31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 1,591 citizens of Australia:
The President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The Petition of the Undersigned Citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that we are gravely concerned over the extreme weakness shown by our Prime Minister and his Government in his handling of the uranium mining situation in the Northern Territory.
While The Parliament allows a small group of antigovernment advisers to Aboriginal organisations to delay the commencement of mining the great majority of Citizens and business people are being caused financial loss, and being denied the right to participate in a legitimate business.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that permission be given- and not again withdrawn- for mining to commence immediately.
Petition received and read.
ACT Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance
-On behalf of Senator Knight I present the following petition from 60 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the termination of Pregnancy Ordinance (No. 16 of 1978) has the effect of prohibiting the operation of private abortion clinics in the ACT.
Your petitions therefore humbly pray that Honourable Senators should vote to:-
1 ) retain this Ordinance, and
2 ) reject any move to disallow this Ordinance since its disallowance would enable private abortion clinics to operate in the ACT
And your petitions as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 694 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 petitions as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
ACT Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance
– I present the following petition from 121 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance (No. 16 of 1978) has the effect of prohibiting the operation of private abortion clinics in the ACT.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Honourable Senators should vote to:
1 ) retain this Ordinance, and
) reject any move to disallow this Ordinance since its disallowance would enable private abortion clinics to operate in the ACT.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
ACT Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance
– I present the following petition from 25 1 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance (No. 16 of 1978) has the effect of prohibiting the operation of private abortion clinics in the ACT.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Honourable Senators should vote to:
retain this Ordinance, and
) reject any move to disallow this Ordinance since its disallowance would enable private abortion clinics to operate in the ACT.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the people of Australia having taken pan in the government of Australia through universal suffrage in December 1 975 and again in December 1 977 and that on the basis of their expressed choice at the ballot box the people of Australia gave authority to the LiberalNational Country Party Coalition to form a federal government to bring into effect specific policies promulgated throughout the length and breadth of Australia by the said Coalition and that, whereas by virtue of being elected through universal suffrage, the Government Members now silting in the House of Representatives were authorised to implement their state objectives by legislation and that such authority did not extend to acting otherwise or to enact legislation not previously submitted to the will of the people, namely: « Revoking the legislation for twice-yearly pension payments. ° Imposing a freeze on the free-of-means-test pension. ° Unemployed divided into those with dependents and those without. 0 Imposing income tax on pensions under age pension age- invalid and repatriation service pensions; rehabilitation allowances and incentives; sheltered employment and allowances for tuberculosis sufferers (civilian and service) and any other impositions.
Your petitioners submit that all or any of the foregoing proposed legislation of the Lower House, if implemented, will greatly disadvantage many thousands of citizens as either against their expressed will or not submitted to universal vote as the democratic right of the Australian people, therefore,
Your petitioners call on the Senate as the House of Review to take appropriate action to release these persons from burdens unfairly placed in order to finance a deficit not of their making.
Any your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Senators Peter Baume (2 petitions), Webster and Mcintosh.
ACT Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance (No. 16 of 1978) has the effect of prohibiting the operation of private abortion clinics in the ACT.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Honourable Senators should vote to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will every pray. by Senators Mcintosh, McAuliffe, Primmer, Archer, Watson, Elstob, Sim, Townley and Keeffe.
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:
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 1975 after promising that pensions would be adjusted instantly and automatically in relation to quarterly Consumer Price Index figures; and whereas thai 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 subsistence.
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 in duty bound will every pray. by Senators Peter Baume, Carrick, Durack, Sim and Douglas McClelland.
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.
Any your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senators Missen (2 petitions), Webster, Primmer, Carrick, Hamer and Guilfoyle.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Family Law Act 1975.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that General Motors-Holden ‘s Ltd, which possesses 26 per cent of the Australian car market, has planned a massive $6m advertising spree in the hope of increasing the market share to 30 per cent? Is the Government aware that this advertising campaign involves five separate television commercials, intensive colour insertions in newspapers and direct mailing to four million households, all of which will cost every taxpayer about $ 1 .40? As this campaign is about three times larger than any previous advertising campaign by any commercial enterprise, and having regard to the Government’s intention to close tax loopholes, is the Government able to say whether there is any contemplation for a ceiling limit on advertising as a taxation deduction? Is it not a fact that such excessive advertising costs are thus a financial burden on all taxpayers and ultimately lead governments to impose higher taxes on everyone?
-I take the final part of the question first. For decades arguments have taken place throughout the Western world as to whether advertising costs are simply extra costs or whether their competitive nature tends to reduce overall costs and leads to more efficiency. There is no evidence that advertising is necessarily an extra burden on the community. Advertising has led to the creation of competition and has resulted in better and cheaper products for the consumer.
I would have thought that today the Australian Labor Party, in common certainly with my Government, would have been congratulating General Motors-Holden ‘s on what is an optimistic and, I think, a practical note. General Motors-Holden ‘s in fact is saying that for the first time in many years it is going into the export business- a business that the Whitlam Government put it out of. What an exciting thing it is for the Australian community that the automotive industry is able to find that now, under the antiinflation and lower interest rates programs of this Government, it is cost competitive with the free world. That is what General Motors-Holden ‘s is saying. Yesterday General Motors-Holden ‘s was saying also that it had produced a first-class product which would be highly competitive and a front runner. We wish General MotorsHolden ‘s and its competitors full success. I believe that anything which shows that the Australian automotive industry is about to expand- there are very clear indications of this in terms of recruitment and export potentialsshould be received with great acclaim. I do not think that the Treasurer would want to restrict proper advertising. I find it hard to understand why one would want to restrict a major Australian undertaking whose development would produce greater job opportunities for Australians and take the trade into the world, as clear proof of the success of the policies of this Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science. I refer to the news items today which relate to the withdrawal of cans of fish contaminated by deadly bacteria. Does the Minister not agree that this situation is intolerable, especially in the light of the many references which he has made to considerable scientific and technological development? Is he aware of the grave disquiet this kind of occurrence creates among the food buying public? Will he initiate urgent inquiries into all matters of this kind on which the responsibilities of his Department impinge and ensure that scientific advances are consistent and dependable?
– I appreciate that the honourable senator’s question raises a matter which is of particular importance to the Australian public and certainly to an industry which is very important to South Australia. I have noted the newspaper comments about the Safcol organisation. I am uncertain of the situation; I have not been briefed on the problem. Certainly over the years we have seen scientific advances which obviously have made food in its various forms much more acceptable to the community. We have seen scientific advances in refrigeration and methods of canning which have enabled products to be produced today which are perhaps safer than ever before.
The honourable senator is correct in suggesting that this matter might impinge upon the responsibilities of my Department. Both the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Department of Science would be involved. But in its intitial stage this is more a problem for the Department of Health than it is for my Department to solve. My understanding is that constant reference is made to the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories by various departments on problems that arise in this field. I recall a question being asked- I think it was asked by another South Australian senator- regarding the impurities or products that can be put into brandy that is being sold competitively on the Australian market. I understand that this brandy is being tested by the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories with some very interesting resultssomething which honourable senators from South Australia might note.
However, with regard to the matter of the contamination of tinned products, one must recognise that there are various ways in which contamination can occur from the very earliest harvesting of the particular product and its handling in getting it to the factory floor, to its handling within the factory and, finally its use and the method that the public might use for taking the product out of the can in due time. This is something which will require a great variety of tests to be conducted before the actual result will be known. However, if I am alerted to the exact situation prior to the end of Question Time, I will attempt to add to the information I have given.
-I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources to the question I asked him yesterday about the newly announced export control policy in relation to minerals and to the Minister’s answer. In referring to the Minister in the other place he said that the Minister’s actions were dictated by concern for the national interest. I now ask: Is it the Government’s view that the national interest requires the full implementation of the policy announced yesterday by the Minister in the other place?
– The answer is yes.
– I draw to the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs the publication of a pamphlet entitled ‘Declaration of the Rights of the Child- a present for you from a Palestinian child ‘. Is the Minister aware of the existence of this pamphlet and of the fact that it bears the official symbol of the United Nations campaign for the International Year of the Child? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether this publication which states, among other things, that the Israeli Government practises policies of ‘racist discrimination’ and ‘mass punishment’ is produced by the United Nations or one of its agencies? If not. is the Minister concerned that the disturbing and inaccurate allegations made in the pamphlet may gain some respectability due to their misleading presentation and that this, in turn, will decrease the credibility of the official International Year of the Child campaign which Australia supports?
– I am aware of the existence of the pamphlet because I and my Department are closely associated with the International Year of the Child. I have a photostat copy of the pamphlet in my hand. Having seen it and viewing it now, I note, as all honourable senators would, that the official symbol of the United Nations International Year of the Child has been incorporated in the pamphlet. I say unequivocally that the pamphlet has not been produced by the United Nations or any one of its agencies. It appears to have been published by the Palestine Liberation Organisation and circulated in Australia by the Union of Palestinian Workers. That is the advice I have received.
I am concerned that the International Year of the Child campaign should not be used in ways other than those intended by the United Nations and by Australia’s participation in the United Nations. As honourable senators know, the Commonwealth Government fully supports the promotion of child welfare, which is the main purpose of the International Year of the Child, and would be concerned at any action which would tend to compromise the credibility of the campaign. I think that all honourable senators would deplore the use of a symbol to suggest that this pamphlet is official when, in fact, it is not.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and relates to the question of the Government’s change in export controls of minerals. Yesterday the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives said:
I have already arranged for the Minister for Special Trade Representations and for other people to have full discussions with Sir Charles Court in relation to this matter.
Is the Minister aware of the intentions of the Prime Minister in arranging those discussions? Are they to be held for the purpose of advising Sir Charles Court of the policy enunciated by Mr Anthony in his statement two days ago, or are they to be held for the purpose of the Government’s possibly changing its policy after hearing Sir Charles Court’s views?
– I am aware of the statement of the Prime Minister. I am aware of the arrangement that discussions should take place between one of our Ministers and Sir Charles Court. I am equally aware that a number of key businessmen within the minerals industry will also be having discussions with. I think, Sir Charles Court or other interested persons. I point out that this is not a matter that is simply a unilateral one for the Commonwealth Government. The industry itself in very influential sections has urged the Government that in a buyer’s market the overseas interests should not pick off individual industries or individual enterprises and that we should prevent Australia from being sold short. I hope that would be accepted on both sides.
The discussions between the Government and the State would be, as are all discussions, ones of good will built around the principle I have just expounded and built around the achievement of a situation in which Australia is not sold short. Quite clearly, it is in the interests of all Australians, not merely in the interests of the companies concerned, that Australia should get the highest price it possibly can for its minerals. The more it gets for its minerals the more the revenue for the Commonwealth Government and the more its capacity to undertake welfare and other programs. The discussions will be aimed at that principle. If there are in the discussions on that principle particularities that can be brought forward, of course the Government will consider the particularities; but the aim is the principle and that will be pursued.
- Mr President, may I ask a supplementary question? Are we to assume from that answer that the principles as enunciated by Mr Anthony are not now negotiable with the States?
– The situation is that the principle, that is, that Australia should get the highest price for its mineral products, is not in dispute. Sir Charles Court and every other Premier in Australia- and I hope every individual in Australia- would want the highest price there is. That is the principle. The methodology of achieving that is one that will be under discussion. If in the course of that discussion good reasons are put for adjusting a particular mechanism, they will be taken into account by the Government in good sense.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education and relates to the recommendations of the Sax Committee on Nurse Education and Training that selected colleges of advanced education should be required to undertake the future education of nurses. Will the Minister ensure that if that recommendation is implemented Tasmania will be used as a centre for nurse education, in line with the recommendation in the Callaghan report, which advises thai Tasmania should be used as a centre for all limited specialised education? I point to the Maritime College as an example of the working of that recommendation.
- Senator Walters is correct in drawing attention to one of the significant aspects of the Sax Committee report. The report does not present only one method of nurse training. It offers a number of methods. Indeed it suggests for a period of years a ceiling for people taking nursing courses at colleges of advanced education. I think it foreshadows that that figure might be lifted to some 2,000 students after some years. It also conceives that modifications of existing training should continue. Senator Walters was also correct in saying that, for a State with the unique difficulties of Tasmania, education as an industry is a vital one. The Maritime College will accommodate 400 to 600 students plus staff in the years ahead.
There will be a necessity, in linking the nursing students to colleges, to look first of all at the capacity of the teaching hospitals. That in itself is basic as Senator Walters, a former nursing sister, will understand. We must have teaching hospitals, with beds and a morbidity capacity to cope with teaching. Consistent with that, my Government will see what capacity there is in Tasmania to use for a purpose such as this and for all other educational aspects.
– Will the Minister for Administrative Services emulate the action of a former senator, John Grey Gorton, who dramatically dumped VIP flight manifests onto the Senate table, and, in a similar fashion, table the whole of the correspondence between the New South Wales Government and his own Government on the unduly delayed transfer of the Sydney Harbour foreshore parklands? My concern is shared by my socialist colleagues from New South Wales and, I think, also by non-socialist senators from New South Wales. In effect, will the Minister be a ministerial Diogenes and give us the truth about this case?
– I advise the Senate that I intend to be extremely selective in the ways in which I emulate Sir John Gorton. With respect to the matter that has been raised by the honourable senator, the position is that in the last couple of days I have written to the State Minister saying that there should be talks shortly. I will go back through the correspondence and see that information is made available to the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether country hospitals in New South Wales are charged an ambulance fee whenever a patient is transferred by ambulance to any other hospital or institution. Is this fee charged to the hospital whether or not the patient is a contributor to the ambulance fund? Do similar arrangements operate in other States? Is the purpose of this arrangement, and the effect produced, to increase the amount by which the Commonwealth must subsidise hospital and ambulance services in New South Wales in a manner quite inequitable in view of the load it places on country hospitals in my State and, I believe, not in keeping with proper actuarial practice by which insurance risks should be spread amongst all contributors?
– I understand that referring hospitals are charged by the New South Wales ambulance service when patients require ambulance transport between recognised hospitals and that such charges are raised whether or not the patient is a contributor to the ambulance fund. These arrangements, which are similar in all other States, have been the subject of discussion between the Commonwealth and all State governments. The reason for these charging practices is that traditionally and historically subscriptions to ambulance funds do not include a component to cover the cost of inter-hospital transport; that is, ambulance funds do not offer coverage against inter-hospital transport of patients. A basic provision on admission of items of cost for cost snaring is the practices of hospitals and the hospital system before the introduction of the cost sharing arrangements. As the costs of inter-hospital ambulance transfers had been met by hospitals and was not a benefit paid by the ambulance scheme before cost sharing, these costs are admissible for cost sharing by Commonwealth and the States. Should there be inequitable loads on country hospitals, the initiatives for alleviation of these loads are matters for the State government concerned.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. It refers to a report that termination of the Ghan railway service between Port Augusta and Alice Springs has been recommended by the Australian National Railways
Commission which has responded to cost saving demands by the Federal Government. The Minister is aware of questions by senators, members of another place and the trade unions concerned about this matter. I ask the Minister whether such a submission has yet been received and considered by the Government? The Minister in the other place has responded partly to the question but what action does the Government propose in connection with that recommendation?
– I do not know whether a submission in the particular terms that were suggested by the honourable senator has been made to the Government, but I know that the Australian National Railways has been given the duty of recommending what ought to be done with respect to the railways generally in South Australia and Tasmania. The honourable senator very kindly referred me to a question that was asked of the Minister for Transport in the House of Representatives on 1 8 October. 1 would refer the honourable senator to another question which was asked of the Minister on 1 7 August 1978. 1 understand that the rather more extensive answer that was given by the Minister on that date still applies. The particular railway line will not be closed until the Alice SpringsTarcoola railway line is completed. In the Minister’s answer he gives a great deal more detailed comment which I will not repeat here. I do not think Senator Bishop would wish me to repeat a lot of it here because it relates to the State Minister’s floating of scare stories which, in the view of the Minister for Transport, are without foundation.
-Will the Minister representing the Minister for Transport confirm that the statement released by the Minister for Transport concerning air fares to Europe is of a preliminary nature and is not a definitive statement? Will he also confirm that negotiations will be continued to provide a genuinely lower normal fare structure, albeit with lower standards of comfort but available on a practical basis free from unreal, unnecessary and irritating conditions, such as extended advance payment procedures?
-I think it is fair to say that the statement is preliminary in the sense that it requires further action. The statement indicated that negotiations would flow from the time of making the statement aimed at establishing new fare scales on a completely different basis. It is true, as the honourable senator has said, that what is proposed is that lower fares should be available on a regular basis without the need to have extensive booking ahead. The Government is endeavouring to cater for all the different types of traveller. Some travellers need immediate access to high quality travel; some are prepared to book ahead and accept a lower standard of travel. The general scheme which has been put forward by the Minister for Transport proposes that all classes of traveller shall be adequately catered for.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I am prompted to ask the question because of the question asked by Senator MacGibbon. Is the Minister aware that the United States of America has received what amounts to a snub from the Australian Government when seeking top level talks with Australia on cut-rate fares for the Pacific? This follows claims made by Sir Freddie Laker that he was misrepresented and deceived by the Australian Government on cut-rate fares to the United Kingdom. Will the Minister defend the Government’s position and make a declaration of policy on cut-rate fares, thus putting an end to all the uncertainty and speculation on the subject?
– I think the Minister for Transport quite recently has made a substantial declaration about what is to be done concerning fares. As Senator MacGibbon indicated in his question and I hope I confirmed in my reply, following the statement there have to be negotiations on a bilateral basis with a view to establishing the actual fare scales. However, the Minister in his statement has given an indication of the sort of figures which will be achieved on the route which is being given priority for consideration, namely, the United Kingdom route. I do not think I can usefully add anything to what has already been said in answer to the previous question and to what is contained in the statement made by the Minister for Transport.
-Will the Minister for Education indicate whether a stalemate has been reached in the current dispute involving teachers in Australian Capital Territory government schools? Further, what prospects are there for settlement and what action is being taken to bring to an end the rolling strikes which are disrupting children’s education at a critical time of the year?
– I think it is timely that I should comment on this subject. As honourable senators are aware, rolling strikes involving teachers in the Australian Capital Territory schools began after the Australian Capital Territory Teachers Federation threatened industrial action if an increase for 1 979 was not provided in the staff ceiling for government schools. The industrial action over the past two weeks has given rise, unfortunately, to some misleading statements. I want to make it clear that the Capital Territory’s pre-schools and primary schools will, by Government decision, be staffed in 1979 in exactly the same way as they are this year. As for the secondary schools, the removal of the beginning teacher’s allowance will have little effect on the operation of high schools as there will be few or no beginning teachers taking up duty in 1 979. The small reduction to be made in secondary college staffing, as called for by the Neal-Hird report and the Schools Commission report will have only a minimal effect on the options available next year in the secondary colleges, lt is the Government’s view that the staff ceiling of 2,772 for 1979 can be applied without any adverse effects on the quality of education in the Capital Territory. The ceiling of 2,772 does not represent a freezing of staff levels but provides for a growth, in fact, in present staff numbers of about 30. It will mean that no teachers will lose their jobs.
Press statements that a stalemate exists are based on a view that the Commissioner of the Commonwealth Teaching Service should by now have notified the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that a dispute exists. The view of the Commissioner, who is legally the employer of the teachers, is that the teachers are on strike over the issue of the number of teachers to be employed in Capital Territory schools in 1979. The Commissioner’s opinion is that this is not an issue which it would be appropriate to take to arbitration. The issue is one of staff ceilings which are the responsibility of the Government, solely, to determine. The Commissioner has formally replied along these lines to the Schools Authority and I understand that he will be discussing the matter with that body on Friday.
So far as I am concerned, there is no stalemate. On 13 October I invited the ACT Teachers Federation to come together with the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority and the Commissioner of the Commonwealth Teaching Service for discussions. I set, as a firm condition for such discussions to commence, that the rolling strikes in Capital Territory schools be called off immediately. I am still waiting for a response to that invitation. I share the concern of honourable senators at the needless suffering of students.
I read in a newspaper this morning a statement from the Chairman of the ACT Schools Authority, and that Authority is naturally anxious that the rolling strike should end. I feel that the Authority might also join the Australian Capital Territory Council of Parents and Citizens Associations in extending a public invitation to the teachers to return to work so that discussions between the parties concerned can commence. I also strongly urge the Teachers Federation to call off its industrial action and join in discussions with the ACT Schools Authority and the Commissioner of the Commonwealth Teaching Service. I hope that good sense will prevail.
– My question to the Minister for Education relates to an answer he gave earlier concerning his Department ‘s involvement in the Year of the Child program. I ask the Minister: In view of his obvious interest in the Year of the Child, and presumably his Government’s equal interest, will he take action, in schools under his authority in the Australian Capital Territory at least, to have the practice of corporal punishment under any regulations or ordinances within the Australian Capital Territory abolished? Also, will he initiate discussions with all State governments and Education Ministers at the next meeting of the Australian Education Council to ensure that this mediaeval practice of corporal punishment in the Australian school system is abolished once and for all?
-It is very true that I, as Minister for Education, have a significant responsibility, which I welcome, in terms of the International Year of the Child. I would indicate in passing that my colleague, Senator Guilfoyle, is the Minister responsible for co-ordinating Commonwealth and State actions in this regard, and that a very comprehensive program has been undertaken. The question of punishment, whether corporal or otherwise, was raised by Senator Wriedt. He has picked off one aspect; that is, physical punishment by some physical assault on the body. I do not separate it from other equally traumatic approaches that can be taken, however wittingly or unwittingly, because we make a great mistake in believing that violence can be only muscular violence. There is violence of the eye and violence of assault on the ear. I believe that any such traumatic experience ought to be mitigated and prevented as much as possible. For my own part, I have always pursued the belief that the motivation of the student should be one of constructive stimulus. Nevertheless, one must understand the difficulties of teachers acting sometimes in frustration due to self-will or indiscipline of students. I would hope that corporal punishment would never be used. I would be very happy to take to the Australian Education Council the wider concept that we should all look- I am sure most teachers do- to the minimisation of any witting or unwitting traumatic experience upon the student child.
– I ask a supplementary question. I take it from the Minister’s reply that he personally does not favour the abolition of corporal punishment in Australian schools. Does he take a similar view of the application of corporal punishment to adults in this country?
-If Senator Wriedt drew that conclusion then he could not possibly have listened. I direct him to the Hansard record of my answer. Senator Wriedt must know that my views on physical punishment, corporal punishment including capital punishment, are on record in Hansard. I direct his attention to it because -
– What about punishing the ear, senator?
-I am delighted that Senator Button listened to what I said. I said that there is an assault as violent upon the mind as there is upon the body. I personally am opposed to corporal punishment of any age group and indeed I would be happy to initiate discussions on this matter, but I do not want this situation discussed simplistically by picking off something and saying: ‘No, we must not cane their buttocks but we can be traumatic upon their minds’. I can show honourable senators special education units around Australia where we are having to modify the results of traumatic experiences that were not of the gluteus maximus but cerebral.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services. It deals with the use of distinctively Australian cars by Australian ambassadors whenever possible. Is it a fact that Australia is one of the handful of countries with an indigenous motor car industry? Would it not be good for Australia’s image for our representatives to use Australian cars rather than swishing round in foreign cars? Is not a Statesman Caprice an adequate vehicle for any ambassador? Is the Minister aware that the Australian Ambassador to Dublin drives a German built Mercedes while the American Ambassador to Dublin drives an Australian built Statesman? Why has the Department of Administrative Services recently supplied a Swedish Volvo to our representative in Jamaica, a country that has imported nearly 1,000 Holdens in the last 10 years and where there is a solid maintenance organisation for Holdens?
– In the light of all the hear, hears I want to say that I agree with the general thrust of the honourable senator’s question. A whole series of questions was asked by Senator Hamer. Yes, it is true that we are one of a relatively small number of countries in the world that has an indigenous car industry. I agree with him that it is better to use Australian vehicles and that is in fact the Government ‘s policy in this area. I am not prepared to say whether any particular vehicle is adequate but I would have thought that there was a range of vehicles adequate for the use of ambassadors, high commissioners and similar persons. There are a number of vehicles which I am sure would be adequate. The only knowledge I have of the Dublin situation which was outlined by Senator Hamer is that I have been advised by a relatively unreliable Victorian I know that that is the case. I would have to check that to make sure that it is correct.
As I said earlier in answer to this question, it is in fact the policy of the Government- I think it has been the policy of governments for some time now- to supply an Australian-made vehicle wherever it is regarded as practicable and feasible to do so. On quite a number of occasions it is apparently found not to be practicable and feasible on the basis that either spare parts or servicing are not available, that, because of the comparative rarity of the vehicle, the resale value will be low, or that the country concerned has left hand drive. So a number of considerations are taken into account.
In February of this year our mission in Jamaica did take delivery of a new Volvo as a replacement of the Ford LTD which had been used by the High Commissioner. One of the factors taken into account was the recent restrictions imposed by the Jamaican authorities on engine capacity. There are difficulties with respect to vehicles which have an engine capacity of more than three litres. Although the High Commission could seek an exemption from that restriction, resale of such a vehicle would be difficult. Apparently the Volvo is used widely in government ministries throughout Jamaica and spare parts are readily available. There were difficulties in servicing and obtaining parts for the previously owned Ford. The purchase price of the Volvo was $9,321, and although quotes were not obtained from Australian manufacturers, experience indicates that the cost of supplying a Ford or Holden would have been at least 10 per cent higher.
This is an area where I am not satisfied with our administration of the policy. Quite honestly, I think that in some situations there are great temptations to find good reasons for buying a foreign vehicle rather than an Australian-made vehicle. In those circumstances I have asked for a review of the situation by my Department and I intend to consider the rules to see whether they are adequate to safeguard Australian interests. I agree with Senator Hamer that there is a lot to be said for Australian vehicle* being on show at our diplomatic missions overseas.
-Has the Minister for Social Security noted the appeal by Professor Ken Turner, director of the research unit at Perth’s Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, for a national conference to discuss the 73 separate theories that have been advanced as the cause of cot deaths? I remind the Minister that 1979 is the International Year of the Child. Will she inform the Parliament whether she is prepared to take the initiative in convening a national conference for the purpose of examining every possible avenue of eliminating the tragedy of cot deaths? I ask the Minister to take this initiative to ensure that during the International Year of the Child some positive steps are taken which will have lasting benefits for the children of Australia?
- Senator Keeffe raises an interesting and vital question. I will refer it to the Minister for Health, and in consultation with him and with other Commonwealth and State Ministers, who have formed a committee to deal with national projects for International Year of the Child, I will see that the suggestion is subjected to examination. Federal and State Ministers have formed a national task force to investigate projects which could have national significance in the year. I will see that this matter is drawn to their attention. I accept, as Senator Keeffe has said, that this is an opportunity to have a wide examination of all the theories that have been noted with regard to these distressing deaths of very young children. I will refer the matter to the appropriate bodies and if further information is available later I will advise the Senate.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, is about the lack of competition among Australian banks. I preface it by referring to the June 1978 edition of Rydge’s, which has been delivered to all parliamentarians, and by quoting something which was said by Mr John O’Brien, the managing director of an Australian owned electrical company. He said:
We borrow more money unsecured overseas- just on our name and reputation- than we can borrow locally with the total business secured . . . Australian banks are a monopoly. I wish they would look at Australian banks under the Trade Practices Act. I ‘d like to see them get some competition from top international banks.
Does the Minister accept that because Australian banks are in a monopoly situation they have been able to adopt lending policies which are so conservative that they are hindering the development of Australian businesses? Will the Minister do something about the matter?
– I think the question merits study. The premise that Australian banks constitute a monopoly is a little too strong in point of fact. There are a number of commercial and trading banks which compete for business even though, perhaps like Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia, an agreement exists on rates. Nevertheless, no one would suggest that the Ansett-TAA situation has not been healthy for airlines. Therefore I make it clear that I believe that there is a significant element of competition and a significant desire by individual banks to enlarge their own clientele. That is a natural condition of free enterprise which we would encourage.
The real question that arises is whether there ought to be more banks and, if so, whether foreign-owned banks should enter this country. Governments of all political philosophies have been hesitant to offer licences to banks, or indeed to merchant and fringe banks, based on substantial foreign ownership. We may get some illusory increase in competition on the one hand but lose national sovereignty to some extent on the other. The question is highly involved. Royal commissions and inquiries have investigated the matter over a period but nevertheless it is significant. We should not simply say: ‘We are here. We are safe. Let us remain ‘. I think that, provided we do not throw out the baby with the bath water, the matter needs investigation. I will invite the Treasurer to have a look at it.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the large majority of Government senators who are reported in this morning’s Press as still wanting to elect their own leader rather than having him appointed over their heads by the Prime Minister, does the Leader of the Government feel that he enjoys sufficient confidence in this place to justify his continuing in that position?
– First of all I take the question on the premise that Senator Evans believes everything he reads in the Press. We will work on that premise in the future. No doubt it will get us into some interesting situations. I am the servant of this Senate, of my Government and of my coalition political parties. If the coalition parties in the future were to make a change as to leadership, I, as a member of the coalition parties, would acknowledge and serve under those principles. I simply remind Senator Evans that my position has a long tradition. For some 51 or 52 years of the 77 years of Federal Parliament in which a Federal Liberal government has been in power, the government leader in the Senate, like myself, has been appointed by the Prime Minister. I feel confident that, under the Westminster system, given a job I will do that job unless and until conditions change. Honourable senators opposite and my colleagues behind me shall be the judges of whether that job is done well and has support.
– I ask a supplementary question. Is the tradition to which the Leader of the Government in the Senate referred in his answer one that still commands the support of the majority of his Senate colleagues?
- Mr President, I realise that I do not have to respond to that question. I simply say that it remains, until changed by the coalition parties, the policy of this Government that the leader shall be appointed and not elected. Just like any political party, it is competent upon the coalition parties to change their rules. Democratically, we are servants of our political parties.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. On a recent visit to Darwin I observed railway track being loaded onto rail trucks for shipment to Indonesia. Is it a fact, as rumoured in some quarters, that such railway track is being removed from the North Australia Railway system, which is now closed? Can the Minister assure the Senate that this action would not seriously affect the re-opening of the North Australia Railway in the event of future changed circumstances?
– I do not have any precise information on the matter which has been raised by Senator Messner. Earlier some questions were asked in the Senate about the re-use of rail with respect to some other rail lying, I think, in South Australia. It seems to me to be fairly clear that the Australian national railway system is being administered with a proper sense of not disposing of materials which can be used elsewhere. So my suspicion would be that the rail is being sent out because it is not regarded as suitable for future use in Australia; but I will check on that answer.
– Whose judgment was that?
– I am sorry, I said that that was my .suspicion in the matter, but I will have to check on that with the Minister for Transport and get a firm reply for the honourable senator.
-Does the Minister for Science agree with the conclusions reached by the Alcohol Fuels Conference held in Sydney on 9 to 1 1 August 1978 that liquid petroleum gas, methanol and ethanol are important alternative fuels for Australia? Has the Government any plans for setting up a co-ordinating body involving government departments, universities and industry, to undertake a feasibility study into a national alcohol fuel program?
– The responsibilities of my Department impinge on this matter in some way, but at the present time interest in the development of research and investigation into the use of fuels in Australia rests mainly with the Department of National Development. The honourable senator might know that the Government has taken an interest in this matter by setting up a national energy committee under the responsibility of the Minister for National Development. Also, this matter has been referred to the Australian Science and Technology Council.
– What about Senator Thomas’s committee?. It brought down a good report on the subject.
-Yes. Honourable senators would be aware of the interest the
Senate has paid in this matter. However, Senator Elstob asked about the Government’s direct interest in this matter and I was attempting to say that a series of investigations into future energy sources for Australia had been set up. I know that both methanol and ethanol have been given consideration. I think that the point raised by the honourable senator is important. I will refer it to my colleague the Minister for National Development and see whether there is any further information I can given him.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General and concerns the Australian Legal Aid Office, for which he announced revised guidelines yesterday. Is it true that in many cases inequities and injustices arise from the inequality of access to legal aid representation by two parties to a dispute where that inequality of access arises solely from the operation of the means test, which allows legal aid to be provided to one party but not to the other? This is the essential problem which legal aid has set out to solve but the reverse has occurred in that legal aid has, in many cases, created this problem. In particular, will the Government consider the access to legal aid by non-profit incorporated bodies, such as child care centres, which are at present ineligible to receive legal aid and which are put to a great disadvantage if sued by an individual person of poor means who has full access to legal aid? I ask that, if access is not given to the one group, in such disputes it not be extended to the other.
– It is certainly true that in the case of a person being sued by a person who has legal aid, the person who does not have legal aid may suffer some inequities. It would depend upon the circumstances of the case. The particular case that Senator Teague mentions is concerned with a child care centre being sued, presumably as a result of some injury being caused to a child at that centre. Such an organisation would almost certainly be insured. If it were not. it certainly ought to be. In a great many cases of this type the defendant is an insurance company. Insurance companies are very well experienced litigants and I do not think that one would be concerned about inequities in a situation of that sort. However, there certainly may be other cases where parties are not insured. One of the problems which arises with legal aid is that it assists only those people in the community who are in the worst financial circumstances.
We have not yet devised a legal aid system which assists people in the community who perhaps ordinarily are in a reasonable financial position but who cannot in many cases afford the high costs of legal assistance. One of the responsibilities of the Commonwealth Legal Aid Commission which has been set up is to consider various ways and different methods by which legal aid can be obtained, to do research in this area, to look at the ways in which this is dealt with in other countries and to look at ways and means of dealing with the sorts of inequities that Senator Teague mentioned without it necessarily being a charge on government funds. I think that is all I can say in answer to Senator Teague ‘s question. In the last part of his question the honourable senator asked whether, if the defendant were to suffer some inequity in regard to the granting of legal aid, it would be denied to the applicant. Certainly, the answer to that would be no. One has to have regard to the balance of equities in these matters. The people who come within the legal aid guidelines and even the ones who come within the extended guidelines I announced yesterday are people who are least able to afford the cost of litigation. I cannot see the justice in denying legal aid to those people simply because there might be some injustice or inequity suffered by the defendant.
– I direct a supplementary question to Senator Durack. With regard to the instance of child care centres, I do not have in mind those cases where insurance has been taken out, but industrial disputes between a member of staff or a former member of staff and a child care centre management committee. I ask that in those disputes, if legal aid is not available to one party, it be not available to the other party, because both sides have the same problem of means.
– I do not think I have anything further to add in answer to the question. I simply indicated that there would be some cases where there may be injustice and that there would be many cases that could be overcome by insurance. I do not think I have anything further to add to what I have said.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security: What has happened to the Social Security Quarterly formerly produced by her Department? It seems not to have appeared this year. Has the impounding of this journal by her Director-General during the last election campaign anything to do with its non-appearance since then?
– I will refer the matter to the Director-General of Social Services and obtain a report from him on the present position with regard to the publication through the Department of the Social Security Quarterly.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry ascertain whether the Government has had any recent discussions with the authorities in those several countries- seventeen, I believe- that last year imposed bans on the import of Australian ruminants as a result of the isolation of the bluetongue virus with a view to having those restrictions eased or removed now that there still has been no confirmed case of the disease in Australia?
– The honourable senator has asked a very important question. I do not have the information directly in relation to the 1 7 countries. I will seek that information today and attempt to provide an answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the fact that the Treasurer, on 8 June, when introducing legislation to crack down on tax advantages for money earned overseas, said that the present system seriously prejudices the equity of the system- may even be an incentive for the diversion of economic activity away from Australia- and that the present rules lend themselves to tax avoidance through the diversion of income to low tax or no tax countries, how does the Minister now justify the decision to scrap the planned tax reforms?
– I think that is a question that deserves a detailed answer. The Treasurer, as do all Treasurers, lives in a real world where he has to reconcile himself to what on balance is the best action. I will draw the question to the attention of the Treasurer and invite an answer.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. The use offish traps by fishermen who normally operate in other areas of the coastline is causing great concern to fishermen and the local authority at Carnarvon in Western Australia. These traps can cause considerable damage to marine growth. The fish they catch are often badly bruised and if the rope to which the traps are attached breaks they continue to catch fish for many years. The Western Australian Government controls the use of traps within waters under its control. Will the Minister consider placing similar controls over waters under the control of the Commonwealth?
– The extent of use offish traps in areas beyond the three-mile limit is unknown to me. However, I think the question is important because of our extension to a 200-mile limit. I will refer the matter to the Minister for Primary Industry and seek an answer.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and I ask: Why does the Prime Minister apparently have two standards of ministerial propriety, one for the Liberal Party and the other for the National Country Party? If, as the Prime Minister claimed in the House this morning, no coalition agreement prevents him from suspending a Country Party Minister, why then has he failed to apply to Mr Sinclair the same standard as he applied to Mr Garland, Mr Lynch, Mr Eric Robinson and Senator Withers?
– Is it not extraordinary that one goes in for such rhetoric? There are not two standards; there is one standard. Unlike the Australian Labor Party Government, which had no standards at all and allowed intolerable situations without investigation or exposure, this Government has one standard, and that is the highest form of propriety. It defies explanation why a supporter of the Whitlam Labor Party should have raised such a question. The Prime Minister has made a quite clear and unequivocal statement on this. Standards of the highest order will be maintained.
-May I deal with two questions that were put to me this week in relation to the problem of the funding of legal aid, one by Senator Evans on Tuesday, 24 October, largely in relation to Victoria, and another yesterday by Senator Grimes in relation to Tasmania. I answered Senator Evans in general terms but he asked specifically about the backlog of cases, particularly in Victoria. I think he was also seeking the information for Australia generally. I said that the matter was being investigated. I inform the Senate that I am advised by my Department that as of yesterday, 25 October- that is the date on which the Department conducted the exercise- in Victoria there were 755 cases which had been approved but which had not been committed to the profession for attention. Those cases had an estimated value of $213,630. New South Wales had 95 cases at a value of $21,412. Queensland had 245 cases valued at $66,892. South Australia had 60 cases valued at $10,020 and Tasmania had 104 cases valued at $21,730. 1 am advised that there is no backlog in the Northern Territory. The total value of the backlog in the Australian Legal Aid Office yesterday amounted to $333,684. In the light of the new guidelines, which I announced yesterday, I have directed that commitment funds be made available to meet these cases in each State. They will completely offset the backlog. When the new guidelines come into force there should not be a backlog in any State.
Senator Grimes’s question related specifically to the availability of funds in Tasmania. I take it that his question relates to the sufficiency of funds for payment to solicitors. That is a different question altogether from whether work can be committed to solicitors, which is what we call the commitment of funds. I am advised that there are sufficient funds to pay accounts rendered that are certified by the Office as being proper and reasonable for payment. Some accounts rendered by private practitioners need to be queried. As a result there is some delay occasionally in the payment of accounts. In Tasmania the accounts in respect of which queries are not raised are paid within a month of receipt. Yesterday an amount of $50,000 was available to pay accounts rendered by private practitioners in Tasmania.
Senator Grimes also asked how many people were being refused assistance because of the shortage of money. That question is really answered in the general answer I have given in relation to the commitment of funds but I shall recapitulate on it. No persons eligible for legal aid have actually been refused aid in Tasmania because of a shortage of funds but, as I explained in my answer to Senator Evans the other day, some applications have been deferred and stockpiled until commitment funds become available. As I said, I have now directed that the backlog of cases in every State as at 25 October be committed. The problem that has been raised in those two questions and by others expressing concern in recent times should be alleviated.
– Earlier in the day Senator Davidson asked about Safcol salmon. I have a note from the Department of Health that the entire problem comes within the province of the Federal Department of Health. My Department would be involved only if tins were to be exported and my Department was required to examine these tins on behalf of the Department of Primary Industry. As far as the Department of Health can ascertain, distribution was limited to New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory. No cans from these batches were exported. The Department of Primary Industry is in contact with Safcol. The salmon is produced by Safcol. Honourable senators may be interested to note that, as a South Australian company, Safcol is the largest co-operative fish canning company in the world of which Australia should be very proud.
– It sends the poisoned stuff to other States apparently. There is none in South Australia.
-I think Safcol has canning factories in various States and apparently this batch was canned in Tasmania. The wholesale distribution ceased on 21 August 1978 when the company realised that it had a quality control problem. A large number of cans are unlikely to be still held by consumers. Recall procedures for all the relevant C5 codes have already been instituted by Safcol. Safcol advises me that the discovery of faulty cans containing Australian salmon and snoek fish cutlets has caused Safcol to recall all stocks of these products produced by its Tasmanian cannery. Safcol believes the vast majority of such cans has been recovered but in case some have found their way into homes or stores it is issuing a warning to people to check their stocks. The batch which may contain faulty cans all have gold-coloured lids with the code C5 embossed on the lid. The problem applies only to those cans and only to the 455 gram size. Anyone who has a gold-lidded 455 gram can of Australian salmon or snoek fish cutlets has been advised to return it to the place of purchase for a refund. Safcol has acted responsibly in recalling all stocks of Tasmanian produced salmon and fish cutlets, not only those codes referred to in some sections of the media. Safcol has placed advertisements in daily newspapers in the States notifying the public of the procedure for recall.
– Pursuant to section 24 of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– Pursuant to section 24 of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Statistics Advisory Council for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a statement by the Treasurer entitled ‘Foreign Tax Credit System ‘.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Australian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Disarmament, together with a statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs concerning the situation in Lebanon.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the interim annual reports of the Australian Institute of Criminology and the Criminology Research Council for the year ended 30 June 1 978.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present a statement by the Minister for Trade and Resources entitled Future Export Policy- Bulk Raw Materials’.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the reports of the Industries Assistance Commission on:
Conditions for eligibility for bed sheeting bounty; and products of the printing industry.
-by leave- In relation to the Industries Assistance Commission report on products of the printing industry, I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 44 of the Australian Institute of Marine Science Act 1 972, I present the annual report of the Australian Institute of Marine Science for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the annual report of the activities of the Department of Science for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the review of domestic air transport policy, parts one and two. Due to the limited number available, copies of this review have been placed in the records office, the Bills and Papers Office and the Parliamentary Library. Arrangements are being made for a consolidated version of parts one and two to be tabled as soon as possible so that all honourable senators may be provided with a copy.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report and financial statements of the
Australian Shippers Council for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– Pursuant to section 78 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942,I present the annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– by leave- I move:
I would just like to point out that the report is very important. It documents many of the problems which the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been experiencing. I do not wish to go over the points that I made yesterday in debate, but it would seem to be of great importance that the Senate inform itself of the situation as revealed in the report, particularly as it appears that yet again today the national broadcasting system is to be disrupted by industrial action. If honourable senators wish to understand the basis of that industrial action, I recommend that they address themselves to the information in the report. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 99 of the Telecommunications Act 1975, I present the annual report of the Australian Telecommunications Commission for the yearended30 June 1978.
– by leave- I move:
I would point out to the Senate that the tabling of the annual report of the Australian Telecommunications Commission presents one of only two opportunities for Telecom to be made accountable to Parliament. Such opportunity is of tremendous importance because Telecom is not otherwise accountable to the Australian public. Telecom is Australia’s largest enterprise. Its assets are valued at $6, 500m. Its annual earnings are in excess of $1, 850m. It is the ultimate hybrid of a mixed economy- institutionally overefficient without any of the traditional checks upon its activities.
Telecom does not, as does a private company, pay dividends. Therefore the whole of its vast surplus is available for re-investment in new technology. Perhaps Telecom should pay dividends. However, those dividends should be in the form of lower charges and better service to ordinary telephone users and especially to telephone subscribers in remote areas. Telecom has just announced a record profit of $ 1 85m and that understates massively the real surplus that has been earned. It does not reveal the $366m set aside for depreciation of equipment or the $3 17m that has been paid in interest. Telecom’s true surplus is, then, $868m. What happens to the $366m that has been set aside for depreciation, and the $3 17m paid in interest? It is paid out, it would appear, to frame Telecom’s obsession with new technology- an obsession which does not pay heed to the need of the average telephone user.
This investment in new technology, the ARI 1 and AXE programs, is solely to service the needs of large corporations. Millions of dollars worth of exchange equipment, much of it less than 20 years old, is being written off even though it has a working life of 40 years. That equipment could be modified to provide all foreseeable services at a far lower cost than involved in the ARI 1 program. The only service that could not be provided is automatic accounting of subscriber dialled international calls. Many millions of dollars are to be spent on a facility that few Australians need or want. The public, it appears, will subsidise the needs of the business community.
Touchfones have been introduced. I suggest that they are no more than gimmickry, and the touch is on the subscriber’s pocket. Telecom is not behaving with the social responsibility that one would expect of a government authority. Over the next year 38 country exchanges will be automated. Telephonists will lose jobs. This will involve the loss of a social service to rural communities and the loss of many thousands of dollars in wages in already depressed areas. Also, Telecom is expending energy and large sums of money in providing private networks for the BHP, Esso, Ansett and TAA companies rather than further extending its rural services. The report and the related Telecom business outlook for 1978-79 are damning statements of the direction public enterprise has taken under the Fraser Government. Again I suggest that honourable senators address themselves to the content of this report. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Senator CHANEY (Western AustraliaMinister for Administrative Services)- by leave- I think it would be useful if the Senate debated the matters which have been put forward by Senator Ryan. I pick on but one example, that of the touchfone. The argument which was raised is an example of the rather exaggerated view that has been put forward by Senator Ryan. The touchfone is offered by Telecom as a subscriber option. It does not cost anything to subscribers who do not have touchfones. It costs the subscriber who wishes to have it an additional fee. To put that forward as one example of Telecom acting against the interests of individual subscribers in favour of business is illustrative of the invalidity of many of the comments made by the honourable senator. I look forward to a debate on the subject. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Pursuant to section 9 of the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974 I present the annual statement on the operation of that Act during the year ended 30 June 1978.
– by leave- The ministerial statement on the establishment of the Australian Aboriginal Development Agency was made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in another place this day. I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
I wish to inform honourable senators that the Government has decided to legislate for the creation of an Aboriginal Development Agency which will embrace the present functions of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission and the Aboriginal Loans Commission, and take over from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs the administration of its Enterprise program.
In addition, the Government will be looking to the Agency to put forward new kinds of programs designed to contribute to the sufficiency of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities.
In company with the decision to create a new Agency, the Government has also, in accordance with the joint parties’ policy statement of 1975, decided to establish an Aboriginals Entitlement Capital Account. This decision flows from the 1975 policy statement of the Liberal and National Country Parties which recognised ‘the problems flowing from the past dispossession and dispersal of the Aboriginal people and the community’s resulting responsibility’. The new Account will be used to fund the operation of the statutory authority. It would receive all the funds currently available to the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission, the Aboriginal Loans Commission and the Enterprise Vote of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Additional funding will be considered in the 1979 budgetary context.
The creation of this Agency and the establishment to the Entitlement Account represents a significant initiative in Aboriginal affairs and will result in a major new statutory authority. The excellent work of the Land Fund Commission and the Loans Commission will be carried forward and could well be extended into new fields.
In addition to funding from Government sources, the Agency will be in a position to develop projects through co-financing arrangements with bodies such as the Aboriginal Benefits Trust Account of the Northern Territory and by the underwriting of normal commercial loans.
In accordance with the Government’s commitment to the policy of self-management, the Agency will be expected to develop into a wholly Aboriginal-run and staffed body. It will create opportunities for the development of Aboriginal staff training programs which are not feasible under present arrangements.
The Government has been conscious for some time of the benefits of bringing the developmental activities now conducted separately by the Land Fund Commission, the Loans Commission and by the Department together under the administration of a single agency separate from the Department. Co-ordination of all activities designed to assist in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander economic development, which are at present conducted by three seperate entities, will greatly improve their effectiveness.
The Agency will assist in the development of land that has already been acquired for Aboriginals; the development of land granted under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act of the Northern Territory; and the stimulation of Aboriginal business enterprises throughout Australia.
The Agency will be specially designed to assist in programs leading to self-sufficiency. It will, for example, have the flexibility to provide a combination of grant-loan funding in those situations when neither a loan or a grant is in itself appropriate.
In establishing the Agency, the Government will be in a position to learn from the experience gained by the operations of the Papua New Guinea Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank. While these Banks would not provide an exact model for the new authority, their experience and method of operation will be closely examined so that the very best features of their operations can be utilised in the new arrangements.
It has been pointed out to me on a number of occasions by Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders that economic projects need not only financial assistance from Government sources but technical assistance in the implementation of projects. This point has also been forcefully made by members of the Government parties and the Opposition. It is not sufficient to simply provide Aboriginals with money and then leave them without expert assistance. The new authority will be geared to provide such assistance. It will work through existing functional authorities and may employ its own expert staff.
It is the Government’s intention to involve Aboriginals in the planning of the Agency. The Government will seek comment from Aboriginal bodies such as the NAC as well as from the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission and the Aboriginal Loans Commission before the legislation is prepared for consideration by Parliament. I will formally consult the Council for Aboriginal Development on the principles to be embodied in the legislation.
The decisions which I have announced constitute a break-through of substantial significance for the Aboriginal people and will greatly assist in their drive towards self-sufficiency. The new Agency will provide a means through which Aboriginals may determine their own needs and priorities and participate in decision-making affecting their economic, and thus social place in the community at large.
I look forward to the support of honourable senators on both sides of the House in developing this new Agency.
Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle)- by leaveproposed:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
– Because of the time factor the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has not read the important statement which has been brought down but has had it incorporated in Hansard It is now the custom to incorporate ministerial statements and second reading speeches to facilitate the passage of legislation in the Senate. The statement informs us that the Government has decided to legislate for the creation of an Aboriginal Development Agency which will embrace the present functions of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission and the Aboriginal Loans Commission and take over from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs the administration of its Enterprise program. Reading the first paragraph of the statement raises in me some interest that the proposals may be a way to save expenditure by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs which we considered to be open-ended and which did not serve the Aboriginal people. Another paragraph of the statement refers to Torres Strait Islanders. One would expect that certain schemes which have absorbed large sums of money without evident result would be brought under some control.
The point that the Opposition makes is that in setting up this agency the rights of the Aboriginal people to participate and to decide their own affairs should be fully recognised. The Aboriginal people themselves should participate in the operation, the administration and the policy making decisions of the agency upon its establishment. It is important at this stage to accept that principle. It is important also to accept the proposition that such an agency will cut down substantially the area of responsibility of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I take it that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs budget will be reduced by the amount that is necessary to fund and develop this agency. I take it that we are not now to have an addition to the present structure of the Department in the form of another commission or agency to assist the Aboriginal people. The overexpensive way of administering funds for Aboriginal people through the Department might be exacerbated by another bureaucracy. We await the legislation and hope that the matters of which I have spoken will be taken into consideration. I hope also that the better elements of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission and the Aboriginal Loans Commission are reinforced rather than diminished. That will be the concern of honourable senators on this side of the chamber and I do not doubt that it will be the concern of those on the other side. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Bonner) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to the admissibility of confessions made by Aborigines and Islanders and to related matters.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
-by leave- I move:
Honourable senators will recall that on 1 5 September 1976, I introduced this Bill into this chamber, and that as a result of the Parliament being prorogued, the Bill lapsed. Now I again present it in its original form without any amendment. It is sufficient to say that since that date a lot of water has passed under the bridge and to the shame of this nation, a lot more Aborigines and Islanders have gone to prison. Their only crime, in the majority of cases, is ignoranceingnorance of a judicial system which they do not understand. It is a judicial system which is based entirely on European values, customs and culture; and one which is heavily weighted against my people and my Islander brothers and sisters. Therefore, it is my belief, shared by countless thousands of caring white Australians, that this present imbalance within our society must not be permitted to continue. It must be excised, like some deadly cancer that is sapping the very life blood of my people.
For the many years that I have been privileged to sit in this chamber, I have listened attentively, if somewhat cynically, to the many debates concerning my race. This cynicism has of late, I believe, been reinforced by events with which all honourable senators should be familiar and concerned. However, I now call upon honourable senators to do some soul searching, to exercise their minds, to put their fine words into some definite, direct action. This chamber has been deluged by noble words and sentiments which have hung heavily on my ears and then, sadly to say, like some hot air, have dritfed upwards, to be dissipated and blown away on the winds of indifference. Today I am issuing a challenge to all senators to put these thoughts and expressions of concern for the Aboriginal and island people into positive and effective action.
Do we, as senators, have the necessary intestinal fortitude to initiate innovative and far reaching legislation, or are we to give truth to the fallacy that we are a chamber of stoic old men and women, deaf to the voice of the people, a mere rubber stamp of that other place? I look around and see youth and vitality on both sides of the chamber. I see the wisdom of years, and I pray to God that I also see men and women of principle: men and women of vision, men and women who are not the mere minions of government and bureaucracy, but men and women who are now prepared to stand up and be counted, and are in tune with the song of freedom that is presently resounding throughout this nation. I trust that I have gained the Senate ‘s attention, rattled a few skeletons in the closet and extracted some emotion from honourable senators. I do not care whether it be sympathy, resentment, or criticism, as long as it is some emotive force. For I believe that for far too long the welfare of my people has been treated with mere apathy within this chamber.
Not long ago in this chamber, I echoed the plaintive plea of that great Aborigine and Australian, Albert Namatjira. They were words which embodied, I believe, his utter despair and disillusionment with the dominant white society and its judicial system. It was a cry which even today is applicable to my people and one which demands to be answered in this very chamber today. Those prophetic words were not delivered from the pulpit, or from any public forum, but from the very source itself- the steps of a white man’s much vaunted hall of justice, after Namatjira had felt the cruel barbs of his white brother’s brand of justice. Sadly, the position remains unchanged in this so-called enlightened era of so-call reform. The indigene still finds himself today an outcast and pariah in his own land, a land which was given him by Almighty God at Dreamtime, which is creation.
I am aware that perhaps I have traversed this ground before, and although it needs to be reiterated time and time again, perhaps I can condense this with the words of two white scholars to whom my race will be eternally grateful. Firstly, I quote C. D. Rowley’s The Destruction of Aboriginal Society, from the Australian National University Press 1970. At page 23 these words appear:
What were left were not conquered tribes, but dispirited remnants lacking in the kind of leadership with which an administration might negotiate. Lacking even a place of their own, which from the European point of view, was an axiomatic basis for any kind of civilised or ordered life.
Secondly, I quote Emeritus Professor W. E. H. Stanner ‘s After the Dreaming, from the 1968 Boyer Lectures. These words appear at page 46:
In a hundred patterns they drifted into a vicious circle of poverty, dependence and acceptance of paternalism. Every act of paternalism deepened the poverty into pauperism and the dependence into inertia. The situation was selfperpetuating and self-reinforcing.
If honourable member’s choose to ignore this lone Aborigine ‘s words, dare they cast aside the words of these two men of learning? To further reinforce the need for the provisions of this Bill, I quote directly from Aborigines, A Statement of Concern, prepared by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, for the Catholic Bishops of Australia. I quote from page 14:
The Law and the Police. Not only does our legal system reflect values and priorities alien to Aboriginal culture, but it has by and large sanctioned the dispossessions of Aboriginal people of their land and violence that accompanied it. Many laws discriminated against them. Indeed, the Australian Government was for a time unable to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination’ of the United Nations because of the Queensland Aborigines ‘ and Torres Strait Islanders ‘ Acts.
The law has offered little protection to Aborigines. Rarely have they sought justice through civil courts. In the criminal courts, they have been disadvantaged at every stage of the proceedings- the chances of being arrested, the nature of charges, the granting and the level of bail, having legal representation in court, the chances of conviction and the severity of sentence.
The end result is that Senator Bonner has been able to claim that Aborigines are the most imprisoned people in the world.
My claim, which is mentioned in the report, is still as valid today as it was then or when I first introduced the Bill. I would like to record some further figures which are now available. In 1974 Aborigines comprised between 6 per cent and 9 per cent of the prison population in New South Wales. Their rate of imprisonment was at least 1 7 times that of non-Aborigines. Each year from 1973 to 1975 magistrates courts in Western Australia sentenced more Aborigines than nonAborigines to imprisonment. Aborigines comprise 2.1 per cent of the population of that State. In July 1972 Aborigines made up 15.3 per cent of the total daily average prison population in South Australia and 5 1.33 per cent of the female prison population. Only 0.75 per cent of the State’s population are Aborigine.
To give some indication of the validity of the concensus of the objections, I ask leave to have a letter to the right honourable Malcolm Fraser, Prime Minister, from the Queensland Police Union of Employees, incorporated in Hansard.
The letter read as follows: 269 Main Street. Kangaroo Point.
Brisbane 4 1 69. 28 January 1977
The Rt Hon. M. Fraser Esq., Prime Minister of Australia, Parliament House, Canberra 2600
On behalf of the Queensland Police Union of Employees I bring to your notice details of Private Member’s Bill as proposed by Senator Bonner such Bill being entitled ‘Aborigines and Islanders (Admissibility of Confessions) Bill 1976’.
My members have at considerable length examined the contents of this Bill which seems to restrict alarmingly Police powers in the state of Queensland and would render virtually impossible the upholding of law and order amongst the coloured members of our community.
An examination of statistics available to this Union indicates that in 1976 the present situation existed with respect to the population of coloured people in the various states of the Commonwealth of Australia. It will be seen that in each state the numbers of Aborigines are recorded together with the percentage of the total population added to which are figures in respect to the Torres Strait Islanders who also may be found amongst our coloured community.
The following table illustrates the figures:
We earnestly request that you as Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Parliament should ensure that this Bill does not become Law until every aspect of the Bill is thoroughly and conscientiously examined and that the continuation of justice to all should be viewed with paramount importance.
Far too frequently in recent years Queenslanders have been described as being racist and oppressive of the Aborigine community, a statement which is completely lacking in fact and totally and completely unacceptable.
Over a long period of time the Queensland Police Union has had considerable dealings with the coloured community of this State and we have always found that the Law as it is presently framed particularly with respect to the ‘Aborigine questioning’ leaves nothing to be desired in guaranteeing the community of Queensland a proper and complete law enforcement program.
I am taking the liberty of forwarding a copy of this communication to each of your Cabinet colleagues, to all members of Cabinet in Queensland and further to all members of the Police Federation of Australia who will be discussing this problem at their Federation’s Conference in Adelaide from 13 March onwards.
We would appreciate receiving advice from you that you will delay if possible the passage of this Bill until a complete inquiry may be carried out in respect of the contents of this letter.
Your faithfully, Queensland Police Union of Employees,
– I particularly draw honourable senators attention to the sixth paragraph which reads:
Far too frequently in recent years, Queenslanders have been described as being racist and oppressive of the Aboriginal community, a statement which is completely lacking in fact, and totally and completely unacceptable.
I feel that perhaps it would have been more correct to attribute that statement as reflecting the opinion of the Queensland Government, and we all know that it is not truly representative of all Queenslanders. Honourable senators will also note that this letter was written prior to the Criminal Law Inquiry held in Queensland, and this Inquiry did in fact vindicate my argument that my people and the Islanders need additional protection in the investigatory process. The report of this inquiry, which boasted as its members a senior judge of the Supreme Court, a senior counsel and a retired police inspector, has been ignored and is no doubt gathering dust in some State archive- along with other such reports which dare to challenge the omnipotence of the Queensland Government. This report also recommended the use of tape recorders, but this proposal was rubbished as being too complex for the police to operate, and readily subject to falsification.
The report made the following recommendations in relation to Aborigines:
On the one hand the Government praises its enforcement officers, and then as quickly denigrates their competence, intelligence and integrity. As an example of its double standards, the Government has given the officers the right to operate breath analysing equipment which, to my way of thinking, is as equally difficult to operate and more open to abuse than a tape recorder.
Another major objection to the use of tape recorders and compliance with other provisions of this Bill was that such would be expensive and time consuming. We are dealing with the rights of the individual and matters such as expense and inconvenience should never be given consideration when the liberty and good name of the individual is at stake. I, for one, respect the integrity and intelligence of the Queensland police force and would give to its members the duty to use tape recording devices. Another example of duplicity is that the Queensland Government can readily reel off figures for its Aboriginal and
Islander population, but cannot give similar figures on their incarceration. I have been told that to differentiate in this matter would be racist and discriminatory. I leave it to honourable senators to guess the real motive behind the Government’s reticence to keep these statistics.
I ask honourable Senators again to read my second reading speech delivered in this Chamber on 1 5 September 1976 which, together with what I have said today, reinforces the urgency of this Bill becoming law at the earliest possible time. I submit that we have the power to enact this legislation- in fact I believe we have the duty to do so. The power was given to the Commonwealth in the referendum in 1967 by 89 per cent of the Australian voting population. Therefore, I demand, on behalf of Aboriginal Australians, that honourable senators be fearless and forthright and move to enact this legislation, and not let us have another Dunkirk, as occurred at Aurukun and Mornington Island.
I leave honourable senators to ponder a statement made by an unknown Aborigine man:
The Bible says God made us in his own image and likeness, but the white man tries to make us in his image and likeness.
For this reason alone, I commend the Bill to the Senate and submit that it merits universal support of all Senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Evans) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the Senate at its rising adjourn until Tuesday, 7 November 1978, at 2.50 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- Honourable senators are aware that recently Senator Ryan gave notice of a motion for the disallowance of the Australian Capital Territory Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance 1978. To enable the Government to consider the implications of this motion,..consideration of it was deferred until Tuesday, 7 November, the day on which the Senate will resume sitting. It has been the practice to debate matters of this nature on Thursdays. It is the Government’s intention that the motion be brought on for debate on Thursday, 9 November. Accordingly, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 28 September, on motion by Senator Webster:
That the Bills be now read a first time.
-As has been indicated, the Dried Vine Fruits Stabilization Amendment Bill and the Dried Vine Fruits Levy. Amendment Bill are being debated cognately. The Bills have been hanging around the chamber for so long that I suppose that, like in the comic strip, we can now refer to them as the ‘dead grapes Bills’. A number of honourable senators have taken the opportunity of this debate on the motion for the first reading of two money Bills to make Budget-like speeches. I propose to cover two or three subjects in my contribution to the debate. Quite recently I spoke on the motion for the first reading of another money Bill, when I devoted my remarks largely to the problems associated with the decision by the Government to go ahead at all costs with the mining of the Ranger uranium deposits. I also covered other controversial issues, including the future of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Panel. I will probably make some brief reference to that later in this debate. I do not want to go into that in great detail in this debate as I propose to go into it in detail when the Senate returns after the brief break next week.
Other aspects of the Budget to which I did not have the opportunity to refer previously include the economic side of the planning which this Government is carrying out in order to promote its campaign of reducing the rate of inflation. It appears that the main linchpin of its campaign is a massive increase in the level of unemployment. There has been a shift in the taxation system and in the payment of government benefits to a degree that has led to people in’ the lower income categories being forced to carry the main economic burdens imposed by the Government, while a few people at the top will escape virtually unscathed.
I want to quote a number of statistics which I think have a real bearing on this matter. First of all, we must remember that one per cent of the Australian population owns 22 per cent of the accumulated wealth; 5 per cent, including the one per cent referred to, own 46 per cent of the accumulated wealth; and a mere 10 per cent- 10 people in every 100- own 60 per cent of the accumulated wealth of Australia. So the economy is totally lopsided. This Government has aggravated that situation by deciding to make the poorer people bear the brunt of the economic remedies which the Government has introduced. The wealthiest 2,000 people in Australia own as much as 2,230,000 of the poorer people. That is a rather stark comparison to make, but I think it illustrates very well indeed the point I am trying to make. The 1978-79 Budget transfers by way of the elimination of certain benefits and the decision to adjust age pensions and other pensions only once a year instead of twice a year as has been the practice for a number of years, and instead of four times a year as I think the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, advocated in 1975, will bring great poverty to a very large number of people. The shift in the taxation system will take $3,200m, or $3.2 billion, from the poorer section of the community. Unfortunately, much of this will be transferred to the Australian elite and to the trans-national corporations, which are receiving the greatest benefits from the re-organisation of the economy. We were told in February of this year- in fact, we were also told in December of last year and November of last year during the general election campaign- that this country could well afford a taxation cut. That taxation cut was introduced in the early months of this year. But when the Budget was produced in mid-August of this year we discovered that it contained a whole number of taxation increases affecting people right across the community. Again it will be the small family man and the single person who will have to pay the bulk of the new taxation increases.
Families in receipt of a weekly income of $ 1 75 will find themselves particularly hard hit because their share of the new taxation increases will be 7.3 per cent of their salary. They will be receiving that much less in their weekly wage. A family man who is getting almost double that- $300 a week- will pay only 5.6 per cent extra in tax. But the elite, including the Prime Minister, who are receiving something like $1,000 a week will pay only an extra 3.2 per cent in taxation.
– How much is that in money terms?
-The honourable senator can work that out on his own calculator. I want to continue with my speech. I do not have an awful lot of time. I am sure that the honourable senator could work out in the next couple of minutes what is 3.2 per cent of $1,000. This added burden will be felt not only by workers on lower incomes but also by other disadvantaged sections of the community, in particular the children of this country, who will suffer as a result of the severe cuts in education that have been made in this Budget. Cuts have been made, no matter how much it is denied by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), who is also the Leader of the Government in the Senate, although, as my colleague Senator Evans pointed out this morning at Question Time, apparently he has a precarious hold on that position. The Minister for Education is in a very difficult situation because he has to manipulate the figures, which is what it amounts to. Severe cuts have been made in education expenditure no matter how much attempts are made to camouflage that fact.
Another section of the community has been seriously disadvantaged. I refer to the Aboriginal people of this country. I want to speak a little further on this point. After almost three years under a conservative government the conditions of Aborigines in many areas have returned virtually to what they were before 1967. We know about the way in which figures have been manipulated in a document which came into this place today. I do not quarrel with the principle set out in this document, but I suspect that what it contains is an ulterior motive, the purpose of which is to freeze the money made available to the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission and to a number of other areas as well. If, as the Minister said, the money is a direct contribution to selfmanagement and participation by Aborigines, that is a good point. But when we read the fine print, the result may not work out that way at all.
The housing program which had been well initiated by the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975 has virtually been abandoned, for all practical purposes, on every Aboriginal community in Australia. The Aboriginal Housing Panel, in its dying throes, made some reference to this matter a few weeks ago. One of the amazing aspects of this, of course, is that that organisation should be abolished at this time. However, as I said earlier, that is a subject matter for much greater debate in this place at a later date. The Aboriginal Loans Commission, which was established to provide Aborigines with loans at slightly lower than normal interest rates, particularly in relation to housing, has now indicated that it will be eight to ten years before anybody on the waiting list is likely to obtain a loan to purchase or to construct a home. On 10 August 1978
I wrote to the Australian Government Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Mr Viner, on behalf of a lady who some months previously had lodged an application for a housing loan from the Aboriginal Loans Commission. The Commission confirmed that the lady concerned was informed in May 1977 of a possible waiting period of 12 to 1 8 months before her formal housing loan application could be considered. In his reply to my letter the Minister went on to say:
I understand that the Commission periodically revises its estimates of waiting periods and currently does not expect that . . . application can be accepted for at least a further 12 months.
But this is the king hit in the Minister’s letter which is dated 19 September 1978:
When the Commission closed its wailing list for housing loans in February 1978, estimates indicated a possible delay of 8- 10 years waiting time for the last people listed.
The Government is totally unconcerned about the situation pertaining to the waiting list. We have heard from time to time the Minister and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) say- of course, there are the famous statements made by Mr Ellicott to which I referred in this chamber earlier this year- that things would be better and not worse if the Fraser Government were elected instead of the Whitlam Labor Government. There has been a rapid deterioration in the standard of conditions that had been established under the previous Labor Government from late 1972 to 1975. That deterioration has worked to the disadvantage of Aboriginal people in every part of this country. I wish to refer to an article which appeared in the Canberra Times of 12 September 1978, only a few weeks ago. The article is datelined Adelaide and reads:
Without land rights the Australian Aborigines were destined to die, the leader of the Queensland’s Mornington Island people, Mr Larry Lanely, said at an international seminar in Adelaide yesterday.
To deny Aborigines access to their cultural base of the land was to deny basic human rights, he said.
Mr Lanely, who is chairman of the island’s Gunamamanda Community Council, was addressing a UNESCO seminar on the role of museums in preserving indigenous cultures.
Today Aboriginal people are living in a new way’, he told more than 100 participants from Pacific, South-East Asian and North American countries.
We have cars for moving around; guns and rifles for hunting, and we go fishing in aluminium boats with outboard motors. We live in houses with fridges, stoves and electric lights, and we listen to music on cassettes and record players.
Our children go to schools to learn English and other European ways of doing things. They play football and basketball and when they leave school they work for money to buy the cars, the rifles and the cassettes. ‘
But the old people saw many problems when Aborigines moved away from the Aboriginal way.
It must be inside that we feel Aboriginal: we call it “Durrkada” which gives us strength- it makes us recognise ourselves as Aboriginal ‘, he said.
If our dreaming and our laws and languages and our way of living die, then that will be the end of Aboriginal people. It all goes back to the land: that is why land rights are so important to us.
We need the land to be Aboriginal in our minds, that is why governments must give back the land if we are to keep our culture.
Take away our land like the Queensland Government is trying to do. and we’re nobody, we will die out; finish. The land gives the true meaning to Aboriginal life.’
Those were the words of Larry Lanely who, prior to his sacking, was Chairman of the Mornington Island Community Council. They echo the sentiments and the feelings of tens of thousands of Aborigines throughout this country. We see a repudiation of that policy in relation to the Aborigines in the current struggle which is going on with the transnational mining companies who are trying to get out of the ground the uranium in the Northern Territory. We see it being applied in an even more brutal way to two communities in Queensland. It is possibly to be applied by the Queensland Government to at least two or three other communities in Queensland. Some time ago I asked in this chamber- I asked the same question on two occasions during the hearings of the Estimates committees- what was to happen about new employment programs that were being instituted in some parts of the Northern Territory and which had been planned to be introduced as well in Queensland, or at least at Hope Vale as a start on the program. That program has never been instituted. Although no outright denial has been made, representatives of this Government have made feeble denials, indicating that in fact the communities themselves have decided not to have this type of system introduced in Queensland.
In fact, pressure was applied by the Queensland Government to the Commonwealth Government not to introduce any scheme which might upgrade the living standards of Aborigines residing on Aboriginal communities in Queensland. That pressure was applied by the Queensland Premier and those acting on his behalf. For years the Queensland Government has enjoyed the existence of the dubious system of paying people employed on reserves at a rate well below the unemployment benefit. It is slave labour in its worst form. That is why Queensland has one of the worst health records in Australia so far as Aboriginals are concerned.
I want to refer now to some figures that were collected recently in relation to the Torres Strait. Of course, Thursday Island is the island with the biggest population in the Torres Strait, lt also has on it an Aboriginal reserve known as Tamwoy Town, which is devoted solely to the Aboriginal community. The remainder of the people who live on Thursday Island reside in a normal sort of town situation. Many of the other islands are also occupied. The Island Industries Board, which is the chief trade organisation on the island, is responsible for much of the stocking of the small stores on the islands. The statement I have advises me that 7.5 per cent is added by the Island Industries Board to the cost of all foodstuffs on Torres Strait Islands as distinct from Thursday Island. That extra charge is imposed on foodstuffs sold in the suburb of Tamwoy Town, which is on Thursday Island. To make Aborigines pay more for their foodstuffs and for their needs than white people pay on any of the islands have to pay is racial discrimination.
The wages of the workers who have to meet this added impost can be calculated from the fact that the Chairman of the Community Council receives a fortnightly pay of $33. To receive that amount he has to work a 24-hour day, 7 days a week, because the Chairman of the Council is always on call. The other four or five councillors on the Community Council receive $26.40 a fortnight. Again they work a 24-hour day, 7 days a week. The teachers on a number of these islands are not covered by either the Commonwealth or the Queensland education system. This must be one of the rare places in the world where the nursing staff and teachers are employed directly by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement or by the Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs, as Mr Porter calls himself even though he has retained the former name of the Department. A second year male receives $155.16 a fortnight, less tax of $6.50, and on top of that he has to pay a compulsory levy of 20c for the Queensland Ambulance Transport Brigade. If he lives at Dauan or Saibai Islands I do not know that he would get value for the 20c he is compelled to pay. A second year female teacher receives the princely sum of $139.69 a fortnight, and from that she is required to pay $1.80 tax plus the 20c levy. It is mostly on the outer islands that qualified teachers are not employed. Places such as Yorke Island and other islands closer to Thursday Island do have qualified teachers, but on the outer islands that does not apply.
A police sergeant receives a fortnightly pay of $155.25, or 9c more than a second year school teacher, and he does not have to pay tax. A nurse at the medical aid post receives $ 1 50. 1 5 a fortnight, and radio operators receive $8.60 a fortnight. They are the people who operate the transceivers on the various islands. I understand that at some time in the never-never the transceivers will be replaced by the Australian Government with proper telephone facilities. Up until now the radio transceivers have operated on the islands, and largely it is the officials of the Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement who decide which messages will be censored and which will not be retransmitted when they are received at the headquarters on Thursday Island. A very primitive standard is administered totally by white people, who are able to do these things. The sum of $8.60 a fortnight for a radio operator was increased from $2.90 on 8 February this year and covers a work period of approximately four hours a day. Of course, Queensland is in the unique situation whereby this Parliament passed legislation in 1974 and I think early 1975 that could be applied against the Queensland Government if the Commonwealth Government wanted to do so, but it has not.
I wish now to touch on two other subjects in my contribution to this debate. I want to talk about the backwoods system of trying to conserve water in Queensland. The Commonwealth Government ought to be involved in assisting the State in this matter. I want also to talk about the secrecy of this Government and a number of organisations with which it is involved. In my own city of Townsville we have enough water to last for probably another 18 months or two years. It is a developing industrial area and is virtually the capital of the northern part of the State. However, every matter associated with the conservation of water has been made a political football. This situation applies also to Mount Isa, where during the 1977 election campaign the Premier advised the local people that if they did not re-elect their National Party member to the State Parliament he would cut off their water- he would not help them with the financing of a new dam or anything associated with it. The local people, either through fear or for some other reason, narrowly returned the National Party member. The Premier still left their water cut off, and the financing of that dam has now become a political football passing between the State and Commonwealth governments.
Under the new system of water conservation, each of the States is required to submit its priorities in advance to the Australian Government in order to ensure that its plans are taken into consideration when an allocation of finance is being made for the conservation of water. For a very long time the Burdekin Dam has had a high priority. The Burdekin Dam, particularly if what is known as the big dam is constructed, would provide the necessary water for Townsville for probably the next 50 or 60 years. In that respect I propose to quote a few statistics from the Burdekin Project Committee report entitled ‘Resources and Potential of the Burdekin River Basin, Queensland’. As evidenced by its response to the two projects I have mentioned, the Government is particularly unperturbed about the shortage of water in the tropical parts of Australia and the more arid areas of Queensland while a political football match goes on between the Premier of Queensland and the Prime Minister- of this country.
The Burdekin River report contains some particularly revealing facts that ought to go into the permanent record, and I hope that when this speech is read in another 50 years time nobody will say: ‘What did we do about the Burdekin Dam?’ I hope that the contributions being made not only by me but also by many other Queenslanders will convince the Australian Government, if not the Queensland Government, that the Burdekin Dam is a matter of priority. Without going into lengthy detail, I think that particular sections of the report ought to be included in the Hansard record, and I quote firstly from the summary:
The vast water resources of the Burdekin River system, large areas of topographically suitable land for irrigation and extensive coal reserves still under exploration initially suggested that irrigation, power generation- hydro and/or thermal- and power-intensive industries offered the soundest basis for future economic development. A comprehensive program of investigations was set in train to identify the resources and potential for development of the Burdekin River Basin over the next twenty years or so.
Accordingly, the investigation program concentrated on: engineering studies of the most promising damsites, cost estimates, levels of assured annual supply and unit cost of supplies from single storages and from storages in combination;
I interpose there to say that there are some who believe that the Orana Dam, which is one of the smaller ones, should be built first and that a number of smaller dams should be constructed before the major water conservation program is tackled. Quite frankly, I believe that that would be merely a stop-gap measure. The big dam, as it is familiarly known, must be built, and the sooner constuction starts the better it will be not only for Queensland but also for all of Australia. We have had all sorts of discussions in this chamber in particular in which South Australians, Victorians and others have spoken on the subject of the Murray River system. I suppose that the Snowy system has proved to this country for all time that water conservation on a large scale and the development of hydroelectric power can be carried out successfully and profitably. The Burdekin Dam would be no different from that, and in fact it would probably be a much easier project because of the considerably higher rainfall in the area. The summary continues: soils and land capability studies to identify areas suitable for irrigation development; agricultural production and marketing possibilities: a special study of the sugar industry in view of its present and likely future paramount importance in the Burdekin region; prospects for establishing new industries in the region; hydro-electric and thermal power generation possibilities; urban and industrial water requirements in neighbouring areas of economic influence; and potential for flood mitigation.
On the basis of commercial agricultural experience and research in the Burdekin Basin and elsewhere in similar climatic situations in Australia, the Committee concluded that sugar and, to a lesser degree, rice are likely to provide the main possibilities for further irrigation development in the basin for the foreseeable future. An expansion of horticulture and other minor crops could occur, although not relatively significant in terms of economic potential.
The availability of irrigable soils, adequate with regard to both quantity and desirable characteristics for likely future requirements for sugar cane, rice and other suitable minor crops, has been clearly indicated by research, field trials and soil surveys. Of a gross area qf 104,500 hectares of suitable lands between the Haughton and Elliot rivers, some 82,200 hectares would be available for prospective irrigation development. There is also some 20,000 hectares available in the Collinsville area. This area of suitable irrigation land is in excess of the likely demand to the year 2000. In the longer term, the suitability for intensive irrigation of the flood plain soils would have to be thoroughly investigated, bearing in mind their susceptibility to occasional flooding.
The area known as the Burdekin Delta sits on top of a giant aquifer which has been used for a number of years for the irrigation of the sugar cane crop. Unfortunately, in the particularly dry seasons the salinity of the water is likely to impair its value for irrigation. A plan was devised some years ago to raise the water level in some of the creeks and minor dams in order to keep the aquifer fully supplied but this will not be a longterm proposition. Sooner or later, the salinity of the water for irrigation will have a bad effect on crops. Eventually it will probably be totally unsuitable. We have seen the same problem in other parts of Australia. Only one real plan can be adopted for the future, that is to construct the larger dam. This, of course, must not be done in the same way as the dam on the Ord River, near Kununurra in the Kimberleys, was constructed.
The ecological balance was not taken into consideration in the early planning of that dam. Because of the years of planning involved in this project, the environmental shortfalls should not reoccur on this occasion. The report continued:
The Committee examined in considerable detail prospects for the establishment of new agro-industrial enterprises in the region based on the large-scale processing of crops, some of which have not yet been grown commercially in Australia; notably, cassava for the manufacture of starch, the use of bagasse- a by-product in the processing of sugar cane- for paper pulp, and kenaf and elephant grass for the manufacture of liner board and paper pulp respectively.
Cassava is one of those crops that can be used effectively for the production of power alcohol. With the continuing shortfall that this country and the world will encounter over the next 20 or 30 years in the availability of processed fossil fuels, obviously we have to look at the prospects of manufacturing power alcohol from vegetable matter. I think that one of the South American countries has taken the lead in this field by the use of sugar cane. The report continued:
The use of cassava for the manufacture of starch is already an accepted process and, while there is no commercial agricultural experience of this crop in the Burdekin, the Committee considers that it has considerable potential as a new industry in the region.
The technology of using bagasse for the manufacture of paper pulp is already in use in other parts of the world. The applicability of this process to the Australian sugar industry would depend upon the cost and acceptability of an alternative fuel to replace bagasse which is currently used in sugar mill boilers. The prospect of longer-term shortages of traditional fibres for pulping is likely to enhance the prospects for bleached bagasse pulp production in the Lower Burdekin.
With regard to kenaf and elephant grass, there is insufficient agricultural research experience to indicate their likely commercial success in the region. In addition, their competitiveness with existing raw materials for similar purposes is not yet proven. Nevertheless, they remain distinct long-term possibilities.
The Burdekin Basin as such is not a suitable location for power-intensive industries because of the lack of necessary infrastructure, such as port facilities, etc. However, it is considered that Townsville has the necessary facilities to be an attractive location for specific power-intensive industries, provided relatively cheap power is available from the State electricity grid and adequate water supplies are available.
Three coastal sites and two inland sites- one on the Galilee Basin coalfields- were investigated as possible locations for new 2,000 megawatt thermal power plants. The economics of pipeline transportation of coal to coastal power plants were also investigated. The generation of hydropower for peak or for base loads from storages on the Burdekin system, ranging in size from 40 to 1 ,000 megawatts installed capacity, would appear to be an economic proposition- but only if based on the incremental costs associated with the power installations. This assumes that the storages would be built to their full height for other purposes, such as irrigation and industrial use.
However, the construction of a Burdekin Falls high dam -
That is the big dam- with a 500 megawatt hydro-electric power station and the use of residual water for irrigation has been suggested for further economic assessment.
That is the very plan that I and the Burdekin River dam associations have been advocating for a long period of time.
On the basis of recent projections of population growth in Townsville and smaller urban centres in the basin, it appears that there could be an annual requirement of some 13.000 megalitres from the Burdekin Basin by the year 2000.
It is clear from the investigation program that an increase of regulated water supplies, mainly for irrigation, is essential for continuing economic development in the Burdekin Basin. Central to projections of future water demand in the basin is the role of the Burdekin sugar industry. If it is to maintain its current share of Queensland production, an additional 217,000 megalitres of water for on-farm use will be required by the year 2000. On the other hand, if a decision were made to increase the share of the Burdekin industry from its present level of 16 per cent to, say, 20 per cent because of its comparative production advantages under irrigation, about 392,000 megalitres would be required.
I have given the basic facts in relation to the statistical side of the development of the Burdekin water conservation scheme. It goes further than that because two other centres are involved. Charters Towers, which is some 80 miles west of Townsville, could be developed with the aid of sufficient water. Almost uncharted amounts of good quality coal are available in the various basins to the south of that area. Coal will possibly also be found and exploited north of the area at a later date. Bowen has a natural harbour and is only some 120 miles by road south of Townsville. It could probably be developed at a later stage as a place for the treatment of iron ore. Unless these sorts of schemes are looked at on a national basis they will never be developed. The parochialism of the State, particularly under its present government, will not allow it.
The final contribution I make is in relation to the failure of this Government to provide information on a whole range of issues which are almost daily problems for the Australian population. I have made references in Hansard to a number of matters on which I have not been able to get information from Ministers. As one of my colleagues said yesterday, there is little value in putting a question on notice because Ministers of this Government will not answer them unless it is politically suitable for them to do so. We frequently ask Ministers questions in the Senate and in the other place and receive a promise that a Minister will look into them. Unless one is diligent enough or has the time to go back over Hansard and find out how many times those promises have been made we never get a reply.
I put a number of questions on the Notice Paper. I classify the practice of not giving replies as government secrecy. In odd cases I suppose that it is a case of ministerial incompetence or the fact that a department is not geared to supply the information. In a speech in September I referred to the possible upgrading of the seismic station at Pine Gap. I mentioned that six radomes had been constructed there, apparently in secrecy even though at the time the station was established the then Minister said that only two radomes were to be constructed at that facility. Now there is the possibility that a seventh will be constructed, probably without this Government being told. Perhaps the Government has been told and has forgotten to pass on the information to the relevant Minister. Why should it take so long for a reply to that question to be given to me? It should have been only a matter of a telephone inquiry, that is, if we have joint responsibility for the facility.
Question No. 874 referred to an interdepartmental memo, which had been distributed in the Northern Territory, regarding the turning over of Aboriginal settlements to local government areas. The question was a simple one. I wanted to know whether the Queensland legislation was to be used as a guide for this sort of arrangement. A similar question that I placed on notice on the same day concerned the failure of the Government to register many Aboriginal organisations under the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act which was passed in this chamber many months ago. They are simple questions. The answer should have been available from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in a matter of minutes. The questions have now been on notice for several seeks. Obviously, I am not going to get the replies.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was making reference to what I termed government secrecy. Since then I have received an urgent communication from Darwin. I understand that this afternoon’s NT News carries the photograph of two young Aboriginal girls who were in a party of 12 students used for strike breaking in the current hospital dispute in Darwin. I believe that this matter is consistent with what I said earlier this afternoon in my speech. This ought to be a matter of urgent investigation by the Government, but more particularly by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). The two lasses concerned who have their photos in the newspaper today with buckets and mops and showing their attitudes to hard work are used for scrubbing the floors of the maternity ward. One girl’s name is June Nadjamerrek and the other girl is Barbara
Cooper. They are both 1 5 years of age. It is significant that the 12 senior students came from Kormilda College. There is no suggestion that students from other colleges, particularly white students, have been used for the same strike breaking purposes. I respectfully submit that it is a matter for urgent investigation by the Minister for Education. I hope the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) who is at the table will convey that message to Senator Carrick.
I return now to what I believe to be further aspects of government secrecy. Questions No. 877, 878 and 880 standing in my name on the Notice Paper refer to aspects that are fairly domestic. One question concerns the purchase of a table-tennis outfit for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Another question concerns the total cost of renovations at The Lodge. I understand that one figure was published but it does not in fact cover the total cost. The third question concerns the new residence for the Prime Minis,ter and its authorisation. Those questions ought to be answerable within a few days. One would hardly think that they are great secrets of state.
The granting of uranium mining leases at Boghole Creek is the subject of another question on notice. I think all of those questions were asked as far back as the third week in September. On 10 October I asked what had happened to the uranium ore dump at Snake Creek in the Northern Territory. The leases at Boghole Creek have been surrounded by secrecy ever since that uranium was found. Maybe the Government does not know about it. There is a chance that there might be a breach of government policy concerning the Cape Flattery sand mining leases. I have asked for details of the leases, the payment of royalties and how many Aborigines are employed. I understand that most of that information has been in the hands of the Government for a long time.
Quite some time ago I referred to another matter, that is, the installation of a new satellite ground station, designation AN/MSC-61 at the North West Cape facility. A contract was let in the United States of America. I would like to know whether the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) was informed because I understand that there is an obligation by the United States of America to supply the Australian Government with full and timely information about strategic and operational developments relative to the station. Desmond Ball, who is one of the experts in this field, recently compiled a paper. I could go through it in detail but the Minister at the table has inspected it. It is set out in double spaced typing. I believe the information is of such great value that it should appear in Hansard and I hope it should give rise either through the Press or in some other public way to a lot of searching discussion. It is quite obvious that in spite of the fact that deals have been made between this Government and the American Government in particular, there are numerous listing points around Australia that are not properly documented. Desmond Ball has set out in a very big way to do precisely that. I want to quote just a few notes from another statement that he has made. It is contained in the same paper but I do not necessarily want this section incorporated. I seek leave to incorporate only six pages.
-Is leave granted?
– The honourable senator again might state the name of the author and the authority for the paper. I have no objection to its incorporation.
-The paper is entitled American Bases: Some Implications for Australia’s Security by Desmond Ball, Strategic and Defence Studies, Australian National University and was written in July 1978. I understand that it has now been published or is about to be published.
The document read as follows-
It is worthwhile then, to review again’2’ the purposes and functions of the most significant of the American installations in Australia, and to survey some of the implications of these installations for Australian security.
The most recent list of American defence and scientific installations in Australia was provided by the Prime Minister in answer to a question on notice in the House on 2 November 1976’3’. Listed were:
Naval Communications Station ‘Harold E. Holt’, North West Cape;
Joint Defence Space Research Facility, Alice Springs, commonly known as Pine Gap;
Joint Defence Space Communications Station, Woomera, commonly known as Nurrungar
NASA tracking stations at Orroral Valley, Honeysuckle Creek and Tidbinbilla, ACT;
v) Project Hibal Balloon Launching Station, Mildura;
Joint Geological and Geophysical Research Station, Alice Springs, commonly known as USAF Detachment 42 1 ;
Seismograph stations at Hobart, Adelaide, Charters Towers, Alice Springs, and Mundaring; and
viii) Seismic Research Observatory, Narrogin, WA.
Currently under construction are also a solar observatory at Learmonth, WA, and an Omega VLF navigation station in Gippsland, Victoria. In addition, the American National Security Agency (NSA), the super-secret American electronic intelligence organisation, operates from a number of electronic intelligence posts inside Australia. These reportedly include joint operations of NSA with the Australian Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), operated under the secret UK USA Agreement of 1947, at Albert Park in Melbourne, Darwin, HMAS Harman near Canberra, Pearce Air Force Base near Perth, and Toowoomba; an NSA facility at the US
Embassy in Canberra; and NSA operations at North West Cape, Pine Gap, and Nurrungar.’4’
These installations cover a wide range of American interests’ in Australia- ranging from strategic intelligence, strategic support, regional defence to civilian co-operation. Most of them have some implications for some aspect of Australian national security policy. Some, like North West Cape, Pine Gap, and Nurrungar, have direct strategic and defence significance; others, such as the USAF Detachment 421 at Alice Springs perform intelligence functions; even those NASA stations wholly committed to the civilian space program have important ‘goodwill’ and co-operation implications.
This article, however, focuses on the three more critical installations- North West Cape, Nurrungar and Pine Gap. These installations and their respective functions are described in turn.
North West Cape is presently one of the most important links in the US global defence network. According to official brochures, the base ‘may serve several purposes. However, its main reason for existence is to maintain reliable communications with submarines of the US fleet serving in this area of the world (i.e., the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans)’- and, in particular, ‘to provide communication for the US Navy’s most powerful deterrent force- the nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine’.’5’ The VLF facility for communicating with the American submarines is the largest and most powerful of the three principal VLF stations in the US world-wide submarine communication system- the other two are Jim Creek, Washington, and Cutler, Maine.
North West Cape also has an array of high frequency transmitters which are extremely important to US military operations, as was dramatically illustrated during the American mining of Haiphong and other North Vietnemese harbours in 1 972, when the high frequency site on the base was fully committed.’6’ This capability will be greatly enhanced with the installation of the AN/MSC-6 1 satellite ground station, which will tie North West Cape into Phase III of the US Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS III ).’”
Also, some time in the late 1960s North West Cape became host to an operation of the Naval Security Group (NSG), (8) the largest component of the NSA. The NSA facility at North West Cape is apparently a four-point logperiodic VLF electronic intelligence receiver, for monitoring Soviet submarine communications from Vladivostok, Khaborovsk, et cetera.
Nurrungar, which is located within the Woomera restricted area, about 480 km (300 miles) north-west of Adelaide, is one of two ground stations for the American satellite early warning system. Officially known as the USAFs Space and Missile Systems Organisation (SAMSO) Detachment 2, Nurrungar provides a real-time data link between the North American Air Defence Command (NORAD), the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and the National Military Command System on the one hand, and the satellite early-warning system on the other hand. (The second ground station for the system is at Buckley, Colorado.) Data are derived from infra-red, charged particle and radiation sensors aboard the geostationary’ satellites of the 647 or Defense Support Program, which detect missile firings shortly after lift-off.”’ Program 647 is now ‘the most important’ system which the US relies on for early warning of ballistic missile attack.”0’
The Pine Gap facility, which became operational in 1 969. is located 19 km ( 12 miles) south-west of Alice Springs. The business end’ of the facility currently consists of five large radomes, various other antennae, and an enormous computer complex.
Pine Gap is controlled by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), although its operations also involve extensive participation of the NSA. According to a telegram of 10 November 1975 from the ASIO liaison officer in Washington to the Director-General of ASIO in Melbourne, read into Hansard by Mr Whitlam on 5 May 1977, the successive American officers in charge of Pine Gap have all been senior officers of the CIA.(11)
A wide range of intelligence activities are evidently undertaken, monitored, and collated at Pine Gap. According to Victor Marchetti, former executive assistant to the deputy director of the CIA and co-author of the secret Pine Gap agreement, Pine Gap was originally established as part of Project Rhyolite. Marchetti has described Rhyolite as involving a single, geostationary satellite, stationed at 22,300 miles above Borneo, capable of ‘sucking up like a vacuum cleaner’ a wide spectrum of Soviet and Chinese military communications and radar transmissions and beaming them back down to Pine Gap.(l2)
Other CIA projects reportedly involving Pine Gap include Projects Pyramider and Argus. Project Pyramider was described during the Boyce trial in Los Angeles in 1 977 as consisting of a number of satellites, controlled through Pine Gap, which would enable CIA agents in the field, including those in the Soviet Union and China, to communicate directly with CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Although Project Pyramider did not itself become operational, the CIA does have some similar system currently in use. Project Argus was apparently undertaken in the mid-1970s, in some degree as a follow-on to Rhyolite. Very little is known about Argus, although it apparently involved the addition of the fifth radome and a major expansion of the computer facilities at Pine Gap.
Various other antennae at the facility, including a long high-frequency (HF) dipole array, permit the interception of a wide range of communications and other electronic signals which emanate from Australia’s northern neighbours. Indeed, it has been speculated that Australia’s internal communications are not exempt from this operation’ 13)
There is no doubt about the extreme importance of Pine Gap. As the CIA informed ASIO in November 1975, Pine Gap is ‘vital to both of our services and countries ‘.(14)
For an earlier discussion, see Desmond Ball, ‘American Bases in Australia: The Strategic Implications’, Current Affairs Bulletin (Vol. 51. No. 10), Match 1975. pages 4-17.
Hansard (House of Representatives), 2 November 1976. pages 2255-2256.
Paul Kelly, ‘NSA, the Biggest Secret Spy Network in Australia’.The National Times, 23-28 May 1977, page 12.
Welcome Aboard the U.S. Naval Communications Station Harold E. Holt- a booklet for personnel newly assigned to North West Cape, preface and pages 10-11; see also North West Cape (Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra, January 1968), pages 5-6. (6)See Frank Cranston, ‘Value of Base to US Operations’, Canberra Times. 12 April 1973, page11.
See Ian Reinecke. ‘What US Plans at North West Cape’, Australian Financial Review, 19 May 1978, pages 1,4, 38.
Joint hearings before the Subcommittee on Military Construction of the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Appropriations. United States Senate, Military Construction Authorization, Fiscal Year 1973,(May-June 1972), page 299.
See Barry Miller, ‘US Moves to Upgrade Missile Warning’, Aviation Week and Space Technology, 2 December 1 974, pages 16-18.
Secretary of Defense. James R. Schlesinger, Annual Defense Department Report, F.Y. 1975, 4 March 1974 (US Government Printing Office, Washington D.C, 1974), pages 72-73.
1 1 ) Hansard (House of Representatives), 4 May 1977, pages 1520-1521. (l2) See The Sun (Sydney), 4 May 1977, page 45, and Four Corners (Australian Broadcasting Commission ). transcript, pages 3-4. (13)bid. (14)Hansard(H.ofR.),4May1977.page 1521.
-As a further explanation, within the statement made by Mr Ball footnotes showing references, such as Hansard, are included. There is nothing ulterior about the paper and it is a sound academic study. In another section of the paper Mr Ball talked about the controversy surrounding the North West Cape facility in May 1978. He states;
In March 1977, the US Congress was informed by the Pentagon that a contract was to be let in August 1977 for 2 1 AN/MSC-6 1 ground stations for the DSCS III system, and that one of these stations (which each cost somewhat more than $ 1 m) was to be deployed at North West Cape.
Mr President, we all recall the controversy that surrounded this move in 1963, both in my Party and your Party. The paper continues:
Construction of the new facility was to begin at North West Cape in late 1978, and to be completed by the end of 1980; the new terminal was to be in operation in early 1981.
Although certain senior military officers within the Department of Defence ( including the Australian Deputy Commander at North West Cape) had been informed of the new development, the first the Australian Government and the Parliament knew of it was a report in the Australian Financial Review of 8 May.
The paper goes on to quote the references. I will finish on that note and say that this Government is becoming more secretive day by day and ought to be looking closely at what damage this is doing to the Australian community. It is government by executive, instead of government by parliament. Mr Killen has been making comments about leakages that seem to get into the Australian Financial Review. I think his last statement about the journalist who was responsible for the production of the articles was that he hoped to burn him at the stake with wet wood. One cannot just be petty about matters because if a lot of subjects are bordering on this type of secrecy they ought to be exposed to public review if we are to have an informed public and if we are to know the thrust that this Government is supposed to be taking.
– I wish to put in perspective a matter which has attracted considerable publicity in the last couple of weeks. As has been well known, for the last few months several Bills have been floating around the United States Congress, the object of which, in this United States congressional election year, was to impose, or seem to impose, further restrictions on the importation of beef to that country. Although the Australian Government must obviously have been well aware of this lobbying by the cattle States and the politicians representing the beef States of that country, at no stage did it think it necessary to send a Minister to Washington, or to the Congress, to make representations on its behalf or on that of the Australian beef industry. It was also fairly widely recognised that most of this political activity in the United States Congress could be described as political stunting, grandstanding by politicians who represented the cattle States and who, prior to the congressional elections of next month, were attempting to ingratiate themselves with their electors.
On 13 October the news came through to Australia that the United States House of Representatives had, in fact, passed a Bill which at least opened the possibility that, in addition to the restrictions already in force, Australian beef imports would be restricted if not immediately then at some time in the future. The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, issued on 13 October a statement in which he referred to having just received news from Washington that the House of Representatives had passed a Bill that would modify the present law governing the United States meat imports. The final paragraph of that statement reads:
I have recently made strong representations to the United States Government on this matter and am hopeful that these representations will be taken into account by the United States administration.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, who has often spoken and acted on behalf of the Government in matters of trade and trade negotiations, was in North America on 13 October, the day on which Mr Anthony issued that statement. The Government obviously did not consider it necessary to contact Mr Peacock and ask him to make any representations on behalf of the beef industry, or on its own behalf. In fact, no action was taken by the Government, either by way of contacting Mr Peacock or in any other way, on the Saturday, the Sunday or the following Monday. By Tuesday afternoon Mr Fraser had announced in the House of Representatives, in reply to a question, that the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, would be leaving for Washington that night- in fact I think he left the next morning- in an endeavour to have the matter ‘resolved to our complete satisfaction’ by invoking the presidential veto. Thus, after three and a half days of complete inertia, suddenly the matter had assumed, in the view of the Government, such urgency that the Minister must immediately pack up, leave Canberra and depart for Washington. It was not acknowledged, by the Government at least, that the fact that it was by then well known that the Bulletin was to publish an article next day had anything to do with Mr Sinclair’s departure. The Parliament was expected to accept that, after three and a half days of inertia, the Government had suddenly decided that this was a crucial matter which required immediate ministerial intervention at a direct, fact-to-face, level. Even if that had been the Government’s view, there were still some unresolved questions. Why, may we ask, was the Minister for Primary Industry, instead of the Minister for Trade and Resources, Mr Anthony, chosen to go.
If we review the record of this year we find not only that Mr Anthony rather than Mr Sinclair has handled all other negotiations concerning beef sales on behalf of the Government, but also that of 2 1 ‘statements that have been issued by the two Ministers with respect to the beef industry and the beef trade no fewer than 18 have been issued by Mr Anthony, and no more than three by Mr Sinclair- facts which make difficult to accept the amazing conclusion expressed in the Melbourne Herald of last Saturday by Peter Costigan that Mr Sinclair was the Cabinet’s beef expert. Indeed, in depicting the move in those terms, Mr Costigan was almost speaking like a senior member of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, which recently has developed an amazing facility for swallowing and regurgitating Government propaganda.
Apart from the question as to why in this instance Mr Sinclair was chosen to negotiate on behalf of the beef industry or trade instead of the Minister who normally handled it, the action of the Government stands in stark contrast to its behaviour a week before regarding the International Sugar Agreement. The United States Congress had refused to ratify that Agreement. That action had potential consequences at least equally serious- certainly more so in the short term- for Australia’s export trade than did the beef Bill which was passed 13 days ago. The United States Congress had the week before refused to ratify the International Sugar Agreement yet no action that we are aware of was taken by the Australian Government. Certainly, no Minister was despatched to Washington to lobby the Congress or the United States Administration, either prior to or subsequent to the congressional rejection of the ratification.
On 19 October I asked Senator Durack whether the Government could explain the different approach that it had adopted as between the International Sugar Agreement and the beef Bill to which I have referred. Senator Durack asked that the question be placed on the Notice Paper. For technical reasons I was not able to place it on the Notice Paper and, I might add, I have not since received any other answer from Senator Durack or anyone else in the Government.
While I am referring to the International Sugar Agreement I wish to refer to another peculiar occurrence. No Press statement on the ISA appears to have been issued by Mr Anthony or Mr Sinclair when the United States Congress failed to ratify it. However, last Tuesday, 24 October, I was very surprised to receive among the ministerial documents which are assembled each week day- nearly all of which were dated 23 October- a statement by Mr Anthony on the ISA dated 17 October. I would be interested to know the explanation for the discrepancy of one week between the date on which the statement was forwarded and the date that was printed on
Other members of the Press who commented on this matter of beef exports were less compliant, I think one could say, than was Mr Costigan and the Melbourne Herald. For example, in the Melbourne Age of 1 9 October in an article with respect to Mr Sinclair’s visit to the United States- Mr Sinclair was that day arriving in the United States- Creighton Burns said: although they -
The American officials- are reluctant to say so publicly, they see Mr Sinclair’s visit more as an attempt to impress Australian primary producers, and the Australian electorate than as a serious effort to influence American agricultural policy, over which Australia has only the most limited and precarious influence.
One might interpolate that it was also fairly common knowledge that the soft option available to President Carter- that is, to take no action at all on the Bill- was the option that he would take. It now seems almost certain that he will take that soft option; that he will take no overt action on the beef Bill at all and that it will automatically lapse, as it would have done with or without any ministerial visits from Australia. In fact, in the Age of 23 October Creighton Burns expressed this view and said:
The Bill has not yet reached the President’s desk. When it does, he must sign it into law or veto it, either directly or by exercising a pocket veto- ignoring it for 10 days until it lapses automatically.
I observe again in passing that I would have expected a journalist who has spent as much time in the United States as Mr Costigan had done to be a ware of that strong probability. On the same day, 23 October, the Age economics writer, Kenneth Davidson, commented on the visit and observed that Mr Sinclair’s visit:
There can be no doubt that the legislation, which passed Congress before it rose for the November election, will not be implemented irrespective ofthe actions of Mr Sinclair.
After various statements of that nature had appeared and other events Mr Anthony felt impelled to issue a Press release on 23 October in which he said:
The Government would be grossly negligent if it did not take every available step to try to persuade–
He was referring to persuasion of the Americans. If that is Mr Anthony’s view it begs the question: Was not the Government grossly negligent in completely ignoring the passage of this legislation in the couple of months it was kicking around the Congress, in taking no action in the time it was actually before the Congress, in taking no action on the day it was passed by the United States House of Representatives and no action in any of the three days thereafter? Indeed it took no action at all until Tuesday of last week. Mr Anthony then claimed that as a result of Mr Sinclair’s visit there were some indications that our representations have been taken into account by the US Administration and that they would influence President Carter’s decision; that is the decision which Creighton Burns had forecast he would take a week earlier, which was to take no action at all.
Even if one accepts at face value- one would need to be at least naive, I suggest, to do so- the Government’s assertions on this matter that the only reason prompting Mr Sinclair’s hurried trip out of the country was the desire to negotiate on behalf of the Australian beef industry, there are still these serious questions to be answered: Why was no action taken? Why were no ministerial visits made when the beef Bill was before Congress? Why was the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was already in North America on the day the House of Representatives passed the Bill, not asked to make representations on behalf of the Australian Government? Why was no comparable action taken when the US Congress refused to ratify the International Sugar Agreement? Finally of course there is the question of whether, in the particular circumstances which applied to Mr Sinclair at that time, it was appropriate that he should have been negotiating on behalfof the Australian Government on a trade matter if the matter was really important.
One would need to have an extraordinarily poor opinion of the competence of the United States Embassy in Canberra to believe that it had not fully briefed the American Administration on the article which had appeared in the Bulletin on the day it was published and on other matters pertaining to the investigation of Mr Sinclair’s business affairs. It might have been appropriate for Mr Sinclair to go if President Nixon were still in office, but given that President Carter is now in office the question must be asked whether a Minister who, to say the least is under some sort of cloud, is an appropriate Minister to negotiate on behalf of the Australian Government on an important matter, if one accepts the Government’s assertion that this was indeed an important matter.
Whether one accepts the Government’s assertion on that, this incident raises serious questions about the credibility of future Australian trade negotiations. The Government, in this instance having used a trade negotiation as a tool of political expediency, raises the question whether in future Ministers who go away from Australia to represent the Government on serious matters on which representations by Australian Ministers genuinely may have some effect on policies adopted by other governments will be taken seriously by other governments. Will a foreign government say: ‘Here is an Australian Minister negotiating on behalf of his Government and his country on a serious trade matter with a proposition to put before us who aims to do some bargaining with us. He has to be taken seriously. Australia is not a banana republic. He is a representative of the Australian Government and must be taken seriously. He must be accorded some credibility’? I would have expected that to be the normal reaction of the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom or just about any other country with which we have a substantial trade to visits by Australian Ministers on trade negotiations in the past.
Given all the peculiar circumstances leading up to this visit by Mr Sinclair one at least would have to speculate whether in future Australian Ministers will be greeted with some scepticism by representatives of foreign governments. Foreign governments, instead of taking it for granted that the visit is for a serious trade mission, might start wiring their embassies in Canberra to find out why a particular Minister has found it politically necessary to leave Australia at that time. That is a very serious matter. It does not involve just the specific matter of beef imports by the United States. That was settled ages ago anyway. The Government has not done any harm to that; it has not done any good. But it has jeopardised the possibilities of success of all future Australian trade missions because we now no longer know whether trade missions from this Government should be taken seriously or viewed as some sort of politically expedient exercise.
Some of the more gullible sections of the Press, I noticed, ran headlines such as ‘Sinclair flies to rescue’ and so on. I repeat the four questions I asked and invite any of the Government representatives to answer them. I ask: If it was considered essential for action at ministerial level on this matter, why was no Minister sent to Washington when the Congress was debating the beef Bill? Why was the Minister for Foreign Affairs not contacted on Friday, 13 October, when he was in North America, to make representations on behalf of the Australian Government? Why was not similar action undertaken when the US Congress refused to ratify the International Sugar Agreement? Why did the Australian Government for three and a half days after it was known that the US House of Representatives had passed that Bill take no action and make no statement at all? For three and a half days the Government rested on the statement which Mr Anthony had made on 13 October which referred to his past representations to the United States Government. Mr Anthony and the Government rested on that statement of 13 October for three and a half days. ‘Then suddenly it would have us believe that it was vitally necessary to send a Minister, who was not the Minister who normally handled those matters, who was not in North America, but who needed to be spirited out of Australia for political reasons.
-I wish to speak this afternoon on a matter that is of very great interest and concern to South Australians, and. has been for some considerable time. I refer to the proposed petrochemical project for Redcliff in South Australia. It is something in which all of us; including the Federal representatives from South Australia from both sides of this chamber, are very interested. From the beginning, Senator Don Jessop and I have taken a keen and active interest in the project to help to get this important industry established in South Australia. 1 was delighted to read this week of the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that the Federal Government now will allow States to borrow on their own initiative for major projects, particularly in relation to borrowing for infrastructure. The whole issue as to whether the Redcliff project would be established in recent times has evolved around the establishment of infrastructure. Now the responsibility is given to the States. I commend the Federal Government for this change in policy. I think it is a great step forward. The States are given responsibility to act on their own initiatives- of course with the clearance of the Loan Council. Nevertheless, as I said, the Federal Government has taken a great step forward.
It is one that gives great encouragement to us in South Australia.
Had it not been for the unfortunate interference of the Whitlam Government, Redcliff would have been established and in operation now. The Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, in 1971 in discussions with the Dow Chemical Co. (Aust) Ltd, agreed to the establishment of a petrochemcial industry at Redcliff. Unfortunately, in 1973, the Whitlam Government saw fit to interfere and change the whole structure of the project, and we finished up with Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia leading a consortium for the establishment of Redcliff. Unfortunately the whole project was abandoned in 1975, but in the last couple of years we have seen the Dow Chemical Company again showing a very keen and positive interest- I emphasise the word ‘positive’- in the establishment of a petrochemical industry at Redcliff in South Australia.
One of the most heartening aspects of this new approach by the Dow Chemical Company has been that both the Premier of South Australia and the State Government have given wholehearted support and have made every assistance available for this project. The other thing that really! delights is that there has been a nationalState approach to this matter. Mr David Tonkin, the Leader of the Opposition in South Australia, has shown co-operation also. So politics has not come into this issue. I think it is an excellent example of what can be achieved by political parties and political leaders who work for the establishment of an industry that is to be of great benefit to their particular State, in this case South Australia. I commend both leaders for the way in which they have worked together on this matter. The same comment applies to the Federal representatives of this Parliament. On no occasion have I seen any South Australian senator on either side of the chamber do other than work towards this project.
It is interesting to note that while the issue of Redcliff has been coming to a head since the approach that was made to Loan Council, we suddenly saw on 12 September of this year this headline in the Australian Financial Review: ICI may hurry plans for big petrochemical plant’. This headline not only fascinated, but also concerned me. I wish to remind the Senate that ICI was the original main leader of the consortium which had been proposed by the Whitlam Government and which eventually abandoned the project. We know that ICI then must have been satisfied with the resources of feedstocks from the Cooper Basin for the project and with the situation proposed for Redcliff. We also know that ICI is a big concern- I will not say it is a monopoly- in Australia. Suddenly we find that it is making statements that it is going to hurry up plans to expand its petrochemical plant. One cannot help asking the question: Is ICI doing this purely to stop Redcliff from coming into being? I cannot emphasise that question too strongly. There is only room for one more petrochemical plant in Australia of the size and type that is proposed for Redcliff. It will be a large establishment; in fact, it will be on an international scale. The experts say that there is not room for more than one other. One cannot help wondering at the statement that ICI is hurrying p.’ans for a big petrochemical plant. I repeat: Is it doing so to stop the project at Redcliff and perhaps to give ICI the monopoly of the petrochemical industry in Australia?
The project that is proposed at Redcliff is a big one. It will cost some $9,500m to establish, double what it would have cost had it been started in 1971. During the construction stage, which will be over some five years, it will employ some 4,500 people at an expenditure of some $300m. This in itself would give a great boost to employment and a great injection into the economy of South Australia, which is reflected through the whole of the country. When established the plant would give permanent employment to some 1,400 people. That is no mean figure. To get a permanent, stable industry that will employ some 1 ,400 people is a project that must seriously be considered. Of course, some $90m in taxes will flow to governments from this project. Another fact is that the main product from Redcliff would be caustic soda, something which at present is in short supply in Australia. In fact, Australia at present imports some 600,000 tonnes of caustic soda per annum. That incurs a bill of some $56m, which is a loss in the balance of payments because this money is going out of the country the whole time. That is the current demand but forecasts are that by the mid-1980s the requirements for Australia could be as high as 800,000 tonnes.
The Premier of Western Australia has recently made statements about the expansion of the bauxite industry in that State. There are vast deposits of bauxite in Western Australia. If this expansion takes place it -is estimated that Australia’s demand for caustic soda to be used in the’ process of converting bauxite to alumina could increase to the tune of 1,150,000 tonnes per annum. So one can see that there is a high current demand in Australia for caustic soda and the possibility of future positive expansion of demand. I repeat that this is what the proposed Redcliff plant will be producing primarily. It will be producing a product that is in short supply in Australia, the orders for which will have to be filled from overseas purchases if it is not produced in Australia. So we have what one can classify as a very secure future market. Of course, many other by-products would come from the plant. I refer to such products as plastics, detergents, and even the various materials that will help in the manufacture of paper, soaps and many other goods.
The questions have been raised in the past about the sufficiency- the back-up of reserves- of feedstock, which of course will be supplied from the Cooper Basin. We are aware that the Dow Chemical Company has been looking into this question very closely in co-operation with the Cooper Basin consortium and is fully satisfied that there are sufficient reserves in the Cooper Basin for feedstocks for this proposed petrochemical plant. In fact, in the last few weeks we have heard reports that the Cooper Basin consortium has made another very encouraging strike of liquid hydrocarbons, in Strzlecki Well No. 3, which is flowing at the rate of many thousands of barrels per day. What this means is that if the petrochemical industry is established it will give companies great encouragement to do more exploration.
It is all very well to say that companies will explore in the hope of finding more liquids or condensates. But what is the use of companies today spending some $600,000 to drill a hole and, having found gas, spending a few more hundred thousand dollars to prove the capacity or reserves of the field, only to find that because there is no market for the gas or condensate they have to sit on the reserves for many years? That is not the sort of investment that one can expect companies to make. If companies can clearly expect a demand for any finds that they make, they will go out and spend many millions of dollars to look for more of the liquid hydrocarbons that already exist in great quantities in that area. It is expected, with confidence, that there are many more trillions of cubic feet of gas and barrels of liquid condensates and liquid crudes.
One of the other big problems that faces South Australia and New South Wales at present is that if the petrochemical industry is not established and more dry gas is not found in the Cooper Basin areas, the dry gas wells will virtually have been depleted by as early as 1982, and the companies will have to start hooking on to the wet gas fields. They will then have the problem of what to do with the condensates. Some of these wells have as much as 70 per cent liquid hydrocarbon mixed in with the gas. The companies will be faced with some alternatives. The same cost structure is required to extract wet gas. Costs are rising all the time. The proportion of gas obtained is less from wet gas than from dry gas. Hence, unless the liquids can be sold, another cost factor will be added in order to supply the dry gas to the Sydney and Adelaide markets. This leads only in one direction- increased prices for gas consumers.
Another problem is what to do with the wet gas. This is not in sufficient supply at present to warrant the cost of constructing a gas pipeline to Adelaide. There are alternatives: The wet gas can be fed back into a dry gas hole. We appreciate that if this is done there is virtually a 70 per cent loss of a valuable energy resource. Wells rarely produce more than 30 per cent of their reserves unless expensive means of recovery, such as secondary or tertiary methods- which I will not go into in detail today- are used. They are very costly. Because of those costs the liquids can be flared off and virtually lost to the atmosphere. These are big problems which are faced not only by the oil companies within the Cooper Basin consortium but also by the governments of New South Wales and South Australia. Over and above that, as we are talking of energy conservation today, this is something that Australia also faces.
There are many reasons why one hopes that the arguments concerning the Redcliff petrochemical industry in South Australia are accepted and that the project will go ahead. I mentioned earlier that the main contention over the proposed establishment of the petrochemical industry at Redcliff evolves around the cost of the infrastructure, which includes such things as a transmission pipeline, housing, roads and a wharf. The infrastructure is estimated at today’s rates to cost some $250m-odd. Included in that figure is some $60m-odd for a pipeline and other associated works. Quite a deal of money is required.
I am delighted, as I said earlier, that the Government has changed its policy with regard to the States borrowing for such things as infrastructures for major projects. The loans, however, will be subject to Loan Council agreement. I hope that the request for the loan will be agreed to by the Loan Council. In this way South Australia, New South Wales and Australia generally will benefit. One thing must be remembered when we talk about an infrastructure loan. I emphasise that it is only a loan. It will be repaid by the user company- the Dow Chemical Company. The money will be paid back over the years in the form of tariffs, wharfage charges, pipeline transmission costs and many other things. This loan will be repaid by the company concerned.
The Redcliff site was chosen by the Dow Chemical Company from numerous sites throughout Australia because of its ideal position. It is in an area of cheap real estate in South Australia. It is situated on a gulf which is not subject to stormy conditions. It is close to the supply base for feed stock from the Cooper Basin. It is close to Lake Torrens which contains much brine. Good quality saline water from the open channels and shallow wells can be pumped directly by pipeline to evaporation paddocks or dams at Redcliff. The liquid will finish up as sodium chloride which is one of the feed stocks required by the proposed petrochemical industry.
One could go on and state what the Dow Chemical Company has said about Redcliff and why it chose to establish a petrochemical industry in that area of Australia. The Dow Chemical Company and the Cooper Basin consortium have the support of South Australians and, in particular, the support of the Premier and Dr Tonkin, the Leader of the Opposition. I think the very fact that these two leaders have been prepared to work together shows clearly not only the need for this industry but their confidence that Redcliff is the ideal site for an industry that will be of benefit to South Australia and to the whole of this nation. I commend the two leaders for the way they have worked together. I am pleased to throw in my support as are other honourable senators from South Australia. We consider this a major project and hope that it will get the backing of the other States of the Commonwealth.
– It is only a few weeks since many senators assembled in the office of Mr Hudson, the Minister of Mines and Energy in South Australia, to receive an important briefing about Redcliff. I remember Senator Laucke, the President of the Senate, pointing out during final comments at the briefing that it was highly important that a nonpartisan attitude be adopted towards a very important project for South Australia which will also be of value to the economy of Australia. We were satisfied, after being briefed and getting all the important documents, that the case for authority being given by the Loan Council for special borrowings to be made by the South Australian Government was well justified. Mr Hudson told us that the South Australian Government had indicated that it would raise $68m from its own resources and that it had requested approval from the Loan Council to borrow an additional $186m.
I think that this is one of the few occasions- in recent years anyway- when all the members of the various political parties have been before a Minister and supported a project such as this, which is so important to South Australia. I welcome this approach. I recall that many years ago it was common for honourable senators from South Australia to join forces about important issues. I think I am speaking for every honourable senator- certainly those on my side of the chamber- when I say that we were well satisfied with the expert nature of the submissions and reports which were given to us by Mr Hudson and his party.
The recent statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has enlightened the situation and heightened anticipation by the people of South Australia, particularly all South Australian senators. We appear to be reaching the stage where the borrowing of money for the infrastructure of a project which is well-founded and which will be successful might be accomplished. As Senator Young pointed out, recently he- I suppose I also did this recentlytried to impress upon the Leader of the Government in the Senate the view that the recent statement by the Prime Minister created a more favourable climate for the approval by the Loan Council of the additional borrowing required. I think that that is so. I think that the statement by the Prime Minister has enhanced the prospects of the request that is already with the Loan Council. I know that officers of the Federal Government and the South Australian Government have met to consider the matter. We have been told, not officially, that there is great hope for agreement in respect of the loan. I imagine that what has been said by the Prime Minister is an attempt to point to what might be an ancillary form of raising money. This does not relate to South Australia in particular, but it obviously strengthens the South Australian case. It has been noted by me and by other honourable senators that South Australia has a unique sort of economy. South Australia should be buttressed in some way from what is in fact a world economic recession. As every honourable senator knows, we in South Australia are good at operating in the field of secondary industry. We are good at making motor cars and white goods. I think we are the best State in Australia in that respect. Our markets are, far and away, the largest.
But unless Australia has full employment generally the markets will shrink. So the problems in South Australia to some extent have accelerated at a faster rate than they have in other States. The development of a petrochemical industry at Redcliff would assist us in easing our problems. The project has been well tested. If I remember correctly, interest in the petrochemical industry in South Australia was first shown as far back as 1950. 1 notice that in item 2 at page 2 of a document prepared by the South Australian Department of Economic Development, a copy of which was presented to us, the following appears:
Interest in a petrochemical project originally stemmed from a desire to use salt fields near Port Augusta which were operated in the 1 950 ‘s.
After that growing attention was paid to this matter by various governments, particularly by the Dunstan Government. The document stated further:
In November 1 973 the . . . consortium was named to develop a project. In July 1975, after a detailed feasibility study, the project was abandoned mainly because of inflation and resulting capital cost escalation and problems related to the supply of feedstocks and Government assistance.
In March 1976, the South Australian Government invited Dow Chemical Company to re-examine the feasibility of the project. This invitation was followed up by a letter from the then Minister of National Resources, Mr J. D. Anthony, confirming that the Commonwealth Government would welcome participation by Dow . . .
Later, as we well know, a response was made to a formal project proposal from the South Australian Premier to the Prime Minister. Recently, on 25 March 1978, the Prime Minister invited the Premier to submit development project proposals. Those proposals are presently being studied and the South Australian Government has indicated, as I mentioned earlier, that it would provide $68m from its own resources and would seek the assistance of the Federal Government for additional borrowings. I know that honourable senators opposite, like honourable senators on this side of the chamber, are anxious to have agreement reached at an early date. It is only occasionally that all honourable senators from a State can reach such agreement. It must provide a very welcome atmosphere for the Government to assent to what now seems to be a well-proven case. I hope that the attention of the Prime Minister has been drawn to the questions we have asked in the light of his announcement and that the formal discussions which have taken place, which we have been told have been constructive, will be completed at an early date. If this project proceeds it will enhance Australia’s security in this area. In particular, it will enhance the affairs of the State and enable it to sustain itself in the event of a continuing recession and the economic problems that would flow from that. Because of certain circumstances the debate on this subject must be brief. I welcome the statements made by Senator Young in this debate. I entered the debate to reinforce what he said. No doubt some of my colleagues on this side of the chamber would have liked to make similar statements.
– No doubt they will.
-The Government Whip is encouraging them to do so. At the meeting on this matter I was struck by the general support for the proposal and the conviction that Mr Hudson and his staff had done a very good job in relation to the project as all the technical questions were answered properly and the submissions were well-founded. I hope that my short statement will do something to help to facilitate an early determination in favour of the project.
– This afternoon I wish to speak for just a minute or two on a matter which relates to Queensland. This weekend in the eastern States, except Queensland, a change will be made to daylight saving time. In Queensland ho change will be made. Because of this certain disruption will occur between Queensland and the States which have daylight saving. It is not as if there is normally a time difference of one hour between Queensland and the other eastern States; it is normally the same time throughout the eastern States. Because suddenly there is a time change in the other eastern States, disruption occurs. I refer specifically to the disruption that occurred the year before last when a number of Australian Broadcasting Commission programs were presented an hour early in Queensland because they were designed for the time in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania and not for the time in Queensland. As a result, the Queensland people were disadvantaged.
Last year, following representations made not only by me but also by an honourable senator opposite, the change had a fairly minimal effect. The Australian Broadcasting Commission took steps to ensure that, as far as possible, the programs were still broadcast in Queensland at the normal times. For instance, if the evening news which is broadcast at 7 p.m. during the winter months were still broadcast at 7 p.m. summertime, in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania that would be 8 p.m. eastern standard time-. As I said, last year the situation was much improved on the situation which pertained in the previous year. However, last year there were still occasions when programs were relayed to
Queensland at the appointed hour for the southern States but which according to Queensland time were an hour earlier. Those occasions were small in number but when they occurred some problems were created for people who were used to watching a television program or listening to a radio program at a certain time in that they found that those programs were being broadcast an hour earlier than usual. Therefore I make a plea this afternoon that consideration be given to this matter. I am not sure whether the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) can take up my remarks with the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley). Perhaps the officers from the Postal and Telecommunications Department which administers the Australian Broadcasting Commission can look at the Hansard record and take note that when daylight saving comes into effect on the weekend the Australian Broadcasting Commission does everything it possibly can to ensure that the scheduled times of programs in Queensland are not altered during the summer period so that Queenslanders will not be disadvantaged because that State has decided not to introduce daylight saving.
– I join with my colleague, Senator Bishop, in saying a few words on the proposed petrochemical project for Redcliff in South Australia. When Senator Young raised this subject this afternoon he said that he, in association with Senator Jessop, had made many efforts to have the petrochemical project at Redcliff implemented. I wish to place on the record the fact that Mr Laurie Wallis, the Federal member for Grey, has also made very strenuous efforts since he has represented that electorate to have this project launched. As we all know, Redcliff is situated in the electorate of Mr Wallis in South Australia. Mr Wallis is very mindful of the fact that there is a very severe unemployment problem in what is known as the iron triangle, which takes in Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Pirie. I think most honourable senators would know that Mr Wallis represents all of that area which is situated in his electorate of Grey. He has spoken on the matter many times in the Parliament. He has made many representations, not only to the responsible Federal Minister but also to the State Minister for Mines and Energy, Mr Hudson.
As my colleague Senator Bishop pointed out, it was not so many months ago that the South Australian Minister for Mines and Energy, Mr Hudson, invited all Federal members to a meeting in the Cabinet room in Adelaide for the purpose of having a full and frank discussion on the needs for this project to go ahead. As Senator Bishop pointed out also, Senator Laucke, the President of the Senate, made the statement that day that we ought to go forward as a united body of men and endeavour to convince the Government that it ought to give its full support to this project. We were given that day a copy of a submission made to the Government on this very matter. I wish to read from page 1 of that document which was in the form of a submission. It reads:
This submission contains a proposal by the State of South Australia for a special addition to State semi-Government borrowing programs.
I join with Senator Bishop in expressing the wish that the Government will allow the State of South .Australia to borrow this money in’ the manner which is set out in its submission. Some mention has been made in this chamber of the Government’s attitude to the States being able to borrow money outside the Loan Council. I think the subject was raised here even today. I was interested in reading in last Monday’s issue of the West Australian a report of a statement made by Mr Fraser. The article reads:
Mr Fraser said that the proposal for State borrowings overseas to support resource projects was particularly attractive to the Commonwealth because it would have no impact on the Federal deficit.
I hope that that is not the only manner in which Mr Fraser gives his support to this project, namely, by allowing the South Australian Government to borrow money from sources outside the normal borrowing channels. I hope that he will have some concern in particular for the unemployment situation that we have in the iron triangle. I do not intend to take too much of the time of the Senate. I wish to refer to the submission which was made by the South Australian Government. A table in that submission, which appears on page 22 of the document, points out the work force which will be required if this project is allowed to go ahead. All honourable senators from South Australia, both Government and Opposition, hope that it will go ahead. I now refer to the employment requirements in the area if this project goes ahead. It is proposed that in 1979 a total labour force of 490 will be required. In 1980 the total labour force required will be 3,230; in 1981 it will be 4,470; in 1982 it will be 3,440. In 1983 because of the completion of the infrastructure the work force required begins to diminish. In 1983 the work force will be reduced to 1,980. In 1984 it will be reduced further to 1,920; in 1985 to 1,750; in 1986 to 1,390; in 1987 to 1,410. In 1988, which is ten years hence, there will be a total labour force of 1,420. But we need to look not only at the labour force but also at the benefits which will flow to small businesses in the area. If that influx of employees is to occur in the area, great benefits will flow to the support industries which will be necessary, particularly in the town of Port Pirie.
– I think it is also worth noting that the job opportunities for Redcliff are greater than alternative proposals.
– Yes. I do not want to refer to the alternative proposals because, as Senator Jessop would know, much of the information that was given to us on that day when we met Mr Hudson was made available on a confidential basis. I intend to respect that confidentiality. I well know that the infrastructure and the whole project at Redcliff will be of greater benefit to the work force as a whole than would be the alternative projects. That is as far as I want to go in commenting on that because I want to respect the confidentiality of the information provided to us. I am very grateful that honourable senators opposite have respected the confidentiality of the submission which was made available to us by Mr Hudson. I hope that all honourable senators will continue to do that in the interests of the endeavours being made to get this project off the ground. I rose only to give support to the remarks that have been made in this chamber today in support of the project as a whole.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
Dried Vine Fruits Stabilization Amendment Bill 1978
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the principal Act to provide for price support of returns to growers of dried sultanas for the three seasons 1978 to 1980. In extending stabilisation, the Government proposes to modify in some respects the principles of the scheme which applied to the seasons 1971 to 1976. A major change is that the arrangements are to apply to returns from dried sultanas only and not to currants and raisins, the production of which is small in quantity and mainly sold on the domestic market. In agreeing with a request from the industry for their exclusion from the arrangements for 1978-80, the Government has decided that this would not preclude their re-inclusion should a further scheme for stabilisation of dried vine fruits be considered beyond 1 980.
Payments into and from the Sultana Stabilisation Fund will depend upon the extent to which returns received by growers are higher or lower than a specified base price. The Government and the industry have agreed that the base price for the 1978 season will be $515 per tonne on a sweat box basis. This figure takes account of the fact that producers’ costs have been rising and is also consistent with general market expectations. The figure of $5 1 5 per tonne is 20 per cent higher than the base price for sultanas that applied under the stabilisation scheme for the 1976 season. For the 1979 and 1980 seasons, the base price will be adjusted by the absolute amount of the net changes to cash costs of growers and will include an imputed figure for the farm operator’s labour as calculated by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. This procedure is consistent with that used for adjusting the home consumption price of wheat.
If the average seasonal return for sultanas is above the base price plus $10 per tonne, growers would pay the excess, with a limit of $20 per tonne, into the Sultana Stabilisation Fund, except when production does not exceed 50,000 tonnes- previously 60,000 tonnes- when no industry contribution is payable. If a payment out of the Stabilisation Fund is due in a season and there is insufficient industry money in the Fund, the Commonwealth will provide finance to make the payment to the extent necessary to raise the average return to the base price less $10 per tonne. However, two constraints limit the amount of Commonwealth contribution. Firstly, the maximum Commonwealth contribution is to be $25 per tonne- previously $23 per tonneand, secondly, such contribution is limited to an output not exceeding 60,000 tonnes- previously 75,000 tonnes. The maximum Commonwealth contribution in any one season is thus $1.5m. As for previous schemes, the maximum of growers’ contributions held in the Sultana Stabilisation Fund is to be $4m, with any surplus being distributed to growers on a first-in-first-out basis.
Honourable senators may recall that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) announced last November that the Government would continue a scheme of stabilisation for this industry, subject to mutually satisfactory arrangements being agreed with the industry. His announcement followed the Government’s consideration of a recommendation by the Industries Assistance Commission that stabilisation arrangements be discontinued after the 1977 season. This measure reflects the Government’s decision not to accept that recommendation.
I am sure that the proposals set out in this Bill will give added confidence to the sultana producing industry in tackling the rapidly changing production and marketing situations confronting it. They provide protection to sultana growers against severe price downturn in world markets and they have the full support of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, which includes in its membership about 98 per cent of dried fruit growers. The Government intends, in consultation with the dried vine fruits industry, to review the operation of the stabilisation scheme at the end of the 1979 season to determine long term action. I commend the Bill.
Dried Vine Fruits Levy Amendment Bill 1978
This Bill is complementary to the Dried Vine Fruits Stabilization Amendment Bill which I have just introduced. The purpose of the principal Act is, in order to meet the objectives of the dried vine fruits stabilisation scheme, to impose a levy under certain conditions on dried fruit received for packing. Levy imposed is the amount by which the average return for a variety for a season exceeds by more than $10 the base price for that season. It is not payable in a season unless the quantity received for packing exceeds a minimum quantity. This Bill reduces the minimum quantity in respect of sultanas received for packing in any of the seasons 1978, 1979 and 1980 by 10,000 tonnes to 50,000 tonnes. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
– The Opposition is not opposing the Dried Vine Fruits Stabilization Amendment Bill 1978 and the Dried Vine Fruits Levy Amendment Bill 1978. Both Bills continue a form of stabilisation scheme which commenced in 1971 in relation to some dried vine fruits products. The original 1 97 1 scheme operated on a basis similar to the wheat stabilisation scheme under which a levy was struck when world prices were particularly high. Payments were made to growers from that pool when world prices were extraordinarily low, those payments sometimes being supplemented by the government. This legislation continues such a scheme, with some modifications. One important alteration is that whereas the 1 97 1 scheme applied to raisins, currants and sultanas, this scheme will be restricted to sultanas. It extends the scheme for the 1978, 1979 and 1980 seasons. The base price of $5 15 established in the legislation will be adjusted upwards by cost changes, again similar to the way in which the wheat stabilisation schemes have operated for nearly 30 years. The $5 1 5 a tonne base price is some 20 per cent above the 1976 level. The Commonwealth contribution is limited to a $25 a tonne payment and to 60,000 tonnes. As I indicated earlier, the Government payment will be made if and when growers’ funds in the stabilisation pool are exhausted. Previously the payments per tonne were limited to $23 and the quantitative restriction was 75,000 tonnes. The net result of those two changes is that the Commonwealth’s absolute financial commitment has now fallen, even in money terms, from $ 1.725m to $ 1.5m.
Some three years ago the Industries Assistance Commission examined the dried fruits industry and recommended that the assistance that had been received by the industry through the stabilisation scheme be gradually phased out. Although the Government has not formally adopted that recommendation in reducing its absolute financial liability under the scheme, one could say that in a modified form the Government is pursuing the objective that the IAC recommended. Fortunately, the present marketing position for the industry is quite good. Export prices for dried fruits, as anyone who has followed the industry would know, have been notoriously volatile over the years. I understand that the entire 1978 Australian crop has already been sold at quite high prices- way above the base price and in fact close to $1,000 a tonne, London price. Northern hemisphere crops being harvested at about this time of the year are very poor and therefore high prices for the 1 979 Australian crop are virtually guaranteed, even at this stage. Thus for the first couple of years it seems likely that some grower contribution will be made and that there will be no call on Commonwealth funds for the first two years. There is a strong probability that no call will be made on Commonwealth funds even for the third year. The industry is heavily dependent upon the export market quantitatively. Some 70 per cent to 80 per cent of sultanas normally are exported. Production has been variable both for seasonal reasons and to some extent because there is an option of either drying sultana grapes or using them for wine making.
The final point I make is that in the! medium of longer term, if there were a substantial reduction in the number of sultana grapes being used by wine makers, there would be a danger to the dried fruits industry if those additional grapes were dried and then thrust upon the export market at a time when prices were less favourable than they have been this year and appear certain to be next year. Although the income position of many dried vine fruit producers, as revealed by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics surveys, appears to be alarming, there is certainly some indication that a proportion of the people with very low incomes have significant sources of off-farm incomes and are regarded more accurately as being only part-time farmers. In any event, the income problems of those with a small volume of output would not be significantly assisted by a greater degree of government financial assistance to the product. There is a great deal to be said for the view- in fact, as far as I am concerned it is quite decisive- that welfare needs should be treated on the basis of an individual’s income rather than on the price of a commodity.
The Opposition is not opposing the Bills. It is possible that no actual call will be made on Commonwealth funds. It appears almost certain that because of the present favourable marketing position the maximum financial liability of the Commonwealth throughout the three-year period will be the $1. 5m limited to the third year of the plan.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.
-I present the fifth report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present a statement by the Minister for Defence entitled ‘Defence Review- October 1978’.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28 September, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I move:
As the Senate has been called on to approve legislation which has its genesis in the 1978 Budget, it has become increasingly clear that the biggest casualty in relation to public works and facilities is the housing industry. When we look at the ramifications of this Bill we can only say that the housing industry virtually is being butchered in the interest of cutbacks in public spending. It occurs to us that there is a need for the Government to reconsider its attitude and strategy in respect to the economic problems facing this country in the area of housing.
The evidence shows that in the three Budgets that have been considered by the Parliament since this Government came to power at the end of 1 975, the allocation of Federal funds for housing and urban and regional development- this also relates to the accommodation problem- has been seriously cut back. For example, funds for growth centres have been reduced by 73 per cent in that three-year period. The Land Commission, which has the important task of making land available at reasonable prices not affected by speculation, had its allocation cut by 79 per cent. Funds for the protection of the environment have been cut by 40 per cent. Actual funds for housing in the public sector have been cut by 50 per cent. Over the same period the allocation of funds for defence service homes has declined by 62 per cent. It is a matter of regret that in the area of war service homes- defence service homes is the term now used- with only one exception, regressive steps have been taken. This legislation makes it more difficult for those who are eligible for the concession. I concede that it is a concession; it is some token of compensation to exservicemen who served in the World Wars and in subsequent wars. Steps are now being taken by this Government to decrease the area of eligibility and to impose new conditions upon those who are eligible.
The Opposition notes that clause 3 of the Bill amends the principal Act so that de facto spouses of not less than three years standing are to be treated on the same basis as legal spouses for the purpose of the defence service homes scheme. Providing that there is a substantial degree of permanency in a de facto relationship, benefits are to be granted. The Bill asserts that it is essential that the de facto relationship has to be in an identifiable form for a continuous period of not less than three years. That will bring the Act into line with other Commonwealth legislation and the practice of most lending institutions. To that degree the Opposition supports the Government and applauds the inclusion of this amendment in the Defence Service Homes Amendment Bill 1 978. We have made no critical comment on this step in our amendment.
In 1973 the Labor Government extended eligibility for war service loans to regular servicemen and women after a minimum of three years’ service. That was an important extension of the scheme to personnel in the armed Services. We would have thought that this Government would have maintained that important principle. But, of course, the Bill alters that principle. For example, clause 4 amends the principal Act so that the period of peacetime service necessary to qualify for a defence service loan is increased from three years to six years. That halves the number of people who have been eligible since 1 973 except in cases where there is a premature termination of service due to death or illness.
There is a further proviso which is regressive, that is that eligibility is subject to a commitment to render further full time service. A person who commenced full time service in the defence forces on or after 17 August 1977 will become eligible for a loan on completion of six years’ full time service subject to the important qualification of a commitment to complete further full time service. Beyond doubling the qualifying period, the Government has ensured that personnel have to make a further commitment to full time service. Persons who commenced their full time service prior to 1 7 August 1 977 will continue to qualify on completion of three years’ continuous full time service. So there is a step backward. This is why we consider that the Government ought to have another look at the Bill.
Yet the Government has had the audacity to suggest in its material and speeches on this Bill that this measure ‘is consistent with, and will strengthen, the prevailing conditions of service for the defence forces’. To me it is incomprehensible that the conditions of service will be strengthened by doubling the period of service required for eligibility for a loan under the defence service homes scheme and further requiring that a serviceman must make still another commitment to full time service. This measure will only worsen not strengthen conditions of service and discourage enlistment in the defence forces. Furthermore, the provision that defence personnel must make a commitment at the end of six years to render further full time service discriminates between the different branches of a service. I urge Government senators, who obviously will be supporting this Bill, to give us some reasons why there should be a policy of differentiation between the various arms of the defence forces.
An officer who accepts a career appointment may resign at any time. He or she can serve for six years and one day and immediately become eligible for a defence service home loan. An enlisted person in the Army has to serve six years and sign on for another three years. In other words, he has to serve nine years in all to become eligible. Rather than removing discrimination this Government is discriminating between personnel. I think that this is a very bad principle to be incorporated in the legislation. Naval personnel are only required to serve in excess of six years to become eligible for consideration for a defence service loan. They do not have to make a further commitment.
The next main amendment is embodied in clause 6 of the Bill. Proposed new section 27a provides for the payment of fees by applicants, the amount of fee to be determined by the Defence Service Homes Corporation. Here again is another application of the principle which has been referred to in debate this week, that is that we are taking away from the Parliament the power to make determinations. Proposed new section 27b allows the Corporation to determine the order in which advances are made to applicants in accordance with priorities determined on the basis of their division into different classes or where particular circumstances apply. For the first time since the introduction of the scheme 60 years ago, the Government is establishing the new principle of an application fee of $75 having to be paid. The introduction of this fee, as we see it, is further evidence of the Government’s contradictory approach to its general role of providing concessions for the Services and its contradictory approach to the defence service homes scheme in particular.
On the one hand we have the Government saying that the purpose of the scheme in providing loans at concessional rates to defence service personnel is to encourage enlistment in the armed forces. In the next breath the Government says that the practice of other lending institutions in charging a fee on loan applications for the building of a home will be introduced. Such a measure puts the defence service homes scheme in line with the practice of other lending institutions. It seems to us to deny the whole purpose of the scheme, that is, to provide concessions for defence service personnel to encourage enlistment. The whole idea of providing concessions is negated if the Government then says that it wants to reduce costs and put the scheme on a basis which is similar to the practice of other lending institutions. The defence service homes scheme since its inception has been set apart from other lending institutions by its very nature which, in 1918 and all the subsequent years in which the legislation has been amended, was to provide concessions for war service or service in the armed forces.
If one were to follow to its logical conclusion the idea of putting the defence service homes scheme on a par with other lending institutions one would have to abolish the concessional interest rate that is provided under the scheme. That would be one sure way of reducing the cost of the scheme and putting it on a similar basis to the practice of all other lending institutions, if that in fact is the motivation. The Government would surely recognise that that would negate the whole objective of the scheme. Similarly, the charging of fees for applications is a step towards negating the concessional objectives of the scheme. It seems that that is a totally contradictory position. In the House of Representatives another reason was put forward for the introduction of the application fee. I think it was suggested by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) in his contribution to the debate on 22 August 1 978. He said:
An analysis of the statistics would indicate that there is good reason for the introduction of an application fee. Last year some 2,000 applications were declined or refused. The vast majority of them were declined because the people concerned were not eligible to participate in the scheme. In a day when administration costs a considerable sum . . . it is appropriate that some restriction by way of an application fee should be placed on people who file applications for the sheer fun of it.
I submit that if that is the case, that is, that different conditions will apply under which serving personnel shall qualify, the Government will make it even more likely that there will be confusion and an inability of persons to comprehend what the conditions and the concessions really mean. It seems to me that we will therefore have an even greater number of people making application. Obviously when 2,000 people make application under the scheme, they must genuinely believe that they are eligible for it. Many more people will be placed in that position. Now it will cost them $75 to find out that they will not be eligible because of the changes that are inherent in this legislation. It is a shameful position if people who perhaps do not completely understand the regulations and requirements are placed in this invidious position of paying a fee.
Bear in mind that conveyancing and all other costs are already a substantial amount. A person who intends to purchase a home is called upon to pay so many costs. This legislation is just adding to those costs and is making it just that much more difficult for people. If the idea is to discourage people from making application, I do not think that should be acceptable by any reasonable government. It seems that it is a further example of the Fraser Government ‘s willingness to downgrade the effectiveness of concessional services provided to the Australian community or some sections of it. It is all part of this Government’s obsessive concern in dealing with any matters of finance, that is, concern with budgetary deficits. Clause 6 proposes the insertion of proposed new section 27b in the principal Act under which the corporation may make and vary arrangements for determining the order in which advances are made to applicants, to divide the applicants into classes and set different minimum periods between the making of an application for a loan and the granting of a loan to different classes. Here again we see the application of another form of discrimination.
This clause proposes the introduction of a preference system for those servicemen and women who have had war service and provides, for the first time in the history of the defence service homes scheme, specific authority for imposing a waiting period. It seems to me to be incongruous that we should be in a position where we will change the order of priority and that, because of the cutback in funds which are down $10-7m in this Budget, we are to have such a policy of discrimination. The Government has recognised the problems with proceeding with these provisions. In a Press release on 1 5 August, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr
Adermann) acknowledged that, in the absence of additional funds for the scheme, the only way in which preference for some people could be introduced would be to penalise others. That is a rather lousy and unsatisfactory explanation when obviously there are people who want to enjoy the concessions and benefits of the scheme. This is just another example of how the Australian people are learning through bitter experience the amount of trust that they can place on the words of this Government.
There is no doubt that this legislation is discriminating against a section of people whom I thought this Government would be wanting to get on side for political and other reasons. It is quite amazing that the Government should be introducing legislation which in fact disadvantages ex-servicemen and women. When one considers that about one-third of a million exservicemen and women have taken advantage of this scheme as part compensation for their sacrifices that were made in the defence of this country, one would imagine that it would be one of the areas in which there would be no attempt made to introduce legislation which would reduce concessions to such people. Recognising that about $2,000m has been spent on this scheme, I think it ill behoves a government to continue on the path that it has taken. Whilst we would like to say a lot more about this matter and whilst many more members of my Party would have liked to debate this matter at greater length, we feel that the constraints that always exist towards the end of a parliamentary session are such that we can just record our opposition, dismay and criticism of what is proposed in the legislation.
We trust that even if honourable senators on the Government side cannot see their way clear to support this amendment, they might very seriously take up in their party room the points of criticism, which I think are validly made, to ensure that in future legislation some of the proposals contained in this legislation which are repugnant and unacceptable are overcome and that ultimately we will reintroduce into the legislation the provisions upon which the scheme has been substantially funded and operated for the last 60 years. Nevertheless, in order to test the feeling of the Senate, it is my pleasure to move the amendment and seek the consideration of the Senate of the principles enunciated.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is the amendment that has been moved by Senator Gietzelt seconded?
– Yes, I second the amendment, Mr Deputy President.
– I support the Bill, but I cannot accept the amendment to it. If we support the Bill we must first seek to regularise the items that remain in possible doubt. That is the main object of our consideration. As to the other aspects, that concerning the de facto relationship- of which I certainly am not greatly enamoured, but believe is part of the trend- I accept. I support the introduction of an application fee. In the last 20 years or more 1 have had a lot to do, from a variety of directions, with the provision of war service homes and can vouch for the fact that in many cases people have said: ‘Let’s give it a try.’ If they get it, good luck; if not, it has cost them nothing. They may have lost a bit of time, but they will still be well in front. I believe that, in view of the cost to the Government, that is quite unreasonable. The form is there and can be read. Potential applicants know, by reading it, whether they are qualified. If they are unsure they can get someone, such as a solicitor, builder or agent, to read it for them. I do not see that it should be necessary to process the applications of 2,000 people who were not eligible in the first place.
We have to look at this matter fairly objectively. There is no doubt that by any standard that might be applied in any comparable country we have by far the best such scheme in the world. I was about to say ‘scheme for war service’which is how I would like it to be. I am in favour of keeping the scheme as good as we can keep it. I do not want to see it spread thinly. The political amendments of the last few years, by diverting the benefits of the scheme from those who needed them to those who might vote for them, weakened the scheme considerably. I did not support that approach then and I do not support it now. It is quite unreasonable to make various differentiations on the basis that one case is more deserving than another.
This legislation has always been a political measure. It was introduced in 1918, and I would recommend that everyone read the debates right back to that year. One has to remember the atmosphere in 1918. We had thousands of returned servicemen who had been on five bob a day and who were returning to Australia with no money, no skills, no jobs- nothing. The £700 that was then provided for war service homes purposes presented the only way in which the vast majority of those men were ever likely to get a start in life. The interest rate, compared to the then ruling rate of 5 per cent, was 4 per cent.
Today we are talking of a rate of 3.75 per cent as against a ruling commercial rate of 10.5 per cent. People who have in the last few years spent a three-year stint in the Army, who have had a wonderful life, excellent conditions, good pay, a high degree of training and have come out better educated men, with careers in front of them, have also had these bonuses offered- quite unrealistically in relation to their situation.
– Do you really mean that?
– It is a view that is supported by the vast majority of ex-service personnel organisations. Since 1918, when the Bill was introduced, it has been tampered with politically on many occasions. It has also been changed on several occasions as a matter of necessity. There have been at least 35 sets of amendments to it, and those amendments number well over 100. 1 do not know what the exact number is, but we have reached the stage at which it would be far preferable to give the whole basis of the legislation a complete overhaul than to keep fiddling with it, as has been happening for many years. It is time that we looked at just whom the system should assist, and how it should assist them. I repeat, the assistance given has been spread too thinly, over too many, and it would be far better to examine again just what the scheme is all about, why it is in existence, why it was formed and why it is still on-going. Many who still are eligible are treated unreasonably. Some are overly well treated and others are treated less than adequately.
I would .like to see the Government examine the whole basis of the funding system involved. For some time I have been considering how it could be streamlined, made less wasteful and more easily organised, to the greater advantage of the people involved. I would like to give to the Senate a few figures so that honourable senators may see the problem that now confronts many of the beneficiaries. Let us assume the case of a beneficiary who wished to buy or build a house that would necessitate a mortgage of $30,000. Admittedly, that is a reasonably high figure, one that is slightly above the average, but certainly not uncommon in the war service homes field. If, under a defence service homes mortgage, the applicant obtained $12,000 at 3.75 per cent, it would cost him $450 in interest. If he obtained a further $3,000 at 7.25 per cent it would cost him another $217.25 in interest. If he obtained a further $15,000 second mortgage at 12.5 per cent, it would cost him $1,875. Thus, the total interest cost for the $30,000 would be $2,542.25. That would be the cost if he used all of the advantages of the defence service homes provisions. At the defence services homes rate this represents an interest remission of $887.50, when compared with the cost involved in taking out an ordinary commercial housing loan at 10.5 per cent. But if such an applicant had taken out only one mortgage, a first mortgage for $30,000, through any bank or building society at 10.5 per cent he would have paid $3,150, or approximately $600 more than he would pay by taking advantage of the defence service homes provisions. If we allow a remission in interest according to the advantages that go with an interest rate of 3.75 per cent, as’ against the current commercial rate of 10.5 per cent, that remission would be of the order of $887.50. If that amount were subtracted from the $3,150 it would leave an amount of $2,273, which would offer the applicant an advantage of approximately $300, as well as a saving in mortgage costs, and would reduce it to a one-payment scheme instead of a two-payment scheme.
Let me explain how this could work. The Defence Service Homes Corporation need do no more than consider an applicant’s eligibility and, if satisfied, provide him with a certificate thereof. With such a certificate, the applicant could go to any financing authority of his choice and obtain a house. The lending authority could then apply to the Defence Service Homes Corporation for the $15,000, or whatever figure was involved, and make repayments twice yearly. It would involve no fiddling around of any sort in the Defence Service Homes Corporation. It would not be necessary for the Corporation to make inspections or worry about all the physical factors. It would eliminate an awful lot of the present running about that is both time consuming and expensive. It would allow the applicant to deal at the place of his choice with an institution of his choice. He could make his repayments by bank order or to the nearest division of the lending authority if he wished.
I suggest that he should also be free to do the same with his insurance if that suits him. The compulsory insurance that goes with this scheme has been unsatisfactory to a great number of people. It has been costly to a great number who have had claims- because of their negligence, admittedly- because it was not easy to claim. People who have all their other insurance with one company have found it inconvenient to be fiddled about with insurance on their houses. A change in this requirement would allow them to make whatever arrangements they wish or that are appropriate and at whatever price they are able to obtain. I see no difference in this situation as compared with any other scheme which allows people freedom to insure wherever they wish.
– What do you see as the problem with the insurance scheme at the moment?
– The insurance scheme at the moment just lacks the ordinary ease and flexibility for people to be able to insure with a company of their choice in a manner of their choice and where they can get the service that suits them. The defence service homes scheme is a cheap scheme. In a cheap scheme one loses something and gains something. In this regard one loses the flexibility of having one’s insurance agent, who looks after the rest of one ‘s insurance, at the same time look after one’s house insurance. A representative will call to make sure that one’s coverage is up-to-date and so on. These points are typical of the defence service homes scheme. It suits the great proportion of people who have only house insurance and who are well satisfied with these insurance provisions. But for the majority of people who are engaged in business enterprises of one sort or another and who have a defence service home it is inconvenient to have this compulsory insurance.
I would not make any other form of insurance compulsory but certainly I believe that an optional alternative method of insurance should be available. This is only one of the matters we should consider in view of the fact that this is 1918 legislation. I believe that it should not be continued by putting just another nail in here and there as has been done over many years. I will certainly recommend this suggestion to the Government for consideration. I think we have to reassess what is left of the old 1918 Act to see whether we can produce a scheme which is entirely different to suit the circumstances of the 1980s rather than the circumstances of 1918 when the legislation was originally introduced. I support the legislation for what it is doing at the moment. Last time I spoke on the legislation I said that I hoped we would have an opportunity to revamp its whole style. I still do. In the meantime I support the legislation.
– We are debating the Defence Service Homes Amendment Bill 1978. To the motion that the Bill be now read a second time Senator Gietzelt has moved as an amendment, which I seconded, as follows:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, and insert: the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted:
to maintain the present eligibility of members of the Defence Services for housing finance from the Defence Service Homes Corporation;
to permit Parliament to maintain adequate scrutiny of the Defence Service Homes Insurance Scheme;
because it introduces a fee for consideration of the application for a loan for the first time, thus increasing the cost to the applicant;
because it introduces a discriminatory preference system between those with eligibility based on war service; and
because increased funds should be made available to restore the decline of SO per cent, in real terms, over the last three years ‘.
The Defence Service Homes Scheme came into operation in March 1919 after the enabling legislation was passed in 1918 as outlined by the previous speaker, Senator Archer. Although it is now called the defence service homes scheme it was called the war service homes scheme until 1973. The eligibility provisions since 1919 have been considerably widened. Service in World War II became one of the eligibility provisions. There were subsequent campaigns in Korea, Malaya and Vietnam which enabled people to become eligible for a war service home loan. In 1973 there was a major change when servicemen who had served for three years became eligible for a defence service homes scheme benefit. In the 1977-78 Budget the qualifying period was extended from three years to six years.
Looking at the objectives of the scheme over the years since it came into operation one sees that the policy objectives have changed. As far as I can see, the first policy objective was a repatriation objective. Later on the objective became one of reward for war service. Finally there was an objective of using the scheme as a means of attracting and retaining persons in the defence Services. At the moment the person eligible for a defence Service home loan can borrow up to $15,000 under the scheme. The first $12,000 is repayable over 32 years at an interest rate of 3.75 per cent a year. The remaining $3,000 is repayable over 32 years at 7 1/4 per cent a year interest. Therefore the average rate of interest for the $15,000 is about 4 1/2 per cent. This money can be used as assistance to build, to purchase land with the intention of building, to purchase a dwelling, to complete the building of a partially erected house or to enlarge an existing dwelling.
The purpose of this Bill that we are discussing today is to amend the Defence Service Homes Act in a number of ways. The first proposal in the Bill is to extend the qualifying period before a person is eligible for a loan. Persons who commence full time service in the defence force on or after 17 August 1977 will become eligible for a loan on completion of six years continuous full time “service subject to a commitment to render full time service. This qualifying period may be contrasted with the previous three year qualifying period. Senator Gietzelt spoke at length on this and pointed out how this change takes away the eligibility of some members of the defence forces.
The second proposal in the Bill is to allow the Defence Service Homes Corporation to give a measure of preference in the allocation of loans. A third proposal is to charge a fee to loan applicants, the amount of the fee to be determined by the Corporation. Senator Archer said that he agreed with the imposition of a fee. With regard to this proposal it is interesting to note that the report on the defence service homes scheme from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure at paragraph 107 (D) stated:
There be no application fee for those who receive grants.
But an application fee is being put into the legislation by this Bill. The fourth proposal is that there be a recognition for purposes of the Defence Service Homes Act of de facto relationships. I can do nothing but agree with this proposal. The fifth proposal deals with certain financial procedures as outlined in clause 9 of the Bill.
The sixth and final proposal which I mention is a proposal which deals with insurance. It is to this that I direct some remarks. I am not satisfied that this Bill removes a discrimination, of which I have spoken before in this Parliament, against certain Queensland residents. Honourable senators would not need reminding that associated with the defence service homes scheme is a special insurance scheme. This scheme is called the defence service homes insurance scheme. I have outlined before in this place when discussing the defence service homes insurance scheme how from 1 September 1977 a loading was applied to insurance premiums in Queensland. It was about 20 per cent of the normal premium payable. Those people in Queensland with insurance under the scheme were informed of this decision in a notice which was sent to them and which concluded in this way:
In view of the co-operative nature of the scheme, it is desirable that insured persons contribute equitably. Accordingly, when it is apparent that homes in one region are regularly costing more to insure, it is appropriate for that to bear a larger proportion of its excess cost. The cost of insuring homes in Queensland has been regularly exceeding the costs of insurance in the rest of Australia over the last six years. For this reason, effective from 1 September 1977, a loading has been applied to premiums payable for insurance in Queensland amounting to about 20 per cent of the normal premium payable for the average home insured.
It is worth reminding the Senate that Queensland is the only State in which a loading has been applied to insurance premiums under the defence service homes insurance scheme. Before this loading was applied, premium rates were the same throughout Australia. Now they are the same everywhere except in Queensland. Those who determine policy for the insurance scheme conveniently forget that defence service personnel who qualify for homes under this scheme and consequently qualify for insurance on their homes did not enlist to defend Queensland only. They enlisted to defend Australia. I fail to understand why men and women who pledge to serve Australia should be charged different home insurance premiums solely because they live in Queensland. The defence service homes insurance scheme is a cooperative scheme. That being so, why can there not be co-operation throughout Australia in equalising insurance burdens?
Figures are available which show what premiums have been received and what claim payments have been made under the defence service homes scheme for each State and Territory. I obtained these figures in answer to a question upon notice in which I asked for figures for each year since 1956. 1 chose 1956 to get a 20-year history of claims and payments which one could examine. It is possible to be given figures for the six States only; that is, regional figures are not available. Even though the figures may be read by reference to pages 2822 and 2823 of the Senate Hansard of 9 June 1978, they are particulary germane to my argument, which I will be developing further. I thus seek leave to incorporate them as a table in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
– It may be seen by reference to the table that included in the figures for New South Wales are those for the Australian Capital Territory and Norfolk Island. Papua New Guinea figures are included with the figures for Queensland. Included in the figures for South Australia are those for the Northern Territory. The fact that Papua New Guinea figures are shown as part of the Queensland figures makes the whole philosophy of charging separate premiums for Queensland somewhat suspect. What similarity, for example, has Port Moresby with Brisbane or with some, other city or town in Queensland? The figures available show that from 1 966-67 to 1 974-75 there was an excess of payments over premiums paid in Queensland under the defence service homes insurance scheme. I asked the Minister in a question upon notice:
What major event or events contributed to the loss in these years and which were the principal cities and towns affected.
The information given to me was outlined on page 508 of the Senate Hansard of 12 September 1978. The Minister’s reply showed that in 1966-67 the principal event contributing to the loss was a hailstorm, and the city most affected was Brisbane. In 1967-68 and in 1968-69 there were hailstorms in Brisbane, Maryborough and Bundaberg. In 1969-70 and 1970-71 there were further hailstorms, this time in Brisbane and Redcliffe. In 1971-72 and 1972-73, the major events which contributed to the loss were Cyclone Althea at Townsville and a tornado in Brisbane. In 1973-74 and 1974-75 the major event was Cyclone Wanda, which affected principally Brisbane, Ipswich, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. Those of us who were living in Brisbane and nearby areas at the time would not forget the devastation that occurred because of cyclone Wanda. It was devastation that we thought would never occur in Brisbane but which certainly did.
After 1974-75, however, the pattern changed. In 1975-76 and in 1976-77 there was in Queensland an excess of receipts over payments. In other words, the pattern evident in those disastrous years from 1966-67 to 1974-75 had been reversed. The payments made for claims in the last two years for which statistics are publicly available were less than the receipts which had been gathered.
– Without taking administrative costs into account.
-The figures do take administrative costs into account. If the honourable senator has a look at the table- he will be able to have a look at the table when it appears in Hansard- he will see that the figures for the receipts received are net of fire brigade and administration charges. So over the last two years in Queensland there has certainly been a surplus of receipts over claims paid. That was not the case for the earlier period that I mentioned. I do concede that. But, as I shall go on to show, 1 do not think that there is sufficient evidence to be able to charge a premium in Queensland.
Some people may consider that there is a reasonable principle in requiring additional premiums from those people who live in areas which have incurred losses of the magnitude that occurred in 1966 and 1974 in certain areas of Queensland. Yet there is a major flaw in that argument. The figures given to my by the Minister in answer to a question upon notice indicated that with only one exception the principal areas affected in the bleak years from 1966-67 to 1974-75 were around Brisbane. In fact the places mentioned in the Minister’s reply were Brisbane, Maryborough, Bundaberg, Redcliffe, Ipswich, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. The latter six areas that I mentioned are in close proximity to Brisbane. The only exception to those areas in south-east Queensland was the city of Townsville. Thus if the principle is correct, that additional premiums should be payable, for what reason, for example, does the person in Toowoomba have to pay additional premiums? The city of Toowoomba is not even mentioned in the list supplied by the Minister.
Let me take two other cities in Queensland. Why should people in Mount Isa or Rockhampton pay additional premiums? These cities were not mentioned as areas where events occurred which led to losses. The only reason why people in those areas would be paying additional premiums is that unfortunately they happen to be in the same State as an area which suffered extreme losses. One can quite logically query why people in Gladstone, Mackay or Longreach- to mention three more examples- should pay additional premiums because of major events contributing to loss in a particular part of the State. I hold that that is equally as absurd as saying that the whole of the State should have premiums different from any of those in other States.
I note, by reference to the table that I incorporated in Hansard, that in a series of disastrous years in South Australia there was an excess of payments over receipts. For instance, in 1959-60 there was such an excess. From 1961-62 to 1966-67 there was a similar pattern of payments exceeding receipts. Was an additional premium applied to insurance in South Australia at the time? As far as I am aware, it was not. If that is the case, why should an additional premium be payable in Queensland? I hold that it should not.
Queensland people certainly experienced a run of disastrous years, yet figures show that that run of disastrous years has ceased. Queensland residents should not have to pay additional premiums simply because in a small period of time in comparison with the time that the whole scheme has been in operation events have occurred which have caused severe losses. The two events which caused the most severe losses would have been Cyclone Althea and the floods in Brisbane and nearby areas in 1 974. With regard to those floods, I believe that the defence service homes scheme should bear part of the blame for the losses incurred. Under the scheme, houses were built and purchased in a flood plain area. Thus Queenslanders now appear to be paying for mal-administration within the scheme; mal-administration in allowing houses to be built and purchased in areas that are liable to flood. If houses are built on Brisbane’s flood plain area it is inevitable that at some time they will be flooded just as they were in 1974. Despite flood prevention measures, it is inevitable that these areas will be flooded again some time in the future. It may be anything up to 100 years time, but the flood will occur. When houses purchased under the scheme were built on those flood plains it should have been acknowledged that severe flooding would eventually occur and that the defence service homes insurance scheme would suffer considerable loss.
I reiterate that there should be equal premiums throughout Australia under this scheme. The Government should discontinue the rip-off and victimisation of Queensland residents. There is no reason why a scheme which covers the whole of Australia could not accommodate different rates of claim from one State to another or from one region to another. People in Queensland who are insured under the defence service homes insurance scheme will not accept the discrimination which is being directed towards them. I again suggest to the Government that the new loadings in Queensland should be scrapped. From my reading of the Bill, nothing indicates that this type of practice will be discontinued. In fact, it appears to me that this type of discrimination might even be extended. That will be a sorry state of affairs for a scheme which has had a long history and which has served defence service personnel so well over the years since its inception just after the close of the First World War.
– I thank honourable senators for their contribution to the debate on this Bill. Generally it can be said that both sides of the House support the excellent legislation that has been in operation for many years. I noted the comments made by Senator Gietzelt. The Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs (Mr Adermann) will give attention to the matters mentioned. Senator Archer brought forward some views which he has presented to the Senate previously. His comments about the preferential interest rate were well noted. The beneficial effect of these loans is substantial at present. His proposal that there should be greater freedom in the selection of the body which makes the funds available has been noted. I am informed that a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament made a similar suggestion in a report which is currently before the Government. Senator Colston concentrated his remarks on the differential rate which exists in Queensland. He had some objection to it. From the way he expressed the matter to the Senate, there is reason to believe that the differential rate should be reconsidered by the Government. However, I will certainly see that the remarks are brought to the attention of the Minister whom I represent.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to: That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Order ! The Senate stands adjourned until Tuesday, 7 November 1978, at 2.50 p.m. In accordance with the resolution agreed to this day, Estimates committees A and C will meet as soon as possible. Estimates Committee A will meet in the Senate Chamber and Estimates Committee C will meet in Committee Room No.1. The bells will be rung for 2 minutes prior to the meetings of these committees.
Senate adjourned at 4.34 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circuit
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 1 June 1978:
Has the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs advertised at least one position of commissioner with the Industries Assistance Commission, at an annual salary of $34,699, without consultation with, or reference to; the Chairman of the Industries Assistance Commission, Mr McKinnon; if so, (a) how many positions are involved; (b) why was the Industries Assistance Commission not consulted before the positions were advertised in national newspapers; and (c) what plans does the Government have for the Industries Assistance Commission.
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The decision to invite applications for appointment as a commissioner to the Industries Assistance Commission was taken after consultation with the Chairman of that Commission.
The Industries Assistance Commission Act provides for the Industries Assistance Commission to consist of not less than 5, nor more than 9 Commissioners with appointment being for periods not exceeding 5 years.
As at September 1978 the Commission comprised 7 commissioners. The current term of office of 5 of these commissioners expires in December 1978 while that of another commissioner expires in April 1979.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 9 June 1978:
– The Minister for Home Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) I am advised by the Hon. A. A. Staley, M.P. that on 10 October 1977 he met with the Chairman of the Australian Film Commission and indicated that he would give his approval to the national program, part of which was The Unknown Industrial Prisoner. The Commission wrote to me on 7 March last requesting my approval to the production, promotion and distribution of a number of programs which were to commence after 7 March. These programs included The Unknown Industrial Prisoner. In considering this request I had before me material which included correspondence from the Commission and a number of assessments of the film dated in February 1978 and a record of a phone conversation which Phillip Adams which I understand also took place in February 1978. As I indicated in my letter to the Chairman of the Commission dated 24 April 1978 (tabled in the House of Representatives on 2 May) I was not prepared on the material then before me to give my approval to the production of the film.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 October 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19781026_senate_31_s79/>.