in this crippling brandy excise which is going to play havoc with the living standards of the people in the Riverland of South Australia.
– I do not want to take up the time of the Senate for any lengthy period. However, I was always under the impression that Thursday nights, except when otherwise ordered by the Senate- I am not blaming you personally for this, Mr President- was devoted to General Business and that General Business would take precedence of Government Business after 8 p.m. I sat in my place in the Senate tonight at approximately nine and half minutes after 10 p.m., as my name was listed on the Notice Paper under heading of Notice of Motion No. 7, to talk to a motion of which I had given notice many months ago. When proceedings started in the Senate this evening after the suspension of the sitting for dinner, Senator Peter Baume moved Notice of Motion No. 1 which was at the head of the Notice Paper. Both he and Senator Grimes spoke in the debate.
Senator Button then took up the second item on behalf of Senator Walsh who was not present. Then, there were several Notices of Motion in the name of Senator Harradine. Senator Rae then withdrew a Notice of Motion which he had placed on the Notice Paper some time ago. On 16 March 1978 I gave notice of the following motion:
That the Senate is of the opinion that the Government should take urgent action on matters arising out of the 1977 Report by the Community Relations office relating to ‘Discrimination against Aborigines and Islanders in North Queensland ‘.
This motion was also placed on the Notice Paper last year. I repeat that I am not blaming you, Mr President, for what has happened, but there does appear to be great sensitivity by the Government not to talk about race relations. I think it would be tragic if there was any attempt to prevent discussion on this matter tonight because of sensitivity on the part of the Government. I hope there was not. We know that the Government walked out on the Aurukun and Mornington Island issue. I am prepared to accept an explanation for any bungle that might have occurred which prevented me from raising this matter tonight.
As I have mentioned, I gave notice of this motion not only in the life of this Parliament but also in the life of the previous Parliament. When I was warned by my Whip that I was expected to speak because Senator Rae intended to withdraw his notice of motion, I was prepared to speak. However, approximately 20 minutes before the adjournment motion was due to be put you, Mr President, called upon the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to move that the Senate adjourn. I would like to know the background explanation to why I was not given the call.
– by leave- I do not want to close the debate. I would like to give Senator Keeffe an explanation. When Senator Rae had concluded his remarks I gestured towards Senator Keeffe, believing that he would then speak on Notice of Motion No. 7. As he did not rise at that time, Mr President, you then called me to move that the Senate adjourn. There could be no reflection on you, Mr President, in any way. I had full expectation that Senator Keeffe would use his opportunity to speak prior to my moving the adjournment of the Senate. As far as I am concerned, arrangements could be made to enable Senator Keeffe to speak now on his notice of motion. Senator Keeffe arrived in the Senate when Senator Rae was speaking, and I fully expected that he would speak on the next notice of motion listed in the Notice Paper. I hesitated before rising to move that the Senate adjourn for the reason that Senator Keeffe had not risen. I believed that Senator Keeffe was not prepared to speak on his motion. If there was any misunderstanding it was because Senator Keeffe did not rise after Senator Rae had completed his remarks.
Senator KEEFFE (Queensland)-by leave-I am not going to make an issue of this matter tonight. I was terribly disturbed about what happened and I have come back into the chamber without my notes so in any case it would not be convenient for me to speak on this matter at this stage. I say to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) that 1 am sorry, but I cannot read gestures. I looked to the President to give me a call. I did not look to the Minister to give me a call to participate in debate. Under the circumstances I accept what the Minister says. As I said at the outset I do not blame you, Mr President, for any lapse at all. I just wondered why the motion that the Senate adjourned was put 10 minutes early when the Opposition has the right to participate in general business by way of an understanding between both sides of the Senate. I cannot see gestures from the Minister if I am watching the President. I am sorry about that. However, I am prepared to accept the Minister’s explanation that she was prepared to allow me to speak. I do not intend to hold up the Senate while I go back to my office and gather my notes so as I can make my speech. But I hope that I get the next call when general business comes up on the first Thursday when we resume the sittings.
– I came into this discussion very late. However, I understand there has been a misunderstanding due to the fact that the Labor Party Whip had to leave at an early hour. There has been a misunderstanding of arrangements between the Whips and the Minister. What has happened is nobody’s fault. I was not able to explain to Senator Keeffe what had happened. Senator Keeffe has consistently been an advocate of using the time available for General Business properly and to the full. What has happened tonight has resulted from a mix-up and nobody is to blame. I do not believe the matter should be pursued any further.
– I feel obliged to rise and to make a comment about a matter that was discussed with the leave of the Senate this morning by Senator Wriedt and during the adjournment debate tonight by Senator Rae and again by Senator Wriedt. I am sorry that this matter has been blown out of all proportion- and that is what has happened. The matter has just blown up out of all proportion over virtually nothing. I have a transcript of comments, were made on the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio program A.M. on the last three mornings. It is perfectly clear that the blow-up has occurred because of inferences through a play on words, not by the people who were interviewed but by the interviewers. They were inferences to which Senator Wriedt felt obliged to respond. Indeed, he made the point today: on the A.M. program of Tuesday morning it was implied that I was involved in a committee to initiate moves against the Moscow Olympic Games.
An examination of the A.M. program of Tuesday reveals that the implication was not made by the honourable member for Denison (Mr
Hodgman). The honourable member can defend himself, and possibly Senator Wriedt was referring -
– Read what Hodgman said. He said it was unanimous.
– This is the question of the committee. If I refer to Senator Wriedt ‘s comment -
– But Hodgman did say the question was overwhelmingly resolved. It was unanimously resolved.
– Yes, I will come to that point in a minute. Let me tell the Senate why I think this matter has been blown up out of all proportions. I in fact was on the stage at the time and I did hear Mrs Kroll-Simmul say to the chairman that Senator Wriedt was voting for the resolution and that it was unanimous. I did not see what Senator Wriedt did, but I did hear her say that.
– Which resolution?
– The first resolution. I do not want to enter into the blow-up. The honourable member for Denison can defend himself. It may well be that Senator Wriedt, the Leader of the Opposition, was referring, the honourable member for Denison ‘s undoubted prowess as a horse rider or broadcaster of show jumping- I do not know which. But, as I said, I believe that this matter has been blown up out of all proportion. I know that Mrs Kroll-Simmu was elated in the belief that Senator Wriedt did vote for the motion. That is all I can say -
– That is hearsay.
– No, she told it to me. As Senator Wriedt will appreciate, she is a very intelligent person who over the years has been involved in monitoring of human rights following the Helsinki Accords. Obviously public confusion has come about subsequent to that event. I can only say that I am sorry that the confusion has come about. It appears to be a confusion between the committee that was established in Hobart and the committee of all parliamentarians that has been established. Speaking from the point of view of the committee in Hobart, I can only regret that premature publicity has been initiated.
– By Hodgman.
– Would the honourable senator please listen to what I am saying. I can say only, and the person concerned knows, that I am sorry that there was confusion. To be fair to him as well, the confusion was not necessarily on his pan. The confusion results from the way the matter was handled on AM. I return to the point made earlier. The decisions that were taken were quite important and serious decisions. Senator Wriedt detailed his belief that a boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games would not be in the interests of the resolution of the human rights question in the Soviet Union.
– That is what I said at the meeting, isn’t it?
– Both during my address and in answer to a question?
– Certainly. What disturbs me about Senator Wriedt ‘s statement is the fact that there was some political point scoring. I think he would agree that the political point scoring was not from any of the members of the Associations that convened the meeting but by a State politician.
– It was Max Robinson. I made that point quite clear.
– I am sorry.
– The State Liberal member.
– Is it in here?
– It is in the statement.
– The point I am making is that it would be regrettable if we lost sight of those parts of the resolution which can be put forward in a vigorous and effective manner because of a blow-up that has subsequently taken place. I refer, for example, to the second resolution which resolved that the committee- that is the Tasmanian Committee- write to the Government seeking its assurance that in the interests of democracy and of the suffering people concerned, it effectively raise at the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation on the human rights committee the systematic suppression of human rights by the communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and the foreign domination and alien subjugation by the Soviet Union of the Baltic States. That is the second resolution. So far as the first resolution is concerned, I would point out that the Tasmanian group is different from the group which was formed in this Parliament on Tuesday. Presumably the group that was formed in the Parliament on Tuesday has the same general thrust, that is to say, to work to ensure that there are no Moscow Games without human rights.
– It is a pity senators did not receive notification of the meeting on Tuesday. Quite a few of us were not notified.
– In response, may I say that it is regrettable that Senator Sibraa and Senator Tate did not receive invitations. In fact I knew nothing about the development of such a committee until I arrived back from Sydney and the meeting had taken place.
– A Liberal Party committee.
– It is not a Liberal Party committee because I understand that there were members -
– None of the members of the Labor Party received an invitation to the meeting of the committee that is looking into human rights in the Soviet Union.
– That is most regrettable. I emphasise the point that I had nothing to do with convening the meeting. I received an invitation. I know that at least one member of the Labor Party in the House of Representatives received an invitation because I am told that he apologised for not attending. I agree that these things ought to be done in a properly coordinated manner. The next time a meeting is convened I will certainly be making the points that Senator Sibraa and Senator Tate have made. In conclusion, I would like to point out to the Senate that there is a very real opportunity available to the people in this country and the people in the democracies of the world which will not be available in the foreseeable future. That occasion is the Olympic Games. It is often said that politics should not be introduced into sport. That has not applied so far as South Africa is concerned and quite rightly. The Soviet Union is already bringing politics into sport. The Moscow Olympic Games will be used by the Soviet Union as a status symbol.
– In the same way Bjelke would use the Commonwealth Games.
– The honourable senator cannot compare repression in the Soviet Union with the situation in Queensland. The question is not one of dissenting from the criminal code. The situation in the Soviet Union is simply that there is complete totalitarian control by the State over the people and the denial of human rights in the Soviet Union is systematic to the communist system there and indeed in any communist system.
– It is their country. Why do you want to interfere?
– I am interested in the comment that has been made by Senator McLaren. He says: ‘It is their country. Why do we have to be concerned about it?’ I am a member of the human race. That is a most extraordinary statement to come from a member of the human race. In the Soviet Union a system which denies fundamental human freedoms, the freedom of thought, the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, the freedom of association -
– That is a lie.
– What is the international trade union movement for? Senator McLaren should not claim to be a Labor man if he says that what happens to another human being is not our interest.
– That is moving a long way from the Olympic Games.
– I answered the interjection.
– You did not answer the interjection.
– Order! I ask honourable senators to cease interjecting.
– I come back to the point I was making. The Soviet Union has already made sure that the Moscow Olympic Games is part of its politics. Do honourable senators know who has been appointed as executive secretary of the organising committee of the Games in Moscow? It has appointed none other than Alexander Gresko who in 1971 was expelled by the Government of the United Kingdom, as a senior KGB agent conducting espionage activities in that country. He is the man who has been appointed by the Soviet Union as the chief executive officer of the Moscow Olympic Games. If for no other reason the people of the democratic world should rebel against and be revulsed by that appointment and should ensure that the games in Moscow be boycotted and another venue found.
– Two matters were raised, on which I wish to make some comment. Firstly, Senator Mulvihill raised matters with regard to uranium, the Ranger project and other issues. The honourable senator had alerted Senator Carrick as Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development of his concern on these matters. Senator Carrick had sought and obtained some information for Senator Mulvihill. However, as Senator Mulvihill has now incorporated an article in Hansard, and has suggested that at the end of two weeks or more he would like an opportunity to have these matters discussed, I believe that I should refer this remarks to Senator Carrick to ensure that the information that he has sought is provided and, if he wishes, that it is made public through the Senate at the appropriate time.
The other matter, which was raised by Senator McLaren, concerns wine grape-growers. He referred to a submission made in June by members of that industry to the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife). He also referred to a request that has been made by the Renmano Wines Cooperative Ltd for a meeting with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and appropriate Ministers. I will see that his remarks are drawn to the attention of the Ministers concerned. If this facilitates a meeting, I feel that the raising of this matter by Senator McLaren in the Senate this evening will have had some purpose.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.52 p.m. until Tuesday, 12 September at 2.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
My colleague, the Minister for Administrative Services, advises that since 1971-72 the Commonwealth Government has provided special grants to Queensland on the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, but it has only been since 1974-75 that the Commission has taken losses incurred by the Brisbane City Council transport undertaking into account in assessing Queensland ‘s grant.
If the Commission had not taken these losses into account the special grants would have been reduced as follows: 1 974-75, $24m to $ 1 6.9 1 5m; 1 975-76, $35.8m to $29. 1 78m.
Special grants payable to claimant States are not conditional upon the States’ undertaking to spend funds for any particular purposes. Such grants are in the nature of united general revenue funds designed to supplement the States’ personal income tax sharing entitlements. Accordingly, the application of these grants to special purposes within the States (including the Brisbane City transport undertaking) is entirely a matter for the Queensland Government to determine.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 1 1 May 1 978:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 7 June 1978:
Will the Government return funds, particularly to such developing industries as prawning and fishing, following the abolition of the variable interest ratio requirement of the Reserve Bank.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In the attachment to my predecessor’s statement of 6 July 1977 announcing the suspension of the variable deposit requirement scheme, it was stated that deposits already taken by the Reserve Bank on previously authorised borrowings would continue to be held on the conditions advised to the individual borrowers. That policy is still applicable.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 17 August 1978:
Will the Federal Government use its power under the 1967 constitutional amendment to take over the administration and funding of the Aurukun and Mornington Island Aboriginal Communities, in view of: (a) the government’s previous undertaking that the two communities should become self-managing, and that no solution to the management dispute would be imposed if unacceptable to the communities; and (b) the communities’ clearly expressed rejection of the present arrangements, and the Queensland government’s failure to provide genuine self-management.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to my speech in the House of Representatives on 17 August.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 August 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780824_senate_31_s78/>.