31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Governor-General in Council has today approved the abolition of the Department of the Northern Territory and the transfer of the bulk of its functions to the Department of Home Affairs. In consequence, the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) now has responsibility for those functions. Honourable senators will recall that these arrangements, which are reflected in a new Administrative Arrangements Order, were foreshadowed as a consequence of the introduction of selfgovernment in the Northern Territory.
-I present the following petition from 63 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the provision of payments for abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will so amend the Medical Benefits Schedule as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 29 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. A petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth;
That withdrawal of Government benefits under schedule 6469 for first trimester abortion would discriminate against and disadvantage the least privileged in our society.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should:
Under no circumstances withdraw Government benefit under schedule 6469 for first trimester abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 34 citizens of Australia:
The Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the Victorian Federation of State School Parents ‘ Clubs respectfully showeth:
That as citizens of Victoria and parents of State school children, we are most concerned that the quality of education available in our school be of the highest possible standard.
We believe that this can only be achieved if adequate Federal funds are provided. The recently announced policy of direct cuts to Government schools for 1979 must have an adverse effect on them.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should arrange for:
Withdrawal of the Guidelines to the Schools Commission for 1979 and acceptance of its recommendations for Government schools.
An increase of a minimum of 5 per cent in real terms on base level programs for 1979.
Restoration of the $8m cut from the Capital Grants for Government Schools.
Increased recurrent and capital funding to Government schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 59 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable, the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the provision of payments for abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will so amend the Medical Benefits Schedule as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
The Acting Clerk- A petition has 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 whereas the Fraser Government was elected in December 197S after promising that pensions would be adjusted instantly and automatically in relation to quarterly Consumer Price Index figures; and whereas that Government subsequently announced that pension adjustments should properly be made half yearly each May and November; it is the current intention of the same Government to legislate for pensions to be adjusted only once a year, and this constitutes a serious breach of generally accepted ethics of democratic government and also deprives many needy pensioners of increases that are essential to their subsistance
The foregoing facts impel the undersigned Petitioners to request the Australian Government to uphold the principle that the trustworthiness of governments should at all times be above question, and to appeal to the Parliament to prevent the imposition of further economic hardship upon Australian pensioners by rejecting any Bill which has for its aim the introduction of annual adjustments of pension rates.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Peter Baume.
Senator McLAREN (South Australia)Pursuant to Standing Order 36AA I give notice than on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the following matter be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources: The Commonwealth ‘s responsibility for the development of the Australian fishing industry following the declaration of 200-mile offshore sovereignty.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it correct that since 20 May the Australian Government has on five occasions borrowed overseas a total of 600 million Dutch florins, 400 million Swiss francs and 300 million German marks? Is it also correct that these loans are all in currencies which have been appreciating against the Australian dollar thus creating potential exchange losses in all the transactions? Has the Government’s decision to increase its overseas borrowings in Euro currencies instead of United States dollars been on the basis of Treasury advice? If so, can the Minister enlighten the Senate by telling us the reasons given for this advice?
-I will seek the information and let the honourable senator have it.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer been drawn to an advertisement on Tasmanian commercial television seeking subscriptions for the new Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission loan? I ask whether it is a fact that the advertisement shows Mr Lowe, the Labor Premier, seated at his desk saying: . . and the 1 978 HEC loan offers you an opportunity to invest in Tasmania’s future. And you can invest in the secure knowledge that the HEC loan is guaranteed by the Government of Tasmania.
Also I ask whether it is a fact that the announcer following Mr Lowe states:
With inflation currently at 7.9 per cent and predicted to fall below 6 per cent within the coming 12 months, a long term investment such as the HEC loan offering about 9.4 per cent is worth snapping up.
In view of the confidence of the Tasmanian Premier in the likelihood of a future fall in the rate of inflation, could the Minister inform the Senate whether a letter of thanks has been sent by the Prime Minister to Mr Lowe?
– Not only have I seen the advertisement- indeed my attention has been drawn to it by various people- but I also commend it to all Australians to read. I take it that no Premier, Labor or Liberal, would represent to people in an advertisement information that he did not believe profoundly was accurate. Let me make it perfectly clear that in any advertisement asking people to subscribe -
Opposition senators interjecting-
– I am taking the Premier, Mr Lowe, in good faith. If Labor senators are not and want to disown him, that is for them to do. I take it that no Premier would put an advertisement on television asking people to lend their money to a State and put in incorrect information. It is true that the advertisement bases the whole of its thrust upon the fact that the inflation rate is now 7.9 per cent and is coming down to 6 per cent or better. The very words in the advertisement are:
With inflation currently at 7.9 per cent and predicted -
– You would talk under water.
– It is interesting that when members of the Labor Party are embarrassed they prattle and prattle to try to hide the facts from the people of Australia. In case Senator Button’s interjection has destroyed the true fruity meaning of what I said, I will repeat it for the benefit of all honourable senators. The advertisement states:
With inflation currently at 7.9 per cent, and predicted to fall below 6 per cent within the coming 12 months, a long term investment such as the HEC Loan, offering about 9.4 per cent is worth snapping up- pick up a Prospectus. Find out how you can profit from the HEC loan.
There could be no finer endorsement than that not only of the thesis of the Fraser Government’s Budget for this financial year but also of the belief that its thesis will be proven to be correct. How could one have a greater thesis than an advertisement which says: ‘Put your money in now because by the end of this financial year inflation will be 6 per cent or lower’? How could one have a clearer invitation to an understanding by the members of the public that interest rates will fall and they had better get in now?
– They did not think so in Werriwa.
– That was an interesting interjection about Werriwa. Let those who said the same thing about the Macquarie by-election after Mr Chifley died and the total vote that accrued for Labor remember that for 20 years afterwards there was a Liberal government in Australia. Let those who want to take comfort in the Werriwa result look to the fact that a similar projection will occur. The Premier of Tasmania has not only confirmed that he believes in the thesis -
Opposition senators interjecting-
-Order! I cannot hear the Minister.
– I could want no more eloquent testament for the authenticity of what the Government is saying than the attempt by the Opposition to use noise rather than reason. There could be no more eloquent testament to the Budget that we have brought down nor to the belief that it will succeed than that of Premier Lowe, and he is a Labor Premier.
– My question is also directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I am pleased that he is in such a well informed frame of mind this morning on financial matters because my question is on lines similar to the previous one. Does the Minister recall a statement by the Prime Minister at the Australian Financial Review luncheon in Melbourne on 17 August that the Government was not prepared to mortgage Australia’s future with the soft option of an excessively high borrowing requirement? I ask the Minister whether he is aware that Australia’s overseas borrowings now total nearly $2,700m? Is the Minister aware that the repayments of principal and interest on this Government’s overseas borrowing program during the last financial year will require repayments between the financial years 1981-82 and 1985-86 of $2, 109m? Would the Minister agree that, almost unnoticed, Australia is building up an enormous debt repayment program for the early and mid-1980s? Is this the Government’s interpretation of the phrase that it is not prepared to mortgage Australia’s future?
– I take it that the whole implication of Senator Wriedt ‘s question is that he thinks it is wrong to build up large loans overseas. I want to remind him that during the
Whitlam Government’s very unfortunate regime the total borrowings overseas amounted to $ 1,000m. In one go, that Government attempted to increase that amount by $4,000m. Now Satan is rebuking sin and saying, on his own figures, that it is wrong to build up a $2,000m loan debt. The finesse of such a question escapes me. The whole thrust of the Whitlam Government was that it was right in its overseas borrowings. Now, when we talk of figures that are half the amount the Whitlam Government attempted to borrow, we are told that we are wrong. I do not know whether the precise figures that Senator Wriedt has cited are correct, but I will seek the information and let him have an answer.
-Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I ask the Minister, in view of the answer he has given, whether he will consult the Treasury papers and find out whether the figures I have given are correct. They are contained in the House of Representatives Hansard of 24 August. I also ask the Minister why the Treasury document states that the level of overseas borrowings in the last year of the Labor Government stood at $22 lm- not $ 1,000m as the Minister has just stated- but in the first year of the Liberal Government they jumped to $45 7m and then in the second year of the Liberal Government to $ 1,760m? If the current borrowing program goes on, it will be in excess of $3,000m within the next 12 months. I ask the Minister again: Is it not a matter of concern to this Government that it is prepared to go on building up this enormous mortgage of Australia’s future?
-If Senator Wriedt had listened to my answer, he would have heard me say that I would get him the information in respect of both those matters. Senator Wriedt is now saying that we are attempting to mortgage Australia’s future by a total borrowing of $2,000m. He was a senior Minister in a government which attempted, by one action, to mortgage Australia’s future to the extent of $4,000m.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs: Is it a fact that Federal and State Ministers responsible for corporate affairs will meet next month to decide a location for the proposed national companies and securities commission? Is it essential that this commission should be established in a major financial and business centre? Does this totally rule out any question of the commission being established in
Canberra? Is it a fact that Melbourne is the major financial centre of this country and the most conveniently located centre? Will the Minister urge his colleague, at the meeting next month, to press for the establishment of this commission in Melbourne?
– This and many other questions no doubt will have to be discussed by the meeting of Federal and State Ministers in relation to the establishment of a national companies and securities commission. The Senate would be aware of the extensive discussions that have taken place in relation to this matter and of the major agreement on an exercise in co-operative federalism that has been the result of them. I am very pleased indeed that this matter has reached the stage where the responsible Ministers presumably will be talking about the actual location of the commission and that legislation will be coming forward in relation to it. Senator Hamer raised a very specific question in relation to this matter. Even if it were my responsibility I certainly would not seek to make any decision as between the merits of Melbourne and Sydney. If I had any choice in the matter I might select another city altogether, but that is not my prerogative and I do not think that it is really the prerogative of any Federal Minister. This matter will have to be decided as a result of co-operation at ministerial council level between the Federal Government and the State governments involved. A Senate committee of which I was a member has expressed views on this subject, but of course they were only views that were expressed as recommendations. The actual decisions, as I say, will have to be made by the Ministers concerned with this co-operative exercise.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. How much does the Government expect to save by indexing pensions only once a year instead of twice a year? Will those savings justify the Government’s breach of one of its proudest promises and boasts in the last two years?
– I wonder whether I could undertake to give that figure to Senator Grimes before the end of Question Time. I do not have the accurate figure with me and I would like the figure I give to be accurate. The decision to index pensions annually was taken in the light of the anticipated reduction in the rate of inflation and in the belief that with a level of inflation of something like 5 per cent or lower an annual increase is appropriate. Twice-yearly indexation was introduced when inflation was at a high level and it was felt necessary to maintain the purchasing power of pensions by two increases each year. We believe that with a low level of inflation in the economy an annual increase is the appropriate way to do it. In fact, I would suggest that if there were two increases per year with a low level of inflation we would have criticism because of the size of the increase. If there were a small increase there would be criticism that that was just a token increase rather than a full representation of the consumer price index. However, I shall provide the accurate figure before the end of Question Time.
– I ask a supplementary question. I ask the Minister whether she or her predecessor ever at any stage qualified her party’s promise or her Government’s promise to index pensions twice yearly with the qualification that she has just given that if inflation fell below 5 per cent the Government would limit the indexation to once a year?
– The policy itself and the introduction of that policy into legislation made no qualification. A subsequent government decision in this Budget has changed the approach to the increasing of pensions, but at the time that the policy was announced or legislation was enacted there was no qualification on it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to statements emanating from Opposition Jeremiahs in this place who have deliberately misled the Parliament and the public about the trends in the volume of lending for housing and the trends in the rates of interest applying to such loans. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the latest indicators in relation to lending for housing?
– Why do you not work out your own questions?
-I must say that I find such interjections as ‘why do you not work out your own questions’ to be most diverting because the fact that day after day the Opposition circularises pre-digested questions to its members shows their incompetence in this regard. I was asked by Senator Messner an important question regarding the trend of housing loans. I would have thought that all Australians would be interested in the trend of housing loans, although I think that the Labor Party would be interested only if the trend were a negative one. My advice is that the data for lending for housing is available for July. Lending to that time has been on an upward path and that trend can be expected to continue.
Opposition senators interjecting-
– As soon as we have good news to report it is the device of honourable senators opposite to attempt to drown it out.
– I wish to raise a point of order, Mr President. The question that was addressed to Senator Carrick obviously is not a question without notice. He now intends to proceed to read a prepared answer which spells out all the details provided by the Treasurer. But when he is asked a question, such as that which he was asked earlier today, in relation to which he has to draw on his own knowledge, he is incapable of answering it. I ask you, Mr President, whether you intend to allow Senator Carrick to supplant Senator Webster in this place by having Dorothy Dix questions thrown at him.
– There is no point of order involved.
-I take it that Senator Wriedt is saying that never again should any Minister of the Government respond to a prior request made by Labor senators to have information available in reply to a question that they might intend to ask; otherwise he could not possibly have asked that question. Everybody knows that a responsible Minister has available to him a brief on questions. It would be logical to have a brief on the trend in housing loans which is one of the great indicators for today. But, since Senator Wriedt is agitated, I assure him that I will have available for the next time we assemble a brief on the whole of the ingredients of the Khemlani loan, including all of the details concerning interest rates. I assure him that that information will be available. I am grateful to him for his Dorothy Dix question.
Bank lending for housing increased in each quarter of 1977-78. In the three months to July, bank lending was up, in seasonally adjusted terms, on the three months to April for both new and existing houses. The high seasonally adjusted level of lending by permanent building societies reached in June was sustained in July. Preliminary information indicates buoyant lending in August. That can be expected to continue, if not to be improved upon, in subsequent months. The Government’s policy of encouragement for housing finance and the specific steps taken recently to increase the scope for savings banks lending will work to strengthen lending for housing in 1978-79. To be specific, note might be taken of an active campaign by one bank to offer housing loans. There was a general reduction of half of one per cent in interest rates charged by banks and permanent building societies on housing loans in the February-March period. Around that time some general easing in finance companies’ loan rates was also apparent. Since then there has been some further easing in their loan rates for property development. More recently in Victoria and Queensland some individual permanent building societies have lowered mortgage interest rates in accordance with their particular circumstances. The declining inflation rate gives good ground for optimism that further lowering of interest rates on housing loans will unfold. This is a pretty good story.
– My question is directed to Senator Carrick. When he brings back the brief to which he has just referred concerning Mr Khemlani, will he give the Senate an assurance that it will include details of the negotiations between the Liberal Party and Mr Khemlani in the latter part of 1975? I ask him also whether he is aware of the statement made yesterday by the Liberal Party Leader in Tasmania, Mr Bingham, in which he said that there is no hope whatsoever now of a State income tax being introduced in Tasmania. I ask him: Does this mean that one of his own Liberal Party leaders has finally conceded that federalism is no longer a goer?
– The world knows the information regarding the Khemlani loan affair. If Senator Wriedt wants such information I will give him ample indication of where he can find it in Hansard and in the Parliamentary Library. If there were need to underline the success of federalism, perhaps I would have to re-read to Senator Wriedt and to Labor senators the advertisement from the Premier of Tasmania, Mr Lowe, which shows quite clearly that his State is on the up-and-up. Need I read to them this statement that Tasmania is buoyant and on the upandup. Need I read the Budgets of all six States whose Treasurers for three years have brought down Budgets which have been balanced and have cut taxes under federalism by contrast with three years of Labor, when it was the absolute reverse? No, federalism has not failed. It has succeeded admirably.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will the Leader of the Government convey his sentiments to Mr Bingham in Tasmania?
- Mr Bingham, as a Liberal, is a fervent believer in federalism and he has frequently expressed that its practical application has been highly successful.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs or alternatively to the Minister representing the Minister for Construction. My question refers to the rules governing the use of grants to Aboriginals communities and organisations, and the enforcement of those rules. Is it true that rule 2.3.2 of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs governing the provision and use of grants states that ‘tenders should be invited when the purchase price of an asset is expected to exceed $5,000’? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Department of Construction on numerous occasions in New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory failed to apply this rule, thus letting contracts without inviting public tenders? Is it also true that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Housing Panel warned the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs of this failure on five separate occasions in the past 12 months? Will the Minister ensure that, in the future, a closer scrutiny is kept over the allocation of funds by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, and that public tenders are called for all projects funded by the Department which are expected to cost more than $5,000?
– I am unable to give the information which has been requested by Senator Missen in the several questions which he has raised. I will have them referred to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs or if they are not strictly within his area of responsibility then to the Minister for Construction so that Senator Missen will be advised on the matters that he has raised.
– I ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In the event of a major catastrophe occurring in one of Australia’s major cities or provincial areas such as the crash of a satellite or even a minor nuclear accident, is the Government satisfied that our civic and military defence mechanisms could cope with the consequences?
– My understanding is that that is so, but if there is further information that can be added in response to Senator Chipp ‘s question, which is an interesting and, I think, a significant one, I will seek it and let him have it.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. This is a non-party political matter. I know that it involves the State governments as well as the Federal Government. I say by way of short preface that I was appalled to be informed recently that in many rural areas of New South Wales particularly, even if a minor disaster happened, the consequences just could not be coped with. I think it is such a serious matter that I would ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate to consult with his appropriate colleague in another place to ascertain whether a statement can be made in that place and in this place so that we can debate this very important question on a non-party basis.
– Honourable senators will be aware that there is an organisation set up- the Natural Disasters Organisation- and that it does have links, both State and Federal, with both the civil and military forces. I will take the elements of Senator Chipp ‘s question and refer them to the appropriate Minister and get a response.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Education by drawing the Senate’s attention to the very substantial Commonwealth education funds allocated to New South Wales each year and to the widespread concern being expressed in that State at the Labor Government’s proposal to hand over the administration of education to an unrepresentative education commission. Can the Minister assure the Senate that he will take up with his New South Wales counterpart, Mr Bedford, the dangerous abrogation of the principle of ministerial responsibility represented by the New South Wales Minister’s proposal to hand over the spending of public money from Commonwealth and State funds to a body that is dominated by representatives of the New South Wales Teachers Federation?
– Of course the honourable senator would know, as all honourable senators would know, that the New South Wales Government is a sovereign government. Therefore it can make whatever arrangements, for better or worse, that it so desires under its own constitutional responsibility. Nevertheless, with regard to primary and secondary education, the Commonwealth has a major responsibility, which is fully accepted I think by both sides of the Parliament and fully accepted in terms of trying to ensure by consultation or otherwise that no detriment occurs. It is true that in that field of education the Schools Commissioners reported recently that New South Wales has some ground to catch up in education. Therefore of course we will look with anxious eyes to that matter.
It is not within my compass to have any influence upon the shape of an organisation that lies within a State, but suffice to say that a wide range of influential people and bodies that are interested in education have expressed the gravest concern that the approach will weaken education. To that extent the national Parliament has a very real concern. For instance, the National Catholic Education Commission has expressed its opposition; so have the independent schools. The metal trades industry, through its spokesman, has referred to the idea as being dangerous and pernicious. There has been a very great deal of apprehension and criticism. I can only add that of course the principle of ministerial responsibility ought to be paramount within the Westminster system. I hope that good sense will prevail.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. It refers to the Prime Minister’s statement in Sydney last Monday that he had been advised prior to the last election that ‘Unemployment will fall from February onwards’. I ask the Minister whether he has seen yesterday’s statement from the Secretary of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, Mr Blunden, which read:
Public Service advisers to the Government had not agreed that unemployment would fall in a steady and sustained way after February 1978.
In that statement he repudiated any possibility that that advice had come from the Public Service. Since the advice clearly did not come from the Public Service, can the Minister tell us from where the Prime Minister received that advice? Did he receive it from Mickey Mouse, or was the Prime Minister just lying again?
– Order ! You must not suggest or insinuate that the Prime Minister is lying.
-I will just let the facts speak for themselves, Mr President.
- Mr President, I ask that the honourable senator be asked to withdraw that remark.
- Senator Walsh, the imputation of a lie is not acceptable here.
-I know, Mr President, that the test of acceptability in this chamber is the Standing Orders. I would rather that it were the truth. In this instance it will be the truth. The
Prime Minister is an habitual liar and everyone on the back bench knows that that is a fact.
– Order! You will withdraw that remark immediately. Withdraw it.
– Withdraw it.
– The Standing Orders provide that you cannot use that sort of language in this place.
– I regret, Mr President, but I am unable to withdraw it. In this case the test of acceptability, as far as I am concerned, is the truth.
-Will you withdraw it? Senator WALSH-No.
– If you do not withdraw it I have no alternative but to name you. Do you refuse to withdraw?
- Mr President, I seek leave to ask for the good sense of honourable senators in this matter. Could I, through you, appeal to Senator Walsh? The fact is that he and everyone understand Standing Order 418. Mr President, none of us here- I certainly- do not want, through you, to use any harsh procedures at all. The honourable senator may feel with passion that he is a parliamentarian and indeed he has shown himself to be one. I ask him to reconsider the matter, and I ask his Leader and his colleagues so to do. The last thing we want to do is to use harsh measures in this chamber.
– Order ! It has been a stormy and heated morning. Senator Walsh, will you withdraw?
-No, Mr President.
– Then I have no alternative. I have given you time; I have been patient. I name you.
– I move:
I do that with the greatest of regret.
- Mr President, are you going to allow debate on the motion?
– I think you should because Senator Carrick is on record as using worse words in this Senate. It ill behoves him to move such a motion. I would like to quote from the Senate Hansard of 22 October 1975 when Senator Carrick accused the Government of being corrupt, dishonest and disastrous. They are Senator Carrick ‘s own words.
– Order! The honourable senator cannot debate this question.
– We should be allowed to debate the motion. Honourable senators opposite have used these words over and over again.
– The question is ‘That Senator Walsh be suspended from the sitting of the Senate’. Those of that opinion say ‘aye’, to the -
– I rise to order. My recollection is that an honourable senator should be given the opportunity to explain why he should not be suspended.
- Senator Cavanagh, I have sought, with the utmost patience, a withdrawal from Senator Walsh. The Leader of the Government in the Senate implored the honourable senator to withdraw. He refused, point blank. I had no alternative but to do what I have done. Senator Walsh, I refer you to Standing Order 440. 1 invite you to stand in your place and make any explanation or apology that you may think fit. I would accept it.
- Mr President, my explanation is that the Prime Minister has habitually lied inside and outside the Parliament.
– He lied when he put forward this estimate; he lied when he said he did not remember the conversation of 1 7 January.
– Order! We shall proceed wi’./i the provisions of the Standing Orders without any further hesitation.
– I must take a point of order. You, Mr President, invited Senator Walsh to make an explanation as to why he is taking his present stand. He was proceeding to do so. Obviously the reason this matter has arisen is because he has referred to the Prime Minister as a liar. If the honourable senator is to explain his position he cannot turn around and say the Prime Minister is not a liar. He must be consistent otherwise he is not being truthful to the Senate. You invited him to explain. I think he is entitled to give that explanation whether we agree with it or not.
– No. As I see the situation, Senator Walsh obviously is just repeating everything he said before. He is not explaining or seeking to make a retraction. I do not see that as an explanation at all.
– I rise to order. I thank you, Mr President, for drawing my attention to Standing Order 440 which states:
When any Senator has been reported as having committed an offence - and Senator Walsh has- he shall be called upon to stand up in his place and make any explanation or apology he may think fit, and afterwards a Motion may be moved -
Therefore a motion may be moved after the Senate has taken into account what Senator Walsh has said. Senator Walsh’s explanation as to why he used such offensive words about the Prime Minister may be acceptable to Senator Carrick when he hears it and he may then not proceed with the motion. But you, Mr President, have put a motion before Senator Walsh has had the opportunity to make that explanation. The explanation should be given before the Minister or anyone else moves, if he so desires, a motion for his suspension. Senator Walsh explained that he was aroused to such emotion because of the attitude of the Prime Minister. Senator Walsh has a right to explain the attitude of the Prime Minister that excited his emotion to such an extent that he felt justified in making that statement. I do not think Senator Walsh can be prevented from saying, in giving an explanation, what he thought of the Prime Minister to justify his actions in making the statement that he made at that time.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the same point of order. I believe that the Standing Orders of the Senate are meant to protect all honourable senators, both Government and Opposition. Since I have been a senator there have been two previous occasions on which senators have been suspended from the sitting of the Senate for a day for using offensive words. As Senator Cavanagh has said, both senators were allowed under Standing Order 440 to give explanations for their behaviour. Those explanations were not accepted at the time by the Government. I suggest that if senators who wish to rise under Standing Order 440 to explain their behaviour are prevented from doing so because their explanation happens to offend the Leader of the Government in the Senate or some other honourable senators opposite, we may as well not have that Standing Order. Debate in this place is restricted enough by the pussyfooting restrictions which have arisen over the years because some senators pretend that they are offended by the use of various words. If we as senators cannot explain what we are doing, we may as well not be here and we may as well not have Standing Order 440.I believe that we have to make a decision on this matter sooner or later. I support support Senator Cavanagh’s point of order.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the same point of order. The precedent has been set in the Senate -
– Order! I have heard sufficient debate on this matter. I have sought every possible means of obtaining a reasonable explanation, not an offensive elaboration of the situation. I shall now put the question.
That Senator Walsh be suspended from the sitting of the Senate.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Walsh thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. There has been much criticism of the high cost of Australian internal air fares generally and in particular of the disproportionately high cost of fares between Perth and other capital cities. It seems that fares are set by adopting a flagfall of $13 plus 6.093 cents per kilometre. As $13 seems to be a totally inadequate amount to cover the cost of servicing each passenger at each end of his journey, will the Minister recommend to the Minister he represents that the flagfall amount be increased substantially and the cost per kilometre reduced correspondingly so that the total cost of a long trip more truly reflects the actual costs?
– The matter raised by Senator Thomas excites a lot of interest in Western Australia in particular. It is true that the relatively low flagfall and then the per kilometre charge mean that long distance flights in Australia are extremely expensive when compared with short distance flights.
– You will be in the Tasmanian newspapers tomorrow.
– I will refer the suggestion that the flagfall might be increased and the kilometre amount decreased to my colleague the Minister for Transport. No doubt he will receive representations to the contrary from people such as Senator Grimes.
-I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether he has seen the Press release issued yesterday by the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association. Is the Minister aware of the claim made by the Secretary of that Association, Mr Blunden, which, if not saying so, at least implies that the claim made by Mr Fraser during the last election campaign was in fact not a correct statement? As
Mr Blunden is concerned that the Prime Minister’s statement ‘reflected on the ability and integrity of the Public Service advisers who were in no way responsible for the electioneering promises made by Mr Fraser in the 1 977 general election ‘, will the Minister refer the Press release to the Prime Minister and seek his comment?
– I have not seen the Press release. I will certainly seek it out and study it. But I want to say this: In no way does the Government, by any statement or action on its part, reflect upon the integrity or competence of the Public Service advisers, the public servants. Australia is lucky in the quality of its public servants and advisers. I will refer the question to the Prime Minister and seek further comment.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources aware that Mount Isa Mines Ltd, in association with other companies, has discovered uranium deposits at Olary in South Australia? Can the Minister say whether this is a viable proposition? In view of the difficulties that have arisen over the Ranger development and the consequent delays in fulfilling overseas orders, will the Government investigate the possibility of accelerating such projects in South Australia, that is, if the South Australian Government ceases to adopt a head in the sand attitude to development in that State? Is the Minister aware that Mount Isa Mines, in conjunction with the Australian mineral development organisation in South Australia has conducted extensive research into the in situ uranium leaching technique which is environmentally appealing and which could be used at Olary? Does the Minister also realise that because of Olary ‘s proximity to the Broken HillPort Pirie railway line, costly infrastructure could be avoided, with consequent economic advantages?
– I have not any information in respect of the specific discovery of the uranium deposit referred to by Senator Jessop in his question. However, it is very interesting and indeed very satisfactory that there should be such further discovery of uranium. There are, of course, other potential uranium projects in South Australia. There is one at Lake Frome and also one at Roxby Downs. There are also other uranium deposits in the other States, particularly in my own State of Western Australia.
When the Government announced its policy on uranium development on 25 August last year, it said that subject to satisfactory completion of necessary environmental requirements, decisions would be taken on the development of projects in the States. The Ranger project has, of course, been approved for development, having already passed that environmental study stage, subject to the negotiations that are presently going on with Aborigines. But I wish to emphasise that subject to the broad requirements which have been applied in relation to the Ranger mine, the same opportunity for development, as far as the Federal Government is concerned, will be accorded to deposits of uranium found in the States.
It would seem from Senator Jessop ‘s question that there would be good prospects of this particular deposit satisfying those requirements, but I will not speak any further in relation to it because that would be subject to it meeting the guidelines laid down by the Government in a statement that it made last year. However, it seems that the major impediment to the development of any uranium mines in South Australia would be the policy of the South Australian Government, and particularly the Premier of that State. The South Australian Premier seems to have set his face against the development of such projects and seems to want to deny the people of his State the benefits and employment opportunities which would flow from the development of uranium mining.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I ask him to draw on his extensive brief on the relation of the Budget to the construction industry from which he has drawn today. Is he aware of the detailed analysis of the impact of the recent Federal Budget which was given national Press coverage yesterday and which was prepared by building industry economic consultants John Jackson and Associates? Has he had its conclusions drawn to his attention, namely, that only a massive rescue operation by State governments can now save the Australian building industry from a further contraction in activity imposed by the Federal Government and, further, that the cutback has been accentuated by a further swing in the pattern of Federal Government expenditure towards current consumption and away from long run infrastructure investment? If he is not aware of this report, does the Minister concede that his brief is inadequate and that his answers so far are ill informed?
-As to the latter part of the question, the answer is no. It is quite clear that one cannot have brought to one ‘s attention a total brief on every single thing. The figures I gave today were not opinions. They were statistical facts from disinterested persons and organisations. I have not seen the opinion which has been brought forward but I will look at it. I remind Senator Tate of his own State’s Labor Premier who has said that the future of Tasmania in effect is tied up with the success of the Budget which he is underwriting and the aim of which is to bring down inflation to below 6 per cent, which he believes will happen, and to reduce interest rates. So I suggest to Senator Tate that he has a choice between believing the thesis of his own State’s Labor Premier, who underwrites our policies, or reacting to opinions.
– My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Has the Minister seen a report in the Sunday Sun newspaper of 24 September 1978 wherein it was reported that 100 local residents on Bribie Island, Queensland, have signed a petition to be presented to the honourable C. R. Porter, M.L.A., the Queensland Minister for Aborigines and Islanders Advancement, opposing the construction by his Department of a holiday home on that Island to be used by selected families from the Cherbourg Aboriginal Mission on the grounds that such a home and its intended inhabitants would have a detrimental effect on surrounding land values? Does the Minister agree that this action could offend the Federal Government’s Racial Discrimination Act? If so, will the Minister take the necessary steps to ensure that this matter is brought to the attention of the Commissioner for Community Relations?
– That is a question which I will need to refer to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I have no knowledge of the matter, or any response I can make on his behalf at this stage. I will see that he is informed of the question and that a response is given.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. Has the Attorney-General seen a report that the Ombudsman, Professor Richardson, wants new powers to help citizens fight for social security benefits? Will the Attorney-General consider giving the Ombudsman qualified staff to represent social security claimants in appealing against decisions of the Department of Social Security? Will the Attorney-General confer with his colleague the Minister for Social Security on ways of giving greater opportunity for such people to gain their rights as many, as the Ombudsman says, are terrified by the thought of taking on the Commonwealth?
-The Ombudsman does not come within my area of responsibility. That position comes within the Prime Minister’s responsibility. I will refer the question to the Prime Minister for an answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and it is about the expenditure by the Health Insurance Commission on buildings to house its officers. Did Medibank incur a very substantial loss in the financial year ended 30 June 1978? Does Medibank own one building in Hobart and is it at present erecting a massive new building in Phillip in the Australian Capital Territory to house its staff? Are the capital costs of this building additional to Medibank ‘s loss? Will the Minister consider changing the provisions of the Health Insurance Act to prevent Medibank from spending taxpayers’ money on erecting Taj Mahals throughout the country?
- Senator Lewis has raised many matters in his question. As they require specific information, I suggest that his question be placed on the Notice Paper.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Is it a fact that the Minister has made a block fund allocation to the States for child care services in women’s refuges? If so, will she consider allocating money directly to the Canberra women’s refuge for child care purposes, or will funds be allocated to that refuge for that purpose from the funds allocated to New South Wales for child care purposes?
– It is a fact that I have made grants to State governments and the Northern Territory as a contribution towards facilities for child care in women’s refuges. Last night I received a deputation from Mr Fry, representing the interests of the Canberra women’s refuge. As a result of discussions with him and advice I have received from my Department, I have approved a grant of $5,000 for this type of assistance in the Australian Capital Territory. I have asked my Department to make the necessary arrangements with regard to this assistance. I am still waiting for advice as to whether the grant will be made through the Australian Capital Territory authorities or, if there is only one refuge, directly to it. At the same time I advise the Senate that I will make a grant of $2,000 for some capital facilities at the Canberra women’s refuge. Those decisions were taken last night and might not be known publicly at this stage. I have given the Australian Capital Territory a grant of the same amount as that previously granted to the Northern Territory.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education. Is it a fact that Mr Ken Fry, the honourable member for Fraser, was reported in the Australian Broadcasting Commission news this morning as saying that the Minister has provided incorrect information about pupil-teacher ratios at government secondary colleges in the Australian Capital Territory? Did Mr Fry claim that the ratio is 20 : 1 rather than approximately 10 : 1, as the Minister stated in an answer to my question yesterday? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the correct figures, and in doing so correct Mr Fry’s errors?
-I did not hear Mr Fry make the statement that Senator Lajovic asserted he made. However, I have been advised by a number of people that he claimed, in fact, that the ratio is 20 : 1 rather than 10 : 1 , as in general terms I claimed. Assuming that he made that statement, I want to say that the pupil-teacher ratio -
– I raise a point of order. How can the Minister reply to a statement which he has not heard? How can he give us a reply on the assumption that something has been said? What if Mr Fry did not say it? Surely, the Minister must acquaint himself with what was actually said for the purpose of replying to it. We cannot allow the procedure to take place whereby someone can ask a question and the Minister can say: I know nothing about it but I will tell you this’.
– There is no point of order involved.
-It will be a rough old time for Labour Party senators if we ask them to prove that they know the facts of every question that they ask. The fact is that the pupil-teacher ratios for secondary colleges in the Australian Capital Territory have been provided to me by the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority. The actual ratios for 1978 were 10.26 : 1 at the beginning of the year and 9.24 : 1 at the present time. On the assumption that the current staffing formula was applied and no staff cuts were made, the projected figures of the Authority show the ratio as being 10.46 : 1 at beginning of the 1979 school year and 9.42 : 1 in August 1979. These ratio figures include teaching staff only.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It arises from the collapse and bankruptcy of several travel agencies in recent years. Did not the Government give the Parliament a commitment to license travel agents following the tragic loss of funds by those seeking to travel overseas? Why has the Government decided not to honour that commitment of registration? What protection can the Government and the tourist industry give travellers in the future?
– I am not aware- indeed I do not think it comes under my ministerial responsibilities; nevertheless, I will accept the question- of what procedures were taken regarding the investigation into travel agencies and the thought that they might be licensed. I will pursue the question to ascertain what is the situation now and what may be the implications of licensing.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, concerns the carcass classification scheme for the beef industry. Can the Minister say what action the Tasmanian Government has taken to move towards a system of carcass classification in the abattoirs of that State? Is Tasmania just sitting back and allowing the mainland States to take all the initiatives in this field?
– I am advised that all of the States are approaching the abattoirs within their States to ask for volunteers for carcass classification trials. From what I have seen, any trials at present will be manual, at least in the first instance. I understand that Western Australia has two abattoirs running trial classifications with a third to start very soon. I understand also that the Tasmanian Government has approached abattoirs in that State but the Minister for Primary Industry is not aware of any abattoir that has begun trials.
- Mr President, I am somewhat undecided as to the Minister to whom I should address a question. I do not know whether Senator Durack has an answer for me about passports. If not, I will direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. As I did not get a nod from Senator Durack, I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I preface my question by informing the Senate that Senator Georges and I got a pledge from the Foreign Minister that we would get regular feedbacks on what was happening in Cyprus. I ask: In view of the renewal of aid by the United States to Turkey and acting on the assumption that justice is coming to Cyprus, will the Minister make a statement during the next three-week sitting as to what role Australia has played at the United Nations? Does Australia accept the Carter definition that justice is to be given to the Cypriots?
– I imagine that that is a proper question for the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs to answer. I will seek that information.
-On 26 September, Senator Missen asked for confirmation of a report that Mr Adnan Buyung Nasution was denied an exit visa by the Indonesian authorities to come to Australia for the International Bar Association conference. I can now confirm that an exit visa was not issued to Mr Nasution. The honourable senator will appreciate that the granting or withholding of an exit permit in relation to one of Indonesia’s citizens is a domestic matter for the Indonesian authorities. This factor is one which cannot be ignored by the Australian Government in any consideration it might give to the matter.
– Yesterday, in relation to the two members of the Irianese dissident movement imprisoned in Papua New Guinea- Mr Prai and Mr Ondawame- Senator Primmer asked whether, if Mr Prai should apply for political asylum in this country, the Australian Government would give consideration to any application for residence here. He also asked what the Australian Government’s attitude would be should Indonesia, in his words, apply pressure to Papua New Guinea for Mr Prai’s extradition, and whether Australia would oppose any such move. In respect of the first question, I am advised that it is not the practice of the Government to comment on a hypothetical question of this nature. I note, however, that in a statement on 27 September Mr Somare said that if the two Organisasi Papua Merdeka dissidents decided to seek political asylum in Papua New Guinea after the termination of their gaol sentences the normal legal procedures would be followed. With respect to the last two questions asked by Senator Primmer, any question of extradition to Indonesia would be a matter for the two governments concerned.
– I undertook to give information to Senator Grimes with regard to changing pensions to an annual indexation. The estimated savings by not increasing pensions and benefits in May 1979, that is, for this financial year, is $2 7m.
- Senator O ‘Byrne asked me a question yesterday with regard to management training in the Department of Social Security. I undertook to obtain information for him. A department of the size and complexity of the Department of Social Security which is responsible for administering large amounts of public funds needs to have a high level of management competence and management training. For this reason the Department has an extensive training program for its senior managers. I confirm that Professor Hunt who is an eminent behavioural scientist with a great deal of experience in training managers in Commonwealth, State and private organisations has been engaged by the Department on a number of occasions. As part of the Department’s management program, management conferences are held for five days approximately every month.
Each conference caters for 24 middle level managers from the Department’s central and State offices. Professor Hunt spent one day on each of the last five of these conferences. In addition Professor Hunt has worked with State office directors and central office divisional heads. The total paid to him for all of his services was $2,700. The Department’s training program has undoubtedly improved the quality of its performance in delivering benefits and services to the community in a most cost effective manner.
- Senator Missen asked me a question today which I am now able to answer for him. His question concerned the Department of Aboriginal Affairs or the Department of Construction with regard to rules covering the use of grants and contained four parts. In the first part the honourable senator quoted rule 2.3.2. of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs governing the provision and use of grants. The rule states that ‘tenders should be invited when the purchase price of an asset is expected to exceed $5,000. I am advised that the rule that was mentioned states that whenever practicable, tenders should be invited when the purchase price of an asset is expected to exceed $5,000. 1 understand that an inquiry is being conducted by the Department into the application of this rule by Aboriginal organisations. This relates to the second part of the honourable senator’s question.
The third part of this question related to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Housing Panel. He asked if the panel had warned the Minister of the failure to apply the rule on five separate occasions in the past 12 months. I understand that the answer to that question is no. His fourth question asked whether the Minister would ensure in future that a closer scrutiny would be kept over the allocation of funds by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, and that public tenders are called for all projects funded by the Department, which are expected to cost more than $5,000. 1 am advised that there is a standing instruction that all recipients of financial assistance and departmental officers strictly observe all instructions relating to the disbursement and expenditure of Commonwealth funds.
-Senator Archer asked me a question on 27 September in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. The following answer has been given by the Minister today: The Association of Australian Port and Marine Authorities advises State and Federal governments concerning the safety, manning and operation of commercial vessels, including fishing vessels. Accordingly AAPMA is and has been for some time involved in establishing a set of uniform principles. An article published in the Australian Financial Review of 27 September deals with the possible impact of these principles on the economic viability of fishing vessels. I am informed that there has been communication between State members of AAPMA and the fishing industry in their States. Further discussion has been held recently between the President of the Australian
Fishing Industry Council and the AAPMA at the Federal level in relation to the proposed uniform Mercantile Marine Code.
In addition the Department of Primary Industry has had observer status on AAPMA for a number of years and recently became a member of the sub-committee dealing with uniform shipping laws. The Department has liaised between AAPMA and the Australian Fishing Industry Council keeping industry informed of developments and taking industry’s views and reactions back to AAPMA. The Department will continue its role and closely observe the effects of the proposed code on the fishing industry.
The Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms Industrial Dispute
– On 12 September, I made statements to the Senate in relaton to the industrial dispute which had led to the Refreshment Rooms being closed on 11 and 12 September. The dispute centred around the unwillingness of Mr Aper, who had been appointed as a sessional kitchenman. to join the Federated Liquor and Allied Industries Employees Union, the relevant union for the Refreshment Rooms staff. Questions were subsequently asked as to Mr Aper’s union background and attitude, and concern was expressed by some honourable senators that parts of my second statement to the Senate seemed to conflict with comments reputedly made to the news media by Mr Aper. I promised that I would report further in this matter and it now appears to me that the impression may have been incorrectly left by my second statement that Mr Aper had not expressed any anti-union feeling whatever.
I am advised that at the beginning of his interview for appointment Mr Aper indicated that he was opposed to the Building Workers Industrial Union. When asked why as a carpenter he was seeking a kitchenman ‘s job, he stated that he was finished with the building industry, that he was fed up with the building union as it had sent him broke and that because of this he had taken out a court action against it. I am also advised that Mr Aper later referred to the building union as being a bad union but said he knew there were good unions. I am further advised, however, that at no time was Mr Aper’s attitude to unions in general ever discussed or that he ever stated that he was opposed to unions in general. I think it relevant to note in this connection that Mr Aper was reported in the Press as having subsequently indicated that a reference to ‘unions’ in one section of a Press story should have been in the singular.
Reference was made to the fact that Mr Aper had been told that he was the right man for the job. I am advised that Mr Aper was told that he was the right man for the job because he had labouring experience of the kind that made him suitable for hard work in a kitchen and that no other interpretation is justified. He was engaged because in physique he was suited to the job, because he had had some experience of kitchens, and because he was a married man with a family.
I am told that the question of Mr Aper joining the Liquor Union did not arise at the employment interview; that it is standard practice to let employees know which union covers their work but not to demand that they join it as a condition of employment; and that attempts were made by Mr Dearson, the Manager of the Refreshment Rooms, and the union representatives to persuade Mr Aper, after his employment, to join the union but without success.
As I indicated to the Senate on 13 September, Mr Speaker and I accepted the recommendaton of the Acting Public Service Arbitrator, Mr R. H. C. Watson, made after a private conference of the parties involved held that morning, that Mr Apers should be stood down with pay until a decision has been handed down on his application for exemption from joining a union on the ground of his conscientious beliefs. The hearing of Mr Aper’s application for exemption was scheduled to be resumed on 1 8 September, but a decision has not yet been handed down.
Incident at Rear of Parliament House
- Senator O ‘Byrne has asked me to investigate an incident which occurred recently at the rear of Parliament House and which involved an officer of the Joint House Department. I have now caused an inquiry to be made into this matter and the officer concerned has advised as follows:
Some Tew weeks ago I decided that certain matters relating to the attendance of a member of the staff were in need of checking and to do this it was necessary to verify his time of arrival for duty. Acting on my own initiative I did this by direct observation from the roadway at the rear of the House. While there, a Commonwealth Police patrol car pulled up and I spoke with the officer and explained my presence there to him. There is no truth in the report that I was carrying binoculars.
The behaviour of the officer concerned in this matter was ill-considered and misguided. He has been instructed that it must never occur again.
– In the adjournment debate last Thursday, 21 September 1978, Senator Ryan raised a matter which concerned the role of the Parliamentary Library. She wanted to know: What information, in the view of the Government, can legitimately be obtained by officers of the Library for the use of honourable senators and honourable members?’ She said that there seems to have been ‘a sudden and unannounced change of policy on the part of the Government in respect of the role of” the Parliamentary Library’. Senator Ryan asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) to explain why information she requested was not made available to an officer of the Parliamentary Library. Other honourable senators also expressed concern about the Parliamentary Library’s access to Government information.
The matter of access to information in the files of departments such as the Department of Social Security and those of the Public Service Board is a matter on which the Leader of the Government in the Senate may wish to comment. The Parliamentary Librarian has not been advised of any change in government policy on access to information by the Library and officers of the legislative research section. The Parliamentary Library deals in ‘published or publishable information’ and it has never had authority to command access to information which a Government department or authority may not wish to divulge. The Library is the servant of Parliament but cannot exercise the rights and privileges which are the prerogative of honourable senators and members.
On the two particular matters mentioned by Senator Ryan, the Parliamentary Librarian has advised me that what took place was not unusual. If external authorities, private as well as government, refuse to provide information to Library and legislative research officers, those officers may advise a senator or member who initiated a request that the information is not available in published sources and a request for it has been refused. The senator or member may pursue the matter further in the form of a question to the relevant Minister if so desired. I think it is important to repeat that there has been no sudden and unannounced change of policy in this respect. Normal practice was followed with regard to the requests from Senator Ryan.
Referral of Bills to Committees
– In the Senate yesterday Senator Cavanagh asked me a series of questions relating to the referral of Bills to committees of the Senate. The replies to his questions are as follows:
Yesterday Senator McLaren asked me what had been the additional increase over the figure of 59 for Commonwealth Police officers assigned for duty at Parliament House. I am advised that the present figure is 53.
– by leave- Mr President, I acknowledge the courtesy and promptness with which you have responded to the matters I raised during the adjournment debate on Thursday, 21 September, concerning the role of the Parliamentary Library, However, I must say at this stage that the reply you have just given is not a satisfactory reply to the matters I raised. In particular, I refer you to a sentence in the fourth paragraph of your answer in which you said:
The Parliamentary Library deals in ‘published or publishable information’ and it has never had authority to command access to information which a government department or authority may not wish to divulge.
The exact point I made in the adjournment debate was that the information that the Parliamentary Library was seeking at my request did fit into the category of published or publishable information. Some of it had been published in prior annual reports and certainly all of it was publishable. I sought the information from the Library rather than going through the lengthy process of analysing annual reports and things of that kind. I believe that the information I sought regarding expenditure by the Department of Social Security on child care and the numbers of public servants under the staff ceilings policy, which I sought from the Public Service Board, was published or publishable information and therefore should have been available automatically. There is an implication in your reply that if there has been no change of policy with regard to the Parliamentary Library there has been a change of policy with regard to Ministers in that they are now directing officers in their departments not to release information which formerly was released automatically to the Parliamentary Library. I seek a further comment on that from you or perhaps from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick).
As to your advice that when a Parliamentary Library officer is unsuccessful in obtaining information for a member or senator, that member or senator has recourse to asking a question of the relevant Minister, I simply repeat what I said in the adjournment debate. That mechanism is unsatisfactory when the senator or member needs the information urgently. I have had questions on the Notice Paper since March or April this year and other honourable senators have had unanswered questions on the Notice Paper from as early as February this year. I cannot accept that straightforward published or publishable information should be delayed for several months in reaching senators who are seeking the information. You say in your statement that in the case of the inquiries I asked the Parliamentary Library to make on my behalf the normal practice was followed. Do you mean by that that it is normal practice for published or publishable material to be unavailable in the Parliamentary Library at the direction of an officer of the Public Service?
I believe that at a time when there is debate throughout the community and in the Parliament on the matter of freedom of information and a great demand by the public and members of parliament for increased access to information it is not appropriate for information available to senators and members in their Parliamentary Library to be restricted. I am still concerned that there is such restricted access by the Parliamentary Library to published or publishable material from officers of the Commonwealth Public Service and I ask for a further response from you and from the Leader of the Government in the Senate on these matters.
-by leave- First of all, I congratulate you, Mr President, on apparently having cleaned up in one fell swoop a lot of the problems that have been put to you. If we take the precedent set by Senator Ryan, we will be referring all of them back to you, so you might not have achieved very much. I do not want to do that, but I do wish to say that your explanation of the dispute in the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms was interesting and clears up the apparently incorrect impression, from Mr Aper’s statement, that there was no discussion about unions. We now know that there was a discussion about unions and that the interviewing officer believed that Mr Aper had a hatred of the building unions and not of unions generally. In fact, he said that Mr Aper agreed that there are good unions. If there are good unions, I take it Mr Aper would have no objection to joining one. However, one of the unions that is not good must be the Liquor and Allied Industries Employees Union because Mr Aper refused to join it.
One would have thought that when the interviewing officer found that Mr Aper had a hatred of some unions and in fact had a court case pending against them he would have made further inquiries. I therefore raise the question of whether the particular interviewing officer is competent for that task. He may have other capabilities, but I question whether he is competent as an interviewing officer. I do not know whether the procedure was followed on this occasion, but I understand that the responsibility for engaging staff is the responsibility of the Presiding Officers, based on reports submitted to them. I do not understand how a report could have been properly submitted if all the facts were not known, if it was not known that the engagement of a particular person might result in upheaval and the necessity for strike action by all the kitchen staff.
I am most interested in the fact that one of the requirements for the job of kitchen hand seemed to be labouring experience of the kind used in a kitchen. What that is I do not know. I would be interested to find out what is meant by labouring experience of the kind used in a kitchen. Does it mean a man with a big strong physique? We do not know what the physique of” the other applicants was or whether any test was given such as one involving lifting the puddings in the kitchen.
– I think it involves lifting refuse bins and that sort of thing.
-I do know that there are many people engaged on labouring in the kitchen who do not reach the standard of Mr Aper. If lifting bins is involved, then I think we do a disservice in giving such a heavy manual job to a married man with a family. He has responsibilities other than those involved in his occupation. If that is one of the qualifications for a kitchen hand, I do not think it is fitting that it should be the determining factor in the engagement of labour. I would like to know how many applicants for the job had the physique necessary to fill the requirements, as well as the other essential qualifications, and how many of the people who had competing claims for the job were married men with families.
As you said in your reply to Senator O ‘Byrne, the behaviour of the officer responsible for the appointment was ill-considered and misguided, and I ask whether he has been instructed that it must not occur again? It would seem that there have been two upheavals, one justifying some censorship of the officer concerned. I think we have to look at whether this officer is suited for the particular job. I do not know whether suitability includes his physique and consideration of whether he is married with a family, but we may find that he is better suited to a job where he will not be tempted to repeat the mistakes that have occurred.
– You will have them all out on strike again if you sack him.
– No, I want to prevent another strike. I am much concerned about what will happen when the court makes a decision on Mr Aper’s application for exemption from joining the union on the grounds of conscientious objections. It would appear that he has no serious objections to unions, which is an essential prerequisite for exemption under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Mr Aper even admits that there are some good unions. But if the court’s decision is that Mr Aper’s application is upheld and all the kitchen employees say that they will not work with a non-unionist, will we have another dispute? If Mr Aper’s present position is an additional position, what fall-off in patronage of the dining room would be needed before the position became redundant so that at least we would not have to have a non-unionist in that area? If, on the other hand, it is decided that Mr Aper is not entitled to a certificate of exemption on the grounds of conscientious objection and he still refuses to join the union, what is the position then? Are the kitchen staff prepared to reconsider the matter?
The main thing I am concerned about in this matter, Mr President, is that we do not know the roles or the personnel of the various House departments. What is the role of the Joint House Department? It seems to me to be undefined. You, Mr President, and Mr Speaker say that you have the responsibility for and the control of the security of Parliament House. Where you have that responsibility or control I do not know. I have not been able to find out. There must be a parliamentary decision on that, but I cannot find out where it is. We have the stupid position today where, as stated in one of your answers to a question on this matter, we have increased police surveillance of this building. Yesterday, someoneobviously someone who wished to show the farcial nature of the security here- planted what was thought to be a bomb right in the middle of Kings Hall. That person has shown us up; we are all laughing stocks at the present time as far as the security of Parliament House is concerned and as far as the departments of the Parliament that administer that security are concerned.
There must be further stoppages in the kitchen area because on the unrest there. I would hope to see some attempt by someone, either the Joint House Department or the Presiding Officers, to try to get the peace and harmony down there that should be there and that apparently Mr Burrell cannot achieve.
-by leave- Mr President, I thank you for putting down your statement. I would also like to say that I regret that you have been put in the position where- and this has been said in this chamber before- you appear to be the meat in the sandwich. I know that with your good intentions, you would not have wished to see this matter develop in the way it has developed, but to my mind, your statement has added further confusion. In the second paragraph of your statement, in talking about the conflict, you refer to comments reputedly made to the news by Mr Aper. I will quote from an article in the Canberra Times of 12 September. The article states that Mr Aper said that he was interviewed by the manager of the parliamentary refreshment rooms, whose name he thought sounded like ‘dearing’. The manager of the refreshment rooms is a Mr Dearson. Mr Aper is then reported as saying:
The first thing, before anything else, I explained I was in trouble with the unions, that I was fighting unions, that I was blackbanned and that I was against unions.
The article went on to say:
He said he was taking his stand because of the way he had been treated by unions in the past . . .
The next day, Mr President, you put down a statement in the Parliament. You said that after a conference, Mr Aper had stated his intention of approaching the Canberra Times. The next day the Canberra Times reported:
Mr Aper did not approach the Canberra Times yesterday afternoon and later said the article was accurate.
The Canberra Times went on to say that it had contacted Mr Aper by phone and that Mr Aper had ended up by saying that the article, apart from one instance where the plural ‘unions’ was used instead of the singular ‘union’, was correct. It would appear that this man is one who handles the truth very carelessly. He told the Canberra Times one story and he told the people who interviewed him another story. In your statement, Mr President, you say: 1 am further advised, however, that at no time was Mr Aper’s attitude to unions in general ever discussed or that he ever stated that he was opposed to unions in general . . .
He said in his own words in his interview with the Canberra Times, that he had discussed this matter. But when he was approached again the next day, after saying that he himself would approach the Canberra Times because its story of 12 September was inaccurate, he did not approach the Canberra Times; the Canberra Times had to approach him. Then he agreed that it was only the name of the union that was incorrect. The Builders Labourers Industrial Union referred to in the article should have been the Building Workers Industrial Union. So he is now saying that on only one occasion was he quoted incorrectly- the word ‘unions’ in the article should have been ‘union’. So he again proves that he is a man who cannot be trusted with handling the truth very carefully. Mr President, you further went on to say:
I am told that the question of Mr Aper joining the Liquor Union did not arise at the employment interview . . .
Mr Aper having said, and having verified it the next day, that he was opposed to unions, the first thing the interviewer should have asked him before engaging him and knowing full well that all the people working in the dining room and the bar were supporters of the Liquor Trade Union was: ‘Would you on your engagement join the Liquor Trade Union?’ Why should Mr Aper be employed first and then asked afterwards?
– Why not?
– Of course he should have been asked first because, as Senator Cavanagh has pointed out, if that was not the situation, the person who interviewed Mr Aper was not the suitable person to interview him.
– What nonsense!
– It is not nonsense at all.
– What relevance has it to the job?
- Senator Lewis asks what relevance it has to the job. If this person had been interviewed and had not in his own words told the interviewer that he was opposed to trade unions, it would have been a different case. But during the course of the interview, he deliberately told the interviewer that he was opposed to trade unions. If the interviewer had had any experience at all in engaging people, he should have known that there would be a conflict and that there would be a stoppage in the dining room with this person flaunting the fact that he was not a trade union member and that he did not intend to be one, even if he got the job. That is point one.
The second point is that the kitchen staff, the dining room staff and the bar staff have lost two days’ pay. When I raised this matter the other day with the Joint House Committee, I was bluntly told that these people would not be reimbursed for the two days’ pay they had lost- all because a person was engaged after having told the interviewer that he was opposed to trade unions. The interviewer knew that there was going to be trouble. We now have the situation where the entire kitchen staff, dining room staff and bar staff have had to sacrifice two days’ pay. As Senator Cavanagh has said, what will be the situation if this person is re-employed? What will be the situation if the court hands down a decision- and I do not think it will in view of the Matthews case in Sydney- that Mr Aper has not proved that he has conscientious objections to joining a trade union? Will his services be dispensed with or will he be re-engaged to cause another conflict in the dining room?
The other matter, Mr President, of which you are aware, is that the Joint House Department had this man come into work even though he had been stood down. In your statement, Mr President, you mentioned that you had accepted the recommendation of the Acting Public Service Arbitrator that Mr Aper be stood down. Mr Aper was called in for work each day and was then told that no work was available. There again, Mr President, you are antagonising the staff down there with this man coming in. You are flaunting him in front of them. I am also told now that Mr Aper claims that he was underpaid while he was stood down. That is another thing that should be investigated. We have a man who was deliberately setting out to cause trouble at Parliament House and it should not happen.
I hope that the Joint House Department will take some action, in view of this man’s actions, to see that the staff of this Parliament are paid for those two days. If it does not, I am sure that the members of the Parliament will have to take some action to see that they are reimbursed for the stand they took. There is no doubt about it, Mr President, they were deliberately set up by the Joint House Department’s engaging a man of the calibre of this Aper. It should never have happened and it is a tragedy that it did. It is up to us as members of parliament to see that it does not happen again. It is up to us as members of parliament to see that the parliamentary staff are not the losers because of stupid action taken by the Joint House Department.
-by leaveThe matters arising out of the industrial dispute which led to the Refreshment Rooms being closed on 1 1 and 12 September are perhaps in a way a storm in a teacup but within them are some very, very deep principles which I think should have been exposed in this Senate. I want to thank you, Mr President, for the manner in which you have responded to our representations to you and the forthright way in which you have explained to the Senate the matters associated with and arising out of the dispute. In relation to the specific matter which I raised of an officer of the Joint House Department spying or pimping on the staff, it was highly offensive to me to think that in the Parliament of Australia we should have conduct of that nature. It is the very antithesis of what is necessary for good employeremployee relations. It builds up mistrust and discontentment amongst the staff, and that is not the sort of atmosphere that we should have in the Parliament itself. I think that the Parliament should be a model for employer-employee relationships, and if examples such as this go out to the public many of the criticisms which are levelled at the Parliament will be justified in a round about way. I appreciate the fact that you, Mr President, have had this matter investigated and exposed.
Another matter which I would like to raise and which has been mainly covered by the previous speakers, Senator McLaren and Senator Cavanagh, relates to the flaunting by this Mr Aper of his advantage in being able to come along in casual clothes on pay day and telling the other members of the kitchen staff that they are working to earn money and that he can collect his money without working. It appears to me that he is taking the role of an agent provocateur. In my view that is a most undesirable role and one that should be examined. If he is doing this there are strong grounds for his being dismissed summarily. He was engaged for the session. I hope that with a recess starting after today, the session can be counted as finishing tonight. This man is provoking other members of the staff at a time when there is a certain amount of unease and when there are many outstanding matters which should be straightened out. If the information given to me about this man is correct, this matter should be dealt with very promptly.
Finally, as the officer responsible for the administration of the Joint House Department and matters associated with the smooth running of this Parliament, I would very much appreciate it if you, Mr President, would take this matter one step forward to see whether a better relationship could be established between the administration and the staff in the Refreshment Rooms. As I said previously when I addressed you, Mr President, on this matter, we have loyal, longserving and capable people engaged there whose lives are involved in the successful and smooth running of this Parliament. They should be able to carry out their duties in a way in which they feel they can get pleasure from their gainful and constructive employment. When they are discontented their job is so much harder. This matter having been brought to the surface, I hope that it will be resolved harmoniously and peacefully by you, Mr President, keeping your eye on it very closely in the future.
– I seek leave to make a brief statement about the arrangements between Whips.
-The traditional arrangements between Whips are generally not matters for the Senate. These, of course, include arrangements relating to the granting of pairs. In view of the division which we had earlier this morning it is relevant simply to record that when the division was called it had not been possible to complete arrangements between the Whips. At that stage the full requirements for pairs were not known by the Whips. For the division which I mentioned only three pairs will be shown whereas under normal circumstances more pairs would have been shown. I simply want to put on record the fact that since the Whips had not completed these arrangements, some senators who will not be shown as having been paired would have been so shown in normal circumstances.
– For the information of honourable senators I present proposed guidelines for official witnesses appearing before parliamentary committees together with the text of a statement by the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister (Mr Viner).
– Pursuant to section 37 of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act 1970 I present the annual report of the Australian Industry Development Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– In the absence of Senator Messner, who unfortunately has been called out of the chamber, on behalf of the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations I present the Committee’s report on its inquiry into the use of consultants by the Commonwealth Public Service.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- I move:
Mr President, the report is fairly brief and selfexplanatory. The Committee examined the procedures currently operating within the Public Service governing the employment of consultants. These procedures are outlined in the report. They have been tightened considerably in recent years and the Committee considers that they are satisfactory at the present time. The Committee agrees with the Public Service Board that the procedures could serve as a useful model for statutory authorities whose staffing arrangements do not come under the Board ‘s authority. Mr President, I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-I present the 62nd report from the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances relating to undertakings by Ministers to amend regulations and ordinances and Standing Order 36a.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Motion (by Senator Missen)- by leaveagreed to:
That the amendment of Standing Order 36a proposed in the 62nd report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances be referred to the Standing Orders Committee.
– I seek leave to make a short statement relating to the report.
– This report deals with three basic items. The first has just been referred to the Standing Orders Committee and relates to a proposal which seems to show some inconsistency at the moment between our Standing Orders in relation to various matters which are subject to disallowance and which do not perhaps come within the Committee’s guidelines. No doubt the Standing Orders Committee will look into that question and the amendment which we have put forward for its consideration.
The second item, which is perhaps of lesser importance than the third, consists of three different matters which have come to the notice of the Committee. They relate to questions of disallowance and some inconsistent provisions which appear in the provisions for disallowance. Those matters are squarely within the present reference of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs in relation to the delegation of parliamentary authority.
The third aspect of this item is a question related to the regulation-making powers which seem to come very much within the province of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, which is presently looking into a reference relating to the scrutiny of Bills before the Parliament. What the Committee has done is to raise these three questions and to propose in its report that the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs may, in examining its particular references, look at these items. So we are really putting them on record and asking that they be looked at.
The third item, which is the main basis of this report, is the matter of greatest seriousness. It relates to undertakings which have been given by Ministers over a period of years to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee in relation to complaints about regulations and ordinances which we have considered to be inadequate, which have perhaps interfered with the liberty of the subject or, on one of the particular criteria of the Committee, have been found to be offending. As has been the custom for many years, it has very often been the situation that the Committee negotiates with the Minister and reaches some arrangement for an amendment to be made to a regulation. These undertakings have been given and, as a result of the giving of the undertakings, the Committee has then withdrawn the relevant motion from the Notice Paper. Very often it is a motion which has been put down in the Senate by way of a holding motion so that the right of the Senate to disallow is protected. Because it has received these undertakings from Ministers the Committee has then withdrawn its notice and consequently has lost all power to do anything about the matter.
The problem is that a number of these undertakings have not been honoured to this date. In fairness one must say that many more undertakings other than those listed in this report have been given by Ministers over the years and that the great majority of those undertakings given by Ministers have been carried out, although some times not as promptly as the Committee would have wished. The report in fact details only those undertakings which have not been carried out at the present time.
A perusal of the report will reveal that there are some seven undertakings in all which are. the subject of complaint by the Committee. Two of those undertakings relate to decisions made in 1975, one relates to 1976, two relate to 1977, and two are from May 1978. The problem is that we believe there is inordinate delay in carrying out the undertakings.
It is not a matter of the Committee being difficult, because we have an obligation imposed on us by the Standing Orders to advise the Senate. The Senate has an obligation, as does the other House which does not exercise it in most events, to do something to protect the liberties of the subject in this regard. Once we have accepted undertakings and allowed the time to go past, we lose all power; the Senate no longer has the power. We feel that we are in a situation in which, by accepting undertakings, we are not able to carry out the proper obligation of the Senate in this area. This situation has been referred to in paragraph 5 of the report. I think I should read that paragraph because it sets out the situation fairly clearly. Paragraph 5 of the Committee ‘s report reads:
AH of the regulations and ordinances referred to have provisions which are unsatisfactory in their effect on individual rights and liberties, and this has been recognised by various Ministers in their various undertakings. A highly unsatisfactory situation arises when undertakings by Ministers are not carried out promptly and expeditiously, in that provisions recognised to be defective are allowed to stand and the public effectively lack the protection which the disallowance procedure and the Committee are designed to give. Unless there is an improvement in the situation in the future the Committee will be less ready to accept undertakings which cannot be carried out before the time for disallowance has passed.
I stress that that is a very unsatisfactory position. It means that the regulations and ordinances are in operation in this country for years when in fact they ought to have been amended. We do not find it satisfactory that this delay lasts for years. We know that there are difficulties in respect of parliamentary draftsmanship and so on, but the delay is altogether excessive. When, I say, as we say in the report, that, in future, we will not be able to accept such undertakings with such readiness, it is not just a threat. It is a fact that, if we are to carry out our obligation in this Senate, we cannot allow this drift of the situation to continue.
It is for these reasons that I make this statement and draw the attention of senators to the report so that it can be discussed. Therefore, I intend to ask the Senate to express an opinion on this matter of undertakings which are given by Ministers but which are not promptly carried out. Accordingly, I seek leave to give a notice of motion in respect of this matter.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate notes with concern the failure of some Ministers and departments promptly to carry out undertakings given to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances to amend unsatisfactory legislation, as recorded in the 62nd report of the Committee.
– by leave- I rise as a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances to emphasise the seriousness of the matters raised by the Committee in that major part of its report to which Senator Missen addressed the preponderance of his remarks, namely, that part concerning undertakings made by Ministers to amend regulations and ordinances, which undertakings are not then expeditiously honoured. It is something of an understatement to say, as the Committee does in paragraph 5 of its report, that a highly unsatisfactory situation arises when undertakings by Ministers are not carried out promptly and expeditiously. This situation is more than just unsatisfactory. It cuts a swath through the operations of this Committee and it makes nonsense of the watchdog role not only of this House but also of the Parliament as a whole. If, on the basis of a ministerial undertaking to amend, the Committee either does not issue a notice of disallowance or allows such a notice to lapse, then the situation is, as Senator Missen pointed out, that after 15 sitting days both the Committee and the
Senate itself are rendered quite impotent against the Executive. The Committee, the Senate and the Parliament as a whole are obliged to wait upon the Executive’s pleasure. Years may transpire before the situation is corrected and the citizens affected by the regulations or ordinances in question are no longer at risk.
That this is a matter of concern which justifies the specific attention of the Senate is demonstrated by the figures which were adverted to by Senator Missen and which are set out in the attachment on page 9 of the report. As Senator Missen said, the figures show that the outstanding undertakings as at the present date number seven, two of which date back to 1975, one to 1976, two to last year and two to earlier this year. In passing, I mention that the prospect of these matters being reported to the Senate does seem to do at least something to concentrate wonderfully the mind of the Executive, because as recently as one month ago the number of outstanding undertakings was, in fact, eleven. There has been some quick footwork on the part of some departments to catch up, but the situation is still quite bad in some other departments.
To illustrate just what can happen, I shall spend just a few moments discussing one of the still outstanding undertakings which is the subject matter of this report. I refer to the Vh yeartwo government-four Minister saga of the ACT Court of Petty Sessions Ordinance which is referred to in summary form in paragraph 4 (i) of the report. The question first came before the Committee in December 1 974 in the form of a proposed amendment to the ACT Motor Traffic Ordinance. On the surface, it was a simple and innocuous enough provision providing for the reservation of certain traffic lanes for what were described as ‘priority vehicles’, including particular local buses, and making it an offence for other ordinary vehicles to drive on such reserved priority lanes.
What attracted the attention of the Committee at that time, however, was that the ordinance reversed the normal onus of proof to the extent that it made this offence, in the first instance, quite absolute and only then did it set out certain defences upon which the defendant could rely; for example, the defence that travelling in the reserved lane was necessary in order to avoid a collision. The Committee took the view that the situation was capable of remedy without completely tearing apart the subject matter of the regulation in question and at the same time preserving its basic policy. It could be remedied and the rights of defendants could be preserved to a much greater extent simply by amending another ordinance, the Court of Petty Sessions Ordinance, so as to allow a defendant in these circumstances to file a notice on oath of any such defence on which he proposed to rely and so that the prosecution could, before actually proceeding to take the matter to trial, in fact consider the terms of the defence in question and not put the defendant at risk of having to rely on such a defence in order to extricate himself at trial. So the Committee took a considered position on this and in December 1974 wrote to the then Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, making this proposal. At the same time a notice of disallowance of the regulation in question was given by the Committee in order to preserve the status quo pending the reply from the Minister.
In March 1975- four months later- the then new Attorney-General, Mr Enderby, replied to the Committee agreeing in principle to amend the ordinance as suggested. That was followed up by a further letter from the Attorney-General on 5 April 1975 with a specific proposal to amend the particular ordinance in its pleabypost provisions. On 10 April 1975 the Committee wrote back to the Attorney-General agreeing to the withdrawal of the notice of motion for disallowance on the basis of that ministerial assurance, namely that the amendment in question would be made. In the following week the 15-day period expired so disallowance no longer became an option for the Committee.
This all happened back in April 1975. Until then the matter had proceeded reasonably expeditiously. The sequence of events so far is not in any sense the subject of complaint or objection by the Committee. It was after the disallowance period and whilst this ministerial undertaking was on foot that the rot set in. The subsequent Vh years have constituted a quite extraordinary chapter of evasion, indifference, resistance and neglect on the part of the executive departments concerned. Let me outline briefly just how I can justify those assertions.
It is not as if the Committee acted precipitately in order to resolve the situation. Nearly a year later, on 26 February 1976, the then Chairman of the Committee, Senator Wood, wrote to yet another new Attorney-General, Mr Ellicott, requesting that he carry out the undertaking that had been made by Mr Enderby nearly a year earlier. That was the subject of a formal acknowledgement a few days later. On 26 August 1976, the Committee again wrote to Mr Ellicott seeking a substantive reply to its February letter, and that was greeted with no response whatsoever. On 6 December 1976 the Committee again wrote to Mr Ellicott, again seeking a substantive reply to its query back in February, and again that met with no response whatsoever, either formal or substantive. Nearly a year later again, on 22 September 1977, the Committee, yet again demonstrating quite extraordinary patience under the circumstances, wrote to Senator Durack, yet another new Attorney-General, drawing attention to the sequence of events in terms which still represented fairly marked restraint on the part of the Committee. It is time that the Committee indicated some testiness insofar as it said that it considered that the failure of the Department to reply to the communication a year and a half earlier, in February 1976, ‘indicates either gross inefficiency or discourtesy on the part of your Department ‘.
On 4 October 1977- a few days later- the Committee was at last treated to something in the nature of a substantive reply. This came from Senator Durack. It was in the following terms: ‘I have now had an opportunity to look at the matter for myself. I think there is a fundamental difficulty in what has been previously proposed. ‘ He then went on to say that the proposed procedure recommended by the Committee and accepted by Mr Enderby would apply only in relation to summonses served by post rather than those served personally. As a result the original proposal of the Committee needed some reconsideration to close that loophole. That was the substance of the reply. Under the circumstances, a fair enough point was made. One simply wonders, and the Committee at the time wondered, why on earth that point had not been raised a long time before.
The Minister also said in his letter of 4 October 1977 that he would take the matter up with the Minister for the Capital Territory and in the meantime- and this is important- he would seek to ensure that charges were not brought under the regulation. The Committee had no substantive objection to that part of the letter. In all of the circumstances it seemed quite a reasonable response to the events. The difficulty, however, is that this reply was sent in October 1 977 and since then absolutely nothing has happened to affect the ordinance in question and to make the changes that are required.
The only thing that has happened is that, notwithstanding the statement by the Minister that he would seek to ensure that no charges were laid under this ordinance, charges have been laid and people have been convicted. There is one specific case that came to the attention of the Committee in the form of a rather indignant letter by a Canberra citizen, Mr Ian Irvine. He wrote to the Committee in May this year enclosing a summons for a breach of the offence in question. The summons was issued on 5 May this year- seven months, it will be noted, after the ministerial undertaking to ensure that no charges would be laid. This letter from Mr Irvine referred to the Committee’s recommendation that the ordinance be changed and also to the fact that no action had taken place in the period of over three years since that recommendation had been made. Mr Irvine said in his letter- and one can understand his cry of pain:
I am now in the perilous position of having to establish my innocence subject to the handicaps described in your report.
Despite the Committee immediately taking the matter up with Senator Durack, the AttorneyGeneral, in a letter dated 1 1 May and getting a reply from him which did not even advert to this particular circumstance, the prosecution went ahead and Mr Irvine was convicted and fined. I am advised that a number of other such convictions have taken place.
The most recent exchange in this matter took place just a month or so ago when the Committee wrote, in August 1978, again to the Minister, advising him that it proposed to bring before the full Senate this failure to honour the undertaking and to ask him what on earth was going on. In the Minister’s reply of 19 September- the last communication we have had from him- he said that he and his Department now took the view that the whole matter should be resubmitted to the Committee for its reconsideration and that he expected to be able to write to us on behalf of both himself and the Minister for the Capital Territory ‘very soon ‘.
I suggest to the Senate that this case- it is only one of the number of cases that are mentioned in the report that is now before the Senatedemonstrates, with gravity and clarity, just how serious this situation has become. It is not denied, in the context of the particular matter to which I have drawn attention, that, as the AttorneyGeneral will no doubt tell this House when he gets a chance, this matter had its tricky procedural and technical aspects and it may well have been that the original recommendation of the Committee did need some reconsideration and some minor modification to make the protection contemplated fully effective. However much allowance one makes for this matter, however much the Executive representatives might weave, twist and turn on this matter, the reality is that the history that I have retailed has been absolutely disgraceful. It fully justifies the stance which has been taken by this Committee.
The Regulations and Ordinances Committee just cannot function effectively as the watchdog of the Senate and the Parliament on these matters if it is subjected to this kind of treatment. The language which was employed by the Committee in paragraph 5 of its report and which Senator Missen read out, namely, ‘unless the situation is improved the Committee will be less ready to accept undertakings which cannot be carried out before the time for disallowance is past’, is extremely moderate in all the circumstances. I hope that, notwithstanding the moderation of that message, its content will not be either misunderstood or ignored by the Executive in the future. For far too long the Executive has taken advantage of the Committee’s courtesy on these matters and has behaved with complete indifference not only to the Committee and the Parliament which it represents but also to the rights of the people who are affected by these matters. This situation just cannot and will not be tolerated in future by the Committee. I hope and trust that the Senate will give its full support to the stance which the Committee has taken.
– by leave- I should like to draw the attention of the Senate to one matter which was not included in the report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances and which might give the impression, quite wrongly, that the Committee had slipped up and let something through that should not have got through. I refer, of course, to the Australian Postal Commission’s by-law on non-redirectable mail, which was tabled in this chamber on 22 August. On the face of it, the by-law provides a service whereby the sender, any sender, can specify that certain mail is not to be redirected. Special envelopes have to be used and the sender’s name and address have to be put on the envelope. The recipient must also be notified that the sender is dispatching non.redirectable mail to him. This seems to me to be a useful service which could be used by anyone, particularly as I think there could reasonably be a reduction in the postage rate of such letters.
The Regulations and Ordinances Committee unanimously felt that there was nothing objectionable in the by-law as published. Therefore no report on it was made to this Senate. Whether the use of this procedure in particular circumstances by government departments is appropriate is a political matter for which the Minister concerned must be responsible to this Parliament. In regard to the particular case that came up- the use of the scheme for sending dole cheques- the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has made it quite clear that she has no intention of permitting it. Nevertheless, I hope the Postal Commission continues the scheme as a useful community service and the means of achieving cheaper postage.
– I present the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Publications.
Report- by leave- adopted.
Motion (by Senator Carrick on behalf of Senator Durack) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce aBill for an Act to amend the provisions of certain Acts relating to the jurisdiction of courts and of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
– Because the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) is not present, I seek leave for the ensuing proceedings to be deferred to a later hour of this day when he will be present.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That at 8 p.m., unless otherwise ordered, intervening business be postponed until after the consideration of General Business, Order of the Day No. 78, relating to the proposed reference of the Freedom of Information Bill 1978 to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent:
Concurrent consideration of General Business, Orders of the Day Nos 2 and 23, relating to the Royal Commission on Human Relationships; and
Concurrent consideration of General Business, Orders of the Day Nos 3 and 4, relating to mainline upgrading of the Adelaide-Serviceton and SydneyBrisbane rail links, and the questions in relation to these Orders of the Day being put in one motion.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 10 October 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.
– by leave- I inform the Senate that, to enable Estimates committees to meet on Tuesday, 10 October 1978,I propose to move that the sitting of the Senate be suspended from 4 p.m. till 10 p.m., and that on Thursday, 12 October 1978,I propose to move at approximately 12 noon that the Senate be adjourned. It is proposed that on Tuesday, 10 October 1978, Estimates Committees A, B and C will meet from 4 p.m. till 6 p.m. and from 8 p.m. till 10 p.m., in the Senate chamber, Committee Room 1 and Committee Room 5, respectively. It is also proposed that on Thursday, 12 October 1978, Esimates Committees D, E and F will meet from 12 noon till 1 p.m., from 2.15 p.m. till 6 p.m. and from 8 p.m. till 10 p.m., in the Senate chamber, Committee Room 1 and Committee Room 5, respectively.
On Friday, 13 October Estimates Committees A, B and F will meet from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m. and from 2.15 p.m. to approximately 5 p.m. in the Senate chamber, Committee Room 1 and Committee Room 5, respectively. A schedule of these meetings, and further meetings, has been circulated for the guidance of honourable senators.
Sitting suspended from 12.58 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
Legislation enacted in 1976 to establish the Federal Court of Australia and to restructure the appellate jurisdiction of the High Court left a number of loose ends to be tidied up at a later date. This Bill will make a number of detailed changes to Commonwealth law to complete the scheme contained in the 1976 legislation. That legislation comprised the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 and nine other Acts. These had the following purposes:
The 1976 legislation removed from the High Court the original jurisdiction that it had under Commonwealth law in the areas of greatest workload. In accordance with the policy then set out, most of this original jurisdiction was vested in State Supreme Courts. Some of it was vested in the Federal Court of Australia. In a few cases, where the jurisdiction consisted of reviewing administrative decisions having little legal content, the review jurisdiction was vested in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The policy, then as now, is that the Federal Court of Australia will have jurisdiction only in those matters where, for historical or special policy reasons, it is desirable that jurisdiction be exercised by a federal court. This applies to both original and appellate jurisdiction in matters of federal jurisdiction. The State and Territory courts, being courts of general jurisdiction, should be primarily the trial courts, in federal as well as in State matters. The High Court should be free to concentrate on its role as a constitutional and appellate court in matters of general importance.
The experience since these changes outlined above were made has more than proved their value. The Federal Court of Australia which has, among other matters, original jurisdiction in bankruptcy and trade practices matters and also hears appeals from State and Territory courts in matters of special federal concern, has proved to be a forum of great judicial eminence and expertise. The Court has also replaced the High Court as the Court of Appeal from Territory Supreme Courts.
The purposes of this Bill are:
In removing the original statutory jurisdiction of the High Court, the Bill does not, of course, purport to limit the jurisdiction conferred directly on the High Court by the Constitution. Thus in some cases where a statute now confers a right to proceed against the Commonwealth in the High Court, repeal of the statutory provision would still leave intact the constitutional jurisdiction of the High Court in matters in which the Commonwealth is suing or being sued. Where the statutory right to proceed against the Commonwealth is moved to State or Territory courts, those courts would have a jurisdiction in those matters concurrent with the jurisidiction vested in the High Court by the Constitution. It may be expected that most litigants will prefer to initiate proceedings in these cases in the appropriate State or Territory court. If such an action is commenced in the High Court, that court is empowered under the Judiciary Act to remit the proceedings to the appropriate State or Territory court.
I now turn in detail to the provisions of the Jurisdiction of Courts (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill. Part II and Part III of the Bill complete the new arrangements for the exercise of federal jurisdiction in industrial property matters which were initiated by the Patents Amendment Act 1976 and the Trade Marks Amendment Act 1976. The amendments made by this Bill to the Copyright Act 1968 and the Designs Act 1906 provide for the jurisdiction of State and Territory Supreme Courts under the respective Acts to be exercised by a single judge. An appeal from a decision of a State or Territory Court, including a decision in an action for an infringement of copyright or design, is to lie only to the Federal Court of Australia or, by special leave of the High Court, to that court.
Amendments made by the Bill will remove the original jurisidiction conferred on the High Court under the Copyright Act 1968 and the Designs Act 1906. A reference of question of law by the Copyright Tribunal will now be dealt with by the Federal Court of Australia. The jurisidiction of the High Court under section 28 of the Designs Act to cancel the registration of a design or to grant a compulsory licence for the manufacture of articles to which the design is applied is transferred to State and Territory Supreme Courts.
The Bill provides for the amendment of eight taxation Acts, namely, the Estate Duty Assessment Act 1914, the Loan (Drought Bonds) Act 1969, Pay-roll Tax (Territories) Assessment Act 1971, the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 1) 1930, the States Receipts Duties (Administration) Act 1970, the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Act 1947, the Taxation Administration Act 1953, and the Wool Tax (Administration) Act 1964. Similar amendments are made to the Export Incentive Grants Act 1971. The amendments will bring the provisions for appeals to the courts from decisions of the Commissioner of Taxation or a board of review under these Acts into line with the provisions for appeal in the Income Tax Assessment Act enacted in 1973 and 1976, subject to one qualification.
There will now be a uniform pattern of appeals in taxation legislation. The appeal from the Commissioner or a board of review, as the case may be, will lie in the first instance to a State or Territory Supreme Court constituted by a single judge. From that court, an appeal will lie to the Federal Court of Australia, sitting as a Full Court. Where the taxpayer has chosen to appeal from the Commissioner to a board of review, the appeal from the State Supreme Court to the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia will lie only by leave. An appeal from the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia to the High Court of Australia will lie only by special leave of the High Court. An appeal may be taken directly from the State or Territory Supreme Court to the High Court by special leave of the High Court.
In this regard, one change is made to the existing law regarding appeals under the Income Tax Assessment Act. Because, under the Federal Court of Australia Act, an appeal lies as of right from the Full Court of the Federal Court to the High Court when a sum of $20,000 or more is in issue, many income tax appeals may lie as of right from the Federal Court to the High Court. This was not intended in the 1976 legislation. It had been intended that an appeal would lie to the High Court in income tax matters only by special leave of the High Court. In the legislation as introduced into the Parliament in 1976, this result was achieved because the Federal Court of Australia Bill provided that an appeal might be taken to the High Court from the Federal Court only by special leave of the High Court. That Bill was amended during the course of debate to provide that an appeal would lie as of right from the Federal Court to the High Court in the same circumstances as an appeal would lie as of right from the Full Court of a State Supreme Court to the High Court under the amendments to the Judiciary Act then introduced. When the change was made to the Federal Court of Australia BUI, it was overlooked that this would have the effect of giving a right of appeal in many income tax cases. This oversight has now been remedied in the present BUI.
Where the High Court still has, under taxation legislation, original jurisdiction in taxation prosecutions, that jurisdiciton is to be removed. The BUI will provide a uniform pattern of jurisdiction in taxation prosecutions, the jurisdiction to be vested in State and Territory courts. Part VIII of the BUI provides for the amendment of the Lands Acquisition Act 1955 so as to remove the jurisdiction conferred by that Act on the High Court. Under the Act, the High Court has conferred on it jurisdiction concurrent with State and Territory courts.
The Bill makes appropriate provisions preserving existing rights to appeal to the High Court under the taxation legislation and to preserve the jurisdiction of the High Court in respect of proceedings instituted in the High Court at the date on which the relevant provisions of the Bill are brought into operation. Clauses 125-128 of the Bill provide for the High Court to remit pending proceedings or proceedings arising out of rights of appeal accrued at the date the Bill comes into operation to a State or Territory Supreme Court having jurisdiction in that proceeding. It may be recalled that the Judiciary Act was amended in 1 976 to give the High Court a general power to remit proceedings brought in the original jurisdiction of the High Court to appropriate State or Territory courts.
Part X of the Bill makes a number of amendments to the Patents Act consequential upon the amendments made to that Act by the 1 976 legislation. Amongst other things, the amendments then made provided for certain decisions of the Commissioner to be reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. It has been found necessary to amend the Act to provide for an extension of the time specified in the Act for doing certain things in cases where the progress of an application for a patent has been delayed by reason of an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Further, following amendments made last year to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act, the requirement that the Tribunal must be constituted by a presidential member in hearing appeals from the Commissioner of Patents is to be deleted. Similar amendments to the Trade Marks Act are made by the Schedule to the Bill.
The Schedule to the Bill makes a number of detailed amendments to existing legislation. Some of these amendments are consequent upon the changes made by the 1976 legislation. Others give effect to the policy of removing from the High Court original jurisdiction under Commonwealth statutes. In certain cases, it has been thought appropriate that that jurisdiction should be conferred on the Federal Court of Australia. These cases are the present jurisdiction of the High Court under the Banking Act, the jurisdiction to determine references of questions of law from the Courts-Martial Appeal Tribunal, the jurisdiction to declare unlawful associations under the Crimes Act, certain jurisdiction of the High Court under the Insurance (Deposits) Act, the power to try on a summary basis prosecutions for offences against the Royal Commissions Act and certain jurisdiction under the Treasury Bills Act. The Schedule also contains provisions conferring jurisdiction on Territory Supreme Courts in cases where State Supreme Courts may now exercise jurisdiction but not Territory Supreme Courts. This is in line with the policy of giving Territory Supreme Courts, within constitutional limits, a status equal to that of State Supreme Courts.
The changes that I have described affect a wide range of Commonwealth legislation. They are, however, all concerned with the further improvement in the exercise of federal jurisdiction by the courts. The present changes complete the particular projects that were commenced in 1976. They are in line with the Government’s policy to have a co-ordinated structure of State and Federal courts in Australia and to avoid the disadvantages of a dual court system which could easily develop under a federal system and which has caused so many problems in the United States. Although a unified court system would be the ideal I must accept that this is unlikely to be achieved for the time being. The policy of a co-ordinated system is a satisfactory alternative and is in the view of the Government a practical one. I hope that the States will seriously consider investing Federal courts with jurisdiction under State laws where that would be convenient in the same way as the Federal Government has been prepared to invest State courts with wider federal jurisdiction where that is sensible and convenient. In this way I believe that most of the problems which can arise with State and federal jurisdictions could be avoided. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wriedt) adjourned-
Debate resumed from 21 September, on motion by Senator Webster:
That the Bills be now read a first time.
– I exercise my right as a senator to speak on any topic on the first reading of these money Bills. I make it clear from the outset that what I am doing is not in concurrence with the arrangements which were made between the Whips last night. I know that Senator Baume is somewhat disturbed about my speaking, because he made arrangements with the Opposition Whip last night for these Bills to go through without any speakers on the first reading. I told Senator Baume that because of events that took place here earlier today, of which Senator Georges, who is absent today, is not aware, I would be exercising my right to have some words to say.
I am disturbed at what happened here today because of certain words that were uttered by a colleague of mine and the consequences which he had to put up with. It would appear that far worse words have been used in this chamber and no action has been taken against the persons who used them. Many of the persons who have used such words were here today and voted to expel my colleague for a day. I refer to a debate that took place in this chamber on 22 October 1975 on the Appropriation Bills. Senator Carrick was then a member of the Opposition. He is now Leader of the Government in the Senate and was involved in today’s episode. In speaking to the Appropriation Bills in 1975 and severely criticising the then Whitlam Government, he used the words which are recorded on page 1343 of Hansard as follows:
Now we are talking about corruption, dishonesty and disastrous inefficiency. A judgment must fall on the side of the Opposition . . .
Of course, in using those words, Senator Carrick was saying that in the judgment of the then Opposition the then Government was guilty of corruption and dishonesty. The Concise Oxford Dictionary gives the meaning of the word ‘corrupt’ as ‘Rotten; depraved, wicked; influenced by bribery’. If it was good enough for Senator Carrick to use the words he used in this chamber, I see no reason why Senator Walsh should have been expelled from this chamber for the words that he used. In my view, they were nowhere near as damaging to a person’s credibility as were the words used by Senator Carrick. Senator
Wriedt was then Leader of the Government in the Senate, and he had to sit at the table and suffer the indignity of Senator Carrick ‘s remarks, as did all members of the then Government.
On the next day, 23 October, an amendment was moved to the Appropriation Bills. It had to have been a premeditated amendment. It had to have been discussed in the party room of the then Liberal and Country Party Opposition. I am particularly concerned with the opening stanza of paragraph (a) of the amendment, but I will read the first part of the amendment also. It states: leave out all words after ‘That’, insert these Bills be not further proceeded with until the Government agrees to submit itself to the judgment of the people, the Senate being of the opinion that the Prime Minister and his Government no longer have the trust and confidence of the Australian people because of-
Again Senator Wriedt and those of us who sat behind him had to sit in this chamber and suffer that indignity. Deliberate untruths were levelled against the Prime Minister, his Ministers and all his colleagues, and we had to suffer them. The Concise Oxford Dictionary gives the meaning of the word ‘deceit’ as ‘Misrepresentation, deceiving; trick’. That is what we were accused of. The word ‘dishonesty’ is explained as ‘Want of honesty, knavery, deceitfulness, fraud’. The meaning of the other word used, ‘duplicity’, is given as ‘Double-dealing, deceitfulness; doubleness’. They are all the things of which the Whitlam Government and Ministers and Labor backbenchers were accused in this chamber and the then Opposition got away with it. Mr President, it was quite legitimate in the view of your party to use those words then and to accuse us of all the things of which we were not guilty. Yet Senator Walsh was expelled from the chamber today. No doubt, having read these debates and having seen the words that were used by the then Opposition, he thought he was acting quite legitimately in using one word today. When he did so he was expelled from the chamber.
It is very interesting to see the people who voted for the amendment moved to the Appropriation Bills on 23 October. That is the amendment that accused the then Labor Government and its leader in this chamber, Senator Wriedt, of all the things which I have mentioned. I am mentioning only one occasion, but the Hansard records will show there were quite a few other occasions when similar amendments were moved and voted upon. As reported on page 1461 of the Senate Hansard of 23 October,
Senator Carrick voted for the amendment. As I have said, it was a premeditated amendment. It must have been discussed in the Opposition party room. Members of the then Opposition knew what they were doing when they brought in the amendment. They knew that they could not substantiate the accusations they were making against the then Government; yet they voted for the amendment. Senator Carrick voted for it. The President of the Senate now, Senator Laucke, supported it. He voted for it. Senator Missen and quite a few other members of the Opposition who now sit on the Government benches voted for that amendment. At that time in history they were quite happy to accuse us as a government of all of those terrible things which they could not substantiate.
Today when Senator Walsh used one word he suffered the consequences. I have no doubt that the reason he used that word was that he had read the Hansard reports to which I have referred and was convinced that if it was good enough for the goose it should be good enough for the gander. Whenever one of our members in this chamber is expelled from this place because he uses such words I will stand again in my place and I will remind the public at large that supporters of the present Government used worse terms than any that were used here today. They will be reminded over and over again of their attitude, their disgraceful attitude, in accusing us of those terrible things of which I have given the explanation as set out in the Concise Oxford Dictionary.
- Senator McLaren, I must say that I allowed you a great deal of latitude when you spoke. However, I point out that you must never canvass a ruling given by the President.
- Mr President, I crave your indulgence. 1 was not canvassing your ruling. I was putting on record what has taken place in this chamber in days gone by.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
Departure Tax Bill 1978
In the present tight budgetary situation it has been necessary for the Government to consider avenues for raising additional revenue. The tax on departures will make a useful contribution in this regard. Many countries have taxes similar to the departure tax proposed for Australia. Overseas visitors to this country and many Australians travelling abroad will have had experience with payments of this kind. The level and form of the departure tax has been designed to have a minimal effect on the Australian tourist industry and on overseas travel by Australians. The tax is not expected to have any impact on the number of persons visiting Australia or on the number of Australians travelling abroad.
The Government has also given consideration to the special position of Australia’s external territories and has decided to exclude persons departing from those territories from the requirement to pay departure tax. The Bill also excludes those who travel to an external territory via another country, provided the stay in the other country is less than seven days. This policy is consistent with the practice of not applying Australian taxes to the external territories. Taxes in the external territories are raised by territory ordinances. The Bill was amended in the House of Representatives to give effect to this decision. I can assure honourable senators that the Government is fully aware of the need to ensure that the imposition and collection of this tax does not cause difficulties to the transport and the travel industries. To ensure that the introduction of this tax is a smooth and co-operative exercise, the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has met representatives of the international transport and travel industries in this country. Discussions will continue.
The objective of the Departure Tax Bill is to give effect to the Government’s decision, as announced by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in the Budget Speech on 15 August, to introduce a departure tax in respect of persons departing from Australia and to establish mechanisms for the collection of that tax. The Departure Tax Bill imposes a tax in respect of the departure of persons from Australia and fixes the rate at $10. 1 commend this Bill to the Senate.
Departure Tax Collection Bill 1978
The Departure Tax Collection Bill provides for the collection of the tax to be imposed by the Departure Tax Bill 1978 which I have just introduced. This Bill provides that the Act will come into operation on the day on which the Departure Tax comes into operation. This is a date to be fixed by proclamation. I would expect that , to be within a short time after the passage of the legislation. Discussions have already been held with the travel industry and they will continue. Travellers will be given adequate notice of the date upon which the legislation will come into operation. The Government has decided that the tax will generally be collected by means of the sale of a stamp to persons other than exempt persons departing from Australia. The Bill was amended in the House of Representatives to enable the tax to be collected by means of a tax stamp system.
The Departure Tax Collection Bill provides for the exemption of certain limited categories of persons from paying the tax. The specified categories are children under the age of 1 8 years; crew members; diplomats; persons who arrive in Australia but are deemed under the Migration Act 1958 not to have entered Australia, that is persons who remain at the airport and persons who do not disembark from a ship; persons covered by the Status of Forces Agreements with the United States of America and Papua New Guinea; and persons being deported or extradited from Australia. Clause 5 also provides that the Governor-General may by regulation exempt additional persons or classes of persons.
The Bill provides that the departure tax is to be paid before a person leaves Australia. A person, unless exempt, who does not pay the tax is guilty of an offence punishable on conviction by a penalty of up to $100. Where a person is convicted of an offence against clause 6 (2), a court , may also order a person to pay the tax. Clause 13 provides that a statement or averment of the prosecutor or plaintiff that the tax has not been paid is to be prima facie evidence of the matter stated.
Under the Bill, the Minister may appoint as authorised officers, officers of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs or officers under the Customs Act or members of the police force of the Commonwealth or a State or Territory. , Clause 7 empowers authorised officers to under- i take inquiries to establish whether or not the departure tax has been paid. This clause also ; empowers authorised officers to prevent the departure from Australia of persons where there are reasonable grounds for believing that the tax payable has not been paid.
The Bill provides for offences and specifies penalties in respect of persons who refuse to cooperate with authorised officers in establishing whether any tax payable has been paid. The offences relate to refusal to answer questions or produce documents, false or misleading statements or documents, obstructing or hindering authorised officers and assaulting or threatening authorised officers.
The Bill provides for refunds in the following circumstances: where the departure in respect of which tax was paid did not take place; where the persons who paid the tax departed from Australia and returned without entering another country; where an exempt person has paid the tax in respect of a departure; and where a person is entitled to a refund under the regulations. People who obtain refunds by false pretences will be guilty of an offence and a penalty of $500 has been provided.
The Bill provides for the Minister to make an arrangement for the payment of the departure tax. It would enable the payment of the tax other than by persons individually at the point and time of departure. The Governor-General is empowered in the legislation to make regulations prescribing matters required or permitted by the Act and, in particular, making provision for refunds prescribing penalties for offences under the regulations, and providing for tax stamps and exemption stamps. I commend this Bill to the Senate.
– The purpose of the Departure Tax Bill is to impose a levy of $10 on all Australian residents leaving the country for travel overseas. The measure is part of the Budget proposals to collect additional revenue for the Australian Government. While the Opposition does not oppose the Bill, it has a number of criticisms of it, not the least of which is the overall observation that the Budget estimates last year proved wrong and the Fraser Government is now faced with the task of resorting to a series of measures to try to achieve its stated aim of reducing the Budget deficit.
The imposition of the departure tax is expected to collect about $10m this year and $13m in a full financial year. However, if the Australian economy continues to face difficulties, the amount of overseas travel could easily be less and thus the estimate of collections could be lower than anticipated. The tax is not a new idea. There are 111 other nations imposing departure taxes and surcharges of one kind or another. In some cases the revenue collected is used to fund the complex administrative arrangements associated with people travelling out of and into a country. In other cases the tax is used deliberately as a disincentive to foreign travel and as an encouragement to tourism within the country.
This applies particularly where a country has had hard currency problems and where overseas travel can be a drain on foreign exchange earnings.
I will now give some examples of these taxes and surcharges. In India a passenger service charge of $2.06 is imposed on all departures but a tax equivalent to 12.5 per cent of the air fare is imposed where foreign travel by Indian residents is involved. In New Zealand the airport service charge is $1.79 but there is a surcharge equal to 10 per cent of the air fare. Thus a first class passenger to London from New Zealand pays about $250, which is much in excess of the Australian proposal. The Philippines has a passenger service charge of $3.05 a head but foreign travel taxes range from $73.29 to $451.94. All these , countries experience foreign exchange problems. A second category is the straight passenger service charge and some examples include the United States of America, $US3 a head; Hong Kong $A3 a head; Israel $5.70 a head; Singapore $4.00 a head and Malaysia $2.00 a head. Thus the proposed Australian charge is high when it is related to the charges imposed by countries in the second category.
It is quite reasonable to argue that if an Aus- . tralian can afford to travel abroad the $10 departure tax will not be a deterrent. There has been a steady increase in departures from Australia. Whilst the present crisis in the economy is hoped to be temporary, the long run trends indicate that revenue will meet expectations. We of the Opposition are concerned that the measure was hastily conceived, as a series of subsequent amendments moved by the Government has shown. There was also a fear amongst travel agents that they would be responsible for the collection of the tax. This practice could impose additional responsibilities on the industry. I understand that it is proposed to collect the tax by way of stamp sales. The stamps will be similar to those sold by the States for stamp duty purposes. I presume that they will be available either at the time of issue of the ticket or at the airport. If that is the case the administrative problems should not be onerous.
There is also some concern that measures of this kind aimed at raising revenue will proliferate. One of the principles of any tax system is that it should be fair and simple to operate. Both criteria appear to be met in this measure in that the user pays and the stamp system is easy to administer. However, if this type of tax collection measure is used in future, a hotch potch of indirect taxes is likely to develop which could become an administrative nightmare. The Opposition is also of the view that the proceeds of the tax will do nothing to help the Australian tourist industry which is in severe trouble. Hotel and motel occupancy rates, on average, are the lowest for many years. Although the number of air travellers is increasing, the increase is attributed largely to increased business and government travel. There has been some upturn in the number of travellers due to group travel but it is not enough to give a boost to the tourist industry. In addition, the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) is prevaricating on the issue of cheaper air fares and the granting of licences to operators such as Laker Airways. The Industries Assistance Commission stated in a report on the Australian tourist industry in November of last year:
The Government restriction on air charter flights into Australia may have had some detrimental effect on the demand for tourist accommodation. The restriction appears to be essentially a form of assistance to scheduled international air services, but its benefits and costs are not readily measurable. It is preferable that the assistance measures be explicit and open to public scrutiny.
The Commission also suggests that air charter policy should take account of effects on activities such as tourist accommodation, which is related to international travel, and that the question of air charter policy should be included in any review of assistance to scheduled air services of Qantas Airways Ltd and other international airlines. Needless to say, the Australian Government has done nothing systematic about this issue and the Minister’s handling of the whole affair has left Australia open to ridicule. Many people will see the departure tax as part of the archaic views of the Minister for Transport about the role of cheap travel in encouraging the tourist industry.
It is relevant to note that overseas departures from Australia of a short-term nature have shown a positive upward movement averaging 1 8 per cent per annum whilst the short-term arrivals show a rate of increase of only 5 per cent per annum over the last eight years. In some years the number of short-term arrivals declined when compared to those in the previous year. These figures reflect very seriously on the Government’s failure to deal effectively with the tourist industry. Whilst the Opposition does not generally agree that the proceeds of a revenue tax should be allocated to a particular industry, there seems to be some merit in the view that the proceeds of this proposed departure tax should be allocated to tourist industry development and promotion over and above this year’s Budget allocation of $4m.
I also make the observation that, as a Tasmanian, I am very conscious of the importance of the tourist industry. The Callaghan inquiry report into the development of Tasmania indicated that the steady and planned growth of tourism is an important part of the State’s economy. I dare say that the same observation could be made about Queensland. Instead of approaching the tourist industry on the basis of imposing ad hoc taxes such as the one proposed in this Bill, the Australian Government should be presenting a package of measures which increase the inflow of overseas tourists, encourage Australians to see Australia first and promote the rational development of international standard accommodation and services.
– I support the Departure Tax Bill. I was very interested to hear Senator Wriedt ‘s support for the measure. Indeed, I think that he said most of the things I wanted to say. However, I will expand on one or two points he mentioned. Firstly, I am very interested to see that an effective means of collecting this tax, which will not cost a great deal to administer, has been worked out. Obviously, with a tax of only $ 10 a head it would be very easy to organise a tax collection system, the administration of which would run away with the greater part of the proceeds if it were not thought through very carefully. I believe that the tax stamp approach is a good step in that it appears it will be relatively easy to arrange for agents and airlines, as well as the Department of Transport, to collect the tax. There may be other taxes which could be approached in the same way in terms of collection in view of the fact that this must be one of the simplest and certainly one ‘ of the cheapest ways of collecting taxes.
The matter of whether this form of tax will be a deterrent to people wishing to travel overseas ‘ has been canvassed. I am pleased to see that the Government has selected the sum of $10 a head, which I do not think will be a deterrent. Had the sum been greater than that it could have been something of a deterrent for families with four or five children travelling overseas in a group. Such families could have been rather seriously affected by a charge running up to $ 100 or $200. The point Senator Wriedt made about New Zealand is a very interesting one. Obviously an attempt is being made to control the outflow of capital by virtue of this sort of arrangement, and no doubt other countries in the world adopt the same sort of procedure. However, on the whole, I believe the Government was wise to select a figure of $ 10, which will not impose a great hardship on Australians or on visitors to the country. Whilst it is somewhat above the charge being levied by countries such as the United States, where it is $3, and even Israel, where it is $5.70, it certainly is not going to be a huge burden on the community.
May I commend the legislation. I should also mention quickly the problems of the tourist industry, in which all honourable senators, particularly those on this side of the House, are very interested. The problems of the tourist industry affect my State as well as Senator Wriedt ‘s State of Tasmania. Every dollar that can be brought to South Australia must be regarded as a captive one and is very important in keeping our economy afloat at the present time. As to a tax such as this having an effect on traffic to and from South Australia, I will be very surprised if that comes about. However, no doubt the impact of other government measures in relation to the economy will have an even greater effect on the success of Australian tourism insofar as inflation will be reduced and therefore the costs incurred by people travelling to and within parts of Australia will be reduced and opportunities will flow from people being able to spend their money more easily. I support the Bill.
– It is fortunate that in principle the Opposition supports this measure because I have distinct reservations about its repercussions on immigration processing. As the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) will appreciate, I was fortified by the in-depth answer she gave to me yesterday when I referred to the existing staff ceiling at the office of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in Sydney. As I understand it, with the assignment of the supervision of this legislation, at least 16 people in the Department in Sydney will be transferred to these duties. In her answer the Minister admitted that the staff of the Department in Sydney already has added duties, and the supervision of this legislation will mean an intensification of backlogs. I say that with some feeling because I am dealing at the moment with a family reunion case involving a woman of 8 1 years of age. The years are not on her side, and as the weeks go by that woman may be precluded at the latter end of her life from being with her family. I make the initial comment that because the Department’s prime function is to deal with people, as the weeks go by and there is a delay in processing a certain amount of mental hardship is implied for the people involved.
That brings me to the question of how the decision was made that the collection of this tax would be an Immigration show, and I am being perfectly bipartisan about this. At the time we had a very fine Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in the person of the Hon. Clyde Cameron a departmental tug-of-war started about passport control. The First Division players of the Department of Foreign Affairs, if 1 1 could put it that way, had their way with the then Prime Minister and took over passport control. In Sydney people have to go hither and thither to Foreign Affairs for a passport and then to Immigration for a re-entry visa. If we can hive off a normal function from Immigration and give it to Foreign Affairs in one case we can do it in this case. Using Sydney as an example, I cannot see why additional places could not be made available where people get their passports so that they can pay this tax. I take it that under the present arrangements there will be a hurry and scurry at the various major airports.
From the information I have, I assume that a group of Immigration people will be at the airport performing this duty, and I understand that the number involved will be 16. It is beyond my comprehension why the Public Service Board, when doing its forward planning, did not feed in at least a dozen people to the Immigration offices in Sydney and other major regional centres. As it is, there will be an intensification of the backlog in normal Immigration functions. I assume that these officers will be on duty 24 hours a day at the various airports, and I believe that we should have learned from past experience in this regard. On the matter of staff ceilings, I have had occasion over the last three years to name senior Public Service Board officers because of their slowness in making decisions. I notice that in the concluding words of her reply to me the Minister said it was quite possible that the remarks I made yesterday would be brought to the attention of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) and that Public Service Board decisions on job placements might be accelerated. Many industries have to anticipate the deployment of people, but in this case the cart-before-the-horse concept seems to be loud and clear. The Board should have made a decision that if the collection of this tax was going to require a minimum of 12 people then it would compensate for that by putting more staff into the Sydney and Melbourne offices, where most of the action happens and where there are delays in existing processing, and play it from there. I , would like to know at what stage the Treasury people rigidly insisted on the existing staff ceiling. I know it is not easy, but in this respect I raise the matter of industrial relations. All of us at times can become irked and speak a bit tersely if we feel we are not getting effective results from the Department. The officers in the Immigration Department are going to get a lot of flack from people about delays which should really be attributed to 16 of their comrades being put on other duties which is quite an unfair position to put them in.
I cannot speak too strongly about this. I can well understand that sometimes, no matter which government is in office, the situation is different. When there is an emergency airlift of refugees, for example, everyone gets together to try to solve the problems and they live with some of the other difficulties. But this is a situation that can be planned from week to week. I cannot speak too strongly about the problems I see flowing from this, and that is the crux of my objection. Perhaps the Minister will indicate to me where the $10 will be paid. I am curious to know whether it is going to be paid at a desk or cubicle at the airport or whether people will have the choice of paying at Immigration offices in Sydney. These are things about which we should have had more detail in the second reading speech.
While I am in the mood for criticism, I notice that one of the second reading speeches on the Bills before us does not have pages numbered. My main criticism related to the last paragraph on page 2. 1 now go on to what I take to be page 3, where there is a list of the people who are exempted. I notice that the Minister states:
I do not know whether this would refer to a charter-type situation where in a 24-hour period, say, a traveller would touch down at places outside Australian territory and then move on. I would be interested in that particular situation. Another sector that will be affected- and this is where there are disputes of course- is the entertainment industry. I know that there has already been a bit of a difficulty in this area. The Mike Willesee show did a story about the Australian Playboy Club and its importation of bunny girls. Apparently one girl was brought in to work in a state of semi-serfdom. I do not know whether Senator Cavanagh saw the show, but he was very interested in the matter. What I am actually getting at is that I would like the obligation of the employer in the entertainment world to pick up the tab for this tax, to be very closely watched. To put the matter another way, if a sports team were to come into Australia, would the sports federation also pay the tax when that team departed Australia? These are the things in which I am interested.
As I said, it is not my intention to delay the passage of the Bill unduly. However, I do believe that the administrative arrangements for collecting the tax could be consolidated into the passport control function of the Department of Foreign Affairs. On the other hand, thinking in terms of bodies, as it were, at airports we have a fairly high labour force dealing with customs duties and I would be very curious to know why these duties could not be given to them. As one who espouses full employment I do not object, probably on grounds of job creation, to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs officers collecting this tax, but I do have grave doubts about that Department’s ability to handle the matter, because I believe it should have added forces before this system comes into operation.
– I join with Opposition speakers in supporting the Government’s position on this Bill and would wish to make only four brief points to that effect. The first is that if the Government is going to be scraping the bottom of the barrel for revenueraising purposes, then this is as non-regressive a flat rate tax as perhaps it is possible to imagine, since the burden of it will fall, almost by definition, on those who are capable of paying it. So that strategy is understood and appreciated and supported. The second point I wish to make is that made at substantially greater length, particularly by Mr Cohen in the other place during the second reading debate on this Bill, and that is that it is a pity that the Bill does not earmark the revenue derived from this legislation specifically for the funding of the development of tourist resorts and facilities. If we are serious about creating new employment opportunities in this country, given the present state of crisis of which we are all aware, then it is obvious that the tertiary sector is going to have to take up a great deal of the slack, and in particular, the tourism industry within that sector. It would have been hoped that if this kind of tax were to be imposed, it would be accompanied by a more specific and extensive commitment by this Government, perhaps of an equivalent dollar sum, to expend money directly on employment generating projects.
The third point I wish to make is that the sum of $10 that is to be imposed under the Departure Tax Bill is not, as many speakers have said, an insubstantial sum, particularly by comparison with such taxes imposed elsewhere. It is the kind of sum and the amount of money which may in fact quite often create difficulties for departing travellers in finding it. I think particularly of people who are on their way home from somewhere, with the Australian stopover representing their last port of call. I make this point with particular feeling because, to this day, I still cringe with the embarrassment which I personally experienced back in 1965 when I was obliged to stop over for three days between planes in Tahiti on my way back home from a student exchange visit to the United States. That trip was funded, incidentally, by the State Department and there could never have been a less justified expenditure of moneys so far as that Department was concerned, because I went over as a luke-warm supporter of the Vietnam war and came back a much better informed and thoroughly vigorous opponent of it.
Be that as it may, as I said, I stopped over in Tahiti between planes, there being no opportunity for a through flight. Being an impecunious student, I had the grand sum of something like $25 in my pocket to sustain me for those three days. I managed to budget very carefully by staying in a thoroughly squalid little hotel behind the notorious Quinn ‘s Bar with which those honourable senators who read Somerset Maugham will undoubtedly be familiar. It is the same bar where it is said that the ladies have the blackest eyes in the South Pacific, albeit for pugilistic rather than genetic reasons. By dint of careful exercise of this kind, I did manage to spread out my $25 so that I had something like 20c in my pocket as I approached the airport for the last leg of the trip home, only to discover that my departure from the country was contingent upon my producing the sum of $US5. That created not merely a sense of embarrassment on my part, but something of a diplomatic crisis with two or three consulates being involved, the plane in question being delayed for two or three hours and the situation being resolved only by my signing statutory declarations, notarised by the appropriate French professionals. The whole thing was a rather sordid and embarrassing affair.
It may be that not many people will treat Australia as a stopover point to anywhere else in this same way, although I suppose one can anticipate the prospect of New Zealanders about to face once again the rigors of their homeland, spending most of their money in a last minute revel in Sydney or wherever. So the situation could arise and I simply make the point, arising out of that, that it is important that intending travellers to Australia be made very well aware of the existence of this tax and the necessity for their being able to find the relevant wherewithal.
It may well be that such administrative arrangements with the relevant departments and the relevant airlines and shipping authorities are in hand and have already been contemplated. I note also that the Bill does contain provision whereby arrangements can be made by the Minister or presumably his delegate, with respect to subsequent payment of the amount in question. I hope that that particular provision of the legislation would be rather sensitively exercised in practice if situations of the kind I have mentioned did in fact arise.
The final point I would make about this Bill relates to some of the procedural provisions in the Departure Tax Collection Bill. No doubt it would be more appropriate to raise these points at the Committee stage of the Bill, but there is one in particular which I think does justify mention because it raises a large question of principle about which, I submit, the Government ought to be more sensitive. It is the averment provision which is contained in clause 13 of this Bill, whereby the defendant is obliged to satisfy the prosecution in proceedings of an offence under this legislation of his non-committal of the offence in question rather than the prima facie onus of proof being in fact upon the Crown.
These are provisions which are most unhappy in principle. It is my suggestion and that of the Opposition that they ought to be used only on very rare occasions where they are specifically justified, for example, by such considerations as the fact that the state of mind in question or the motivation in question can be known only to the person who was charged with the offence. That is one kind of situation in which it might be justifiable in principle to adopt the reverse onus procedure of this kind. I am unable to see that there are anything other than the most bald administrative considerations which lie behind this particular clause and I hope that this is a question to which the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) will be able to direct attention, if not in her reply at this stage of the Bill, at least at the Committee stage.
– in reply- I thank the Opposition and the members of the Government who have spoken on this Bill for their acceptance of it. I noted Senator Wriedt ‘s comments with regard to it on behalf of the Opposition and also the matters raised by the other speakers. I note that Senator Wriedt has some concern that the amount of $10 may be a comparatively high charge in comparison with that charged by some other countries which were mentioned. There are exemptions from payment for those people who are under the age of 18 years, and I think that someone mentioned that where a family finds the payment to be a burden it would be appropriate to exempt the family. I think that an exemption from payment for those people under the age of 1 8 years shows that children travelling with parents would not be required to pay this departure tax. Other exemptions are mentioned in clause 5 of the Bill and I think that they are clear in the way in which they are stated.
To suggest that this is a hastily conceived Bill I think perhaps overlooks the fact that it is a new proposal in which we needed to work out a simple way in which the departure tax could be paid. It was thought that it needed to be simple because we did not wish the administrative cost or burden to be excessive in any way. One of the speakers- I think Senator Mulvihill- raised the matter of the availability of exemption stamps and where they may be obtained. They will be obtained from the city and regional offices of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and from the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs booths at airports and major seaports. Where the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs does not have an office, offices of the Bureau of Customs will be able to have stamps available, as will Department of Foreign Affairs passport offices throughout Australia.
That brings me to another point which was raised by Senator Mulvihill concerning his feeling that the Department of Foreign Affairs would have been the appropriate department through which this matter could have been handled instead of doing it through the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I simply draw his attention to the fact that there are people who will be required to pay this tax but who will not have passports. For example, people travelling to and from New Zealand do not require a passport. So there will be that gap in the collection of the tax. That was one reason that it was necessary for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to handle the matter to get complete coverage.
– Roping in New Zealand and trans-Tasman travellers as well as everyone else?
– Yes. I think that that is one explanation of the matter that was raised by Senator Mulvihill. I took note of the question with regard to staff requirements which was raised yesterday by Senator Mulvihill and I gave the information to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Mackellar). As I said yesterday, the Department is discussing the requirements with the Public Service Board and it is hoped, whilst the existing staff have been deployed for the introduction of this new departure tax, that no excessive strains will be placed on the Department in the performance of its normal and very important duties.
Senator Mulvihill, I think, also raised a matter with regard to whether a 24-hour service will be available. At those places where a 24-hour service is required, for instance, at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne, that service will be given, but it will be recognised that there is a curfew in Sydney and that in that city there will be no requirement for that service. In Sydney and other places where there is a curfew less than a 24-hour service would be the appropriate way in which the matter would be administered.
Some other matters were raised with regard to the desirability of using this tax as a source of revenue for the development of the tourist industry. I am sure that that sort of approach would find support, but as far as the Government is concerned it is not at this stage a tax which is to be used or earmarked particularly for that purpose, although I think that we would all share in the view that the development of the tourist industry, the leisure industry and other industries where we believe that new opportunities for employment may arise would be a desirable feature not only as an income earner but also as a possible source of future employment.
The question of the collection of the tax and the sale of stamps, I believe, was mentioned by Senator Messner. I think that that has been covered in the remarks which I have made. I simply say that the tax will be collected by the sale of a stamp from those points which I mentioned in response to Senator Mulvihill ‘s questions.
– When will the first day of issue be?
– A first day cover especially for Senator Button? The Bill will need to be proclaimed and we have not settled on the date, but we will see that Senator Button gets the first. We feel for Senator Evans and his personal problems when coming back from overseas. I can only say that perhaps in the future when the honourable senator is travelling he will be one of those people who will be exempt- a diplomatic or consular representative or someone who has been sent overseas to represent the Australian Government at an overseas posting. Having had the opportunity in the past of student exchange in perhaps a very noteworthy way, I feel that if the honourable senator does not become one of those diplomatic or consular representatives he may become a member of a crew of a vessel and equally would be exempted and would avoid the embarrassment which he had on his previous reentry. I note what was said with regard to the averment clause and whether that is required to be discussed when we reach the Committee stage I leave to the Senate. I note what was said about the onus of proof and I have some comments here which perhaps would be appropriate to be made at the Committee stage. As far as any other questions are concerned, I believe that I have nothing further that I would wish to add at this second reading stage of the Bill. I thank the Senate for its response to and support of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
– I have just seen the Departure Tax Collection Bill and I have a few questions on which I am not clear. Clause 5 provides for those who are exempt from paying the tax, and paragraph (c) states: a person who is referred to in paragraph 8 (1) (b) of the Migration Act 1958;
Not having had time to get a copy of the Migration Act I do not know who such a person is and I wonder whether the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) could inform me in that regard. Paragraph (d) states: a person who, being a person who has arrived in Australia, is not, for the purposes of the Migration Act I9S8, deemed by sub-section 5 ( 2 ) of that Act to have entered Australia;
This is mystifying because the paragraph mentions a person who has arrived here but is not deemed to have entered Australia. Sub-clause (2) of clause 6 states in part:
Where tax in respect of the departure of a person from Australia is not paid before the departure, the person is guilty of an offence . . .
In what circumstances does the Minister envisage that it will be possible for a person to depart from Australia without paying the tax? Can such a person go to Tullamarine and get on an aircraft without paying the tax? Does this refer to someone in the north of Queensland who may leave Australia and not pay the tax? We seem to have this loophole whereby a person can depart from Australia without having paid the tax. When people have departed from Australia what is the benefit of imposing a penalty? How do we prosecute them? How do we collect the tax when they are not here? I suppose that it is a decision which must be made by an Australian court. Clause 7 states in part:
1 ) Where an authorised officer-
It mystifies me how we can ever be satisfied. It does not seem to be a compulsory payment. It seems to be some understanding as much as to say: ‘Well, he will pay or perhaps he will pay’.
Clause 9 of the Bill reads:
1 ) A person is entitled to a refund of tax paid by him if-
Clause 5 lists those persons who do not have to pay the tax. If we make regulatory powers which exempt some people from paying the tax or which provide that a refund can be paid, why do we not spell out those people who are entitled to a refund? Is this a matter which has to be looked at in relation to every regulation? Can the Minister give us some examples of those cases in which, by regulatory powers, it may be necessary to exempt a person or class of persons from paying the tax or to grant a refund, in the case of the tax having been paid, to a person or class of persons. Sub-clause (2) of clause 9 reads:
If an authorised officer, by instrument in writing, so directs ii.»2fund to which a person is entitled by virture of subseciion ( ) shall be applied in discharge of the liability of the person for tax payable by the person in respect of a departure specified in the instrument, and a refund that is so applied shall bc deemed to have been paid to the person.
Frankly, I do not know what that means. Secondly, if an authorised officer is given power to sign a slip of paper to grant a refund to one person but also to withhold it from another, I think that is going very close to being a matter for objection as to whether it is an impartial law. The Parliament, and not an authorised officer, should set down the conditions under which a departure tax shall be paid or refunded. Sub-clause (3) of clause 9 reads:
A person shall not-
obtain a refund that is not payable;
To me that wording seems very peculiar. Did anyone ever expect a person to obtain a refund when it is not payable? Does this provision foreshadow that we will experience the same incompetency in paying refunds that we presently see in the Department of Social Security in relation to the payment of benefits that should not be paid and which we seek to recover later? Cannot the departmental officers keep a check on the implementation of the legislation to ensure that people who are not entitled to a refund do not receive one? It seems that this provision is legislating to counteract the incompetency which it is envisaged will occur. It is a threat to anyone who uses the provisions of the legislation to obtain a refund. Clause 1 1 makes provision for the issue of tax stamps by the Commonwealth. I simply ask whether they can be obtained some time before departure or whether the tax is paid on departure. I ask also: What is the benefit of the refund?
I now turn to the averment provision to which Senator Evans referred. Sub-clause (2) of clause 6 reads:
Where tax in respect of the departure of a person from Australia is not paid before the departure, the person is guilty of an offence . . .
If a person has not paid the tax before departure and if proceedings for recovery are instituted, that person is guilty of an offence attracting a penalty of $100. One would have thought that that would be sufficient deterrent. But we find that clause 13 reads:
This section shall apply to any matter so averred although-
As a layman, I would like to know what all that means. In what circumstances does the averment constitute prima facie evidence and in what circumstances does it not? Sub-clause (3) of clause 13 reads:
Any evidence given in support or rebuttal of a matter so averred shall be considered on its merits, and the credibility and probitive value of such evidence shall be neither increased nor diminished by reason of this section.
It is beyond me to understand what that means. I thought that any evidence was considered on its merits. Sub-clause (4) of clause 13 reads:
This section shall not lessen or affect any onus of proof otherwise falling on the defendant.
In what other types of cases does the onus of proof fall on the defendant I do not know; it is a conglomeration of words. I simply do not understand the switching of the onus of proof to the defendant. If the Minister can throw any light on the matter I would appreciate it. Clause 1 5 which deals with the making of regulations seems to be the standard clause. However, I am very reluctant to accept that regulations can be made which exempt certain people.
- Senator Cavanagh has raised a number of matters. I shall take them in the numerical order of the clauses. I think that might be the better way of dealing with his query. Senator Cavanagh requires information in regard to paragraph (c) of sub-clause (1) of clause 5, which reads: a person who is referred to in paragraph 8 ( 1 ) (b) of the Migration Act 1958.
That exemption in paragraph 8 (1) (b) of the Migration Act refers to a diplomatic or consular representative or official trade commissioner to a country other than Australia, or a member of the staff of such a representative or commissioner who has been sent to Australia by the Government of that country, or the wife or dependant relative of such a representative commissioner or member. That is the type of person referred to in paragraph 8 ( 1 ) (b) of that Act.
Senator Cavanagh raised another query in regard to clause 5(1) (d) which refers to an exemption under section 5 (2) of the Migration Act. It gives an artificial definition of the word entry’. The word ‘entry’ means entry by aircraft when the person concerned has left the proclaimed area of the airport or entry by a ship when the person concerned has disembarked from the ship. For example, if a person stayed on a ship in the harbour no tax would be paid, or if a person stayed in the transit lounge at the airport no tax would be paid. That clause covers the particular circumstances of a person who in reality has arrived but who has not moved from those two points of entry.
The next matter raised by Senator Cavanagh concerned sub-clause (2) of clause 6 which reads:
Where tax in respect of the departure of a person from Australia is not paid before the departure, the person is guilty of an offence . . .
I think that Senator Cavanagh wanted some example -
– How do you prosecute him and how do you get your penalty?
– I am advised that it would have to be a prosecution by summons in the normal way. I think Senator Cavanagh asked how a person could depart without paying the tax. If a person leaves using the normal travel arrangements provided at an airport or a ship terminal, he should not leave without paying the tax. But if in any way a person has departed without paying the tax, there would be a prosecution. This would be instituted by summons and the normal court proceedings would follow. I am advised that persons will not be allowed to board a commercial ship or aircraft if they have not paid the tax.
– Will they be issued with a ticket if they do not bring proof of payment of the tax?
– I think a ticket could be issued but the tax itself would have to be paid before embarkation. I am advised that the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs will not restrain travel agents from issuing a ticket but before embarkation it will be expected that the tax will be paid in accordance with the tax stamp procedures. Senator Cavanagh raised a question about clause 7 which says that where an authorized officer is not satisfied that any tax payable has been paid or will be paid the officer may prevent the departure of such person. I think that is self-explanatory inasmuch as there is a requirement to pay the tax. The officer whose duty it is to see that the tax is paid will not permit the embarkation of someone if the tax has not actually been paid. This clause simply gives authority to a person to ensure that the tax is collected before departure.
Senator Cavanagh raised other matters in connection with clause 9. He raised the matter of a refund. I am advised that the legislation provides for circumstances in which refunds may be payable and the regulation-making power provides for additional circumstances to be set out. For example, if a tax stamp has been purchased but is spoilt in error, or is damaged or may need to be replaced for other reasons, this clause could apply. The clause relates to circumstances in which refunds may be made. Clause 9(1) provides for a refund to be made where the journey does not take place. The remainder of the clause deals with the sorts of circumstances in which refunds can be made or may not be made if the tax is not payable. I do not know that the language used in sub-clause (3) (a) is the easiest to understand. However, I am advised that if a person who is exempt under the legislation had paid the tax this is the paragraph that would apply. If a person under 18 could not demonstrate that he was under the age of 1 8 and was required to pay the tax, he could obtain a refund under this paragraph. If a person who is exempt under the legislation had been required to pay it he would be able to use the provisions of this paragraph to obtain a refund,
Clause 13, which was referred to by Senator Evans, relates to averment. If I give the information which I have on this clause the honourable senator may then refer specific queries. I know that when Senator Cavanagh was reading this clause he had some difficulty in understanding its intention. The clause provides:
In any prosecution for an offence against sub-section 6(2)-
That is the non-payment of tax payable- or in any proceedings for the recovery of tax, a statement or averment of the prosecutor or plaintiff in the information, complaint, claim or declaration is prima facie evidence of the matter so stated or averred.
The clause shall apply to any matter so averred although evidence in support or rebuttal of the matter averred or any other matter is given, or the matter averred is a mixed question of law and fact, but in that case the averment shall only be prima facie evidence of the fact. Any evidence given in support or rebuttal of a matter so averred shall be considered on its merits and the credibility and value of such evidence shall be neither increased nor decreased by reason of this clause. This clause does not lessen or affect any onus of proof otherwise falling on the defendant.
– You are only reading the clause again. You are not explaining it.
– I just wish to read the advice that I have been given to see which question it is that you wish to refer to me. An averment is a positive statement which relieves the Crown from the necessity to prove its case, in the first instance, by oral evidence and allows a positive statement of the prosecution contained in the information, declaration or claim to be prima facie proof of the charge preferred against the accused. I am aware that the Senate can have attitudes in regard to this sort of clause and that on many occasions the courts have rejected the use of averment clauses and will carefully scrutinise these provisions in whatever form they appear in legislation. Where the averment provisions are relied upon, the facts and circumstances constituting the offence should be stated fully and with precision. When all the information has been put in and all the evidence is produced before a tribunal, the tribunal has to determine upon the whole of the evidence before it whether the Crown has established the guilt of the accused or not. The reason for the inclusion of this clause is the sheer impracticalities of applying the normal onus of proof on a charge of non-payment of tax and, further, a defendant should have no difficulty in proving that the tax has been paid. That is the reason the clause has been included. If there are any questions to be asked by honourable senators I will seek advice and attempt to answer the questions that are raised.
– I wish to pursue further the matter of the averment clause, not so much in respect of any matter of detail, which I think was Senator Cavanagh ‘s primary concern, but rather in respect of the central issue of principle as to whether an averment clause is necessary or appropriate in legislation such as this. I would like the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to answer specifically the following questions in respect of this provision. Does the Government agree, generally speaking, that averment clauses are repugnant to the principle that the onus of proof in a prosecution should remain throughout on the prosecutor? Secondly, does the Government agree that such clauses, if they are to be used at all, should be confined to a very narrow range of situations? For example, those situations in which the matter in issue is peculiarly within the knowledge of the defendant and thus by its very character it is very difficult for the prosecution to adduce evidence. Thirdly, is the present situation really one of those relating to those cases in which an averment clause might be justified? Is not the matter in issue here squarely one of objectively ascertainable fact, namely, the payment or nonpayment of the tax in question? Under those circumstances, can the averment clause be justified? Will the Government reconsider its position on this clause in this legislation?
I have a second matter that I wish to raise. I do not know whether the Minister would prefer to respond now to the questions on clause 13, but I do wish to raise some further matters in respect of clause 7.
– I am forced to enter this debate because of the matter raised by Senator Evans. I draw the attention of the Senate to what the averment clause relates to so far as the offence is concerned. The offence is under proposed section 6(2).
– It is wider than that.
– It is for not paying the tax.
– Yes, it is for not paying the tax.
– No- or any other proceedings for the recovery of tax. It is not confined to that small proposed section 6 (2) provision.
– Yes, I appreciate that but we are talking about a tax in respect of the departure of a person from Australia. I am certainly not in support of changing the onus of proof as a matter of common occurrence. What happens in the case of a person who has left Australia? I refer to what Senator Cavanagh said about how one prosecutes such a person. I am not too sure about how one issues and serves a summons on someone who is no longer in Australia. I do not think that that question has been properly answered. Quite frankly, I think the Opposition is raising an insignificant matter in relation to the onus of proof in a simple charge against a defendant who is no longer in Australia. It seems to me to be only reasonable in the circumstances that an officer of the Department should be able to lodge an averment stating that a certain person had left Australia without paying the tax rather than have to travel to court and prove this by giving oral evidence.
– I am forced to speak again because the whole basis of this Bill seems to be wrong. I can recall Bills being introduced in which provision was made for penalties to be imposed on shipping companies or airlines which transported someone who has breached an Act of the Commonwealth, but this Bill does not put an onus on an airline or shipping company to ensure that the departure tax is paid. The onus to pay the tax is on the person who is departing. Obviously the Bill envisages that many people will succeed in departing without paying the tax.
– I think it does.
– Not many.
-Perhaps it does not envisage that many people will succeed but it envisages that some will succeed. When the regulations put such responsibility on such a company it was very difficult for a person to succeed. We are operating under the pretext that we will collect the tax. The problem is not only how we will collect it but also how we will serve a summons on someone who has gone to Indonesia or somewhere else without paying the tax. Under the provisions of clause 7 ( 1) an authorised officer has to be satisfied that a person who has not paid the tax will pay it. Under clause 7 (1) (b) if the authorised officer is not satisfied that any tax payable in respect of the departure of the person has been paid or will be paid before the departure, the authorised officer has power to take the necessary steps to stop him from leaving the country.
I wonder how the authorised officer would decide that he is not satisfied and I wonder how often people will be prevented from leaving the country because, by a mistaken belief, the authorised officer is not satisfied. What can a person do to so satisfy him? If a person has paid the tax I suppose he could produce a receipt. Again the authorised officer has to be satisfied that the receipt is not a forgery. If some arrangement has been made to pay the tax, how can a person establish to the satisfaction of the authorised officer that he has made that arrangement? The Government is giving a mighty power to officers who, because of all the frailties of the individual, may act in error at some time and stop someone from departing from Australia when he has a legitimate right to do so.
Senator Evans spoke about the desirability of the averment clause, clause 13, rather than placing emphasis on the onus of proof. This averment clause has so much application and nonapplication and, as with any recovery of tax, it covers a wide range of proceedings. I would seriously question when it is possible to establish whether the tax has not been paid. I suppose there would be conclusive evidence on oath of the collector of the tax or someone in the office to say that the tax has not been paid. The responsibility is being thrown on the defendant to say that it has been paid because someone has averred that it has not been paid. But the matter goes further than whether it has been paid. When the question of fact arises as to whether it has been paid there is no onus of proof on the prosecution; the onus is on the defendant to show that he has paid the tax. Together with Senator Evans and, I think, Senator Lewis, I believe this is a wrong procedure to follow under present conditions.
-I had wished to say something further about clause 7. Since Senator Cavanagh has addressed himself to that clause, maybe I could conclude my remarks on it at this stage. As Senator Cavanagh said, clause 7(1) (a) and (b) confers a fairly awesome power on the officer in question because if he is not satisfied that any tax payable in respect of the departure of the person has been paid or will be paid, he can take such steps as he considers necessary to prevent departure. So there is a question of the physical liberty and freedom of movement of the subject involved here. A serious question accordingly arises as to the criteria which the Bill states on the basis of which the officer in question can make his decision. It is to be noticed that it is only required by the Bill that the officer be subjectively not satisfied. What matters is the officer’s state of mind. It is enough that he be not satisfied.
In the terms of the Bill it is not stated that he be not satisfied on reasonable grounds or that there be no grounds for his being reasonably satisfied that the tax has been paid. That is in contradistinction, it is to be noted, with the terminology in paragraph (a) where it is required, not simply that he believe that a person is about to depart from Australia, but that he had reasonable grounds for believing that. I put it to the Minister that it is appropriate that that element of objectivity, that element of reasonableness, about his satisfaction be incorporated in the crucial part of the provision, namely, paragraph (b). Exactly the same point can be made with respect to the remaining part of the clause, that is, the provision that I read out a moment ago that the officer, if he is so satisfied, may take such steps as he considers necessary.
It does not state that the steps that he takes are what he considers necessary on reasonable grounds, nor what he reasonably considers necessary; it is simply what he subjectively considers necessary. There is no objective criterion against which any deprivation of liberty which the officer in question might be minded to impose can either at the time or after the event be tested by any court. It is left entirely within his subjective discretion. I urge quite strenuously that the Minister give really serious consideration to the possibility of making minor modifications- that is all that is required- to those two provisions so as to incorporate an objective criterion of reasonableness, so that the judgment of the officer in question can be tested objectively. I suggest that this would not in any way undermine any policy consideration underlying this clause, nor would it undermine the practical administrative operation of the Bill. But it is a useful and important safeguard to incorporate, given the quite serious and significant powers that are vested in the officer in question and the possibility of their being misused. Perhaps the officer in question might act with the best and most genuine will in the world, but he may make an error of judgment and his behaviour would not objectively stand up to scrutiny. I urge the Minister to incorporate those amendments in that provision.
– I have noted what has been said by Senator Evans and Senator Cavanagh. Senator Evans, raised, I think, four questions with regard to the averment clause, clause 13. He asked whether the Government agreed that it is repugnant for the onus of proof to be put on the prosecution. I think the Government would certainly agree with that. I said earlier- perhaps I should have made more of itthat all legislators are hesitant about averment provisions. The Senate has always shown that it objects to them and I believe that it is fair to say that on many occasions courts have shown that they will reject the use of averment clauses and will very carefully scrutinise their provisions in whatever form they appear.
This averment clause is included because of the sheer impracticalities of issuing a normal onus of proof in the collection of the tax. There is the possibility that the defendant has to show that he has paid the tax or that he is exempt from paying the tax. If he has paid the tax he ought to have his tax stamp as his evidence of payment and therefore he should not have any difficulty. If he is an exempt person he ought to be able to show that.
– So should the prosecution be able to show it.
– There is the difficulty raised by Senator Cavanagh of serving prosecution and other things on people who have departed from the country. As far as the Government is concerned, the questions that were raised by Senator Evans are ones on which I think we would have a common view; that is, that an averment clause ought to be confined to a narrow range of situations where there is difficulty of evidence. It was felt by the draftsman in preparing this Bill that this was one of the cases where an averment clause could be used, or needed to be used, because of the impracticalities of dealing with a situation of this kind, especially the departure of people from Australia. Senator Evans asked whether this situation falls within a special category and whether the use of an averment clause is justified. The Government in drafting the Bill considered that this was the case. I take note of what was raised with regard to clause 7. 1 note the comments that were made in respect of the reasonable grounds that an officer may use for believing that a person is about to depart. I also note that if the officer is not satisfied he can prevent departure. I can only say that the drafting of the Bill was not intended in any way to attack the personal liberty of a person or to make it impossible for him to proceed with his travel plans bearing in mind that we are now introducing a departure tax that is to be collected. The legislation has been put in this form so that we can deal with a situation which has some impracticalities. As a result, the clause has been put into a special category designed to cover situations of this kind.
– I am concerned about the last statement of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle). The Minister seems to agree with my contribution and the contribution of Senator Evans. I thought that the honourable senator put his case very plainly to the Committee. Of course, the Minister agrees that we should not deny the personal liberties of people on the grounds of the mistaken belief of an authorised officer. The Minister explained that the Draftsman obviously had some special reason for drafting the Bill in the way he has. I believe the Committee is entitled to a further explanation. My opposition and Senator Evans’s opposition to this clause will simply disappear if we are given an explanation of the special reason. However, we are opposed to the clause as it stands and the Senate should not pass the legislation until we know the reason.
If the Draftsman worded the clause in this way for a valid reason we should accept the clause but we cannot accept it without knowing the reason. If the Minister responsible for the legislation- and I am not referring to the Minister for Social Security who represents the Minister in this chamber- is agreeable, it is not too late to amend the legislation at this stage. The Committee can make an amendment and the legislation can go back to the House of Representatives. However, I do not want to say that we should reject clause 7 at this stage. I think that many Liberal senators, if they were in the chamber, would agree that the clause should be amended having considered the arguments that have been put forward. The Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee met this morning. I believe that this legislation would never get through that Committee if it were an ordinance. I do not think members of that Committee would recommend in favour this legislation. I ask the Minister to consider adjourning further discussion on this clause so that the Draftsman can be consulted and she can inform the Senate of the special reason why this provision has been inserted in the Bill. The Minister might consider inserting the reasonable amendment ‘where in the opinion of the authorised officer on reasonable grounds’. I think the Minister will find that this is the practice adopted in respect of motions for the disallowance of regulations which frequently come before this chamber.
– I have listened carefully to Senator Evans and Senator Cavanagh. In view of the nature of the matters that have been raised by them and my inability on advice available to me to give them reasons I think it is appropriate that I ask that the Committee report progress, that I seek response to the specific matters that have been raised by them and that I advise them at a later stage. I believe that we should deal with the matter in that way.
Consideration of House of Representatives’ modifications.
1 ) A Joint Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon-
maintenance, property and custody proceedings including:
vi ) the services provided by:
the cost of proceedings under the Act; and
any other matters under the Act referred by the Attorney-General.
– r move:
I have some qualifications about the terms of reference of the select committee being enlarged to include a consideration of the effects of the Family Law Act 1975 on the institution of marriage and the family. I would have thought that there was really no data, just a host of subjective value judgments about what the effects of that legislation have been on the institution of marriage and the family. No data will be available to the select committee which will enable it to draw any conclusions based on fact or information. It will be able to make only highly subjective judgments about what the effect and consequences of the legislation have been.
I also remind the Senate that the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, admittedly before the legislation was adopted, took a very wide-ranging series of viewpoints and assessments from a vast range of groups in this community on what the effects of this legislation would be. I do not think that the select committee will be able to add much to the conclusions which were reached by the Standing Committee in its report. I assume that it will be the view of the Parliament that the select committee should have these wider terms of reference, but I am just not sure, as I have said, that the terms of reference are not being enlarged for subjective reasons which will lead to a fishing expedition into all sorts of matters which are not strictly relevant to the remainder of the terms of reference. I felt that I should put forward those doubts and apprehensions that I have. Otherwise, the Opposition supports the commendably brief statement which the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has just brought down.
-In view of the remarks made by Senator Button I would like to speak briefly on this matter. I probably have some reservations similar to his own as to the widening of the terms of reference of the proposed joint select committee on the Family Law Act, although I think that surely this is a matter which the members of the committee should very much have in mind in their own determination of the matters before it. We did not have debate to any great extent on this matter when it was last before us. Unquestionably a number of important issues have arisen as to the practicality and effectiveness of the operations of the Act at present. Delays and other very serious practical problems have certainly come closely to my attention over the last few years and I have made a number of speeches in this chamber about them. From that point of view I think it is very useful that a committee ought to be looking into these matters.
There is to be a slight increase in the House of Representatives membership of the committee. I have felt that there has been perhaps a somewhat inadequate interest in the subject of the family law legislation in the House of Representatives in recent years. If this increased membership means that there is a growing interest then it is highly desirable. I hope that this means that a number of members from the House of Representatives will be interested to take part in the proposed committee ‘s investigation.
Senator Button raised the matter of the addition to the terms of reference of the following paragraph: its effect on the institution of marriage and the family;
Like the honourable senator, I have reservations about the addition, because the Senate made an extensive inquiry into this subject not just in 1 975 but, of course, between 1972 and 1975. A massive amount of evidence was called about the position of the divorce grounds and the effect on the institution of marriage of the Family Law Act. If this committee is to proceed to come up with practical working suggestions as to the way in which the Family Court should operate, obviously it will not want to be delayed by having a very long investigation, a sort of rehearing of evidence already given to the Senate before the family law legislation was introduced in 1975. Of course, as Senator Button has said, it is too early to examine and determine the effect of the changes to that legislation.
It is very significant that the Family Law Act provided for the creation of an institute of family studies. The Family Law Council has been in operation and it has before this Parliament recommendations that have not been dealt with yet. I hope and I believe that they will be dealt with soon. I hope that they will not be held up in any way, and I do not believe that they will be held up, by the fact that this committee is going into active operation. The Institute of Family Studies has not really got underway. The amount of money spent on it has been very slender. Yet that is the very body which I would have expected to be examining the effect of the Act on the institution of marriage and the various other results of it. Of course, it is a great pity that the works of the Institute are not available for this committee to investigate.
Consequently, I look upon this new committee as one which ought to set itself for the very urgent task of looking at the real practicalities, the delays and the weaknesses in the operation of the Act and the things which cause anguish to people at present. I hope that the committee will not go through the exercise of reinvestigating the Family Law Act, which I believe is a substantially excellent Act. It has generally operated pretty well, but in the way in which the courts are applying it, I think that defects are showing up and it is obviously useful for a committee of the Parliament to take a close look at the matter. I join with Senator Button in hoping that the widening of the terms of reference, which naturally is a matter that ought be within the compass of the committee to consider, will not take the major aspect of the Committee’s attention, but that the committee will be a practical, useful working committee that comes forward with some fairly quick solutions to the problems which are bedevelling family law at present. I support the motion.
Senator BUTTON (Victoria)-by leave-I wish to make a brief statement on this matter. There is constant discussion in this chamber about the levels of literacy and numeracy in Australian society. I felt that it would be disastrous in terms of morale for the Senate and for this country if it were known outside this Parliament that senators were both illiterate and not very numerate when it came to considering statements which had been tabled by Ministers. In fact, I misread the effect of this message from the House of Representatives. It does not, in fact, increase the number of senators who would be on the committee. I said that it did. In fact, the effect of the amendment is to increase the number of Government members of the House of Representatives from five to six and the number of Opposition members of the House of Representatives from three to four. The motion has no effect on the number of senators. I felt that I should indicate that I made a mistake in that regard. I adhere to everything that I said in terms of principle, I retract those matters of fact which I thought supported the principle but which, as it turns out, do not.
– The discussion on the motion raises a number of interesting factors. I have been more than interested to hear what Senator Button and Senator Missen have said in relation to the variations to the committee that will look at the Family Law Act as proposed in the message that we have received from the House of Representatives and the addition to the terms of reference of paragraph (ia) concerning the effects of the Act on the institution of marriage and the family. I acknowledge what the two honourable senators have said in relation to the earlier work which has done and that prime importance should be placed upon the way in which the Act is working within society and how the committee should deal with the matters which were referred to it as a result of the passing of the Act some time ago. However, I hope that there will be a response from the community to this widening of the terms of reference to include the effects of the Act on the institution of marriage and the family. I can state from earlier experience in respect of other references that it sometimes seems there is an expectation among members of the community for Senate committees, and or the Government and or the Parliament to make decisions and to work out things on behalf of the community and the nation. In reality, of course, it is the input that comes from the community that helps any committee reach a point of judgment and of decision. Whilst I am not sure at this stage what the mechanical movements of this Committee will be in relation to its review and its hearings, I hope that an opportunity will be provided to those organisations that are concerned with the institutions of marriage and the family to make their representations, whether they be in the form of evidence, in writing or in the form of interviews. I hope that concerned organisations, such as community organisations, church, religious and other social organisations within our society, will take note of this opportunity which is now being provided and that in the comparatively short time the Family Law Act has been in force they will have been able to review what its effects have been and give the Committee the benefit of their experience, observation and advice. It is in this way that the report, which I hope will be brought down within a period that makes it effective, will be of benefit not only to the community but also to the nation as a whole. I support the widening of the terms of reference of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 26 September, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bills be now read a first time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The second reading speeches read as follows-
Apple and Pear Stabilization Amendment Bill 1978
The Purpose of this Bill is to extend the apple and pear stabilisation scheme to cover the 1979 and 1980 export seasons and to alter the level of support provided under the scheme. The Bills provides for the lifting of the support price for apples during the two year extension from the current rate of $2 to $2.20 per box. The rate for pears would remain at 80c. However, the annual volume eligible for support would be reduced from 2 million boxes to 1.5 million boxes for apples and from 1.4 million to one million boxes for pears. As in previous years support will be confined to ‘at risk’ sales to the markets of Europe for apples and Europe and North America for pears.
In extending the stabilisation scheme for a further two years the Government has been mindful of is earlier announced intention to adjust the basis and the level of support. This decision followed consideration of the 1976 Industries Assistance Commission recommendation that stabilisation support be phased out completely by 1977. The Government had not accepted that recommendation because such action would have been unnecessarily harsh, particularly following the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community.
In extending the stabilisation scheme for a further period the Government is conscious of the need to avoid promoting false hopes about market expectations and the reduction in the volume ‘at risk’ apple exports covered by stabilisation to 1.5 million boxes is proposed with the likelihood of continued intensified competition in European markets in mind. It is this likelihood of reduced export returns for apples in 1979 and 1980 that has prompted the Government to propose the increase in the maximum level of assistance to $2.20 per box. Pear exports are expected to decline further from current levels and sales to the ‘at risk’ markets of Europe and North America are expected to be below the one million box volume to be covered by stabilisation.
The apple and pear stabilisation scheme has played a significant role in underpinning the export operation in 1977 and 1978 and I believe that its role in the coming in the two years will be equally important. While not being within the scope of the present legislation, it should be mentioned at this juncture that the Commonwealth will be negotiating with the industry and the States with a view to joining the latter in continuation of supplementary assistance arrangements either in their present form or a modified form. It will be proposed that funds available for apples should be increased from $lm to $1.5m in both 1979 and 1980, and for the first time an amount of $400,000 per annum should be made available for pears. These amounts would be on the basis that the States jointly contribute half. In due course, discussions will be held with the fruit industry and the States on the application of the funds. These arrangements, would, if accepted by the States, be one way of cushioning any effect of reduction in the volume of fruit to be supported under stabilisation if that were to be judged by governments and the industry as the appropriate course of action. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Amendment Bill 1978
This Bill is complementary to the Apple and Pear Stabilization Bill, which I have just introduced. The purpose of the principal Act is to impose export duty under certain conditions on apples and pears exported ‘at risk’. The proceeds of levy are credited to varietal stabilisation funds and used to support market returns in future seasons to lift them to the support prices under arrangements set down in the Apple and Pear Stabilization Act as amended by the complementary Bill before the Senate. The Government guarantees the stabilisation funds up to stated limits. The amending Bill adapts the duty to the 1979 and 1980 export seasons. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Collection Amendment Bill 1978
This Bill is complementary to both the Apple and Pear Stabilization Amendment Bill 1978 and the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Amendment Bill 1978. The principal Act provides the machinery arrangements for the payment and collection of provisional export duty and export duty imposed by the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Act 1971. The amending Bill adapts the collection procedure to the 1979 and 1980 export seasons. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
– The substantive measures involved in this legislation concern stabilisation arrangements for the apple and pear industry in Australia. Of course, this mainly affects the State of Tasmania. I made my contribution to the debate on these Bills at the first reading stage. I do not intend to canvass any of that ground again. I wish only to indicate that in this very brief comment -
– You actually discussed apples and pears.
-Yes, I think that I was the only speaker who talked about apples and pears in the course of the first reading debate. I indicated then that the Opposition would be moving an amendment at the Committee stage. I indicate now that I will be doing this on behalf of the Opposition. I will not make further comments now. I will make them at the Committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
– I have a request in respect of clause 5 of the Apple and Pear Stabilization Amendment Bill. Clause 5 reads in part:
Section 1 1 of the Principal Act is amended-
byomittingfromsub-section(2)’or(2c)’and substituting ‘(2c), (2d) or (2e)’; and
by inserting after sub-section (2c) the following subsections: (2D) The rate of a stabilization payment in respect of apples picked during the season that commenced on 1 October 1978 or during the next succeeding season shall not exceed an amount per reputed box, or part of a reputed box, in each container of apples equal to- (a)$2.20;or
a number of cents equal to the product of 220 and 1,500,000 divided by a number equal to the number of reputed boxes of apples picked during the season concerned and-
exported on consignment to a country in Europe (including the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island) during that season; and
sold after exportation and before the end of that season, whichever is the lesser amount.
Before speaking specifically to the amendment, I wish to place on record my astonishment that no honourable senator on the Government side of the chamber has seen fit to contribute to the second reading debate on this Bill. It must be the first time in the 10 years that I have been a member of this chamber that no member of the Liberal or National Country parties has seen fit to involve himself or herself in a debate on important legislation of this type. I am sure that this fact will not pass unnoticed in my State. As I indicated during my speech at the first reading stage, the intention of this legislation is to ensure that the apple and pear industry will receive support from the Government to avert any dramatic decline in the market which may take place during the 1979 season.
As I indicated then, the fruit industry, especially in Tasmania, has been through a traumatic period over the past few years. For the first time in many years it is now in a position in which it can be considered viable. If the industry is given the required support by the Federal Government under the stabilisation arrangements, there is no likelihood that it will be set back again simply because the amount of stabilisation paid is insufficient. It is wrong to suggest, and it shows a quite defeatist attitude to do so, that the proposed level of stabilisation of $3 a box is in some way an act of cynicism. It is an economic act. It is a step which should be taken by this Government. I would have thought, particularly in view of the great debate that took place within the Government parties last year, that this year the Government would be prepared to support this amendment. If the Government were to do so now it would avert any chance of a decline next year in the export section of the industry in particular. We do not know at this stage whether the market for our exports of apples and pears will be such as to not warrant the increase. But we cannot take the risk and find that such a decline has occurred with the result that many people who are involved in the industry now will be forced out of it again. For those reasons the Opposition moves this amendment. We believe that a level of Government support of $3 a box would be adequate insurance for the industry. I hope that at least some honourable senators on the Government side will see sufficient wisdom in this amendment to support it.
– The basic decision in respect of the apple and pear industry for the 1979 and 1980 seasons is in line with the Government’s intention to phase down the level of stabilisation support. However, the Government has offered to the States additional funds under supplementary assistance for 1979 and 1980. To supplement export returns for apples, $ 1.5m will be made available and a sum of $400,000 will be made available in respect of pears. The offer of the Commonwealth to increase the level of funds available under supplementary assistance would, if accepted by the States, be one way of cushioning the effect of any reduction in the volume of fruit supported under stabilisation if that were to be judged by governments and the industry as the appropriate course of action. The Commonwealth has not been ungenerous in its dealings with the apple export industry. The Industries Assistance Commission specifically recommended that stabilisation be terminated after the 1977 season. Whilst the present Commonwealth decision on stabilisation means that the industry will continue to receive assistance, albeit on a reduced volume of exports, I consider that the industry has received adequate notice of the Commonwealth’s intention to continue to adjust the basis and the level of support, given the fact that such intention was announced as long ago as September 1976.
That the request for amendment (Senator Wriedt’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator Scott)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment or requests; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Senator Webster) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 26 September, on motion by Senator Webster:
That the Bills be now read a first time.
– I rise today to utilise the opportunity of the motion for the first reading of a money Bill to put forward what in normal circumstances would have been my contribution to the Budget debate. I understand that the Government is rather anxious to have that debate concluded at the earliest opportunity and I therefore consented to the withdrawal of my name from the list of speakers in an endeavour to assist the Government. However, there are a number of things I want to say in this first reading debate. Most members of this House will recognise that I do not normally speak on what could be described as women’s issues. In fact, I have said many times here and in other places that there are no women ‘s issues, and I would like to see the time when there are only people ‘s issues. It is unfortunate that neither the Government nor some of the community recognises this.
I want to talk about the 1978-79 Budget and women in specific areas. Women have been particularly hard hit by this Budget and many will suffer considerable distress as a direct result of the Government’s priorities. In general terms, I believe we can expect higher unemployment among women, decreased spending power, especially among lower income families, reduced services, and hardship arising from the decision to index pensions only once yearly. Family allowances have not been indexed since they were introduced and thus their value has fallen by over 27 per cent since 1976. The imposition of a means test on a child’s income, which has now been withdrawn, showed among other things an appalling lack of awareness and sensitivity on the part of the Government of how lower income families live. Children’s services, already grossly inadequate, have had their funds reduced by 5lA per cent. Maternity allowances have been abolished altogether. Last year, under the scheme a total of $7m was paid to some 200,000 mothers. Funds for family planning services have been reduced by 6.3 per cent in real terms. Cuts in community health program spending will mean drastically reduced services by women’s health centres and refuges, despite increased demands and increased costs. The financial position of these vital support services remains tenuous and therefore totally inadequate under the Government’s federalism policy. The organisations involved are finding it increasingly difficult to function because of diminishing funds and no long-term financial commitment on the part of the Federal Government.
Two weeks ago I had drawn to my attention a matter which relates to the Emmaus Women’s Refuge in Glendower Street in North Perth. I wrote to the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) because I found that this refuge is existing mainly for the support of Aboriginal women who find themselves in rather delicate domestic circumstances and require some form of home in which to live until government agencies can take up their plight. I received from the Emmaus Women’s Refuge a letter which states:
We would like to draw your attention to the funding crisis which is threatening our refuge. Unless this crisis is resolved, we face closure within the next month. The situation is therefore desperate.
Enclosed please find a copy of the submission which has been sent to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs via ‘Aboriginal Hostels Inc.’. We approached DAA because we had so many Aboriginal women and children staying with us.
This submission sets out the structure of funding, the way we established funding and the reason for the discontinuation of funding since June.
Since our funding has been stopped, we have tried alternative sources to try to meet the 23 per cent commitment which Emmaus must produce in order to obtain the other 73 per cent from Public Health.
These avenues include:
. Department of Community Welfare- DCW has funds to enhance the welfare of children in refuges- but cannot contribute towards the running costs of refuges.
The Department of Social Security (Office of Child Care) again funds are not available for the actual running costs of women ‘s refuges.
We also contacted many organisations in the voluntary sector (such as Centre Care, the Uniting Church, et cetera) but have had no success.
Representations have been made to Ray YoungMinister for Health and Welfare. A deputation from Emmaus, ACRAH and Mary Smith (the 3 refuges experiencing financial difficulties) was made on Wednesday, 20 September.
From this deputation, Ray Young agreed to contact Treasury on behalf of these refuges. However, the outcome of this approach to Treasury is not at all certain and may take some time.
Public Health have arranged for someone from Canberra to come to Penh to ‘assess the situation’. However, we fear that by the time the ‘situation has been assessed ‘ we will have already been forced to close.
We hope that you will be able to take up our case, as we are very concerned about the plight of the women who live at Emmaus as a result of homelessness- and who are again facing the prospect of further homelessness.
Mr President, the copy of the submission is quite detailed and I think because it indicates the amount of voluntary work that goes into the running of a refuge, I should read it into the Hansard record. Under the heading ‘Emmaus Women’s Refuge- Operation’, it states:
Emmaus Women’s Refuge has been operating from its current address at 2 1 Glendower Street, North Perth for four months (since 15 May 1978).
Prior to this date, Emmaus refuge was located for one month at another address which proved unsatisfactory.
I believe that the other address was unsatisfactory only because the building was not big enough to cater for all of the families that needed the support of a women’s refuge. The submission continues:
One month was also spent in looking for a more appropriate site for a women’s refuge.
It has therefore been approximately six months since Emmaus was originally granted Federal funding.
Basis of Funding
As with all other women’s refuges in WA the basis of funding is-
Fifty per cent of capital costs to be met by Federal funds Seventy-five per cent of running costs to be met by Federal funds.
The rest of the money to be met by the refuge itself or by other bodies (e.g. State funds).
This money is administered through a State committee of the Public Health Department.
Submission by Emmaus for Funding
The financial year operates from July to June. However, funding is usually carried over until October. New submissions are received in February. Emmaus’ submission for the next financial year has already been sent in. It is not markedly different from the original submission.
The original submission (for which funding was granted) put to the Government that we would meet our 25 per cent of running costs through the contribution of our staff remuneration.
Emmaus is run on a roster basis which is divided into shifts of: 9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m.
00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. 5.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m.
Most of the women who work on the roster can only give their time as their contribution. As most of the roster women receive income from elsewhere (e.g. Tertiary Allowance, Supporting Mothers’ Benefit) it is impossible for roster women to sign for wages and thus lose their own income.
Therefore, the original submission included a general wages remuneration figure. Most of this money was donated back as our 25 per cent contribution. Some roster women do receive some money for their services.
Non-continuation of Funding
After six months of operation, Public Health refuse to accept our staff remuneration policy. Therefore we can no longer raise our 25 per cent contribution by re-donating our wages.
Emmaus has therefore decided to turn to other sources to try to obtain our 25 per cent of funding.
Mr President, I think it is a rather sad state of affairs when there are people who can contribute nothing but their time to running a welfare organisation which should be totally funded by either Federal or State governments or by both and those people suddenly find that their contribution, the re-donating of their wages, is taken away from their general funding area. The submission goes on:
We have had no funds at all since June 1 978.
How can a support service of this nature, which is so necessary in our community, continue without any public funding from June until September 1978 and on the premise, rather than on the promise, that someone from Canberra is going to come to assess the situation shortly. The submission continues:
Our rent is paid only until the end of September. We therefore face closure. We meet on 16 September 1978 to discuss closing Emmaus.
This year, Federal Budget allowed another $300,000 for refuges in WA. However, it appears likely that this money won’t be spent, as no-one can provide the other 25 per cent.
By drastically reducing our budget, we have been able to reduce our running costs to the extent where our 25 per cent is only $400 per month. In doing so, we provide only the most basic necessities towards the running of the refuge and have cut many expenses which we would have liked to have met.
The submission then gives the following chart of monthly expenditure:
Total expenditure- $ 1 , 600 per month; Emmaus- 25 per cent contribution-$400; Public Health contribution-$ 1,200.
The submission goes on:
We brought our problem to the attention of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, and to Aboriginal Hostels Ltd, as we have had a totally Aboriginal population for some time now, and therefore believe that DAA has some commitment to our problem.
Emmaus Women’s Refuge provides emergency accommodation for homeless women and children. However Aboriginal women often have a great deal of difficulty in finding alternative accommodation, and tend to stay at Emmaus longer than white women.
Most of the Aboriginal women who come to Emmaus, have been housed by the State Housing Commission in the past- and have arrears on their previous tenancy which must be cleared before the Commission will consider re-housing.
This situation applies to each of the three women and their twelve children currently residing at Emmaus. As we are filled to capacity it is not unreasonable to assume that this fifteen people will require accommodation for some time more.
We have extracted figures from our Register Book which highlight this situation.
As at 12.9.78:
No change is likely as all are experiencing difficulties with their applications to the State Housing Commission.
Therefore in the past five weeks we have had at least an 80 per cent Aboriginal population.
Since commencing operation from Glendower Street that is, in the past four months there has only ever been a three day period of a totally white population. There has been a further eight days when the proportion of Aboriginal women and children has been at least 80 per cent.
In the four month period, we have had 37 white women and children who stayed 191 days, 34 Aboriginal women and children who stayed 1 70 days in total.
In terms of ‘person-days’ the figures are- white population stayed 530 person days; Aboriginal population stayed 658 person days.
There are three Aboriginal families who have been resident there for quite some time. One adult with five children has been there 15 days and on-going; one Aboriginal woman with five children has been there 36 days and on-going; and one Aboriginal woman with two children has been there 83 days and on-going. This submission continues:
Emmaus cannot really hold more than the 1 5 people currently residing there, although we have squeezed another 4 people in emergency conditions.
I think it is about time that the Government recognised that there is a need for these refuges and whether they are funded through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the Department of Health or the Department of Social Security really does not matter as long as funding is available and in this Budget this year it is not going to be available. As I have already said, cuts in community health program spending will mean drastic reduction in the number of services provided by women’s health centres and refuges despite increased demand and costs, and the figures are there to prove not only increased costs but also increased demand. There is an increase in demand for women’s refuges because in the past there has never been an opportunity to provide services somewhere where, in a rather disastrous domestic situation, women could suddenly gopacking, if necessary, in the middle of the night and taking themselves and their children. It is about time that this Government recognised that need and fulfilled the need.
I listened with great interest to Senator Kilgariff last night and I was rather disturbed by a statement he made in which he said:
There is no doubt that there are married women in the work force because they need money for various reasons, such as to bring up their families and so on.
I would say too that there are in the work force married women who do not need to be there at all; some of them work in industry out of sheer boredom.
At the time I interjected and said that we can insist, I suppose, that they stay inside their four walls and become another drug statistic, a potential suicide or a child basher. I think that if we look at statistics we will see that when some of these women who are confined to the house feel emotionally insecure in the house they become one or all of those things. I think that it is rather improper for Senator Kilgariff to use the floor of this chamber to denigrate the women who are in the work force and who are contributing to the economic stability of the country.
I was in the chamber on Tuesday night when Senator McLaren was speaking about the Werriwa by-election which was held last Saturday and I listened to Senator Messner’s interjections. I am convinced that he is one Government member who does not even believe the figures of that by-election. But now that Mr
John Kerin has taken his place in the other House perhaps Senator Messner will have to believe that there has already been a public reaction to the Government and to the Budget that has been introduced. But there is a great deal of confusion about the Budget because I found myself in a situation where I was confused about a number of areas. I was confused, for instance, about the means test which was to apply to the family allowances of families where the children receive an income. I was fairly sure that I knew what it was all about when I read the Budget Papers. Whilst I was not happy about it, I thought that I knew what it was all about. I accepted that the Government had made the decision. Then the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) came into this chamber and assured us that the Government was reviewing the situation and that the means testing of the children’s income did not- I repeat, did notapply to income derived from personal exertion by the child.
Last week the Minister came into the chamber and said that the Government had reviewed the situation and decided that the children’s allowance would be penalised at the rate of $ 1 in every $4 where the child earned in excess of $20 a week. I can assure the Senate that I was still a little unhappy about that and you, Mr Deputy President, will recall that we had quite an extensive debate on this issue in the Senate last week. In fact I can recall my colleague from Queensland, Senator Georges, expressing his concern that during a debate in this House when the Minister was being accused of misleading the Parliament not only was she not present in the chamber but no Ministers on the Government bench were prepared to support her in any way. Members of the Opposition were concerned that a Minister of the Crown- a senior Minister at that- was under attack and that no one on the Government side was prepared to come to her defence. I think that honourable senators will have to agree that it is a most unusual situation for Opposition members to be expressing their concern on behalf of a Minister of the Crown.
The situation became even more confusing when it was announced this week that no means test would apply at all. That means that we have had three changes just in that one area since the Budget was introduced on 15 August. Perhaps that is part of the reason that there was a vote in excess of 67 per cent in favour of the Labor Party candidate in the Werriwa by-election last weekend. Whether or not the Government accepts it, the people are expressing their concern at the confusion which obviously exists in the Government’s ranks. They expressed their concern on Saturday at the by-election. If the Government wants to tax family trusts- I understand that this was the purpose of introducing this legislationthere are to my mind two opportunities for it to do so. One is when the trust is set up and the other is when the trust can be used because with a family trust there is either an age limit or a time limit set for when the money can be used. If it is established, for instance, when a child is perhaps 10 years of age, there may be a 15-year time limit, or the terms of the trust might state that while interest accrues the money remains in the trust and is not available until the child turns 25 years of age. Why cannot the money be taxed at the time it can be used? If this was the purpose of the Government’s proposal to tax the income of children why cannot it do so at either of those times? If it is done at the time that the trust is to be used the Government will reap the benefit of being able to tax the interest that has accrued over the years as well. My argument is: Why should a female parent have her family allowance penalised when she cannot touch the trust? There is no way she can touch any of that money and it is generally not available for some years after she has lost the use of the family allowance anyway.
Country people are particularly concerned that the increase in excise on petrol will mean that they will have to pay more for their goods, and of course they will, especially in the remote areas of Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia, and the western parts of Victoria and New South Wales and in Tasmania- in fart anywhere to which goods have to be transported. If we look at Western Australia the people who live outside the metropolitan area are going to be doubly penalised. They are already disadvantaged by higher prices purely and simply because they live where they do. Whether they live there by choice, by design or by birth is not important. A great part of our 1.2 million population in Western Australia resides outside the metropolitan area. They reside in remote areas.
– Not too many though.
– Oh, we have a population of 1.2 million people and only 650,000 of them live in the metropolitan area. The determination of the metropolitan area is something like 25 miles. But if one happens to live in Armadale or at Kwinana one pays more for goods because they have to be transported from the city down to those areas. In 1973 approximately $800m worth of consumer durables was imported into
Western Australia from the eastern States. I am not given to quoting from documents of parties in opposition to my own but I have here one from the Westralian Secession Movement which was issued presumably, although I do not know because there is no date on it, when it was contesting the 1 977 election. But the point it makes is a very valid one. It shows that in 1977 interstate imports into Western Australia had increased from the $800m in 1973 which I cited to $1,4 18. 7m; that is, it almost doubled in those four years. There is no reason to believe that that rate of increase will not continue. It means, in effect, that the small organisations in the food marketing areas which operated in Western Australia some time ago have now either diminished their operations or have ceased their operations altogether as a result of takeovers by larger organisations which perhaps operate from the eastern States. I believe it is reasonable to assume that that figure of $1,4 18m will be increased this year. People have to pay to have those goods transported from the eastern States across the Nullabor to Western Australia, and people have to pay to have those goods taken from the metropolitan area to the country areas. So the country people have cause to be concerned at the Government’s decision to increase the price of petrol, as it has done.
I have spoken of only one area of the concern of the Western Australian people, but there are a number of areas of the Budget which concern me. The area about which I wish to speak next is industrial relations. I believe there is a great deal of insensitivity about this matter in Australia. One cannot help but wonder whether there is an orchestrated attempt on the part of some people to distract the attention of the people of Australia away from the repercussions of the Budget by creating industrial disharmony. We had the situation, for instance, involving Miss Barbara Biggs and the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board. In the light of information which has subsequently appeared in the Press, one has to ask whether or not she was really planted by a section of the community simply for the purpose of causing industrial unrest. It will be remembered that at one stage she was on record as saying that she was receiving financial assistance from an organisation which I believe is known as the Organisation Against Communists in Australia, or some such similar name. Then she said that she was not getting any financial assistance at all, that she was simply a conscientious objector to compulsory unionism.
But I found that the most interesting aspect of her entire case was that when the Tramways
Board, after arbitration, found her a position other than that of a conductress and when she discovered that she would be paid $20 less a week than another person doing the same work, she was the first to say that she would have to consider joining the appropriate union. How real is her objection to unionism? How real was her objection when she was put up to the Tramways Board? Was she put up to the Board or did she go of her own accord? I believe that her record makes it possible that she was planted there.
No one is less conscious of the need for good industrial relations in Australia than is the Western Australian Government. It has certainly used its might against the workers in that State. There is the admission that it made a payment to an organisation which was formed for the express purpose of breaking strikes. In that regard I shall refer to an article which appeared in the Daily News on Wednesday, 13 September. The article, which was written by John Arthur, is headed: Anti-strike Pay-off. O’Connor: No Apologies’. Mr O’Connor, of course, is the most recent Minister for Labour and Industry in the West Australian Parliament. He replaced Mr Grayden, who took it upon himself to have an altercation with a member of the police force when he was inebriated. The article to which I referred reads:
The State Government paid $ 1 ,8 1 5 to Assistance and Security Corporation for trucks used to break the blockade during the flour millers’ strike last year.
The Minister for Labour and Industry, Mr O’Connor, said today: ‘The fact that the Government hired trucks to move the flour is something for which we make no apology whatsoever’.
The Minister did not ask me as a taxpayer in Western Australia whether he could use this money for employing trucks to break a strike which was being held by the workers in a particular industry- workers who had a right to strike and who have only one course of action open to them when they are not provided with sufficient money or adequate safeguards for their services, and that is to withdraw their labour. They withdrew their labour and an organisation was formed which was called the Assistance and Security Corporation. The actual make-up of that corporation interests me greatly. Although there is nothing to indicate that there is an association, the manager of that corporation just happens to be a gentleman who was responsible for a right wing coup of the National Council of Civil Liberties in Western Australia last year but who is still unseated, Mr Brian Tennant. But he would make no comment about the civil liberties and rights that were being taken away from the people of Western Australia, and rights that were being taken away from the Aboriginal people of Western Australia. He was a former employee of Mr Rick New who has devoted a great deal of time in the past entirely to union bashing.
We hear so many times in this place that the federalism policies of this Government are accepted by State governments, particularly those of the same political colour as the Federal Government, that one is forced to wonder how another item in the same newspaper could, in actual fact, be published. I refer once again to the Daily News of 13 September. The front page story of this edition is entitled: ‘Court to PM on bauxite: Keep out’. Court, of course, refers to Premier Court. I have some concern in this area because I had already written to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) some weeks earlier. The article is written by Geoff Kitney in Canberra, who wrote:
The Premier, Sir Charles Court, has warned the Federal Government to keep out of the Western Australian bauxite row.
Sir Charles has written to Mr Fraser warning him against any Federal move for a public inquiry into the Alcoa project at Wagerup.
It is understood that Sir Charles has warned -
It is to be noted that the article speaks of him warning the Federal Government and yet he is supposed to accept the federalism policies- that a public inquiry and the delay it would cause to development of the project, could stop it going ahead.
Federal officials, who confirmed Sir Charles’s warning, indicated today that a final decision by the Federal Minister was near.
They said that officials of the impact statement assessment division of the Department of Environment would shortly be preparing a report for the Minister of Alcoa’s own environmental assessments of the effects of the Wagerup project.
Perhaps there lies the clue as to why Premier Court is telling Mr Fraser and his federalism policies to keep out of Western Australia. Honourable senators might recall that I mentioned in the Senate some months ago my concern that the Western Australian State Government had asked Alcoa to participate in an environmental study of the whole bauxite situation in the Darling Ranges in Western Australia. Whilst I have been told that that report is now freely available to the public, I have since discovered that if people really do want to read the report, which is in two volumes, they have to get it from Alcoa and it will cost them $40. This means that the majority of voluntary environmental groups who want to see what is in the report do not have the wherewithal to get it except by public donation. The article to which I have been referring continues:
He is believed to have said he does not want a repeat of the Fraser Island and Albany whaling affairs.
Sir Charles Court does not want those affairs to be repeated. The article continues:
In both cases, Federal inquiries led to the closure of the industries.
Sir Charles is believed to fear that if development of the Wagemp project is delayed by a public environmental inquiry Alcoa would look elsewhere to invest its money.
So Sir Charles Court adopts an attitude: ‘To hell with the environment. What we really want is to keep Alcoa in Western Australia. We do not want it to invest money anywhere else’. The article goes on to say:
Sir Charles’s letter was sent after a deputation of environmentalists came to Canberra to speak with the Federal Minister for Environment, Mr Groom.
The deputation urged him to use his powers under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act, to order a public inquiry into Wagerup.
After they had spoken to Mr Groom, members of the deputation said they thought there was a ‘50-50 chance’ of a Federal public inquiry being ordered.
I wrote to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development on 23 August. I expressed my concern that there should be a public inquiry into the expansion of bauxite mining in Western Australia. The Minister’s reply came to me on Tuesday of this week, on 26 September. This is what the Minister said:
M8/30/8/6 26 SEP 1978
Dear Senator Coleman,
I refer to your letter of 23 August 1978 and attached press clipping concerning the proposed expansion of bauxite mining in the Darling Ranges, Western Australia.
I note that you are endeavouring to obtain a copy of the Division of Land Resources Managements report which was released and I enclose a copy of the document for your information.
Both the Wagerup and Worsley proposals are currently being examined under the provisions of the Commonwealth Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act. In both cases environmental assessment has been carried out jointly by Commonwealth and State authorities in accordance with agreed arrangements for co-operation.
In relation to the proposal by Alcoa to export alumina from the Wagerup project, I have directed that Alcoa prepare and submit to me an environmental impact statement. The draft impact statement has been submitted and advertised for public review between 27 May and 22 July 1978. My Department has forwarded the submissions received to Aloca through the W.A. Department of Conservation and Environment so that the public comment can be taken into account in the preparation of a final impact statement. Following receipt of the final impact statement and consideration of my Department’s assessment report, I will assess the need for any additional information and the manner in which information should be sought.
I have also directed the preparation and submission to me of an environmental impact statement on the proposal by Alwest Pry Ltd and Dampier Mining Ltd in association with Reynolds Australia Ltd to export alumina produced by their proposed Worsley project. The draft impact statement for this proposal is currently available for public review from 22 August 1978 to 17 October 1978.
Yours sincerely, (Ray Groom)
I do not intend to read the accompanying nine pages but I will seek leave of the Senate for them to be incorporated in Hansard.
– Have they been shown?
– No, I have not shown them. I have only just received the letter, as a matter of interest. I am quite happy for the Minister for Science to have a look at the document.
– Do you mean the whole document or just the front page?
-I have read the letter into the Hansard. It is the nine page document that Mr Groom was kind enough to forward to me that I felt would be of interest to the Senate. I am seeking leave to incorporate it in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Division of Land Resources Management
Comments on the Alcoa ERMP
This report is based on a submission by this Division to the Commonwealth Department for Environment, Housing and Community Development.
There are obvious benefits from increasing the scale of bauxite mining operations in this state, such as increased employment and increased overseas earnings. However, in this report we have not discussed these benefits but have concentrated only on the weaknesses and omissions of the ERMP. We have assumed that the readers of this report are already familiar with the ERMP.
CSIRO is a research organisation financed from public funds. It is responsible for making the results of its research available to the public.
The CSIRO Division of Land Resources Management have considered the ERMP, as a whole, but these comments are restricted to those aspects on which the Division has professional expertise: economics physiography water supply and quality waste disposal jarrah dieback and reafforestation social aspects
The ERMP is a lengthy and in parts detailed document describing many areas of the environmental, economic and social aspects of bauxite mining in the Darling Ranges of south-western Australia.
The six aspects examined indicate that, in general, the long term effects of bauxite mining are poorly known. Research in most aspects needs to be intensified in order to quantify these effects prior to any commitment for expansion of bauxite mining activities to the magnitude proposed in the ERMP.
There is some justification for expanding alumina production in WA. The ERMP, while overstating benefits to the balance of payments, is correct in pointing out that the contribution to Australia’s external trade balance would be significant. The stated benefits in employment appear to be reasonably accurate estimates. However, on the basis of limited information we suspect that the income to the government from the project is likely to be lower than is claimed in the ERMP.
We have three main concerns about the economic aspects of the ERMP. First, in order to maintain its market share over the next 1 5 years, Alcoa would only need to expand its alumina production capacity in WA by about 2 million tonnes. However, the ERMP states that Pinjarra is to be expanded in addition to Wagerup. This could lead to the over-commitment of the State’s resources. Second, alumina refining is energy intensive. At a time when liquid and gas fuels are becoming scarce, it is pertinent to ask whether alumina production on the scale envisaged is the best use of a versatile energy resource such as natural gas. Third, the ERMP gives a misleading impression of the costs of leaving certain parts of the Darling Range in their natural condition. We believe that there is scope to select environmentally conservative mining strategies, without economic loss to the company or the state.
The ERMP description of the physical environment is mostly accurate and adequate.
Water Supply and Quality
The ERMP is unclear in explaining long term sources of refinery water supply and fails to describe environmental effects of storage structures.
The ERMP correctly points out that mining in the western catchments listed will have only small effects on stream salinities. No confidence can be attached to any prediction of the effects of mining further east. In addition, the majority of proposed catchment management procedures outlined in the ERMP are unproven.
Long term problems associated with management of residue disposal areas are ignored in the ERMP. Disposal areas required have been calculated to be considerably larger than land allocated for this purpose in the ERMP.
Jarrah Dieback and Reafforestation
Bauxite mining will accelerate the spread of jarrah dieback. There is no evidence that reafforestation will be successful in drier, saltier eastern areas.
The social survey provides an adequate background for the population of the Wagerup area. It does not provide a valid assessment of community attitude towards Alcoa.
There is some justification for expanding alumina production in WA. The ERMP, while overstating benefits to the balance of payments, is correct in pointing out that the contribution to Australia’s external trade balance would be significant. The stated benefits in employment appear to be reasonably accurate estimates. However, on the basis of limited information we suspect that the income to the government from the project is likely to be lower than is claimed in the ERMP.
The ERMP fails to establish that Wagerup is required to maintain WAs share of the world alumina market. The growth in the world market since the early 1 960s has been approximately linear at about 1 million tonnes per year.
If the ‘ free world ‘ demand for alumina continued to grow by an annual increment of one million tonnes, and Western Australia were to maintain its share of the market, it would be necessary to increase output by only 0.13 million tonnes per year.
Distribution of Income
The table which is presented on page 406 and other published information (Anon. 1978) suggests that very low levels of cost are assumed for intermediate input in the form of caustic soda, energy, time and other supplies and maintenance. Without access to the costs used and other background economic calculations referred to on page 40 1 it is impossible to calculate net cash flow to the company and also net cash flow to the government, yet this is critical to the alleged benefits of the project.
Balance of Payments
The real balance of payments implications of the project are not clear from the ERMP. It assumes that natural gas from the North West Shelf will be available to the project after 1987. First, there is no guarantee at present that the North West Shelf project will proceed, and even if it does it has a life expectancy of 27 years compared with an anticipated life of 70 years for the Wagerup Project. Therefore it is probable that the alumina industry will need to import fuel oil or natural gas. Second, if the North West Shelf project does proceed, it is not at all clear what allocation of gas to the alumina industry would be appropriate. Thirdly, the use of North West Shelf gas by the alumina industry would necessitate energy imports to meet the needs of other sectors of the Australian economy and there would be a balance of payments cost.
The description of the physical environment is mostly adequate and accurate. More detailed information on the deeper soil layers at waste disposal sites is desirable as these materials probably would be used in the construction of the red mud ‘lakes’ and would have considerable significance to the hydrology of these sites.
The description of the vegetation of the Darling Range is adequate but the term ‘non-protectable forest’ has been misinterpreted in the ERMP. This will be discussed in detail under the section on Jarrah Dieback.
Water Supply and Quality
Water Supply for the Refinery
The statements on water supply for the refinery are unclear. A 4 million tonne alumina plant requires 9.3 x 10’m3 of water annually. This is equal to about 5 per cent of the present annual consumption of the Perth metropolitan area. The ERMP accounts for 5.5 x 10’m3 through refinery run-off, small catchment east of the site and Yalup Brook. It is neither clear where the additional 4 x 10’m3 is to come from, nor where such a large volume of water is to be stored. Storage reservoirs described in the ERMP account for storing only 1.2 x 10’m’.
If the refinery is to be self-sufficient in terms of water supply (i.e. without any requirements from State Water Supply Authorities, as implied by the ERMP), much larger storage structures will be required to account for this volume and to allow for contingency storage. The ERMP does not make any assessment of the impact of these structures.
Effects of Mining on Water Quality
The effects on water quality following mining in the western areas are expected to be small due to the extremely low concentrations of salts stored in the soil profile.
The ERMP uses a model developed by Dr A. J. Peck (CSIRO Division of Land Resources Management) to predict salinity changes as a consequence of mining (Peek 1976). The results in the ERMP are consistent with those normally expected in high rainfall areas. However, it should not be assumed that all catchments in high rainfall areas are safe’ since large variability in catchment salt storages are known to occur.
If the same model is used to predict salinity changes further east in the Darling Range, significantly different results are obtained. Some of these areas have much greater amounts of salt stored in the soil profile coincident with relatively high rainfall (800-1000 mm) which is available to leach these salts into streams.
If this model is applied to the Yarragil catchment (using long term stream flow records (Anon. 1977), estimates of catchment ground-water salinities (Herbert et al. 1978), and the same percentage of mined areas as used in the ERMP), it predicts an increase in stream salinity from 400 to 1 200 mg/1 of total dissolved salts. If this result is accepted, then mining in this region could significantly increase stream salinity.
The ERMP correctly points out that the model is likely to overestimate the effect of mining since no allowance is made for the regrowth of healthy forest on the mined areas. However, should reafforestation fail (see section on Rehabilitation) in these drier areas, then the magnitude of an increase in stream salinity given above would be more likely.
It is important to recognise that the accuracy of the salinity predictions is unknown. Consequently it would be prudent to view the results presented in the ERMP, and those presented here, with extreme caution since many underlying, unproven assumptions have been made. What is evident, is that a great deal more research is required to validate such models before any confidence can be attached to quantitive predictions of salinity changes following mining.
An omission from the ERMP is the possible water logging of low lying areas downslope from mining due to increase in groundwater levels, and/or increased ‘interflow’ through contour batters and transmission through the highly conductive topsoil. This mechanism has been observed in experimental studies on mined catchments and areas cleared for agriculture ( Williamson, Hurle Biddiscombe pers. comm.).
The long term problems associated with management of residue disposal areas are not adequately described in the ERMP. In the absence of regulated drainage system the water balance of the mud lakes is such that there will be flooding each winter (Carbon, unpublished data). In the short term the regulated drainage, with recirculation of water to the refinery, will prevent this problem.
After decommissioning, the total area of residue lakes may be 23 to 30 square kilometres. At present only about 5 square kilometres of land has been put aside for residue disposal. After decommissioning there will be problems of disposal of polluted drainage water from this large area. An important omission from the ERMP is a description of the rate of release of caustic material from red mud. The slowly reversible reaction between the sodium hydroxide and the mud is a long term source of pollution which should have been discussed in the ERMP.
In the absence of a management plan for post- decommissioning, there must be a risk of water and wind erosion of the mud lakes. Such erosion, especially as a source of dust for summer easterly winds is likely to be an environmental hazard for what may be a populated area by the time the project ends.
The link between mining and the spread of dieback is acknowledged in the ERMP and the impact of the spread of dieback on ecological stability is correctly identified. The ERMP, however, tends to view non-protectable areas as doomed’ and consequently expendable. This illustrates a misunderstanding of the terms ‘protectable’ and .-by Those areas classified as ‘non-protectable’ are mainly areas downslope from existing infections and should be considered ‘high risk’ areas but by no means ‘doomed’. Much of the ongoing research of the Forests Department, CSIRO and Universities is directed at finding methods of protecting these areas and with lime a solution may be found.
In addition to destroying these ‘non-protectable’ areas, mining operations would introduce infection into protectable areas.
Experience at Jarrahdale and Pinjarra has demonstrated the early success of rehabilitation on the western slope of the Darling Range, but the long term survival, adaptation to environment, water use and effects on hydrologic balance have not been evaluated.
Evidence is lacking as to how these plantations will respond to perturbations such as fire, which is inevitable in these environments. In addition, it is also possible that dieback will affect the success of new plantings. There is a tendency in the report to talk of ‘resistant species’ but resistance is only relative. Evidence is accumulating to show that the effects of Phytophthora on ‘resistant’ species is greater than previously thought. Acacia pulchella, an understorey shrub is the only plant to show absolute resistance to dieback.
There is no contingency plan given in the ERMP if the replanted forests fail before maturity. It would appear the risk is to be carried by the State Government.
Whereas the ERMP refers to a 70-year project life in many parts the rehabilitation problems are often discussed in a 20-year context. At the proposed rate of mining, rehabilitation will be required in the areas of lower rainfall and higher salt storage within 30 years. The lower rainfall, and the higher salt loads in the soils, will make it more difficult to reforest mined and dieback-affected areas. It would seem logical that research on rehabilitation should be given high priority and successful rehabilitation techniques developed before any decision for expansion into drier areas is considered. This research would concentrate on salinity control and the establishment of stable populations of trees and understories. The research listed on page 430 must be a prerequirement to any decision to mine in lower rainfall areas. The nutrient status, and nutrient cycle of replanted mine sites is also a topic requiring continuing research.
Some of the management strategies proposed on page 434 have not been proven. For example, although dewatering of aquifers beneath mine pits could be successful, this strategy has not been tested in the pallid zone clays of the Darling Range. The proposal (page 435) to mine in a sequence that optimises the balance between salt load and water yield may require immediate entry into the drier, salty areas. This would mean mining prematurely in areas of higher risk for salinity and where dieback is currently under control.
The scientific validity of the survey on community attitudes is difficult to assess. Perhaps the most important conclusion from the study was that 90% of the people supported the refinery to some degree. This may or may not be the case. Alcoa sponsored the study and Alcoa representatives did some of the interviewing. Such studies are only valid if independent researchers are used.
Insufficient data is given on the briefing of interviewers causing concern about the quality of responses.
The design of the questionnaire has serious flaws. Question 24 (Appendix F) asks people to rank the benefits given to the community by Alcoa. No similar ranking of disadvantages is requested.
Even more importantly, it is only after the ranking of benefits that respondents were asked such questions as whether ‘this area will suffer by Alcoa’s presence’. Having ranked the benefits, an objective response cannot be obtained- that is, the questionnaire is biased towards Alcoa.
The survey correctly points out that there was very little knowledge within the community about Alcoa’s activities. This suggests that the survey is useful as a preliminary investigation only. More detailed studies with carefully selected sub-samples should be made to observe changes in attitude as awareness increases.
Anon. (1977). Stream flow records of Western Australia to 1 975. Public Works Department of Western Australia.
Anon. (1978). ‘The benefits of the Wagerup alumina refinery project to the economy of Western Australia’. Department of Industrial Development, Perth.
Herbert, E. J., Shea, S.R. and Hatch, A. B. (1978). Salt content of Lateritic profiles in the Yarragil Catchment, Western Australia. Forest Department of Western Australia Research Paper.
Peck, A. J. (1976). Estimating the effect of a land use change on stream salinity in south-western Australia. In ‘ System Simulation in Water Resources’, pages 293-391. North Holland, Amsterdam.
– A short time ago I was speaking about industrial relations. I must admit to having some concern still about the matter that arose in the precincts of Parliament House at the beginning of this three-week sitting. I believe that it must have been known that industrial unrest was going to occur. Everyone involved in Parliament House, I believe, is quite aware that the kitchens and the dining rooms have been unionised, if that is the correct term, for quite some years. So there has to be a reason, I believe, why Mr Aper was engaged. The questions in my mind that still have to be answered to my satisfaction are: How many people applied for the position? How many of those applicants had qualifications or experience in that area, that is, the area of kitchen hand? How many of them were in similar family circumstances to Mr Aper? As Mr President stated this morning, Mr Aper had a physique which was an indication to the employing officer that he would be capable of carrying out kitchen hand duties and, in addition, he was married with a family. I believe that if those two things are the qualifications for a kitchen hand then it is likely that other members of the public who applied for that position were also of a similar physique and also could have been married with family responsibilities. The fact that they were out of work could have been a determining factor in their situation as much as it appears to have been in Mr Aper’s situation.
The other question that I have to ask is: Why was Mr Aper requested, following arbitration, to report for duty each day at 8 o’clock? It must have been obvious to anyone with any knowledge of industrial relations that that in itself was going to cause confrontation and consternation on the part of the other workers. Was he being asked deliberately to report for work at 8 a.m. and deliberately at 8 a.m. each day being told that no work was available to him? To the best of my knowledge it has never been a condition of arbitration that a person who is stood down is still required to report for work each day. The latest complaint that we heard about this morning, that he was underpaid while he was stood down, makes it obvious to me that either someone has deliberately underpaid him to cause once again that confrontation and consternation with the rest of the staff or Mr Aper is in a position in which, while he objects to being a member of the union, he has no compunction about collecting the money that those workers, those union payers, those union members, have fought so hard for over a long time. He wants to have his cake and he wants to eat it too but preferably he wants to eat it at home every day. As I said, there are a number of questions which I believe still require answers. With all due respect, I do not believe that Mr President gave them this morning.
There are a number of other questions in my mind, not only about the responsibility of the Joint House Department to the Joint House Committee but also about the power of the Joint House Department. I had a minor altercation with the Joint House Department today. I must admit that I do not take very kindly to being told by a member of that Department that information that I asked for by a particular time will be provided to me if it is at all possible because I believe that if the information is available then of course it is possible. While the matter that I spoke about related only to the booking of the tennis courts, I still believe that when a member of parliament rings the Joint House Department or any other department connected with the running of this place and asks for information in writing to be available by a certain time, then that department has a responsibility to the member of parliament to ensure that he or she gets it. I have not as yet got it in writing and the gentleman concerned will find that I will raise this matter once again at the Joint House Committee meeting which I understand will take place in the first week that we next sit.
I would have to admit to feeling that perhaps this Budget is the most disgraceful Budget that has ever been introduced or ever presented to a parliament of Australia; not only because of the retractions that have been made since it was introduced but also because it is the machinery by which a great number of pre-election promises that were made in 1977 and in 1975 are being totally ignored. I have already mentioned some of them. But we are now seeing that the money that was supposed to have been made available to pensioners is to be made available on a once-a-year review basis whereas the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had promised in 1975, and he repeated it in 1977, that the reviews would continue on at least a twice-year basis.
I believe that the Budget is disgraceful because it attacks those people who are least capable, those who are already disadvantaged- the pensioners, the young families, the children, the workers, the sick and the unemployed. And let us not forget the unemployed because at a time when the Government is admitting that unemployment will increase, it has reduced the appropriation for the unemployment benefit by $6.0m. What does it intend for those people who are going to join the ranks of the unemployed? What is the Government going to pay those people who are already unemployed? Is it the intention of the Government to reduce the unemployment benefit? If not, why did it reduce this appropriation by $6.9m? More people cannot be paid with less money. If the Government does not appreciate this simple economic exercise, it should not be the Government. If the economic experts who are supposed to be running this country do not realise that they cannot deduct $6.9m from the Budget allocation for the unemployed at the same time as they maintain that they recognise that unemployment will increase they should not be advising the Government. The Government should be prepared to go to the people and say: Do you or do you not believe us?’
I believe that the Government’s credibility is in question at the moment. I believe the only reason why it has a feeling of security is purely and simply because it holds the key to the next election date. That is the only reason why it was able to bring in such a horror Budget this year. It would not have had the courage to bring in a
Budget such as that in an election year. No matter how severe the economic circumstances, nothing will convince me that a government with any political nous at all would have introduced such a Budget in any year other than a nonelection year. But that is of no consolation to the Australian people. I do not believe that the Government can rely any more on the old idiom that the electorate has a short memory. The Australian people will well remember the night of 15 August 1 978 until the election in 1 980.
The feeling of the Australian people was well and truly expressed at the Werriwa by-election last Saturday. It is no good the Government now saying that it is normal for the electorate to vote against the government in a by-election. It does not necessarily apply that there is a swing against the government in every by-election. In fact I got the Parliamentary Library’s statistical service to take out some figures for me yesterday. These figures show that on quite a number of occasions when a by-election has been held the swing has been quite substantially in favour of the government. I will illustrate by giving just a few instances. I think it might be a little too difficult to have the document incorporated in Hansard, so I will content myself with talking about just a few occasions. I must admit that I asked the statistical service to go back as far as possible and it took the figures back to 195 1.
In December 1953 in a by-election for the seat of Gwydir,- there was a 1 .54 per cent swing to the government. In December 1956 there was a 4.57 per cent swing to the government in the byelection for the seat of Wentworth. In June 1963, in a by-election for the seat of Grey, there was a swing to the government of 3.6 per cent. In February 1965, there was a swing to the government in a by-election for the seat of Riverina of 4.67 per cent. In September 1967 there was a swing of 1 .68 per cent to the government in a byelection for the seat of Capricornia. In February 1968 there was a swing of 6.13 per cent to the government in a by-election for the seat of Higgins. In May 1970 there was a swing of 1.25 per cent to the government in a by-election for the seat of the Australian Capital Territory. In March 197 1, in a by-election for the seat of Murray, there was a swing to the government of 10.57 per cent. The other interesting point that these statistics show is that on perhaps six occasions there has been a swing in excess of 1 1 .7 per cent, which I believe is the figure which has been calculated as being the swing towards the Australian Labor Party at the Werriwa byelection last Saturday.
I do not believe that the Australian Government can take any solace from the fact that it will be two years before we have a Federal election. I am quite sure that the Government would not go to the people at this time. It would not have the courage to go to them. Its Budget has been rejected just as it is being rejected. We are seeing evidence of this every day. We saw in Kings Hall this week the disadvantaged people who had come here to organise their own protest, to tell the Government, on behalf of the rest of the people of Australia, that they were disturbed that their pensions were to be taxed. Unless this Government takes heed and unless it is prepared to act in a responsible manner, it will find itself eventually going to the people and being soundly defeated.
-The Dried Vine Fruits Stabilisation Amendment Bill 1978 and the Dried Vine Fruits Levy Amendment Bill 1978 are money Bills the motion for the first readings of which enables members of the Senate to discuss various matters in which they are interested. Whilst not wishing to detract from the good purposes of the Bills, I wish to take the opportunity to discuss matters relating to communications in the outback. I am prompted to speak today about this matter by the report of a task force on a national communications satellite system which was tabled in the Senate yesterday. By reading that report one can see the tremendous advantage of such a system not only to the people living in the higher density population areas of the eastern seaboard and the southern seaboard but also, particularly, to the people of the outback. As the report states, the Government established a task force towards the end of last year under specific terms of reference to investigate and evaluate the social, economic, technical, policy and other issues associated with the establishment and operation of an Australian national communications satellite system.
In brief, the task force was required to take into account the use of such a system to provide high quality radio and television broadcasting and other telecommunications services to all Australians; its application in the areas of health, education, science, transport and defence; its use by the private sector for improved communication information and other services; and the implications of a satellite to current radios and television services and the terrestrial communications system. Whilst there has been considerable development in various ways in the outback in the last decade, particularly in the last few years, the area that has suffered and really has not developed to the same degree as other developments is the field of communications. Today I do not wish to speak widely about the areas of communications, which include telephone, radio-telephone and television; I wish to speak about radio. I could talk about the situation with regard to telephone, radio-telephone and television services in the outback and I could tell the Senate and the people of Australia of the disadvantages that are suffered with regard to these forms of communication.
Of course, the telephone service in the outback badly requires upgrading, as does the radiotelephone system, which is overcrowded. Television services are limited and the people of the Northern Territory have to put up with programs which come from Queensland. With due respect to the people of Queensland, the people of the Territory have other interests that are not catered for.
I will look now very briefly at what improvements the implementation of such a satellite system could bring to the outback. If implementation of this system were to come about in the period that has been indicated- that is, some six years hence- it would mean a tremendous amount to the people of the outback. I speak not only of the people who live in the cities, the main centres of the Northern Territory, but also of the people who live in small mining settlements, Aboriginal settlements and particularly the people who live in the very isolated pastoral homesteads. Under this scheme the person who lives so far from our civilisation and who is very isolated today, despite our modern means of communications, eventually will have the news communicated to his home as it happens. But that, of course, is looking into the future. Perhaps it will be six years, eight years, ten years or even longer. A vast amount of money has to be found to finance this project. I have not had time to read thoroughly this very comprehensive and long report. Perhaps the report will indicate, as we heard on the media today, that the Department of Finance already is querying the vast amount of money to be spent on a communications satellite that would be of benefit to the people of the north.
I would say without any fear of contradiction that radio communications in the outback and in the Northern Territory are extremely poor at the moment. In fact they have deteriorated since Christmas Eve of 1975 when Cyclone Tracy virtually wiped out the Radio Australia installation on Cox Peninsula, across the harbour from the city of Darwin. The cyclone brought down the aerials of this significant station which beamed its message from Australia to millions of people in South East Asian areas. Since then progress on restoration work to the station has been slow. The Waller committee has inquired over the last two or three years into the future of stations such as Radio Australia. The committee also looked at the questions of whether the station should be rebuilt and the way in which the Australian Government should act in the future. The Waller committee, after a long period, brought down a report which indicated that certain work should be carried out and that the Radio Australia station on Cox Peninsula in Darwin should be reconstructed over a three-year period and perhaps longer at a cost of some $9m.
In the meantime millions of listeners who live in South East Asia and who have become very dependent on Radio Australia have found that they can no longer receive a clear, powerful message from Cox Peninsula. After the facility on Cox Peninsula was blown apart by Cyclone Tracy less powerful ‘reserve’ transmitters were used at Shepparton in Victoria and Carnarvon in Western Australia. The radio programs which are beamed to Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries are so weak that they are drowned out by the much more powerful transmitters in Peking, Moscow and other places.
It is interesting to read some of the statements that have appeared in the Press in the last couple of weeks in respect of this matter. An article in the Perth Sunday Times of 10 September under the heading ‘Australia is losing appeal: Radio broadcasts hit by weak soundwaves’ states:
Radio Australia is losing its appeal in a number of overseas countries.
Radio Australia has been pushing out a comparatively weak shortwave signal since Cyclone Tracy wrecked Radio Australia’s most powerful shortwave station at Darwin in 1974.
This has resulted in millions of regular Radio Australia listeners in Asia, the Pacific, North America, Europe and Africa periodically receiving almost inaudible broadcasts or no programs at all.
Although the Federal Government earmarked more than $9m for the repair of the Darwin station, it has been slow in releasing the funds.
The Government has now indicated, of course, that work is to continue over the next three years. The article continued:
For almost four years Radio Australia has been broadcasting through two standby stations- one in Victoria and the other at Carnarvon in WA.
Neither of these stations has the output power of which the Darwin station is capable.
At full strength the Darwin station is able to broadcast Radio Australia through three transmitters, each of 250 kilowatt power.
The three transmitters, by the way, were not damaged by Cyclone Tracy and are still in good condition on the Cox Peninsula. The article continued:
The Carnarvon station has only one 250 kilowatt transmitter and another 100 kilowatt transmitter.
And while Radio Australia is broadcasting below its capability, Moscow, Peking and America are picking up millions of listeners to their broadcasts.
Radio Moscow has 60 transmitters broadcasting to Asia every day, the Voice of America has 40 and Radio Peking 30.
But, according to a survey published by the BBC in 1975, Radio Australia was by far the most popular station in Indonesia and many other countries.
Now its low power output can’t compete with other stations, especially in the prime Asian listening time between 6 and 7 a.m.
An article in the Melbourne Herald of 1 September also referred to the BBC survey. It stated:
A BBC survey in Indonesia published in 1975 showed that Radio Australia was the most popular station. A survey of 1 6 towns in Sumatra and Java revealed a regular audience in just those towns of 1 .5 million people.
A Voice of America survey in India showed that Radio Australia had almost two million listeners there.
Another survey in Malaysia revealed 77,000 regular listeners.
Radio Australia broadcasts almost around the clock in English to Asia, the Pacific, North America, Europe and Africa.
It also transmits in Cantonese, standard Chinese, Japanese, French, Pidgin, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Thai.
The pity of all this is that we have a facility in Darwin which could be used but we have lost the audience of our friends in the north and I think this is most unfortunate. I believe that despite the demands of finance and other areas in Australia these days a much higher priority should be given to Radio Australia on the Cox Peninsula. High priority should be given to the reconstruction of the aerials on the Cox Peninsula so that this Radio Australia station can operate again and transmit Australian news and world events as seen through our eyes to the people of South East Asia. I think this is important.
As I mentioned, Radio Australia transmits a weak signal whereas other countries such as China and Russia transmit much stronger beams. I was told the other day by a person who lives in Arnhem Land that he can receive only transmissions from Peking and Moscow and that he would like to know what is happening in the Northern Territory at the moment. He said that he would not mind hearing a bit of English now and then. I think it is rather a pity that people in the outback can receive only the voice of overseas countries and not programs transmitted from within Australia.
I turn now to the second matter I wish to talk about today, namely, the proposals to bring shortwave high frequency radio to the people of the outback. Prior to cyclone Tracy it had been planned that two shortwave transmitters would be installed on Cox Peninsula. It was the intention of the authorities in those days to beam signals through the outback for the benefit of the people there, who receive very little news these days because they cannot pick up the broadcast band of the smaller towns in the Northern Territory. It was to be done through what was to be called the Territory inland HF shortwave facility. Of course, when the facilities at Cox Peninsula were blown apart these transmitters were installed at Carnarvon and Shepparton. So despite the plan to bring about a good reliable shortwave band for broadcasts to the outback this has not occurred. So the situation now, as I understand it and as I have been advised by the Australian Telecommunications Commission, is that the people of the outback will not receive any upgrading in radio facilities until the Cox Peninsula aerials are rebuilt and other transmitters are installed so that shortwave radio signals can be beamed through the outback. The Australian Broadcasting Commission facilities at Cox Peninsula are provided by the Telecommunications Commission. Of course, the ABC is the agency which would operate the new shortwave service.
The Northern Territory is a vast place. It is more than half a millions square miles in area. I will now outline the broadcasting system in the Northern Territory. In Darwin radio station 8DR broadcasts at 2 kilowatts. Its effective range within the primary service area is approximately 60 to 80 miles. A person travelling down the track has to travel another 200 miles south before he gets the slightest sound out of his wireless. He will then pick up 8KN in Katherine, which broadcasts at 50 watts and covers no more than the minimum town area, say 12 miles. I am not speaking about Arnhem Land or the Barkly Tableland. I am speaking only of reception along the Stuart Highway, which is the main artery of the Territory. Further south at Tennant Creek 8TC broadcasts at 1 kilowatt. It covers the towns and the mines within a radius of something like 40 miles. If a person travels further south he will lose reception once again until he comes to Alice Springs, 330 miles away, when he will hear the sounds of 8AL. At present it broadcasts at a frequency of 200 watts and shortly it will go up to 2 kilowatts. When this upgrading takes place I understand that this radio station will have a range of something like 70 miles. Until its range is improved the quality of reception, particularly in summer months, will be very poor.
If a person wants to wander off the track he can go to Nhulunbuy, where he can listen to station 8GO Gove. It has a 500 watt transmitter which covers only the town and the Yirrkala Aboriginal settlement. As far as I know, Groote Eylandt receives perhaps only the weakest of signals. It is my estimation that one-quarter or possibly slightly less of the Northern Territory’s population receives absolutely no news or wireless reception from the Northern Territory stations. Included in this category are people on mining fields, Aboriginal settlements, station homesteads and so on. It is a rather incredible situation, but I do not think that it is irrecoverable.
I have suggested that the Australian Government should give a high priority to the reconstruction of the aerials at Cox Peninsula for Radio Australia so that once again we can contact our friends in South East Asia by means of a stronger radio transmission. I suggest that the whole matter of radio transmitting in the Northern Territory should be reconsidered. After all, transmitters to provide a shortwave service to the Territory really have nothing in common with Radio Australia. I understand that signals from these transmitters hit the ground and jump up again ad infinitum, causing interference in other areas. If these transmitters are placed at Cox Peninsula they may be subjected to cyclones and strong winds and may be damaged. One has to admit that it will be some years before those transmitters are put in, but if they are put at Cox Peninsula there will be considerable interference in the area. All in all, it could well be that the proposal to put high frequency inland transmitters at Cox Peninsula for the benefit of outback people will have some drawbacks. Perhaps a better proposal to upgrade radio reception and transmitters in the Territory in the very near future would be to consider Katherine and Alice Springs as two locations for shortwave stations which would not only cover the whole of the Northern Territory but also assist in giving good radio reception to the Kimberleys and areas of Queensland. As far as I know, and I am no expert on radio -
– Go on. Do not be modest.
– I have been told that I am. I am told very many things. I believe some of them; I do not believe others. In this case I believe that a shortwave signal beamed directly into the ionosphere will have an umbrella effect and provide over a good radius reception free from the skipping effect and interference from other stations interstate. By some little upgrading of the ABC’s existing facilities at 8KN in Katherine and 9AL in Alice Springs the people in the Northern Territory could be given good and reliable shortwave reception very quickly. I do not know whether the authorities have considered this matter but I believe that it has been put to them. Of course, there are people in authority who are for and against proposals. Arguments are advanced as to why things should be done and why they should not be done. But it seems to me that the advice and suggestions that have been put forward from the system in the Northern Territory can be meaningful and, as I said before, bring good reception and up-to-date news to the people of the Territory.
This is a most urgent and important matter for the people of the outback. I do not think that they can wait for the introduction of a national communications satellite system. This may take some six to 10 years to introduce. Nor do I believe that the people of the inland can wait until the facilities of” Radio Australia at Cox Peninsula are rebuilt. I ask the Government to take note of the request and the advice that has come from the radio technicians in the Northern Territorythat shortwave facilities be installed at Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs to bring reliable radio transmissions to the people.
– I want to refer to a number of matters. This is the first reading debate on a money Bill and, as I have not had an opportunity to speak to date on the Budget and may not get an opportunity to do so at this late stage in this session of Parliament, I want to refer to a number of important matters which I feel ought to be exposed at this time. I make my first accusation- I think that that is the correct word to use- in respect of the Australian Government and the Department of Defence. The Australian people are being told less than they ought to know about the joint United States of America-Australia defence-space research facility at Pine Gap. I have raised this matter in the Senate before. In particular, I raised the matter in relation to the activities of a certain person there only a few months ago. I do not know the cause of the lack of information. It appears that it is due to the fact that the United States of America, which owns the area even though it is supposed to be a joint United States-Australian facility, is probably either not telling the Department of Defence and the Australian Government precisely what is going on at Pine Gap or is misleading them.
I refer now to a communication that was released in January 1967 by the then Minister for Defence, Mr Allen Fairhall. He made this statement in relation to another statement that he made on 1 1 December 1 966, the previous year. I will read this statement in full; it is not a long one. The Minister stated:
The Minister for Defence, Mr Allen Fairhall, announced on December 1 1 that the Australian and United States Governments had agreed to establish a joint United StatesAustralian Defence-Space Research Facility in the vicinity of Alice Springs, Northern Territory.
This facility, the Minister said, would be operated by the Australian Defence Department and the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the United States Department of Defence. A variety of research projects would be carried out, and the results obtained would be available to both countries.
The facility would be built about 12 miles south-west of Alice Springs. About 10 square miles of land would be required as a buffer zone to reduce electrical interference, although the facility itself would be built on an area of approximately fifty acres.
The Minister added: ‘The facility will include its own power plant, air-conditioned laboratories to house electronic equipment, and two radomes, each of which will enclose a large antenna. No launching or firing operations will be conducted on the site and it will be possible to continue grazing stock in the buffer zone. ‘
The prime contractor will be Collins Radio Company, of Dallas, Texas, US. Australian sub-contractors will share the construction work. Construction is expected to begin early this year and is planned to be completed in 1 969.
Many Australians were very critical of the construction of this facility, particularly so close to a fairly large town in central Australia. We feared that it could become a nuclear target. In fact, there is every indication that the base is a nuclear target. In a confrontation with a foreign power, even if a nuclear warhead aimed in that general direction scored a bull’s eye hit on the facility itself, the town of Alice Springs would still be wiped out and quite a number of miles of the surrounding countryside would be devastated. We have received all sorts of strange assurances over the years that, in fact, this was not likely to happen and we have been told a number of untruths about the operation of the base.
I have a number of photostat copies of documents which relate to the facility and I want to go through them in some detail. The first is a photograph of the facility which was taken in 1969 shortly after its completion. It shows two radomes quite clearly. According to the statement made in January 1967 by Mr Fairhall, that was all that were to be constructed at the facility. But it did not stop at that. Some months ago the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) said that the facility was to be declared open area so that people could go in to it to have a look around. This did not happen. It will be remembered that on that occasion I named a gentleman who used awkward methods and some not quite ethical methods in an effort to try to find out the names, addresses and occupations of people who took part in a peaceful demonstration or who looked like taking part in a peaceful demonstration at the time the facility was to be declared open for public scrutiny.
I went to the facility some years ago when it was closed and I was stopped at the gate. Incidentally, I have a photographic record of my entry being blocked at the gate of the facility. I was told that I could not go into it- that it was a closed defence area. There was a public outcry at the time about the secrecy of the operations being carried out there. Some time after that, the then Minister for Defence- I think he was the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser)- said that I could go into the area if I wanted. I merely had tried to establish a principle that there should not be secret bases on Australian soil even if the area had been excised for a foreign power.
This is not the only such facility in Australia. There are two others- one in South Australia and one in Western Australia. The second biggest facility is at North West Cape in Western Australia. I make particular reference to this facility because the Australian public has been told less than the truth. I understand from reasonable sources that another radome is to be built at the Pine Gap facility very shortly. These two photographs which I have were taken on two different dates in 1 969. They quite clearly show only two radomes. This subsequent photograph, which was taken in 1975, clearly shows five radomes. The facility has now been extended and there are six radomes. If a seventh radome has been built, certainly there has been no public announcement of it by the Australian Government, the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) or by his Department.
There is one other point I wish to mention: The receiving discs in the radomes are supposed to be in a fixed position. I understand that one disc, that for the big radome, was supposed to be positioned in such a way that it could receive data only from one satellite. Some time ago the top of that radome was renewed. These two photographs clearly show that it is, in fact, a revolving disc. It is not a fixed disc. We have never been told this although we were informed in public statements that it was a fixed disc. I suggest that either the Australian Government has been hoodwinked or that it knows the truth and is not prepared to tell the Australian people. If the facility is as large as it appears to be from direct evidence and from circumstantial evidence, more is going on at Pine Gap than appears to have been released by the Government. The Minister for Defence, his Department and the Government ought to take a serious look at the whole operation at Pine Gap and make a clear cut public statement admitting that it is a possible nuclear target or even a target for conventional weapons should an air armada come in from the north of Australia or from any other pan of Australia.
I am tired of being fobbed off and I am sure that the majority of Australians are tired of being fobbed off by this Government when information is sought concerning what is supposed to be a legitimate operation. If it is a defence operation with which this country is deeply involved, there ought to be no secret about it. If we have little or no involvement in it, the Australian Government ought to be big enough and statesmanlike enough to make that admission publicly. The curiosity on the one hand and the fear on the other hand of the Australian population deserves to be satisfied. I will leave it at that for the moment, but I propose to say more during this session if satisfactory answers are not forthcoming from the Government in relation to the activities of the facility and whether a seventh radome is to be built at the facility.
During his speech on the Budget the other night and when he was speaking earlier today Senator Kilgariff made a number of pertinent remarks to which I want to refer. I agree with him about the lack of radio and television facilities in remote areas of Australia. I too come from a remote area and represent a thinly populated part of Australia which does not have these facilities either. Might I add that in 1975 we were promised a radio station covering the Torres Strait and the remote areas of Cape York and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Station 4JK at Julia Creek, which was built some years ago, did fill a fairly large gap, but people in the Gulf and Cape York areas, and even as far south as Cooktown, do not receive television transmission at all. It is only at odd hours of the day, usually late in the evening that one can pick up a satisfactory radio signal in some areas. At other times of the day it is not possible to pick up a radio signal at all. Transport shortages are the order of the day in these remote areas so that the daily newspaper which the people in the metropolitan areas enjoy with their breakfast is a week old when it is seen in some of these places and on occasions it is up to a fortnight old. It is not possible to have any sort of communication unless radio facilities are available to the people who live, by choice or otherwise, in the remote areas. On that point I do not disagree with what Senator Kilgariff has said.
There are a number of other things that I wish to raise, but I understand that a couple of Bills are to be dealt with and I therefore seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Prior to the Committee seeking leave to sit again matters had been raised by Senator Evans and Senator Cavanagh and I undertook to give consideration to them and to come back to the Committee. Senator Cavanagh and Senator Evans both raised objections to the wording of clause 7, and I have put to the Government the matters they raised. The Government has considered their requests and I now wish to move an amendment to clause 7 of the Departure Tax Collection Bill, which reads in part:
1 ) Where an authorized officer-
The Government is prepared to move that amendment in the light of the matters raised by Senator Evans and Senator Cavanagh. I believe that the wording of the amendment will meet the objections made by them to the original clause. The Government seeks the support of the Senate for the amendment.
– I simply confirm what the Minister has said. The amendment now before the Committee very satisfactorily meets the substance of the objection to Clause 7 that Senator Cavanagh and I had. I am grateful to the Minister and the Government for acceding to our suggestions. I only hope that they will be as flexible and sensitive in the future when issues of this kind, particularly involving the liberty of the subject, are raised.
– I too want to express my thanks to the Minister for accepting the arguments that have been raised. It is regrettable that the Government did not accept the suggestion in relation to clause 13, but I am assured by Senator Evans that it is a normal procedure in taxation Bills. We will not pursue that matter any further. Again, this is a situation where the Minister has accepted the reasonable arguments put forward, and I think that lends some weight to the view that the Senate is a House of review. This is something to which I think the whole of the House of Representatives would have agreed had it been brought to notice. However, it was not, and on this occasion the matter was raised by the Opposition in the Senate, which I suppose is its role. I am sure that it would have been supported by Government senators. I would welcome Government senators paying more attention to and participating in the reviewing of legislation, which is our role in this chamber.
Amendment agreed to.
Departure Tax Bill agreed to.
Departure Tax Collection Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Departure Tax Bill reported without amendment.
Departure Tax Collection Bill reported with an amendment.
Bills (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a third time.
– I inform the Senate that I have received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) nominating senators to be appointed members of a Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act.
Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senators Coleman, Davidson, Melzer, Missen and Walters, having been duly nominated in accordance with the resolution of the Senate of 17 August 1978, as varied on 28 September 1978, be appointed members of the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to make a number of amendments to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act which has been in operation for two years. In that time the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has been working in co-operation with the Queensland Government and the Great Barrier Reef Consultative Committee. Clause 3 of the Bill removes from the principal Act the requirement that the Chairman of the Authority must hold special academic qualifications and have experience in the field of biological conservation. The provision to be removed by this Bill is considered not only unduly to limit the range of prospective appointees but could leave open to challenge the appointment of a person who appears to be very suitably qualified.
The decision to include this amendment in no sense indicates that the Government sees a different role emerging for the Authority and its Chairman. Quite the contrary. The Government recognises that the position of Chairman is a most important one and the appointee must certainly hold suitable qualifications or have the specialised experience necessary to guide the Authority in carrying out its functions. This concept is reflected in the amendment to sub-section 6 of section 10 which will require the Chairman as well as the other members of the Authority to possess qualifications or extensive experience in a field related to the functions of the Authority.
The Bill empowers the Authority to appoint one of its members to the Great Barrier Reef Consultative Committee and makes the necessary machinery amendments to sections 23 to 27 to distinguish between a member appointed by the Authority and those appointed by the Minister. At present the Authority is required to nominate one of its members for appointment by the Minister. The amendment will allow flexibility in the appointment of the Authority’s representative and will overcome a difficulty that has arisen under the principal Act whereby the Authority’s representative is eligible to remain a member of the Consultative Committee after he ceases to be a member of the Authority. This difficulty has arisen because under the Act the period of a member’s appointment to the Authority and Consultative Committee do not coincide.
The Bill amends the definition of the Great Barrier Reef region to close the region at the tip of Cape York Peninsula and exclude the Saumarez Reef from the region. Advice has been obtained that a failure to close the region gives rise to serious legal doubt on whether a region has in fact been declared for the purposes of the Act. The amendment will enable proclamations to be made under the Act declaring parts of the region to form part of the Marine Park. The amendments exclude the Saumarez Reef from the region as it is part of the Coral Sea Islands Territory. The description previously included part only of the Reef. Finally the Bill makes a number of minor machinery amendments to reflect current drafting practice.
I would like to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the introduction of this Bill to provide honourable senators with a brief outline of the Authority’s activities. In July 1976, Sir Charles Barton, formerly Co-ordinator-General of Queensland and Dr Joseph Baker, Director of the Roche Research Institute of Marine Pharmacology were appointed as part-time members to the Authority. The Authority was fortunate to have an eminently qualified biologist in Dr Donald McMichael as Acting Chairman during its formation. The Authority has prepared a report for submission to the Governor-General in the near future recommending the declaration of the first part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. This part includes the Capricorn and Bunker group of reefs and Lady Elliott Island. In the development of this report the Authority viewed the participation of the public as a vital element in the planning for the Marine Park. This view is one which has already drawn favourable comment in the press and from members of the public.
After declaration of an area as part of the Marine Park the Authority’s next task is to prepare a zoning plan for that area taking into account the diversity of interests and present activities on that part of the Reef. Once again the Authority will seek the views of the public to ensure the development of a workable and rational plan for that area. Apart from its task in relation to the declaration and zoning of the Marine Park, the Authority is responsible for ensuring that research which is relevant to the Marine Park is carried out. The Authority recognises the importance of the work undertaken by the three research stations located on Heron, One Tree and Lizard Islands, and has arranged for research on the Marine Park to be carried out. The Authority will continue to carry out research and gather information relevant to the care and conservation of the Reef.
The Authority and the Queensland Government together face an enormous responsibility to conserve the Reef. It must protect it against exploitation and destruction whilst, at the same time, taking care not to deprive the public of the enjoyment of this unique resource. An answer to this apparent dilemma, I believe, lies in the implementation of an effective and rational planning scheme for the Marine Park which is based on a consideration of the interests of individuals, community groups and organisations as well as the known biological and physical features of the Reef. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Bills being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken throughout all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
Trade Marks Amendment Bill 1978
This Bill represents a major initiative by the Government in developing the Australian industrial property system to enable that system more adequately to fulfil its basic function as a mechanism for encouraging and assisting industrial development and commercial activity. The specific area of industrial property with which the Bill is concerned is trade marks and the purpose of the Bill is to amend the Trade Marks Act 1955 to extend the business and commercial activities within which trade marks may be used in order to qualify for the statutory protection provided by registration under that Act.
Currently, the Trade Marks Act is limited to the registration of marks which are used or intended to be used in the course of trade for the purpose of identifying the goods of a person entitled to use a particular mark and distinguishing those goods from the corresponding goods of competitors. This Bill will extend the scope of the protection provided by that Act by permitting the registration of marks which are used in the course of trade to identify and distinguish the services supplied by a particular business. In providing for the registration of marks used in connection with services, the Bill will remove an undesirable gap in Australian trade mark legislation which has seriously disadvantaged an important segment of Australian business.
As honourable senators will appreciate, trade marks have become an important factor in restricting unfair trading and encouraging trade expansion through competition. In this context, mark ‘ is used in a generic sense and includes not only such things as symbols but also names, words, letters and numerals. The provision of statutory protection for trade marks used in respect of goods has assisted the traders involved by providing sufficiently easily enforceable proprietorial rights to discourage unfair trading. Similarly, the exclusion from such protection of trade marks which are incapable of distinguishing the goods of a particular trader or which are likely to deceive or cause confusion has assisted consumers by discouraging consumer deception.
Commercial activities, however, are not confined to trade in goods. The provision of business and professional services, such as transportation, repair, banking, insurance and entertainment constitutes an important segment of modern commerce and the individual businesses engaged in such services have the same needs as other businesses in identifying and distinguishing their services. On 26 January 1978, the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) announced the Government’s proposal to introduce statutory protection for trade marks used in relation to services. That announcement received unqualified approval by service industries and industry organisations. The present Bill is intended to implement the Government’s proposal in this matter.
Prior to this Bill, successive Australian Trade Marks Acts have recognised as trade marks, only marks used, or proposed to be used, in relation to goods. This restriction was a legacy of British trade mark legislation and initially reflected the relative insignificance of business and industrial services at the date of the transfer to the Commonwealth of the power to legislate in this field. The limitation of the concept of registrable trade marks to marks used in relation to goods has been a continuing feature of British trade mark legislation which has been reflected in the corresponding Australian legislation. The limitation however has disadvantaged those businesses offering services and using a mark to distinguish their particular service from the corresponding services of competitors. In the absence of statutory protection such businesses have been forced to rely on their common law rights based on the reputation achieved by their marks.
The question of the introduction in Great Britain of statutory protection for marks used in relation to services was considered by a departmental committee on British trade mark law and practice which was established in 1972 and reported in 1973. That committee received evidence from all the main organisations representing industry, trade, commerce and the professions, all of which were uniformly in favour of extending the British Trade Marks Act to provide for the registration of marks used for distinguishing services. The committee recommended, inter alia, that the British Trade Marks Act should be amended to permit the registration of marks used, or proposed to be used, for distinguishing services offered in the course of trade or business and that the provisions relating to goods should apply so far as feasible to marks for services.
Extension of the trade marks recognised by statute to include marks used in relation to services has already been effected in the trade marks legislation of a substantial number of countries. In the United States of America, the Lanham Trademark Act of 1946 included service marks as entitled to statutory protection under the Act. In addition to the United States, 42 other countries including major industrial countries, such as France, Italy, Sweden, Canada and the USSR and neighbouring countries, such as the Philippines, Taiwan and Korea had, by the end of 1970, introduced legislation providing statutory protection for marks for services. In this respect therefore Australia lags behind many of the countries with which it maintains extensive trade relations.
The absence in Australia of statutory protection for marks for services has significant consequences for Australian businesses operating services in overseas countries. Under the legislation of a number of countries, the entitlement of foreign businesses to statutory protection for marks used in relation to services is conditional upon the provision of corresponding statutory protection in the country of origin of those businesses. Accordingly, the absence of statutory protection in Australia for marks for services constitutes a basis in a number of countries for refusing Australian owners of marks for services, entitlement to register their marks in those countries. Australian business can thus be significantly disadvantaged in relation to those competitors able to obtain statutory protection for their trade marks.
Until recently, it has been generally accepted that the Commonwealth constitutional power to legislate in respect of trade marks did not extend to marks used in relation to services. An early judgment of the High Court, in the Union Label case in 1 908, concluded that the Commonwealth legislative powers in respect of trade marks did not extend to marks applied to goods to identify the source of labour employed by the manufacturers of those goods. On the basis of that judgment, it has since been accepted that the Commonwealth was not empowered to legislate in respect of marks used in connection with the provision of services. The Government, however, has recently been informed by its legal advisers that that conclusion is not consistent with interpretations of the Constitution by the High
Court subsequent to the Union Label case and that the trade marks provision of section 5 1 (xviii) of the Constitution does, in fact, empower the Commonwealth to legislate in respect of marks used to identify and distinguish services. This Bill therefore will implement that power by including trade marks used in relation to services as registrable trade marks under the Trade Marks Act.
The main purpose of the Bill is achieved, firstly, by the extension of the definition of a trade mark’ in section 6 of the principal Act to include marks used, or proposed to be used, in connection with services as marks constituting trade marks under the Act. Trade marks for services are therefore intended to be treated on an equal footing with trade marks for goods. Secondly, the BUI extends the provisions of the principal Act to trade marks for services by amending where appropriate, the references to ‘goods’ to include ‘ goods or services ‘.
The Bill also recognises the corresponding potential for conflict between substantially identical or deceptively similar marks used by different proprietors in relation to services or services and goods as is recognised in the present Act in respect of trade marks used in relation to goods. The Bill avoids such conflict by extending the present prohibition against the registration of substantially identical or deceptively similar trade marks in respect of goods to services and introducing a prohibition against the registration of such marks in respect of goods and closely related services, and vice versa.
Finally, under the principal international industrial property agreement to which Australia is a party, this country is required to undertake to protect service marks. Although that obligation does not extend to a commitment to provide for the registration of service marks, there has been a long established trend by the other countries subscribing to that agreement to provide statutory protection for service marks. This Bill is therefore consistent with international trends in the protection of marks used in relation to services. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Patents Amendment Bill 1978
This Bill represents the first of a number of proposed changes to Australian industrial property legislation which I hope to introduce into this and later sessions of the Parliament to better adapt that legislation in catering for the practical needs of Australian industry and commerce. The initial changes are particularly intended to modify and extend the scope of existing legislation to encourage increased industrial productivity through innovation and improve commercial competitiveness.
At the turn of this century Australia had achieved a high level of innovative activity. The necessities created by a different geographical environment and worsening economic conditions lead to outstanding and profitable inventions in the agricultural field. Innovative activity not only improves productivity but more importantly it creates new employment opportunities. The portfolio of the Minister for Productivity has a major role to play in the development of a climate in Australia which is more conducive to innovation having direct industrial application and this is seen as the main purpose of a patent system.
The ownership of inventions, trade marks and designs creates important monopoly rights recognised to a greater or lesser degree in most countries of the world. Laws in Australia have in the past tended to concentrate on the narrow legal issues of the regulation and grant of those monopoly rights. Little attention has been given to benefits which may accrue to an industrialised society by the existence or non-existence of industrial property laws. I have been concerned at this apparent lack of a coherent policy in developing industrial property laws relevant to Australia’s present and future industrial capacity. For this reason the Minister has established an Industrial Property Advisory Committee which comprises industry, technical and economic representation. This Committee is an ongoing body which will undertake a continuous review of our industrial property laws and practices and advise me on proposals to reform industrial property laws and practices.
The present Bill involves a change in the current provisions of the Patents Act 1952 governing the publication of Austarlian patent specifications in order to reduce the period during which the information contained in those documents is unavailable to the Austraiian public. The primary purpose of that change is to encourage a positive approach to invention by Australian industry by providing it with earlier access than is presently available to the technical developments which are the subject of an application for patent protection in this country.
Currently, approximately 11,000 effective patent applications are lodged in Australia annually in respect of inventions made both in this country and overseas. Each application includes a document- the so-called complete specification- containing a full description of the technological advance made by the inventor and, additionally, a definition of the scope of the patent monopoly claimed by the applicant. Under the present legislation, a complete specification is not required to be published until 18 months after the date of lodgement of that document at the Patent Office. As the legislation also provides that a complete specification need not be lodged until 12 months after the filing of an Australian application for a patent or the filing of an earlier foreign application for protection of the same invention, the present provision for the publication of complete specifications involves a delay of up to 2Vi years during which information on technological developments considered sufficiently important by their owners to be made the subject of patent protection is unavailable to Australian industry. Moreover, even if information of such developments is obtainable from other sources, industries interested in commercially exploiting such developments, are unable during that period to determine whether they are entitled to do so without infringing an Australian patent.
The present provisions in the Patents Act for the publication of complete specifications also involve a further disadvantage to Australian industry as a result of a recent and increasing trend in the patent laws of the major overseas industrial countries to require earlier publication of patent specifications than is provided in Australia under those provisions. As approximately 90 per cent of effective patent applications in Australia are based on prior overseas patent applications, it follows that the technical information in respect of almost all those applications is available to foreign industry before it is disclosed in Australia. Such a situation necessarily acts to the detriment of the competitive position of Australian industry relative to its foreign competitors. In these circumstances, it is clearly desirable that the present excessive delay in the publication of Australian complete specifications should be removed.
This Bill will remove as much of that delay as disadvantages both the Australian public, particularly Australian industry, and also Australian inventors by providing for publication of complete specifications 18 months after the earliest priority date claimed by the applicant. The significance of the priority date arises from the fact that a feature of Australian patent legislation, based on the consequential benefit to Australian inventors and a commitment to overseas applicants under a long standing international industrial property convention permits the priority date claimed by an applicant to antedate the date of lodgment of his complete specification by up to 12 months. In the case of most Australian patent applications, the priority date is in fact approximately 12 months earlier than the date of lodgment of a complete specification. Accordingly, the amendment proposed by this Bill will result in most complete specifications being published 12 months earlier than is presently the case. In other words, the technological information contained in almost all Australian patent specifications will become available to Australian industry approximately 12 months earlier than is presently the case.
This provision also provides a number of incidental but not unimportant benefits. Firstly, it will make the Australian patent system, so far as publication is concerned, consistent with the national patent systems of many overseas countries. It will also conform to the publication requirements of the regional patent system recently adopted by most European countries- the European Patent Convention- and also the international patent system- the Patent Cooperation Treaty- which has recently been adopted by most of the major industrial countries. The resultant uniformity will result in simultaneous publications of inventions in all of the countries in which patent protection is sought for those inventions.
In addition to the benefit to Australian industry through the earlier publication of complete specifications, it is worth noting that the requirement for publication under this Bill does not deprive Australian inventors from being able to withdraw a completed patent application before the complete specification becomes open to public inspection. In circumstances where an inventor does not wish to proceed with an application, the non-publication of his complete specification enables him to retain the right to lodge a subsequent application in respect of the same invention. The present provision reserves to such applicants a minimum period of six months within which to make such decision before the contents of his complete specification are disclosed to the public. I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business after 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 22 August, on motion by Senator Button:
That the Freedom of Information Bill 1 978 be referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs for inquiry and report as soon as possible.
-by leave-I said as much as I had to say and as much as I believe that it is really appropriate to say when I moved the motion that this matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. I seek leave to amend my motion by adding the following words:
– I think it is quite obvious that these two matters have been considered by various honourable senators and the amendment to the motion is regarded as appropriate. Might I just state briefly the reasons for it. The Archives Bill was presented to the Senate at the same time as the Freedom of Information Bill. It contains issues relating to the national archives which, in the view of some honourable senators at least, involve the same principles in relation to the disclosure of documents and the methods by which the disclosure of documents may be brought about as those in the Freedom of Information Bill itself. For that reason it is felt appropriate that the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs should examine that Bill at the same time. I envisage that the major inquiry of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs would be directed towards the provisions of the freedom of information legislation, and it may be that after the members of the Committee determine what principles they think should apply in relation to that legislation they could as a more supplementary matter examine the terms of the Archives Bill to see whether they think that those principles are appropriate for application to legislation of that kind.
The second paragraph of the amendment deals with the question of the Archives Bill being referred to the Standing Committee on Education and the Arts for inquiry and report as soon as possible. There are some difficulties about determining the proper demarcation of functions of various standing committees of the Senate in relation to some legislation that comes here. The Standing Committee on Education and the Arts has considered over a long period that libraries and other information sources are within the province of that Committee. In pursuit of its function in relation to both education and the arts the Committee is concerned to deal with aspects of the information system of this country provided by libraries, resource centres and other institutions which disseminate information, and it is in respect of those aspects that the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts, I envisage, would examine this reference. From the point of view of the Committee it might be quite a small reference and it may be that from time to time the Standing Committee on Education and the Arts would want to consult with the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs about the matters which it is considering in relation to the Archives Bill. In my view as the mover and, I believe, in the view of other honourable senators, whether it is appropriate for a full scale reference investigation to be embarked on by either committee is a matter for each of the committees and I do not think that it is a matter in respect of which I should delay the Senate in debate now. I know that at least some of my colleagues on this side of the chamber are anxious to speak on this motion and on the amendment.
– The Government will not oppose the motion as amended now by Senator Button to refer the Freedom of Information Bill and the Archives Bill to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. There has already been a good opportunity for the public to consider both the principles on which the Freedom of Information Bill is based and its detailed provisions. I want to say a few words tonight and to take this opportunity of making some reply to criticisms which have been levelled at the Bill. As I mentioned in my second reading speech, the tabling at the end of 1976 of the interdepartmental committee report on freedom of information legislation provided an opportunity for public debate on the principles. The detailed provisions of the Bill have been available for public debate since the Bill was introduced on 9 June 1978.
The public debate that has taken place on the Bill has failed to appreciate that the Bill would make real and substantial changes to the present law. Access to information held by the Government would be based on a legally enforceable right rather than being dependent upon the discretion of Ministers and officials. For the first time, a member of the public under this Bill will have the right to demand information and Ministers and officials who seek to deny access must justify their refusal. For the first time, there will be a positive obligation on departments to make available to the public manuals and guidelines by which decisions affecting the public are made.
Let me speak quite plainly on this matter. A deal of nonsense has been spoken about this Bill. It is a distortion of the true position to suggest, as some have done, that the passage of the Bill would result in less information being made available to the public. Indeed, some of the critics would appear to be suggesting that the legislation has been deliberately devised to ensure that that is the result. Nothing could be further from the truth and those who have sought to perpetuate that myth not only do less than justice to the intentions of the Government, but more importantly they do a grave disservice to the Australian public by trivialising the debate on such an important subject.
That there would be some criticism of the Bill was foreseen because the Government has to make a judgment in framing the legislation as to how far disclosure of information could be compelled without disrupting the operations of government itself or adversely affecting business or privacy interests. Acting responsibly the Government was required to achieve a workable solution and balance. The criticism that has so far been voiced misses the essential and positive features of the Bill. It fails to recognise that the Bill, together with the other initiatives taken by the Government in the area of administrative law reform, will produce a new climate- a change in the attitudes of the bureaucracy and the public towards the disclosure of official information.
Despite the sweeping allegations about the imperfections of the Bill the truth is that it has already had a beneficial effect in the sense that it has been used as a touchstone in determining whether certain information would be made available to the public. For example, 34 questions were placed on the Senate Notice Paper by Senator Missen on the basis that the information had not been disclosed by the relevant departments. The departments, as part of an exercise, reassessed the questions in the light of the Freedom of Information Bill. The result of the reassessment was that 26 questions have been answered in accordance with the provisions of the Bill, four questions have been lodged for answer or are with the Minister for approval, and four questions still remain to be answered. Again, by way of example, some very important statistical information held by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer was tabled recently in the Parliament on my advice during the period in which I was the Minister for Administrative Services, applying, as I did, the principles of the Bill. The information sought was provided.
I think it is clear that the positive effects of the Bill need to be stressed once again. Firstly, I emphasise that the Bill will ensure that members of the public are fully informed about the structure of Government departments and agencies and the grounds on which they exercise those decision-making powers that affect members of the public. The second positive effect is to give to members of the public a right of access to a wide range of documents held by Ministers and Government agencies without requiring any proof or interest. These are, indeed, great steps forward.
The Government believes that the Bill is based on sound principles. Allowing for differences demanded by the fact that the legislation will operate within a Westminster-based system of government, the Bill compares well with the legislation in the few countries that have freedom of information.
In my second reading speech on the Bill, I emphasised that the Government had been concerned to adopt a proper approach to the question of final authority to decide whether the public interest required certain kinds of information to be exempt. The Bill has been much criticised because there is no appeal in some cases. The need to protect internal working documents has been recognised in every country that has freedom of information legislation. The reasons for non-disclosure of documents of this kind are to ensure that discussions between a Minister and his closest advisers are as frank as they ought to be. I refer, as I did in my second reading speech, to the views of one of the most eminent lawyers in recent times in the English speaking world. I refer to Lord Reid and what he said in the leading case of Conway and Rimmer. He said:
The business or government is difficult enough as it is, and no government could contemplate with equanimity the inner workings of the government machine being exposed to the gaze of those ready to criticise without adequate knowledge of the background and perhaps with some axe to grind. And that must, in my view, also apply to all documents concerned with policy making within departments including, it may be, minutes and the like by quite junior officials and correspondence with outside bodies.
The Government has taken the view that documents of this kind should not be subject to mandatory disclosure. It believes that the Bill embodies a proper balance between the responsibility of Ministers and the desirability of external review.
The debate on the Bill has obscured the magnitude of the positive step that has been taken by the Government. While legislation of this kind has been in operation in Sweden for a long time and in the United States for some 1 1 or 12 years, this is the first Bill on the subject to be introduced into any country with a system of government that clearly parallels our own. The Canadian Government, for example, has gone no further than to publish a Green Paper on Freedom of Information. In a White Paper, published only in July 1978, on the revision of the United Kingdom Official Secrets Act, the United Kingdom Government- a Labor government- expressed its view on freedom of information and an open government in the following terms:
In order to achieve the reasonable objectives of open government in the British context, where the policies and decisions of the executives are under constant and vigilant scrutiny by Parliament and Ministers are directly answerable in Parliament, it may be neither necessary nor desirable to proceed to legislation of a kind which may be justifiable in other and often very different contexts- for instance, that of the United States . . . this is a matter on which the Government has come to no conclusion and has an open mind.
Since the Bill was introduced I have had an opportunity to see at first hand some of the administrative problems arising from the freedom of information legislation in the United States. What I learned there has confirmed, in my view, the wisdom of the Government in deciding that the access provisions of the Bill should not apply retrospectively and that unreasonably short time-limits should not apply. Those who have criticised these aspects of the Bill do not have the responsibility of deciding on the allocation of administrative resources. The Government does not believe that departmental resources should be unreasonably diverted from the ordinary work of departments to answering freedom of information requests.
The Committee will need to have regard to the proper balance of interests, and to the need to maintain effective government. As I have said, the Government considers the present provisions appropriate and it reached this conclusion only after much consideration of all the issues involved. If the Senate does agree to referring the Bill to the Committee, which I fully expect it will, then I assure the Committee of the co-operation of my officers in its consideration of the Bill.
– I rise to support the amended motion moved by Senator Button. I wish to make some remarks in respect of the Archives Bill. Senator Button has made out a case for the reference of the Freedom of Information Bill to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and
Legal Affairs and later this evening my colleague, Senator Evans, also will make some remarks about that Bill.
The Opposition has many objections to and many reservations about the Archives Bill as it is drawn at present. There also has been concern expressed in the wider community about the nature of the Bill. In summary, our reservations are these: First of all, there is a waiting period of 30 years during which records must be kept before they will be made available to the Archives. I hope that the Committee considering this Bill will consider the possibility of reducing that waiting period to perhaps a period of 15 years. There would seem to be too many instances in which there is no case at all for such an extended period of time before Commonwealth records can pass to the Archives. We also have reservations about the ministerial powers in respect of the Archives Bill, and I will explain those reservations later on. The enormous number of exemptions of material and the nature and scope of the exemptions of material from the Archives even after the 30-year period is also a cause for concern. A major reservation which the Opposition has about the Bill is the provision relating to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. It would appear from the way the Bill is currently drawn that ASIO records will never become part of the Archives accessible to the public. I will have further remarks about that matter. We are dissatisfied with the nature of the appeals provision in the legislation. Finally, I would like to make some comments about the concern expressed by historians and scholars in our community as to the effect of the very restrictive nature of some of the provisions of the Bill on the ability of historians and scholars to have access to material of historical interest.
The Bill as it now stands establishes an organisation to be called the Australian Archives. Organisationally it will be within a department of the Commonwealth Public Service. The most likely department appears to be the Department of Home Affairs. Archives, unlike the Australian National Gallery and the National Library of Australia, will not be a statutory corporation and therefore will be liable to greater ministerial supervision and control than if it were a statutory authority. Clause 6 of the Bill gives extensive powers to Archives to enable it to perform its statutory functions. These include:
The establishment and control of repositories; the survey, appraisal, accessioning, arrangement and indexing of Commonwealth records; publishing material which is part of the archival resources of the Commonwealth; publishing indices of archival material; authorising the disposal or destruction of Commonwealth records; training; and providing information and facilities for persons using the material of the Archives.
The Bill provides in clause 7 for the establishment of an office of Director-General of the Australian Archives who will be a public servant. The Minister will have power to give directions to the Director-General, not inconsistent with the legislation, in relation to the exercise of his powers and duties. It seems to the Oppositionand I hope that the Committee will take note of this-that the ministerial powers are greater than are justified for material of this nature.
We also have reservations about the nature of the Commonwealth records which will not come within the Australian Archives and handling and access to them by the public. The provisions which are discussed under the heading ‘Handling and Access’ do not apply to records of a Governor-General or a former GovernorGeneral; records in the possession of the Houses of Parliament or a parliamentary department; records in the possession of a court or the registry of a court; Cabinet records, including Cabinet submissions or proposed submissions and records whose disclosure would involve the disclosure of any deliberation or decision of Cabinet except any official publication of such a decision; and Executive Council records including submissions or proposed submissions and a record whose disclosure would involve the disclosure of any deliberation or advice of the Executive Council except a record which officially publishes an act of the Governor-General acting with the advice of the Executive Council. It is also possible for the regulations to exclude from the operations of these provisions records affected by secrecy or confidentiality provisions contained in other legislation.
Clause 26 requires the transfer to the Archives of all Commonwealth records when they are no longer required and, in any case, when they are 25 years old. Clause 27 gives the Archives full and free access at all reasonable times to all Commonwealth records in the custody of another Commonwealth institution. However, there are exemptions. Two kinds of records will be exempted. We would wish the Committee to re-examine these exemptions. The two kinds of records that will be exempted are records with a continuing administrative purpose which could not be met if the records were transferred to the
Archives and records of a highly secret or confidential nature relating to matters of defence, security or international relations. Any Commonwealth institution may, with the Director-General’s consent, exempt some or all of its records from the requirements of clauses 26 and 27 and clause 28 ( 1). It is also open to the Minister responsible for the records in question to exempt some or all of the records of a Commonwealth institution although he must notify the Archives.
Clause 28 (8) provides that the concurrence of the Director-General is not required to exempt the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation records if the Director-General of ASIO determines that they should be exempt. This subclause implies that such exemption can also apply without the consent of the Minister responsible for ASIO records. That is the major objection of the Opposition to the Archives Bill at this time. There is virtually a total exemption of ASIO records- records that are 30 years old. Exemption can be made by the Director-General of ASIO alone with no notification of the Director-General of Archives and no notification of the Minister responsible for the records. This provision is totally unacceptable to the Opposition and I believe to the wider community. I hope it is one which will be changed once the Bill comes under review.
– But no one is opposing the reference.
– No one is opposing the reference, as Senator Baume says. But I would inform Senator Baume that I am taking the opportunity presented at this stage to place on record my objections with regard to the Archives Bill. 1 am not a member of the standing committee of the Senate which will examine the legal and constitutional aspects. Therefore I am placing on record my objections in the hope- not the vain hope- that the committee will amend these matters.
I refer to an article which appeared in National Times of 4 February this year which demonstrates how ASIO records are kept permanently away from public access. The article states:
ASIO is one Government department that does not accept the normal requirement that Commonwealth departments deposit their old files with the Australian Archives.
The last ASIO deposit was in 1964 but it seems that even then a lot of material was withheld. To check this we sought to find if ASIO files on a number of prominent radicals from the Left and the Right had been deposited.
The people we selected were Jack Lang (former NSW Premier), P. R. Stephenson (Australia First Movement),
L. Sharkey (Communist Party) and Adela Pankhurst Walsh (interned for Japanese sympathies during World War II). All these people are now dead and none had been politically active for some time, so there seemed to be no reason for ASIO to retain their files. All were recorded on the Archives’ massive security card index as having a number of files. The result: none had been deposited.
I cite that example of the degree to which ASIO files are being withheld even from the Archives currently. The provisions, as I have explained, in the Bill as it is now drawn up would continue a situation in which no ASIO records ever got into the Archives or were made available to the public, no matter how old they were if the DirectorGeneral of ASIO so determined. That is our major objection.
Clause 30 contains a general requirement that the Archives make all Commonwealth records in the open access period available for public access. The open access period is the period which commences 30 years from the end of the year in which the record came into existence. Of course, there are exclusions from this requirement. Again I would submit that no case has been made by the Minister for an exemption period of 30 years. Also the list of exemptions- I will not go through them now because the Senate has other business to deal with- is too long. It includes exemptions for which no case has been made out. For example, one of the areas of exemption is information whose disclosure would prejudice Commonwealth-State relations. I hope that the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs will examine that exemption. I find it difficult to conceive information of that kind which was 30 years old and which would prejudice CommonwealthState relations. I believe that the Government must make out a case for exempting such material when it is 30 years old. In fact, the exemptions are basically the same as those contained in the Freedom of Information Bill 1 978 although they are fewer in number. The Opposition has even greater objections to the exemptions contained in the Archives Bill than to those contained in the Freedom of Information Bill because of the age of the material- 30 years.
By clause 33 the Director-General is required, in consultation with the Minister responsible for the relevant records or a person authorised by the Minister, to make arrangements for determining which records in the open access period are to be treated as exempt records. He may also determine to what extent partial access to exempt records may be granted without disclosing the information which requires the records to be exempt. Determinations under this procedure are to be reviewed at appropriate intervals, having regard to the nature of the records and any other relevant circumstances. Identification of exempt records may also take place before they enter the open access period. These procedures determining what records are exempt may be either overridden or by-passed where a Minister is satisfied that a record contains information or matter in the first three exemption categories listed. Again we draw attention to this matter. It seems to give too great a power to the Minister to override or by-pass the provisions for access.
When we proceed to the procedure relating to appeals, again we find an unsatisfactory situation. The Minister may sign a certificate to the effect that certain material is exempt. While the certificate remains in force, it establishes conclusively that the record is an exempt record under the relevant clause, clause 31. The effect of this conclusive certificate is to prevent the Administrative Appeals Tribunal from reviewing the decision to give the certificate or the existence of proper grounds for the giving of the certificate. The Minister gives the certificate, the material remains exempt, and then the Minister does not have to justify his decision, nor can it be appealed against. This is a major shortcoming.
The Tribunal is prevented from reviewing a decision to give a conclusive certificate or the existence of proper grounds for the giving of the certificate. This applies to ministerial certificates of exemption because of prejudice to defence, security or international relations, breach of government to government confidences and prejudice to Commonwealth-State relations. It also applies to certificates given by the Governor-General’s official secretary that records are those of the Governor-General; certificates from the Secretary to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet that a document is a Cabinet record; and to a certificate by a secretary to the Executive Council that a document is an Executive Council record. In proceedings before the Tribunal the onus of establishing that a record is an exempt record rests upon the person so claiming.
I have gone into some detail as to the nature of the Opposition’s reservations about this Bill. In summary we would hope that the Committee would examine the length of time that material must be in the possession of the Commonwealth before it is transferred to the archives, the ministerial powers which are too great, the exemptions which are too extensive and in some cases not justified at all, the total exemption for ASIO material, the unsatisfactory nature or the limited nature of the appeals provisions against certificates of exemption. Finally, I make the point that historians and scholars will be prevented from having access to material of historical importance.
I refer briefly to an article on this subject which appeared in the Melbourne Age of 2 1 September. In this article Monash University historian Professor A. G. L. Shaw explains how the Archives Bill, as it is drawn at present, would prevent proper scholarship by historians. He says that the question of what is a Commonwealth record and what are private papers does not seem to have been answered properly in the legislation. There are several other objections that the professor has to the nature of the exemptions and the restriction. I would ask that the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs examine the reservations as expressed by Professor Shaw and take account of them when reviewing the legislation.
The Archives Bill is an extremely important Bill. It is long overdue that the Australian nation has a proper systematic archival system. I would urge very strongly that the Committee review all these unsatisfactory aspects so that in establishing a national archive system we are in fact establishing a system of access by the public and scholars to archival material and not a system which restricts even further than the situation at present access to such records.
– I join in this debate and support with a great deal of pleasure the motion as amended. As chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs I believe that I represent the views of members of the Committee when I say we welcome the motion to refer these two Bills to the Committee. I also welcome the statements made this evening by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) in regard to the legislation. It should not be taken from that that I am agreeing with everything the Attorney-General said in his statement tonight, but I have certainly noted his remarks with a great deal of interest. We very warmly welcome the offer of cooperation from his officers. Of course, this cooperation is essential to the deliberations and work of the Senate Committee which will obviously be required to ascertain the opinions of officers of the Government and departmental officers as well as members of the public generally and experts of all sorts who want to make a contribution on this subject. I note that the Attorney-General made some reference to some 34 questions of mine and made some comments on them. I will not comment on that except to say that no doubt we will be looking among other subjects with interest at the reaction to those questions and to other questions in regard to matters relevant to freedom of information.
So far as the amended motion is concerned, one recognises that one of the two Bills before us- the Archives Bill- is only partially relevant to the subject of freedom of information generally. The amendment recognises that fact. What the Committee would do under this reference is investigate those parts or aspects of the legislation that are in common, some of which have been referred to by Senator Ryan who has just spoken in the debate. Of course those aspects will be taken into account. At the same time there are other quite separate issues that arise under the Archives Bill. Criticisms have been made by some members of the community and those are matters which much more appropriately ought to be investigated by the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts. Of course we will cooperate with that Committee where there is any possibility of overlap or unnecessary action in the case of duplication. I believe that the two committees naturally will co-operate in this respect.
I want to say one or two things about the type of inquiry that will take place. The Freedom of Information Bill has been on public display for a few months and, of course, it has had a period of some five years in gestation. During that period it has been in the hands of interdeparmental committees. Contributions as to its formation have come mostly from government authorities and public servants. I do not say that that is the whole extent of the contribution because, of course, the Government has sought public input. Unquestionably in a matter like this which is so significant to the public it is not easy for the public to make a contribution until legislation is drafted and until it has something that can be actually seen and analysed.
The debate which has taken place in the public media and elsewhere since that time has been quite considerable, but the debate has not been devoted directly to considering the precise terms of what should be, for example, exemptions against disclosure. Of course, many general remarks have been made in the course of public discussion, but really I think there is a call for a Senate committee to actually look steadily at a Bill like this. What I hope the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee would expect to do would be to conduct the most thorough and extensive inquiry that has ever been carried out by a Senate committee. I know that is perhaps a tall order. I have in mind another inquiry that was carried out by this same committee, namely, the inquiry into national compensation a few years ago. It was also very extensive and took the Committee to all parts of the Commonwealth. I would expect that this likewise would be a most extensive inquiry because obviously there is a lot of interest in this proposal. There is a need, for a contribution to be made by members of the public in a practical and co-operative sense.
We expect that we will allow some time for submissions to be put forward. We would encourage people to put in submissions at a reasonably early date so that we can start quite early in calling evidence. We will call some evidence, of course, in Canberra. We will take advantage of the Attorney-General’s kind offer of assistance from officers of his Department and other departments to ascertain the purposes of the Bill, to fill out the reasons for the Bill as it stands and to discuss with them the proposals that come forward from time to time. We will no doubt need to have the assistance of consultants. We will in fact use the advantages of other people in the community who we believe are capable of assisting the Committee in its work. The Committee contemplates that it will go to all the capital cities of Australia if need be to take evidence that is offered. We will not expect everyone to come to us. We will go and find out what people have in mind in respect of this Bill. We will urge them to put in submissions that are directly related, of course, to the way in which freedom of information might operate in this country.
There is a vast amount of material to be looked at in regard to freedom of information. There is, of course, a considerable range of possibilities so far as this legislation is concerned. No one can say that a certain exemption has to be phrased in a certain way. There may be quite a number of alternatives and we would of course want to examine those alternatives with witnesses, with consultants and with people of goodwill who we believe would be determined to assist the Committee in its examination.
We hope that it will not be too long before the Committee comes back to the Senate with a report which would not only express views but also would be part of the educational process of the community. By this I have in mind the possibility that there is some lack of knowledge both in this Senate and in the community as to what freedom of information might involve. We would hope that our report would have the sort of effect which we have seen other Senate reports have had in informing and improving the debate in this chamber and enabling the Senate, the Government, the House of Representatives and all those in this Parliament who have a responsibility, to be able to make decisions that are useful. We hope that the report will enable the Parliament to create a Bill which is effective and which will not be a disappointment for people who have had expectations for it. We hope the report will achieve the effective purposes which the Attorney-General has referred to tonight. Clearly, the legislation is not at the moment understood publicly in that form. We will need to ascertain whether in fact there is a misunderstanding on the part of the public or whether other improvements are called for in the Bill before it is passed through the Parliament. In this we will endeavour to keep an open mind on the details as far as we can. We realise that nobody approaches a subject such as this without having some ideas which study over a period of years tends to form. But there are many areas of the unknown that I think it will be for us to look at. We believe that in the course of doing this we may be able to inform both the public and the Parliament and, I hope, produce a useful report before too long.
I welcome both the Government attitude and the attitude of the Opposition and other members we have heard. We hope that they will make their contribution. The Committee will be only too pleased to see them exercising their right to sit with the Committee during the examination. We hope that the interest will not be confined just to members of the Committee but that other members of the Senate will make their contribution in this way. I certainly support the motion as amended and hope that we will do a job for this Committee and for the Senate that the Senate will be pleased to accept.
-I support the reference of the Freedom of Information Bill and the associated Archives Bill to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, of which I am a member. I acknowledge at the outset, however, that it may be with some alarm that supporters of freedom of information legislation view the prospect of the referral of these Bills to yet another committee. The history of the Freedom of Information Bill has after all been littered with the devoted attention of committees, albeit not parliamentary committees and what unsatisfactory history it has so far been.
When the original initiative was taken and the commitment made to introduce freedom of information legislation by the Whitlam Labor Government the matter was referred, as I suppose is inevitable whenever the Public Service sees its institutional interests immediately involved, to an interdepartmental committee of public servants. A peculiarly heavy committee it was, with representatives from the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Treasury, the Department of the Special Minister of State, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service Board. As is so often the case, one regrets, with the Executive branch generally, however, it could not be said that that first committee approached its task in any precipitate fashion. It was formed in June 1973 and reported in December 1974, with its deliberations in between proceeding with all the exhilarating pace of flowing molasses, producing at the end of that period of nearly two years just 1 8 double-spaced pages of typescript representing, one might calculate, an average output of two paragraphs per month.
After the unceremonious dispatch of the Whitlam Government in 1975 the matter was taken up again by the Fraser Government. I readily concede, and I am grateful, that the Government did just that, and it deserves credit for not letting that matter be buried along with so many others. Mr Ellicott, as AttorneyGeneral, referred the matter to a second interdepartmental committee in April 1976. The report on which the present Bill is very largely based emerged some eight months later in December 1976, the increased intensity of effort being reflected this time by a substantially lengthier and more detailed document, representing in fact an output of something like 12 pages per month over this period. Regrettably, however, that greater intensity of effort did not result in any more sensitive appreciation of the kind of legislation that is needed if freedom of information legislation is to justify that name.
It has been said, and said rather nicely, that committees are cul-de-sacs to which good ideas are lured and quietly strangled. In the two IDCs however, it can be said that the freedom of information idea was not just strangled but in fact bludgeoned into insensibility, then garrotted and drawn and quartered for good measure. Whilst the present Freedom of Information Bill does not mirror exactly the terms of that second IDC report- it is only to be expected, I suppose, that there would be some modification when it took a further 18 months for that IDC report to be transmitted into the present legislation, which was introduced in June this year- certainly it can be said that the Bill preserves the spirit of that 1976 committee. Without wishing to be excessively uncharitable about it, what I mean essentially by that is that it incorporated all the meanspirited, obsessive preoccupation with secrecy and traditions of non-disclosure that Westminister style governments and their bureaucracies have spent centuries perfecting. There are some obviously good things in the Bill as it presently stands, especially its quite explicit commitment to the immediate general release of those departmental manuals and guideline documents which govern the exercise of so many discretions which directly affect the rights and obligations of citizens.
I hasten to add that, unlike the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack), in his remarks earlier this evening, I by no means completely prejudge the terms of the Bill, because that after all is the function of the committee of which I am a member. But by and large the Bill is at best, to any objective observer, a very grave disappointment and, at worst, an absolutely counterproductive travesty of everything that freedom of information legislation is supposed to be about. It is these considerations, which I will endeavour to elaborate and briefly justify in just a moment, which justify the referral- in fact, demand the referral- of this Bill to a standing committee of the Senate, notwithstanding the further degree of delay that this will obviously involve.
It is crucially necessary that this Parliament and, through it, the community at large be given the detailed opportunity which this reference affords to give the Bill the fullest possible scrutiny, not just from the cautious, protective perspective of the Executive and the Public Service itself, but also from the perspective of those who are dedicated to making Australian government, whatever party is in power, more open, more responsive and more attractive to the people it is supposed to serve. I believe that the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, whilst it does contain among its members, including especially Senator Missen and myself, senators who have been publicly and vigorously critical of the Bill as it stands, will approach this Bill constructively and with a full appreciation of the difficulties and sensitivities that are involved in meshing it in with our system of government. We will certainly be anxious to canvass fully and listen to the views of those, especially within the Government and the Public Service, who support the Bill unequivocally in its present form as well as, of course, those who are critical of it. I imagine, as Senator Missen has said, that our inquiries in that respect will take us considerably far afield.
But it remains true that I for one will take considerable persuading that the Bill in its present form is the best possible compromise between these competing demands, which I recognise, of open government on the one hand and necessary confidentiality on the other. Let me take the opportunity to put some of the doubts that I have on the record, particularly in order that this may afford some assistance to those who are contemplating making submissions to the Committee on this matter. Generally speaking, I remain quite unpersuaded at the outset that there is any special institutional character or quality about the Westminister style system of responsible government, which we have inherited, and which from time to time we have observed, which makes secrecy either more or less essential to its practical operation than to any other system of government.
More specifically, there are at least ten basic defects which I, as presently advised, perceive in the Bill and in respect of which I for one will require very considerable persuasion- certainly more persuasion than the Attorney-General has offered in his little public relations pamphlet which has been so widely circulated in recent weeks- before I can accept the proposals with anything like equanimity. Let me briefly indicate what those objections are and put them on record. In the first place, with only minor exceptions, the Bill will apply only to documents which are created after it comes into operation as an Act. Every past record and every document presently in existence, subject to those exceptions, will be entirely immune from scrutiny. It may well be, as the Attorney-General has said, that there is a very real constraint in terms of staff resources involved in making everything in existence simultaneously accessible. But I just cannot believe that the scope of operation of this Bill is to be as narrow in this respect as it presently is.
Secondly, the Bill as it stands contains a provision whereby the Governor-General can by regulation wholly or partly exempt any government authority- I emphasise the words ‘any government authority’- from the operation of the Act. I suggest that this temptation may quite often be difficult for the Executive to resist. It may well be also in this respect that the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee, which is charged, of course, with the task of passing upon and recommending to the Senate the validity or desirability of these regulations, will, given the relatively limited scope of that Commute ‘s charter, be a somewhat uncertain buttress against a misuse of that power. As presently advised, I would wish to see it more narrowly confined. Thirdly, if a Minister thinks that disclosure of a document would prejudice national security, defence, international relations or what are described as relations between the Commonwealth and any State, he can, as the Bill now stands, conclusively determine that it should remain secret. No appeal lies to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or anywhere else against his decision. These defence, security and foreign affairs gateways are in themselves bad enough. But the exemption for Federal-State relations leaves one almost speechless.
Government senators- Ha! ha!
– Honourable senators will notice that I paused for at least three or four seconds even before those guffaws from the back bench. I am only for the moment guessing at the figures, but I would suspect that in a closely integrated Federal system like ours, certainly no less than one-third and probably closer to onehalf of all the business that is transacted by the Commonwealth Government could fairly be regarded as being directly or indirectly involving the States. As such, it would appear that that exemption is manifestly on its face too widely drawn.
Fourthly, apart from Cabinet and Executive Council documents which are also absolutely exempt under the Bill as it now stands, the Bill spells out a further 1 1 general grounds of exemption which can be relied upon by officials unless and until they are overturned on appeal by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The number of exemptions is not by itself obviously conclusive of anything, as the Attorney-General points out in a peculiarly facile passage of his little public relations pamphlet. What matters, of course, is what those exemptions state and how widely or narrowly each of them is drawn. Whilst some of those exemptions are perfectly sensible and perfectly appropriate- for example, those in relation to documents affecting personal privacy or trade secrets- I suggest that most of them are indefensible on their face or much too widely, even intolerably widely, drawn. I instance especially in this respect trie exception in respect of internal working documents as outlined in clause 26 of the Bill, even given the extended definition and -the public interest qualification provided in respect of such documents.
Fifthly, anyone seeking access to a document has to be able to describe under the Bill as it stands what he wants with reasonable precision. Perhaps that is fair enough in order to avoid departmental resources being wasted in vague fishing expeditions. But there is nothing in the
Bill which in so many words requires proper, detailed indexes to be prepared such as would enable such a reasonably precise identification in fact to be made. I suggest that that represents a classic Catch 22 situation.
Sixthly, the seeker of information who leaps into the fray undeterred so far by any of these considerations still has to confront a litter of procedural and discretionary obstacles. For example, requests for information may be refused if they interfere unreasonably with the operations of the agency. Clause 13 of the Bill deals with this matter. Disclosure can be deferred where it is reasonable to do so in the public interest or having regard to normal and proper administrative practices. That is the language used in clause 19. Seventhly, the Bill will certainly do little, or nothing on its face, to disturb the languid pace at which the Australian Public Service normally proceeds in these matters, to which I have already drawn attention in another context, in that agencies have up to two months to respond to requests for information. I ask honourable senators to compare this with the situation in the United States of America where an agency is obliged to respond initially to any request within 10 working days. I suggest that such a provision is crucial if the legislation is to have any use at all in respect of matters of current public interest. The Bill, as it stands, can hardly be described as a working journalist’s charter.
Eighthly, seekers after the truth will have no be not only thick skinned but also, it seems, well heeled. The Bill provides for search, inspection and copying fees to be charged. There is no explicit provision, as there is in the United States legislation, for waiver of those fees when information is sought, for example, in the public interest. Moreover, if a citizen appeals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal against a denial of information, he has to bear his own legal costs whether or not the appeal is successful. Those costs will not be insubstantial. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal is not, in my personal experience, a tribunal which deals briskly with the merits of matters in an informal way.
– Can we divert some legal aid funds to that purpose?
– If the Attorney-General’s generosity in this respect is as great as his confidence in the merits of this Bill, that would be an entirely appropriate course of action to pursue.
The costs, as I say, will not be insubstantial because when legal interpretation matters are involved before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, that Tribunal acts very legalistically. In my experience of appearances before the Tribunal- I say this with no disrespect whatsoever to its judicial members- it operates with about as much legal informality as a cross between the High Court of Australia and the Privy Council.
Ninthly, the Bill does nothing to reform or, on its face, to force any review of the present security classifications system which can allow myopic officials armed with secrecy stamps to perform quite heroic feats of concealment on often perfectly innocent documents. Of course I am aware, in deference again to the Attorney-General’s public relations pamphlet, that there is in the Bill no direct reference to, or adoption of, any present security classification system in the Bill. But it does not take much imagination to anticipate that officials applying the defence and national security exemptions in the Bill will in practice be very likely to take over much, if not all, of the existing guideline apparatus. The sin of the Bill here is not so much one of commission as of omission. My present reaction to the Bill- of course I always stand capable of correction in the light of the evidence which the Committee will be receiving- is that it should contain specific provisions, or that there should be specific undertakings in this respect, accompanying the introduction of this Bill, to produce a new security classification which is as unrestricted as is reasonably possible.
Tenthly, and finally, the Bill does not, in terms of its practical operation, throw the onus of justification where it should be- that is on the official who would refuse access. The system in the United States is that there are far fewer officials with the authority to withhold information than there are who can grant it. In fact it is a disciplinary offence in that country to capriciously withhold such information. By comparison, the proposed Australian system will limit the authority to disclose to a small group of senior officers, and in that respect I refer to clause 21. Other officials not only will be unable to disclose even non-exempt documents but will also face up to two years in gaol if they do so under the long-standing draconic provisions of section 70 of the Crimes Act, which again this Bill does nothing to correct.
My real worry about the Bill is not so much that it will not on the face of it do much to improve the present system. In politics one gets used to that kind of disappointment. Rather, and this is the justification above all for referring it to a committee at this stage, it might well make matters a good deal worse by institutionalising and reinforcing such barriers as presently exist in the system. Refusals of information, which are now simply explained by factors such as timidity or sheer unco-operative bloody-mindedness on the part of officials, in the future will have all the force and status of an Act of Parliament behind them.
It is possible to produce good tough freedom of information legislation which will balance the rights and interests of the community generally against the necessary demands of government, and I am confident that this is what will be recommended by the Committee. All that is necessary to produce good legislation is a demonstration by the Executive of a little bit of moral courage and political will- the moral courage and the political will to strip away some of those convenient shelters behind which Ministers and their officials have for so long found it comfortable to hide. I hope that the Government, by its decision to allow the reference of this Bill to the Committee, at last is demonstrating some of that courage and some of that will which has been conspicuously lacking in the last few years.
-I have been drawn into this debate by the nonsense we have just heard from Senator Evans on the other side. Quite clearly, a reasonable analysis of what he said to the Senate is that although he is a member of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs to which this Bill is being referred his mind has been made up already. He does not want to hear the evidence. He does not want to be confused by facts. He has made up his mind already. I have been drawn in by the need to say to the Senate that I believe Senator Evans has denigrated the Senate committee system by the 20-minute speech we have just heard from him in which he has told us all the things that are wrong with the Bill before he had heard any evidence about it. I say quite seriously to Senator Evans that he should give every consideration to resigning from the Committee. I think it is disgraceful that the Senate committee system should be denigrated by his presence on the Committee while it deals with this Bill. I say that in his presence, quite genuinely and sincerely. In my view, the report of the Committee, whatever it might be, will be greatly reduced in value because Senator Evans perhaps will continue to be a member of it. He has expressed his views about the Bill before he has heard anything at all about it. I say to the Senate that Senator Evans should resign voluntarily and willingly from the Committee.
-I now have been drawn into the debate by Senator Lewis. What an extraordinary contribution that was from him. He was trying to say that a member of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs can have no view of his own. In other words, immediately he is appointed to that Committee he ceases to be a member of this Parliament.
– Nonsense! That is not what I said at all.
-That is what you implied and that is what I inferred from what you said. It seems to me that Senator Lewis is quite unaware of the fact that the committee system supports the Senate; it is not the other way around. There is no doubt that Senator Evans has a view and he expressed it firmly on the basis of his own experience. He has a right to express it here in this place at this time. He should not be limited by the fact that he is on the Committee to which the matter has been referred. There is no doubt that, being a reasonable person, he might hear evidence put before that Committee which will cause him to change his mind. At the present time his opinion is as he has stated it, and he has a right to state it without being attacked in the way that he has been. Senator Lewis’s call upon him to resign I think was churlish. I use that word now because in one of the newspapers today I was said to be churlish because I made a comment about the President’s wig late one night this week. I do not recall exactly what I said. Nevertheless, churlish is a word that will be part of my vocabulary for a few days. I think Senator Lewis has been churlish in his remarks to Senator Evans. I do not think Senator Evans deserved that in view of his excellent contribution, which rather showed up Senator Lewis’s contribution for what it was worth, that is, a somewhat diminished and, if I could finish with this word, churlish one.
– I have not been drawn into this debate. I had intended to take part in it right from the beginning and I am glad that at last my turn has come round. I think the Senate’s mind should be set at rest; I have not got 10, 11 or 12 points to make. Indeed. I speak quite seriously and genuinely, as all honourable senators will understand, from my position as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts to which the Archives Bill is to be referred. I rise in support of what the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has said and in particular in respect of clause 3 of the motion, which states:
That, subject to paragraph (2), the Archives Bill 1978 be referred to the Standing Committee on Education and the Arts for inquiry and report as soon as possible.
I think it is fitting that the Archives Bill be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts for inquiry and report. Senator Ryan, who spoke earlier in this debate, put before the Senate certain Opposition views relating to particular clauses. They stem from a number of reasons which she put to the Senate tonight. Some of those come not only from her own views on the matter but also from some philosophical views of the Opposition. There are many other areas relating to the Archives Bill, and I hope that the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts can examine not only the Bill but also alert the people at large to the role of archives in the total circumstances of community thinking, which should be in relation to documents and other materials that concern archives generally.
I have looked at the Archives Bill and I have done some reading about it and I am concerned at one or two matters within it. Clause 5 causes a great deal of concern because it confers a broad power on Australian Archives to obtain material relating to the archival resources of the Commonwealth. I am not so sure, as I stand here at the moment, about the definition of the archival resources of the Commonwealth. They appear to include material of a private or personal nature. My interest in it at my personal and senatorial level relates to my membership of the Council of the National Library of Australia. For some years the National Library has pursued what I would assert has been a successful policy of collecting personal papers and other material of Australians who have achieved an importance from a national viewpoint. It also has collected material from national organisations. Certain parts of clause 5 would seem to enable the Australian Archives to collect private and personal papers relating to Australian citizens and organisations. I mention this in passing because it seems to me that this is an operation which is in direct competition with the National Library’s present policy. It is important to maintain that the National Library, and indeed the State libraries, should be able to acquire papers without competition from Australian Archives. The libraries of this country, especially the great national libraries of the States and the National Library of Australia here in Canberra, have a relationship which bestows a certain value on the collections they obtain. It would seem to me that every opportunity should be available to facilitate appropriate access to these documents at an earlier time than might be possible if they were with the Australian Archives.
Certainly, speaking on behalf of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts, I look forward to co-operation and conversation with the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. We would give our attention to the matters which are of particular concern and importance to the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts and on which we could obtain information and make appropriate decisions. I make these few observations in the name of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts and as its Chairman and give support to the motion which is before the Senate.
– in reply- I wish to reply only very briefly to the comments made by other honourable senators. I congratulate Senator Davidson on the speech he has just made. I, in rather elliptical and vague terms, sought to explain earlier why the matter should be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts. Senator Davidson, with his customary skill, went straight to the heart of the matter and, speaking in terms of the National Library, explained exactly why this sort of matter should be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts. He made a very valuable and direct contribution which I welcome and I congratulate him for it.
I have already made a number of remarks about the substance of this motion and the two subsequent amendments which have been moved to the motion. I think it only fair to my colleague, Senator Evans, that I should say something briefly about the exchange which took place when Senator Lewis emerged from the womb of his room, if I might put it in those terms, and into the Senate -
– And he has now gone back to it.
-Yes, he has now returned to it, after making a vigorous attack on the speech made by Senator Evans. If I might put it in these terms without offence, Senator Evans suffers the difficulty which many honourable senators suffer from time to time in a situation like this in that they are already very much on the public record by means of newspaper articles or speeches made outside this chamber about some of the issues involved in a reference of this kind. It would be absurd to expect Senator Evans to come into this chamber tonight and retreat from a general position which he has publicly taken beforehand. I have absolute confidence that Senator Evans, as a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, will discharge his obligations in an impartial way and will be, as indeed he always is, open to persuasion in relation to the issues and the evidence which will come before the Committee. That capacity is not detracted from by general appreciation and sentiment in relation to the issues involved in a matter of this kind. I am sure that that will be the situation here.
I hope that Senator Lewis, who was so strongly motivated to bring himself into the Senate tonight and make that contribution, will in some way or another give the Senate Committee the benefit of his views on the subject matter of this legislation. It is an important matter about which honourable senators ought to have views. I am sure, in all charity, that Senator Lewis has gone back to his room to prepare a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs about the issues involved in this debate on the freedom of information legislation.
I could not sit down without mentioning the contribution of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), who reminded me of the captain who went down with his ship. Clearly the AttorneyGeneral, as the responsible Minister, had nailed his flag to the mast of the Bill which was introduced into the Senate a week or two ago. But again, because of unseen forces both in the Opposition and, one suspects, on the Government side, the Attorney-General was persuaded to modify the position that he had previously adopted about the validity of the present legislation. In fact, I do not think I am revealing any secrets when I say that he accused me in a not unfriendly way earlier this evening of trying to deny the people of Australia the benefits of the Freedom of Information Bill as drafted by his Department. I guess I will have to plead guilty to that. I can do so politically in the knowledge that the vast masses of the people of Australia are not as yet as concerned as they might be about the contents of the Freedom of Information Bill, but perhaps that will come in time. I commend the motion, as amended, to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report on Drug Problems
Debate resumed from 14 September 1978, on motion by Senator Peter Baume:
That the Senate take note of the report.
-This evening I make my third attempt in as many weeks to speak to this report. It looks as though tonight I will be able to say a little more than I said the last time and perhaps the time before. The Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare, Senator Baume, when introducing this subject some three weeks ago, pointed out that at that time the Committee had been very concerned to ensure that, in future, debate and investigation of the problems of drug abuse in this country was looked at in a serious way by this Parliament, by the public and by everyone concerned, as free as possible from the emotional atmosphere in which this subject is usually considered so that we can ask the right questions and get the right answers as to how to attack what is a very real problem in some areas of this country.
The last time I spoke I had started to read some of the reactions to this report from people in Australia and overseas. I remember that just before the Senate adjourned I had threatened to read a large number of letters which were available to the Committee and which dealt with the report. However, I will spare those honourable senators here tonight the tedium of my reading them all because earlier on the natives were a bit restless and, being a pacificist by nature, I do not want to provoke anything unnecessarily.
I think it is important to realise that the Committee’s report has been accepted here and overseas in a very serious manner. The people who have read it and studied it consider it to be a good report. I believe that their recommendations are sufficient to make this Senate and the public take the report seriously and take the very problem that the report talks about seriously. Only a few days ago, Dr Mahler, the DirectorGeneral of the World Health Organisation, wrote to Mr Thomson, who is the Secretary of the Committee, thanking him for providing a copy of the report. He commented that the World Health Organisation had studied the report and thought that the report presented a logical, common sense approach to dealing with alcohol-related problems and drug dependence and that, if implemented, would provide a sound basis for national policy. Dr Mahler went on to say:
The section of your Committee’s report on drug abuse is very well documented and comprehensive and does not appear to have a particular bias in the cannabis area, which is often prevalent. The problem has been dealt with in a pragmatic and realistic way and the recommendations reflect an in-depth study of the problem in Australia.
Last week I read out the comments of Dr R. L. DuPont, who is the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in the United States. The Committee has actually received favourable comment from people like Professor Ian Webster, who is Professor of Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales, Professor Ryan of the University of Queensland, Dr Hetzel, the Chief of the Division of Human Nutrition of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and various authorities, such as the Australian Foundation of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the Uniting Church in Australia. A wide variety of people in this country has taken this report seriously. These people are using it in teaching, as a data source, in their investigations and in their thoughts on what should be done about the drug problem. It is important that the rest of us look at this problem in the same manner as the Senate Committee looked at it and accept that we have to approach the problem of drug abuse in a rational and unemotional way.
It is a pity that when the Senate Committee’s report was released a few items appeared in the local Press and other media and that the Committee was immediately attacked by people who had not read the report and who had preconceived ideas. We had from people such as the Premier of Queensland comments that we were doing the work of communist infiltrators in this country. The Reverend Fred Nile apparently thought that we were doing the work of the devil. Other people in the community, without reading the report and without really considering the problems and the recommendations, immediately made judgments of this type. One found that Senator Peter Baume and Senator Walters were in league with the devil and the communists and all sorts of people because of their presence on this Committee. I am always considered to be in league with the devil and the communists in this country. It is this sort of attitude to this report and its findings which is so often seen in the community in the debate on the drug problem itself. The Committee mentions in the report that unless we get away from this sort of dogmatic attitude and take a proper approach, we will continue on as we have been doing, spending vast sums of money and vast amounts of energy and producing pages and pages of words about the problem. All the time the problem gets worse, the volume of drugs abused and consumed gets bigger and bigger and the only people who benefit from investigations are the printers, the researchers who get paid and those who are pushing the drugs.
Because our resources are finite it is important that the community comes to realise that we have to establish a list of priorities in dealing with this problem as with any other problem and that when one considers the volume most of our problems lie in the field of alcohol and tobacco. This does not mean that we should ignore the abuse of cannabis, of heroin, of illicit drugs or of analgesics, but it means that if we are to get a rational return for our efforts we must concentrate on the very real problems of the abuse of alcohol and tobacco in this country. I spoke a little about this last time and the time before and Senator Peter Baume spoke at considerable length. We must realise that the big problem is alcohol and that the second big problem is tobacco and we must get the community to realise that. We must overcome the very real problems of the vested interests of the manufacturers of those products- I am not condemning them personally for their efforts to protect their industries- and the very real efforts of the advertising industry which seems to have taken a personal dislike to the Chairman of the Committee and to have used him as the whipping boy when approaching the recommendations of this Committee with regard to advertising. We must realise that we must overcome those vested interests if we are going to get anywhere and accept that they have the right to express those views; but we must reply to them with hard facts, where we have them, and with hard data and not with the same sort of emotional arguments which are so often used right across the broad spectrum of the drug debate in this community.
I suppose that the area which caused most controversy was the chapter on cannabis and in dealing with cannabis the Committee was not unanimous. This disagreement in the Committee was the result of an examination of the facts and was partly a result of philosophical differences; but it was not the result of personal enmity or in any way of blind prejudice and it is important that such differences, where they exist, are brought out and discussed. In fact the split in the Committee reflects very much the division in the community. We would have had a false report, I believe, if the Committee had reached a unanimous report in view of the state of our knowledge of cannabis and the state of the political nature of our community because the community, as the report said, is polarised over the use of cannabis. Cannabis is very much a political and emotional problem as well as a medical and scientific problem and the debate, therefore, will be a political and emotional debate, as we see it.
The problem of dealing with the policy on cannabis in the community is aggravated, as it is so often in the fields of social welfare and medical policy, by a lack of certainty about the facts and a certain amount of conflict about those facts and figures which are available. The first thing to remember, I believe, is that although cannabis has been known since antiquity, has been used commonly in all sorts of civilisations over the years, was once legal in this community and was once used quite frequently by the medical profession in this community, we in fact still know less about its biochemistry, its metabolism, its use and its distribution in the community than we know about many other drugs and medicinal compounds which we use. It has been extolled through the years as a plant having medicinal value and even religious and spiritual values. At various times it has been banned and praised by various societies, and this has also complicated our approach to it. In some societies such as Jamaica, as honourable senators know, it is a very commonly used recreational drug and is accepted throughout the community.
There is no agreement, of course, on the extent of cannabis use in Australia. We have some figures, we are getting more and we hope that they are more detailed in future than they were when this Committee investigated the problem. I can remember evidence which was produced in the newspapers in this city that 90 per cent of high school students had used cannabis at some time or other. I can remember equally firm evidence from the welfare officers in this city that this claim was nonsense and that it was not used to anywhere near that extent. We had surveys in the community made by people from universities in Sydney, New South Wales and Melbourne and we had surveys done in schools in Queensland, but we still could not be sure of the accuracy of those surveys. One thing that came through all the time was that people generally accepted that the use of cannabis was increasing. This was reflected in our other means of knowing how much cannabis is used in the communitythe figures for people who are convicted of the illegal use of various cannabis substances. The conviction figures also cannot be considered to be extremely accurate. There is a great bias in those figures towards the young and away from the so-called middle class and the upper middle income groups. A lawyer who works in the field commented in the Age newspaper on 10 April 1976 as follows:
It’s the born losers, the kids in jeans in the street who get busted. Police rarely stop and search the Mercedes or the Volvos. But their drivers are trying it too.
The ‘it’ being pot, marihuana or cannabis. I think that this is accepted as a factual sort of a statement by all thinking people who realise what is going on in the community. I am not particularly saying that it is only in drug abuse that there is this bias, this skew in the statistics towards those in the lower income bracket, those who are unemployed, the students, those who have long hair or those who wear jeans and away from those who are more conventionally respectable and more wealthy. There is a problem in determining the statistical basis of what we are arguing about. There is difficulty in determining the exact nature of the problem we are facing because unskilled workers and others are consistently over-represented in drug conviction surveys in this country. It is a factor that we must always remember. So we have a real difficulty immediately in that we do not know the extent of the problem although it is generally accepted that the problem is increasing.
The second task that we as parliamentarians have in taking legislative action concerning the abuse of a substance like cannabis is to determine what we should do in the face of very firm community attitudes. As I have said, the community is polarised over the use of cannabis. Its use is controversial. The penalties imposed and the methods used in the past to approach the problem are themselves controversial. It is a political issue as much as anything else, as is mentioned in the Committee’s report at page 140. The report reads:
Some people ‘s beliefs as to the propriety of use or non-use depend on factors which have little to do with the nature and effects of the use of the drug.
All the surveys, such as the one carried out by the ANOP Market Research Pty Ltd in April and May 1973, show that it is a political issue, in that attitudes towards the use of this substance, that is, marihuana, are a function of age, education, urban residence, church attendance and voting intention. The attitudes are not based on any knowledge- where that exists- of the effects of the drug, good or bad. Usually they are not based on any personal knowledge or personal experience of the use of the drug. They are based on pre-conceived ideas on all sorts of issues. The attitude to marihuana, as to other drugs, fits into a pattern of belief common enough in all sorts of beliefs, but it is important that we as members of parliament recognise this when we are deciding what to do. This leads to the extraordinary situation which was referred to in the Committee ‘s report. Evidence was received that in families where alcohol was an accepted substance and marihuana was a taboo substance there was an extraordinary attitude to the actions of children. One social worker cited an experience as follows:
At one home, parents experienced such anguish as a result of their 19-year-old daughter’s use of ‘pot’ that when the younger daughter started drinking heavily they were deeply relieved! ‘She’d get so drunk’, a social worker explained, she would be throwing up in the morning. Yet her parents were happy’.
They were happy because she was not smoking pot. This is the sort of difficulty that we as legislators will always face in drawing up legislation. We must recognise the very real prejudices which exist in the community. As the Committee reported, there is in our own community an increasing knowledge of cannabis; there is an increasing availability of information about cannabis; and there is also an increasing availability of misinformation about cannabis, from both sides of the argument. Those who propose the complete legalisation and liberalisation of the use of cannabis, and frequently other drugs, ignore any possibility of harmful effects. They ignore any possibility at all that the drug can be harmful. Those who are very much prohibitionists will not accept that any recreational drug can be of any use or that there can be any excuse for people to use it. This bedevils the debate on cannabis at all times. One frequently hears cited examples such as literature from the United Kingdom. It was alleged in one article in the Lancet that cerebral atrophy resulted from smoking cannabis. It causes atrophy of the brain cells, so that the brain shrinks. This article was published many years ago. It has been repeatedly discredited by all sorts of authorities. It has been discredited because the people used in the investigation were in fact users of multiple drugs and were sufferers from mental illness. The experiment was not controlled. Yet this discredited example is repeatedly thrown up as a reason for banning the use of cannabis of any form in the community. On page 142 of the report the Committee pointed out that it was concerned because it appeared that a person seeking information was more likely to encounter unbalanced misinformation than relevant knowledge conducive to responsible personal decision-making. This of course does not occur only in the case of marihuana or cannabis; it occurs in all sorts of drug abuse.
One only has to consider the myths in this country about the merits or demerits of alcohol to realise how much misinformation on this sort of subject is fed into the community. But the Committee recognised- all of us must recognise- that in fact the active part of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, has a pathological effect on human organisms and human cells. Not to recognise this is to ignore the obvious. There of course is such a thing. There is a reality, as the Committee described it of acute intoxication which results in reduced work performance and psychomotor impairment. Quite apart from the obvious relationship to drivingtrie difficulty with driving that cannabis createscannabis represents and will obviously represent a significant hazard in certain industrial situations, as do alcohol and most other drugs of abuse. But we must recognise that this occurs and we must recognise that the claims that cannabis is harmless and has no effect on human organisms are nonsense. We must recognise such claims as the nonsense they are.
We also must recognise that more frequently tolerance to the drug is being reported from reputable clinical and biochemical studies. But we must above all recognise that, as I said before, cannabis has an adverse effect on drug skills and, combined with alcohol, has a very serious adverse effect on drivers’ skills. This is becoming even more important. In this country, at least in the 1960s, I believe it was recognised that cannabis was the drug of protest, that cannabis was the drug of those who were not happy with the establishment, that cannabis was usually used, in circumstances away from alcohol, by those who did not drink whereas in more recent years surveys and common observation are suggesting that the pattern is changing- that people more and more are combining the use of cannabis and alcohol. It is a dangerous combination, a very difficult combination for those who are driving on our roads. It is important therefore that we get information to those people who use cannabis and those potential users of cannabis about the very real and proven effects that it can have. It is important that we get away from the nonsense of the past about cannabis being a drug of addiction, about it causing people to stare at the sun and go blind, about it causing people to walk off the tops of buildings, and about other anecdotal unproven- in fact disproven- stories which -
– Including brain atrophy.
– Including brain atrophy, as I mentioned before. When these stories are demonstrated to be false to those people who use the drug, they have a very bad effect. Those people who have had it demonstrated to them that the previous truths about a substance are in fact false will not believe any of the real difficulties which arise. So we have to get the debate down to a proper level and we have to look at the problem at a proper level before we can make a proper decision. Despite the fact that I said that we still have a fair bit to learn about the effects of cannabis, in fact it has been the subject of human studies for a long time. The Committee looked at some of the studies that were made. It looked at reports such as the Commission into Indian Hemp Drugs which was conducted in 1894 and which has been described as a complete and systematic study of marihuana. In 1894 this Commission concluded in regard to the physical effects that the moderate use of hemp drugs is attended by practically no evil results at all. With respect to the alleged mental effects of the drugs, the Commission concluded that moderate use produces no injurous effects on the mind. Whether or not it is correct, people were saying that in 1894.
In 1944 the report of the first of the very big studies, made by the Mayor of New York’s committee, the La Guardia Committee, was published. This was a time of great hysteria about the use of drugs in the community and when talk of marihuana being a drug of addiction, the source of all crime, and that it affected people’s sexual behaviour was common. The La Guardia report, the report of the New York Academy of Medicine which Mayor La Guardia requested to study the problem, presented the following findings: That the practice of smoking marihuana does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word; that the use of marihuana does not lead to morphine or heroin or cocaine addiction; that marihuana is not the determining factor in the commission of major crimes; and that the publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana in New York City was unfounded. That report was published in 1944.
The Wootten report which came out in 1 968 in Britain contained similar findings. It found that it is the personality of the user rather than the properties of the drug that is likely to cause progression to other drugs and that the evidence of a link with violent crime is far stronger in the case of alcohol than in the case of smoking cannabis. The Le Dain report in Canada, which was published in 1972, also destroyed many of the popular myths when it stated that it appears that the heavy use of sedatives, alcohol and barbiturates rather than cannabis has more frequently preceded heroin use. Similar findings were contained in the Shafer report published in the United States in 1972. The Jamaican study of the use of ganja in Jamaica, where cannabis derivatives are used very commonly in all sorts of shapes and forms and where 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the lower section of the rural population are regular users of the substance, was published in 1975. It concluded that there was no evidence to confirm any of the allegations about the deleterious effects of the drugs. It indicated that ganja was often used in place of alcohol, being regarded as a more sociable and peaceful drug, and that it reduced the alcohol problem in Jamaica by comparison with other West Indian nations.
Other studies, such as the Greek study which was conducted by the United States and the Costa Rican study, did a lot to destroy the myths surrounding the use of cannabis. Yet those myths are repeated in our society. They are repeated in documents which are produced by organisations that wish to be taken seriously. They are repeated in sometimes rather lurid and hysterical productions aimed at decreasing the use of the drug. Such productions have not resulted in a decrease in its use, nor have the penalties that we have introduced in our community; nor have the education methods that we have attempted to use. Therefore I believe the Committee members, I believe unanimously in this case, said that we must look seriously at the future and how we will handle this problem, if we consider it a problem at all.
Members of the Committee differed on the methods which should be used. One section of the Committee took a fairly conservative approach- to retain the present system of penalties but to increase the penalties for trafficking in the drug. The other section of the Committee, the majority, took the attitude that there should be a so-called ‘decriminalisation’ approach; that although we wanted to discourage the use of this and other drugs in the community -
– Equally divided.
– Equally divided. But it was the majority report. Let us not quibble about semantics; they are irrelevant. That section of the Committee took the view that in fact we should take a decriminalisation approach; that the previous approach of making the use of the drug a criminal offence in fact had as bad an effect as the drug itself, that it was not succeeding in its aim and that it was having unfortunate social effects. We came to the different conclusions without too much enmity or too much bitterness and I think both sections of the Committee respect each other’s views.
When the report was seriously written and published- it was backed up by evidence, backed up by a concern on the part of all members of the Committee to improve the situation in this community, and to make it a less intoxicated society and to decrease the use of drugs in the community, licit and illicit - unfortunately the people who backed the majority report on marihuana were subject to the sort of abuse which came from people such as the Premier of Queensland and others. On the afternoon on which the report was released this sort of nonsense and argument appeared, this personal abuse. It is a great pity.
The situation has improved somewhat since then- I believe that has happened as a result of this report, the recommendations of which were considered fairly controversial at the time. However, as the Chairman said the other night, they would now be considered fairly conservative in view of the findings of other reports that have been published overseas and preliminary reports of committees in this country. I believe that as a result of this report and more sensible debate we can all look seriously at the problem and consider the approach we will adopt in the community. If we adopt the attitude of many people in the community- adults and legislators- and merely abuse those people who are doing things differently from the way in which we would like them to be done, we will have very real double standards. This is described in the annual report of the Commonwealth Director-General of Health where he stated:
It is seen in the attitude of many adult moralists who castigate young people for their attitudes to drugs while at the same time declining to moderate their personal over: indulgence in alcohol- a double standard which is indefensible in the eyes of the young.
If we continue this attitude in the community we will maintain this very real division which exists between the older and the younger generations, between conservatives and progressives, radicals or whatever they may be called, between those who live in one suburb and those who live in another. We will continue to shout at each other instead of indulging in rational discussions about the very real problems. We will come to no solutions. Education on drugs will consist of a competition between the two extremes instead of an examination of the facts and effects and an evaluation of programs to do something about this problem.
Those who claim that this society is being damaged by the abuse of drugs of all types will be laughed at by those who are abusing the drugs if they do not produce rational argument, if they produce emotional argument of the type we have heard over the years about marihuana, and if they produce deliberate lies in order to bolster up their own stance, which is frequently based on a moral, philosophical or even political viewpoint. That is why this Committee unanimously sought a national strategy in the approach to drug abuse. That is why it sought a careful examination of the methods that we have used in the past, particularly the methods of education we have used to cope with drug abuse in this country. That is why it has sought a careful evaluation of any programs which are introduced with public funds or otherwise to cope with this problem. That is why the Committee unanimously asked for rational debate and for a rational look to be taken at the situation so that we can get to the right questions and therefore hopefully get the right answers. I hope that this report and the result of any debate in this chamber will result in a wider, more sensible and less emotional community approach to the problem so that we will not forever remain an intoxicated society- probably the greatest pillpopping society of the world, the greatest abusers of licit drugs and among the greatest abusers of illicit drugs on this planet.
– I seek leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
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 Guilfoyle) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
May I first remind honourable senators of the important place the defence service homes scheme holds in the array of Commonwealth programs of assistance to various sections of the community. It is one of the longest standing programs; it originated from legislation passed in 1918, 60 years ago. Since its inception, approximately 340,000 people have been assisted to own their own home. The loans granted include more than 180,000 that are still being repaid. The gross outlays on assistance since the inception of the scheme exceed $2,000m.
The principal purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to amend the Defence Service Homes Act 1918 to implement decisions taken by the Government in the context of its deliberations on the 1977-78 Budget and as a result of a more recent review of certain aspects of the scheme. One of the decisions announced at the time of the 1977-78 Budget was the extension of the qualifying period to be served by members of the Regular Defence Force in order to be eligible for a defence service homes loan. Persons who commence full time service in the Defence Force on or after 17 August 1977 will become eligible for a loan on the completion of six years continuous full time service, subject to a commitment to render further full time service.
Clause 4 of the Bill provides for amendment of the definition of ‘regular serviceman’ so that the new eligibility conditions may be applied to those whose service begins on or after 17 August 1977 without affecting the eligibility conditions that apply to those who were serving before 1 7 August 1977. 1 emphasise that persons who commenced their full time service before 1 7 August 1977 will continue to qualify for a defence service homes loan on the completion of three years continuous full time service.
The proposed amendment will extend the qualifying service to a period more commensurate with the benefits offered through defence service homes loans, and it will be consistent with, and will strengthen, the prevailing conditions of service for the defence forces that are designed to encourage longer service. By the proposed insertion of a new section 27b in the principal Act, the Bill will permit the Defence Service Homes Corporation to give a measure of preference in the allocation of loans to those whose eligibility is based on war service.
As a result of the review of the Scheme during the deliberations on the Budget. The Government decided that there would be no change in the existing highly-concessional interest rates on loans or in the maximum repayment period. I remind the Senate that the interest rates on loans are 3.75 per cent on the first $12,000 and 7.25 per cent on the amount above $12,000. The maximum repayment period is 32 years. However, the practice of other lending institutions in charging a fee on loan applications will be introduced. Authority for this action and, where considered appropriate, refund of the whole or part of the fee, is incorporated in clause 6 of the Bill which provides for the insertion of a new section 27A in the principal Act.
In addition to the changes which have already been announced the Bill provides for the incorporation in the Defence Service Homes Act of the features of three long-standing ministerial directions and makes two other major amendments to the existing defence service homes arrangements. Legal doubts have arisen as to the effectiveness of certain long-standing ministerial directions relating to the administration of the Defence Service Homes Act 1918. Three such directions, two of which were issued as long ago as 1946 and 1948, affected the eligibility of persons for a defence service homes loan. These directions have been followed continuously by successive governments. In view of the legal doubts the Government has decided to take action immediately to embody the features of the ministerial directions in the legislation. One directionissued in 1948 and re-affirmed in 1973 - prohibits the grant of assistance to a person who served during the 1939-45 war in the Citizen Military Forces or the Wartime Women’s Services unless that person served outside Australia; another- issued in 1972 to confirm the policy introduced in 1956- affects the eligibility of persons who served in the armed forces of other parts of the Queen’s dominions during the 1939-45 war after residing in Australia; the third- issued first in 1946 and re-affirmed in 1974- specifies the guidelines for disqualification of persons dismissed from the forces for misconduct.
The first of the additional major amendments to which I referred relates to the defence service homes insurance scheme. Since the commencement of the scheme in 1919, insurance cover has been provided under the Act in respect of dwellings in which the Corporation has an interest. Over the years, amendments have been made to the insurance cover and conditions from time to time to provide cover for beneficiaries in accordance with that generally available from other insurers of dwellings. The terms and conditions of the cover are all contained in the Defence Service Homes Act and regulations, with the result that amending legislation is required before even a minor change may be made. The Government believes that this necessity to amend the legislation has handicapped the proper functioning of the insurance scheme in the past.
In order to provide operational flexibility to maintain insurance cover and conditions that are no less attractive than those available elsewhere, the Bill amends the Act to authorise the Corporation to provide insurance cover under terms set out in a statement of conditions. This will enable the terms and conditions to be amended by administrative, rather than legislative, process, thus allowing adequate flexibility to adjust quickly to industry changes. The statement of conditions is subject to the approval of the Minister and must be tabled in the Parliament when introduced and whenever varied. Clauses 11 and 15 of the Bill contain the proposed amendments affecting the defence service homes insurance scheme and are to come into operation on a date to be proclaimed.
The second major amendment is the recognition, for the purposes of the Defence Service Homes Act, of de facto relationships. This will bring the act into line with other Commonwealth legislation and the practice of lending institutions. Consistent with the requirements of other Commonwealth legislation, to ensure that there is a substantial degree of permanency in the relationship before benefits are granted, the Bill requires the de facto association to have been in existence for a continuous period of not less than three years before it will be recognised.
The amendment will place of de facto spouse or widow of an eligible person in the same position as a de jure spouse or widow. It will enable a de facto spouse to be joined with the eligible person in the security, make a de facto widow eligible for a loan in her own right, and enable certain de facto widows to be granted relief in respect of commitments on their property under the same conditions as those applicable to de jure widows. Proposed amendments relating to the recognition of de facto relationships are contained in clauses 3, 8 and 10 of the Bill.
The amendment proposed in clause 9 is intended to overcome a problem whereby the Corporation, in the absence of a court order, is unable to distribute the balance of proceeds arising from the sale of a property as mortgagee in possession in joint tenancy cases where the joint tenancy has not been severed and one or more of the joint tenants cannot be located. The amendment is concerned only with joint tenancy cases and authorises payment after the Minister has determined in accordance with sub-section 36 (2) the persons appearing to him to be entitled to receive the balance, of such part of the balance as he considers proper to the available joint tenant or tenants. The restrictions imposed by the current legislation have caused hardship in some cases by delaying the payment of a share of the proceeds to persons in necessitious circumstances.
The remaining provisions of the Bill are of a financial nature and are required either to overcome procedural problems and technical omissions or, consequential upon the Defence Service Homes Amendment Act 1977, to facilitate the operation of the financial arrangements applicable to the Corporation as from 1 July 1977. The latter amendments include authority for the transfer from the defence service homes trust account to Consolidated Revenue of fees and other moneys of a non-capital nature. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.
Report on Drug Problems
– Tonight we are debating the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare entitled Drug Problems in Australia- the intoxicated society?’ I feel, as Senator Grimes expressed so well tonight, that we should perhaps look at how the community itself looks at the drug problem. People who work in the drug field, people who work in the health field and people who take a particular interest in the drug problem recognise that alcohol and tobacco are the No. 1 problem in Australia, but I believe that the community at large does not see it in that way. In fact, governments do not see it in that way.
I would like to draw the attention of the Senate to a handbook prepared by the Division of Health Education of the Health Commission of New South Wales which was published in 1 973 and which is called ‘The Use and Abuse of Drugs’. Although the material in it has not been updated it is still used to teach the young in schools not only in New South Wales but also in Tasmania. I have found that the Tasmanian Education Department uses this book as its own. In the chapter entitled ‘Drugs and Their Origins and Uses’ alcohol is referred to among the lesser types of drugs. The following statement is made in this chapter:
Drugs range widely in their nature and just as widely in their application. Some people think only of narcotic drugs like opium when the word ‘drug’ is used, but this is a very narrow idea of what drugs really are.
The handbook then goes on to list a whole lot of drugs, including antibiotics, anaesthetics, sedatives, hormones, insulin, thyroid extract, tranquillisers, pain relievers and so on. It goes on even to mention corn cures, preparations to prevent or treat sunburn, and medicated creams and lotions. Further down it refers to tea and coffee. It then refers, of course, to alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol and tobacco are included among all these other drugs. To do this booklet justice, after mentioning alcohol and tobacco it states:
That is all it says about alcohol and tobacco in this chapter.
Mention is made in the chapter entitled Extent of drug use in Australia’ of a survey carried out by Mr Rankin on the size and nature of the misuse of alcohol in Australia, but no mention is made of a survey on tobacco. Only figures are given, not the effect or anything else. We are only informed of the number of people who drink alcohol and the number of people who are alcoholics. We are not told how they became alcoholics. The booklet does not elaborate on that in any way. Figures are given in relation to tobacco later in the chapter.
The most important chapter in the booklet is chapter 5, which is entitled ‘Drugs liable to abuse and their effects’. This chapter sets out a list of the types of drugs liable to abuse. The types of drugs mentioned are analgesics, tranquillisers, depressants and sedatives, stimulants and anti-depressants, narcotics and hallucinogenic drugs. Analgesic drugs include aspirin and compound analgesics. The tranquillisers include the barbiturate type drugs. The depressants and sedatives refer to bromides and so on. Under the heading of ‘Stimulants’ mention is made of caffeine and cocaine. The list in respect of narcotics includes opium, morphine and cocaine. In the case of hallucinogenic drugs mention is made of cannabis. There is not one mention of tobacco or alcohol in this chapter about the drugs liable to abuse and their effects. It ends up talking about penalties. It refers only to penalties concerning narcotics and hard drugs. It does not mention the penalties for tobacco or alcohol. So far as we can see, the Health Commission of New South Wales, in its teachings, considers that the types of drugs most liable to be abused do not include alcohol and tobacco. This is an oversight which I believe needs rectifying. If we cannot talk our governments into realising that alcohol and tobacco are the number one drug problems in Australia then we have little hope of convincing society at large.
I suppose that after sitting on the Committee and after spending so many hours working on this report, we tend to believe that we are getting across to the people the importance of these two drugs. But I just do not believe that this has been proved. I am sure that our findings are not getting across to the people. Senator Grimes spoke earlier of the social worker who pointed out that a family was delighted because the daughter was not now smoking cannabis but was on alcohol and getting drunk every weekend to a marked degree; at least she was not smoking cannabis. So I really wonder how far even our report will get in convincing the community that the number one evils are tobacco and alcohol.
As Senator Grimes said, we have had a tremendous response from those in the field, both those in the medical profession and other people interested in the treatment of alcoholics or who work in associated areas. I would like to read what has been said by a couple of them. The Medical Journal of Australia wrote up the report very thoroughly. It carried a leading article on it. I would like to readjust a small piece of it which was quite a wrap-up for Senator Baume. Referring to the report, it said:
It is notable because it is a careful and arresting document reviewing present data with a refreshing lack of prejudgment prejudice. That it should be produced by a parliamentary committee is particularly noteworthy and encouraging and it reflects much credit on the physician chairman. Most of the report deals with the major social drugs- alcohol, tobacco, analgesics and marihuana . . .
So at least we are getting across somewhere that the major drugs causing social problems are the ones of which I have spoken. A Press release put out by Dr George Wilson, who is Vice President of the Foundation for Research and Treatment of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency of New South Wales, said that he considers that this is an excellent document that should be read by every responsible adult in Australia. He did not altogether agree with the majority report on cannabis, but he was delighted with the report generally. We have also received encouragement from as far afield as the United States of America from Robert DuPont. The Chief of the Division of Human Nutrition in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation was also very lavish in his praise. We also received a letter from Dr Milner, whom I am sure most honourable senators have heard about because this is his particular field. He commented:
Basically the Report is enormously valuable especially with all its up-to-date statistics as well as fine recommendations and I am endeavouring to buy a large number which I know will receive much use by my senior professional workers.
He did not agree with the majority report on marihuana either. He said:
The Committee recommends decriminalisation of simple possession and self-administration of ordinary types of marihuana … It appears to me that they have ignored the difficulties in properly defining cannabis and quantities that may be grown before the offence should be called a criminal one from their point of view.
So whilst we have had a considerable amount of feedback from the people in the field about whom I have spoken, these people do not altogether agree with the majority report on cannabis, but all in all they treat the report very favourably as a whole. I turn to cannabis in particular, seeing that Senator Grimes spoke largely on this subject tonight. He said that there was little bitterness and enmity. I believe there is no bitterness and enmity.
– The cold turkey treatment would fix it all up.
-Senator Mulvihill said that the other night.
– I know, and I want to know where you people on the Committee stand on it. It works in Japan. Why does it not work here?
– Actually it works in Tasmania too. That is virtually what the police there believe in. They do not believe in methadone treatment. We do not really need the cold turkey treatment for marihuana. As Senator Grimes so rightly said tonight, marihuana is not habituating. It is not a drug that would need the cold turkey treatment in any way at all.
The Committee was completely unanimous in the majority of this report. I would like to underline this because I believe this is the beauty of the Senate standing committees. There were three members of the Australian Labor Party and three members of the Liberal and National Country Parties on this Committee. We were in complete agreement. It was a very good experience for me as a member of my first standing committee. I thoroughly enjoyed it. At the end, when we had compiled the report, the Committee was equally divided but not along party lines. On one side there were two Labor members and one Liberal, and on the other side there were two Liberal or Country Party members and one Labor member. I believe that this underlines the strength of the Senate standing committees. However it disappointed me very much when Senator Grimes and I went on television together that we were not allowed to talk about the majority of the report in relation to which we were in full agreement. The media was interested in discussing only the cannabis section, about which there was some controversy. As Senator Grimes said to me later, no doubt
Tasmania would be agog to see both of us who had recently been fighting an election campaign agreeing wholeheartedly. I think that this should be seen more often throughout Austrlalia.
– We even agreed, did we not?
– That surprised you very much.
-That surprised me even more. I think it must have been the first time since I came into this place that we have agreed on anything.
– That is a real achievement.
– It is quite an achievement, and I am not even sure on whose part. I would like to speak a little more on this cannabis problem. I agree that the community is very deeply divided about the pros and cons of cannabis. It is not as simple as Senator Grimes said tonight. He quoted Senator Baume as saying that when the report came out it was controversial: It would not be considered so controversial now. As a matter of fact, it would be considered more conservative than some of the reports coming from overseas. I do not believe that what Senator Grimes said is quite accurate. At the moment in Canada experiments are being conducted on rats. There was retardation and deformation evident in the offspring of the rats.
We have not done a tremendous amount of research into cannabis. That research is yet to be done. We do know that more and more evidence is coming to light in respect of cannabis smoking and driving. As Dr Milner said, the full effect of drinking and driving had not really come to light until we were able to establish scientifically the amount of alcohol in the blood. Once we were able to do that, we were able to establish the problem of the drinking driver and how much damage he does on the road. We have not yet been able to establish the THC content in the blood in respect of marihuana smoking with the ease that we have been able to establish it in respect of alcohol. It is a very complicated business. It is more complicated by the fact that the body can store the THC for a tremendous length of time. We know that cannabis reduces driving skills up to 10 hours after it has been smoked. We have no accurate knowledge of the number of road crashes that can be attributed to cannabis. Again, we do not have the technology to enable us to find this out.
– Do you have a copy of the Boston report?
– Yes, I have a copy of the Boston report with me. We are able to ascertain the number of road crashes due to alcohol. We are not yet able to do that in respect of cannabis. However, the Boston University has done a survey and has come up with some results. It was stated that in a controlled group drivers who smoked cannabis were more represented in road crashes than the non-smoking drivers. These are the areas that we have to act on very carefully. I believe that if we were to decriminalise the smoking of cannabis in small amounts for private use, as the honourable senators who wrote the majority report wanted to do, we would run the risk of increasing its usage in the community. Not one person who appeared before the Committee, even among those people who believed that cannabis should be fully legalised, claimed that the decriminalisation of cannabis would reduce its intake. They all said that it would probably increase the use of cannabis, but perhaps this would be the case only for a short time. But they also said that it was not an habituating drug and that therefore it does not do much damage.
I am fully aware of all the things that Senator Grimes said tonight. I agree with him entirely. I liken cannabis to alcohol, although in my opinion it has a different social value to alcohol. Would any honourable senator want to introduce the use of another drug that does as much damage as alcohol does in our community? Would any of us deliberately encourage the use of another drug that does as much damage as alcohol does in the community? We know the damage that alcohol does on the roads. We know also that the use of cannabis does damage -
– And Vincents APC, too.
– Vincents APC does not do damage on the roads. It certainly does damage to the body. I will come to deal with that point a little later if time permits. We know that cannabis affects driving skills. The THC content in the blood of road accident victims in America has been measured. Such accidents have been attributed to the smoking of cannabis. As an author of the minority report, I have two main arguments to put in respect of the majority report recommendations. The majority report suggests that we not only permit the use of small amounts of cannabis but also that we should allow the growing of the cannabis plant for personal use.
– That was scarcely picked up by the media. That recommendation is probably the most radical recommendation we made.
– Yes, and I believe that as a Committee we did not point this out particularly following the report being published because we were trying, as a Committee, to push the alcohol and tobacco problem as the main -
– What was that recommendation?
– I was referring to the recommendation for the decriminalising of the growing of marihuana for personal use.
– Everyone to have his own pot plant.
-Yes, literally. Such people could still be penalised but the offence would be decriminalised. In other words, we would not allow repeated offences to gather any weight.
– Where would it finish? They have hothouses full in our State.
-That is right, but that is a criminal offence. I do not think that the Committee was suggesting for one moment that it would not be a criminal offence to grow cannabis in hothouses. However, I think that the honourable senator who made the majority report ignored the fact that a cannabis plant is not just a cannabis plant. There are many varieties of cannabis and many strengths of cannabis. It is not possible to say: ‘OK, we will let people grow a cannabis plant, but they must only use the leaves. They must not use the rest of the plant’. Let us look at the position in respect of the cannabis plant. Marihuana, hashish, which is the resin, and hashish oil are derived from the plant. If honourable senators look at the strengths of the THC in these three products of the cannabis plant, they will see why in the minority report we objected so strongly to the growing of any of these products just for personal use. There is no way in which we can police the number of plants that are grown if we permit plants to be grown only for personal use. How many plants should we allow a person to grow for himself? It depends on the vigour of the plant. A person may grow three weedy little plants and say that that is enough for his use or he may grow three huge bushes and say that that is enough for himself and his mates. It will not be possible to police the number of plants that are grown for personal use.
– No, it is a hopeless situation.
– It is absolutely senseless. Let us look at the difference in the THC content in these products. I think that my comments might explain the position I am trying to outline. I would like to quote from a paper entitled Forensic Chemistry in Australia written by Dr Dainis on the occasion of the 46th Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science congress in January 1975. He says:
The dried cannabis plant and specifically the flowering tops from that female plant may contain anything from 0 to 14 per cent THC.
That is quite a variation of THC content in the one plant. I repeat that such plants contain 0 to 14 per cent THC content. He continues:
Normally, most samples of good quality manicured cannabis contains 0.2 per cent to 1 per cent -
That is the normal plant that is home grown- while superior quality samples may reach 2 per cent. The form known as Buddha grass or Thai sticks-
They come mainly from the United States of America. Honourable senators will remember that there was a big haul just last week in Sydney. The members of the Committee were going down to have a look at that haul but things happened and we did not actually get around to doing it. They are in this country. What does the majority report suggest that we should do in respect of this form of drug? Should they be allowed? Let me explain the THC content of this form of cannabis. They contain 4 per cent to 14 per cent THC. That is at least some four to 10 times more potent that the normal cannabis plant that people can grow in their back yards.
– You do not grow them.
-No, I do not grow them in my back yard. I have dealt with the varying THC content of the leaves of the cannabis plant- marihuana. Let us look at hashish and hashish oil. In hashish there can be 5 per cent to 15 per cent or 5 per cent to 25 per cent THC, depending on the variety. When we come to the oil, the samples in Australia at the moment contain from 5 per cent to 40 per cent, depending on how it is produced and whether the plants are thrashed or not.
– That is not in the leaves, is it?
-That is not in the leaves, it is in the stem. Hashish and hashish oil is obtained from the stem of the plant and can have from 5 per cent to 40 per cent THC content. Some that have been found in the United States of America have had an even higher content. This underlines just how impractical the majority report was when it suggested that one could grow sufficient for one’s own use in the backyard and it could be decriminalised.
– You have won me over.
– I am very happy to hear Senator Cavanagh say that because it is the first time I have won him over, I think.
– You have not won me over.
– I do not think I ever had, Senator Puplick. I do not think I could ever hope to win Senator Puplick on this one. Those figures might make people understand that we cannot simply say that we will decriminalise a certain amount of cannabis. There is as much difference between the types of cannabis, the types of hashish and hashish oil, which all belong to the cannabis plant, as there is between beer and neat alcohol. I do not think anybody in this chamber would suggest that we should introduce to Australia another problem of the magnitude of alcohol. Perhaps I could get away from cannabis now and deal with analgesics, which I am sure will please Senator Mulvihill. Evidence was presented to the Committee that whenever compound analgesics are consumed for anything but the relief of minor pain in a temporary fashion -
– You are better off walking around the block and taking deep breaths than having any of these things. You do not need all that rubbish.
– I think we will have to send Senator Mulvihill on a publicity campaign because what he has said is so right.
– You have got Senator Cavanagh and myself on the same side with you now.
-And Senator Georges; do not leave him out. I have half of Senator Grimes and none of Senator Tate or Senator Puplick. Analgesics are doing a tremendous amount of damage, particularly to the women of Australia. Evidence was put to the Committee that during tea breaks at a factory the women would have a cup of tea and an APC of some description. The APC’s would actually be handed around like a packet of cigarettes. We heard evidence that women were taking as many as 20 to 40 compound analgesics a day. It seems hard to imagine that people would have time to take twenty analgesics.
– They take too much notice of commercial radio advertisements for these things.
– I will come to that.
– And doctors’ prescriptions.
-No, compound analgesics do not need a doctor’s prescription. These are the ones that can be picked off the supermarket shelf- Bex and Vincent’s. People can pick them off their supermarket shelves and take them as often as they wish.
– But the doctor prescribes them when he does not know what is wrong with you.
– I am not referring to prescription drugs. The Committee did mention those but we have not dealt with them fully in this report. In spite of the publicity that accompanied the removal of phenacetin from the list of prescription drugs covered by pharmaceutical benefits, and the publicity given at the time to the dangers of compound analgesics, we found that there has still been the same amount of kidney failure and kidney disease in the last six years. Senator Mulvihill referred a few moments ago to the advertising of drugs, and the evidence the Committee heard on that brought to light some very interesting figures. We found that Queensland and New South Wales were the biggest offenders in relation to people taking drugs. In Queensland and New South Wales, where the advertising is far greater than elsewhere, even though they account for only 52 per cent of the population, 87.3 per cent of total sales of APC powders such as Vincent’s and Bex are sold.
– You would have to be drugged to live in New South Wales.
– Well, Tasmania was the second lowest, but Victoria beat us. Victoria was the lowest, which surprised me. A lot of evidence was presented to the Committee about the amount of advertising in those two States, and the figures available on the consumption of analgesics in those States underline the fact that the advertisements are really working, really getting across. Honourable senators will know the advertisement which says: ‘Take a Bex and have a lie down.’ The women are responding to that advertisement, which is a disaster.
– We permit that expenditure for taxation deduction purposes.
– Yes, and the report of the Committee makes many recommendations that I will read to the Senate in a few minutes. Honourable senators might be interested to know that Australia has a very high rate of kidney disease, particularly that attributable to analgesics. In Australia, between 5 per cent and 1 5 per cent of all autopsies performed in public hospitals showed the presence of analgesic kidney disease. That is a tremendous figure, particularly when it is compared with the United States and the United Kingdom, where the figure is only 0.2 per cent. The Australian figure is really quite incredible. The Committee found that the amount of advertising in the United States and the United Kingdom was nowhere near the amount of advertising that went on in Australia, and we felt that this was really attributable to the advertising market here. I will outline to the Senate some of the things we found in relation to analgesics. We discovered that some people admitted to taking more than 50 compound analgesics each day and that most of the compound analgesics are habituating. Women take twice as many analgesics as men and women present with five times more kidney disease than men. Compound analgesics lead to kidney infections, cause 20 per cent of kidney failures, cause stomach haemorrhages, and altogether cause far more problems than single analgesics. A single analgesic contains only one analgesic compound but the compound analgesics contain at least two or three. The recommendations made in the report in relation to the analgesic problem are as follows:
That all analgesics, whether sold with or without prescription, carry the following warning on the container
The Committee was not terribly happy about this because we did not believe that the cigarette warning ‘Smoking is a health hazard’ had any effect at all. However, we thought that when people purchased analgesics at a chemist and saw the warning they might take more notice of it. We have recommended the following warning:
This preparation is for the relief of minor and temporary ailments and should be used strictly as directed. Prolonged use without medical supervision could be harmful.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., under sessional order I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator HARRADINE (Tasmania) ‘ ( 10.30)- I rise to speak on two different but not unrelated matters. The first is the call by the Victorian Premier. Mr Hamer, for an all-in conference on unemployment and the response by the Federal Government in sending to that conference a junior Minister, the Minister for Productivity, Mr Macphee. The second is something which occurred last evening in the corridor ourside the Senate after I had been challenged in the Senate by Senator McLaren. As I have said, these two matters are not unrelated.
The first matter with which I wish to deal is the response of the Commonwealth Government to the call by Mr Hamer for an all-in conference on employment. To me, it shows what the Commonwealth Government thinks of that conference when it sends a junior Minister- almost the junior Minister–
– I am sorry; with due respect to present company, it shows what the Commonwealth Government thinks when it sends a junior Minister to that conference. I do not want to say anything against Mr Macphee. I have known him for many years. I have known him since he was a junior officer in one of the employers’ organisations and subsequently as an employer’s professional. He is a man gifted with a degree of smooth speech which I do not have and which I envy. But I do say this: He is a man who will play the role of the Commonwealth Government at that particular conference and that is why I am concerned about the type of thing he has been talking about over the last few months.
Honourable senators will recall that last night I suggested that the employment situation in Australia today was so disconcerting that it required the full-time attention of a senior Cabinet Minister. I believe that no one in this Senate would deny that that should be one of the options which should be given proper consideration by the Commonwealth Government. I said that I felt that the proper person in that context, not only because of the speech that he made in the House of Representatives, which was a realistic and appreciative speech, but also because of his long history and background in this area, was the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street- a senior Government Minister and the Minister who has been regarded until recently as the right-hand man of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). But what does the Prime Minister do? He sends a junior Minister to this most vital conference. That to me is an example of how the Commonwealth Government regards this conference.
Let me remind honourable senators of what Mr Macphee said during an AM broadcast on 26 September 1978. Mr Macphee was responding to what Herman Huyer, the Chairman and Managing Director of Phillips Industries, had said. This question was posed to Mr Macphee by Warren Duncan:
Mr Macphee, when you are looking at the problems created by technology, are you looking at a situation in the future where we must accept unemployment as Mr Street has predicted, or are you thinking in terms of a situation where we can still hope for full employment as the full use of the people who are in the work force?
Mr Macphee had this to say:
Yes, I believe we can return to high levels of employment. I think a combination of factors has to prevail. First of all, there has to be, as I have said, a rejuvenation of our existing industries -
I do not quarrel with him on that. In some of these areas Mr Macphee is doing quite a good job, with tripartite committees in certain industries. He then went on to say:
There has to be creation of new ones -
That is, new industries- and most of those are centred around high technology or the export of information and expertise.
Again he has a point there. But where he falls down is in regard to the third and very important aspect. He said:
Third, we must have a return to economic growth and we will only get that by being more competitive by technology and finally, I think there has got to be much more flexibility about our working hours and we have to look at more permanent part-time employment, more job-sharing . . .
If that is Mr Macphee ‘s answer to the social nature of the employment problem- that there has to be more job-sharing and more permanent part-time employment- he is whistling in the dark. He should tell that to the 380,000 people in Australia who are looking for full-time work. Next week I am going back to Tasmania and I am going out to the factories and the shops. I will say to the workers there: ‘Oh, this man, Mr Macphee, has said that one of the ways you are going to overcome unemployment in Australia is to do a bit of job sharing. How about doing a bit of job sharing, you fellows?’ I know what the response will be. It will be: ‘Yes, sure, we’ll share our jobs, but we won’t share our pay’. We cannot ‘ expect the workers of Australia to share their pay, but that is what Mr Macphee is talking about.
Where does he get these ideas, these curious ideas, from? He has been inveigled by the type of radical feminist rubbish that has been put forward to him. Let us see what he had to say when he opened the ‘sharing of the work’ conference which was organised by people well connected with the Women’s Electoral Lobby in Canberra. That conference commenced on the 12th of this month. I will not go into the record of that conference but there are about five or six pages of total waffle. Well, there were some good points in it; not everything is bad. I think we do have to look at questions such as the sort of shifts involved, the staggering of working hours and so on. Also, as I have been saying for many years, we must look at the question of working hours, not necessarily as regards weekly working hours, but over the lifetime. But the burden of Mr Macphee ‘s paper was to the effect that the answer to this problem of unemployment was the need to provide more permanent part-time work and more job-sharing. I will give him credit, he did say this:
Whilst attention will be given at the conference to the people who do want part-time employment and will benefit from it, attention should also be given to the reaction of those who will not welcome their income being reduced by jobsharing.
He at least recognises that. He went on:
Thus, whilst I agree that debate should take place on the proposition that all in the community have the right to share the available work -
What a curious statement that is! He said: ‘All in the community have the right to share the available work’. That is an amazing statement- ‘all in the community have the right to share the available work’. This civilisation and the trade union movement spent years getting kids out of the mines and out of the factories and releasing women from being pressured to go out to work because of need, and here we have the modern ideas of Mr Macphee, the person who is going to represent this Government at the vital conference which is being called by the Victorian Premier. I appeal to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to reconsider the appointment of this junior Minister, who will waffle on like this at that meeting, or be exposed for not getting down to brass tacks. What I said last evening is unchallengeable, that is, that the real problem of unemployment is that we have an expanded work force at the very time when new job opportunities are being cut off by rapid technological advances. As I said last evening, that has a social as well as an economic aspect. The people who created this problem during the late 1960s- Ian Macphee, as a representative of the employers, was one of them- were arguing against equal pay and were urging the women, the mothers, to go out into the work force as a source of cheap labour. He it was, along with the employers and the Government of the day, who was responsible for something that is just now being retrieved. But retrieved it must be, and it cannot be retrieved if a person such as Ian Macphee is to represent the Government at that conference.
Of course, during last year, I think it was, I related to the Senate the parable of the magic tree by Sarah Dowse. The Senate will recall Sarah Dowse as the head of the Office of Women’s Affairs. The Senate will recall that from that parable we could see that although she was appointed to the position by the Fraser Government she was attempting to undermine all the types of policies for which he thought he stood. Indeed, it was clear from a parable that she was acting not as a public servant but as part of the apparatus of the Women’s Electoral Lobby and other radical feminist groups. Before I get on to anything else let me tell the Senate who was appointed as Director of the Office of Women’s Affairs when Ian Macphee took charge of it. It was Mrs Taperell. If honourable senators ask those who know within the Labor Party who Mrs Taperell was they will find that she certainly was not somebody who was from the mainstream of the Labor movement in New South Wales- the Teachers Federation. She was from the left of the Labor movement and is a person who is on record as advancing the type of radical feminist nonsense which is so prevalent amongst a number of trendies within the ALP and presumably within the Liberal Party. That is the person who was appointed. Who bobs up as the deputy? Senator Susan Ryan’s former research officer. The reason why I am saying this is that she is also on record as -
– What is her name?
- Her name is Gay Pinkus. She also is part of the WEL operation. If I were a Minister I would be looking at all matters concerning women that came before me as advice because the Office of Women’s Affairs vets everything that goes to the Ministers when it concerns the women of Australia. This is the very point I was making last night, that these particular people have no confidence in or respect for family standards and values and desire to see that the family standards and values which are needed for the strength of this country are undermined.
– You are a confirmed male chauvinist and character assassin.
– I am standing here on behalf of the vast majority of women in this nation. I can see amongst honourable senators who is laughing and who is not. Let me say this: The problem that the Labor Party is facing now is–
– When I was in the Labor Party we held the five House of Representative seats for Tasmania and now the Labor Party holds none.
– You and your saboteurs undermined us.
– I did not expel myself, Senator O’Byrne. I was expelled by nine votes to eight, one of whom was Senator Gietzelt and one of whom was Mr Hartley. If Mr Hartley had not been there I would still be in the Labor Party. From the experience I have and from the talks I have had with the rank and file workers I reiterate that they will not be in the type of radical trendyism that now afflicts the Labor Party. They will not be in the efforts of the Women’s Electoral Lobby which, for example, asked the victimless crimes inquiry in Tasmania that all laws on victimless crimes, including those on homosexuality, prostitution, incest and abortion, be abolished. They will not have a bar of that. If the State Government in Tasmania has any sense at all it will reject out of hand the recommendations which have come down today from the so-called victimless crimes inquiry. I am sorry that Senator Ryan is not here.
– You did not warn her that you were going to speak.
– Did you warn her that you were going to speak?
- Mr President, that is typical of Senator McLaren and Senator O’Byrne. They both say that I did not warn her. I phoned the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) and told him this morning that if he did not do something about the occurrence of last night which involved Senator Ryan and Senator McLaren I would. I am going to do it now. I told Senator Wriedt that I intended to do it and I intend to speak on that issue tonight. Last night during the debate there was an interjection by Senator Wriedt. That interjection concerned the Labor Party policy in respect of family allowances. It occurs on page 998 of Senate Hansard. I said:
I am talking about family allowances.
Then I said:
I ask the honourable senator to commit his party to the full indexation of family allowances.
– That has been said. Senator Grimes is on record as saying it. You should check your homework.
- Senator Ryan is on record also as saying that these allowances should not be indexed. 1 think the honourable senator ought to pull her into gear.
That was it until Senator McLaren in reading from a document made his comments, as recorded at page 1016, which I will not read. You can all read them.
– Oh yes- -Luvvy
– I think you have got everyone convinced.
– All right. I will read them. If Senator Gietzelt wants the comments read I will read them, but honourable senators can see them on page 1016 if they want to. Senator McLaren in the debate last night said:
I well remember receiving Press statements from our Senate Leader-
That is Senator Wriedt. He went on to say:
There is no doubt that the Government would have proceeded with this plan if its intentions had not be made public . . .
I then interjected with these words:
Did you call for the indexation of family allowances?
And Senator McLaren said:
Senator Harradine should refer to where Senator Ryan said that she was opposed to the indexation of family allowances. If he is not able to produce the evidence he should apologise to Senator Ryan.
I retorted that I would go straight to the Library and get it and come straight back. Senator McLaren then said:
Go and get it and then come in here and make your apologies.
Which I duly did. But when I started proving the point -
– No, you didn’t.
– He says ‘No, you didn’t’. Do you want me to prove it? I will prove it to you tonight. If I did not prove it to your satisfaction last night, I will prove it to you tonight. When I read the letter from the Sydney Morning Herald- this is on pages 1022 and 1023 of Senate Hansard- it. proved that so far as a national organisation of women in this country is concerned Senator Ryan was opposed to the indexation of family allowances and that she had replied to it in respect of that. Senator McLaren sought to stop me saying that last night. After the Senate rose I went towards my room. Senator Ryan was talking to Senator Missen. As I was going past minding my own business, she said: “That was a despicable thing that you did tonight’. She said: I did not answer that questionnaire that was sent to me by the Women’s Action Alliance’. And that was said to the cackling down the corridor of Senator McLaren who said to me that I ought to be ashamed of the lies that I told in the Senate.
– I never used the word lies’. Now, come off it.
– Do you then say that I was telling the truth?
– No, I would never say that about you. I have seen too much of you in here. You handle it very carelessly.
– Let me just prove this to the Senate, because I think it is important. I have been called many things but I have never been called a liar and I have never said anything which I did not have a valid and perfectly good reason for saying. Senator McLaren will not deny that Senator Ryan did not respond to what was said or that she said it was a despicable thing that I said. I have in my hand a Press statement dated Thursday, 8 December 1977 by the Women’s Action Alliance. It includes a statement of a questionnaire which was forwarded to all members of parliament in the Australian Capital Territory in respect of a number of family issues. That Press statement contains the replies by Senator Ryan and the reply to question No. 1 is in Senator Ryan’s handwriting. Question No. 1 is: ‘Do you support removing the present economic discrimination against the single income family by indexation of family allowances?’ The answer to that in her own handwriting is no. It is an interesting document. I think I would like to seek leave to table the document because other members of parliament will be interested to see some of the other answers. This is an important women’s organisation Indeed, it is an organisation which -
– WR organisation?
– The Women’s Action Alliance, yes. Dr Klugman, the Opposition spokesman in the other place for health matters was pleased to read or to have incorporated into the Hansard the organisation’s letter of 23 August as published in the Australian Financial Review. That letter paid out on the Government in no uncertain terms. I think it is unjustifiable for Senator Ryan and Senator McLaren to do what they did. Furthermore, because Senator Ryan is not present tonight I am restrained in saying other things which I feel should be explained to the Senate and to the people of Canberra as to her attitudes about the questions which are vital to the future of family life in this nation, including the fact that of everybody in Australia she was selected to open the Fourth Homosexual National Conference in Sydney this year.
– What is wrong with that?
- Senator Gietzelt asked what is wrong with that.
– She was invited to speak. What is wrong with that?
– She was also invited to speak at the National Right to Life Conference which was held in Canberra at the same time.
– She has the right to accept or decline. She does not have to seek your approval.
– That is all right, Senator Gietzelt. Let me say this -
– You are a self-appointed judge.
– No, not at all. The result of that conference was that there was a donnybrook in Hyde Park at the time Congressman Hyde was addressing a Right to Life rally on that Sunday. Many senior Labor people from New South Wales were at the pro-life rally. An organised group from the Homosexuals Cooperative, one hundred of whom were arrested, attempted to bust up that meeting. I did not hear Senator Ryan publicly condemn that sort of activity. Finally, I want to link these two matters together. Last evening I mentioned that this question of unemployment has a technological and a social problem.
– Homosexuality is similar.
– Yes, there is a 70 per cent rate of syphilis, according to the Bulletin recently. On the technical aspects, I believe that the Minister for Productivity, Mr Macphee, is not adequate to represent the Government because, although he is competent in dealing with individual industries, he does not have the weight to call the pause that is necessary to enable us to look at where advances in technology are taking us and at who are the principal innovators and applicators of technological change.
– Who are they? Tell us who they are.
– By and large the multinational companies are the applicators and innovators of technological change. I have been saying that for years. One of the ways in which I have been involved in overcoming that problem is through international unionism. Secondly, however, I believe that Mr Macphee is not adequate to the situation when it comes to an examination of the social problem. That major social problem, of which he was part, of forcing, through economic circumstances and pressurestatus pressure- mothers into the work force must be overcome and the position must be reversed if we are to look at the problem properly. I believe that a senior Minister is required to look at it. The problem would then confront that senior Minister and the Government might have to re-think all of its economic and family support policies.
- Mr President, you will find it somewhat incredible that, after such an impassioned speech, I intend this evening to speak about school flags. Since I have been in this chamber I think that I have been a fairly good student of procedure. I noticed the other night that my Party’s Whip had a discourse on wigs. That being the case, I think it is quite pertinent for me to speak about school flags. Like many members of the House of Representatives and many honourable senators, I sometimes receive requests from schools to provide them with a school flag. I think that reaction to these requests differs from senator to senator and from member to member. Some members and senators like this type of activity; others do it because they think it is part of the job and that they have to do it. Recently amongst many requests, I received a request from a school in the Kingaroy area in Queensland. I was asked to present a flag to this school.
As a matter of course I obtained a flag from the Department of Education which supplies flags to senators and members. I planned to present this flag to the school, for a number of reasons. One is that I still like to go back into schools because of my professional background to see what is happening in schools nowadays and to keep up an association with schools, especially in Queensland, the State in which I taught. As well as that, I think that it is the policy of whichever party happens to be in power to have a member of the House of Representatives or a senator present flags- so I am led to believe. I think that it is important that young people in schools have the opportunity to see their elected representatives from time to time. By being able to present flags one is able to talk to students, both young and old. I mention in passing that probably in most schools to which I go to carry out this duty after I have left the students probably are not aware of the political party to which I belong. That is not because I deliberately set out not to mention the party to which I belong but because I do not think it is my duty to mention party politics when I am in a school.
After I had received the flag for the Kingaroy school my secretary set out to make arrangements for the presentation of the flag to the school. She telephoned the principal and suggested a certain day on which this could be done. After speaking to the principal she told me that the principal’s attitude when he answered the phone was quite unusual. She reported that the school principal said that he had put in a request for just a flag; that the school did not go in much for presentations; that he did not really think that someone would come along to present it; and that all the school really wanted was a flag. He told my secretary that he would telephone her back on this. Because I had hoped to go to Kingaroy to present this flag next week I told my secretary that if she had not heard from the principal by today perhaps she had better telephone him back to see what were his thoughts about the presentation. So today she telephoned him as I had suggested.
I do not know whether he was embarrassed when he mentioned this- my secretary said he sounded a little embarrassed- but he informed her that it might be better if I did not come to the school because after all that school is in the Premier’s electorate and it might look bad if I came along. I was not all that taken aback because, after all, I have campaigned in the Kingaroy area from time to time. It is a somewhat unnerving experience for a member of the Australian Labor Party. As you would probably know, Mr President, from many things that were mentioned in this chamber and probably outside the chamber before I was elected to the Senate, I am not really Mr Bjelke-Petersen’s pin-up boy. On the other hand, I suppose that the feeling is somewhat mutual. I wonder whether this school should be deprived of an Australian flag because of the fact that it is in Mr Bjelke-Petersen’s electorate.
Mr President, when I was a teacher it was the accepted practice that if one received visitors to the school one would welcome those visitors, no matter who they were. I hesitate to say this in some respects because one of my colleagues who is a member of the House of Representatives is listening to me at the moment and he will probably hold it against me for the rest of my life: When I was the principal in a one-teacher school in a country area of Queensland I actually invited Mr Bjelke-Petersen into my school. I admit that he came only once. I admit that he came on that occasion only because an election was pending. He did not know me at that stage and he asked me whether he could leave his how-to-vote cards with me.
The point I would like to make is that it was a long standing tradition in schools when I was a teacher to invite visitors in, to actually welcome them to the schools. I do not think that the pupils in Kingaroy should be disadvantaged, or perhaps I should say further disadvantaged, because they have the Premier as their local member. I am faced now with a number of alternatives. I can post the flag to the school, I can go to the school uninvited or I can return the flag to the Department of Education.
I do not really ask the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney) to respond to the comments that I have made tonight. However, I want to say that this is an unfortunate occurrence. I deliberately have not mentioned the school because I do not want to embarrass the principal. I have just said it is in the Kingaroy area. However, I think it is unfortunate that this principal has thought that it would not be good to have a Labor member in his school because of the fact that he lives within the electorate of the Premier of Queensland. It is not unusual for this sort of thing to happen in Queensland, for people to be worried about what is going to happen if a Labor member is invited to a place like this. I do not think it is a healthy situation to develop in Australian schools. I think this incident is important enough to recount to the Senate this evening.
– I apologise for taking the time of the Senate and for not continuing in the vein established by Senator Colston this evening. I want to pick up and develop a point that was inherent in some of the remarks made by Senator Harradine and to allude to certain aspects of the drug problem in Australia as I am aware of them. They affect a large number of people of my age, some of whom I know very well. They are users of cannabis and they can give genuine evidence about it. The Senate ought to be aware that these people are evidence of the fact that the current drug laws in Australia are pitiful and inadequate and need the most radical overhaul and change. The fact that Senator Harradine in the course of his speech alluded to what he believed to be the unfortunate influence of radical feminism indicates only that there are flowing through society at the moment currents which frankly cannot and will not be resisted, no matter what people may say. Those currents have to be understood and have to be responded to in an intelligent fashion. To a very large extent, the response of people in this country to the problems associated with cannabis in particular are neither intelligent nor effective.
As I said, I do not know whether I am alone in being able to claim in this Senate that a large number of the people whom I have known since my student days and before that are regular users of marihuana. Those people have had runins with the law in relation to this matter and they are people who are perhaps well placed to add their comments to what people old enough to be their parents have adjudged to be the correct response for society.
– That is not what is wrong with Senator Harradine tonight.
-No, Senator Harradine was talking about another trend in society which will be as inevitable and as difficult to resist as the one about which I am talking. If we persist in the attitudes that we have at the moment we will bring about a situation which will get progressively worse, and we will be responsible for that happening. An article which appeared in the Melbourne Sun-Pictorial of 4 July 1978 is headed: ‘Marihuana: The 30 per cent of our youth who have broken the law’. Whilst it may be fairly easy for people to say ‘rot’ and ‘nonsense’, it is also necessary for them, if they have some long term commitment to trying to do something to assist young people in the community, to come to grips with the problem. The fact is that that newspaper article and many other articles have demonstrated that we are talking about approximately one-third of the young people in our community who are put in the position of breaching the law quite simply because the law as it stands at the moment has been made and maintained for less than good reason.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy President. I do not want to cut Senator Puplick short in his remarks. I am just looking at the time. Perhaps the honourable senator does not realise that he is making a speech which he intended to make during the debate on General Business.
– On the point of orderSenator Georges- I have not finished yet. I just want to make certain that we do not fall into the trap of continuing in the adjournment debate a debate which took place during the consideration of our normal business. I do not want to cut Senator Puplick short in his remarks. I am very interested in what he has been saying. However, a similar incident occurred the other night and it was ruled that it was in order for an honourable senator to speak in such circumstances. But it seems that tonight it could be quite out of order. I do not want to see established the precedent of continuing until the early hours of the morning the debate on a matter which is the subject of a motion on the Notice Paper.
- Mr Deputy President, I submit to you that the debate which took place earlier this evening was a debate on the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare which dealt with a large number of problems. The remarks which I wish to address to the Senate arise from a document which the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) has been accused of having suppressed but which in fact is freely available and a royal commission report emanating in South Australia. I submit that it is not my intention to say one word about the Senate Committee report and, therefore, I would not be transgressing the Standing Orders.
- Mr Deputy President, I withdraw my point of order.
-I turn to what I believe to be a most enlightened comment by an adviser to the American Government. This adviser, who was in Australia in May of this year, told an inquiry what her belief was. She said:
In the final analysis we are pushed into a corner. We can’t outlaw everything.
She went on to say:
Legalisation of marihuana-
Which is not a point of view that I advocate- is inevitable unless we change our policy on alcohol.
She went on before this inquiry to say:
We should move to the legalisation of marihuana and in the first instance we should do it through decriminalisation.
Senator W h e el d o n - W h a t does decriminalisation’ mean? It is not criminal now. It is meaningless.
– I will come to that in a moment. I have a great deal of admiration for the person who made these remarks, who is, as I said, an adviser to President Carter by the name of Dr Judianne Densen-Gerber. I advert also to comments made before another inquiry by a person whom I believe has some standing in the community in terms of being able to make remarks about the medical nature of this problem. The remarks that Dr Dunlop, the New South Wales President of the Australian Medical Association, made were along very much the same lines.
I believe that we have to reach a situation in which when we come to deal with significant matters that affect the Australian community and a particular section of the Australian community we have to be able to do it in a sense of greater rationality than has occurred in the past. The report prepared by the drug dependence section of the Commonwealth Department of Health, a report that caused some controversy when it was alleged that this document had been suppressed when in fact it is quite freely available in the Parliamentary Library, is one of the areas which I believe ought to be explored by honourable senators to some advantage. The line that it adopts is basically to try to present in a coherent and well-prepared manner the arguments on this sensitive question.
Very few people, I believe, have made as much of an important contribution to the Australian community as that which is being made at the moment by the royal commission sitting in South Australia. That royal commission has tried to present by way of argument, by way of discussion and by way of presentation of facts certain material that ought to be studied and studied closely. That royal commission has identified a number of ways in which we could move towards some rational response to this problem. Page 96 of the report of the South Australian royal commission states:
The major policy question is often seen to be whether the use of cannabis should be ‘legalised’ or ‘decriminalised’. These terms are misleading. There are basically five policy choices: total prohibition, the prohibition/civil penalty model, partial prohibition, the regulatory model and free availability.
I am one of those people who would put, as a quite clear caveat on expressing any view, that the final of those views, free availability, is not one that I support. What we are facing at the moment, however, is a degree of confusion existing in the minds of law makers and law enforcers. That arises, as it does I believe in any situation, when the law is seen to be failing in the purpose for which it is supposed to operate; that of preventing a certain activity from taking place.
– Would you agree to license the recipients to use it?
-My view on this is that there comes a stage when, in attempting to balance the requirements of what one might call some sort of social protection and the requirements of the civil liberties of the individual, one has to move towards saying that those who are prepared to consume or partake of this particular drug in a way that causes no offence to the community, and refrain from any activity such as being in control of a motor vehicle or anything of that nature should be allowed -
– How do you prove that?
– In exactly the same way as one proves being in control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
– You are joking!
-No, I am not joking at all.
– You are joking. There is no such thing as the bag.
-If the honourable senator were a little more au fait with some of the literature from the United States about the way in which this matter could be proven he would not make such a statement. The education discussion paper that was put out by the same royal commission, at page 2 1 reads:
Therefore the adult world, rather than that of the school, must be the first target for drug education if the ‘drug problem ‘ is not to await its solution for a very long time.
I would hope that, given the exigencies of getting through Government business during the rest of this session, it would be possible to get back onto the notice paper a continuation of the debate that was taking place earlier this evening. I believe that unless the national Parliament is prepared to look at these matters and to engage in a debate which, hopefully, would be a debate of rationality and not of sloganeering, which hopefully would be a debate in which the division between the parties in this chamber counted for nothing, we will be faced with having failed in our very clear responsibility to a very large section of the electorate. I believe that there comes a point at which honourable senators who are interested in the matter should be able to state their view on it within a context of how they perceive personal relationships and how they perceive the right of individuals to go about their business of living their own lives.
– As long as they do not kill people on the roads.
- Senator, that applies, as you well know, in just about every situation, and as I said when you were not present in the chamber.
– And how do you catch up with them?
-I said, Senator, at an earlier dme that I hoped this debate could be conducted without sloganeering.
– Which debate? Do not tell me that this is a debate now?
– I believe that anything which involves the situation of so many young people in this community is a matter for community debate. I regret that it seems on this matter, as on several others, that the people who would most like to disrupt my train of thought, or the expression of my opinion, tend to be on this side of the division. Some time ago- in fact more than a century ago- when John Stuart Mill was writing about the rights and responsibilities of the individual, he wrote that the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over a 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. The only part of the conduct of anyone for which he is amenable to society is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.
– You are joking.
-No, I would not joke about a matter as serious as that. I would not joke about a matter that concerns people who are just as much constituents of mine as they are of any other honourable senator. I would not joke about a situation when I have been personally in contact with so many people who are affected by -
– So have I and I have got jobs for them.
-I am not talking about doing jobs for them. I am talking about understanding at their own level what they are all about. The remarks of a large number of honourable senators quite clearly indicate the extent to which their prejudices are being imposed on other people, as distinct from seeking to serve people who have their own opinions. Having attempted to put into the record the fact that views are held by members of my political Party which are not entirely monolithic on this question, I simply want to say that there are great and pressing issues on which people must take a stand. As honourable senators will know, it is virtually impossible for a new member of parliament to have a significant influence on the preparation and delivery of government legislation. Therefore, what a junior member of the Senate can do is at least to indicate to people in the community who are concerned about a particular point of view that there is somebody who at least is prepared to be sympathetic, somebody who is prepared to consider the fact that old solutions demonstrably are not working and that new solutions demonstrably are required.
-Mr Deputy President, I wish to address my remarks also to the marihuana question and to place on record my belief which is known in the Tasmanian community that the social and recreational use of small amounts of marihuana for personal use ought not to attract a criminal penalty. I should make it clear that I in no way advocate the use of marihuana. In fact, I would discourage its consumption as a matter of caution, even though the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare remarked that given the length of time cannabis has been in use, nothing has manifested itself in the community in the form of physical ill-health directly attributable to cannabis use. As a matter of caution, I certainly do not advocate that people should consume marihuana.
I believe that the crux of the marihuana debate lies elsewhere than in the question of its adverse effect on health. This is the point that Senator Puplick made and with which I agree. I believe that the focus lies entirely in the civil liberties area. After all, we are talking about offences where a simple fact is pursued. Is the accused in possession of or using marihuana? The court is bound to ignore any effect on family, employment or society at large. There is no question of nuisance such as there is with the offence of being drunk and disorderly. Immediately one can perceive a striking difference between this offence and almost every other criminal offence. The repercussions on other people involved in almost every other crime such as theft and murder are specifically excluded from consideration. The law fastens on the offender as a solitary person engaging in a particular activity. There is no complainant seeking the protection of the law. This should immediately alert us to the fact that something unusual is going on. A person is being subjected to the police power of the state, with the possibility of incarceration and certainly the payment of a fine, without any claim being made by society that any other person is affected or even that the offender is affected. For example, there is nothing in the offence equivalent to a person being drunk and incapable of taking care of himself. The mere fact of possession or use by a person is enough to establish that an offence has been committed.
I believe that we are confronted with a cultural phenomenon where society provides an elaborate mechanism for the supply of approved drugs. We can obtain alcohol at licensed premises. We can get tobacco at every shop. We can purchase analgesics at chemist shops. Society has an elaborate mechanism for the supply of approved drugs but turns savagely on the users of this nonapproved drug. By such medical criteria as exists, the list ought to be reversed. As Senator Grimes pointed out and as I think even Senator Walters pointed out, society certainly should turn savagely on the providers and promoters of alcohol, tobacco and analgesics rather than marihuana.
You may know, Mr President, that I have made a personal protest on this point. I have given up the use of alcohol, which was my social and recreational drug, enjoyed in moderate amounts. However, people who use another drug, less devastating than alcohol in its individual and social consequences, can have their lives completely disrupted by a criminal conviction. Mr President, the first occasion on which I had to refuse a glass of wine with a meal was in your dining room when you entertained new senators. I had regretfully to say ‘no’ to the offer of wine from your own estate.
Present penal laws are a cultural phenomenon and suspect that the lifestyle within an anti-social sub-culture imagined by many upholders of the present law to be associated invariably with the use of the drug is a major cultural reason behind the total prohibition mentality. I will make an obvious point about the creation of that subculture in a moment, although it has to be explained and emphasised, as it was in the report to which I am not really alluding, that all strata of society and all types of Australians have used this drug regularly. I think that the Senate Committee accepted the figure of 8 per cent for people who have tried the drug and 3 per cent for people who have used it regularly. But the image in the public mind is of the rebellious youth, contemptuous of society’s mores, indulging in this activity. I believe that that image in the public mind is important and explanatory. As a person interested in the legal process and civil liberties, I repeat the words of Lord Justice Lawson in a recent English case, in which he said:
The first thing to be said, and said very firmly indeed, is that Her Majesty’s Courts are not dust bins into which the social services can sweep difficult members of the public. Still less should Her Majesty’s judges use their sentencing powers to dispose of those who are socially inconvenient. If the courts become disposers of those who are socially inconvenient the road ahead would lead to the destruction of liberty. It should be clearly understood that Her Majesty’s judges stand on that road barring the way.
I agree entirely with the sentiments there expressed. In case honourable senators think I am speaking abstractly, I point out that it is remarkable how the detection and prosecution of this offence feeds the myth in the public mind that the persons who indulge in this use are all young people rebelling against society’s mores. The statistics which I am going to quote, I believe, are a reproach to us all. As legislators we should be concerned to protect the poor and the defenceless in society. But those people who are most vulnerable are those against whom this law is enforced, as Senator Puplick pointed out. Those people who are more sophisticated in their clandestine enjoyment of this drug escape detection or, if not detection, certainly prosecution.
Honourable senators can draw the appropriate conclusions from the following facts: In Tasmania in 1975-76, of 821 convictions for marihuana use 111 convictions were recorded against labourers and 288 convictions were recorded against unemployed persons. Over 50 per cent of the convictions were recorded against labourers and unemployed persons. This small segment of small society was vulnerable because of its lifestyle. It would be a brave man who would claim that 50 per cent of the users in Tasmania belonged to those two categories of persons. They were vulnerable; they were the ones detected; they were the ones prosecuted.
I advert very briefly to the report of the Senate Committee. I am not dwelling on that report, because I do not think it goes far enough; but, as I understand it, the report recommends that penal criminal sanctions should be removed from the use or possession of small amounts of cannabis and that small monetary penalties, not in the nature of criminal sanctions, be applicable. I believe that that would go some of the way towards mitigating the harshness of the operation of the present system, under which untold damage can be done to the career prospects and social life of a person stigmatised with a criminal conviction. Even the prospect of a criminial conviction can be disruptive of a career, particularly when an employer suspends an employee, as most often occurs in the Public Service or education areas, until the matter is determined in court; to say nothing of the adverse personal effect of the anxiety generated by the prospect of criminal conviction. I hold a personal view, and it is a personal view not shared by my party in Tasmania, that this report does not go nearly far enough. My main objection and my main fear is that this type of proposal leaves the trade, the supply of cannabis, in the hands of the same unscrupulous traders as at present. It leaves the moderate social user in jeopardy. It creates the very situation which society fears. In its submission to the Select Committee on Victimless Crime in Tasmania, the Catholic Diocesan Pastoral Counciland I emphasise that that Council did not endorse decriminalisation of mariuhuana- nevertheless submitted:
We are particularly concerned about the development of sub-cultures associated with the use of alcohol and drugs that seem to lead to alienation from families and the general life of the community. It seems to us that it is in such subcultures that the progressive theory of drug use is most likely to operate and it is in them that those trafficking in drugs can most readily encourage such a progression.
Very succinctly, that sums up my fears in this respect. Our youth, and increasingly our young adults, are being forced to deal in a criminal subculture. All the lessons of the total prohibition era in the United States seem to have been unlearned.
Who benefits from the present situation? The answer is obvious. It is the criminals. At $400 a lb for marihuana, the distribution of this drug is highly profitable and provides funds for the more sinister and nefarious activities of these criminals. Society ensures the liquidity of their operations. Who suffers in this situation? It is the user. He or she is exposed to unscrupulous traders who have an all too evident interest in greater profits and in leading the user to the use of truly dangerous drugs, deadly and inimical to the user’s health and well being. One often finds that when marihuana supplies decrease in a particular area, for example, in the north-west coast of Tasmania, simultaneously heroin becomes available. That is the technique these distributors use, and of course the users of marihuana are locked into that criminal sub-culture and are easy prey. That is the danger, and it is my fear.
I put forward an idea to which I am not finally attached but which I believe ought to be considered, namely, that the State should be the only authorised processor and dealer in marihuana- dried-leaf cannabis- marihuana of a definite potency and purity. The State would probably grant a monopoly licence to a statutory corporation. In other words, distribution of the drug should not be in the hands of either unscrupulous criminals or private traders, as presently is the case with alcohol and tobacco. This would take marihuana trafficking out of the hands of the criminal element and allow the community to establish its effects rationally in a Western industrialised society. I admit that certain offences would have to be created and ought to be policed. These would be unlicensed cultivation, unlicensed trafficking, and use of a motor vehicle or industrial machinery while under the influence, the latter being the equivalent of using such machinery or driving such a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
That is the proposal I put forward. I believe that the gains to society, even in adopting the more limited approach of merely taking away criminal penalties for the use and enjoyment of moderate amounts of marihuana, would bring about considerable gains for the reasons I have outlined. But even more is involved, and in this I agree once again with Senator Puplick. I believe that the comprehensive moral value of tolerance needs to be fostered in our society. To quote again from the Catholic Diocesan Pastoral Council submission:
Law must keep close to the moral sense of the community and the moral sense of the community must inspire law. This is not repressive of minority opinion because in a civilised and Christian community tolerance of differing moral viewpoints and practices will be part of that general moral sense.
I consider that this is also a political value of high importance in our sort of democracy. Representative democracy does not exist only where the majority makes laws for the time being. That is part of it, but that can lead to authoritarian rule. Representative democracy exists where the majority for the time being makes the laws but tolerates the advocacy of different points of view and the living of different life styles which do not involve violence. I think that the marihuana case is really a touchstone of democratic values.
– Is not the question of proof of consumption important? I would not like to be a worker under a crane driven by a person under the influence of pot.
– I agree. That is why I have said that the driving of a motor vehicle or the use of industrial machinery whilst under the influence ought to be an offence.
– That is why I question the proof. How do you prove the offence?
– I agree that that is extremely important. I am in entire agreement. I believe that in our reaction to the social use of small amounts of marihuana by Australians we have one of the indicators of the health of our democracy. I hope that all honourable senators will accept that that is my concern. I believe it is not inimical to the general health of the community. I believe that my suggestion of taking the users of marihuana out of the criminal subculture, in which they are led at times to the use of other drugs, will actually lessen drug dependence within Australia. In any case I wanted to put that on record as a contribution particularly to the drug debate in Tasmania which will be stimulated by the tabling of the select committee’s report- according to Senator Harradine it was tabled today- which I have not had an opportunity to peruse. The mandate of that committee was to monitor community opinion within Tasmania. I regard my contribution tonight as a help to the formation of a rational debate within Tasmania. I hope it leads to some sort of just conclusion.
– I do not wish to delay the Senate. I rise briefly because of some words used by Senator Harradine in an interjection and because of some words used by Senator Walters earlier this evening. Senator Harradine remarked on the absence of Senator Ryan and Senator Walters remarked, in a derogatory way, on the fact that Senator Ryan was not present. I inform the Senate that Senator Ryan is not present for a good and proper reason. I would stack Senator Ryan’s record of attendance in this place against Senator Harradine ‘s at any time. She was unable to be here this evening.
We have seen tonight from Senator Harradine a very good example of a tactic which he uses quite frequently. Last evening in this place a mild exchange took place between Senator Harradine, Senator Wriedt and myself about an issue relating to family allowances. Later on there was a more vigorous exchange between Senator Harradine and Senator McLaren on the subject of Senator Ryan’s previous views. Senator Harradine brought forward as evidence for his views a letter from the Women’s Action Alliance. According to him there was later an altercation in the corridors of this place, something which I suggest is not unusual. It happens quite frequently. Of course Senator Harradine in typical manner blows this up into an enormous incident. He stormed in here tonight and gave us a burst on Senator Ryan’s alleged views and included, for good measure, the fact that Senator Ryan was asked and agreed to open a conference of homosexuals in this country. Apparently this is a crime in Senator Harradine ‘s view. Although homosexuals are a minority in the country they have every right to hold a conference. I believe that if someone is asked to address such a conference they should be happy enough to do so. Such a person should not be condemned in this place for doing such a thing.
We then got a burst on the giant conspiracy theory which involves the radical feminists of the Women’s Electoral Lobby taking over the Government in this country. It seems that anyone who disagrees with Senator Harradine ‘s views is a communist, a Left Liberal- I think that is the term correctly used in Newsweek- a trendy or a radical feminist. This includes the Liberal Party members as well. There is a blanket condemnation of anyone involved, including Mr Macphee who can well defend himself. If he cannot there are others on the other side of the chamber who can.
– He is a trendy feminist.
– As Senator Missen says, he is a trendy feminist. We got a tremendous burst on all these people tonight. Then we got another example of Senator Harradine ‘s tactics when Senator Puplick had the temerity to express his views in this place tonight and quoted John Stuart Mill, hardly the most radical man ever on this earth. Senator Harradine ‘s interjection to Senator Puplick ‘s quotation of John Stuart Mill was: ‘You must be joking’. I warn Senator Puplick, not that it will worry him at all, and Senator Tate that anyone who rises in this place and gives a view which slightly deviates from the rather rigid views that Senator Harradine has of the world will be abused in the manner that Senator Puplick was abused by way of interjection. He or she will be condemned, right, left and centre for holding those ‘deviate’ views and will get no tolerance from Senator Harradine.
As I said, Senator Ryan is not in this chamber, for good reason. I will leave it to my colleague to defend herself. I merely wished to rise to express my disapproval of the sort of tactic which has been used by Senator Harradine, although I have seen him use it many times. I will leave it to my colleague to reply to the specific allegations when she returns on the next sitting day.
– I hesitate to strain the patience of the Senate at this hour on the last night of a series of sitting weeks but I have had enough. I would like to speak for just a few minutes. Honourable senators may be aware that before I came into this place I had some experience of formal debating. One of the lessons I learnt from my experience in that arena was that one does not attempt to debate nonsense. That makes it very difficult to take on in any detail the sorts of things that Senator Harradine talked about this evening in relation to women. It is interesting to note that Senator Harradine is the senator who most frequently raises the subject of women in this place. I have hesitated to get up and debate him on this subject in the past because, frankly, the points of view that have been put have been unanswerable, not in the sense that they were so true that there was no answer but in the sense that they frequently have been incoherent. Frankly, this evening I thought that Senator Harradine ‘s argument, if it was an argument, was incoherent.
I rise tonight simply to get a couple of things on the record so that if Senator Harradine is going to pursue his arguments in relation to the role of women in Australia, perhaps we might be able to get that debate on to some reasonable bases. I admire the way in which Senator
Harradine does defend the mothers of Australia. I admire that very much because mothers of Australia are people who need defence on occasions from some of the things that would happen to them if there were not people in this place who were prepared to speak up for them.
I do not intend to canvass the issue of family allowances. I have made my point of view clear on that and I would have thought that that would have made as clear as possible my attitude towards Australian mothers and the fact that in certain situations they do need defence. It is not that issue that I wish to canvass. It is the way that Senator Harradine approaches the subject of debate on women. Several times in his speech this evening we heard him refer to how mothers had been forced into the work force. One gets the message from Senator Harradine and people who have a similar point of view that they really do wish to force mothers back into the kitchen.
I shall refer very briefly to a very interesting article which appeared in the Age newspaper yesterday. It is headed ‘The dark ages of women’. It is an article on a book entitled The Years of Grace, published a couple of decades ago, which gave some advice to young women on how they ought to grow up. The author of this article, one Geoffrey Barker, said that he stumbled across a copy of the revised 1956 edition of The Years of Grace and found himself face to face with pre-liberation woman, the original female eunuch. Let it be said to Mr Barker’s credit that he took his subject seriously and tracked down the author of this book. The author turned out to be an 83 year old spinster. I would like to quote one little part of the article because I think it is interesting. Mr Barker said:
Today Miss Streatfeild remains convinced that the best place for a woman is in the home. lt it is possible to fall in love with the right person, the best career is a husband and children ‘, she said.
Unfortunately, nine times out of ten, it doesn’t come off’, she added.
In other words, it is a nice idea but it does not work. I do not want to pursue that to its ultimate conclusion but I think it illustrates a point of view that appears to have passed Senator Harradine by. Women these days are entitled to choose their own path in life just as men have been for some time. In the modern age, in our type of society, men have certainly been released from economic constraints which may have held them in subservience to the ruling classes in previous times. Women are now starting to be released from those constraints.
Senator Harradine is always interesting on the subject of industrial relations. This is a subject on which he knows a great deal. It amazes me that with his grasp of industrial relations he does not realise that they are really human relations. It amazes me that he has not caught up with the writings and thinking of many people in the area of industrial sociology who have realised that industrial relations relate to human relations. It amazes me, for example, that he is unaware that the concepts of job satisfaction, automation, dehumanisation and the social implications that flow from them in the industrial arena have been discovered in modern research and technology to have strong parallels with some of the traditional social problems of women in our community.
Out of respect to the Senate and the hour of night I will not pursue this at great length. It is a subject on which I have spoken publicly frequently. I would like to lay down the simple conclusion- Senator Harradine can pick it up and debate it in the Senate at any time he likes in the future and I will be delighted to debate with him at length- is that people choose their role in life. If a woman chooses her role to be that of a full time wife and mother that is great. Governments should do nothing to stop that. Family allowances, of course, have a lot to do with that. They enable a family to have the right sort of economic independence so that women who choose to make a career of being a full time wife and mother are in a position to do so and are not pushed out into the work force. However, while we recognise that, it would be as iniquitous as pushing mothers out into the work force to push all women back into the kitchen.
I admit that Senator Harradine did not use those words tonight but it was impossible to follow his line of reasoning. He brought up all the old bogies in an unassorted incoherent manner. He brought up homosexuality, radical feminism and all the other things which are meant to prove something. I was fascinated to hear him quote from a questionnaire which had been circulated by the Women’s Action Alliance. I have answered questionnaires from the Women’s Electoral Lobby, the Women’s Action Alliance and many other groups who issue questionnaires, usually at the time of an election. I have been happy to answer them if I have had time. I have also noted that frequently those groups say that the results of the questionnaires will be made public.
None of those groups has ever said to me that the questionnaire would be made available on a selective basis to certain members of parliament to use as they saw fit in the chamber. If I answer a questionnaire and make it available to an interest group that group is free to make the results available. There are some fascinating results. For example, I recall that during the 1 975 general election campaign I answered a questionnaire for the Women’s Electoral Lobby. The Lobby scored it and although it did not realese the answers it released the scores. I was slightly surprised to find that on the subject of women’s rights I ranked below my Queensland colleague, Senator Glen Sheil and others. However, it is the business of WEL how it scores its questionnaires.
The Women ‘s Action Alliance has never made available to me my score on any basis. It has certainly never offered me copies of questionnaires that have been answered by my parliamentary colleagues or by co-candidates or opposing candidates in elections. I find it offensive that it offers it on a selective basis to certain members of parliament or candidates. It really reflects sadly on the Alliance’s credibility. One of the things that I find particularly sad about this aspect is that the women in the community who are attempting to organise themselves politically do so from a certain disadvantage compared with most men. They do it from the disadvantage that it is only fairly recently that women have become aware of the fact that they have political muscle and that through organising themselves in women’s groups they can exercise that muscle. It is very sad to see these women’s groups exploited by male politicians who are well practised in the art of exploitation of community groups. I only hope that these women’s groups will learn in time that by allowing themselves to be open to such exploitation they destroy their credibility and the credibility of a point of view which may be perfectly legitimate and which they wish to put in relation to women.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, it is impossible reasonably to debate nonsense. I just make an appeal to Senator Harradine. I have great respect for his intellect and for his personal and political courage. I have heard him speak on many subjects and listened with great interest. Unfortunately on the subject of women he is completely one-eyed. He puts forward a point of view which has legitimacy, certainly, amongst a certain section of the community but which, I suggest, has no general legitimacy. If he were to come into this place and put forward his theory on what Australian women ought to be doing and what their opportunities ought to be I would be delighted to debate it with him on that basis, but I serve notice on him that if he embarks on the sort of attack that he made tonight he will be involved in long debates on the adjournment in which his speech will be analysed in a way which
I have not done tonight out of respect for the dme and the patience of the Senate and he will be required in future to justify his utterances on this subject, which is a subject on which, frankly, he has showed himself so far to be grossly illinformed.
– For the first two speakers in the adjournment debate I prepared copious notes for a reply.
However, after a debate of an hour and a half, I am far too tired to deliver them and I will refer the various speeches to the responsible Ministers. In one case it is me. I will respond to Senator Colston privately and he can table the document in the Senate if he wishes it to be part of the record. I have no further comment to make.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 12.3 a.m. (Friday) until Tuesday, 10 October at 2.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
In this regard reference should be made to recent statements I have released as follows:
IS August: ‘The Implementation of the Government’s Energy Policies’ 17 August: ‘Commonwealth Grants for Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Projects’ 12 September: ‘The Government’s Energy PoliciesPetroleum Pricing’
International Symposium on Small Business (Question No. 645)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice, on 17 August 1978:
Will the Commonwealth Government support, both financially and publicly, the International Symposium on Small Business, scheduled to be held in Melbourne in 1 980.
– The Minister for Industry and Commerce has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The International Symposium on Small Business is a conference which brings together persons with interest in small business. Participants include representatives of trade and business associations and of the small business community, academics, experts in management and other disciplines and government officials.
The 1980 Symposium would be the first to be held in Australia and would follow Symposia previously held in Washington, Tokyo, Hawaii and Seoul, and being planned for California and Berlin.
Interest was expressed in holding a future Symposium on Small Business in Australia and the Premier of Victoria indicated his government’s willingness to act as host in 1 980. At the 1 977 Symposium held in Seoul, Australia was chosen with Melbourne as the venue. Subsequently, the Victorian Government sought the support of the Commonwealth Government and other States have been invited to cooperate.
The Commonwealth Government welcomes the Symposium, and a senior officer of the Department of Industry and Commerce is a member of the planning committee which is meeting on a regular basis.
A request from the organisers for Commonwealth financial support for the Symposium is presently under consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 24 August, 1978:
– The Minister for Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 23 August 1978:
Did the Australian Government make any contribution towards the costs of Australia’s participation in the 1976 Olympic Games; if so, what was this contribution and to whom was it paid.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes. The Commonwealth Government gave $250,000 to the Australian Olympic Federation to assist with the costs of sending Australia ‘s team to the 1 976 Olympic Games.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 13 September 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Productivity, without notice, on 3 May 1978:
In view of the increasing amount of information coming from the scientific investigation of the effects of radiation on the human body which shows fairly conclusively that the dose of radiation which may produce cancer is less than half the amount allowed in industry in Australia, is the Government considering as a matter of urgency initiating an inquiry into the conditions of workers who have worked in such industries over the last 30 years with a view to producing safeguards for workers who are currently subject to radiation in their place of employment.
– The Minister for Productivity has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The statement that ‘the increasing amount of information coming from the scientific investigation of the effects of radiation on the human body which shows fairly conclusively that the dose of radiation that may produce cancer is less than half the amount allowed in industry in Australia’ is not correct.
Australian radiation protection standards, as set by the National Health and Medical Research Council are essentially identical to those adopted internationally. International standards are set at a level such that the risks to radiation workers are small compared with other occupational risks. Personal monitoring of a large section of Australian radiation workers over many years shows that doses received by them are, in general, only a small fraction of the set standards.
In recent years there have been a number of speculative and generally inconclusive papers appearing in the literature which suggest that the risks for radiation induced cancer may be higher than conventional estimates. These small scale studies are often valuable in that they point to areas where more detailed studies need to be carried out, but do not in themselves provide a case for revising radiation protection standards.
The problem is that the risk associated with low level exposure to radiation is very small, and large scale studies, involving large numbers of radiation workers are therefore required in order to reach firm and reliable conclusions. For this reason a major international study is being set up, under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to collect and collate world wide data.
Australia will be a participant in this study through the Australian Radiation Laboratory, and data relating to Aus tralian radiation workers (medical, dental, mining, industrial, scientific) will be included.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 September 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780928_senate_31_s78/>.