31st Parliament · 1st Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator D. B. Scott) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
-On behalf of Senator Ryan I present the following petition from 220 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and the Members of the Senate in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That there is no proven need for a satellite system in Australia and the Terrestial network should be further developed and extended.
That a satellite system would create unwelcome dependence upon multinational telecommunications companies for the future development and operation of the Australian Communications Industry.
That a satellite would further concentrate ownership of the media and result in large scale unemployment in many areas.
Your petitioners strongly urge that there is the fullest debate and public discussion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– 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 citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
Restore twice-yearly pension adjustments in the Autumn session.
Raise pensions and unemployed benefits above the poverty level to 30 per cent of average weekly earnings.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– On behalf of Senator Gietzelt I present the following petition from 62 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 restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
Restore twice-yearly pension adjustments in the autumn session.
Raise pensions and unemployed benefits above the poverty level to 30 per cent of average weekly earnings.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 59 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1 978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to the 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectations and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
Restore twice-yearly pension adjustments in the autumn session.
Raise pensions and unemployed benefits above the poverty level to 30 percent of average weekly earnings.
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 in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Jessop.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That in spite of numerous measures taken by various governments, unemployment in the country has not significantly declined.
As a result, supplies of both goods and services have declined; human resources are wasted, capital resources are not used and natural resources are left under-developed.
Both local and overseas experience shows that prosperity is encouraged when taxes, which penalise production are replaced by taxes which provide incentives for productivity. These also provide disincentives to idle speculation such as that which results in so called ‘windfall profits’ from land price increases.
The reduction of Income-tax, Sales-tax and Payroll tax is known to reduce the costs of production and to stimulate demand.
It is also known that when Land Tax or Council Rates are raised on the unimproved site value of land, then the development of vacant land and under-developed slum areas is stimulated.
It follows then, that the gradual replacement of taxes on production with taxes on non-production will create new employment, reduces the costs of production, reduces the rate of interest, the cost of housing and stimulates all industries.
We wish to point out that the replacement of production penalising taxes is a very practical proposal. According to official Municipal Valuations, it is estimated that unimproved Site Values have increased from $37,000m in 1973/74 to $67,000m by 1976/77. This represents $30,000m so called ‘windfall profits’ which was completely unrelated to productive improvements.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should:
Act to relieve unemployment by a Taxation Reform to replace taxes on production with taxes which provide incentives for the increased supply of both goods and services.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Evans and Senator Missen.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That on the 10 December 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which declares that, ‘Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration. . . . ‘ (Article 2) that ‘Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives . . . The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or equivalent free voting procedures.’ (Article21(l)and(3).)
Elections for Senators meet all requirements except one. Senators are elected periodically, by secret ballot, with universal franchise, and the quota-preferential method of proportional representation ensures that the vote values within states are equal as nearly as can be.
However the provision of the Electoral Act that compels voters to show preferences for all candidates on the ballot paper interferes with the free expression of the will of the voters, and is unjust.
Australia, as a Member State of the United Nations, is pledged to achieve observance of Human Rights and freedoms.
We, the undersigned citizens of Australia, therefore humbly pray that the Senate will fulfil the pledge of a Member State of the United Nations and take steps to remove the compulsion from the Electoral Act in order to allow freedom of expression for everyone who has the right to vote for senators.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Sibraa.
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senators Evans, Hamer, Scott, Lajovic and Guilfoyle.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the decision by the United States to abrogate its treaty with Taiwan and the recent statement by Admiral Zumwalt, a United States Admiral, in Australia that signalled a clear warning to this country that we have to rely more on our own efforts for defence, has the Government considered the possible implications for United States commitments to the ANZUS Treaty? Does the Government remain firm in its belief that the United States is as committed to the ANZUS Treaty as has been the case in the past?
– The Government has always believed, and I think the Australian community does also, that the ANZUS Treaty with the United States of America is a significant cornerstone of our national security. I think that that has been a generally bipartisan view. The Government has no reason to believe that recent events have weakened in any way the relationship between America and Australia. Nevertheless, I will refer the question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in case he would like to add some further information.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer the Minister to a report which appeared in the Brisbane Courier-Mail on 21 February 1979 which reads:
Queensland Aborigines could have a referendum to determine whether they wanted to be under State or Federal Government control, the Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement Minister ( Mr Porter) said yesterday.
But he doubted whether aborigines would want such a poll. Mr Porter said that if such a referendum were held, he had no doubt the States’ aborigines would opt for Queensland control. His comments followed a decision at the Australian Labor Party conference in Rockhampton to hand over management to the Federal Government if Labor came to power in Queensland.
Will the Minister seek financial assistance to enable such a referendum to take place? Being conscious of the fact that the Minister prefers negotiation to confrontation, I ask: Will he confer with the Queensland Government about the holding of a referendum to settle this matter once and for all?
– I have not seen the report to which Senator Bonner referred but someone did mention it to me. I do not know whether Mr Porter is accurately quoted in that report. I must say to the Senate and to Senator Bonner that there is no question of there being a referendum about whether Aboriginals should be under Queensland or Commonwealth control because the Federal Government certainly does not seek the control of Aboriginals and I do not believe that the Aboriginal and Islander people in Queensland want a government controlling them. So, if that is a direct quote of what Mr Porter said, I think it is not apt. Other States of Australia transferred responsibility for policy, planning and co-ordination of Aboriginal affairs to the Commonwealth Government, but that does not mean that the Commonwealth assumed all responsibility for services for Aboriginal people. In fact, the States remain responsible in fields such as health, education, welfare and, of course, land, which is of vital importance to Aboriginals.
My belief, and I think it is the belief of the Government, is that what Queensland Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders want is a greater degree of responsibility in managing their affairs. That is particularly so on reserves which have been set aside for their benefit. These are issues which are currently being discussed between the Commonwealth and State governments following the recent request from the Yarrabah Council that it be brought under the Commonwealth legislation. At the moment the reserve councils in Queensland are in the process of holding their elections. They have the opportunity to elect to their councils people to express views on their behalf. It might be that, in the light of that election opportunity which is offered to them, a referendum is not necessary.
To respond to Senator Bonner’s question, the Commonwealth would welcome anything that is done to ensure that Aboriginal people have the opportunity to make their own decisions and to manage their own affairs. If it becomes apparent to me that a referendum of the Aboriginal people of Queensland is a necessary step to increase the opportunity for Aboriginal self-management, I will welcome and support it.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Education and refers to recent newspaper reports which suggest that the number of students opting for primary teacher training as a first preference for tertiary places in Victoria has dropped by approximately 70 per cent in the past three years. I ask: Have other States experienced similar drops in the election of teaching as a chosen vocation? Does the extent of the decline indicate that the prediction of the Australian Education Council of a surplus of approximately 40,000 primary school teachers by 1985 is probably wrong and should not be used as a basis for manpower predictions in the near future? I ask the Minister for his views on that.
– The question is an important one. In the past when I responded to questions concerning the working party’s paper on supply and demand I pointed out that the answer that one got depended upon the premises from which one started, quite apart from the firm premise at this moment of Professor Borrie ‘s demographic projection. I am not aware of the general percentage figures throughout Australia, but I am aware that there has been a quite significant decline in the number of students who have moved towards seeking entrance to the teaching profession. I have no doubt at all that this has originated from the discussion of surpluses in the States. I think the honourable senator will acknowledge that I have tried not to give any such great impressions because I want to have the very best of students still coming forward into the teaching profession. The figures read something like this: The highest peak of student teacher intake was some 25,000 in 1975. That kind of prediction would have produced a surplus of perhaps 60,000 to 80,000. I am not sure but I think that enrolments this year will shake down to a little over 17,000. So there has been a decline of about one-third in the number. That is probably as reasonable a figure as one could get, bearing in mind the imponderables. I ask the honourable senator to contemplate the fact that, quite apart from the demographic situation, one of the imponderables has been the percentage of resignations each year. In the past- five to 10 years ago- about 12 to 13 per cent of the teaching work force resigned or retired annually. The figure dropped to 9 per cent. If the figure were to move up again, in effect this would bring about an alteration in our calculations. But the fact that it has dropped means that there are presently at least 15,000 people in the work force who should have retired over the last two years. The concern I express in this regard is that the resignation rate is still dropping. This may be a permanent trend which may be due to a multitude of factors. I think the rate is likely to be as low as 7 per cent in other places. So there are many imponderables.
I have to say to the honourable senator that at this moment there is likely to be something of a surplus in the mid-1980s. I personally deprecate attempts to use that as a means of reducing the number of students going forward. We have to maintain a tight balance between informing the community of the trends and, at the same time, seeking to get the very best people into the teaching profession. We have a qualitative probe being conducted nationally at the moment in the Auchmuty Committee. A quantitative probe is, I think, an even more difficult one to carry out. But there is no doubt at all that there is a decline in the number of students coming forward voluntarily.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the ChinaVietnam conflict and ask: Has the Government received any information on a refugee situation which almost certainly will follow the current conflict? Has the Government been in touch with the office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Geneva or have any reports been received from that office?
– My understanding is that the Government has at this moment no indication of actual bodily movements of refugees as the result of the Indo-China- Chinese situation. That they have happened is a possibility. The Government is constantly in touch with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. If further information should come forward I will inform the honourable senator and the Senate. All honourable senators will know that at this moment the Indo-China situation is most complex and mobile. One cannot draw conclusions if one does not want to change them from day to day. I will try to keep the Senate informed.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to the unfortunate situation which arose when the Minister was misled by a brief from the Commonwealth Police concerning the word ‘Greek’ or Greece’ appearing on a placard when citizens were being photographed. On checking the record, I find that I first raised this allegation on 3 May last year. I ask the Minister: When did she receive the second brief which corrected the first misleading one? Did she receive the second brief as a result of inquiries or merely as a result of routine procedure in relation to this matter?
– I recall that the matter was raised in May. I also recall that it was raised on the last sitting day of the Parliament last year. The brief which I had referred to the matter that was raised on both of those occasions. I think it has to be said that on both occasions it was said that the word ‘Greek’ was on placards. As I said, and as I read from the brief from the Commonwealth Police, it was stated quite categorically that the word ‘Greek ‘ did not appear at all. As a result of the May discussion I had no further reason to seek other information. As a result of the November discussion I think I raised the matter and it was earlier this year when preparation was being made for the sitting of the Parliament that I think it was brought to my notice. It was certainly after the rising of the Senate last year and it would have been in the early part of this year that I had information given to me. It was not in the form of a brief that was brought to my attention but it was information given to me. As I understand it- I do not know when this occurred- the police went through all the photographs and stated, with the accuracy that they claim, that the word Greece’ did appear after the date of birth on some five photographs.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education. In view of recent Press comment on the question of freedom of choice in government schools, will the Minister inform the Senate what progress has been made in this area by the Commonwealth Government both in the Territories and in co-operation with the States?
– I think this matter is of very great interest to all those parents of the almost 80 per cent of Australian students who go to government schools. The matter has quickened in more recent times by an initiative from the Schools Commission, which has the Government’s full support, and that is to set up pilot programs in the various States to see whether we can get a degree- if possible a maximum degree- of freedom of choice for the parent as between individual government schools. Of course, the whole aim, which is certainly a part of my Government’s philosophy, is that education ought to have consumer choice. It is vital that perhaps the most imperative of the matters that confront the young should have the parent as the decision-maker in the process. I am happy to say that a number of States have already indicated that they will be interested to participate. I have no doubt this matter will move along. Again, this is in conjunction with the attempt throughout Australia, which is warmly supported by parents and citizen bodies, to have parents participate in the education process including, of course, some understanding and some decision making in the curricula in individual schools. There is no zoning in the Australian Capital Territory. The Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority has pointed out:
This variety in education implies that within practicable limits students should be able to choose the school and the type of education best suited to their needs. Each school will, therefore, have the responsibility of catering first for the children in its own area but will then be free to accept as many other pupils who wish to come to the school as may reasonably be placed.
I think that has worked. In the Northern Territory there is no official zoning of either primary or secondary schools. In Darwin free student transport to secondary schools is provided to students only in the neighbourhood of the high school. That is something that is a qualification, but it is not an imperative one. In New South Wales at this moment there is basically a zoning system. But in Queensland, there are no zoning requirements. In practice, high schools are comprehensive schools and are generally regarded as being district high schools. The travel concessions which are available create some pressure on parents. Free travel is available only to the nearest high school unless there are substantial reasons for enrolling elsewhere. In South Australia there is no zoning requirement for primary schools. I simply venture that information as a sketch of what is a complex matter. I think that what is being ventured upon in terms of diversity and choice in education is one of the major qualitative ventures that have been demanded by the community. I commend the Schools Commission’s project.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, is based on the principle adopted by a growing number of countries of culling out accident prone oil tankers from their coastlines. I refer to the action of the maritime unions in seeking to have the Norwegian tanker Balderberg ostracised from operations on the Australian coast. Why was it left to the maritime unions to pinpoint this tanker’s bad record? What is the Government doing to emulate the United States of America in eliminating tankers that are obsolete or accident prone?
– I have some information from the Minister for Transport on this matter. I am advised that he would have no more reason to consider banning the tanker Balderberg than many other tankers visiting Australia. The incidents that occurred on this vessel could have happened on virtually any other tanker. In any case, it is doubtful that the more serious of the incidents in which the vessel was involved was attributable to either the ship or its crew. The Minister has shown considerable concern about the standards of tankers visiting Australia and the safety procedures associated with their loading and discharge. Last month he announced in the Press that officers from his Department will in future inspect all large tankers at their first port of call in Australia to check on the seaworthiness of the ship, the crew qualifications, their experience and, in particular, the handling and safety precautions observed during loading and discharging operations at the terminals.
This arrangement is a direct result of a series of meetings his Department had with the industry last year. In addition, two officers from the Department of Transport have recently inspected each of the Australian marine oil refinery terminals to examine safety measures that are necessary to deal with any emergencies which may arise on a tanker, and the report of the surveys is expected to be available to the Minister in the near future. It is understood that the vessel Balderberg was on charter to Texaco and the charterers’ agent in Australia was H. C. Sleigh Ltd.
– I have a supplementary question. Do we get fairly quick information on the lessons of these accidents and the latest pollution dispersal methods undertaken? I am talking about the last two major spills that occurred.
– I will seek from the Minister for Transport the information that Senator Mulvihill wants.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for National Development noted the statement by the Vice-President of Exxon Chemicals of the United States, Mr Ron Grandy at a meeting yesterday of the Australian Chemical Industry Council, pointing out that there is a tendency towards increasing international trade in chemicals and that this trend is likely to intensify away from nations in Western Europe, and Japan and the United States? Is the Minister aware that the Dow Chemical Company which is currently examining the feasibility of establishing a petrochemical works at Redcliff in South Australia is primarily interested in the development of substantial exports of its products from such a plant? Does such an objective accord with the Government’s vigorous encouragement of exports demonstrated by its launching of a new export drive this week? Would this substantially assist Australia’s balance of payments?
– Certainly I can agree in general terms with the propositions that Senator
Messner has made about the Government’s great interest in and encouragement of exports and its interest in any new projects which would have that objective. I have not read the specific statement that have been made, but I will draw it to the attention of the Minister whom I represent, together with the plans that the Dow Chemical Company has for its investment proposals.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Was one Tiger Yadjajiri an Aboriginal employed by Lord Vestey ‘s interests at Gordon Downs Station in Western Australia, knocked off his horse while mustering by a light plane that was used in an aerial muster? Has he been invalided since and is he unable to work? Has any workmen’s compensation been paid? If not, why not? Will the Government initiate a legal claim for compensation for this workman?
– I have not heard of the incident raised in Senator Cavanagh ‘s question. If the facts are as he has outlined it would appear very likely that there is an entitlement to workers’ compensation. I will make inquiries about the matter and whether workers’ compensation payments have been made. If there is any question or dispute about liability I will see that the matter is pursued.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. With the need to conserve our own oil reserves, which is further heightened by the situation in Iran at the present time, will the Government give its support to the States of Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and Victoria which are opposed to the introduction of the Australian Design Rule relating to stage 3 of exhaust emission control at this stage and support its deferment? Will the Government also give serious consideration to supporting a proposal that the component parts on motor vehicles required for stage 3 be sold as optional extras only on those new vehicles purchased in the States of New South Wales and South Australia if those two States press ahead with stage 3 which, incidentally, would add a further 5 per cent increase in fuel consumption over the 8 per cent increase resulting from the introduction of stage 2? Finally, why should motorists in a majority of States in which stage 3 really is not necessary be penalised with added costs to meet the demands of one or two States?
-The Minister for National Development has indicated to me that he believes there is conflicting evidence as to whether or not emission controls are reducing the fuel efficiency of motor vehicles. Certainly one body of evidence suggests that the existing emission controls are reducing fuel efficiency substantially- that is, up to about 10 per cent. In view of Australia’s need to conserve energy, which has been highlighted by recent events, the Minister believes that we should be extremely cautious before proceeding any further down the track by introducing a third phase of conversion. He is aware of the special pollution problems that affect Sydney and Melbourne and believes we should look at what special measures might be taken to overcome the specific requirements of those two cities without affecting Australia’s general energy situation.
– Will the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who represents the Minister for Transport, agree that one of the reasons why Australians pay such inordinately high internal air fares may be the fact that Ansett Airlines of Australia has been diverting profit from its airline activities into organisations such as Associated Securities Ltd?
– I very much doubt whether there is any substance in the point raised by the honourable senator in his question. There is a two-airline policy and, as I understand it, Trans- Australia Airlines, which is Ansett ‘s competitor, does not have any investments in such companies and there does not appear to be any difference between the fare structures.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Science and the Environment or alternatively the Attorney-General. Is the Minister aware of the decision given by Mr Justice Aickin in the High Court on 16 February 1 979 to the effect that private citizens and organisations claiming a non-property interest cannot enforce compliance by the Government with the administrative procedures of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act? Did the particular case refer to an attempt by the Australian Conservation Foundation to require the completion of a final environmental impact statement before approval is given for the development of an international tourist resort near Yeppoon in Queensland? Does the Minister agree with the criticisms expressed by Dr Mosley of the Australian Conservation Foundation that the High Court decision sets a bad precedent and robs the legislation of any substance? Does the Government intend to introduce an amendment to the Act which will give citizens and groups the right to seek the implementation of existing environmental legislation? Has the Australian Conservation Foundation applied to the AttorneyGeneral for his fiat to continue action over the alleged non-compliance with the administrative procedures of the Iwasaki development and will the Attorney-General be giving his fiat to the Australian Conservation Foundation for this purpose?
-The honourable senator’s question refers to responsibilities within my portfolio as well as that of the Attorney-General. I have seen the judgment by Mr Justice Aickin. Briefly, Mr Justice Aickin dealt with the legal entitlements of the Australian Conservation Foundation to bring an action against the Commonwealth. My understanding is that he did not proceed to examine the substance of the ACF’s statement of claim. The High Court found that no locus standi existed for the ACF as a private group to force Commonwealth Ministers to comply with the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act and the administrative procedures. Accordingly Mr Justice Aickin struck out the ACF’s statement of claim and dismissed the action.
My Department was advised by the Crown Solicitor’s office that the rules of the High Court provide that an appeal may be lodged within a period of 2 1 days from the date of the decision. Given the cost of conducting High Court legal actions, the limited financial resources of the ACF and the strength of Mr Justice Aickin ‘s judgment, it is unlikely that the ACF will appeal against the decision. However, we have been advised by the Crown Solicitor’s Office that the ACF has written to the Attorney-General in his capacity as the first law officer of the Crown seeking, on the grounds of public interest, his fiat for a relator action. In other words the AttorneyGeneral has been asked to give his permission to the ACF’s court action proceeding. That would mean that the earlier judgment by Mr Justice Aickin may be sidestepped. It is not possible for me to comment upon the questions asked by the honourable senator as to whether a bad precedent has been set. They are legal matters which require a legal judgment and I should think that it would not be appropriate for them to be answered in the Senate.
-I ask a supplementary question. I am not asking for a legal judgment at all. What I am asking is whether the Government will give its fiat to enable those legal questions to be determined.
– That would be a matter for the Attorney-General to answer.
– I will give that question consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. The Minister will be aware of the announcement of the closure of the North West Acid Pty Ltd plant in Burnie with the obviously consequent very serious effects on unemployment within that plant and in various related industries or enterprises in the north-west of Tasmania. Can the Minister give an undertaking that the Commonwealth Employment Service will be speedily and fully involved in helping employees to find alternative employment both within the north-west area and elsewhere? Will he consider supplementing the Burnie staff of the CES to advise those who will be without employment from 6 July? Will he ensure that the procedures and qualifications for the relocation allowance are well publicised and applied in a helpful fashion by the CES?
– I was not aware of the closure of the plant referred to by Senator Tate. I will certainly draw that aspect of the question- in fact all details of the question- to the attention of the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, whom I represent here, to ensure that he is aware of it and the problems presented by it. The policy of the Commonwealth Employment Service and of the Department in relation to these matters is clear. They have been faced with similar problems in various parts of Australia. I am aware of similar problems that occured in Kalgoorlie in my own State two or three years ago. This is a familiar problem, and in these cases the Commonwealth Employment Service has given special consideration to the area concerned. Of course, it is true that the relocation assistance scheme was designed to meet these problems, and the publication of the rights that people have under that scheme is usually given prominence. I expect that the matters raised by Senator Tate will be given speedy attention. Certainly I will recommend to the Minister, and I am sure that in turn he will recommend to the Commonwealth Employment Service, that these matters be given urgent attention.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Has the Government decided to construct a patrol boat base in Darwin to facilitate servicing, maintenance, victualling, and so on of the vessels involved in the surveillance and defence of our northern coast? If so, at what stage is the planning of the project?
– I appreciate Senator Kilgariff’s real interest in this matter. I can acknowledge that the Government has so decided. The Government is developing plans for a patrol boat base at Darwin. It is expected that the project will be referred shortly to the Public Works Committee, at which stage more detailed information will be provided. If further information comes to hand I will let the honourable senator know.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs aware that Bankcard collects $6m a month interest on a total investment of only $8m? I am sure he will concede that that is a pretty fair return on capital funds invested. In those circumstances, does the Government consider it fair that consumers, on buying defective goods- a growing problem requiring much hassle with both the producer and the distributor- are still forced to pay Bankcard, even when it is established that there has been unsatisfactory service? Is it not a fact that in Britain and the United States credit card laws protect the consumer in those circumstances? I therefore ask: Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the Government has contemplated legislation that would thoroughly protect the consumers when such conflicts occur?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and ask him to give a speedy answer to Senator Gietzelt.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Because I realise that he is a prolific reader of newspapers, I ask: Did the Minister happen to see an article in the New Zealand Herald of 19 February concerning the crash of a Fokker F27-500 series aircraft which was on approach to the international airport at Auckland? No doubt the Minister will realise that rubber boats with outboard motors were used to get to the crash scene. However, it was stated that a hovercraft is still the most suitable rescue craft. No doubt the Minister is also aware of a recent incident in which a Trans-Australia Airlines DC9 aircraft landed short at Tullamarine during weather similar to that in which the Fokker crashed in New Zealand. As time is so crucial in getting to an aircraft that crashes in the sea, has the Australian Department of Transport investigated the possibility of having hovercraft stationed at airports where commercial aircraft could fall into the sea during either takeoff or landing, particularly at places such as Hobart where the approach to either end of the runway is over water?
-Although I do frequently read New Zealand newspapers I try not to read any reports about crashes of aeroplanes. Like other honourable senators I spend a good deal of time in them. I have not seen the report to which Senator Townley refers. I will refer his question about hovercraft being used for rescue operations at airports to the Minister for Transport for inquiry.
– My question is directed to the Minister who represents the Minister for Transport. I preface my question by stating that I asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 15 August 1978 the following question:
Does Trans-Australia Airlines have any plans to withdraw any port of call on the Mount Isa to Townsville route?
On 14 September 1978 I was provided with the following answer:
No. Trans-Australia Airlines has no plans to withdraw any port of call on the Mount Isa to Townsville route.
On 28 October 1978 the Courier-Mail reported that Trans-Australia Airlines and Bush Pilots Airways Ltd had been to see the Premier of Queensland about TAA pulling out of services in Queensland, including the Mount Isa to Townsville route. Subsequent reports confirmed that the Courier-Mail report was correct. I therefore ask the Minister whether I was deliberately misled on 14 September. If I was not, at what time did TAA decide to pull out of the Mount Isa to Townsville route?
– I will seek information on the matter raised by the honourable senator and give him a reply as soon as possible.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Education, is about the thesis allowance paid to post-graduate students in their final year. I understand that it is $300, which is the Government’s estimated cost of publishing the thesis. I draw attention to the general allowance made to post-graduate students which I understand is $4,250 and which is in excess of the maximum non-taxable income. On the student allowance the post-graduate student is in fact paying tax on $400 or thereabouts. I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that when the student receives the additional $300 allowance it is clearly taxable. If that is the Government’s estimated cost of publishing the thesis then clearly the student is not able to publish the thesis out of the allowance. Assuming that my facts are correct, I ask the Minister Can an arrangement be made to see that the allowance is made non-taxable? Alternatively, can it be increased so that it covers the amount of the tax, or can it be made a tax deduction in the next Budget?
– As Senator Lewis would know, the decision to tax these particular postgraduate allowances was made in the last Budget. Since then a number of criticisms by post-graduate students has arisen. One of the criticisms is of course the fact, as Senator Lewis pointed out, that post-graduate students would have to pay tax which in effect would discount the allowance and its supporting benefits. It is a matter for the Budget session. I assure Senator Lewis that his suggestion along with others will be brought to the attention of the Government at the time of the Budget considerations.
– My question is directed to the Minister who represents the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Following upon questions by Senators MacGibbon and Martin, and a speech by myself on the failure of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to take up the offer made by commercial stations to allow the ABC access to replays of major sporting events to outback areas where the commercial stations are unable to provide a signal, the Minister at the time replied that the cost of the program was one of the reasons why the ABC has not taken up the offer. I ask the Minister. Is he aware that ATN7 in a letter to the Australian Rugby League Association, one of the major sports referred to, stated:
We would be happy to make the program available free of charge to cover this pocket. Should the ABC not accept this arrangement an alternative could be that Channel 7 would provide cassettes of the games to the rugby league clubs in any of the towns involved.
In the light of this information will the Minister inquire from the ABC as to what is the real reason for its attitude in this matter?
– I recall a number of questions and debates or discussions on this matter last year in the Senate and in its committees. Certainly, as I recall, the debate went beyond the point of the explanation that I gave at one point about costs. I think there were various statements about programming problems and so on. I do not remember all that detail. I will make the inquiries requested by the honourable senator and let him have a reply.
-Can the Minister for Education verify that the following anomaly exists in the administration of the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowance? Can the Minister say whether it is possible for the TEAS allowance to be paid to the spouse of a partner whose financial position has increased dramatically in the current year? Is this a result of the TEAS payments being assessed on the previous year’s combined income? Does this situation allow the spouse of a newly qualified academic, who could be drawing the high salary of either a teacher or a medical resident, for example, still to draw the TEAS allowance? If this is so, could the Minister put the onus on the student claiming the allowance to inform the Education Department if his or her financial position changes for the better in the current year?
– The Government attempts to mitigate and reduce anomalies under the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme but I suppose that there always will be anomalies while there are alert and fertile minds considering this matter. I would like to put under study the matters to which Senator Walters has referred rather than to report in general terms today. The danger is that if someone hears what I say, or reads what I have said, he or she could misinterpret it. In general terms it is true that we look to the previous year’s income to give us guidance on this matter. It is equally true, of course, that there is a moral obligation, apart from anything else, upon students not to apply for the TEAS allowance if those persons, through themselves or through their spouses, have adequate support. The fundamental principle of TEAS is that it should be for the underprivileged.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. It follows from a question asked yesterday in this chamber by my south-western Victorian colleague, Senator Lewis. It would appear that both Senator Lewis and I are somewhat apprehensive about what appears to be a dire lack of any form of Australian equity in squid fishing operations out of that area. Have any Australian observers been placed on the Japanese squid fishing fleet operating off the south-west coast of Victoria? If so, what are their qualifications? If not, why not?
– I will have to seek that information from the Minister whom I represent.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as the representative of the Prime Minister, who is responsible for Public Service matters. Is the Minister aware of an innovative program introduced by Telecom Australia to employ handicapped persons in a wide range of employment situations? Can the Minister say whether action is being taken to ensure that other authorities and departments will follow the example of Telcom to utilise the skills of handicapped people in special programs for this purpose, thus recognising the particular skills handicapped people can bring to a wide range of tasks, and to continue the lead that the Commonwealth should give in the employment of handicapped persons?
– May I ask for a little clemency on this matter. I have a file on it and I would like to respond to this important question. Perhaps that could be done at the end of Question Time.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. In the light of the statement by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications on the television program Nationwide last night that the Government was strongly convinced that there must be extensive public debate on the communications satellite proposal, will the Government now decide to extend the time for public debate for another 1 2 months beyond March this year and will the Government find funds to assist those community organisations that want to participate in the public debate to do so?
– I will refer both inquiries to Mr Staley for answers.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, concerns the interim profit of Telecom Australia. When there is a change in accounting practice it is normal reporting procedure to indicate the dollar effect of such a change. Firstly, why was this not done in reporting the interim profit of Telecom and what was the amount involved? Secondly, why were substantial capital costs to Telecom written off in the year in which the costs were incurred instead of being carried forward or allocated to future years which would benefit from those costs, as is the recognised accounting practice in this country?
-I will refer those two questions also to Mr Staley for answers.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. I point out by way of preface that the Commonwealth and Tasmanian governments have made considerable contributions in both cash assistance and other concessions to assist the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Ltd copper mine at Queenstown in Tasmania to continue its operations until the price of copper improves sufficiently to allow the mine to function economically and to give the people of Queenstown an opportunity of continuing in employment in the only industry in the town. It has just been announced that PekoWallsend Ltd will re-open its copper mining operations at the Warrego Mine at Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, thus repeating the process of creating a surplus and glutting the market. Will the Government give immediate consideration to the setting up of a copper marketing authority to ensure that there is a continuity of production for the Mount Lyell mine in this highly competitive market and so assure the future of the people of Queenstown?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Trade and Resources but I would think it extremely unlikely that the Government would see that as a way of solving the problems. If Peko-Wallsend is reopening a mine it must have indications that there are economic justifications for doing so. Maybe it represents a more promising picture for the marketing of copper generally at the present time and thereby will be in the long term interests of Mount Lyell as well as other copper producers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. The Minister will recall the question I asked yesterday concerning the Industries Assistance Commission inquiries- and there are twointo the spirits and spirituous beverages industry and the reference concerning grapes and wine, which I understand was sent to the IAC at a later date. In the answer the Minister referred only to the latter inquiry and he indicated that this report was expected by the end of July. Can the Minister now provide me with further information on the former reference? When does he expect this report to be tabled?
– I thought that the information which was provided to me by the Minister for Primary Industry relating to this matter covered the question asked by the honourable senator yesterday. The honourable senator may be referring to the 1977 announcement of the Government about protection measures being given to brandy in accordance with the recommendations of the Temporary Assistance Authority. At that time a temporary additional customs duty increased duty to $12.50 per litre alcohol on imports within the tariff quota. Tariff quotas for the six months from 22 August 1977 were equivalent to 40 per cent of imports cleared during 1975-76. Imports cleared in excess of those tariff quotas were dutiable at $32.50 per litre alcohol. At that time- perhaps this is what Senator Jessop is referring to- a reference on long term assistance for the needs of the spirits and spirituous beverages industry was sent to the Industries Assistance Commission. A draft report on these industries is expected in February 1977 and a final report to the Government is expected early in May this year.
On 8 February 1978, following receipt of an interim IAC report, the Government decided to continue short term assistance for brandy pending receipt and consideration of a further IAC interim report on short term assistance for brandy. At that time quota entitlements were allocated for a further six months. As I recall, yesterday I referred to a 28 August 1978 report. Following the presentation of the interm IAC report the Government again decided to extend short term assistance pending receipt and consideration of the earlier long term report. At that time quota entitlements were allocated for a further six months from 22 August 1978.
On 9 August 1978 a reference on grapes and wine was sent to the IAC for report by 3 1 July 1979. The Senate might recall that the 1978 Budget provided for increased excise customs duties on brandy of $8.54 per litre alcohol and an additional 121A per cent duty on imports which were subject to tariff quota. On 5 February this year the Government announced that import quota entitlements for brandy would be allocated for a further six months, with effect from 22 February 1979, on the same basis as at present. Today is therefore an appropriate day for the honourable senator to ask his question. My understanding is that the industry is seeking some differential excise customs duty in favour of brandy and the Department of Primary Industry is currently examining the likely loss to revenue should the Government accede to such a request. The whole matter of assistance to the industry will be reviewed by the Government when the IAC report becomes available.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I refer to the answer of the Minister for Defence in regard to radioactive waste materials in South Australia, in which he stated:
The only locations containing radioactive waste materials in South Australia for which the Commonwealth has responsibility are Maralinga and Emu Field, both hundreds of kilometres from Adelaide and far from any permanent habitation. Access to both sites is controlled.
I ask the Minister: What are the actual controls on access in relation to each site? Can the Minister give an assurance that no transients, including Aboriginals, enter the sites?
-Whilst I am informed that all appropriate security measures are being taken, I think it is appropriate for me to refer the question to the Minister for Defence and to get more details.
– Following on Senator Young’s question of the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, I ask the Minister: As the Australian Transport Advisory Council is meeting tomorrow to discuss vehicle exhaust emission controls, will the Government point out at that meeting that fuel is now a scarce and expensive commodity and the introduction of stage 3 of the emission controls will further increase fuel wastage in this country, at a direct cost to the community of many hundreds of millions of dollars a year and, equally importantly, with deleterious effects on our balance of payments at a time when the state of our balance of payments is critical?
– I will refer the question to the Minister for National Development in the light of the reply on this matter which he has already provided to Senator Young. It might be, however, that the appropriate Minister in relation to the particular meeting to which Senator MacGibbon referred would be the Minister for Transport. So I will refer his question also to the Minister for Transport. I think the honourable senator can be assured that the Government is very well aware of the problems which he has raised in his question and which Senator Young raised in his question. The Government is conscious of the need to emphasise at all times the problems we face in relation to the oil crisis.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. Is it a fact that the Supervising Scientist appointed by the Government to supervise the mining of uranium in the Northern Territory is to live in Canberra? If this is a fact, does the Minister not agree that it is most inappropriate? Will he take steps to see that the Supervising Scientist is located in the Northern Territory, preferably in what the Government calls the uranium province, in order to enable him to carry out his duties effectively?
– I will refer that question to the appropriate Minister. I am not really sure whether the Minister for Trade and Resources is responsible for the Supervising Scientist. I will investigate the matter and refer the question to the appropriate Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In view of the present high level of youth unemployment, is the Minister aware of any evidence that highlights the apparent preference of employers for young and middle-aged women over school leavers, especially male school leavers?
– Both in my capacity as Minister for Education, where the question of school leavers and youth unemployment is uppermost in my mind daily, and in my representative capacity, I do have some information on the matter which I think ought to be given to the Senate. It is, of course, clear to all of us that the level of youth unemployment is unacceptably high. It is equally true that we have to seek explanations for the sudden and startling increase in youth unemployment during the 1970s in order to understand it.
I remind Senator Teague that, according to the Bureau of Statistics, in 1971 only 3.7 per cent of people between the ages of 15 and 19 were unemployed. By 1973 this figure had risen to 4.7 per cent; by 1974, to 5.8 per cent; by 1975, to 12.9 per cent, and it is still rising with the impetus. At the same time, the rates of participation in the labour force of women aged 25 to 44 rose very sharply. Between 1971 and 1978 the percentage of” women aged 25 to 34 who were in the work force rose from 41.9 per cent to 5 1 per cent. For women aged 35 to 44, the participation rate rose from 48.9 per cent to 56.7 per cent in the same period. These are very sharp rises in only eight years. During the same period the participation rate of men aged 25 to 44 fell slightly.
In response to Senator Teague ‘s question, I point out that we have a situation in which young and middle-aged women, particularly those aged 25 to 44, have in considerable numbers chosen to enter the work force or to remain in the work force longer. This exercise by women of their freedom of choice, which I freely acknowledge, has had the effect of limiting further the opportunities and choices available to school leavers and people under 20 years of age. Other factors have encouraged employers to take up middle-aged women in greater numbers. These factors include the comparatively high level of junior wages and costs associated with apprenticeship, as well as a perception in the community that the basic skills of school leavers, especially basic literacy and numeracy, may be in some ways inadequate for the future.
In the eyes of employers, married women in particular appear to be more stable and mature employees and to stay longer in their chosen jobs. I simply add that it is a profound and complex situation. I think these figures help to interpret a problem. We are getting a form of displacement and it may be semi-permanent in that regard, so what we must do in Australia is, in fact, create more jobs. The work force has increased in size over time. The answer to unemployment today is to expand our capacity to employ beyond the capacity of past full employment times.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is the former Governor-General of Australia, Mr John Kerr, provided with a free telephone service between his now country of residence, England, and Australia? If the answer is yes, will the Minister provide the Senate with the cost to the Australian taxpayers of the telephone calls made to Australia by Mr Kerr during the writing and compilation of his book Matters for Judgment! If the cost of these particular calls cannot be separated will the Minister inform the Senate of the total cost of all telephone calls to Australia by Mr Kerr since he took up residence in England?
– I ask the honourable senator to place the question on notice.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. As it has been reported that the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation has a current underwriting liability in Iran in the order of $2 5 m, will the Minister advise whether the Corporation has yet prepared a preliminary estimate of likely losses? If not, when will such an estimate be made available?
– I shall refer that question to the Minister for Trade and Resources, who is responsible for the Corporation.
-Yesterday, Senator McLaren raised a question relating to financing first advance payments for wheat. I have an answer for him, and it is as follows: On 1 December 1978 the Minister for Primary Industry announced that wheat growers would receive a first advance payment of $75 per tonne for deliveries to the Australian Wheat Board from the 1978-79 season’s harvest. The Minister said that arrangements had been made for funds required to pay the first advance to be lent by the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank to the Wheat Board under the security of a Commonwealth guarantee. It was forecast at the time that deliveries of wheat to the Board would be 13 million tonnes. The forecast now is that deliveries could be in excess of 1 7 million tonnes.
This situation has been brought about by the unusual, moist temperate conditions during October/ November resulting in ideal growing conditions which led to phenomenal yields in late planted crops. As a result growers are benefiting significantly from increased cash flows resulting from the higher yielding crops. This would be helpful especially to those growers whose cash flow may have been affected by changed delivery arrangements for wheat from the 1978-79 harvest. However the wheat industry’s funding arrangements are characterised by first payments over a shorter period than those of other industries whose financial requirements are spread over the whole year. The nature of the harvest means that the bulk of deliveries of wheat come forward during a three-month period.
The effect of the unprecedented level of deliveries to the Wheat Board will be the injection of an unexpectedly large amount of money into the rural economy through the first advance payments. Of course, the Government continues to place emphasis on the control of the monetary aggregates as a key element of its general economic policy and would therefore naturally be reviewing developments closely.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Decentralisation Advisory Board for the period 12 December 1977 to 30 June 1978.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 9 of the Coal Research Assistance Act 1977 I present the annual report on the operation of this Act for the year ended 30 June 1 978.
– Pursuant to section 49 of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation Act 1977 I present the report of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation for the period 1 December 1977 to 30 June 1978.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a statistical review of livestock and meat industries compiled by the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1978.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the resolutions of the eighth meeting of the Australian Fisheries Council held in Canberra on 10 November 1978.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator KILGARIFF (Northern Territory)In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969,I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Workshop, amenities building and services, Garden Island Dockyard, New South Wales.
– With the indulgence of the Senate and before I seek leave to make a statement, the Senate will recall that Senator Knight asked me a question about handicapped people. I wonder whether I could have the indulgence of the Senate to have the answer, which is three pages in length, incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Employment of the Handicapped in the Australian Public Service
A member of the staffof the Regional Director’s Office of the Public Service Board in each State or Territory has been nominated as Special Placement Officer (SPO). The SPO is responsible for the recruitment and placement of members of disadvantaged groups, including handicapped people, in the Australian Public Service. Where an aptitude test is part of the selection procedure for a job, the SPO arranges special testing of handicapped applicants if this is necessary. Tests have been prepared in braille for the blind, some audio tests have been prepared and tests in large print are available for the partially blind. Time limits can be extended for those whose physical handicap affects their writing speed. The Public Service Board is reviewing selection techniques and methods and considering further changes that may be required to ensure that handicapped applicants are assessed in a fair and equitable manner.
Medical standards for permanent appointment to the service have been modified to facilitate the employment of persons who may be handicapped but are capable of satisfactorily performing the duties of particular work areas.
The Board has also collaborated with other Departments in preparing a new code of practices for office accommodation. It is now required that all new buildings built for the Commonwealth provide access and amenities for the disabled. Buildings currently owned or leased by the Commonwealth are to be progressively adapted as funds permit.
To meet the particular training needs of handicapped staff, special induction courses have been run for the deaf, the induction booklet ‘Your Career Service’ has been transcribed into braille and the equal employment opportunity newsletter Aequa has been recorded onto cassettes. The Board is compiling a list of speakers specialising in work for the handicapped and a list of audio-visual material suitable for use in training sessions for special placement officers, personnel officers, supervisors and co-workers of the handicapped.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Bureau of the Public Service Board is responsible for formulating, implementing and monitoring programs and policies for handicapped people employed and seeking employment in the Australian Public Service. An interdepartmental steering group on handicapped employment was formed in January 1979 to improve employment and training opportunities for handicapped people in the Australian Public Service. This group consists of Second Division Officers from the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs, Social Security and is chaired by the Assistant Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Bureau in the Public Service Board. The first meeting of this group was held on Tuesday, 6 February 1979, and discussed use of uniform disability code, preemployment schemes, alternative methods of assessment and selection, training and personnel development needs of the handicapped and their supervisors and a timetable for the implementation of a strategy to improve training and employment opportunities for handicapped people in the service. The next meeting of this group will be on 6 March 1979.
– by leave- Mr President, I am making this statement on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Significant changes have occurred in the world in recent months. The United States and China have established full diplomatic relations. This is a welcome move that will assist the United States to pursue a more fully developed policy in Asia. United States policy has in the past been inhibited by a lack of formal recognition. Now that this hurdle has been overcome the possibilities for more constructive and forward looking relationships in Asia and the Pacific have been expanded.
However, events in Indo-China, Iran, Afghanistan, and many parts of Africa demonstrate the volatility of the present international situation. These new areas of tension contain the potential for wider conflicts, and the possibility of the direct involvement of the great powers. The Government has for some time identified the position in Indo-China as deteriorating and potentially dangerous. There is no satisfaction in knowing that events have proved us right.
Prior to the fighting between Vietnam and China we made known our concern to a number of governments about the dangers inherent in the situation. In the discussions between the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and President Carter in January and Prime Minister Desai later that month, they spoke about the situation in Indo-China and about the need to exercise an influence in reducing the tensions there.
Subsequently, the Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) and the Prime Minister conveyed their concern to heads of both aligned and nonaligned nations in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and the Pacific. They sought then, and still seek, to contribute to restraining the actions of the protagonists, and to relieve tension in the area.
Although China has indicated that it will act with prudence, there must be no underestimation of the serious danger posed to our region and the world by the present conflict between China and Vietnam.
Australia has a vital interest in China and Vietnam swiftly and peacefully settling their differences. We call on Vietnam to withdraw its forces from Kampuchea, and on China to withdraw its forces from Vietnam. We have already asked the USSR to use its special relationship with Vietnam to bring about a cease-fire and withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from Kampuchea. Pol Pot’s regime horrified the world. Vietnam’s invasion of Kampuchea cannot be condoned. The Australian Government cannot accept the use of force for the settlement of disputes, whatever their cause. No-one can be certain of the course that the conflict in Indo-China will take. It is our earnest hope, however, that every opportunity will be taken to halt the fighting and settle the matter peacefully.
The disturbances in Iran, the instability in the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan, also have important implications for Australia. Iran, a country of major international significance because of its energy resources and geopolitical position, has undergone a violent upheaval. A new government has now been installed. Western governments have made clear their wish for continued good relations with Iran and their hope that after a period of great difficulty and uncertainty for the Iranian people and the region, stability and security will now return. We cannot be sure whether this will be so. This changing political and strategic situation affects a number of important Western and regional interests. Supplies of energy are involved, as are our lines of communication with major oil producing regions, and trade routes could be affected.
In addition to these new sources of concern, other long-standing international difficulties remain unresolved. At the last Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, it was hoped that Zimbabwe would be seated as a newly independent nation at the next Commonwealth meeting. We would have warmly welcomed that, but now we know it will not occur. We still hope that there will be a peaceful transition to majority rule in Zimbabwe, but the longer this is delayed the more difficult it will be.
In South Africa, tensions continue. In Namibia, the transition to independence on a peaceful basis depends very much on the supervision of that country’s elections for its first government by a generally acceptable international force. As I announced, my Government has decided that it will make a contribution to the United Nations peacekeeping force for Namibia. Southern Africa is a region of considerable strategic importance to Australia- indeed to the entire free world. We ought to do what we reasonably can to promote conditions there which will bring about stability and security. The Western initiative on Namibia offers the opportunity for this. A successful conclusion to the problem of Namibia should give renewed hope that other African problems can be resolved by reasonable means.
The changes in the world have led the Government to call as a matter of urgency for a full assessment of how recent events affect Australia’s strategic situation. It is important to obtain such an assessment if we are to ensure that our defence forces are adequate to cope with the problems ahead. The assessment will provide the basis for the Government’s decisions on the type and capacity of Australia’s defence force. It is imperative that Australia assess the consequences of the changes in the world situation for itself and its Western and regional partners.
In view of recent events and in anticipation of the outcome of the strategic review, the Government has already taken decisions involving a greater rate of defence expenditure than in the last Budget. In the past three years greater emphasis has been given to the purchases of new defence equipment. Over this period orders have been placed for a number of major items of defence equipment, including three guided missile frigates- the FFG ‘s- which are to enter service progressively from 1981; construction in Australia of the 6,000-tonne amphibious heavylift ship, HMAS Tobruk; construction in Australia of 14 patrol boats; 12 C130H Hercules medium transport aircraft, which have already entered service; modification of four FI 1 1C aircraft to provide a reconnaissance capability; two P3C long range maritime patrol aircraft; 1,200 additional light general service trucks to improve mobility.
Estimated defence expenditure on capital equipment for the armed Services this financial year is 12.9 percent of total defence outlays, compared with expenditure of 4.8 percent in 1975. Current planning is for increased expenditure on capital equipment items to enhance the capability and effectiveness of the defence forces. While this has placed some pressure on some areas of the defence infrastructure, the proposed acquisitions will enhance the operational effectiveness of the defence forces.
In the kind of world we are living in it is all the more important for nations of good will, which have learnt the art of compromise through their own democratic processes, which are committed to consensus and reconciliation rather than confrontation, to carry those principles into international affairs. We share this commitment to moderation with India, which speaks for moderation as a founder and leader of the nonaligned movement. By speaking for moderation from our aligned and non-aligned positions the cause of peace and co-operation will be strengthened. Prime Minister Desai and the Prime Minister agreed during his visit to India that further developing the relations between our two countries and working together more closely will help in creating an atmosphere conducive to co-operation rather than confrontation among nations. If we are to have a passion in international affairs, let that passion be for moderation. I have only sketched in outline the disturbing changes which have taken place and the danger they hold. Early in the session, the Foreign Minister will be making a major statement which will deal at some length with the international situation and the Government’s actions. The statement will provide the House with a full opportunity for debate.
Against the sombre background in international affairs, I now want to turn to the situation here in Australia. The Government has over the past three years pursued relentlessly a policy aimed at restoring Australia to a position of economic strength. Such strength is important if we are to play an effective role in our region and in world councils; if we are to meet Australia’s aspirations; if we are to have the resources to provide effective aid to those in need, and enhance the well-being of all Australians. A strong and prosperous Australian economy is vital if we are to achieve the goals we all share. There is a growing and justifiable mood of optimism about Australia’s economic prospects. After three years of firm and steady economic management inflation has been reduced, employment is showing the first signs of recovery, the money supply has been brought under control, Commonwealth Government spending has been curbed, interest rates have been lowered and business and consumer confidence is stronger.
I believe that 1979 is the year in which the fruits of our policies will become clearly apparent, a year in which the economy will take a further step on the road to recovery. However, despite our success in reducing inflation, it must come down further. And although there are now signs that employment trends are changing for the better the level of unemployment remains a matter of the gravest concern to this Government, in particular the level of unemployment among our young people. But there is no easy way out, no simple solution to the problems of unemployment. By strengthening the foundations of our economy, this Government is taking the most realistic, effective and concerned approach towards providing more jobs for Australians.
There are increasing grounds for optimism. The signs of economic progress can be seen in many areas. Official forecasts indicate that the growth in gross domestic product in 1978-79 will be greater than for some years. Production strengthened in the December quarter and business surveys predict that this will continue in 1979. Consumer demand is encouraging, with the high level of retail sales in December reflecting a mood of growing confidence.
Private investment is growing strongly. Investment in plant and machinery is much above last year’s. Private non-dwelling investment grew by almost six percent in real terms in the year ending with the September quarter 1978, the latest period for which final figures are available. The outlook for housing is showing signs of improvement. Private dwelling approvals were up by almost 13 percent in the December quarter, and for several months the rate of lending for housing has been high.
The year 1978-79 will be a year of much improved prosperity for the rural sector. The gross value of wheat production for the current wheat crop is $ 1,900m, compared with $925m for the 1977-78 crop. With the wheat crop almost completely harvested, Australian Wheat Board receivals should exceed 1 7 million tonnes. This is over 20 per cent more than the previous record set in 1968-69, and double last year’s figure. For beef, world prices have increased strongly over the past year and are expected to remain at high levels. Beef exports to our major markets are expected to rise in 1979. This is a welcome relief for the industry, which has been through some disastrous years because of drought and low prices and, despite the recent upturn, beef auction prices have not increased as much as the consumer price index. For the wool industry, the Bureau of” Agricultural Economics forecasts a 9 per cent rise in sale proceeds for 1978-79. The Bureau also expects that the returns from grain crops will increase greatly, and that the value of sheep and lamb slaughterings will rise by 18 per cent. Overall, farm incomes are expected to increase by at least 80 per cent on their 1977-78 levels, but this is admittedly from a low base. These higher incomes will allow many farmers to repay debts, update their capital equipment and make farm improvements which have been impossible in the lean years. All Australians will benefit from the rural sector’s increased demand for goods and services.
During the last election campaign the Prime Minister said that Australia was ready to go with $6,000m worth of investment. Since then, as the latest Bureau of Statistics surveys indicate, an estimated $3.4 billion was spent on investment in mining and manufacturing in 1978, 33 per cent up on the previous year. In addition to that, the latest survey of industry and commerce shows that right now investment projects around Australia worth $7.5 billion are either ready to go or in their final feasibility stages. To aid investment, we have approved $1.8 billion of infrastructure financing for projects selected by the States. The projects which the infrastructure is intended to support will involve many times this amount. For example, the projects associated with the $75m infrastructure financing of the
Hay Point coal loader will total $620m and infrastructure financing of $41m will assist the $700m Worsley alumina project. Arrangement of finance for a number of these proposals is already at an advanced stage. We would expect New South Wales to be in a position to make an announcement about the Eraring electricity project financing quite soon. Arrangement of finance from overseas sources for the next stage of the massive Loy Yang electricity project in Victoria, a project in which substantial progress has already been made, is also at an advanced stage. Considerable progress has been made in securing overseas financing for a number of other projects which were approved. The States’ willingness to support these projects demonstrates the confidence that State governments, regardless of their political complexion, have in Australia’s economic future under this Government’s policies.
There is a resurgence of investment in large scale resource development projects. New capital investment in mining was 75 per cent higher in the year to September, and the latest Australian Mining Industry Council survey showed that larger mining companies expect to increase their investment by a further 32 per cent in 1979. Compare this with the stifling of development between 1972 and 1975. By contrast, as at December 1978 the estimated capital cost of mineral projects firmly committed or in the final feasibility stage was $4,000m. This figure does not include the North West Shelf which is now being proved up in a $50m feasibility study. It does include the following recently announced projects: the Gladstone aluminium smelter$500m; the Alcoa alumina project- $200m; the Ranger uranium project- $300m. I should also add that, quite apart from this total of $4,000m, the Premier of New South Wales has said that Alumax will go ahead with a $500m aluminium smelter at Newcastle.
The ever-growing list of exciting new projects shows how investors respond to stable, responsible economic management and a government which faces up to economic realities. The oil industry’s response to our policies is a prime example of the success of our approach. Our measures encourage the search for oil and, equally importantly, encourage the efficient development and use of our existing reserves. Impetus has been given to the oil industry by our crude-oil pricing policies and taxation and investment incentives. As a result, Australia’s oil reserves have been upgraded by some 600 to 700 million barrels, approximately a further threeyear supply at current consumption levels. The acceleration of oil exploration activity will continue in 1979. Industry estimates that between 83 and 143 exploration wells could be drilled this year. Achievement of even the lower end would be the best result for seven years. Esso Australia Ltd and Broken Hill Proprietary Co Ltd alone are committed to investing over $ 1 billion in exploration and development over the next five years. Overall, by 1985, it is estimated that about 30 per cent of Australia’s crude oil production will be derived from oil fields which have become viable as a consequence of our oil and gas policies. This revival of exploration activity is of vital importance if we are to maintain a satisfactory level of self-sufficiency in oil into the 1980s and beyond. Political disturbances in Iran are not expected to affect significantly the availability of petroleum products in Australia over the first half of 1979. The outlook beyond then is uncertain, a fact which reminds us of the added security that accompanies a high level of selfsufficiency and the necessity for this Government’s oil policies.
The renewed confidence in Australia as a sound place to invest is not only limited to investment in our resources. In recent weeks major new investments in other areas have been announced. ICI Australia Ltd has announced that it will construct a $500m petrochemical complex in Victoria and a $400m ethylene plant at Botany Bay. General Motors Holden ‘s Ltd is planning a new $2 10m engine complex based in Victoria, and its proposal is being examined at the present time. Australian Newsprint Mills Ltd has announced that it will construct a $160m newsprint plant at Albury-Wodonga. Manufacturing industry is participating in the revival of economic activity in Australia. Because of the renewed confidence in manufacturing industry, we have seen the first tentative signs of growth in manufacturing employment in five years. The reduction in inflation arising from our economic policies has dramatically improved the competitiveness of Australian firms. Australia is more competitive than at any time in the last seven years. In the December quarter, manufactured exports were 29 per cent higher than for the previous December quarter. In Australia, order books are filling up. BHP’s recent profit announcement reflects in part a much better performance in its steel sales within Australia. Our manufacturers are showing an increasing ability to compete against imports.
Australia’s external position is improving. The reduction of inflation arising from our firm economic policies has dramatically improved
Australia’s international competitiveness. Contracts are being written for products, and in markets that would have seemed beyond reach only a few years ago. Total exports were 17 per cent higher in the three months ended January 1979 than in the previous three months, while the growth in imports was only 7 per cent. The improvement in our exports has been reflected in a strengthening in the trade account. Australia still faces difficulties with the European Economic Community and there is a continuing need to negotiate for better access, but we do have better and more secure access to Japan. Our markets in Korea are growing. This year we have achieved the best access ever to the United States for our meat exports, and we are approaching the end of the bilateral negotiations for long term access to the American market. We are diversifying our markets. Australians are penetrating the new and important markets emerging in China, South East Asia and the Middle East. Australian exporters are being encouraged by a package of Government measures, but ultimately it is the containment of inflation that provides the best stimulus for exporters, the best incentive to take advantage of the market access which has been won.
The many signs of economic progress will encourage all Australians. But I emphasise that much remains to be done. We must consolidate the gains that have been won. In so doing there is no room for taking easy options, for relenting in the pursuit of policies which, however difficult they may be in the short run, are in the end the only policies that can keep us on the road to full prosperity and higher employment. In particular we must defeat inflation. The trend on this front can be clearly seen. In 1978 inflation was down to 7.8 per cent, compared with 9.3 per cent in the previous year. By comparison, the CPI reached 17.5 per cent over the year to March 1975. The result for 1978 would have been better but for two factors: The Government’s necessary and farsighted move to establish world parity prices for oil; and the increases in food, particularly beef prices, which are reviving large sectors of a rural industry that has been depressed for many years. Given these two factors, the fall in inflation from 9.3 per cent in 1977 to 7.8 per cent in 1978 is a significant success. The Government’s success in winding back inflation has been a precondition for the substantial progress in reducing interest rates. Long term bond rates have fallen by about 1.4 per cent since interest rate reductions began some 18 months ago. In 1978 housing rates fell by one per cent. This is a most significant progress, especially since while our interest rates fell over 1978 United States interest rates were rising by up to 4 per cent, those in the United Kingdom by up to 5 per cent. This progress reflects the strengthening confidence in Australia’s economic policies and in the Australian dollar.
Over the last two or three months we have seen some encouraging signs of increasing employment. These are tentative early signs but they all point in the same direction. Civilian employment has risen in each of the five months to November 1978, the first time this has occurred for five years. In October and November 1978 employment in manufacturing increased- the largest increase over these two months for five years. Overtime has risen each month for the last seven months to the highest level since 1974. Similarly, the trend for new vacancies notified to the Commonwealth Employment Service shows a more heartening picture. These encouraging signs reflect the results of our policies and the increasing competitiveness of Australian industry. It is one of the anomalies in the current situation that despite the level of unemployment many employers maintain they cannot get enough labour. In this situation the Government has adopted wide-ranging policies to help the unemployed and particularly the young unemployed, who are sometimes unable to take advantage of job opportunities when they are available.
More than 400,000 people have been helped by such Government programs over the past three years and we are reviewing training, retraining and relocation schemes to ensure that they are as efficient and effective as possible. To build on the emerging signs of improvement on the employment front, we must continue to bear down on inflation and there must be wage restraint. The Government remains concerned about the magnitude of wage increases granted by the Arbitration Commission but we believe the move to six-monthly national wage hearings is an important step in the right direction. We welcome statements such as that made by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions: The trade union movement has ‘a responsibility in respect of those who are not in the workforce’. This recognition holds out real prospects of constructive co-operation between Government, trade unions and industry which is fundamental to a real and lasting increase in employment opportunities. It is also necessary for manufacturers to be restrained in the prices that they establish. As production improves, manufacturers will have higher throughput and lower unit costs and an opportunity to contain price rises.
It should be noted that the Prices Justification Tribunal has the capacity to enquire into and keep under surveillance prices in specific areas and the Act still provides that companies can be required to notify price rises for 12 months following a public inquiry by the PJT.
I have pointed to a number of areas where the economy is moving ahead. Whilst we must treat these signs with caution, the optimism in our industries, the resurgence of investment and development in mining and manufacturing, the revitalised position of our rural industries, some rising commodity prices, the signs of new trends in employment and the balance of trade, give Australia firm grounds for confidence.
After three years of steady policies directed at overcoming inflation and rebuilding the economy, the signs of progress are clear. Australia is on the right course; we will stay on that course. I move:
– The statement that has been made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is obviously a lengthy one and it is in two parts. Firstly it deals with the international position, and secondly, with the domestic position in Australia. I shall deal with them also in that order.
The events of the past few days are a clear demonstration of how tenuous is the world security. Not since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 has the world felt closer to the ultimate disaster involving major powers. Since the end of last year events in Indo-China have escalated rapidly and there is no sign of any immediate relief. There is no doubt that the world is facing a major crisis. On Monday last I called for a proper statement to the Parliament on the position in Indo-China. In lieu of a statement, the Prime Minister today puts down a statement which is full of generalities and fails to deal with any of the major issues in any depth at all. It is merely a Cook’s tour of the world ‘s trouble spots which adds nothing to our state of knowledge nor to our understanding of Government thinking.
It is idle to believe that crises will be avoided merely by the protestations of good intentions by the nations of the world. Chances are that major crises will continue to occur from time to time. It is a tragedy that differences between nations do exist and that many of them become the catalysts for major confrontation. Because of shifting alliances and attitudes it is impossible to make a fixed delineation of world power groups. For this reason it is important that nations not directly involved in conflicts do all they can in an attempt to diffuse hostility. In the past there have been many examples which demonstrate just how unprofitable it is to take sides in a conflict where there are rights and wrongs on both sides. The present situation in Indo-China is a striking example. It is also an example of how threatened nations often perceive that tough responses are the only options open to them. It is the role of other nations to dissuade them from taking the hard line options by demonstrating that there are other ways of resolving the conflict. In the current situation between the Soviet Union and China, both countries have spoken about punishing another nation. A month ago China said it would punish Vietnam. Press reports today indicate that Russia intends to punish China. These statements are irresponsible and establish a principle which is fundamentally bad. The world cannot tolerate individual nations taking action on the basis of punishing other nations.
Unfortunately for this country, the present Prime Minister does not appear to have learned the lessons of history. Since his speech in June 1976, it has been clear that the Prime Minister intends to adopt partisan views. On this occasion he is apparently on the side of China and is opposed to the Soviet Union. He appears not to remember the attitudes that he expressed so very clearly during the middle sixties. He fails to appreciate how foolish it was to vilify another nation the way he did to China at that time.
It is interesting to read in this speech today his call for a passion for moderation. I am sorry it has taken him so long to learn the need for moderation in all these matters. For example, on 2 1 October 1964 he constructed a scenario of the Chinese sending a merchant ship with a nuclear weapon in it into some foreign harbour, then blackmailing that country with Chinese nuclear power. That was hardly a moderate statement.
On 6 May 1965 he said that China has not learned that the West is prepared to use force to protect its vital interests and if she wins in South Vietnam she will never accept the possibility of some kind of co-existence between her Communist regime and the West. Again, on 17 March 1966 he said that once the war in Vietnam was over Chinese attention would be turned to Thailand, already the subject of infiltration by Chinese-instigated and Chinese people.
Inflammatory and abusive remarks of this nature were typical of the insults that were directed against China at that time not only by the present Australian Prime Minister but also by many of his colleagues. Statements such as these helped to persuade the Chinese government of the day that its enemies were everywhere. We can only hope that Mr Fraser has learned that if he wants this Government to be a conciliatory force in world affairs statements of that nature directed against any government at any time not only diminish our impact on events but also demean us as a nation.
In the light of the information contained in the Prime Minister’s statement and the fact that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) will be making a major statement shortly, I will not attempt to deal with the other international issues raised by that statement. However, I must note that Australia’s response to the situation in which we find ourselves does not appear to be a coherent one. For example, the Government has called for a full assessment of the effect of recent events on Australia’s strategic position. We will await that assessment with interest. However, it is worth noting that such assessments should be available to the Government on a continuing basis.
Decisions on defence taken by this Government over the past three years very often have been difficult to follow. For reasons that were not clear at the time the Government decided to drum up the defence debate and trumpeted its new five-year plan to upgrade the defence forces. That plan was never implemented. Indeed, we had the humiliating spectacle of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) having to come into the Parliament and back down on most of the Government’s commitments. The Prime Minister’s statement refers to certain defence procurement. There is no reference to the fact that our Leopard tanks are in mothballs, that no decision has been made on a replacement for the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne and that there is considerable uncertainty about the future of the tactical fighter force. The statement referred to the three guided missile frigates being purchased from the United States, but it did not point out that the Government has had no information about the cost of those frigates since mid- 1977, it did not point out that those frigates are going to be used for purposes for which they were not even designed, it . did not point out that the Government still has not settled on the equipment to be installed on those frigates and it did not point out that the three frigates fully fitted may cost close to $ 1 ,000m because of cost escalations turning the frigates into floating FI 1 ls.
I now make some comments concerning the second part of the statement of the Leader of the Government in the Senate on behalf of the Prime Minister. The essential part of it lies in the second paragraph in which, referring to the state of the economy and signs of recovery, he said:
We must treat these signs with caution.
This is not the first time that a senior Government Minister has predicted imminent, although uneven, recovery. I recall the statement which Senator Cotton made in this chamber nearly three years ago- on 18 August 1976- when he said:
Economic recovery is beginning throughout the Australian scene. It is beginning as would be expected, that is, in an uneven form.
He had previously stated:
There is now a strong recovery in new investment in plant and equipment.
He made the following prediction:
Living standards will improve. The equipment position will improve very greatly.
He was even audacious enough at that time to claim that, whilst it would not improve greatly during 1976, the employment position would improve substantially during 1977. Prior to the 1977 election Mr Anthony and subsequently the Prime Minister made great play of the alleged $6,000m worth of investments which were about to be made. The Prime Minister has again referred to this figure and claims that an estimated $3.4 billion was spent on investment, mining and manufacturing in 1978, an alleged 33 per cent increase on the expenditure for the previous year.
The Opposition has no wish to talk down or belie any signs of recovery but it does not wish to see a repeat performance on a national level of the sort of statements that were engaged in 2Vi years ago by Senator Cotton, and of giving people false hopes about what might happen. There was a substantial increase in the amount of capital investment, particularly in the mining industry, for a number of reasons. The first was that a number of projects had been commenced when the previous Government was in office and the investment was part of an on-going program. That is of no great credit to the previous Government or to this Government. This applied particularly to coal developments in both New South Wales and Queensland and the iron ore development in the north-west of Western Australia. The Prime Minister has failed to indicate that much of the expenditure went overseas and the equipment was purchased from northern hemisphere suppliers, so there was no multiplier effect on the Australian economy. In fact, it was to the contrary. Funds flowed out for the purchase of capital equipment and placed an immediate drain on our balance of payments.
The Prime Minister is also blurring the picture when he talks about the strengthening confidence in Australia’s economic policies and in the Australian dollar. If he looks at the figures prepared by the Reserve Bank he will see that the trade-weighted value of the Australian dollar has fallen from 105.3 points in the last year of the previous Government to 83.2 points at the end of 1978. This means a decline of over 20 per cent. It is the fundamental reason why the export position is now looking better than it was a year ago. The Australian export industries have benefited from the decline in the value of the United States dollar because of its pre-eminence in the index system used for adjusting the value of the Australian dollar. What the Prime Minister has failed to say is that the Australian export industries are benefiting from the problems of the United States economy and the outlook in that direction is not at all hopeful. We have to be realistic and as the Prime Minister is now starting to recognise, Australia cannot insulate itself from overseas influences, particularly those of the United States. We are in a very difficult and delicate position because the Government has made short term overseas borrowings of nearly $3, 000m compared with borrowings of about $400m under the previous Government. The Australian dollar has been devalued by over 20 per cent since Labor lost office and unless there is a substantial structural improvement in the Australian economy we will be faced with either further devaluation of the dollar or more overseas borrowings. Those prospects have attached to them obligations which might well rebound and kill any signs of recovery.
I shall now make just a few comments about the United States. No matter what policies this Government adopts, the prospect for improved exports lies ultimately with the policy of the United States to sustain powerful economic recovery. There are some interesting figures and comments in an article in the Economist of 27 January of this year which states:
America ‘s economic slow-down or slump is coming later than President Jimmy Carter expected- and may therefore be severe.
The article goes on to say:
On even the administration’s own fortune-telling, the outlook is not good. Real GNP is expected to increase, yearoveryear, by 3.3 per cent in 1979 and by only 2.5 per cent in 1980.
It then goes on to point out that business investment has slumped, that productivity has declined and that because of the impact of international oil prices the US will be struggling to get inflation down to below 10 per cent. In these circumstances, interest rates within the US and possibly the United Kingdom and other European countries will remain above the 10 per cent level. With our interest rates on a margin below that, there is little or no inducement for overseas funds to flow into this country, certainly not for loan purposes. This is the conflict into which this Government is locked. If it wishes to attract those funds which it sees as so much a part of the Australian economy it will have to allow interest rates to rise. As this morning’s newspapers have stated, the $200m call-up of statutory reserve deposits by the Reserve Bank is a signal that Australia ‘s interest rates are on the way up.
If the Government did not believe that that was to be the case it should have looked at the figures for the short-term money market at the end of last year because over the range of maximum and minimum rates the trend was certainly upward. If the Government is to be honest and the Prime Minister’s statement is to be assessed impartially, but critically, there is no way -
– Order! I regret interrupting you, Senator Wriedt, but two hours having elapsed since the time fixed for the meeting of the Senate, pursuant to Standing Order 127 the Senate should now proceed to the business of the day.
Motion (by Senator Carrick)- by leaveagreed to:
That Standing Order 127 be suspended for the period of this day’s sitting.
-I thank you, Mr President, and I thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) for allowing me to complete my remarks. I was indicating that the Government must be honest and that the Prime Minister’s statement must be assessed impartially, but it must be assessed critically. That means that there is little likelihood that the Government can continue to claim that interest rates will fall. The Prime Minister has tried already to get out of his commitment and there is no doubt from the transcripts which are available that prior to the 1977 election he had claimed that interest rates would fall by 2 per cent at the end of this financial year. They are predictions that a man in his position ought not to make unless he and his advisers have studied very closely not only the money market in this country but also the money market overseas. The
Leader of the Government in this place on a number of occasions has made very similar remarks.
I wish also to look now at the supposed boom in rural industry on which this Government appears to be relying greatly for any recovery. It is amusing to note that in a broadcast on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program Country Hour yesterday to which I listened the Prime Minister used words which were only slightly different, but quite clear in intent, from a phrase which we heard here some years ago implying that the farmers have never had it so good. I am sure that there are many of us here who will recall those words. There is a real belief that rural incomes will be so much better that funds will automatically flow back into other sectors of the economy. There will certainly be some benefits, but first of all it should be pointed out that the Australian Wheat Board particularly has indicated that it is physically possible to ship only 10 million tonnes of the approximately 18 million tonnes harvest this year. It should also be pointed out that of the 10 million tonnes that will be shipped nearly 50 per cent has been sold on credit, thus the Wheat Board will not receive the proceeds until 1980 or 1981. In the meantime it will be faced with repayments to the Reserve Bank’s Rural Credits Fund on or about 1 March 1980.
While the first advance has been paid to growers the Wheat Board may be faced with short term borrowings or seeking a Budget allocation from this Government to repay its loan from the Reserve Bank. It should also be pointed out that much of the first advance will be consumed in rail freights, and payments for services already rendered such as oil, fuel and fertiliser for the reduction of rural debt which is running at a record $3,000m.
We also should not forget that while the volume of rural exports appears to be substantially greater, the decline in the value of the Australian dollar has meant that the total proceeds will be only marginally higher. In addition, this Government has failed to fulfil its commitment to complete an International Grains Arrangement and the International Sugar Agreement is teetering on the edge of failure because the United States has not yet ratified the Agreement. The sugar industry in Queensland is in serious trouble. Mr Fraser has made no mention of these facts and the mood of optimism which he is attempting to exude about the rural sector must be modified accordingly. He also talks about increased industrial production and increased overtime. He does not mention that the increase in production is on an extremely low base. At the end of last year an average of only 75 per cent of Australia’s capacity was being used, thus any increase would appear to be large.
I also note in the statement that Mr Fraser has relied heavily on announcements of new projects to be commenced in the metal processing and chemical production industries. What he fails to say is that many of these projects will not be commenced for two or three years and it would be foolish to expect any flow-on to the economy earlier than 1980 or 1981. In the meantime he has given us no prescription about how he proposes to cope with the increased unemployment benefit payments, the reduction in the payasyouearn collections and the general structural problems which are being created by the highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression of the thirties. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) indicated the other day at the Export Now conference the Opposition supports any measure which will go towards increasing our overall economic growth and provide badly needed jobs.
The introduction to the Prime Minister’s speech in pointing out the uncertainty which now exists must surely be a warning that overseas investment is likely to slow down until the large corporations and companies have an opportunity to see how the world political situation settles down. Perhaps it is pertinent to quote from the respected Economic Journal of Japan of 13 February which says:
Rising prices of market sensitive commodities shall auger an increase in prices in general. Thus, economic watchers, both government and private, are growing cautious about possible inflation ahead.
This is a salutary warning from Australia’s largest customer and we ought to keep clearly in front of us the difficulties that are implicit in that statement. I do wish that the Prime Minister was right about the statements made by Senator Cotton in 1976 and the long list of broken promises since then. I do not need to go through the promises because they are well known to this Parliament and to the people of Australia. They include reduced inflation, drops in interest rates, et cetera. I trust that the statement by the Government, and by the Prime Minister particularly, indicates that this Government is able to capture the signs that do exist. If the Prime Minister’s policies prove to be wrong, the initiatives which the private sector particularly has been called upon to take will be wasted.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) by leave- The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Publications in its report recommended, in particular, that greater priority be attached to the reprinting in pamphlet form of Acts, statutory rules and legislation of the Territories, as amended- recommendation 1 of the report. The Joint Committee raised for consideration whether there was a more practicable method of producing consolidated pamphlet reprints- paragraph 27 of the report- and recommended that bound general reprints, that is, ‘consolidations’, be produced more frequently. That is in recommendations 2-6. The Joint Committee’s recommendations on reprints- recommendations 1-6- will be met by a new continuously updated pamphlet reprint system which is being introduced by my Department. Under the system, complete sets of reprints in pamphlet form of Acts, statutory rules and territory ordinances and regulations will be regularly updated and arranged alphabetically in special binders. For the benefit of honourable senators, I hold up one of the binders.
New principal non-amending legislation will be placed in the binders in alphabetical order, and amending legislation will be placed behind the last reprint or principal legislation until an updated reprint incorporating the amendments is produced. The separate pamphlets will replace the bound general reprints, that is, ‘consolidations’, hitherto published. Bound annual volumes will continue to be published as the permanent historical record of Commonwealth and Territory legislation to supplement the separate pamphlet general reprints. When completed, the separate pamphlet system will contain, in separate sets of substantially-made binders for each body of law, the complete set of all Commonwealth and Territory legislation as currently in force. The pamphlets can also be used separately if required. The pamphlet system of reprinting is now used or proposed to be used in all Australian States, and the United Kingdom is also producing reprints in a similar form. The Law Council of Australia has expressed on behalf of its constituent bodies its view in favour of a separate pamphlet reprinting system.
A general reprint of Australian Capital Territory ordinances and regulations as at 31 December 1977 had reached an advanced stage when the decision to change to a pamphlet reprint system was reached. It is proposed, therefore, to commence the pamphlet reprint system with the production of ACT ordinances and regulations updated to incorporate amendments to the time of reprinting of each separate pamphlet reprint. At the same time, work is to be undertaken on producing pamphlet reprints of Acts and statutory rules. In the first instance, pamphlets will be produced in order of priority of need to make up a basic set. Others will be prepared later to complete the set. It is estimated that it will take about two years to complete a set. Regularly-produced companion tables booklets, with monthly supplements, will show what has been reprinted, dates of reprints and details of amendments. This will meet the Joint Committee’s recommendation eight. The tables booklets for ACT laws and statutory rules are in the course of preparation.
The Joint Committee also recommended, in recommendation seven, that annual volumes be undertaken on a regular basis and be available within one year of the year to which they refer. Now that the backlog of annual volumes of Acts and statutory rules is being overtaken following a concentration of effort in my Department, I am sure that this recommendation can be met. The Joint Committee asked for an investigation of resources, including a task force, to achieve adherence to the Committee’s recommendations 11 and 12. The Public Service Board and my Department conducted an investigation as recommended by the Committee with a view to overtaking arrears and otherwise meeting the Committee ‘s recommendations.
Arrears had built up gradually from a variety of causes over the last few years. In particular, the staff established in Sydney to prepare the 1901 to 1973 general reprint of Acts was relocated to Canberra for more efficient operations, but there were resultant losses of staff and it took time to refill the positions and train new staff. Further arrears occurred owing to the imposition of additional functions on publications staff until new positions were created for the additional functions; but there has always been difficulty in obtaining and retaining suitable persons for publications work, which requires great concentration and attention to detail. Further, there has been an increasing workload of proofreading of draft legislation prepared by the Legislative Drafting Division of my Department and additional proof-reading resulting from the use of the Government Printer’s computerised phototype-setting process for printing of annual volumes of Acts. As recommended by the Joint
Committee in recommendation 10, material for annual volumes of Acts and reprints is produced by this process. The text of legislation, which is printed originally by a hot-metal process, is rekeyed into the computer typesetting process for reproduction in the annual volumes and reprints. As the Committee noted, when the system is fully developed legislation should be able to be more readily produced in its consolidated form by the computerised process. A benefit by-product of this process is that the tape can be used in the legal information retrieval system that is currently being developed by my Department.
The investigating team recommended a relocation of the publication functions within my Department to allow for more effective management, and supported the replacing of bound general reprints by the separate pamphlet reprint system for all Commonwealth and Territory legislation. In accordance with recommendations of the investigating team, the existing staff in my Department now engaged on bound general reprints and on pamphlet reprints will be amalgamated to work on the general pamphlet reprint system. By using existing staff on a continuous separate pamphlet system a task force, as recommended by the Joint Committee in recommendation 12, that would redeploy staff from other parts of the Department should now not be necessary. The investigating team, as recommended by the Joint Committee in recommendation 13, also discussed with the Australian Government Publishing ServiceAGPS the systems relating to the copy prepared for and produced by the Government Printer and their recommendations are being implemented in my Department. A separate report on the Australian Government Publishing Service was presented by the Joint Committee on 24 November 1978.
My Department has arranged with AGPS for it to be advised whenever updated reprints of Acts, statutory rules and Territory legislation are needed in accordance with recommendation 14 of the Joint Committee. Details of printing and the design of binders and methods of stock holding for the new separate pamphlet reprinting system are currently being worked out in consultation with AGPS. Following recommendation 9 of the Joint Committee, the responsibility for publishing Northern Territory laws has been transferred to the Northern Territory Government. In accordance with recommendation 15 of the Joint Committee, my Department will make a further report to the Committee within 12 months of its report in relation to matters within the responsibility of my Department and into which the Committee has said that further inquiry by the Committee is warranted, and on other relevant matters.
I present the following paper:
Report of Joint Parliamentary Committee on Publications into the publication of Commonwealth LegislationMinisterial statement, 22 February 1979.
-Whilst the demise of the system of the preparation periodically of consolidations of Commonwealth legislation might be a matter of mild regret to Senator Missen, it certainly is not a matter of regret to me, nor, I would suggest, to any other legislator or member of the legal profession who has been involved or is involved on a daily basis with seeking access to legislation. I regard the kind of system which is now being introduced, as a result of the Government’s decision, by way of the statement made by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), as a highly desirable system and an infinitely more attractive and accessible one than we have had in the past. The Government is to be congratulated for at last taking this long overdue initiative.
Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.53 to 2.15 p.m.
Reference to Senate Standing Committee on
– I move:
The Australian Democrats have, of course, had considerable feed-back from the Australian public on its disillusionments with parliaments. That is one of the major reasons for the existence of the Australian Democrats in the first place. I would probably say from my own experience and from that of others that the spearhead of this criticism, and the point that has brought the most frequent response from citizens, is an almost universal complaint that there is a lack of response to petitions when they are presented to Australian parliaments. In fact, it is so that petitions to this Parliament are generally received, but no other apparent action is taken. Most petitions have a small number of signatories and the actual number of petitions is very great. Indeed, yesterday more than 20 petitions were presented in the Senate. I noted that the largest petition, other than that on citizen initiative which I presented, was one presented by Senator Baume on the subject of abortion medical benefits, which was signed by 284 petitioners.
Plainly, then, all petitions cannot take up the time of committees and it is not reasonable or rational to suppose that they should. However, I believe it is reasonable that petitions from many thousands of Australians ought to prompt some response beyond merely being received and that is one reason for my motion today, although it is not the primary reason. I think the size of this petition is of interest. It has almost 10,000 signatures and I understand from those responsible for knowing these things that it is the largest petition to be presented to the Senate for some eight years. Moreover, it is only the first part of what we expect to be a much larger petition, for which signatures are continuing to be collected throughout Australia. I think a great many more are yet to come. I understand from Democrats offices throughout Australia that because of fairly widespread and increasing media and public interest in recent days in the subject there is already an accelerated pace in the addition of signatures to those petitions. Certainly there will be many more signatures. I think it certainly very democratic that honourable senators on both sides of the chamber, other than Australian Democrats senators, should present further petitions on this matter, and I confidently predict that that will be the case.
I think that this topic is one which is of great basic and increasing interest in the society and one to which perhaps the Australian community has not given very much thought until recent years. I suggest that the motivation for an interest in citizen initiative has been the publicity associated with such initiative referenda carried out in countries outside Australia, and probably in particular the Proposition 13 referendum result in the State of California two years ago which had the effect of limiting the amount of tax collected; in other words, it brought citizens into direct control over the way in which their money was spent. I know this is a subject which will be regarded as controversial but I would say that basically citizens have a right to decide how much of their money will be collected for the purposes of public administration and how it should be spent. They should responsibly have the power to decide in which directions priority of spending should go at particular times.
We have sought reference of this matter to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs because it is plainly the most appropriate Committee to deal with such a matter. I am well aware that it is a very busy Committee. It is a Committee already well loaded down with references. I do not think this is a reason for us not to suggest that this matter should be put to that Committee. I think that Committee is busy because there is a much greater interest now in constitutional change in Australia than there has been in the past. I suggest that there again this will be an accelerating process and if this Committee thinks it is having a busy time now it may find that it will have an even busier time in the years to come. I wish it well because I think its task is about the most important of any committee of the Senate and probably the most basic because, after all, it is the rules of government and the way government is carried out which fundamentally affects action.
Indeed, if a political system operating in any country does express accurately the will of citizens to the maximum extent- I do not believe that to be the case in this country now- it has a healthy, useful and, on the whole, good influence on the affairs of that nation. I have said before in the Senate and I will say again that it is not enough for any government to feel that citizens can be compelled to a course of action, that they can be compelled to enthusiasm or that they can be compelled to start new industry or to be more energetic or productive. The only way this can come is from the people themselves. To me, this seems to be a fundamental reason for advancing ideas which would provide more democracy in this country rather than less democracy and it would increase- although this is a source of irritation- the numbers of checks and balances on the Executive. It would make the Executive constantly accountable for its actions in every possible way, not only to other members of Parliament but also to large bodies of informed citizens.
I believe that any parliament would benefit from a situation where the legislation it passed was not necessarily passed as its exclusive right and where there was also a right for large numbers of informed citizens to initiate legislation. That is why the Democrats have persisted with this matter and why we will continue to persist with it. We have publicised it, we have sought public contributions and we know that the degree of interest in it is increasing very rapidly. I now make the point that it is just not members of the Democrats who are taking this petition around, but also a number of other organisations in the community. Their members are actively interested and they are taking the petition about and getting signatures not because they support the Democrats but because they support the idea of citizen initiative. To these people and to our own people who are collecting signatures we have said: ‘Please do not let people sign this petition without explaining to them carefully what it is about’. We are hoping that in the 10,000 signatures we have so far to this petition, we have 10,000 persons who understand what the question is, who are in favour of it and who know that full well.
Why is it important that this matter should be referred quite soon to the Committee and, indeed, advanced at least to an investigatory extent? It has been said to me by a number of members and senators from both sides of the Parliament that in some countries the right of citizen initiative has been abused and from time to time matters have been brought forward which, at least from the point of view of a politician, have not been of benefit to that society. I say to those people that one either believes in democracy or one does not. If one does not believe in democracy, why not go across to an executive-type government? Perhaps we could have a dictator straight away, and one would not have to look far to find out who it would be. I suggest that this is a crunch matter of that sort. It is not a situation where one can have a little bit of democracy or more democracy.
If we as senators say that we cannot trust the people of this country, that we cannot trust even 171,000 of them to come forward with an idea that is fairly sensible and rational, and if we cannot trust the remainder of the citizens to pass the referendum responsibly in the normal way, then something is very rotten in the State of Australia and the educational task, at least in politics, has been sadly and lamentably in decay. I suggest this is not a course of action or a course of history which any responsible country which wishes to be prosperous and strong can tolerate. I suggest to honourable senators that these underlying reasons are really why we should go ahead with this sort of idea.
In relation to the criticism of the idea, I was pleased to see that some of the propositions which were put forward last year in California and which looked at first sight to be very much the work of pressure groups, as indeed they were, were thrown out by the electorate. I am referring, among others, to the proposition which dealt with the banning from schools of teachers who are homosexuals. I am not canvassing that issue, but honourable senators will have noted, I trust, that the people of California in their own wisdom and in their own place decided against that proposition. A very large case was also put forward against smoking in public places. Many people would have applauded that idea, but there again the people of California decided on balance that that was not warranted and justifiable. If one looks back over the history of referenda, particularly in Switzerland, whilst one sees communities becoming educated to their proper use- of course, this is a process that has to be begun before it can continue- one also sees that much of the legislation that has come forward as a matter of initiative has been responsible, useful and in many cases such that no government could have introduced it without considerable opprobrium. Compulsory military training in Switzerland was introduced as the result of a referendum, as indeed most major matters are decided in that country not only at the national level but also at the level of the cantons.
I do not intend to go on indefinitely on this matter. I think that I have made the points I wish to make. I would only finally commend this matter to the Senate in the sense and spirit in which the Australian Democrats put it forward. We do so not as a matter in which we seek any political advantage or in which we are pushing our own ideology but as a matter on which we feel genuinely that as representatives in the Senate of the people of Australia we have a right and duty at least to say: ‘You, the people of Australia have a right to know about extensions of democracy which might benefit you. It is the function and duty of your parliaments to see that you have that information and, having given it to you fairly and honestly after investigation, that you are allowed to vote in a referendum ‘. Of course, a constitutional change would be necessary to introduce this power in Australia. The result of such a referendum would shape the future political climate of this country.
I suggest to honourable senators that there is nothing to fear in this proposal. We have a situation now where parliamentarians and parliaments are, I think very unfairly, in great opprobrium in the community. I am afraid that episodes such as the one last night concerning Mr Goodluck’s Bill, judging from the feedback I have had so far today, have not increased public love of and faith in parliament. That seemed to me and I think to many people to be an exercise in politics which only goes to confirm what I am saying now, that is, that some vital and basic step needs to be taken by the Parliament to show the people of this country that it genuinely consists of a group of people who have been elected in the interests of the nation and that it is not afraid- I repeat that the Parliament is not afraid- of placing more power in the hands of the people.
-Is the motion seconded? There being no seconder, the motion lapses.
Debate resumed from 2 1 February, on motion by Senator Chaney:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Gietzelt had moved by way of an amendment:
At end of motion, add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that:
the Government should be severely criticised for reducing the amounts made available to the States for upgrading of urban public transport in 1978-79 by $20m and in 1979-80 by $5m;
this reduction in funds to the States will seriously disrupt the provision of improved transport facilities; and
this action of the Government is inconsistent with the development of urban public transport as an essential part of a responsible national energy policy for Australia.’
– Prior to the adjournment last evening I was putting a case concerning the Brisbane City
Council, which is the largest local authority in Australia and which has the responsibility of running and controlling the bus services in the metropolitan area of Brisbane. It seems to me to be a very unfair impost on the ratepayers of Brisbane that the major portion of the losses incurred in running the bus services in Brisbane has to be met out of the general rate. The Brisbane City Council and the ratepayers of Brisbane are concerned that this is the case. The situation is aggravated by the niggly approach of the State Government, which does not appear to pass on the finances that it should be passing on to the Brisbane City Council for maintaining this bus service. That leads me now into speaking in continuation of the debate last evening.
I now desire to point out that in contrast with what happens in the city of Brisbane, every metropolitan public transport undertaking in the other States and the suburban railway system of the Queensland railways derive their funding support from Consolidated Revenue in their respective States. In the last year under a new arrangement with the Queensland Government the Brisbane City Council has been provided with a sum amounting to 50 per cent of fare collections. I am given to understand that the rate will rise to only 60 per cent in equal annual steps over a five-year period. For the year 1 977-78 the State Government’s contribution will amount to only 36 per cent of the anticipated revenue shortfall with respect to bus services of the Brisbane City Council. The remaining shortfall, estimated at about $8.7m, will be met by the Council from general rates. The State Government’s arrangement fails to provide an adequate level of support so that the ratepayers are still required to pay nearly two-thirds of the cost of providing Brisbane with its present standard of bus services at the present fare and wage levels. The Brisbane Metropolitan Transit Authority has recognised the worldwide experience that few public transport programs, if any, are able to cover capital and operating costs wholly from fares while meeting the standard consistent with community expectations. Surely everyone will agree that it is cheaper to move people than to move vehicles. In the United States of” America with its new-found energy consciousness that realisation is growing. I can recall that a Senate select committee recommended some time ago that the Federal Government subsidise both capital investment in and the operating costs of public and private urban transport systems. But until now the Government has yet to appreciate the value of such an approach.
Before I conclude allow me to tell the Senate about the cause of the greatest bitterness about Brisbane ‘s transport, which focuses on the State Government’s reliance on what is known as the Brisbane City Council transport undertaking and the cost to the Council of providing a bus service. In its deliberations with the Grants Commission in assessing Queensland’s need as a claimant State, Queensland based its Grants Commission case substantially on Brisbane’s public transport system. When as a result of this factor Queensland’s grant was increased significantly by the Grants Commission, no appreciable support or finance flowed to the Brisbane City Council. This was despite an assurance given at the time by the then State Treasurer, Sir Gordon Chalk, who said:
If the State is successful in extending its claim in this new field, it would be in a much better position to assist the Council with its urban transport losses.
Surely there must be a responsibility for the State government to pass on such moneys as the Commonwealth intends to give to the rightful recipients. By way of a final word, on behalf of the Brisbane ratepayers I appeal to the Government, if it will not change its mind on deferring the $20m reduction in grants for special needs for urban transport, at least to give some consideration to other avenues of relief for the Brisbane City Council and others who are so affected by this reduction.
– The Senate is debating the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Amendment Bill 1979. I thank Senator Davidson for his support of the Bill. I would like to make just a few comments on the points made by Senator Gietzelt and Senator McAuliffe for the Opposition. Senator Gietzelt, who led for the Opposition, made a number of statements about the importance of urban public transport. He made a speech which in general, I suppose, put the view that the present Government is placing very little emphasis on urban public transport. He, of course, stressed the influence of the previous Labor Government in providing assistance. It is interesting, therefore, to look at what Mr Nixon, the present Minister for Transport, had to say in a debate on the legislation we are amending. On 1 3 April 1 97 8 in the House of Representatives he said: . . it was as a result of an Australian Transport Advisory Council meeting in South Australia in July 1 972 at which I tabled a report of the Bureau of Transport Economics on the needs of urban public transport that the first Bill of this nature was introduced in 1973 after the change in government.
A little later Mr Nixon stated:
There is an old saying that success has a thousand fathers.
That small item as to the origin of these grants is perhaps significant. The timing of Senator Gietzelt ‘s speech is a little hard to understand when one looks at the support that has been given to the States for urban public transport since 1972. Whilst it is true that the initial legislation passed in 1974 covered the 1972-73 period, one finds that the allocations for 1973-74, 1974-75 and 1975-76 totalled $78.92m, starting off with $12.52m in 1973-74, $32.5 lm the following year and $33.89m the year after. However, in the two years of Liberal Government which followed that period and which are included in the first five years of the program, a total of $ 109m was granted to the States. So there was a very substantial increase in the level of finance in the first two years of this Government. Out of the total amount of $191m which was paid over that first five-year period nearly $79m was paid by the Labor Government in three years and $109m was paid by our Government in two years.
We then find that the Government committed itself to spending a total of $300m on urban public transport in the following five-year period and making that amount available to the States. This Bill does not alter the totals. I think that has been made clear in the debate on this Bill. Rather, it seeks to alter the time of payment of some of the money. It was envisaged originally that there would be annual payments of $60m with $40m being paid in a manner which is set out in the legislation and with $20m being paid on a needs basis on an assessment year by year. It is quite clear from the second reading speech that the Government has reviewed this program in the light of the fact that it has been imposing expenditure restraints. It has postponed payment of $25m of the discretionary moneys to the last two years of the five-year program. I have no doubt that the recipients would rather receive the money now than in three years time. It is perfectly true to say that a dollar now is worth more than a dollar will be worth in three years time, and I think this applies irrespective of inflation. Any financier would say that that is the case.
The Government has not sought to hide its financial strategy. The Government has made it perfectly clear that it regards the restriction on government expenditure as fundamental to its economic policy. Without apology it has rearranged the payments in the manner that is set out in this Bill. The fact is that it has reduced the amount of discretionary money which will be paid and increased the amount of money which will be paid under the proportions which are established by the Bill. But I think it is wrong to suggest that going from a payment of $19 lm over five years to a payment of $300m over the following five years suggests some deemphasising of the importance of urban public transport. Whilst the Government by its declaration of intention in the 1978 legislation would clearly have liked to have made these additional funds available in the current year and in the following financial year where there is some reduction, it has been decided that it is in the best interests of Australia and the Australian economy that these payments should be postponed; that, quite simply, is what this Bill is all about.
Senator McAuliffe put forward a plea about the burdens on the ratepayers of Brisbane. I think he would accept that that is a matter which really has to be settled between the Brisbane City Council and the Queensland Government. I think it is true that in most States the losses on urban transport systems are a charge on the general revenue of the State and as such part of the costs is borne by taxpayers outside of the metropolitan area. It may well be that the taxpayers of Queensland generally would say that the loss should be more fairly borne by the people who incur the loss and use the transport, namely, the people of Brisbane, but that is a domestic argument for Queensland. I am more than pleased to leave the settlement of that dispute to the authorities of the Brisbane City Council and the Queensland State Government. I would like to profess a benign neutrality in that matter. I leave it to the wisdom of government processes to sort out.
The only other point I want to mention is that Senator McAuliffe also raised the question of assistance which has been promised by the Government for railways. My information is that there was certainly a promise that $70m would be made available over a five-year period. It is true that currently there is $3m in the first year. My understanding is that these programs will have to be built up and that the Government will have to make increasing amounts available as the programs develop. I would say, in fairness to the Labor Government, that no doubt the same comments would apply in part to the programs for urban transport that were commenced in 1974. Obviously it is unlikely that there will be a constant rate of expenditure. It is likely that there will be a low rate of expenditure in the early years which will then increase. That statement stands to reduce somewhat the force of the remarks I made earlier on the Bill as to where the expenditure lies in the first five years of the program, but I made those remarks simply to show that the emphasis that has been placed on the program by the present Government is one which has consistently regarded urban public transport as extremely important to the people who live in the great urban centres of Australia.
I do not wish to detain the Senate any further. Needless to say following the remarks I have made, the Government does not accept the amendment which has been moved by Senator Gietzelt. I do not accept that postponement of the payment of $20m in 1978-79 and postponement of the payment of $5m in 1979-80 should be a matter of severe criticism. That postponement is aimed at the economic welfare of the country and honourable senators with an interest in transport would know that the cost of road building, rail construction and all the rest has been as much a victim of inflation as any other activity in Australia and actions taken by the Government to maintain a lower rate of inflation are in the interests that we are seeking to serve in this program. Therefore, I commend the Bill to the Senate and oppose the amendment moved by Senator Gietzelt.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) may recall that when I spoke in the second reading debate on this Bill I made some reference to research and planning as far as urban transport is concerned. I am very well aware that the main thrust of this Bill deals with certain financial arrangements between the States and the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, bringing a measure of this kind before the Parliament and before the Senate provides the opportunity for some thought if not some discussion on the whole relationship of urban transport with our society. I feel very strongly that our society in Australia is in a situation where sooner or later, and perhaps sooner rather than later, it will have to come to terms with the role of urban transport and its relationship to the residents of our suburban society and their movements, not only for business and commerce but also for educational and social activities.
I think that this measure, albeit dealing with States grants, should not be allowed to pass without some recognition of the fact that the Government has in mind one or two things. I refer to that part of my speech in the second reading debate in which I was critical about what I called the fragmented planning of urban transport in Australian cities. I recognise that this is the responsibility of either the State or the municipal authority concerned. Nevertheless, because Commonwealth funds are involved and Commonwealth conversations are involved, I think that the Commonwealth should be either saying something or indicating something in relation to the planning of our urban and suburban public transport. In my speech in the second reading debate I called also for a renewed emphasis on research into the whole area of urban public transport and its connection with the development of cities and land use, whether it be for education, for commerce, for business or for recreation.
I would be very grateful if the Minister would respond to this general area of my interest in this Bill. Are there any plans for research or planning in this particular area? If not, would he be kind enough to put my views to the Government and to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in particular so that some attention can be given to what I believe is a very important matter so far as the main thrust of this Bill is concerned.
– I want to say a few words about clause 3 of the Bill. I notice that whilst this Bill deals with urban transport, like most of these Bills dealing with the allocation of grants there seems to be some relationship to section 96 of the Constitution. Following on from what Senator Davidson just said, sole responsibility for where the money is spent under this legislation obviously is in the hands of the Federal Minister. I would not like to see the position develop whereby the Federal Minister responded to the invitation to plan urban transport within the States. I think that the practice now is that there is a conference of the State Ministers and the Federal Minister at which, to the greatest extent possible, allocations are made for certain roads in accordance with the recommendation of the relevant State Minister with the approval of the Federal Minister. I do not know why we continue to have legislation that maintains the power of the Federal Minister and which would be used at some time to the detriment of or against the wishes of a particular State Minister. I do not know why we reserve this power to the Minister although it does not seem to be acted upon.
Therefore I would seriously question the advisability of the Federal Minister being given control over urban planning. Rather I suggest that we should acknowledge that control is the right of the State Minister, subject to approval of the grant by the Federal Minister in accordance with the schedule of the allocation.
– The comments made by the honourable senators raise matters of substance and I perhaps can say only that I am a little surprised that Senator Davidson’s remarks were not made by Senator Cavanagh and Senator Cavanagh ‘s remarks were not made by Senator Davidson. I note the comments made by each and the fact that this matter was raised in April last year during the debate on the original Bill in the House of Representatives. The Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, made some comments about it. At page 1557 of Hansard of 13 April 1978, he was reported as having said:
There is a relationship between this Bill and urban planning, and there is a lot of work done by the Australian Transport Advisory Council and the State Ministers on the impact of urban transport expenditure of this nature on urban planning and urban growth as a whole. There is a direct relationship that cannot be ignored.
Several paragraphs later he was reported as having said:
The States are co-operating with us. We have joint planning committees to try to evaluate the impact of urban public transport programs in the major cities, and in that way I think we are covering this point.
I really cannot add more than that. I think that there is something of a delicate line to be drawn in this area. If one accepts the Federal system and the jurisdiction of the States in this matter, as Senator Cavanagh does, then obviously it becomes a matter of judgment as to how far one imposes on that State discretion. On the other hand, if one adopts Senator Davidson’s point that the Commonwealth after all is paying over these funds which have a significant influence on urban planning and we all have some responsibility, then I suggest to honourable senators that this sort of co-operative committee work is probably the only way in which one can really approach this matter. I note that last year Mr Nixon also observed that he thought that perhaps this is a larger subject on which we might need a more philosophic debate. I must say that I rather echo those sentiments during this committee debate.
– I would like to clarify my position in respect of the role that Senator Chaney thinks I should be following and that which he thinks Senator Davidson should be following. I think that he is confusing this Bill with a Bill dealing with grants for main roads in respect of which I advocated that the allocation of grants should be the prerogative of the Federal Minister. I could not understand why under this Government it remained the prerogative of the Federal Minister to decide where the allocations would be made. Of course, that was because the policy of this Government is that it is a State matter. The policy of the previous Government, the Labor Government, was that the Federal Parliament would take responsibility for main roads. Therefore, whilst this was contained in the original Act it has been carried on contrary, I would think, to the policy of the present Government.
I agree that in the main there should be State planning. I agree also that when the Federal Government has proposals for urban planning perhaps it should retain some power to have a say in the allocation of grants in the area in which it has developed planning. But this Government does not undertake the urban planning that was carried out by the Department of Urban and Regional Development under the previous Government. The attitude of this Government seems to me to be that it is giving away the policy of the Labor Government of controlling overall development. Making roads and repairing roads in capital cities or urban areas appears, under the policy of this Government, to be the prerogative of the States. Whilst I do not complain, because I do not think that that policy is being abused- I think that the States are fulfilling their roles- I just mention that it is peculiar. I do not know why we persist in reserving that power in the Federal Minister when he is operating with the States, possibly in an area where, under this Government’s policy, we do not want power and perhaps should not have it.
– I do not have a lot to add, but once I did not rise in response to Senator Cavanagh and I have always regretted not doing so. Consequently, I respond on this occasion. In the scheme of things under the principal Act, the States put forward proposals as being proposals which warrant funding under the Act, for either the scheduled grants or the needs grants, which are also provided for. I think the justification for the Commonwealth’s maintaining any role at all is that it is taking from the taxpayers of Australia funds which it is using to provide supplementary assistance- and no more than supplementary assistance- to States on quite differing bases. In other words, there is no per capita assessment. It is an assessment on numerous factors which is meant to achieve some reasonable situation for each of the States.
– I would have thought that retaining the power was contrary to your federalism policy.
– No, the federalism policy has never denied the role of the Grants Commission, say, to take a really classic example of an instrument which is available for ironing out inequalities between the States. So, federalist as we are, we would still accept that in various programs there will be a need for differential treatment because of differential conditions in different parts of Australia. As in all things, one is required to marry a number of principles together, and I think the marriage in this case is not a particularly awkward one.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a third time.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Durack)- by leaveagreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the moving of a motion forthwith for-
the rescission of the vote of the Senate on Tuesday, 20 February 1 979, for the third reading of the Crimes at Sea Bill 1978, and the rescission being carried by a simple majority of senators; and
the recommittal of the Bill for the reconsideration of clauses 3, 4, S, 13 and 17.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That the vote of the Senate on Tuesday, 20 February 1979, for the third reading of the Crimes at Sea Bill 1978 be rescinded and that the Bill be recommitted forthwith for the reconsideration of clauses 3, 4, 5, 13 and 1 7.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That the amendments agreed to on Tuesday, 20 February 1979, by the Senate to clauses 3, 4, 5 and 13 be left out and that the following amendments be inserted in the Bill-
(1) Page 2, clause 3, lines 7 to IS, inclusive, leave out the definition of 'authority', substitute the following definition: "authority" means- ( a ) in relation to a State- (i) the Governor, a Minister or a member of the Executive Council of the State; (ii) a person who holds office as a member of a court of the State; (iii) a body created by or under the law of the State; and (iv) an officer or employee of the State or of a body referred to in sub-paragraph (iii); and (b) in relation to the Northern Territory- (i) the Administrator or a Minister of the Territory; (ii) a person who holds office as a member of a court of the Territory; (iii) a body created by or under the law of the Territory; and (iv) an officer or employee of the Territory or of a body referred to in sub-paragraph (iii); ". (2) Page 2, clause 3, lines 23 to 24, from the definition of "criminal laws" leave out ", apprehension, custody, committal, trial", substitute "of offences ". (3) Page 3, clause 4, lines 23 to 37, inclusive, leave out sub-clauses (1), (2) and (3), substitute the following sub-clauses: "( 1 ) The Governor-General may make an arrangement with the Governor of a State or with the Administrator of the Northern Territory for or in relation to the exercise or performance in or in relation to that State or that Territory, as the case may be, of a power, duty or function (not being a power, duty or function involving the exercise of judicial power) by an authority of the State or Territory under the provisions of the criminal laws in force in any State or Territory as applying by virtue of this Act and, where such an arrangement is in force, the power, duty or function may or shall, as the case may be, be exercised or performed in or in relation to the first-mentioned State or Territory accordingly. "(2) An arrangement under this section may contain such incidental or supplementary provisions as- (a) in the case of an arrangement made by the GovernorGeneral with the Governor of a State- the GovernorGeneral and the Governor of the State think necessary; or ( b) in the case of an arrangement made by the GovernorGeneral with the Administrator of the Northern Territory- the Governor-General and the Administrator of the Territory think necessary. "(3) Where an arrangement is in force under this section, the Governor-General may- (a) in the case of an arrangement made by the GovernorGeneral with the Governor of a State- arrange with the Governor of the State; or ( b) in the case of an arrangement made by the GovernorGeneral with the Administrator of the Northern Territory- arrange with the Administrator of the Territory, for the variation or revocation of the arrangement. ". (4) Page 4, clause S, lines 10 to 17, leave out sub-clause (4), substitute the following sub-clauses: "(4) Where there is in force an arrangement with the Governor of a State or with the Administrator of a Territory under section 4, then- (a) sections 8a, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 18a, 19, 19a, 19b, 20, 20a, 20b, 20c, 21, 21a, 2lB and 21C of the *Crimes Act* 1914; (b) sections 69, 70, 71, 7lA and 72 to 76 (inclusive) of *The Judiciary Act* 1903; and (c) the *Commonwealth Prisoners Act* 1 967, Do not apply to or in relation to matters arising in or in relation to the State or Territory under the provisions of the criminal laws in force in a State or Territory as applying by virtue of this Act. "(5) Nothing in this Act affects the operation of section 68 of the *Judiciary Aci* 1903.". (5) Page 10, clause 13, lines 1 to 11, inclusive, leave out sub-clause (2), substitute the following sub-clause: "(2) Sub-section ( 1 ) does not prevent- (a) the institution or conduct in a State, in accordance with a law of the Commonwealth other than this Act, of proceedings under any pan of the provisions of the criminal laws in force in a State or Territory as applying by virtue of this Act if there is not in force an arrangement with the Governor of the first-mentioned State under section 4; (b) the institution or conduct in the Northern Territory, in accordance with a law of the Commonwealth other than this Act, of proceedings under any pan of the criminal laws in force in a State or Territory as applying by virtue of this Act if there is not in force an arrangement with the Administrator of the Northern Territory under section 4; or (c) the institution or conduct in a Territory other than the Northern Territory, in accordance with a law of the Commonwealth other than this Act, of proceedings under any part of the provisions of the criminal laws in force in a State or Territory as applying by virtue of this Act.". (6) Page 10, clause 17, line 31, leave out "that", substitute "a". (7) Page 1 1, clause 17, lines 21 to 29, leave out sub-clause (4), substitute the following sub-clause: "(4) The power conferred by this section to make an order staying proceedings instituted against a person may be exercised- (a) where the proceedings sought to be stayed are proceedings upon indictment before a Judge of a Court of a State or Territory- by that Judge; and (b) in any other case- by a Judge of the Supreme Court of the State or Territory in which the proceedings were instituted. ". Bill, as amended, agreed to. Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 September, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not oppose the Jurisdiction of Courts (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill. I think one can best draw attention to the appropriateness of the name of this Bill by looking at the Table of Parts and the Schedule which sets out the various miscellaneous items dealt with in this piece of legislation. I said that we are not opposed to the Bill, but perhaps this is an appropriate opportunity to qualify that by drawing attention to one or two matters which might be regarded as setbacks to the judicial system in this country when the Bill becomes law. In essence, the Bill provides for the last stage of the legislative steps which began in 1976 to remove the original jurisdiction of the High Court vested in it by statute and vest it mainly in the State and Territory Supreme Courts and in the new Federal Court of Australia in part.
The explanatory memorandum which has been circulated with the Bill by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) summarises the purposes to which the Bill is directed: Firstly, it divests the High Court of original jurisdiction vested in it by statute, other than its original jurisdiction as a court of disputed returns under the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Secondly, it confers taxation and industrial property jurisdiction on State and Territory Supreme Courts in those tax and industrial property matters in which those courts do not at present have jurisdiction. It provides for appeals in those matters to lie to the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia. Thirdly, it confers jurisdiction on Territory Supreme Courts, within limitations, in matters in which jurisdiction is now vested in State Supreme Courts but not Territory Supreme Courts. Fourthly, it makes amendments which are consequential upon the enactment of the judiciary Amendment Act 1976 and the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976.
I think it is fair to say that the Australian Labor Party, both in opposition and in government, has always taken the view that the High Court should not be snowed under with original jurisdiction but should be the true pinnacle of the court system in Australia, an appellate court, a constitutional court, and a court which deals with intergovernmental disputes. Consequent upon that, it has always been the attitude of the Opposition that the Federal jurisdiction should largely be vested in a Federal superior court, and to that extent a Bill was introduced in 1 975 and was defeated in the Senate.
One can make some carping criticisms of the present legislation and of the steps which have been taken, and we hope in a sense that they are not valid or lasting criticisms. Firstly, the Government by this legislation is investing State courts with Federal jurisdiction in matters in which they are not particularly experienced. I cannot comment on the workload which State courts have throughout the Commonwealth but the vesting of this additional jurisdiction in matters to which they are not accustomed does have some element of risk attached to it for litigants- in the early stages, at least. Secondly, by vesting federal jurisdiction in State Supreme Courts the Australian Parliament in a sense loses some degree of control over the procedures and complexities of the judicial system. By arrangements made by courts in the States the State courts can in a sense alter some of the intentions of this legislation merely in procedural matters. In our view that can as a consequence and in the same sort of way lead to the fragmentation of interpretation and administrative procedures. Of course, it is hoped that all these things will not happen, but I think it is fair enough to draw them to the attention of the Senate as things which could happen and which would be undesirable. To that extent, I make these points by way of criticism.
The Opposition also believes that there should always be an appeal to the High Court as a right in matters involving the interpretation of the Constitution. I mentioned this earlier. In November 1976, during the second reading debate about the Federal Court of Australia Bill, it was pointed out on our behalf that it would have been preferable to have a federal court dealing with all federal jurisdictions and not leave it in the situation which of necessity developed at the time of Federation of State courts exercising federal jurisdiction. Perhaps in the political climate of the time that seemed to be an outrageously positive and clear suggestion about the way things should develop. The present legislation, of course, represents a substantial compromise on that position. No criticism is offered of the sort of work which the State courts have done but we do believe that they have as much work to do as any federal jurisdiction. It could well overburden the State courts to give them an increasing amount of work in the federal jurisdiction area. No information seems to be available to the Senate- as yet at least- about the question of the workload which could be imposed on State courts.
By and large the Opposition welcomes this Bill as a necessary tidying up of a legislative course which was embarked upon in 1976. It is, as I have pointed out, legislation which deals with a number of miscellaneous matters. They are necessary matters. As I have indicated, the Opposition has some qualifications about the practicality of some of the matters. We hope that those qualifications to which I have referred do not in fact arise and that the system works in a satisfactory manner for all concerned. Essentially we welcome the legislation because it does make the High Court the final court of appeal in all Australian matters; that is, it carries that process to a further stage by removing trial by a single judge of numerous matters which have tended to clog up the proceedings of the High Court, which should devote its energies to matters of more importance. Whilst, as I have said, we welcome the legislation, we do it with some qualifications. We do hope that those qualifications do not prove to be realities.
-This Bill is a lengthy and highly technical Bill to which, as Senator Button has said, the Opposition has no basic objections in principle. The objective of the Bill is to make the necessary detailed jurisdictional changes in order to complete the achievement of what the Government describes as a coordinated structure of Federal and State courts in Australia- a system in which the High Court is freed of a good deal of its previous original and appellate jurisdiction in order to be able to concentrate its scarce resources and efforts on appellate matters of major significance; a system in which the new Federal Court is vested with both appellate and original jurisdiction in a variety of matters, including the whole jurisdiction of the previous Bankruptcy and industrial courts and appellate jurisdiction from the Territory Supreme Courts; and thirdly, a system in which the State and Territory Supreme Courts become the primary trial courts in their respective areas with the State courts exercising in addition a more significant role than hitherto in the application of federal law- for example, in tax and industrial property questions and also to some extent in constitutional litigation at first instance.
In the kind of federal system we inhabit and I fear will go on suffering for some time yet there is a whole variety of constraints which do militate against the rational and particularly the adventurously rational solution of institutional and policy problems. If the Government accepts these constraints as being inevitable, perhaps even desirable, as it appears to do, there is much to be said for the kind of shuffling of jurisdictions which is involved in this Bill and the series of Bills which have preceded it in recent years.
In particular it is pleasing to see such developments as the final removal of the long-standing anomaly whereby single High Court Justices had to spend endless sitting weeks in the trial of highly complex and often legally quite trivial patent and trade mark matters. It is pleasing to see the creation of a streamlined and uniform pattern of jurisdiction in taxation prosecutions and appeals. Equally, it is pleasing to see the general avoidance- not the completely satisfactory avoidance, but certainly the general avoidance- of a dual or overlapping jurisdiction between State and Federal courts. That is a problem which has dogged the United States judicial system for so many years. It is pleasing also to see the general clearing away of some of the byzantine jurisdictional complexities of the Judiciary Act and its associated legislation, which has given generations of students, teachers and practitioners nightmares trying to understand and apply.
It must be said the appearance of order and rationality which is accomplished by this Bill and its predecessor legislation is not wholly successfully maintained by some aspects of the legislation now before us. In particular, the jurisdiction of the Federal Court seems destined to remain an extraordinarily mixed bag of matters with no particularly obvious rhyme or reason evident, at least on the surface, in many of the matters that have been chosen for its attention. I notice that the Attorney-General said in his second reading speech: . . the Federal Court of Australia will have jurisdiction only in those matters where, for historical or special policy reasons, it is desirable that jurisdiction be exercised by a federal court.
I suppose that one can see this kind of rationale clearly enough in the case of the industrial and bankruptcy jurisdictions of the Federal Court which have been taken over directly from the previous specialist industrial and bankruptcy courts. One can also see in legislation such as the Trade Practices Act that it has been thought desirable in this respect- one can readily perceive this rationale- that at least in the early stages of building a new body of law in this area there should be a general uniformity of approach of the kind that can best be guaranteed by having a small group of judges trying the cases rather than their being open to the courts of the nation at large.
I wonder what on earth are the compelling historical or rational policy reasons which required the Federal Court to be given some of the matters which are being conferred on it by the Bill before us today. I instance here the jurisdiction which it is to have under the Banking Act, the Royal Commissions Act, Treasury Bills Act, the Insurance Deposits Act and also in relation to certain Crimes Act and court martial appeals matters. If the Attorney-General is moved to comment on this in his reply I would be interested to learn from him what particular reasons- historical reasons, policy reasons or whatever- motivated the choice of this particular bag of licorice all-sorts.
A larger question which is raised by this Bill and to which I think it is appropriate to direct the Senate’s attention for a few moments is whether the kind of co-ordinated jurisdiction model that the Government is endeavouring to implement with this legislation is really the best ultimate or long term solution to the problem of the administration of justice in Australia. The AttorneyGeneral himself conceded in his second reading speech, as in fact he has done on several previous public occasions, that a uniform court system would be ideal. By a ‘uniform court system I take it he meant the commonly accepted connotation of that notion as one single Australia-wide hierarchy of courts in which State and Federal jurisdictions are completely integrated into a single system under a single set of national administrative arrangements and a single set of procedural rules and where most importantly, the question of choice of courts to litigate a particular kind of fact situation never has to arise. There is a very long history in Australia of quite respectable and indeed bipartisan advocacy for this idea of a single national uniform court system. This began I suppose in 1935 when Sir Owen Dixon said, among other things, in a major paper:
It would appear natural to endeavour to establish the courts of justice as independent organs which were neither Commonwealth nor State. The basis of the system is the supremacy of the law. The courts administering the law should all derive an independent existence and authority from the Constitution. Some practical difficulties would occur in carrying such principle beyond the superior courts, but it is not easy to see why the entire system of superior courts should not have been organised and directed under the Constitution to administer the total content of the law.
The debate has continued more recently with a major contribution along these lines by Mr Justice Else-Mitchell in 1970 and more recently again in a paper delivered by Mr Bob Ellicott to the 19th Australian Legal Convention in 1977. This paper, which has been subsequently reprinted in the August 1978 issue of Australian Law Journal, has sparked off a quite major debate on this question in the legal literature. In the course of what is a quite admirable analysis of the issues associated with the concept of a uniform court system, Mr Ellicott in opening his remarks said:
There has, in recent years, been growing support for the establishment under our Constitution of one set of courts for Australia. It is a proposition which I thoroughly support. There is no basic inconsistency between that idea and the federal nature of our Constitution. The substantive law may differ from State to State but there is no good reason why every Australian should not be able to have his rights and duties whether derived from Federal or State law determined in the one court as part of a system which all Australians share.
At the Constitutional Convention which took place in Perth last year this question was again the subject of a major debate which culminated in a resolution expressing, quite surprisingly to many delegates and observers in prospect, quite overwhelming support for the concept of the creation by agreement of a single Australian court system. The vote was 54 to 30 with the majority component of that vote cutting right across party lines and, indeed, including delegates from all States as well as from the Commonwealth. This enthusiasm for a uniform court system has been around for a long lime in quite respectable and often conservative circles and appears to have been gaining more and more momentum in recent times. The rationale for it is really obvious enough. The fact is that even with the kind of developments which are embodied in the legislation before us today, there are still a great many problems associated with the present system of so-called co-ordinated jurisdiction; problems which are certainly not resolved by the present legislation.
Let me instance just a couple of them. It is still possible in various areas of the law for exactly the same fact situation to be capable of litigation in either State or Federal courts with the outcome being quite likely to differ according to which court is chosen and it being by no means clear how on earth the situation will be resolved, if it comes to pass, of conflicting decisions from respective courts in litigation undertaken simultaneously in both. Perhaps the most obvious and familiar example of the area of law where this kind of situation is arising daily is the area of consumer protection litigation; for example, claims for damages arising out of the purchase of a defective motor vehicle. That kind of litigation can be initiated either under the consumer protection provisions of the Trade Practices Act in the Federal Court or under common law rules as expanded by the State sale of goods statutes in the State Supreme Courts. Another major and very familiar problem area is of course that of family law, where, as is quite well known, the High Court has held in the case of Russell and Russell that there are constitutional inhibitions on the Federal Family Court being able to deal with the full range of matters that can arise in matrimonial and particularly child custody cases.
There is a whole number of different ways in which this problem can present itself. Let me quote just one example of its operation which came to prominent public attention in the New
South Wales case of Clarke and Mcinnes in 1978. In a quite refreshing burst of judicial candour the trial judge in that case, Mr Justice Helsham, who is Chief Judge in Equity in the New South Wales Supreme Court, was moved to make a public statement at the conclusion of that case in the following terms:
When the law is stupid, those who suffer because of it are entitled to have this stupidity publicly exposed. Three small children were, by consent of their father, in the legal custody of their mother following a divorce. They lost their mother and legal custodian when she was killed in a motor car accident. Two people or groups of people were thereafter concerned with the welfare of those small children: their maternal grandparents and their father. Their grandparents made application for custody to the Court exercising jurisdiction under the Family Law Act 1975. Their father made application for custody by way of a writ of habeas corpus to this Court.
He was referring to the New South Wales Supreme Court. He continued:
Unfortunately, the grandparents chose the wrong court. The Court operating under the Family Law Act 1975 has no power to deal with their application. They should have come to this Court which could deal with it. Unfortunately, the father chose the wrong court. He came here. This Court has no power to deal with his application. He should have gone to the Family Court of Australia which could deal with it. Neither Court therefore can deal with the applications before it.
But, had each party started in the right court, two different courts would have had power to deal with custody of the same children between the same parties.
Then, in what must be the judicial understatement of the century, his Honour concluded:
This is just silly.
– But the States could fix this up in a nash if they had the conscience and will do it, couldn’t they?
– Well, it is true that most of the kinds of problems to which I have referred, both in the context of family law and in the earlier context of dual jurisdiction in trade practices and so on, could be coped with by less extreme measures, as Senator Missen indicates, than the integration of all Australian courts into a single centrally administered system. Certainly the family law type situation could, as the honourable senator indicates, be solved by the State governments being much more willing than they hitherto have been to refer to the Commonwealth under the constitutional provision in section 51(xxxvii), the exercise of legislative power in respect of certain presently exclusive State matters. An example of a matter which could thus be referred would be the power to legislate and to confer jurisdiction in respect of custody applications by persons who are not parties to a marriage, which is the kind of situation that was in issue in the case to which I referred.
It is equally true, on the other side of the coin, that other sorts of problems which have arisen could be resolved to some extent by the Federal Government in its turn going even further than it has gone already to vest Federal jurisdiction in State courts- for example, in the trade practices context by not keeping this jurisdiction exclusively unto itself in the Federal Court and by vesting the State supreme courts with jurisdiction in consumer protection matters. That solution has been followed in the family law context in Western Australia where the Federal Government has vested its jurisdiction in matrimonial matters in a State established family law court. There is in Western Australia a situation in which all family law and matrimonial matters can be dealt with by a single court and the New South Wales case to which I referred would not have turned out the way it did.
However, even though some of the more extreme problems of the present system could be resolved with appropriate goodwill on all sidesgoodwill which has been fairly conspicuously lacking in some of these areas, it has to be acknowledged- my own inclination leads me still to believe, with Mr Ellicott- I refer again to that excellent article of his published in August 1977 in the Australian Law Journal- that measures such as this are essentially stop-gap and patchwork in their nature, and rationality and common sense in this whole area will ultimately be served only by going the whole way towards a single integrated court system. Indeed, the only serious objection which has been made to this uniform court proposal as an ultimate objective worth pursuing, apart from the predictable irrational and emotional States rights squawkings from the present Queensland and Western Australian governments, is that this goal, in practice, is perceived to be quite unattainable and should therefore, however attractive it might be in theory, be completely abandoned in favour of the hard headed realism which is, apparently we are to believe, embodied in the present legislation now before us. This was the kind of point made by the Attorney, Senator Durack, in his second reading speech. This point also has been taken, although I suspect rather less sincerely, by the New South Wales Chief Justice, Sir Laurence Street, who has been the most conspicuous public opponent of the recent developments in the Federal courts system.
But might I suggest that this kind of resigned acquiescence in the so-called inevitability of State hostility to the development of a unified court system and the loss of identity of the present State courts that this will entail is unfortunate. It is an unfortunate attitude in that it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As we all know, institutional change of any kind in the Australian federal system is very, very difficult to achieve, but such changes can be achieved in the long run if those who at least are impressed with the rational necessity of making them do keep the courage of their convictions and keep on working away to achieve them. There is already, as I have indicated, a quite impressive battery of champions in favour of the concept of a unified court system and, as I have also indicated, a surprisingly impressive body of bipartisan political support for the concept from all over Australia, as indicated by the vote of the 1978 Perth convention. So while the Government is to be congratulated for going as far as it has in this Bill and the earlier legislation to improve the coordination of the present system, I would hate it to abandon altogether the ultimate goal of a unified system of administration of justice in Australia. I can assure the Government that in any moves it might make in this direction it will have the full support of the Opposition.
– in reply- I thank the Senate for its support for the measure and Senator Button and Senator Evans for the interesting contributions that they have made to what is a very serious debate about the future of the courts structure in Australia. I endeavoured at the end of my second reading speech on this Bill to outline my own views as to the practical policies which could be pursued at the present time to achieve a more co-ordinated structure. I also indicated that I did agree that in the long run a unified courts system was the ideal. I do not resile from that as a goal to be achieved in the long run. But I do believe that at the moment, because of various attitudes, it is not a practical proposition and therefore, as we in politics live in the short term, I believe that in the foreseeable circumstances we must try to rationalise the existing system rather than try to achieve some root and branch changes about which many people feel very strongly. The objection is not merely a political one from certain States, which Senator Evans mentioned. There is also a very strong view to the contrary expressed in some judicial quarters. I thought that Senator Evans contradicted his claim about this matter being a political one when he acknowledged that the Chief Justice of New South Wales has been maintaining probably a stronger campaign than any politician on the proposed unified courts structure.
The view is very strongly held in the States, particularly in the State courts, by judges, and within the legal profession, that the State courts are there and they are there to stay. Therefore I think that one has to start with that proposition and probably try to build an ultimate unified system on the existing structure of State courts.
I believe that the way to achieve this new structure in the long run is to accept that view and to endeavour to persuade the States, State judges and, no doubt, the members of the legal profession that in many areas the appeal process should be with the Federal Court of Australia and ultimately to the High Court of Australia. The alternative view, which is strongly held, is that all jurisdiction should be vested in the State courts, with them having their own courts of appeal, and ultimately with the High Court being the final court of appeal. I think that that is an equally respectable view, but it is one which does not take into account the particular interests that we as a Commonwealth Parliament may have in many of our laws and the desirability of uniformity in the interpretation of them at an earlier stage in the court system.
I do not think that it is possible to see the High Court as being the only court of appeal to ensure uniformity of interpretation. I think that it would be undesirable to have, as a general rule, federal jurisdiction under which appeals would go to six, seven or perhaps eight different courts of appeal within the States and the Territories. Where we do invest State courts with jurisdiction under this Bill and under the Federal Court of Australia Act, such as in tax matters in which it is important to get uniformity of interpretation and to get it as quickly as possible, we provide for appeals from the State courts to the Full Court of the Federal Court and not to the State Supreme Courts or courts of appeal. I think that that is a reasonable and fair structure.
As I have said, I hope that the States will be persuaded to accept that situation and to accept it as applying in other areas as well. I refer in particular to the Trade Practices Act because it was mentioned by Senator Evans. I think it does present a very real indication of the problem we have. There are very strong reasons for jurisdiction under the Trade Practices Act being vested in a court that does require some specialisation. In fact, a decision was taken to invest that jurisdiction in the Federal Court. Under the Trade Practices Act jurisdiction was vested in the predecessor of that court when that Act was passed in this Parliament in 1974. There are very strong grounds for continuing that process.
However, this does give rise to difficulties when a litigant has a cause of action arising under the Trade Practices Act and alternative claims under a State law. Senator Evans has recognised and referred to that situation. I believe there are ways of overcoming those difficulties. I have been having discussions about them and they have been discussed at meetings of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, lt does appear that there is fairly wide agreement on giving the Federal Court a power to remit a matter which arises in that Court under the Trade Practices Act if an alternative claim on the same facts is commenced in a State court. I think that at an early date we will be able to bring forward legislation to enable that to be done. Unfortunately, the agreement which I think is capable of being reached on that was not reached in time for it to be included in this legislation but, as I have said, I am hopeful that we will be able to make some progress on that.
However, that solution does leave open the question of appeals. It would be much easier to invest State courts with jurisdiction under the Trade Practices Act if in fact the whole actionnot only the federal element of it but also the State element of it- could be the subject of appeal to the Federal Court. That is one area in which I hope that the States, in the same spirit as the spirit in which we are prepared to invest State courts with jurisdiction, will see merit in investing appellate jurisdiction in the Federal Court in a case such as that. There may be some constitutional difficulties in that, although there are differing views on that as well. Nevertheless, at the moment the main problem is to get some agreement about policies in these areas. I certainly do believe that step by step not only will we be able to improve the present situation and get a more co-ordinated structure but also, by this method, by avoiding the unnecessary creation of a dual court system with all the problems which so worry the Chief Justice of New South Wales and many other people, including me, no doubt Senator Evans and indeed all lawyers who think about this matter, we will be able to move slowly and steadily towards a uniform court system, even though that system might well be based on the very solid foundation of the existing State court system.
A number of other interesting questions were raised and points were made during the debate. Senator Button mentioned two matters on which I thought I should comment. He said that perhaps the State courts were being invested with jurisdiction in matters with which they were not accustomed to deal. That certainly was of some concern to us when we took the policy decision to invest the State Supreme Courts with jurisdiction under the Income Tax Assessment Act. However, I think that the experiment has proved successful. Certainly there are some very distinguished tax lawyers on the Supreme Courts of some of the States and, indeed, some judges in the State Supreme Courts are obviously taking a special interest in these problems. When it is all said and done, any man of sufficient legal stature to become a judge of a Supreme Court certainly should be capable of mastering a new legal subject. It is of great interest and a stimulus to them. In fact, we believe that the system has worked quite well.
It is true that in this way the Commonwealth Parliament loses some control over the application and interpretation of its laws, although that argument should not be pursued too far because, in the broad sense, no parliament and no government should be in a position to exercise control over the interpretation and application of its laws. I know that Senator Button did not mean it to go that far; he was talking about procedural matters. But in this respect there is a danger of fragmentation of interpretation, which I have mentioned already in my general comments. The Government sees the solution to that problem as being to provide for a direct appeal from the single judge of a State court to the Full Court of the Federal Court, thereby obtaining, as I said earlier, a quick decision on appeal and avoiding a situation in which a number of different State courts of appeal are perhaps giving different interpretations.
I think that that covers most of the matters raised, with the exception of one point Senator Evans raised as to why we included in this Bill provisions which assign jurisdiction to the Federal Court rather than the State courts in certain matters. Senator Evans mentioned the Banking Act and the Courts-Martial Appeals Act. The jurisdiction that is assigned to the Federal Court under the Courts-Martial Appeals Act relates to references of questions of law, which hitherto have been referred to the High Court and to the Federal Court.
I think the short answer to Senator Evans’s questions in relation to those matters is that we see these areas as rather specialised areas of jurisdiction- areas in which probably one or two judges would acquire some expertise and which would not give rise to much litigation. In cases of that type it would seem more appropriate simply to give the jurisdiction to one court, namely, the Federal Court, rather than invest State courts generally with this type of jurisdiction.
As I have said, I believe that this Bill completes the implementation of the policy of the present Government which was commenced by the introduction a couple of years ago of the Federal Court legislation, and the associated legislation. The purpose of this Bill is virtually to tidy up the full implementation of that policy. However, it does deal with a very important subject, one on which there has been a good deal of public debate recently and one which in the years ahead will continue to command the attention of lawyers, particularly Attorneys-General and lawyers in government and in parliament. I believe that there is not only much interest in the Bill but also a lot of good will in relation to solving these problems. If we proceed by trying to solve them on a step by step basis rather than by trying to do so by means of what one might call the final solution to the problem, we will succeed much more effectively.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I trust that the amendments to the Bill and the explanatory memorandum dated 20 February 1979 have been circulated to honourable senators. I move:
The first amendment is of some moment. The other three amendments are of a technical character. They have been suggested by the Chief Judge of the Federal Court, Sir Nigel Bowen, because he has discovered some technical difficulties with the existing legislation, particularly in relation to the rules of court which he is in the process of drawing up. I wish to draw the Committee’s attention to the first amendment. I should like to say a few words on the amendment as it follows on the debate we have just had. It provides for the insertion in the Federal Court of Australia Act of a provision similar to section 17 of the Judiciary Act under which the State Supreme Court is invested with jurisdiction to make interlocutory orders in chambers in a proceeding pending in the General Division of the Federal Court. This provision has been confined to the General Division because of the particular history and sensitivity of the work in the Industrial Division. That section was not considered suitable for application to the well-established procedures of that Division.
The need for this provision has arisen under the Trade Practices Act because concern is felt that a Federal judge may not be immediately available to give an injunction or to make some interim order. Certainly the Chief Judge has met requests for a judge promptly and very little delay has occurred in most cases. However, the fact is that there are not many Federal judges and they are fairly heavily engaged. It takes time to get from one side of a country the size of Australia to the other, and injunctions sometimes have to be obtained promptly, even within hours. The amendment seems to be along the lines of the policy the Senate has just been discussing. I draw attention to the amendment and hope that it will have the support of honourable senators.
– I refer to the amendment to which the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) devoted the bulk of his remarks, namely, the amendment to the Schedule accompanying Division 3 of Part III of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976. While appreciating the force of the practical considerations which have motivated the Government to introduce this amendment, I ask: Has the Government seriously considered just how far-reaching the implications of this change may prove to be? The Attorney-General will surely be aware of just how often interlocutory or chamber applications or proceedings, particularly in the context of an application for an interlocutory injunction, can amount, for all practical purposes, to the trial of the action itself. If that is so, what then happens to the principle which is supposed to be behind the allocation of hitherto exclusive jurisdiction in these matters to the Federal Court, namely, the principle of ensuring a uniformity of interpretation, particularly in sensitive, delicate and new areas of the law?
Let me take just one example of the potentially explosive implications of this change. I refer to the most controversial section of the Trade Practices Act, namely, section 45D, which I believe- I am subject to correction on thiscomes within the jurisdiction of the Federal Court in its General Division, not its Industrial Division, and which therefore is squarely within the ambit of this provision. It has been hard enough for the Labor movement, which has been very much on the receiving end of section 45D, to get even remotely tolerable interpretations and applications of section 45D from the existing squad of Federal judges who have had a hand in its interpretation. God knows how much harder the task of the unions, accordingly, will be in defending themselves against the rigours of this extraordinary piece of legislation if they find themselves subject to possible proceedings before every judicial Tom, Dick and Harry right around Australia. With the greatest of respect, as usual, to the members of the judiciary who may be called upon to resolve these matters, I suggest that in the context of section 45D one has a classic example of a politico-legal provision which requires interpretation and application by judges who have at least some sense of the context in which the legislation is being applied.
As I have said, it is hard enough, as it is, to get that kind of appreciation from the existing Federal Court. How much harder will it be if judges all around Australia can have a hand in the application of this legislation? This is not an artificial, remote or fantastical problem because, to my knowledge, most of the really explosive section 45 D court confrontations have arisen in the context of interlocutory applications rather than at the trial of the action itself. I raise those questions with the greatest of seriousness on behalf of the Opposition to draw to the Government’s attention the fact that the characters of these changes quite possibly have been rather more substantive and less procedural in their connotations than the Government has conceded in the remarks of the Attorney-General who introduced this amendment.
– The point that has been made by Senator Evans has not been overlooked by myself in relation to this matter. I have had some discussions over a period of time with the Chief Judge of the Federal Court of Australia in relation to this proposal. He assures me that in almost all cases that have arisen he has been able to get a Federal judge to be available within a reasonable time. He is certainly aware of the desirability of having judges who are developing or have developed expertise deal with more sensitive matters that may arise under the Trade Practices Act. Senator Evans has referred to one of them but there are others. Certainly if any matter of any sensitivity, or potential sensitivity, were to arise, I have no doubt that a Federal judge of experience and of suitable calibre would be made available as soon as possible.
This proposed new section is designed simply to cover a situation where an order has to be made in some cases perhaps within hours. The probabilities are that any such order would be made only with temporary effect in any event and any major issue that arose, albeit on an interlocutory application, would be one which would not have to be dealt with on that sort of time basis. Certainly it will be the policy of the Chief Judge of the Federal Court to ensure that as far as possible a Federal judge will be made available wherever such a sensitive issue arises.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 1 February, on motion by Senator Webster:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is it the wish of the Senate to have a general debate covering both Bills? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– As the Minister for Science and Environment (Senator Webster) has just stated these two Bills are very much interrelated and therefore the Opposition does not object to the two of them being debated at the one time, especially as we of the Labor movement do not offer opposition to either of them. I take it that the first Bill to be dealt with is the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Amendment Bill 1979. As the Minister has said in his second reading speech, the purpose of that Bill is to introduce new citizenship provisions into the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act of 1955 in order to extend Australian citizenship to any person who is not already an Australian citizen, who was ordinarily resident on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands immediately before his transfer to Australia, who is now ordinarily resident in Australia or an external territory- that relates to the Territory of Christmas Island- and who wishes to take up Australian citizenship. The Opposition supports the object that is expressed in those terms by the Minister in his second reading speech. It is in line with the policies of the Labor movement which were being adopted by the Australian Labor Party Government when it went out of office. Indeed, that object is in line with the policies the Labor Government was implementing and we offer no objection to it.
From remarks that the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) made in another place in replying to the debate that took place there last Tuesday night I note that the Cocos-Malay population on Home Island in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands is now down to about 270, of whom 140 will become eligible under these proposed provisions to become Australian citizens. In addition to those 140 citizens some 180 from the Cocos (Keeling) Islands- the CocosMalay people- are now already resident in Western Australia. They have not yet become Australian citizens but they also will be eligible to take out Australian citizenship. As I understand it, included in the 180 people are some CocosMalay people who are now residents of Christmas Island. I trust that all those people- the 140 left on Home Island and the 180 in Western Australia and on Christmas Island- will be encouraged by the Government to take advantage of the provisions of this Bill and become Australian citizens.
There has obviously been a great shift in population in the last three years because from recollection when I, as Special Minister of State in the Whitlam Labor Government went to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands to have discussions with Mr Clunies-Ross and the inhabitants of the Cocos-Malay community, there were some 400 Cocos-Malay people in the local community, compared with about 270 now. Whilst at that time I think there were about 180 or 200 people in the work force, I note that according to the Minister’s statement the work force of the CocosMalay community is now about only 130. There is no doubt that at long last things are moving in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands to bring about freedom for the members of the Cocos-Malay community. The Minister has said that recently a number of things were carried out. For instance, I note that a special nurse has been specifically assigned, basically for most of her time, to look after the needs and wants of the people on Home Island. The Minister has brought nine young students from the Cocos-Malay school on Home Island to the Mount Lawley college in Western Australia, and I also note from the Minister’s statement that another teacher has been appointed to the school on Home Island. The token money is no longer in use and, as I understand it, has been withdrawn from circulation. Generally speaking, at long last things are on the improve in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
If I might say so, a lot of time in achieving reform was lost with the dismissal of the Labor Government because all the things now envisaged, the things that are the subject of this legislation, and many more matters were beginning to be done by us as a government when we were dismissed from office. I made mention of the many matters that confronted the then Government in a ministerial statement I made to the Parliament in September 1975. But I must say that undoubtedly Australia and particularly the Cocos-Malay community should be indebted to the ‘Decolonisation’ Committee of the United Nations- the Committee of TwentyFourwhich went to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in November 1974 at the invitation of the then Labor Government. After having visited the islands the Committee presented its report to the United Nations. The report drew attention to what the Committee regarded as some unsatisfactory features in the situation on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
It strongly recommended that steps be taken as soon as possible to disengage the links between the Cocos-Malay community and the Clunies-Ross estate and since that time it has kept an ever watchful eye on the situation. I think that each June the Australian Government has had to report to the ‘Decolonisation’ Committee on the steps that it was taking to achieve political and social reform for these people. I think that Australia and the Cocos Malay community owe a debt of gratitude to the ‘Decolonisation’ Committee or the Committee of Twenty-four. After the ‘Decolonisation’ Committee of the United Nations had visited the Cocos (Keeling) Islands the Australian representative on the Committee of Twenty-four, Mr Duncan Campbell, made a statement to the Committee in November 1 974 setting out the then Government’s policy so far as the Cocos (Keeling) Islands were concerned. These were the principle matters that he listed:
It is interesting to observe that the ninth matter that was set out by Mr Duncan Campbell to the Committee of Twenty-Four in November 1974, 4 1/2 years ago, is now being implemented by this legislation. I am pleased to see that in the generality the policies that were enunciated by the Labor Government in 1974 are now beginning to be implemented by the present Government. I commend the attitudes and the actions of the present Minister for Home Affairs and the interest he has taken in this matter. I know that only about 3 weeks ago he was in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. He has devoted a lot of his time to tending to the legislative requirements for reform in this area. I know that he is taking steps to see that local government elections soon take place. A manager of the copra plantation has been appointed and it is pleasing for members of the Labor Party to see interest of this nature at last by the present Government. The fact that 4Vi years later this Bill is now in accord with the principles enunciated by the Labor Government in November 1974 indicates that we offer our support for that particular piece of legislation.
The purpose of the Postal Services Amendment Bill is to enable the Cocos (Keeling) Islands people to establish their own postal and philatelic services in the islands similar to those that are in existence on Norfolk Island and Christmas Island. Most of the Cocos Malay community are in fact Australian citizens. As I have said, many of them have left the islands and are living in Australia but there is still a population of about 270. This postal and philatelic service will be a means of contributing to their income. I note that in replying in the second reading debate on this Bill in another place the Minister said that at least $100,000 to $200,000 will be added to the revenue of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands on the assumption that the amount of revenue is similar to that which is received from the postal and philatelic services on Norfolk Island and Christmas Island.
I draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that he might be a little optimistic because on Norfolk Island there is a very healthy tourist trade and there is a regular commuter service between Christmas Island and Singapore- Also there are the commercial operations of the Christmas Island Phosphate Commission taking place on Christmas Island. Apart from the copra plantation and the possible construction of a quarantine station there is very little industry on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Nonetheless, sales of stamps by the philatelic service will be of some assistance to the economy of the Cocos Malay community. For that reason the Opposition does not oppose this piece of legislation. Therefore, we do not oppose the passage of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Amendment Bill or the Postal Services Amendment Bill.
– My remarks will be confined to comments on the Postal Services Amendment Bill. The amending Bill makes changes to the Postal Services Act 1975 by changing the definition of prescribed external Territory ‘ in section 3 of that principal Act so as to include the Territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands together with Norfolk Island and Christmas Island as a prescribed external territory. Section 4 of that Act indicates that the general terms of the Act extend to prescribed external territories. Section 13, which becomes relevant to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, provides that the Commission- in this case the Postal Commission- ‘shall issue and sell postage stamps indicating such amounts of postage as the Commission deems appropriate ‘.
I want to make a few remarks about the philatelic services which have been provided on Christmas Island and Norfolk Island. I would also like to draw the attention of the Minister to some undertakings which should be looked at as far as the establishment of a philatelic service for Cocos (Keeling) Islands is concerned in order to avoid some of the more unfortunate aspects of the way in which philatelic services in Christmas Island and Norfolk Island have occasionally developed. I also want to ask the Minister certain questions regarding the position of the Australian Postal Commission in its role as agent for the philatelic services which will be provided for Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
I am disappointed that there is no really accurate attempt on the part of the Government to indicate the projected level of revenue that may accrue from the establishment of these philatelic services. I think it is interesting to have a look at what the most recent reports for both Christmas Island and Norfolk Island have had to say about the provision of and the revenue derived from philatelic services. Christmas Island has had its own separate philatelic service since 1968 and has issued, I think, something in the order of 100 different postage stamps. Christmas Island, because of difficulties in franking postage stamps, is one of the few areas from which good quality postage stamps which have been franked are worth more than the mint issues. The 1977-78 Christmas Island report indicates that revenue derived from postal services, including philatelic revenue, was $107,000 in 1975-76, $202,000 in 1976-77 and $570,667 in 1977-78. This indicates a quite substantial increase in revenues derived from philatelic services. In this instance one would have thought that increased revenues have been derived without the benefit of tourism as Senator Douglas McClelland indicated is the case in relation to Norfolk Island.
The Christmas Island report indicates that the Philatelic Bureau in fact is supplying something like 2,500 standing order clients around the world, the majority of these, one would suspect, being in the Australasian region. People who are interested in postage stamps will undoubtedly recall the Christmas 1977 issue of postage stamps which consisted of a sheet of 12 different stamps commemorating various aspects of the carol The Twelve Days of Christmas’. That issue was awarded seventh place in the 1977 stamp of the year competition conducted by one of the more respected international philatelic organisations. Not having had the benefit of checking with Senator Lajovic the title of this organisation, which is in Italian, I will not trouble myself with the pronunciation. All I can say is that the translation of this organisation is simply, I think, the Italian stamp collectors organisation.
The 1977-78 Norfolk Island report similarly indicates a fairly widespread increase in the revenue derived from philatelic sales as far as its postage stamps are concerned. The statement of revenue for that year in the report indicated the sale of stamps at $549,667. The details provided in chapter 1 1 of the report indicate a fairly extensive program. There were five principal issues of stamps during the course of that year, all of which were marked by being issued for fairly short periods of time. They were withdrawn from general distribution fairly quickly after they had been introduced. This clearly indicates the extent to which the Norfolk Island stamps were being used as a fairly short, sharp method of raising reasonable sums of revenue. These stamps were fairly scarce.
Norfolk Island stamps have been issued independently since 1947. More than 200 issues have been made in that time. It will be interesting to see whether the Australian Postal Commission intends to encourage in the Christmas
Island, Norfolk Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands jurisdictions some of the more interesting philatelic developments that it has engaged in in the last year or so. The Commission derives something like $8. 5m in revenue from its own philatelic sales. It pursues a fairly conservative policy on stamp issues. However, it has introduced a series of fairly novel innovations in the promotion of Australian stamps, particularly the introduction of the new maxi-card which in effect is a blow-up of the subject matter of the postage stamp concerned. I understand that this card was issued for the first time last Christmas.
There are, however, certain aspects of the way in which philatelic business has been conducted, particularly in relation to Christmas Island, that are somewhat less than satisfactory in my judgment, and I hope that they will be avoided in the case of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Stamps from the smaller nations in our part of the world in recent times have been subject to a fair amount of what I think can rightly be described as fiddling. Artificial prices have been derived for these stamps by indicating to people in general or in quite specific terms that a large number of stamps of a particular issue would be printed and sold, and then at some later stage restricting the issue to below the number originally expected, thereby causing fairly sharp increases in prices. The most notorious example of this practice in recent years was in 1977 when an indication was given that a fairly large number of the Silver Jubilee issue from Tonga would be made available for sale. These stamps were placed on the market in Australia at about $9.50 a set. An indication was suddenly given that something had gone wrong and the number of sets available was substantially diminished. The price went up in the space of about three weeks from $9.50 a set to $75 a set, which is not a bad sort of windfall profit if one happened to have been in the know fairly early and had bought a couple of hundred sets at $9.50.
– You are saying that happened almost by design and that it involves governments?
– I am saying that there is, in certain philatelic administrations- and Tonga is one that I specifically point to- a degree of behaviour which, as Senator Peter Baume has rightly said, can only take place with some degree of connivance on the part of the postal authorities concerned. Such practices should not be tolerated or condoned by government or semi-government policies. Nauru is another place in which this practice has been evident. I am concerned that something of a similar nature took place in respect of the philatelic department on Christmas Island over the issue of the stamps depicting ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas ‘ which I mentioned previously. The first issue of these stamps was made on non-watermarked paper. Quite clearly the printing was far too small in terms of numbers and far too many of them were immediately despatched to major philatelic outlets in the United Kingdom and the United States so that in Australia, bearing in mind the relationship between the Australian Postal Commission and the philatelic services of Christmas Island, there were very few, if any, of these sets available. What happened was that they were sent to the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom large numbers of these sheets were broken up into individual stamps instead of being preserved in sheets. Because of this the value of these stamps on the market in Sydney increased threefold in the first week of issue. They were completely unavailable from the philatelic outlets in Sydney. There was sufficient demand and furore about the whole thing for a second issue of these stamps to be made, the difference being that the second issue was made on watermarked paper. Therefore, purely from a collector’s point of view, the value of the first issue on nonwatermarked paper was preserved at a fairly artificially high level.
There have been instances of this even with the stamps issued by the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, which has been issuing stamps bearing that title since 1963 although I think that it has issued fewer than 50 stamps in only about four or five sets. Certainly the 1969 decimal set, which went on sale on 9 July 1969 and remained on sale until its withdrawal on 31 December 1976, ran into problems in that there was somehow a shortfall in the maintaining of supplies of the 2c and 10c stamps in that set so that long before the date on which the stamps were formally withdrawn from issue the sets were no longer able to be purchased.
I understand that the Australian Postal Commission is to act as agent in Australia in the same way as it does not only for Norfolk Island and Christmas Island but also for certain others and that negotiations are to be held with private commercial agents to arrange sales in other countries. I understand that the Postal Commission intends to charge a standard flat fee of 35 per cent of revenue from sales for these stamps. I am a little curious about this 35 per cent. I raise this matter for a couple of reasons. The Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) has indicated in his second reading speech that the objective of establishing this philatelic administration is to provide revenue for the people of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. I think that mat is an admirable undertaking. As I have said, I would like to have more details about what that revenue might be, particularly bearing in mind the fact that the January 1977 to June 1978 report for the Islands indicates that revenue in 1977-78 was only $59,250. One wonders what the situation will be and whether in fact the sale of postage stamps will provide the bulk of revenue for the Cocos (Keeling) Islands compared with the other sources of revenue.
I mention the 35 per cent fee because Christmas Island operates similarly by having agents other than the Australian Postal Commission to act for it. I understand that the Postal Commission acts as agent for Christmas Island only in the sale of stamps and that stamp packs, such as the 1969 and 1976 decimal currency and ship series packs which were issued by the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and first day covers, which are an interesting collector’s item, are not sold through the Postal Commission as agent. In fact, Christmas Island has recently appointed an agent in Sydney to sell first day covers for it. The agent is an excellent dealer by the name of Robert Kennedy, who, I should acknowledge, has been good enough to provide me with information about the agent arrangements with Christmas Island. He tells me that in fact the contract he has with the Christmas Island authority for the sale of these first day covers and packs provides for a commission of 25 per cent of sales at face value. As an agent operating a small efficient business in Sydney is prepared to work on the basis of a 25 per cent commission, I am curious as to why the Australian Postal Commission, which is selling only stamps and not packs or first day covers, should require the higher figure of 35 per cent, thereby depriving the people of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands of a certain percentage of revenue which might otherwise come their way.
I turn very briefly to the question of where the printing of these stamps should be undertaken. Last year the Industries Assistance Commission reported on some of the problems in the printing industry. It made it quite clear that governments had some role to play in assisting the printing industry in Australia where possible by helping it to find extra work and particularly looking at the business of contracting out work which might otherwise be done by government printing works and which could profitably or adequately be done by others. In my view Australia has been a bit tardy in this respect because, with the Norfolk
Island and Christmas Island philatelic services basically under our control, we have still by and large allowed the stamps involved to be printed overseas. In fact the 1974 aircraft set of Norfolk Island was printed in Helsinki and most printing since has been done by Harrison’s of London. Stamps from No. 33 onwards in the Christmas Island catalogue were also printed by Harrison’s. I notice that the House of Questa which is a major printing concern in the United Kingdom, also has obtained a fair amount of work from similar places. I am concerned as to why it is that when all Australian postage stamps are printed quite adequately in Australia- some of them are of the very highest quality with the most beautiful printing, such as the Tom Roberts series of high value stamps- the philatelic organisations directly connected with the Australian Postal Commission should be going outside Australia to print their stamps. This has been happening for a long time, even when we were responsible for the postal administration in Papua New Guinea. We very often allowed its stamps to be printed by the firm of Courvoisier
I would like also to talk in a general sense about stamps that are under the control of the Postal Commission or related authorities. There are a number of things that I think could be done which would substantially assist people who find postage stamps not only fascinating in themselves but also interesting from the historical and educational point of view. One thing that we could do, for instance, is put dates on stamps indicating the date on which particular events took place or the relevant dates concerning people who are being commemorated. It has always struck me as being quite ridiculous that we should issue Australian postage stamps- for instance, the series about Prime Ministerswithout indicating any date, so that anybody who is collecting them on a random basis would not know whether Deakin came before or after Billy Hughes. If we are going to use postage stamps for educative purposes, which I believe we certainly can do, these are the sorts of things that the postal administration should be looking at. Similarly, in regard to the cancellation of stamps, particularly the cancellation of first day covers, we ought to pay a little more attention to having a system of franking which bears some relationship to the issue of the stamp involved.
I would say finally that I hope that we will maintain some sense of conservatism in terms of the issue of stamps from these administrations. At the moment a large number of stamps are being issued to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Captain Cook’s voyages. It is undoubtedly a matter of considerable interest that so far the countries to issue stamps commemorating Captain Cook’s voyages have been not only the ones that one would have expected to do so but also such diverse places as the Central African Empire, Mali, Upper Volta and the Camerouns whose historical and cultural links with Captain Cook one might have thought to have been somewhat remote. Nevertheless, I believe that this piece of legislation is most interesting. It is not often that one comes to the creation of a separate philatelic organisation or, indeed, that one looks to expanding the number of countries that will be issuing postage stamps. I suppose that there is no way of estimating the number of people in Australia who, as collectors or observers, have some interest in postage stamps and philately. It must run to hundreds and hundreds of thousands, and throughout the world the number must run into many millions. I hope, therefore, that in the administration of the philatelic services on the Cocos Islands some of the problems which have been evident with the administrations on Christmas Island and Norfolk Island will be avoided. I hope, similarly, that the Minister will be able to make some comment on the Commission’s desire to take 35 per cent of sales as its agent’s fee, and that in developing the philatelic administration of the Cocos Islands the majority of our concern will be directed towards maximising revenue which can be turned back into providing additional funds for the welfare of the people who happen to live there.
– in replyThe Cocos (Keeling) Islands Amendment Bill 1979 is being debated cognately with the Postal Services Amendment Bill 1979. I thank both Senator Douglas McClelland and Senator Puplick for their contributions. I have noted over the years that in this place we have had more interesting debates relating to Cocos Island and its existence than have taken place in the House of Representatives. People interested in this Bill will be able to refer to the substantial statement made by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) on 20 February 1979, as reported in the Hansard of another place. To an extent, that statement directs attention to much of the minor detail which is the responsibility of the Minister. The Cocos (Keeling) Islands Amendment Bill extends Australian citizenship entitlement to a variety of people, including those living on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and some people who had already transferred to Australia. The Act, when it is proclaimed, will be a quite monumental one, and I understand that it will be proclaimed to coincide with the date on which an ordinance establishing the postal service will come into effect. As I understand it, the proclamation will come within the next two or three months.
So far as the Islands are concerned, since the middle of 1975 approximately 230 people, or some 45 per cent of the mid- 1975 population, have left the Territory to come to the mainland. They have done this either by dint of their own savings or by arrangements with other people, and firms in Australia have helped then to settle here. It is interesting to note that since government counselling of the community has taken place, basically against migration, very few people have left. I understand that only seven people have left since February 1978. One would hope that the population of the Islands will stabilise because it is apparent that there is a great future for those people who make a decision to reside on the Islands. With the passage of these two Bills, and in view of the announcements that have been made by Mr Ellicott in relation not only to citizenship but also to the setting up of the co-operative, the establishment of a local government council and the provision on the Islands of the normal municipal services that we expect in our society such as electricity, sewerage and water reticulation a great prospect lies before this community.
The transfer of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands to Australia was effected by an Order in Council made under the Cocos Island Act 1959 of the United Kingdom and by the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955 of Australia. The responsibilities for the welfare of the Territory’s people which Australia thus assumed had an international significance as Britain had earlier declared that the Cocos Islands were a nonselfgoverning territory to which Chapter 1 1 of the United Nations Charter applied. Australia therefore has continued to report annually to the United Nations on its administration of the Cocos Islands. It is interesting to note that the Fourth Committee, that is, the Decolonisation Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, last considered the Cocos Islands as recently as November and December 1978. Australia’s representative outlined the decisions and progress made by the Government with respect to the purchase of and future policies for the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The Fourth Committee noted with satisfaction the measures being taken by the Government and adopted a draft consensus on 5 December 1978. A reading of that consensus reflects a view that credit is due to both this Administration and the former
Labor Administration for the work that was done. In that regard, Senator Douglas McClelland probably derived some satisfaction from taking part in this debate today, and I acknowledge his interest in the matter.
Senator Puplick spoke in a clear manner in relation to the second of the two Bills and indicated to the Senate that he had a wide knowledge of philatelic matters. I congratulate him on having that knowledge. He raised a question which I cannot answer satisfactorily for him, relating to the 35 per cent commission that was applied to both Norfolk Island and Christmas Island. I am able to respond to him only from the advice I have, which is that that is the rate of commission that has been struck by the Australian Postal Commission, the Australian agents. I am unable to say how that 35 per cent is constituted. Undoubtedly a variety of work is handled by the Postal Commission and I feel confident that it would strike a reasonable figure. Whether 35 per cent appears to be reasonable or not, on the calculations made by Senator Puplick it could return a quite substantial amount to the Australian Post Office. I am unable to indicate how that 35 per cent is constituted, but if the honourable senator indicates that he would like me to do so- he does so indicate by nodding his head- I will see that that question is referred to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) and attempt to get an answer.
Whilst the Department of Home Affairs is establishing the service, it is being advised in this matter by the Postal and Telecommunications Department. I understand that very experienced officers of Australia Post have been seconded to the Department of Home Affairs to assist in this regard. Mr Charles Buffett, M.B.E., is the Administrator of Cocos Island and was formerly the Administrator of Norfolk Island. He is therefore a very experienced officer in regard to the matters that are the subject of the second Bill. It is heartening to note that the two pieces of legislation have the wholehearted support of the Senate. On behalf of the Government I thank those who have spoken.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 2 1 February, on motion by Senator Chaney:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 25 October, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
– The Senate is considering the Ministerial Statement of 25 October 1978 made by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) which alters the eligibility for access to legal aid in Australia. The debate was adjourned at that stage and this is the first opportunity we have had to come back to the subject. Let me acknowledge at the outset of my remarks that the new arrangements which are set out in the statement do improve access to legal aid for some people and diminish access to legal aid for other people with particular problems. It is not my intention to discuss or canvass the details of the particular decision. I believe that that is properly a matter for those with a legal background and legal training.
I wish to identify in general what I see as the effects to some of the consumers of legal aid, and to offer a few comments on a more general principle which the new arrangements illustrate and which I believe we should discuss. I think it is good for debates of this kind on technical matters in the professional area of some people in the Senate to involve as wide a circle of senators as possible. After all, legal aid is available to all citizens. I could speak as a potential consumer of legal aid. Perhaps my present income would preclude that, but I could speak as a citizen without legal training who may need to consume legal services and may need access to legal aid. Others may speak in the debate as practitioners who see legal aid issues in a different way; practitioners of law who may even be said to have some special interest in the area and in the arrangements which are provided; some interests to declare as well as special views and special skills.
The Minister in his speech referred to the fact that legal aid prior to the new arrangements was being refused by the Australian Legal Aid Office to people in real need. He also drew attention to the fact that some progress had been made in simplifying some of the legal procedures. He drew particular attention to the greater ease of dissolution of marriage, a situation which had changed since the time when the Legal Aid Act was first passed and therefore might require some different arrangements. He also drew attention to the fact that because of wage adjustments which had occurred generally in the community some people who had been eligible for legal aid in 1976 were not eligible for it in 1978, simply because their incomes had gone up and the guidelines had not altered. The new guidelines laid down by the Minister in general increase the permissible income within which legal aid is to be granted. The guidelines at the same time narrow the scope of services by limiting assistance in the family law jurisdiction to urgent dissolutions and to real financial need.
We see the Minister on the one hand increasing the capacity for people to take advantage of legal aid by virtue of their income, and on the other hand reducing the capacity of people to have access to legal aid by removing from the available services certain matters which he no longer feels are appropriate. In the statement there is a recognition of legal aid as a service which is available, and is to be available only to certain people who demonstrate need and satisfy certain particular criteria. I think that is important because it makes clear that legal aid in Australia is not a social right available to all, irrespective of need or income. I think we will discuss legal aid more effectively if we do it on the basis that it is a needs based service, not a universal right to all Australians; there is no universal right of access to State financed legal services under which most goverment schemes operate.
I was concerned when the last Budget Papers appeared and I saw the amounts which had been made available for legal aid and how legal aid services had fared. If we look at Appropriation Bill (No. 1) we discover that if the total appropriation of $ 19.64m available for 1978-79 is utilised, it is only marginally less than the amount of expenditure in 1977-78 which was $ 1 9.9 1 m. Clearly I and many other people would have liked to have seen an increased appropriation.
– It is not marginally less in real terms.
– I do not deny that to the extent that the price deflator has altered the value of money the honourable senator is correct. Let us acknowledge that fact. We are not denying it. Nevertheless the Government has made available a very considerable amount of money and it is now our job to utilise it in the most effective and efficient way possible to carry out tasks that we see as important. If we look at Budget Paper No. 2 we discover, for example, that the actual expenditure in 1977-78 on the matters covered in Appropriation Bill No. 2 was $80,000 and the amount appropriated this year is $250,000. In dollar terms the amounts expended in the two years are not going to be greatly different. Let us acknowledge that to the extent that there have been changes in the value of money this may represent some real diminution in what is available. The question then arises: How do we most effectively use that money for the community’s benefit and for the benefit of those in real need? The new arrangements provide for a few other details. For example they provide for a greater contribution from some clients and a lesser fee for some practitioners for some of the services which they render. I am not going to develop those provisions; I will leave discussion of those matters to Senator Evans or to other honourable senators who may be able to tell us in more detail what they mean.
I want to discuss another issue. These guidelines seek to reorganise the use of resources committed for legal aid. They seek to allocate the money in a coherent way so that it is put to the best use. In general I think this is a highly desirable thing to do. The Attorney-General has indicated how he wants that done. He does not want, in general legal aid services to be used for simple dissolution. He is prepared to see legal aid services used, say, in the family law jurisdiction for cases of real need, for cases of urgent dissolution and for the more difficult matters, which he sets out in his statement, of custody, maintenance, access and so on. But he is going about the other process of deepening access to a greater number of people. In my own constituency work I have had a number of concerns about access to legal aid expressed to me by my constituents. In general the concerns that have been expressed to me have been mostly on the grounds that the income tests have barred them. There has been much less concern about the ambit of availability not being wide enough. That has been my experience in my own constituency work in Sydney.
Mr Deputy President, legal aid cannot be considered in isolation and it cannot be looked at on its own. It is not an isolated service. Legal aid is simply part of the whole human services area in which government is involved. It is actually a welfare service. It is no different from the other welfare services. It is of the same quality as the community development services. It is a form of crisis intervention. To the extent that the court provides one of the places where people interlock in the system at times of crisis, legal aid is one of the ways to enable this to happen more effectively. We should examine legal aid services against the same tests by which we examine other welfare measures. We should look at the kind of social effects which are produced. We should look at the place of legal aid in a coherent welfare system in the same way as we look at all other welfare services. I must say that in the debates that we have had on the legal aid services we have tended to take this as an isolated matter which is in some way different. Legal aid is an important service, but it fits into a whole range of services. Whether they are health services, welfare services, housing policies or community development activities, they are all part of the same kind of interventions by government aimed at giving people a better chance.
I would reject completely any tacit or implicit proposition that has emerged that legal aid is unique, that it is different or that it should be looked at on its own. If we in the Senate are going to look at the matter logically, look at these guidelines and look properly at this statement, we must look at legal aid as part of a welfare system and part of the human services area within that system. In theory and in concept, it is not really different from housing, taxation policy, health, the cash transfer system, the provision of services or community development. They are all part of the same set of issues. They are all important, they are all vital and they are all interlocking. That is the point that I want to make more than any other. We cannot look at legal aid alone; it interlocks with all the other matters. The problems are the same, the limitations are the same and the inhibitions are the same. We are faced with a general set of propositions that we have to attack. The same body of theory could apply across the same areas, perhaps with some slight variations. If in this Senate our concerns are for access for all Australians, for equity, if our concerns are for effectiveness and efficiency, then those concerns can be as effectively examined by looking at legal aid as a welfare service as our concerns can be examined for all other aspects of the welfare system.
This brings me to the one central unresolved issue in the whole welfare area in Australia. It is the issue of resources and how resources are allocated, and the kind of crisis which is developing in resource allocation in the area of welfare services generally, of which legal aid is only one part.
– It hardly gets a guernsey, senator.
– I illustrate this point by referring to a medical lecture, one of the annual narrations given in 1976. I refer to the
Shattuck lecture given by an American named Roy. In relation to medical care he said:
Three medical facts of life emerge: that we cannot do everything that is scientifically possible for everyone everywhere that if we cannot do everything for everyone everywhere we must decide what we are going to do for whom where.
The third point he made was quite medical: that personal health care is only one determinant of health.
The first two points he made bring us to the kind of central problem we have. We have been allocating into the whole human services area an increasing amount of our resources and we are finding increasing resistance from all governments of all political persuasions to the amount of our expenditure. It does not matter whether it is in health, welfare, legal aid or housing. Sooner or later there has to be a proportion of our gross domestic product above which we cannot tolerate expenditure. I am not going to say what that proportion is. It could be that 90 per cent of our GDP might go into the human services area. Already 50 per cent of all our Budget expenses go in this area. Sooner or later the community is going to say: ‘No more’. There is a limit to the amount of resource which it is possible to claim for the human services area. Until we recognise that and until we do something about getting a rational distribution we will continue to find, as Senator Missen said by way of interjection, that one area scarcely gets a guernsey and another area, through historic power, keeps getting accretions to its amounts. It becomes very difficult in that kind of situation to have new interventions because they have to compete with established calls upon the national purse. There is a resource limit to what we can even attempt, and there is certainly a limit to what we can do and to what we can do effectively.
The issue in the resources area is to identify priorities between sectors, certainly between the broad sectors of government activity. Should we be doing more in the human services area and, if so, which areas of government activity will be able to attract less, because in the end, even in the battle between sectors, we can get more for one sector only if we take less for another? Certainly we can utilise any increase in real national wealth but we cannot claim more for the human services area without at the same time demanding that less be spent somewhere else. If we want more for one part of the human services area and the situation is that the community say it cannot increase the commitment to human services above 50 per cent of the Budget, we will have to start saying that some other area will have to have less- I am not saying that that is an inappropriate proposition- but we will have to help to identify which area it is that will get less.
We have one cash transfer program in this country which each year takes $3.25 billion. The sum of $3,250m goes on one program alone. Its increase each year simply by indexation of the pension is more than the total subvention in most of the community development areas, legal aid and all the other matters. If we want more say in community development, sooner or later we will have to bite the bullet and say that there will be less in some other area or a halt. This is an issue which does not seem to be getting the attention in the community that it should be receiving. The same thing applies within the different sectors, even within health or the legal aid areas. If we want more spent on one area, unless we can increase the total appropriation we will have to start identifying less in another area.
– You could spend more efficiently what you are spending.
-The honourable senator talks about efficiency. Who could argue with that? That is a thoroughly admirable statement. We are in pursuit of efficiency but we are also in pursuit of equity, access and effectiveness. They are all different matters. Efficiency is one of them.
– Why don’t you abandon your ideological opposition to salaried services?
-The honourable senator now brings out particular ways in which he could use money more efficiently. That is fine, but we must acknowledge the principle that, within a fixed subvention, to get more in one area of legal aid we will have to have a reorganisation which would involve taking away from some other activity or area. If the honourable senator says that it should be taken away from the fees payable to private practitioners then that is the suggestion that he puts in. I do not find that inappropriate. There is what economists call a romantic view of resource allocation by which people are apt to identify what should be done without any appreciation of what is available to do it. It is trying to bring the two back into some kind of coherence that is the great unresolved issue today.
We therefore need, and it is proper to do so, to examine and criticise each sector- legal aid, housing and every other sector- and to look at the total allocation to see how it is distributed and how we can do things more efficiently and more effectively. It is a fact that the AttorneyGeneral has moved to do that or to try to do that in the new guidelines, which I think is very encouraging. He obviously would have thought that he would receive a bigger appropriation. Let me repeat that the appropriation of $ 19.6m is only a couple of hundred thousand dollars less than the expenditure in the previous year.
-The honourable senator can say what he wishes. It could have been worse. Our job now is to make sure that that appropriation is used as efficiently and effectively as possible. The Attorney-General has moved to alter the eligibility criteria to enable more people at different income levels to be able to use legal aid services and at the same time to remove what he sees as lower priority activities for access to legal aid through the routine dissolution provisions et cetera, which is at least a step on the right road. I think that we must applaud the Government at least to the extent that it has tried to bring some rationality into the way in which the appropriation is to be used this year.
I repeat that problems it has faced in the legal aid area will have to be faced in other areas if not this year then next year and in the following few years. There is no way, for example, that we can continue indefinitely to increase our appropriations for health as a percentage of the gross domestic product. There is no way that we are going to be able to sustain a situation in which an increased proportion of the gross domestic product is going to welfare programs generally. Sooner or later we will have to face the painful decision that we can no longer work simply by incremental budgeting, that is, taking what we have got and adding something on the top. We will have to work by substitution, that is, removing some services to permit us to add others. The kind of issue which faces us will be neither popular nor painless. Any government that has to do it will attract a good deal of criticism in whatever area is affected and no matter how impeccable the decisions are in terms of logic. No matter which government is in office- whatever its political complexion- it will have to be faced sooner or later. I think these forays into the politics of resources use and allocation are going to be with us more and more.
I see the statement of the Attorney-General in those terms. I have not attempted in any way to go into the particular matters, to say whether I think solicitors are being paid enough, too much or too little, or to say whether a fee that is being charged is appropriate. What the AttorneyGeneral has done has been to recognise that, within a certain appropriation, if he wants to do justice in one area he can do it only by restricting access in another. This is the first time in the human services area that I have seen the issue faced so boldly. To that extent I applaud the Government and I applaud the AttorneyGeneral.
– Whilst one must no doubt learn to be thankful for small mercies when one is in opposition, it is a matter for regret that it is only now- four months after the ministerial statement was made- that a formal opportunity has been given to debate the issues raised by it. Because of the delay it has been necessary for honourable senators on both sides of the chamber to find other ways and means of getting their respective positions on the record. I for one found the opportunity, as did Senator Missen on the Government side, in the context of the Budget debate on 8 November and for that reason my remarks today perhaps will be a little briefer than might otherwise have been the case. In so doing, however, I would not wish it to be thought that either I or the Opposition views with other than the utmost gravity the critical position in which legal aid funding has been increasingly finding itself over the last few years or that we view with anything other than the utmost concern the measures which have been taken by the Government in this ministerial statement to relieve the situation.
The package announced by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) contains five basic measures. Some of them, as Senator Peter Baume acknowledged in his rather half-hearted defence of the Government’s position, are aimed at reducing costs and increasing the resources available for legal aid expenditure and otherssupposedly at least- are aimed at increasing the number of people eligible to receive aid. Let me go through each of those five measures in turn. The first one is the abolition of aid for dissolution cases except in circumstances of so-called special hardship. The rationale for this measure is that undefended dissolution cases involving no ancillary property or custody matters are simple to mount and the money could be spent elsewhere. Whilst there is certainly some force to that assertion, the difficulty, Mr Deputy President and Senator Baume, is that what might appear simple to Ministers, lawyers or other professional men in this Parliament does not necessarily appear so for ordinary people.
There is still a regrettable mystique about the law in all its aspects. This is so even with the
Family Court, which I acknowledge has been the subject of many endeavours on both the Government and Opposition sides of the Parliament to make a more informal tribunal. It is still a frightening experience for the ordinary layman to contemplate an appearance before or involvement with any court in the land. As procedures now stand it is still necessary for such an appearance to be made in all family law matters. A mass of quite complex forms still has to be filled in. This whole paraphernalia of procedures is intimidating to the ordinary person who, as a result, will continue to need and to seek advice and aid in this respect. It may be that the situation to which I have been referring could be coped with by the further simplification of Family Court procedures of the kind that have been recommended by the Commonwealth Legal Aid Commission in its first report. Certainly I hope that the Joint Committee on the Family Law Act, which is considering the operation of that Act, will given urgent attention to these matters.
It might be possible also to solve many of the problems to which I have referred by providing proper facilities for detailed personal advice to be given at all stages to people embarking on dissolution procedures. Certainly it is true that the staff of family courts around the country are doing their best to provide that advice. But the staffing situation in this area, as is the case everywhere else in the public sector, is such that on the ground they are just too hard pressed to cope in the kind of detailed way that is necessary if that advice is to be realistically helpful to people who are seeking it. A similar consideration applies to an even greater extent to the officers of the Australian Legal Aid Office, who have been very hard pressed to give advice and assistance in this area, notwithstanding their technical unavailability to provide legal aid under these new guidelines; that is, to provide legal aid in a monetary sense. They are just unable to cope with the demands for advice which are now being placed upon them. That staffing situation is a matter to which I will refer again in a few moments.
The second element in the ministerial package is the requirement that a $100 court fee is to be paid by people who institute dissolution proceedings on their own behalf, with the qualification that a registrar of the Family Court can waive that fee on the basis of considerations of substantial hardship. This needs only to be stated for one to appreciate the disincentive that this represents to the ordinary working man or woman who may urgently need a dissolution. This is even more so for the unemployed, the pensioners and others who are so financially hard pressed in current economic circumstances. If it is impossible for the person in question to find that $100, which will prove to be the case for many people in the community, the only alternative is for the applicant to throw himself or herself on the mercy of the registrar. Although there is certainly no evidence that the registrars’ discretion in this respect is being exercised with anything other than the utmost benevolence around the country this, as with other qualifications in the ministerial package of measures, reintroduces the whole concept of the smell of the charity ward which I previously understood that in recent years we had all been trying so hard to get beyond in this area of basic unsatisfied needs.
Similar considerations apply to the third of the five elements in the package, that is, the requirement that in cases where legal aid is granted a minimum contribution of $20 is to be made by the applicant for legal aid. Again, this is subject to waiver, this time by the Australian Legal Aid Office in cases of so-called demonstrated hardship. An amount of $20 may not mean much to the Minister, Senator Baume or me, but it is a very significant sum indeed to the kind of people about whom we are talking. We should remember who they are because under these guidelines the only people who are eligible for legal aid in the first place are, in the case of individuals, people whose net disposable incomes are a mere $52 a week or in the case of the ordinary average family of four with a breadwinner and three dependants, where the total net disposable income of the family is $87. One has to appreciate that these are the kinds of people we are talking about when we talk of a requirement to pay a $20 fee to swell the revenue from which aid can be made available to a larger section of the community. It is a most unhappy impost for those reasons.
The fourth element in the package is the new cost scale for solicitors in Family Court proceedings, which cost scale represents certainly a drastic downward revision of the fees payable to the private legal profession on matters referred to that profession by the Legal Aid Office. The provisions are quite complex and I will not attempt to review them in any detail, but it has been estimated that their general effect probably will be to reduce the fees payable to the profession from the previous level of 90 per cent to something like 80 per cent of the normal fees payable and in fact probably rather less than that in many individual cases. As far as I for one am concerned, as a professional lawyer I do not regard this as a change necessarily to be resisted.
Certainly there was room for stripping away some areas of unjustified fat in this respect, despite the predictable yelps we have now heard from the legal profession suggesting that no such fat existed.
Nonetheless, I think it has to be acknowledged- I hope the Government will take this point seriously- that the reduction in the fees payable to the private profession has produced a series of quite serious practical difficulties in the administration of legal aid in most of the States. These have come about as a result of a number of firms of solicitors now refusing to take on legal aid matters in family law cases. The firms that have been most conspicuous in this respect include some of the most specialised and expert firms in the family law area and firms which previously have handled quite a large bulk of the work load in this area. Perhaps the best known firm in Victoria to have made this decision- its name deserves to be put on the public record- is Russell Kennedy and Cook. But there are quite a number of other firms which are distinguishable from that one only by virtue of the less flamboyant way in which they have been evading their professional responsibilities.
Whatever one thinks of the attitudes of the firms in question- I offer no justification whatever for that kind of professional behaviour- the effect has been to place enormous additional pressures on the staffs of the Australian Legal Aid Office, both in the sense that they have had to do a great deal of extra work in trying to find firms willing to take on legal aid cases which, surprising as it may sound, I am informed has often proved difficult and lengthy, and in the even more obvious and significant sense as far as the staffs are concerned, has caused them to accept substantial additional burdens by way of the direct representation of legal aid clients in family law cases. They are burdens and pressures which the staffs just are not numerically equipped to handle within the staff guidelines and the resources that have been made available by the present Government to the Australian Legal Aid Office.
The final element in the package, and one which Senator Baume made much of, was the upward revision of the means test. I have mentioned what the base figures now are. There has been an increase from $40 to $52 in the case of individual income earners, which sum it will be noticed is still under the base level which is now payable for age, widow and invalid pensions. That is how small the net disposable income figure is. In addition, there has been the unamended provision for an extra $15 to be allowed for a first dependant and $10 for a second and each subsequent dependant. The point cannot be too strongly made that these limits, however much Senator Baume and other defenders of the Government might seek to justify them, are still hopelessly inadequate to meet real legal aid needs. Accepting Senator Baume ‘s adoption of a strict needs criterion as that which should govern one’s assessment of legal aid programs, the reality of the situation is that there are still many people who are in desperate need. Many pensioners, many people below the Henderson poverty line, will still be excluded and will still miss out on the provision of legal aid by virtue of the low level at which these guidelines are set.
– We cannot do everything that should be done for everyone, everywhere. You are absolutely right.
– I will come to solutions in a moment, but before doing that just let me oblige the honourable senator to acknowledge, if he possibly can, how inadequate the provision has been, even by the Government’s own lights. The increase does no more than restore the income test to the position at which it stood in 1975; it does nothing whatsoever to compensate for the 30 per cent increase in the general cost of living which has occurred since that time. So, even by the most generous standards which one might be tempted to adopt by the special pleading of Senator Baume, it must be said that the provision of funding in this area and the needs test levels which have been fixed by the Government are not merely marginally inadequate but grossly and spectacularly inadequate to meet real and apparent needs.
In the context of solutions, despite what Senator Baume has said the Opposition’s view is, and will remain, that the basic solution to the problem of legal aid, however else one might tackle present crises- I will come to that matter in a moment- must continue to be an acknowledgment by government of its responsibility to inject substantial additional funds into the legal aid system. Where those funds are to come from and the allocation of the cake obviously are matters for continuing argument. But the beginning of wisdom is at least to appreciate that this is one area of the social welfare system- I accept what Senator Baume has said about the characterisation of legal aid as properly being regarded as one element in a total welfare system- in relation to which the real level of the funding that is supplied cannot be allowed to drift back in the way in which this Government has allowed it to do. The allocation of $ 19.6m made in this year’s
Budget is, as has been acknowledged by Senator Baume, in fact down $300,000 on that of the previous year. It is a sum which is hopelessly inadequate to meet that to which the present Government committed itself in its 1975 election program, namely, ensuring that no person be denied legal aid because of lack of means.
Let me go beyond that consideration and try to offer what Senator Baume might regard as a more constructive solution and approach to the problem and one which picks up his own preoccupation with the question of the allocation of presumed scarce resources. Presuming, for the sake of this argument, that the resources are scarce, there is one way in which the Government, even if it persists with its present stinginess so far as the actual allocation of dollars is concerned, can do a great deal to alleviate the present situation. That solution is for the Government to abandon some of its ideological prejudice in this area and to opt not to continue supporting the private legal profession on the present scale but rather to deliver a much greater proportion of legal aid through a salaried service, through salaried officers on the ground.
All the research that has been done in this area- I am referring to the work of Professor Sackville, of the Australian Legal Aid Office and of the Australian Law Reform Commission in the context of its criminal investigation report, although I readily acknowledge that more needs to be done- indicates that in cost efficiency terms legal aid delivered by salaried officers is at least 50 per cent cheaper than that delivered by private legal practitioners; that is, twice as much aid per dollar can be delivered through salaried officers as can be achieved by the present system of dispensation of aid through the medium of the private legal profession. It is fascinating to note that even in Western Australia, that bastion of conservatism in all things, as no doubt Senator Chaney will readily acknowledge, there are some glimmers of progressive behaviour to the extent that the Legal Services Commission in that State has, I understand, been asking for budgetary assistance from the Federal Government in the context of a reallocation of its resources substantially away from the private profession into increased salaried staff.
– Do you have any suggestion about increasing the social responsibility? You have drawn attention to the lack of social responsibility within your profession. What would you like done to increase and to improve it?
– There is an enormous reservoir of social responsibility in the profession, not least from those many members of the profession, both presently employed and unemployed, who would be only too delighted to work in the public sector were the positions made available to enable them to join the public sector. I know as a fact that one recently advertised position for a legal officer in the Victorian branch of the Australian Legal Aid Office attracted 43 applicants. The level of remuneration was not especially consonant with that prevailing in the private profession for the level of experience required. Within the private profession there is a huge reservoir of people who would prefer to devote their intellectual energies and their physical resources to the provision of legal aid to the community at large. In the same way, of course, it must be acknowledged that there are many members of the private profession who, while staying within that particular framework, have in the past and are at the moment perfectly prepared to accept legal aid briefs for much less remuneration than they might otherwise be able to charge if they were doing that work privately.
The point upon which I want to insist is that the present Government’s lunatic preoccupation with the size of the public sector, combined with an unquestioning ideological commitment by it to the private profession, has meant that staff ceilings have been applied in the Australian Legal Aid Office which make any such rational reallocation of resources impossible at the moment. Not only have ceilings in the ALAO area not been increased over the last few years, but in fact they have been reduced. In 1 975 the original ceiling in the Australian Legal Aid Office was 442 for the country as a whole. In September 1975 the approved ceiling was increased by another 1 12 to 564. But, following the change of government, which some of us regrettably cannot help but remember took place in the latter part of 1975, that base figure of 442, the increase in which had not had time to be implemented at the time of the election, was reduced to 364, and it has sat there ever since. I am not talking just about a reduction in ceilings associated with the shift of officers which has recently taken place from the ALAO to the newly established State commissions; I am talking about the basic situation which has obtained now for the whole of the lifetime of this Government in regard to ceilings in the ALAO.
The ALAO is full of dedicated officers who have been working their hearts out to satisfy the huge need for legal aid services which exists in this community; but it has been impossible for significant gains to be made, and it will continue to be impossible for significant gains to be made so long as those now in charge of the Government continue to adopt the attitude they have, in relation to both the basic level of funding which is made available and the way in which that funding is allocated between different possible efficient uses. All I hope is that in the next ministerial statement that comes down in this Parliament on this subject the Government will show a much more enlightened appreciation of what is both inevitable and desirable if the situation is to be significantly improved.
– I feel disposed to briefly enter this debate for one or two reasons. I have already spoken at some length, as has Senator Evans, on this subject when debating the Appropriation Bill. On that occasion we took the opportunity to discuss these guidelines and the workings of legal aid in this community. I remind the Senate that, in fact, when this statement was introduced on 25 October there was no time to discuss the guidelines. They were introduced and we did not have the opportunity to do anything. We felt there was some opportunity to obtain some facts. Therefore we subsequently took the opportunity on 8 November 1978 to make speeches on this subject. For all it mattered, those speeches might just as well not have been made because, as far as one can see, neither the Government nor the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) took the slightest notice and there was not the slightest response or answer to the criticisms which I, in particular, then made of the guidelines and of the state of legal aid in this country.
I have found no reason to say that the position has changed or got better. I must say that since that time I have not received a great deal of material from the legal profession or from people involved in legal aid. I know there is constant criticism and I know that private practitioners are withdrawing from the legal aid area. I must say, in criticism of the profession in which I previously practised that I have not received from it a great deal of information since 8 November 1978 which would enable me to make a further speech today and which would enable me to go into further details on matters which I did not cover at that time. I think that is extraordinary. I think that is one example of the short-sightedness of the legal profession in this country. It does not provide its own protection and it does not bring forward the facts- as it very often does so well for its clients- when putting its case before members of Parliament and the public.
This afternoon I had the opportunity of hearing only part of the remarks made by Senator Baume. I regret that and I hope I do not in any way misunderstand or misinterpret the views which he expressed. I must say that I did not feel very sympathetic with the views that I heard. While I agree that of course the total scheme, the total welfare budget and the priorities of one group over another must be looked at, a situation can come where there has to be some limit, when something has to be judged to be of a lesser priority and it must go. I find this suggestion totally inapplicable to the legal aid scheme in this country because where nearly $7,000m is now spent in the medical and social welfare areas, about $20m is spent in the legal aid area. This is not an increasing amount. It is an amount which has been rather static for some years.
In Senator Evans’s interesting phrase, these guidelines were comparable to moving the chairs around on the decks of the Titanic. Perhaps they were doing a little more than that. I will concede that there were some variations in amounts of expenditures and this was some improvement if we take account of the fact that there will be a limited amount. But, let us take into account the fact that all we are doing is saying: ‘Yes, if you are a pensioner you will come within the guidelines and get legal aid’. To my mind- I think this is so in many other countries, including the United States- legal aid should not be regarded as being just for the pensioner. It is a matter of whether the law should be available to the poor or to the relatively poor in the community. If a person has a right that ought to be litigated then he should not have to take into account that it will cost him hundreds of dollars or thousands of dollars. He cannot be expected to sacrifice his home and all his assets for that purpose. It is unfair to his family and to his commitments elsewhere.
Therefore, legal aid is something that ought to be available in our civilised community to a lot more people than just the pensioners. It should be available to people who are on relatively low incomes so that they have equal access to the law. We do not yet have equal access to the law in this country. It is something of which we should be ashamed and something to which we are not yet facing up or doing enough about.
– We do not have equal access to health services. We do not have equal access to any social service at all. You are making my point. It is across the whole area.
– The honourable senator is right but I am saying he is taking one small and undeveloped area and talking as though it should be compared. When we get to a situation where $50m is spent on legal aid in an area where it would provide for some more people, then, sure, that is a comparative area. I know the position at the moment in Senator Baume ‘s profession, in the health areas and so forth, where some terrible wastes are going on. Probably the amount of money that could be saved on pathologists would be enough to provide a decent legal aid system.
– That is what I am saying.
– I am all in favour of the honourable senator’s idea that, of course, there must be comparisons, but let them be like comparisons. Let there be comparisons where there is, in fact, in existence an appropriate legal aid scheme before we think of cutting it down because the scheme has never properly got off the ground in this country.
In the course of this debate there has been mention of the fact that there is, of course, a Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Family Law Act. The hope was expressed that that committee would consider this question of legal aid. I feel that that is one of the appropriate and hopeful areas because when one looks at the whole scheme of family law- which takes up something like 80 per cent of the legal aid costs in this country- one must realise that it is a very important area. For example, in the application of legal aid at the family court, only one of the courts in Australia has a legal aid service available at the court. That court is Parramatta. Nowhere else is that service found. It is not a case of saying one or two courts could do without it. Parramatta alone has legal aid on the spot. So one would expect that legal aid must loom large in the investigation being made by a committee of the Parliament into family law.
As a member of the Committee I will not say any more about that situation. I will just say that I appreciate what has been said this afternoon. It has also been said that salaried services have a big part to play in legal aid. I agree with that. I am not sure that I am convinced, in the way that Senator Evans is, that there is some necessary advantage in that salaried service or that it is, as I think he said, 50 per cent more efficient. From my reading, which is extensive, I believe that there are areas where very definitely salaried services can perform more effectively. There are areas where the private service is more efficient and there are those areas in which the private service is perhaps not particularly interested and in which it is not taking a great deal of activity such as housing law and poverty law. In these and various other areas, the salaried service has a distinct advantage. I am not prepared to go as far as Senator Evans and say that I, for one, am satisfied that there is an overall advantage to one service. Both must play a part. It is accepted by the private legal profession now- it was not accepted in my State of Victoria just a few years ago when they were initiating litigation to try to stop the Commonwealth legal aid service- that there is an important part to be played by the salaried service. I think that has to be recognised and some moneys have to be spent to increase that area of service.
I close by saying that I am surprised that the Government has not made some further comment since this statement was tabled. Since these guidelines came down in October we have had comments in the Parliament. There has been criticism and there is more today. I hope that the officers of the Government will read some of the comments that have been made by me and by other honourable senators in this place and that there will be some response to them. I hope that our remarks will not be treated as some offthetopofthehead idea. I intend to find out more and I intend to press this question of legal aid. I do not think the present situation is satisfactory.
The guidelines that are the vehicle of this debate have done various things. I agree with most of the things that Senator Evans has said about those guidelines. There is some good in them but I think some changes are causing a great deal of difficulty to the legal profession and they are leading to people withdrawing from the legal aid scheme. This will make it all the poorer and it will mean that people will not get the advantage of a good service.
I feel, therefore, that these guidelines have merely held the position. Under them money will be moved around in a very limited area. I think that the community has to be roused to realise that much greater expenditure is needed for a proper legal aid service. If we believe in equality before the law and believe that it should apply to people who are very poor, to pensioners and to those who have a little more money than that, we must recognise that we have not done well enough in this community. I have made these few additional remarks in the hope that the Government will take some notice of what has been said so that we can improve the position of legal aid in this country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Messages received from the House of Representatives requesting the concurrence of the Senate in certain resolutions relating to joint committees.
Ordered that consideration of the messages be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
-I present the seventh report of the Senate Standing Committee on Publications.
Report- by leave- adopted.
Sitting suspended from 5.47 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business after 8 p.m.
1 ) That a Select Committee of the Senate be appointed to consider and report upon the possible planning, including terms of reference, for a national convention, to be held within two years, for a ten year indicative plan for the Australian economy, such convention to include representatives of all political parties, employers’ groups, unions and government, to attempt to establish basic guidelines on which all could agree and which would remain constant regardless of changes of government, with particular reference to-
That provisions relating to membership, powers and proceedings of the Committee be contained in a subsequent Resolution.
The concept of a total future plan covering a reasonable time span is one of the most important economic measures so far established as the economic policy of the Australian Democrats as a result of debate within our organisation. It is not too much to say that the Australian Democrats, on reflection, feel that this is an essential ingredient of any economic strategy of value or promise for this country. We regard it as crucial to our program for restoring the Australian economy to a healthy state. We would go further and say that we regard it as essential to the strategy of any political party that is in government to restore the economy to a healthy state in a world in which we will face- I must stress this point- increasing competition. It is going to be a difficult, hard world. It is not going to be one for people who muddle through. We will be competing with other nations which have long understood that future planning is necessary to their societies. They have learned that the hard way and it is not a lesson that they would forget quickly.
It is rather baffling to the Democrats why none of the old parties- most importantly the Australian Labor Party- has not brought forward a motion of this kind, discussed it and tried to justify it. The proposal I have put forward is very similar to the one made by a major Labor theorist. I refer, with respect, to Mr Bob Hawke, who has said over a period of time and apparently has not been heard very clearly, although he speaks clearly enough, that a lack of planning, a lack of consensus and a lack of getting together in the Australian society of the elements which make it up are probably basic ingredients in our economic problems. We of the Australian Democrats would agree with him absolutely.
Our curious, wasteful and thoroughly irrational system of trying to muddle through without a national plan has also been criticised by expert observers both at home and abroad. As far back as February 1975, Australia’s failure to exploit its scientific research and discoveries was criticised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in a special report on science and technology in Australia. I believe that some lessons have been learned from that. In that area particularly I think the Government is trying hard to move, as my experience on the committee I have the pleasure and honour to serve has shown me. That committee is investigating industrial research and development and I believe that this is part of the type of planning and future thinking with which we could do with a great deal more. Virtually the whole of that OECD report in one way or another identified problems basically caused by a lack of systematic future planning. John Niland of the University of New South Wales, writing in the Journal of Industrial Relations, pointed out:
Manpower planning cannot occur in an institutional vacuum. There is a whole range of vested interests leading to inefficiencies and restrictions, and a fundamental question yet to be faced in Australia is how these are to be handled.
The writer adds- and I would stress this extra point:
In substance they are peculiar -
That is these problems and inefficiencies- to our unique industrial relations system, and for this reason there is probably little to be learned from overseas experience.
That means basically that this is something that we have to sort out for ourselves and that probably the sooner we sort it out the better.
Some words have been written on the subject of planning by our good friend Dr Peter Calvo who is a lecturer in economics at the University of New South Wales. They are words to which I would like to refer at this stage because he puts some matters better than I feel I could myself. I think they are worth quoting in this context because I believe they tend to isolate the problem at which we should be looking. He said:
Economic planning means considering alternative development possibilities for the economy. Forecasting is not planning, despite the fact that the forecasting industry has managed, due to persistant economic uncertainty, to turn crystal gazing into a marketable product. A plan has four characteristics. It gives medium-term outlook; it is comprehensive; it is detailed; and it is published. Such a plan would present in detail and in concrete and nontechnical language several alternative future paths open to the economy. At present, we have a situation of unplanned intervention in almost every field of economic activity. Government interference has become necessary due to emergence of serious problems in our society. Governments have responded to issues of public goods, unemployment, inflation, pollution, environmental damage, waste and poverty. Since governments believe in the general proposition that the market can do no wrong, they are caught off-balance in the face of accelerating inflation and act in panic when corrective recessions imposed on the economy fail to remove inflation. The same attitude of surprise, panic and disorganised response characterises government reaction to problems of unemployment, drug contamination, environmental depravation, poverty, crime and urban decay. The usual governmental method of coping with these problems has been through creation of a hasty and unplanned multitude of agencies that often operate at cross purposes. At the heart of economic planning, however, is the notion of preparedness. To begin with, it would coordinate what the government is now trying to do in its disorganised and wasteful way. Furthermore, planning helps bring about a more purposeful and responsible government capable of a far greater positive response than we are ever likely to get without proper planning.
What is the urgency factor involved in this need to devise somehow for ourselves a more efficient future? I turn next to the view of no less an authority than Professor Robert Triffin, Professor of Economics at Yale University. Professor Triffin, writing in World Economy, expresses a view which is pessimistic on the whole, as is the view of many other economic experts throughout the world. He said:
The threats that confront mankind, as it enters the last quarter of this century, pervade the whole financial, economic, social and political fabric of the world . . . they may be summarised in a single word not to be found yet in any dictionary: infession that is, an inflationary recession, or even depression, reflecting the bankruptcy of the traditional answers given to changing economic problems both by the free market mechanism, and by the interventionist policies of national governments, at home as well as abroad.
I will not go right through Professor Triffin ‘s analysis, but he made the following comment after describing growing inflation, growing recession and growing unemployment:
The human misery entailed in this tragic outlook makes it nearly indecent to mention the financial threats intertwined with it.
I shall refrain from the temptation of saying what such inflation rates would mean if extrapolated over, let us say, another ten- or twenty-year period.
These are the planning periods of 10 or 20 years which I suggest should be taken into account now, not in a year’s time, not in 5 years time, not in 10 years time. It will be too late then for any kind of coherent plan to be put together. It should have been done years ago. Tomorrow is probably soon enough to start. I am concerned at the fact- and I think that it is relevant- that in many quarters planning has become a bad word. It has for some decades had associations for conservative political parties, particularly of socialism or communism, and a general 1984 feeling of State oversight of almost all aspects of life and society. This is particularly the case with economic planning. In some ways I suppose this is a justifiable feeling because State planning of almost every aspect of individuals ‘ lives has been a common factor to most totalitarian states.
Such planning is, of course, an abuse of power no matter how well meaning it was in the first place. History has also shown us another interesting point that on the whole it has been counterproductive. So strong is the tendency for most human beings to rationalise and to take overcategorical stands on such matters that I think we have to be very careful not to throw out good with bad or, to use a convenient term, not to throw the baby out with the bath water.
It is very easy to motivate whole attitudes, even the policies of a political group, around its view of a single word or a phrase that has not been too carefully examined and planning, of course, is just such a word. Part of the problem, and this is rather basic to my argument, is that planning by authoritarian States has been arbitrary and has almost always been imposed downwards without any attempt to consult the community or those business men and women and workers who must inevitably be affected by that planning. It is all the more important to distinguish this tendency because presumably it seems to professional planners that this is the right way to go about things. After all, if you are an expert on your subject and you have studied it, you probably feel that you know best. This is a natural feeling that any of us might indulge in. Surely they would feel, “We have studied our subject and it is much better for people to do what we tell them to do. They do not know. We do know.” To them it seems a perfectly simple matter. This, of course, is the perpetual cry of the bureaucrat and too often also that of the poll.tican The road to hell is traditionally paved with good intentions and this attitude of the professional planner I think is one of the most heavily trodden of such roads.
If we can believe history, in the early years of Nazi Germany planning was remarkably efficient. It got German industry back on its feet; it created the autobahns; it created the Volkswagen car; and it built up a highly efficient and large war machine.
– Are you suggesting that planning caused the excesses of the regime?
– I will continue with the thought now. I believe that it did. My next sentence answers Senators Baume ‘s point. It would be an over-simplification to claim that the planning process itself finally led to Germany’s involvement and defeat in the war. But I believe that it would be justifiable to say that the authoritarian approach was involved in each case. I think that if we look back we will see that Nazi Germany was not unique in this respect. A glance back through history shows that it is a frequent fate of autocracies. It goes right back to the first intergration of China by Shih Huang Ti, the first emperor, who was a very efficient person with a very efficient bureaucracy. Among other things it built the Great Wall. I am sure that the bureaucrats then regarded themselves as efficient and their plans as competent and capable. Indeed, the bureaucracy had many good characteristics.
To our knowledge China was the first place in the world which identified standards of widths of roads, wheel tracks, measurements and things of that sort. It built cities and forts. However, it was also authoritarian to the extent of brutality. It was unable to think in ordinary human terms and it survived only a few years after the death of its instigator. That emperor was so feared and the effect of his death was so feared that when he died away from the enormous capital he had built his body was concealed for weeks by his troops in a load of rotting fish because they were afraid of the consequences to China when his death was discovered.
If I have dwelt on this point it is because I regard it as very important. I suggest that the lesson we ought to learn is that planning ought not to be authoritarian and heavily centralised regardless of the apparent efficiency of such a course. Instead it ought to be low key, consultative and based as much as is humanly possible on a consensus of the community. It is relevant to this nation that there is now a greater feeling in politics and among the public for consultation and consensus. This is creating a climate in which the sort of national convention which is proposed in this motion might become more acceptable. I was pleased yesterday to hear the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Wriedt, mention in a speech in the Senate that he felt that there was a greater degree of consensus and working together and that he was concerned that certain events, which I need not canvass but which appear in Hansard under his name, are breaking up that approach. I believe that he was referring to the approach to pensions.
I recall that when I gave notice of this motion in the Senate last year there were some interjections from a number of honourable senators when I mentioned the mere possibility that there might be some basic guidelines on which representatives of all political parties, employer groups, unions and government might agree. I got the impression that they felt that there could not possibly be the kind of world in which this could happen and that for some reason or other, although it is possible for other groups in the community such as families, organisations and business boards to agree on things- even school children have mock parliaments at times- this Parliament is different, that it is immune to such rationality. I suggest to honourable senators that that is the logical consequence of that attitude.
I believe that it is quite defeatist and wrong and perhaps we are failing in our duty to the public who elected us even to suggest or begin to feel that basic agreement on a future plan should not be laid down with basic guidelines to which every party might agree. If there were an election, businesses would know that if they planned rationally and sensibly the guidelines would not be changed, or the whole ball game changed, as it is changed every few years. That is what is wrong with business in this country. It is not business. Our business men work and try as hard as anybody else but they are operating in a society in which they never know from one year to the next what the rules will be.
The people who establish the rules are the members of this Parliament and they have a duty and a responsibility to see that there is that kind of coherent future for this country. If they do not do that, if they allow the politics of confrontation, of doing down the Opposition or doing down the Government to be the first influence on their actions, indeed if they regard loyalty to their political party as their first motivation, they are traitors to this country. I do not use that word lightly because if they do so they are failing to do the things they were elected to do. They were not elected to be members of a political party. They were elected to be senators and members of parliament for electorates and constituencies in Australia. Their first duty is to serve Australians in every way they can. Any other duty they have must be subordinate to that duty. I would be interested as this debate ensues if any honourable senator on either side of the House cared to take up that point and explain to me reasons why that should not be so.
I do not under-estimate the difficulties that would be involved in such a conference and this is why it has been placed by the Australian Democrats in a rather long time span. We believe that most problems can be solved by a reasonable consensus between intelligent men and women and that if we give that away in this world we have nothing left. The suggestion then is that the planning occupy as much as two years and relate to the probable difficulties of organisation. It is proposed that a Senate select committee would be the best place for this overall operation to begin to consider ways and means of deriving the terms of reference of such a conference. I believe that the planning of such a convention should take place over a considerable period in consultation with those who will probably be involved. I say that in the light of knowledge that some conferences and conventions of this sort have been held.
One was held recently in Victoria on the subject of unemployment. To my knowledge that led to a most regrettable confrontation at which a number of unemployed people, I think quite justifiably, went along and took exception to the large and expensive dinner which seemed to be the major part of that convention on unemployment. I suggest that anybody who says, ‘OK, let us have a convention on unemployment or the economy next week’, is fooling himself. Either that or it is just a public relations window dressing exercise that will not achieve anything. We in the Australian Democrats believe that a good deal of careful planning should go into such a convention in consultation with those who will probably be involved, many of whom as we know are antagonistic to each other due to political colouring of so much of our social and economic life which results from the two-party system of which I have spoken before. I will not impose my views on that subject on the Senate again other than to say that I believe that the two-party system has more to answer for in its failure to plan adequately for the future than is commonly believed.
If those involved can get together and talk reasonably, they may come to know pretty much what the areas of study and terms of reference are going to be. If there could be some initial running around and discussion on this it would be much easier for everybody; there would be some sense of knowledge of what was going to happen and people could go to such a convention without feeling that unpleasant surprises were going to be sprung on them. Again, I think it is very important, where unions and other organisations are concerned, that they should be able to have full consultation with the rank and file of their own organisations before they enter such conventions. One of its most difficult and urgent and necessary jobs would be to sort out somehow the situation where we have so many trade unions, so many demarcation disputes. That problem was solved in most other countries many years ago, to the benefit of all concerned, particularly the trade unions.
The whole question of relativity of rewards as between workers in this country is long overdue for careful examination. As far as I can see, we are back now to the type of industrial jungle situation where, not to put too fine a point on it, the unions which have clout and which can blackmail the community get the goodies but the people who are not in that position- the clothing workers, footwear workers and others- get the sticky end of the deal. That is not good enough. It is necessary to have a society in which a fair reward is given for all areas of work. I suggest that that is a matter which can be discussed only as a long term indicative plan. It is no good restoring relativities and then finding next year that things are going to change because we have another government which has not agreed on any particular guidelines. Every Australian deserves consideration of what his due reward in the community and his working conditions ought to be.
All of us who have looked at the matter in even the smallest way know that that is not the situation that obtains now. There is grave disproportion in our society, and I blame for that the more conservative elements of our trade union movement. Fortunately we do have in the labour movement distinguished and gifted people such as Mr Bob Hawke who are capable of perceiving a view of the future. We also have the most oneeyed double-dyed conservatives in the world in our union movement. They are true blue conservatives of the old-fashioned style. They do not want anything to change. They do not see that the world is changing. They are not prepared to admit that it is changing. They want it to be just the way it always has been. They are not prepared to consider acting for the benefit of all Australians. They see their duty as being only to their own union, their own group, their own party. I suggest that that is not good enough for the whole of Australia, but I believe- this is a hopeful view, but I think it is justified- that with the passage of time such people are becoming thinner on the ground. We are getting more enlightened and intelligent people in the union movement who may even see in time that a good system of rational industrial democracy such as the West German model could also be considered in planning for this country. When 1 refer to industrial democracy I do not mean the sort of industrial democracy described by Mr Dunstan in South Australia. That is not industrial democracy at all. It is a misuse of the term.
Once we got to the stage where we had delegates who knew what they were doing and what they were going to talk about we would be more likely to get some results. Consultation over a period would also be a necessary concomitant. I am not so naive as to believe that the first such convention would get many results. It would probably be a very rough run indeed for everybody concerned. There would be a lot of dissension, perhaps a lot of unresolved issues; but it would get the machine working, and I think that is a necessary first step. If such a convention achieved little else, at least it would bring a much better understanding nationally of our planning problems. Once one takes the lid off almost any area of society one sees this yawning gulf in planning, and I think that is one of the results such a convention might have. At least if it exposed the problem properly it would have done all of us a service. However, that is being pessimistic. Hopefully, such a convention ought to result in some kind of framework for a future indicative plan for Australia, however vague. At least it could lay down some ideas which the community could look at and say: ‘Whatever they do in Canberra, at least that is the way we are going, unless there are very good reasons why it should be changed’. If there are very good reasons why it should be changed, I suggest that those reasons should be the business of regular consultations to consider, not just the result of arbitrary action by government.
When I refer to an indicative plan for Australians, I mean just that- indicative. It should be able to show Australians possible directions our economy might take and so permit a reasoned consensus about these things. It should be possible to allow people some choice in the sort of society they want, and that is another thing that is being denied to people through the lack of any future planning. They do not know what is going to happen because nobody knows what is going to happen. If there were another Labor government in 1980, the whole ball game would change again. That would be extremely destructive, especially to a country that has to go through a stage of economic problem. It is at that stage that we want unity. We cannot have this continual breaking down, this continual knocking away of what somebody has done beforehand. It is wasteful in terms of human effort and the few dollars in the pockets and bank accounts of every one of our citizens. Surely we in this Parliament are realistic enough to know that that is the real cost of political change, of economic change, because of change of government. It hits straight at everybody’s pockets. As we know, those pockets, especially now, are not bottomless. We could get away with that sort of thing during the palmy days of the 1960s. We could afford that luxury then. But I do not believe that we will be able to do it in the future. In other words, planning on the basis suggested by the Australian Democrats would be a continuous process, with continued consultation between the major forces in the economy and society.
The period of great change ahead for the world has a very considerable potential for disaster for any country that is ill prepared for it. Hence, any planning mechanism we adopt surely must be as flexible and as able to adapt promptly and efficiently to changing circumstances as it can be. I suppose that there are those innocents who would reply that planning is not necessary, that one needs only to leave the economy to the natural forces of the market place and all will be well. Fortunately, those kinds of people also appear to be getting rather thinner on the ground, and I hope that that is a continuing trend. Such a naive view can only be destructive. In other places and at other times that view has led to the complete collapse of private enterprise systems. It was the natural forces in the market place that eventually placed vast areas of Chinese property- virtually all Chinese property- in the hands of two related families, the Chiangs and the Soongs, and created the strains that led to the success of the communist revolution late in 1949. 1 suggest that if we look at any other society where capitalism has collapsed and led to a communist state we will find similar unrestrained, unbridled selfish activities in play. If we wish our society to continue in a proper way we should guard against that.
The Australian Democrats believe in enlightened private enterprise, and I stress the word enlightened’. There is nothing enlightened in the belief that the kind of unfettered market place forces that have led to the destruction of private enterprise in so much of the world during this century is of any value. If it is to continue, private enterprise must be prepared to modify itself in many directions and especially to exercise much greater social responsibility than it has done in the past, while at the same time retaining its most important and useful feature- the motivating power of enlightened self-interest, which we believe cannot be done without. Perhaps in one million years or 2 million years we will have the kind of perfect human being who is capable of being a co-operator, a socialist or something of that kind. But I do not believe that the human race- after all, we are a very young race, are we not?- has reached that stage or anywhere near it. We do need self-interest, but it has to be enlightened and well directed and well controlled.
To the Australian Democrats it is fundamental that if there is to be regulation it is much better that it be self-regulation imposed as a result of co-operation and consultation with the rest of the community. It is also better that modifications to the private enterprise system should mesh smoothly within an overall, long term plan decided upon by the community as a whole as its future course.
There are a number of important structural problems in the Australian and other private enterprise economies the importance of which is only just being understood and which need this kind of special study. One obviously is unemployment. I do not believe that the Government is insincere in its attempts to grapple with unemployment, but it is not succeeding. It does not know why Australia has unemployment. Our Party’s economic policy is decided, like all our policies, by secret written ballot of the national membership and has, as its first premise, that if there is structural unemployment it must not be accepted. In such a case it is the structure of society that must change one way or another so that all who wish to work may do so. We feel that there are no reasons why that should not be a basis for consideration. We have increasing massive unemployment, especially of young people. We have something like 250,000 young people out of work. What is that going to do to our future society? Has anybody stopped to think of what is going on in the minds of those 250,000 young people? What is going to happen if things continue in this way over the next few years?
I think it is an admission of failure on the part of those who should be guiding this nation on a safe and prosperous course, that is the people in Government, that they have not been able to cope with unemployment better than they have. It comes down, after all, to being a matter of options for the Australian community. Decisions could be taken tomorrow for such things as voluntary earlier retirement, reduction of working hours or working days, extensions to the categories of meaningful work and job sharing. The unions would have to play their part. They would have to look at penalty rate at weekends and say to themselves: ‘Is it worth while this going on? I am doing fine. I can afford a second car and a swimming pool but the guy next door is out of a job’. I think that this is the sort of thing that has to come and it can only come with planning.
I turn now to the vital question of the effects of automation on the amount of work available. Are we to stumble through this great social and economic revolution on a purely ad hoc basis, which will mean a welter of strikes, disunity, mistrust and neo-Luddite activity? If we accept that method then surely no honourable senator would deny that they are going to be the consequences. Neo-Luddite activity would be justified. You cannot blame people for being Luddite if they are not given any solutions. People say: ‘Oh, gosh, this machine is taking over your jobs chaps, but we haven’t got any solution. You go on the dole.’ That is not good enough. You cannot expect human beings to accept that sort of situation.
Alternatively, a rational plan arrived at in consultation with all sections of the community would probably result in people accepting automation as a rational, reasonable first premise of the truism that increasing diversion of repetitive, boring or laborious work to machines should bring a vast new era of happiness and development to all human beings. Surely that ought to be the consequence of automation. Surely that is what it is all about. What value has it got to the human race if it does not do that? In order to see that this happens there has to be a plan that ensures a reasonable flow through of the profits from automation to all citizens in an equitable way, not just to a few business owners- some of them outside this country- who are able to throw off workers and make more money because they have got machines. If you can get a machine that can do the work of eight men, right, you sack seven men and make eight times as much money.
Really, this seems to me to be back on the nine or ten-year-old level in any judgment of what its future consequences to the society are going to be.
The flow through of the profits of automation to the ordinary citizen could come in three forms: Firstly, in more money; secondly, more leisure; and thirdly, a more diverse human experience. I would stress the third one as being of vital importance and one which we all should consider. We also could consider a combination, perhaps a combination of all three. Planning for this new era has to take into account the provision of fresh outlets- recreational, artistic, inventive or in the world of sport- for the community. A person who is a brilliant painter, a brilliant musician or is good at sport might do that as their job. Why not? Why have they got to produce a thing? What is the virtue of a thing? Why does productivity in the economic sense have to be our guide? Have we not outlived our nineteenth century forebears to that extent? We have got enough food in our stomachs now. We have had that for many decades. Why do we harp on with this old thinking that that is the only important thing in life? Why do we believe that everybody must work? Even if the people on the dole are there for no reason, for some reason or other they are looked down upon by society and the Government. I believe that to be an unfortunate truth.
The gross present use of non-renewable energy resources has to be modified for us to have a sustainable economy. That will not happen without planning either, as we have found. I have been shocked in some discussions that I have had. In some discussions with members of this Parliament- quite happily a few- it has been put to me that we may well discover a little bit more oil and there is no real need to look for alternatives until we know that the hydrocarbons have almost run out. This calm assertion that this generation is somehow entitled to go on squandering, until the end, resources which should be there for probably thousands of generations of humans to come is appalling to me. It is lack of vision. It is lack of a view of the future. I suggest to such people that they think of what the historians of the future will say of this generation. They will look back on us as more damaging and dangerous than any barbarians, than any huns because we looted the assets of this world within three generations. So, serious consideration of the whole energy area is now necessary as a part of a long term total plan.
We must also look at Australia’s future industries. It is pretty plain that we are not going to do very well just pursuing the old paths, especially in competition with the very energetic Asian industrial revolution that is going on in such places as South Korea, Taiwan and, of course, China. In China I think there will be a vast industry much faster than people realise. We need new initiatives in completely new directions. We need ways of developing this country’s resources in more productive ways than simply ripping out minerals from the soil and exporting them. That is a very simple problem. The situation is comparable with that facing a little boy who has had people save money up for him until he is ten years old. They then say to him: ‘There is your piggy bank now, John. Rip it open and spend it’. So, Johnny rips it open and spends it. When he has not got any more what does he do? He cries in the corner. What will we do when we run out of minerals? Will we go and cry in the corner? Unfortunately it will not be us. It will be our children and grandchildren who do it. They will have to face the problem.
Everywhere one looks at this area of planning there are difficulties. There are ugly and obvious gaps. I have not touched at all on our appalling lack of any cohesive defence policy. This is a matter which the Australian Democrats are considering closely and we certainly will be raising it in the near future. I believe that I have demonstrated that Australia needs a cohesive and reasonably long term economic plan. The lack of it is the chief cause of our economic ills, our massive and growing unemployment, our ugly and uncontrolled urban sprawls, our disgraceful record in one of the world’s largest geographic land masses and one of the most lightly populated countries with one of the world’s highest rate of urbanisation, our failure to provide adequately for our own defence and the growing and ominous social and economic disproportion within our own people.
The Government probably will adjourn this debate at the end of my speech because this is an Australian Democrat initiative.
– It is so pathetic. Who wrote it for you?
– I suggest that that is unfortunate. It is an aspect of the political game that does not endear this Parliament to the people of this nation. I hope that Senator Cavanagh soon talks to some people in the community about what they think of the confrontative nature of this Parliament. He should talk to them about what happened with Mr Goodluck last night. He should go out and talk to his bank manager or a person in the street and see what they really think.
– But they have a higher intellect than you.
– I ask Senator Cavanagh to talk to those people and see if he does not agree with me afterwards.
– Do you really expect us to debate something when we have not heard your case? It is quite reasonable for the Government to move the adjournment until it can analyse the case.
– I have not quite finished yet. Will the honourable senator let me finish.
– He has three more pages.
– No, only three more sentences. The first one is something which I think even all honourable senators on both sides of the chamber may understand. If a matter is important something should be done about it. If it is not considered important then someone on the Government side should get up and say so and justify his or her statement. In this matter, particularly, the Government should not hide behind its power to stifle debate. If it does delay consideration of matters of basic importance it is acting against the national interest. I leave that thought and that direct challenge with the Government. I do not expect a reply; I have merely indicated the logic of one.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Scott)- Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion. I must say that I do so without expressing any support for it, but I believe that it is important to keep this topic on the Notice Paper. I have a few surprising words for Senator Mason. He mentioned during his speech that there are a few people in this world who believe that planning is a dirty word. He said in his speech that there are a few people in this world who believe that free market forces should be left to control the problems of marketing in general in the world and even social problems. I have news for Senator Mason. On the other side of this chamber there are many people who are devotees of Adam Smith, who have not read anything since they read the work of Adam Smith, who are devotees of Milton Friedman, who believe that planning is a very dirty word, who believe that the only motivation worthwhile in this world is the motivation of profit, and who are devotees of Lang Hancock, who believes that all we should do is rip into the mines of this country and flog the products overseas for the benefit of those who happen to have the right to make profits out of them. We have in this chamber people who started the dole bludger campaign in this country and who consider that all the unemployed are worth looking down on. Therefore it is worthwhile keeping this motion on the Notice Paper.
– What for? The glorified democrats.
– It is worthwhile keeping it there so that we can have a debate in which all the gentlemen on the other side can demonstrate that they are not democrats, that they are in fact totalitarian. When I agreed to second the motion and keep it on the Notice Paper I expected that there would be the usual cries from the other side of the chamber. Of course, the leader of those cries is always Senator Lajovic. Just to give those people on the other side who have these views the benefit of giving us their wisdom, I seconded the motion. I did so for that reason only.
Debate (on motion by Senator Knight) adjourned.
1 ) That a Joint Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon-
That provisions relating to membership, powers and proceedings of the Committee be contained in a subsequent Resolution.
I think it is a most reasonable and rational proposition to set up a committee to investigate the matters referred to. We need a major overhaul of the Australian electoral laws. There has never been one. For the past three years relevant Ministers for Administrative Sendees have been promising a full review of the electoral laws but as yet nothing has happened. In moving this motion I would like to deal with several reasons why Australia needs some form of public funding and therefore why we need a parliamentary committee to investigate this matter and report to the Parliament. If I have time I shall also deal with some general electoral matters arising from the question of party funds and the pecuniary interests of individual parliamentarians and parliamentary parties.
The first and most obvious reason why Australia needs to introduce some form of subsidies for political parties is that election campaigning in Australia has become a very expensive business. In the last decade costs have escalated to levels that parliamentarians a generation ago- in the days of soap box campaigning- could never have imagined. As we are all well aware, the means of real communication with the electors is no longer street corner meetings and rallies in parks, but television, radio and national newspaper advertisements. The incredible costs of these basic tools of political communication, not to mention the cost of market research and opinion polls, are necessary aspects of modern political campaigning. The traditional funding sources of the major as well as the minor political parties can no longer supply the funds to do this. I have mentioned market research. It is a new area. It is an area to which the major parties are committed. It is an area which the major parties will be using more and more in their political campaigning in the future. It is certainly a very expensive area of campaigning and it will continue to be expensive in the future.
If we look at the history of political funding it is apparent to us, first of all, that the general flow of funds has been particularly meagre in the case of the Australian Labor Party. The Labor Party traditionally gets a large percentage of its funds- approximately 70 per cent- either directly or indirectly from the industrial labour movement. The rest is made up of relatively small private donations. The Government parties have historically received most of their funds from private donors. I suppose many of them are individuals who give donations because they believe for their own reasons in what the Government stands for. A lot of the funds of the conservative parties have come from large businesses and recently from large corporations based overseas whose interests often are not reconcilable with the public interests in Australia. We had a situation in Victoria in which Mr Lynch received a campaign donation from a Mr Leek- a cheque for $12,000. He apparently did not even notice it or at least he was quoted as saying that he did not notice the extra funds. In the Labor Party a $12,000 cheque is not generally treated as petty cash and would certainly be a noticeable contribution to a House of Representatives candidate in any election.
– Does that mean you would know that someone had given you $12,000? Is that what you are saying?
– I would certainly think that one would.
– You are aware that no Liberal Party member would ever be aware of that situation, aren’t you?
– I would certainly think that any $12,000 donation in a local campaign account for a House of Representatives seat should be known by any political party in Australia. The Australian Labor Party runs campaigns for House of Representatives seats for many rural electorates and many metropolitan electorates where the whole cost of the campaign would not reach $ 12,000.
-What about a $150,000 donation from a union?
– I have just said that traditionally we get most of our funds- 70 per cent of our funds- directly or indirectly from the trade union movement.
– You are aware of those donations, too, aren’t you?
– Of course we are aware of them. I am sure the honourable senator is aware of them because there is usually a great deal of publicity when a union hands over a cheque of that size. In fact, a donation of that size is a very rare donation. This leads me to my next point. Recently there has been a sad history of scandals overseas. Brilliant careers have been ruined by a moment’s weakness, governments have been destroyed because of a party official’s short sightedness or oppositions have been discredited because of a hint of possible or potential corruption. We all know the situation of exPresident Nixon in the United States but also I think one could say that the main reason for the resignation of the ex-Chancellor of West Germany, Willy Brandt, was an aide’s deception for which he took full responsibility. If there is one thing that Nixon and the Watergate scandal did, it was to make the climate in America very susceptible to a change in the laws concerning political funding for the Presidential campaign. There are a number of laws now in force in the United States that I should think would be opposed by a large number of Government members in the Senate. One of the things that impressed me very much was to be able to go to the United States electoral commission and be able to purchase for 10 cents a page a list of all the donations for that day ranging from $5 upwards that had been made to Presidential candidates. It was there and it was available. That is one of the things that we ought to be looking at in Australia.
As I have said, most recently there have been a number of overseas scandals concerning the origin of party funds because the amounts have become larger. The apparent deals and conditions of donations have become correspondingly greater and more embarrassing. A number of speakers on the Opposition side of the chamber, including myself, expressed their concern during the Address-in-Reply debate at the deepening cynicism in the Australian community towards the Parliament. There have been continual rumours about party funding. Surely this causes a large section of the community seriously to doubt the ethics and moral commitment of government. This cynicism about government not only breeds political extremism but also deadens the electorates’ political awareness. Whilst the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) might think it is good that the vast majority of Australians turn to the sports pages first when reading the newspapers, I would like to see a community politically and constructively critical of governments and of society. I believe that this is essential to true democracy. I believe that most of the problems about which I have been speaking arise not because party officials and parliamentarians are inherently dishonest- at least not the vast majority of dedicated people on both sides of the political fence- but because of the difficulty of making ends meet in election campaigns today.
Another important reason why I am moving this motion is the obvious inequity between the parties and between certain candidates. I intend to refer to my home state of New South Wales of which I have some direct knowledge as a former assistant general secretary of the party in that State. The Labor Party in New South Wales is the wealthiest and largest branch of the ALP. It has the largest number of affiliated trade unions. I understand that the New South Wales Liberal Party has lately become the poor second cousin in relation to the Queensland National Party or the Victorian or Western Australian branches of the Liberal Party. Yet when one compares the facilities of the New South Wales Liberal Party with the New South Wales Labor Party it is rather indicative of the ALP’s plight and for that matter the present plight of the Australian Democrats in trying to compete today.
The ALP in New South Wales has two fulltime organisers on relatively low salaries, two assistant general secretaries, a general secretary and one full-time research officer; and the restfour in all- are part-time organisers on a small allowance. So the organisational staff of the largest branch of the ALP consists of six full-time and four part-time members. The New South Wales Liberal Party has, as far as I am aware, a full-time research staff of five as well as administrative staff and one full-time field officer for every three federal electorates. In electorates where the Labor Party is not strong in membership terms we rely entirely on overworked volunteers. The Liberal Party in New South Wales traditionally has had sufficient funds to pay people to staff booths that their members will not go near. I know that in the last State elections this was not the case but it has traditionally been so. In referring to the Liberal Party and its staff in New South Wales I have not referred to the fact that the National Country Party has a very large field staff especially when House of Representatives and Senate elections are being held.
In short, parties like the Democrats, the ALP, independents like Senator Harradine, and the gone but not easily forgotten Democratic Labor Party have to rely on a handful of dedicated supporters while the major Government parties can hire small private armies to help in elections.
- Senator, are you saying that the Liberals of New South Wales or Victoria have never paid people to work on election booths in the past? I would think they have.
– I would say that, yes. I would certainly deny that we have paid people to work on election booths. That is another allegation that I would say is nonsense, absolute nonsense.
– The situation in New South Wales is that this practice has been widespread for a number of years.
– Hundreds of volunteers come to work on our election booths because they do not want to see a socialist government in this country.
– Of course you get hundreds of volunteers, but they are not all volunteers. Continuous allegations by one party against another, such as we have just listened to, and by the Press against one of the other parties concerning the origin of its campaign funds, have served to undermine the people’s confidence in the political process. Undoubtedly some of these allegations are true, and this is a matter for general concern. State aid for political parties would reduce or perhaps even eliminate corruption where it exists and improve the quality of communication between the various political parties and electorates and also, more importantly, improve the standing of the Parliament in the eyes of the people. I believe that it is time we looked at the options open to us in relation to public funding because almost every comparable parliamentary democracy has some form of public aid. I will name just some of those countries. They include Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Great Britain, France, Japan, the United States of America, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, West Germany and Italy. I am certainly not dogmatic about which of the many possible systems Australia could adapt to suit its needs. That is why I have not drafted a motion proposing any particular type of system. Rather, I have left the possible terms of reference of the proposed committee very broad so that it will be up to the committee to investigate a wide variety of comparable systems which at present operate overseas, somewhat like the Houghton committee did in Great Britain.
I intend briefly to compare three different systems currently in operation. The first is the West German system. In West Germany political parties are recognised by the Constitution, which of course is not the case in Australia although I personally feel that there is a strong case that they should be. State aid for political parties takes several forms of which the most important is for election campaign expenses. Payments are spaced over a period of four years, with the greater part being paid during election years. A law introduced in 1967 lays down the rules for subsidy through grants advanced for election purposes based on the performance of the parties concerned at the last election. An agreed sum is fixed for each elector according to the number of votes polled for each of the parties. This system operates in such a way that it is necessary to win seats in the lower House to qualify for aid. Any party donation over and above $6,000 must be specified by the name and address of the donor. This is the only accounting requirement by law for a political party wishing to qualify for aid. Each political grouping is also given a proportionate sum of money to maintain research facilities for its parliamentary representatives. In passing I mention that parliamentarians are also required by law to give a proportion of their salary to their party if they wish to qualify for local campaigning aid.
Each party receives a subsidy for the purpose of party research and educational institutions. I believe this would be invaluable in Australia from the point of view of increasing communication between the party, the parliamentarians and the general electorate. Party education is important because it improves the general understanding of politics and government within the community. I am not an historian but I have a sense of pride in the history and traditions of my party and its role in Australia’s development and I am saddened that many ALP members and supporters and of the general community have little access to specialised resources on Labor’s history and politics generally. Many otherwise educated Australians know little, if anything, about the parliamentary process, its evolution and role in the nation’s development. Surely this is a matter of intrinsic concern to us all on both sides of the chamber. As I said earlier, my colleagues and I on this side of the chamber have nothing to fear from history and we are confident that we would only gain from a more politically educated electorate. I expect that if the members of the Government have any sense of pride in their government they will feel exactly the same way.
The second system that I wish to talk about briefly is the system that presently operates in Canada which has an electoral system more like ours than the system in the Federal Republic of Germany. The Canadian Elections Act of 1974 introduced a system of financial aid to political parties. Candidates are partially reimbursed for election expenses if they are elected or receive more than 15 per cent of the total votes cast in their electoral district. The extent of reimbursement is decided by ascertaining whichever is the lesser of the two amounts, namely, the amount of the candidate’s expenses as stated on his or her own declaration or an amount which is the aggregate of, firstly, the postage costs of mailing an ounce or less to each elector; secondly, 8c for the first 25,000 names on the preliminary list of electors; and thirdly, 6c for every formal vote cast in excess of 25,000 electors. The National Country Party senators might take note that there is a special allowance for candidates in specified remote electorates which is why the Canadian system is of some importance in Australia where the geographical size of the electorates varies enormously, as it does in Canada. In Canada there are also tax credits for political donations up to a specified maximum which at present is the equivalent of $A435 in any one year for a donation to the political party of the donor’s choice.
The last national system of State political aid that I wish to talk about operates in Britain. Britain of course has an electoral system which is almost identical to ours, at least in terms of the correlation between our House of Representatives and Britain’s House of Commons. Britain also has a political culture that is very similar to our own. The Houghton committee which was set up in Britain recommended that to qualify for a grant a political party, at the previous election, must have firstly saved the deposits of its candidates in at least six constituencies. As most honourable senators will realise, a candidate saving his deposit is a traditional index of his degree of popular support. The recommendations continue: Secondly, as a party, it must have polled at least 150,000 votes and had at least one member elected in the previous election; or thirdly, as a party, it must have had at least two of its candidates returned as members in the previous election.
It is very interesting to note the reaction of the various parties to the recommendation of the Houghton committee report. The Conservative Party said that it did not believe in state aid. The Labour Party said that as the parties were indispensable to democracy they should be assisted. It was finding things difficult and came down in favour of state aid being given to political parties. The co-operative party said that it also would support state aid. The Liberal Party said that previously it had a view which opposed state aid but that now it came down in support of it. The Confederation of British Industry came down reluctantly in favour of a limited form of state aid. The British United Industrialists came down in favour of the present system of private donations. A number of trade unions were opposed to the idea. Also, a number of major trade unions were in support of the idea. Other groups throughout England had mixed views on whether state aid should be provided.
I outline to the Senate the results of a survey taken throughout England of people representing the various political parties. Of the 91 replies received from various sections of the Labour Party throughout the United Kingdom, 69 were in favour of state aid, 10 were opposed to it and 12 were neutral. In spite of the fact that the Conservative Party in its formal submission to the Houghton inquiry said that no state aid should be given to political parties, of the 84 replies received from the Conservative Party 32 were in favour of state aid, 39 were opposed to it and 13 were neutral. Of the 80 replies received from Liberal Party organisations throughout Great Britain 63 were in favour of state aid and 10 were opposed to it. A survey of the British public commissioned by the Houghton committee, without any canvassing at all, showed that 45 per cent of people interviewed were opposed to state aid for political parties and that 44 per cent were in favour of it. Of course, this was before either of the major parties made an issue of it.
Under this system new parties could easily enter the political scene and old ones could fade out. For example, Senator Chipp and Senator Mason might find it interesting that under a system similar to that recommended by the Houghton Committee, their party, the Australian Democrats, the newest party in Australian politics, would be eligible for a significant amount of state aid in the next election, having established that their party is a popular force and that it had considerable electoral support at the last election. However, the Democratic Labor Party would have lost any state support as its electoral support declined. Thus public funding would not have affected the fluidity of the political process. With the right sort of system, state aid does not cause a stagnation of the political process in favour of the two major parties. The total cost of implementing the recommendation of the Houghton Committee in Britain was estimated at $3,375,000. The total cost would be much lower for a similar scheme in Australia provided that it was introduced only at a national level because the Houghton committee report referred to local government authorities as well as the national Parliament.
I make the point that all of the nations which presently have some form of political funding are among the most democratic in the world and in most countries where systems of political funding have been operating they have been so since the beginning of this decade. All of these countries remain working parliamentary democracies and, if anything, they have become more truly democratic at a time when the number of true parliamentary democracies has declined throughout the world. Finally, I outlined earlier in this speech the various ways in which the obligations and functions of political parties have increased in the past decade, while the sources of funds open to political parties have either remained static or are actually decreasing. If political parties in a democracy fail to meet these new challenges that democracy will fail. That is what I fear most if we ignore or defeat this motion now or in the forseeable future I commend the motion to the Senate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Jessop)- Is there a seconder of the motion?
– I second the motion, Mr Acting Deputy President, and reserve my right to speak.
Debate (on motion by Senator Knight) adjourned.
– I move:
The purpose of this motion is to invite the Senate’s attention to a situation which has caused some concern to the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances Committee in recent years. I should begin by setting out the role of the Committee. The Committee scrutinises regulations and ordinances and other delegated legislation which is made under Acts of the Parliament and which is subject to disallowance, to ensure that: Firstly they are in accordance with the statute; secondly, they do not trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties; thirdly, they do not unduly make the rights and liberties of citizens dependent upon administrative rather than upon judicial decisions; and, fourthly, they are concerned with administrative detail and do not amount to substantive legislation which should be a matter for parliamentary enactment.
The Standing Order under which the Committee is established contemplates that the Committee, when it discovers provisions in regulations and ordinances which offend against these principles, will make a report to the Senate and recommend the disallowance by the Senate of those provisions. In recent years, however, the Committee has taken the view that disallowance by the Senate is the ultimate sanction, and that the Committee ought to seek to bring about changes in provisions which it regards as objectionable without resorting to disallowance in each case. When it discovers provisions in legislation which appear to be objectionable, the Committee seeks an explanation from the responsible Minister. If that explanation is not satisfactory the Committee usually requests the Minister to change the offending provisions. It is usually only if the Minister does not adopt this course of action that the Committee recommends disallowance to the Senate.
In recent years the Committee has accepted from responsible Ministers a large number of undertakings to amend regulations and ordinances which the Committee regards as objectionable. The Committee has adopted the practice of reporting these undertakings to the Senate in regular general reports so that the Senate will be aware of the types of provisions which the Committee is seeking to change and of the undertakings which have been given. I should make it clear that in the majority of cases the responsible Ministers have carried out the promises which they have made to amend various provisions. The Committee has frequently expressed its appreciation of the co-operation which has been extended to it by Ministers in the majority of cases where promises to amend legislation have been accepted by the Committee.
No Minister has ever withdrawn or gone back on a promise given to the Committee and Ministers have frequently adopted undertakings given by their predecessors, even after changes of government. This is important because when the Committee accepts an undertaking to amend legislation the time during which the Senate may disallow that legislation is usually allowed to pass before the promised amendments can be made. Once the time for disallowance has passed, the Senate of course is powerless to effect changes in the delegated legislation concerned, except by indirect means. Having said that, the Committee has been disatisfied with inordinate delays in carrying out some undertakings given by Ministers. The sixty-third report of the Committee is directed to some of these undertakings. I will now refer to some particular cases listed in the report.
The first item in the report relates to certain offences under the motor traffic law of the Australian Capital Territory. In 1975 the Committee objected to certain provisions which amounted to reversals of the onus of proof in criminal cases. The law relating to the onus of proof is somewhat complex. The courts have developed a common law of the onus of proof which has been overlaid by interpretation of particular statutory provisions. In 1975 the Committee, rather than become involved with the complexities of the law of the onus of proof, accepted an undertaking from the then Attorney-General that prosecution procedures in the Territory would be amended so as to make it less likely that a defendant would be put to the trouble and expense of establishing a statutory defence before the courts. After the change of government, there was an inordinate delay of almost three years while successive Attorneys-General considered whether they would carry out the undertaking of their predecessor. Late last year the Committee received a letter from the present AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) in which he asked the Committee to reconsider the whole matter and set out certain matters of law in support of his argument that the provisions in question should be allowed to remain as they are.
The gist of these points of law is that the courts have ‘watered down’ statutory reversals of the onus of proof so that the burden placed upon defendants is not as great as the statutory provisions would appear to indicate. It has been suggested to me that the common law situation is more complex than the Attorney-General ‘s letter indicates and that there are still good grounds in law for the provisions to be changed. This matter is presently being examined by the Committee’s legal adviser. The point is that, while all this has been taking place, persons have been prosecuted and convicted under these provisions which the Committee may still find to be an infringement of individual civil liberties.
The second matter referred to in the Committee’s report is the matter of provisions in the Postal Services Regulations allowing the opening of mail by officers of the Postal Commission. The Committee considered that the regulations made under the Postal Services Act in 1975 conferred too wide a power to open mail. The then responsible Minister gave an undertaking to amend the regulations to restrict that power properly. That undertaking was confirmed by his successor early in 1976. Subsequently, the Committee agreed to a postponement of the promised amendments pending consideration of the subject of opening of mail by the Law Reform Commission, providing there was no undue delay. The Committee was also told that the Royal Commission on Drugs wished to look into the matter of the opening of mail. In the last few days the Committee has received a letter form the responsible Minister indicating that, as the reports of the two Commissions had been unduly delayed, the amendments promised to the Committee will now be proceeded with, more than three years after they were promised. During those three years the mail of citizens in this country has presumably been opened by officers exercising powers which the Committee regarded as excessively wide. The Committee hopes that the amendments will now be made without further delay and that their effects will not be sought to be reversed by the reports of the two Commissions.
The third matter referred to in the Committee’s report concerns regulations under the Customs Act which confer a large number of discretionary powers upon administrative officers to control imports and exports. Generally speaking, no importer or exporter can engage in any trade without some ministerial or official approval, whether this takes the form of licences issued under the various regulations, or of waivers of prohibitions, also empowered by the regulations, or some other form. In 1975 the then Minister agreed that all of these powers should be subject to appeals. In 1976 the new Minister agreed to refer the matter to the Administrative Review Council. The Committee has been doing some prompting, and the Administrative Review Council has now assured the Committee that it will step up its consideration of the matter.
Of the remaining undertakings referred to by the Committee in its report, that relating to the Australian Capital Territory Physiotherapists Registration Ordinance has been carried out, whilst the provisions in the Australian Capital Territory Sale of Motor Vehicles Ordinance to which the Committee objected are not being used pending a review of them. The other two undertakings, relating to the Federal Court of Australian Regulations and the Australian Capital Territory Consumer Affairs Ordinance, have not been carried out. The Australian Capital Territory Consumer Affairs Ordinance is of particular concern to the Committee as the provisions objected to in the Ordinance were regarded by the Committee as fundamental breaches of individual rights and liberties and of the power of the courts, and it should be a matter of grave concern to the Senate that the undertaking given in August 1977 has still not been carried out.
The Committee’s report refers to the highly unsatisfactory situation which results when provisions regarded as defective by the Committee, and admitted as such by the responsible Ministers, are allowed to remain in operation for years before promised amendments are forthcoming. Paragraph 5 of the Committee’s report reads:
All of the regulations and ordinances referred to have provisions which are unsatisfactory in their effect on individual rights and liberties, and this has been recognised by various Ministers in their various undertakings. A highly unsatisfactory situation arises when undertakings by Ministers are not carried out promptly and expeditiously, in that provisions recognised to be defective are allowed to stand and the public effectively lack the protection which the disallowance procedure and the Committee are designed to give. Unless there is an improvement in the situation in the future the Committee will be less ready to accept undertakings which cannot be carried out before the time for disallowance has passed.
If the Committee continues to encounter inordinate delays in carrying out undertakings given, even though those undertakings are a minority of the total received by the Committee, the Committee will be forced to adopt a new approach which will cause much greater inconvenience to Ministers and departments. As is suggested in the report, the Committee will be less willing to accept undertakings unless they can be carried out before the time for disallowance has passed. The Committee may adopt the procedure of moving for disallowance in the Senate without first giving Ministers the opportunity to amend the offending provisions. It is hoped that the Committee will not be forced to adopt such measures and that this report, and other action taken by the Committee, will bring about an improvement in the situation.
For these reasons, and in the expectation that clear and unequivocal assurances can be given that the complaints will be remedied, I have moved this motion. I know it is customary for the debate on motions such as this that are moved under General Business to be adjourned. I point out that there is quite a considerable difference in regard to this matter. It is based on a report which was tabled in this Senate on 28 September 1978. It was not dealt with, nor did we push for it to be dealt with, before Christmas. We felt that ample time had been given to Ministers to determine their views in respect of these matters. The details have been before the public, the Senate and the Government since 28 September 1978, and I believe that they should be answered now. I do not believe that the debate on this matter should be adjourned and allowed to find its way up the Notice Paper. I believe this matter is important to the integrity of government in this country and it is important that committees of this Senate be able to do their job. It is for those reasons that I have moved this motion.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Jessop)- Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion. I disagree with Senator Missen ‘s statement that it is customary for the debate on motions such as that which he has just moved to be adjourned. It is not customary for such debates to be adjourned. We have recently adopted that practice because we lack the courage to do anything about such motions which come before the Senate and we dodge the responsibility of making a decision on an issue. I therefore question the value of the exercise tonight, other than that of allowing an honourable senator to let off steam on his pet subject in which the Senate has no interest and in relation to which it intends to do nothing. As Senator Missen said, the matter that he has raised is an important one which has been brought forward previously. He pointed out that the matter is important because the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances may need to move for the disallowance of regulations rather than accept the assurances of Ministers.
When the matter of the disallowance of a regulation comes up for decision- it is not a mat*er of the position not being rectified but a matter of not accepting the assurance of a Minister that he will rectify it- the Senate is asked to support the Committee in the disallowance of that regulation. There are not many regulations in relation to which we cannot reach agreement with the Minister concerned. When Ministers consult with their bureaucracy they take the attitude: ‘We said a certain thing but we will not admit that we were wrong’. But when agreement is reached that some alteration to a regulation should take place, the Minister gives an assurance. Insofar as some concession has been made by the Committee in that regard, it is expected that the Minister will carry out his assurance.
Senator Missen has pointed out that, to the knowledge of the Minister and the Committee, regulations which infringe the civil rights of the individual have been in existence for three years. Prosecutions have been instituted against people who have not had the right to. a proper defence, despite an assurance from the appropriate Minister that regulations would not be operative until such time as a decision had been taken. For example, an agreement was made with the previous Attorney-General in relation to the motor traffic law of the Australian Capital Territory. However, disputation now arises as to whether that agreement was in the best interests of persons apprehended for committing an offence. Now there seems to be a dispute between the lawyers of the Attorney-General’s Department, the lawyer advising the Committee and the eminent legal personalities we have on the Committee. It is not for me to say who is right. But, where there is some regulation we agree that the onus of proof should be on the prosecution and that the defendant should not be disadvantaged. However, one says he is not while the other says that he is. Most times the layman is the defendant in the case. Surely, when there is ambiguity to the extent that legal men are not sure what the regulation means, some reason can prevail and we can write a regulation which is understandable and clear to everyone. That is the delay. We are not standing on a high horse. The attitude should not be: ‘We drew up this regulation and it does not mean what you say. Let us re-write the whole matter’. But if we are forced- it may look like blackmail, as Senator Missen has said- to not accept ministerial assurances then we have no alternative but to move for the disallowance of a regulation. If the Minister and the Department were prepared to amend regulations then that would be unnecessary. Such a situation puts the Senate in an invidious position as it either has to support or reject the recommendation of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. The Committee has come to the point where it can see no other alternative. Possibly a greater threat to future Ministers who do not carry out obligations is the motion which has been moved to express the view of the Senate that it supports the Regulations and Ordinances Committee and that if assurances are given to that Committee they should be carried out. This is a condemnation of Ministers, without naming them, who do not carry out those assurances and it warns them that, in the future, they should carry them out. I do not ask for an adjournment of this matter and I hope that it is not adjourned. I ask the Senate to support the motion moved by Senator Missen.
– From the remarks made by Senator Cavanagh who has just resumed his seat, I understand he was concerned that this matter would not be dealt with and he thought that this was an extremely bad thing for the Senate. I must say that, although as far as I know this motion has not been considered by the Government, I do think the Government would wish it to be dealt with. The role of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances is well established in this place and I do not believe that any government would wish that role to be circumvented or in any sense made less than it should be. I am concerned that I should give some response to Senator Cavanagh. I cannot be quite as definite as I would be if perhaps the matter were within my own direct responsibility, but what I had in mind was perhaps giving some sort of undertaking on behalf of the Government that the motion, if adjourned tonight, could be brought forward again within some denned period, as a matter of General Business.
– Like two weeks?
– I actually had in mind four weeks. Senator Missen suggested one week and, being the character that I am, I suggest a compromise of three weeks. So, I think the motion may well warrant some further consideration in debate and it would probably warrant some government comment. I have to say that I am not in a position to make that comment this evening, so for that reason I suggest that I be given leave to continue my remarks and I will preface the seeking of leave with an undertaking that the matter will be brought on in General Business within three sitting weeks. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) -by leave- I do not want to stop the proper resolving of this problem at all. While the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) says that he will wait three weeks and then come back with comment, I think that is possibly too long. Nevertheless, the debate is now adjourned. I am concerned because I think that if this matter were discussed among Ministers within Cabinet there could be a different attitude on the part of Ministers and there could be some response to the pleas that have been made by Senator Missen. It may then not be necessary to carry the motion. So if the Minister could do more than prepare a reply within three weeks, if he could come back and tell the Senate something that the Government has resolved to do about this problem which has been raised, then I think the whole matter would be resolved.
Senator MISSEN (Victoria)-by leave-I appreciate the position of Senator Chaney. At the same time, this matter has been brought on today and we had first notice of it this morning, as had the Government. I find it incredible to think that some members of the Government did not know that this report was here, that the matter was on the list and that it was coming on today. I feel that to put it off for three weeks means putting it off for four weeks because we are sitting for two more weeks of this present period. I think the matter ought to be disposed of in this current three weeks. I think it would be perfectly ample if the adjourned debate were brought on within the next two weeks.
Senator CHANEY (Western AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs)- by leave- I only say to Senator Missen that I am exercising some caution in the matter because I do not think it is a matter within my own responsibility. I will certainly do what I can to ensure that it is dealt with within the current period of sittings.
1 ) That, in the opinion of the Senate-
That copies of this resolution be forwarded to-
– We will deal with this one tonight.
– I hope it will take considerably longer. This motion is designed to test the opinion of the Senate on the problems of our parliamentary democracy, which I outlined in this chamber some months ago, and the possible role of the Senate in overcoming those problems. Of course I will not recapitulate all the arguments I used then but I would like to summarise the key conclusions. They are: All Westminster style parliaments are in serious trouble because of the complete dominance of the lower House by the Executive, caused by the increasing rigidity of the party system. The consequence has been that the lower House has no real power to constrain or question the Executive. The courts have very little. The restraining role, if it is to be performed at all, must fall largely on the upper House; and this Senate, because of its powerful constitutional position, is better placed than any other second chamber in the Westminster system to perform this role.
But does this dominance by the Executive matter? There is no doubt about its existence. Of course, we have government by the Public Service and the Ministry. There is nothing objectionable in that. Someone must govern and the Parliament certainly cannot do it. But we also have the situation that legislation is effectively in the hands of the Public Service and the Cabinet rather than in the hands of the Parliament, which is supposed to be the legislature. To my mind this is totally objectionable. What we are becoming is not a democracy but, to use Lord Hailsham ‘s expression, an elective dictatorship. I cannot emphasise too strongly this fact of legislation by the Public Service. Certainly the Cabinet sets broad objectives but within these objectives the options presented to Cabinet and the details of any plan come from the Public Service. It is a brave Minister who goes counter to his departmental advice for, the Public Service being what it is, one will find that key Cabinet Ministers have been carefully briefed on what he is proposing to do and why he should not do it. Government by the Public Service is actually moderately good government but has little to do with democracy and nothing to do with the parliamentary system. It also assumes that the Public Service holds all the wisdom, a view from which I emphatically dissent. There is a vast store of wisdom and knowledge in the community which we should tap. This is particularly important in this country for our Public Service, centred in Canberra, is peculiarly isolated from the mainstream of community life.
What we need are public hearings on all Bills produced by the Executive and rubber-stamped by the lower House. Of course, some Bills will be routine and could be speedily dealt with by the appropriate committee, but one of our Senate committees must have the right and the duty of dealing with every Bill. The Executive must certainly not decide which Bills should go to committees. In fact any Bill that the Executive does not want examined should be the one given the most searching scrutiny to find out why the Executive does not want it publicly examined. The freedom of information legislation is a good example. I cited earlier to this chamber the way in which the dramatic decision to raise our oil prices immediately to world parity went through this Parliament with almost no serious debate although the decision is ultimately the responsibility of the Parliament, not of the Executive. The Executive should propose legislation and the Parliament, after proper examination, should dispose of it. But that is not what happens now. We seem to be meekly accepting the way in which the Executive is pre-empting the role of the legislature. As we are operating at the moment we are accepting responsibility without power.
In case anyone thinks that the oil example is an isolated one, although I am sure everyone here knows that it is not, I will cite a second example- the handling of family allowances. The Government had identified a problem with family allowances. They are not being concentrated in the areas of greatest need and this lack of concentration effectively ruled out desirable measures such as the indexation of child endowment payments. The trouble was that the Government, very badly advised, proposed a bad solution. There were then rumours of revolts and clandestine meetings and the proposal was amended. There were more rumours of revolts, more clandestine meetings and the proposal was abandoned. The Parliament, which is supposed to be the legislature, was not consulted at all and we are left still with an unsolved problem that the Government had set out to tackle. If the Parliament had been used as it should have been used, as a legislature, there should have been no problem. I am sure that the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare, after hearing public evidence, would have been able to shape the Government’s proposal into a workable and acceptable form. Instead of that, we have nothing.
Then there is the problem of the decentralisation of power. In a democracy one should aim to delegate Executive power to the body closest to the people on whom that power can be effectively exercised. The trouble is that the bureaucracy works in exactly the opposite direction. Its members are incurable and effective centralisers whatever the political colour of the government they are serving. We badly need a watchdog on the decentralisation of power. The House of Representatives, the rubber stamp of the Executive, cannot do it. If it is to be done at all, we alone can do it. I do not think that everyone yet realises the dangers of the elective dictatorships into which Westminister systems are sinking. It is not just that there is much bad and out of touch legislation produced by the Public Service and bulldozed through Parliament without any real examination. For instance, in the last four sessions there has been an average of 27 Bills a session introduced into this chamber in the last week of the session and passed in the same week. We all know what scant review they received. That is bad enough. But even more serious is the way in which the community is being increasingly alienated from the whole parliamentary process. The Westminster system is sick all over the world because essentially it is a nineteenth century system based on the concept of an elite and informed electorate and a flexible lower House with an inadequate check on the Executive. Neither of these concepts is valid today, so we must restore dynamism to the Westminster system and not leave it atrophied in the state it was in during the 1890s. We must develop a body to balance the excessive power of the Executive and its dominance of the lower House and involve the community more in the parliamentary processes. We must be that body. There is no one else.
This motion calls for the essential preliminary steps in the development of a balancing House of review somewhat along the lines of the United States Senate. I am sure we do not want to go the whole way of the United States system with its rigid separation of powers. That system of checks and balances often seems to be more check than balance, but we can learn from it. The motion I am proposing contains two positive proposals which, if implemented, would transform the role of this chamber into an effective and reasonable balance on the excessive powers of the Executive. The first proposal, with one exception I will deal with in a moment, is that Ministers should no longer be appointed from here. I am certain that the presence of Ministers in this chamber is incompatible with its effective performance as a
House of review. There is an inherent and insoluble conflict in having a House of review in which five of its most influential members are devoted inevitably to preventing its performing effectively as a House of review. Even more damaging to the proper performance of this Senate as a House of review are those who are not Ministers but would like to be. The fact is that our whole aspiration pyramid is skewed in the wrong direction. It is quite proper and natural under the present system for honourable senators to wish to join the Executive.
– They want a marshal’s baton.
– That may be what they want. That is quite proper and natural if that is one’s aspiration pyramid. But that is utterly incompatible with a role as a House of review, a check and balance on that same Executive. If we wish to be an effective House of review we must distance ourselves from the Executive.
The second proposal is that the chairmen of the eight Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees should receive the pay, entitlements and personal staff of non-Cabinet Ministers. If these Senate committees develop as they should, as public scrutineers of proposed government legislation and as watchdogs on the proper decentralisation of Executive power, their chairmen will be at least as powerful and important as any Ministers, and it is just that they should be appropriately recognised and rewarded. Incidentally, in case anyone thinks that eight chairmen is a rather excessive number to be recognised, I would point out that they represent one-eighth of our total strength. The 22 Ministers in the House of Representatives are more than one-sixth of the strength of that chamber. Since Federation the Senate has always been short-changed with regard to its Ministers. The purpose and desirability of the increased staff are obvious, although it should be emphasised that the increased staff would be for committee work and not for the chairmen personally. Senate committees have been ludicrously understaffed. This would improve the situation somewhat.
Some may complain that removing extra pay and entitlements from four Ministers and giving them to eight chairmen would be a substantial additional expense. This is not so. The pay and entitlements of a Minister are only, to use a currently overworked expression, the tip of the iceberg. Each Minister has to have a department; each department has to have premises and a secretary and deputy secretaries and first assistant secretaries and all the rest of the infrastructure. The cost of running a separate department as opposed to the same function being carried out by a division of a larger department could not be less than several hundred thousand dollars a year and is probably, under Parkinson’s law, much more. There would therefore be great economies in reducing the Ministry by four and giving the equivalent entitlements to eight chairmen.
How would this change work in practice? Of course its implementation would be a matter for the Standing Orders Committee in the first instance, but I merely put forward a possible way in which such a system could work to show that it is not an unrealistic pipe dream. First of all, although there would be no place for Ministers as part of the executive government in this chamber there would be a need for the Leader of the Government here to be a member of the Cabinet without departmental responsibilities, possibly as Vice-President of the Executive Council, so that the priorities of government legislation could properly be represented to the Senate. The Senate might not agree with or might not accept these priorities, but at least it should know of them.
I must say that I do not see that there is any particular merit in second reading debates in this chamber on Bills which have already passed the House of Representatives. If a Bill passes the House of Representatives we can take it that that is what the Government wants. Our role as a House of review should not be to repeat those arguments over again. That seems to me quite pointless. Anyway no one seems to listen while we do it. What we should do is to take the government Bill and examine it critically in a standing committee, hearing public evidence on it to see if it does in the most efficient way what the Government says it wants done.
There is a great deal of expert opinion available in the community. Expertise is often not available in the Commonwealth Public Service. I therefore suggest that every Bill that comes to this chamber from the House of Representatives should go straight to the appropriate legislative and general purposes committee. These committee hearings must be in public and must involve the community to the greatest possible extent because only by doing this can we remove the very general alienation of the community from the parliamentary processes. We also would frequently require the presence of the responsible Minister to give evidence on his Bill to the committee. There is nothing in our present Standing Orders to prevent such appearances and I am sure that wise Ministers would welcome the chance to improve the prospects of their Bills emerging unscathed.
Some ask whether a committee is an appropriate instrument for such a vital review role. Many barbed shafts are thrown at committees. A camel is a horse designed by a committee is an old chestnut. I prefer the description of a committee as being like a baby- a loud voice at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other. But these are criticisms of committees as executive bodies in which role I agree they have many defects. But they are excellent for an inquiry role. We are all aware of the way in which rigid party attitudes melt away when a Senate committee is considering a particular problem, and there is a very general desire to get the best answer. I think an all-party Senate committee is an ideal instrument to hold public hearings on proposed government legislation. It would be inevitable that the conclusions of this type of committee examination in detail of government Bills would result in substantial amendments. This is a highly desirable prospect.
As I argued before, the idea that legislation as produced by public servants and accepted or modified by the Cabinet should be sacrosanct, is utter nonsense. I also argued that public hearings would push lobby groups into the open. Lobbying is a legitimate part of the democratic process. As a major influence in the framing of legislation and government decision making it too should be subject to public scrutiny. At the moment pressure groups chiefly operate on public servants in secret. They should be forced into the open, which committee hearings would do.
Another advantage of referring Bills to committees is that they could be dealt with at leisure between sessions as in fact has been done with the Freedom of Information Bill. It would be of great advantage if this procedure extended more widely. Of course, some Bills are urgent and cannot be delayed but these are much fewer than most people think and could be even fewer with proper forward planning by the Public Service. Some permanent heads have the reputation of bringing their legislation in at the last possible moment so as to limit the time for irritating parliamentary scrutiny. We most certainly should not put up with this practice if it ever occurs.
I have admitted previously that an inevitable effect of having proper committee examination of Bills would be that fewer Bills would be passed. This would be an unmitigated blessing. We pass far too many Bills as it is. For the last 10 years we have averaged 147 Acts a year with the record of 221 Acts in 1974 when the Senate was supposed to be obstructive. Over the same period the British Parliament averaged 74 Acts and the Canadian Parliament 48 Acts as compared with our 147 Acts. Admittedly we have special constitutional requirements that force us to bring in two Bills on certain money matters which in other parliaments would be covered in a single Bill; but such Bills have a minor effect on the total and in no way explain why we pass three times as many Acts as Canada and twice as many as Britain, particularly as the British Parliament combines the functions of our Federal and State parliaments.
Anything that would stem the flood of legislation would have to be an improvement. I repeat that what I have outlined is only one method by which the Senate, reorganised as a House of review without Ministers, could operate. I suggest that it would be workable and a vast improvement on what happens now. When I was in Washington last year I looked with some care at the procedures of the United States Senate. I have incorporated some of my conclusions into these suggestions. There is much we can learn from the United States Senate procedures although, of course, we must recognise that it operates under a very different political structure.
Of course, there will be objections to the changes I am proposing. There always must be objections to change. I think I should try to tackle these objections head on. The first question is: Why so radical a change, why not continue with gradual development? My answer is that we have gone about as far as we can by gradualism. The committee system is now firmly established. We cannot use it effectively for searching review of the proposals of the Executive while we have Ministers here. I have said before, and I repeat, that there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict if we retain Ministers. Senate committees can never be expected to function effectively as a check and balance on the Executive while the promotion pyramid in the Senate is skewed in a different direction towards involvement in that Executive.
While on the subject of Ministers, it will no doubt be said that I was being unrealistic in assuming that the elimination of Senate Ministers would not result in an immediate increase in the number of Ministers in the House of Representatives. I cannot say this would not happen but I do say that it should not. There are at present 22 Ministers in the House of Representatives. On any reasonable administrative structure there should not be more than 20 government departments. The factors pressing a Prime Minister to have more Ministers- State balance, the need to recognise ability, to reward supporters and to foster talent- would not be increased by the elimination of Senate Ministers. If additional political supervision of the bureaucracy is required- and I think it is- the response should not be the weirdly extravagant and inefficient one of creating new Ministers and new departments, usually without a proper chain of responsibility to existing departments. It would surely be preferable to extend political control by appointing parliamentary secretaries to Ministers such as are used in the British Parliament. Such parliamentary secretaries have the advantage of being unpaid and do not need a departmental structure of their own. It is also a very convenient way of trying out the administrative ability of promising back benchers. I think their reintroduction in the House of Representatives is long overdue.
I do not want to spend any more time on this digression. However, I want to fortify my case that the number of Ministers in the House of Representatives would not have to be increased. If pressed I could name at least six departments which could be absorbed as divisions of other departments, perhaps supervised by a specially appointed parliamentary secretary, with a resultant considerable increase in efficiency and substantial cost savings.
– If I pressed you, Senator, would you enumerate those you have in mind?
– I do not want to get too involved in the subject, Senator Mulvihill, but I say that if we reviewed the departments of Trade and Resources, Industry and Commerce, Primary Industry, Productivity, Business and Consumer Affairs and Special Trade Representations I am sure that we could manage with two departments without any great difficulty. I do not want to restructure the whole Federal bureaucracy but I say merely that it could be and should be reduced to about 20 separate departments with great cost savings and considerable improvements in efficiency.
On another point, am I being naive in thinking that any Senate would be prepared to give up the power, prestige and rewards of Ministers? I dealt a moment ago with the question of rewards. If it is power we are talking about, I invite honourable senators to compare the power of a chairman of a United States Senate committee with the power of a Minister in one of our recent governments. I have no doubt where the greater power and prestige lie. But what about Question
Time if there were no Ministers in the Senate with departmental responsibilities? I do not think that this chamber is properly employed in probing day-to-day political events and in trying to score political points. Political point scoring can safely be left to the House of Representatives.
I think that what we want here is more serious questioning on longer term issues. The Question Time procedure used by the British House of Commons would seem to me to be admirable for this purpose. If we used the House of Commons procedure the result would be this: Ministers would appear in this chamber on a roster basis to answer questions of which they would be given notice and supplementary questions would be admitted not only from the questioner but also from other senators. This would be an interesting experience for Ministers from the House of Representatives who would be unable to get away with their usual habit of answering a different question if they did not like the question they were asked. I think that this system, as used in the British House of Commons, would provide a very valuable and proper question time for us. I should also make it quite clear that the review powers I am talking about are not new. We already have all the power we need. I am merely proposing a reorganisation which would make effective our use of our existing powers.
What about Estimates committees? There need be no significant change in Estimates committees. They could continue much as they are, if that is what the Senate wants, but I should say that there seems to be some problems with these committees as they operate at the moment. It seems to me that they are too few in number, that they cover strange assortments of departments, that they do not have the responsible Minister present for most of the time and that their research staff is inadequate. Most of these problems have been caused by the existence of Senate Ministers.
The number of Estimates committees has been governed very largely by the number of Senate Ministers, and the subjects they consider are governed by the representation responsibilities assigned by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to the various Senate Ministers. These tend not to have a community of interest. For instance, Defence and Foreign Affairs, which are closely related subjects, last year were examined by different Estimates committees because the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) were represented here by different Ministers. Looking at the span of interests, as Senator Chaney is in the chamber I will refer particularly to Estimates Committee E. Last year it dealt with the Departments of Administrative Services, Industry and Commerce, Transport, Productivity, and Environment, Housing and Community Development. This is a span of interest which might be appropriate for Senator Chaney but it is not one that many senators would share.
– I think a smaller number of committees and the smaller number of departments would probably be a good idea.
– I think that a smaller number of departments and a larger number of committees would be even better. I think that if we do away with Ministers in the Senate we should consider whether the functions of the Estimates committees should be taken over by the legislative and general purpose committees, which in any case cannot usefully meet while the Estimates committees are working. This is the practice in the United States Senate. The legislative and general purpose committees would be greater in number, would be better staffed and their members would have a community of interest with the departments they would be reviewing. In either case, whether the Estimates committees continue separately or not, it would be necessary to summon the responsible Ministers from the House of Representatives. This is permitted by our present Standing Orders and I am sure that they would come. However, I repeat that there would be no reason why the Estimates committees should not continue as at present in the changed circumstances if that is what the Senate wished.
If there should be a move in the direction I have outlined, how are we to achieve it? Several different steps are needed. Firstly, in the first instance the payment of committee chairmen is a matter for the Remuneration Tribunal although, of course, Parliament ultimately decides. I think that a resolution of this chamber would be very compelling on the Tribunal. Secondly, there is the question of the cessation of appointments of Ministers. This, I suppose, is a matter for the Prime Minister but again I think that he would find a resolution of the chamber very compelling. Finally there is the question of how to provide support for committee chairmen on the same basis as non-Cabinet Ministers. Here are two departmental estimates involved- those for Parliament and those for the Department of Administrative Services. Again the initiative has to come from the Government, presumably from the
Prime Minister. For these reasons I have suggested that the motion, if adopted, be transmitted both to the Remuneration Tribunal and to the Prime Minister.
These matters, although important, are essentially procedural. What we have to face is whether we wish to take decisive steps in the development of the Westminster system of government, steps which would set this chamber up as a check and a balance on the activities of the Executive and provide a focus through which there could be increased community involvement in the processes of government. I believe that these developments are of immense importance to our political system and are probably vital to its long-term survival. They would be the most important and democratic and valuable advances made in the Westminster system this century. I therefore commend the motion to the Senate and hope not only for a vote in favour of it but also for a commitment to see through its implementation. If we really want it, it will happen.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Jessop)- Is the motion seconded?
– It gives me pleasure to second the motion. At the outset perhaps I had better declare my interest. Currently I am chairman of a Senate committee but it would be my expectation not to continue in that role if this motion is carried. Because honourable senators acknowledge that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has selected his most talented representatives from the Senate to occupy the front benches, they naturally would occupy the positions of chairmen of committees. I thought I had better declare my interest. I second the motion moved by Senator Hamer, which states:
1 ) That, in the opinion of the Senate-
That copies of this Resolution be forwarded to-
I intend to cover only the broad principles of this motion tonight because there are many other speakers who wish to participate in the debate.
Over a number of years I have come to the conclusion so ably outlined by my colleague Senator Hamer and I think that he has made a very practical and workable suggestion. I will not discuss the details but many details have been worked out and I am certain that those that have not can be adequately resolved. In my opinion the present shortcoming of the Senate is that the Senate was designed as a States House. Prior to Federation there were six colonies and it is my contention that those colonies would not have joined into a Federation without the protection of the Senate. Yet we see the situation where the Senate has very seldom acted in its role as a States House. In fairness, it should be acknowledged that if the Senate were not here the legislation coming through from the Government would be vastly different. The Government, knowing that the Senate is here and has the power to act as a States House, must pay regard to that fact and also to the less populous States.
I am afraid that it is undeniably a fact that the Senate is, and under the present system will continue to be, a political House. With the exception of Senator Harradine, all the present senators are endorsed by a political party and are elected to represent that political party. It is extremely difficult for them to depart from their party line. As Senator Hamer pointed out, a political bias is built in for Government senators to support the Government line. We have five Ministers here. We have another 30 Government senators who think that they should be Ministers. They are not likely to depart unduly from the strong Government line and upset the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and reduce their chances of becoming Ministers. Of course, we recognise that the Labor Party is tied to its Caucus decisions and in many cases to union decisions. Because of those two factors the Senate cannot operate as anything other than a political House. I am afraid that the Senate has become a mirror of the House of Representatives.
I do not overlook the very valuable role ofthe Senate committees. They have had an important input into the policy determinations of the government, particularly during the years from 1972 to 1975. I recognise the role the Senate played in those times in the review of legislation, but I am afraid that after those exciting days the Senate has tended to return to its old sleepy and dead state. Some time ago many senators were pontificating on what they saw as their desire for the Senate to become a more independent House. They saw the solution to their problems in giving the Senate the ability to elect its
Government Leader and Deputy Leader. Big deal! I am suggesting that if this motion is agreed to the Senate really would be given some power. A commonly used argument against the action we are proposing is that if it were carried out it would no longer be relevant for senators to represent parties. I guess that there is some validity in that argument. However, I do not agree with it.
– They do in the United States.
– Exactly; that is very true. I maintain that the idea has no validity because the candidates would still be selected by their respective parties and their renomination would depend on their performance in representing the philosophies of their respective parties. The performance of senators in this House would depend on their representing the point of view and philosophies of their respective parties.
I suggest that in practice most government bills would pass as quickly as they do now, or even more quickly if we took up Senator Hamer’s suggestion that the second reading speeches made in the House of Representatives not be repeated here. At last the Senate would become a true House of review. It has been my pleasure to serve on Senate committees, and for some time now I have chaired one of them. One part of that experience I enjoy is that on almost all occasions the discussions and the decisions that are reached, because they are outside the political spotlight, are depoliticised to a high degree. Would it not be wonderful if that same principle and policy were adopted in this place? We are aware of the difference in the performance of the Senate on Wednesdays, which are broadcast days, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which are non-broadcast days. Most of us are also aware of the sensible and careful way in which Senate committees are conducted when they are outside the spotlight of politics. I suggest that the decisions reached by the Senate would be far more valuable and far weightier if Senator Hamer’s proposal were adopted.
I know that during the preparation of legislation the Government consults many groups which have an interest in the particular area involved, but on most occasions those consultations are conducted without the knowledge of the general public. In many cases they are conducted without the knowledge of people who have a vital interest in the area. Certainly, those people have the ability to make representations to the relevant Minister or to the Prime Minister or to members of parliament; but if the Senate publicly called for representations and submissions and conducted inquiries in the open, with access for the Press while a decision was being reached, our affairs would be conducted far more democratically and sensibly. As Senator Hamer very ably pointed out, much of our legislation is rushed through. In many cases there is very good reason why that should be so, but in most cases there is no urgency about the Bills. Under Senator Hamer’s proposal, if a committee decided that a Bill was not urgent and that there were some problems, public discussion could take place with a much broader input from the general public. That process occurs in Japan where every year when the Budget is being considered there is a general public debate in the Press and amongst the general population after the Government has drawn up the guidelines. When the Budget is finally presented it is no surprise to anybody because the issues have been canvassed and there has been a response by Government Ministers on most issues. That is the sort of environment in which decisions could be made in this place.
I regard Senator Hamer as a very altruistic person. One of the great advantages in the moves we are proposing is that representations from the less populous States of Australia would be greatly enhanced. Senior Hamer represents the State of Victoria, which has a very large population; but Western Australia, Tasmania, and possibly South Australia and Queensland would benefit a great deal from this type of reorganisation. The Senate would be a much more powerful body and would give due consideration to the needs and requirements of the smaller States. In spite of the strange noises that Senator Chaney has been making during this debate, I strongly suggest that his position in particular would be greatly enhanced by the moves we are suggesting. I know that he has a great future.
– He would be the Leader of the Government.
-I should imagine that that is exactly the position he would obtain. As I said before, I suggest that the present Ministers would occupy the most prominent positions as chairmen of the various committees and that their status would be enhanced. Senator Hamer drew an analogy with the situation in America, where the chairmen of the Senate committees have tremendous power. This proposal certainly would increase the status and responsibility of the present Senate Ministers, who would take over the role of chairmen of committees. Mr Acting Deputy President, I have several other matters to canvass but because other senators wish to speak to this motion I will conclude my remarks at that point.
– I congratulate Senator Hamer on bringing forward this motion. I do so however not to endorse in any specific part the proposals he has advanced but because I believe that the motion as a whole takes a correct perspective and is based on a proper premise which is in harmony with the basic thinking within the Australian Labor Party on the relative role of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the two chambers of this Parliament, in relation to government. The basic principle adhered to by the Australian Labor Party is that the House of Representatives is the chamber whose confidence is required for the formation of a government and whose confidence must be retained for the continued existence of a government but that the confidence of the Senate should be irrelevant to the formation and continued existence of a government, that is, of a ministry. That is why I am in sympathy with the general thrust of Senator Hamer’s proposal.
Senator Hamer’s motion describes one way of creating political arrangements to give effect to the fundamental constitutional arrangements which we see as proper. It does so by making it clear, with one exception, that the members of the government, which in our parliamentary system is simply an Executive composed of members of the parliament, should come solely from that House whose confidence they must obtain initially and retain for the duration of that parliament. I am not saying that Senator Hamer’s proposal is the only or the best way to express by way of practical arrangements that conviction concerning the relative role of the chambers in relation to the formation of a government.
The reason I entered the debate tonight at short notice was to say that if Senator Hamer’s proposal is the sole reform proposed to give expression to that principle of linking government and the House of Representatives and breaking the link between the government and the Senate, I predict it would be unacceptable to the Australian Labor Party, which would want to see such a reform coupled with the removal of the claimed power of the Senate to dismiss a government by withholding supply. We maintain that responsible and effective national government in Australia cannot be reconciled with a form of parliament in which each ofthe chambers, possibly with majorities of politically different persuasions, is empowered to reject Supply.
I do not want my remarks to be interpreted as some sort of knee-jerk reaction to the events of 1975 but I must emphasise the principles which the Australian Labor Party then saw as being at stake. No reason has emerged in the years that have intervened between those hysterical times and the calm of this chamber tonight to alter our basic belief, which, I reiterate, is that it should be sufficient for the continued existence of the government that it continue to enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives. After all, the creation of the government depends on the initial confidence of the House of Representatives.
No one has suggested that the Senate should pass some resolution approving the creation of the Prime Minister. Nor should his continuing in office depend on the continuous approval of the Senate. To put it another way: If the Senate passed a motion of no confidence in the government, surely there is no suggestion that the government should resign or advise a dissolution of the House of Representatives. It seems anomalous that such a result might be obtained through the refusal of Supply, which is in fact the traditional sanction for refusing to yield to a no confidence motion.
More than some sort of anomaly is involved here, as has been pointed out many timeslatterly by Senator Thomas. The Senate is as much a party House as is the House of Representatives. We believe that no mechanism should be available to a naturally hostile Opposition to force an election at its will. The issue is not whether there shall be an election to determine the government. There must be an election within three years of the summoning of the Parliament. But when that election shall occur and by whom it shall be called is the issue involved. To entrust such a power to the opposition- that is, to the minority group within the House of Representatives- is destructive not only of responsible government but also of stable government. In that respect, with the conduct of important national economic affairs, that proves disastrous for no government can afford to court unpopularity in the short term by pursuing policies which it believes will benefit the nation in the long term.
I believe that Senator Hamer’s proposal symbolically deals a severe blow to the supposed link between the Government and this chamber by the proposed insistence that departmental Ministers of State do not sit here. Certainly the consequence of the motion, if carried, would be to emphasise the proper link between the government and the House of Representatives. What we say is that that link should be to the exclusion of all others. To have brought this matter so dramatically and symbolically to the attention of the Australian community alone merits praise for Senator Hamer, but I believe that it will not engender widespread bipartisan support if left as a solitary proposal. It must be part of a wider and deeper breaking of the government-Senate nexus.
If I may speak more positively, the whole endeavour, as I see it, of Senator Hamer’s motion is to strengthen this chamber’s role as a House of review. Both Senator Hamer and Senator Thomas have spoken eloquently to that effect. I do not intend to dwell on the merits of the proposal as they were well outlined by them. But I would make some minor comment about the proposal to strengthen the powers of the Senate standing committees and estimates committees by enhancing the status of their chairmen. It seems to me to be slightly putting the cart before the horse. In my view the matter and events should flow the other way, that is, if a Senate committee were required, as it would be in the absence of Ministers in this chamber, to summon before it the Minister of State responsible for the department with which it is concerned, I believe, as was rightly pointed out by preceding honourable senators, that the committee’s role within this parliament would be enhanced or strengthened in a way which would then reflect merited glory on the chairman. If it proves to be the case that he requires more staff and resources to carry out this greater scrutiny of government proposals then so be it. But do not merely bestow the perquisites of status on the chairman as an initial step, or at least be prepared for that status to flow from the really enhanced work and strengthening of the committees.
I, too, am only speaking very briefly. Therefore I return to my beginning, which was to congratulate Senator Hamer for bringing forward this motion. I do not endorse it in any particular respect but because, as I have said, the motion adopts a premise or at least takes a certain perspective which is in harmony with much of the feeling within the community concerning the proper relation of the two chambers to government. It is for that reason that I maintain that the proposal warrants proper consideration as one part of the practical proposals that might be considered by the community in the general aim of strengthening parliamentary democracy in Australia.
– The Australian Democrats find the views of Senator Hamer on this subject very interesting and refreshing. I have noticed a number of times, including earlier this evening, that there seems to be a certain resistance amongst some honourable senators who have been in this place for some time to new ideas. The reaction to them of some honourable senators is a gut reaction. They revolt immediately at the thought of something new or interesting coming forward. I suppose it is a natural consequence of increasing years. I am beginning to become aware of it myself.
It is interesting to note that three of the speakers in this debate tonight are new boys in the Senate- Senator Hamer, Senator Tate and me. Our interest in this subject and the fact that we are here and wish to speak to it is perhaps an indication that we have not yet been properly broken to harness. However, I think that one of the most interesting aspects of this whole question is that Senator Hamer has brought up the proposition at all. It is a highly heretical proposition, if I might say so. It is practical and it is sensible. We of the Australian Democrats have not yet balloted it specifically because we have not got round to it, but I would be very surprised if our organisation and our people who are thinking about this area of constitutional and legal reform did not go along sufficiently with Senator Hamer almost to be induced to send him a membership form for the Australian Democrats. However, we will spare him that for the time being.
– Are you aware that it is not a new idea and that it has been floating about in this place quite often?
– I am indebted to the honourable senator for that, but -
– As long as I have been here.
– I would suggest to both honourable senators that there is no reason why it should not be raised again. I would suggest that if these ideas are not raised and ventilated they tend to disappear back into obscurity when, of course, we should always be looking at our role, our methods and the way in which we can best serve people who elected us to this Parliament and who pay us. I am aware that whenever I mention this idea in the Senate people do not like it very much. However, it is something I will continue to mention in the Senate. Actually, the Senate is accused of being a rubber stamp, is it not? One hears this accusation through many sections of the community. In almost any writings one can see that the Senate is a rubber stamp. The Australian Labor Party is very twisted up over the role of the Senate. One sometimes reads and listens to the observations of the Labor Party on the Senate. Many members of the Labor Party do not want the Senate. They think the Senate is an obstruction and they want to get rid of it. I have heard honourable senators actually making this point in the Senate.
– It is policy.
– There we are. We continue nevertheless with the Senate in spite of this policy. We are a rubber stamp the way the House is now constituted and it is a rather expensive rubber stamp. I do not know just what it costs to run the Senate but I would say that it would cost $100,000 a year to keep each of us on the road. There are 64 of us so there is $6. 5m in just one throw. Of course there are other aspects such as our chamber to maintain, our support staff and the other facilities of the Senate. It is a very expensive luxury to the Australian community and I say that the way it is presently constituted it is a luxury. I would tend to some extent to go along with Labor Party thinking and agree that if it goes on in the way it is we might well get rid of it, but frankly I would prefer Senator Hamer’s solution.
I think it is much better that the Senate itself should consider what its role is. I do not think it good enough for Labor senators to sit here and say: ‘Our idea is to abolish the Senate. Meanwhile we will all sit here drawing our salaries and have a nice time doing’- it would be unparliamentary to say what I was going to say, Mr Deputy President, so I will not say it, but I think you understand my meaning. I think there is a useful tendency emerging in the Senate and, of course, it is a tendency towards increasing committee work. I think this is so in the eyes of the public, too, now that Senate committees are receiving Press publicity. It is tremendous to see this publicity. I was delighted to see the publicity given to the Estimates Committees’ work in many particulars last year. Although I was not concerned with those Estimates Committees, it seemed to me as a superficial observer as I am now and from my own experience, that these committees were doing a job and probably saving the Australian taxpayer money by the mere fact that they are diligent and energetic in checking up on the Estimates.
Other committees are carrying out useful roles. From time to time the Press attends public hearings of committees and in doing so I think it is bringing to the public a better view of parliamentary proceedings than at times they get of this House. The reason for that, of course, is that in the committees we have a multi-party approach. Perhaps I am more fortunate than others in the committee on which I serve, the Standing Committee on Science and the Environment, but in the admittedly short term that I have served on that committee I have not noticed a single tendency on the part of the chairman or members of that committee towards party politicking. It is an exercise in elucidating the facts and the truth and the opinions of people on the current inquiry. Because of that it is respected, I believe, by the Press. I have had pressmen say to me that sometimes Senate committees come up with some good ideas. Increasingly, chiefs of staff are assigning their journalists to go along and have a look at the proceedings of a Senate committee or at least to go along at the end of the day and talk with the chairman of a committee and see what has come up in a current inquiry. These, I think, are useful tendencies.
The status of the second or upper House has been in question for many decades. Of course, abolition has occurred in a number of cases. The Queensland and New Zealand governments are among many which now operate on a unicameral basis. I was recently in New Zealand and discussed the subject with some people. I think there are those who regret the situation. I think the New Zealand Parliament has shown a degree or volatility which at times is rather unfortunate. Certainly at the moment it has nothing like our Estimates Committees. It does have some committees which have been established recently but they do not go into the Estimates with anywhere near the accuracy and depth that the Estimates Committees of the Senate do. Justifying the upper House, the Senate, is a necessity. It can be justified, I believe, not by its similarity to the other House- far from it- but by carrying out an ancillary and specialised role.
It is this aspect of Senator Hamer’s proposals and ideas that I find most interesting and which I think the Australian public finds interesting. Certainly I can assure the Senate that the Australian Democrats membership and our policy forming areas will look at this idea and see whether we can formulate policy on the matters that Senator Hamer raised. I believe this debate should be continued. That is why I am on my feet speaking now. I heard a comment, I think from the Government side: ‘I hope we can dispose of this matter tonight’. I suggest that that is an irresponsible comment. We should be used to it by now. The Government is so accustomed to feeling that it is the be-all and end-all, even though it was elected by a minority of Australians. I repeat that it was elected by a minority of Australians. More
Australians are opposed to it than voted for it and I think the Government ought to bear that in mind and have a bit of humility when it comes to the idea of pushing people around and saying what should be discussed in this chamber, for how long it should be discussed and when.
Time is taken up regularly in this House by the reading of statements which originated in the other place. Any member of the public, any journalist and any senator could see those statements merely by picking them up. They could be tabled; they could be put on our desks. We could read them if we thought they were worth reading. I saw one in here tonight that, frankly, was not worth reading. It was read in this House. Apart from that judgment, I would say that a tremendous amount of time of the Senate is taken up wastefully, and I think it is apparent to the public that it is taken up wastefully. In the case of a number of debates here- for instance, when a matter of public importance comes upthere is no vote taken. Why is there no vote taken? I would like to know the reason some time. I can see no reason why a vote should not be taken on such a matter. If a matter is raised as a matter of public importance it is considered to be worth discussing as a matter of public importance. Indeed, it is considered to be worthy of being broadcast. Yet no vote is taken on it. Obviously it is regarded somewhere and by somebody as being of no importance whatsoever. I suggest that this is one of the aspects of the waste of time in this chamber which we should examine.
Senator Hamer has mentioned the point about repetitiveness of tactics, the repetitiveness of legislation, the fact that Bills are brought in and rammed through this House in the last week of a session. It is obvious that the Executive and the other House do not have much respect for the Senate. They believe that the Senate is here to say yes. ‘Just do this; do what we want’- that is what the Government wants. The Government feels: ‘The Senate is a nuisance. Let us keep it quiet. Let us keep it talking. We do not want it to do anything. What can we find for the Senate to do?’. I am quite sure those thoughts go through the minds of the members of the Executive from time to time whenever they are reminded of the Senate. I am sure that Senator Hamer ‘s motion will remind them yet again.
Senator Hamer has spoken of the inadequacies of Question Time. Time and time again we come into this chamber at Question Time, ask a question and find that the Minister representing another Minister, naturally enough, is not able to give us a reply. I think we are a little naive to suppose that he would be able to give us a reply. There is the polite fiction that if one does want the Minister to give a reply one has to tell him before Question Time that one is going to ask the question and then, of course, it is not a question without notice. I suggest that this sort of farcical undertaking ought to be looked at carefully. I can see no reason why Senator Hamer ‘s idea that a Minister should come to this chamber and be questioned by the Senate should not be carried out. I can see no reason why some device could not be introduced whereby there would be joint sittings in which Ministers were questioned. I think that it would save repetition because often, when I look at the Hansard records, I see that the same questions are asked in this House and in the other place at the same time.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! It being 10.30 p.m., under the sessional order I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I simply want to make a few observations on Australia’s current immigration policy in respect of working visas. I have had conversations with the staff of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) who represents the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). I understand that the Minister for Social Security is indisposed tonight so in order to expedite matters I have spoken to Senator Chaney, the Minister in charge of the House, in relation to incorporating a number of documents in Hansard. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard question on Notice No. 1060 and the reply from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on the ambit of working visas.
The document read as followsSENATE QUESTION (Question No. 1060)
asked the Minister representing the
Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 23 November 1978:
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
Applicants within this general category will be eligible only if they possess skills or qualifications which represent a gain to Australia and are conducive to successful settlement.
– In conjunction with that- and this is my prime submission- I propose to seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a document on an organisation known as the Australian Babaji Yoga Sangam in Sydney which makes the point that from time to time there is an infusion of overseas instructors. Then the Government gets into that grey area of whether to convert a tourist visa to a working visa. Normally there are obstacles which I would not condone. Rather than delay the Senate I had preliminary talks this afternoon with departmental staff and I now ask that a four-page document dealing with the history of this society and naming the United States national who is seeking a conversion of his visa from tourist to working status be incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Australian Babaji Yoga Sangam, located at 3S2 South Dowling Street, Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales, is a non-profit, spiritual, educational organisation dedicated to encouraging the practice of Kriya Yoga. This centre is affiliated with International Babaji Yoga Sangam with headquarters in Madras, India and American Babaji Yoga Sangam with headquarters at 1 12 East Seventh Street, New York, New York, United States of America. American Babaji Yoga Sangam is a non-profit, tax-exempt, educational and religious organisation.
Kriya Yoga is a five-fold path designed to help an individual progress physically, mentally, and spiritually. The five main aspects are physical exercise, breathing exercises, meditation, mantras which are special chantings and the worship of God in accordance with the principles of all world religions. Followers of Kriya Yoga are encouraged to use the practice of Yoga as a means to practice their own religions better. It is not a religion but provides means of practicing any religion better.
Australian Babaji Yoga Sangam is absolutely nonpolitical and non-violent. Members are encouraged to pursue useful careers and act as responsible citizens. No members of the organisation are permitted to be a burden on society by not working.
The organisation conducts free Yoga classes in Sydney in accordance with the above principles. These classes have proved beneficial for hundreds of Australians, in many cases encouraging them to give up a life of unemployment and drug use. Practitioners do not use any non-prescribed drugs and a healthy married family life is encouraged.
In order for the centre’s activities to continue it is necessary for a trained teacher to come to Australia and run the classes for approximately three years at a time. The training of teachers is quite intensive and must take place at our main centres in the USA. In the past these teachers have emigrated to Australia in the usual way and pursued their careers along with teaching classes at the Yoga centre. Because all members must work it is imperative that the teacher come to Australia with a visa allowing him or her to work. Since the number of permanent residents allowed into Australia has been reduced we have been finding it difficult to get a teacher into the country to replace the current teacher, Mr Alex Vaitheeswaran who is currently employed by the Health Commission of New South Wales as a psychiatric nurse. He arrived in Australia in June 1973 after having previously lived in Australia from 1971-1973. We would like Miss Claudia Dubowski to replace Mr Vaitheeswaran. Miss Claudia Dubowski is 23 years of age. She graduated with honours from high school and attended one and half years of college. She would like to work in Australia as a clerk-typist or in a convalescent home as a nursing assistant. She has had training and experience in both fields. Miss Dubowski is currently in Sydney on a visitor’s visa and is due to go back to the USA on February 27. She has made some informal inquiries as to job possibilities. There are several nursing homes that cannot find suitable nursing assistants and would be happy to hire Miss Dubowski. There are also jobs available for clerk-typists.
Of course Miss Dubowski will certainly abide by the terms of her visa and leave the country when expected to and will not accept employment unless given permission from the Immigration Department.
Because of the good work our organisation is doing and of our need to transfer trained teachers from the USA at three year intervals we would greatly appreciate departmental consideration for allowing a teacher to come and work in Australia at these three year intervals. All members of our group are of good character and willing to work at any job to earn a living. We can guarantee that they will never apply for social services nor will they ever be involved in anti-social activities. The previous two teachers that have been in Australia, Mr Ronald Stevenson and Mr Alex Vaitheeswaran both have outstanding employment histories and were well respected in the community. We can assure that Miss Dubowski will continue the excellent conduct that has been established and that all future teachers will as well.
We would appreciate it if consideration could be given to allowing Miss Dubowski to stay and work here before she is scheduled to leave for the US. We would also appreciate favourable departmental consideration for our future applicants.
-I thank the Senate for its co-operation. I now turn to the other side of the coin as far as working visas are concerned. I speak tonight on behalf of many people from the Italian community in Sydney. They are the sons and daughters of post-war migrants, largely of Italian stock, and they are Australian citizens. They have raised with me the point that the time is ripe for the Australian Government to re-open negotiations with the Italian Government- what
I say could apply equally to the Yugoslav and Greek governments- on a reciprocal agreement to enable these young Australians to be given working visas so that they can go on what might be called a sentimental journey to the country of their parents’ birthplace and, at a leisurely tempo, see much of the country and absorb its culture. Every young Australian with post-war migrant parents does not have, even with the alleged concessional travel packages, a bankroll to enable him to cram in everything in a 90-day visit. I know that from the era of Foreign Minister Willesee up to the present Foreign Minister Peacock, and from the illustrious Immigration Ministers in the previous Government, such as Clyde Cameron, up to the present Immigration Minister there have been preliminary discussions on this matter with these foreign governments. I think it is about time that something was done. I am not reflecting on them but I recognise the part played by the major ethnic communities in this country and that from time to time their various ambassadors in Canberra see Mr MacKellar, just as they saw Labor Immigration Ministers, and make constructive suggestions in respect of what they feel to be irritations to their ethnic communities. I concede that many of their submissions are valid.
But on the other side of the coin, in talking about the new generation of Australians, I believe that we could say to the Italian Government: ‘Now look, in our tight employment situation we have to be careful that working visas are not abused’. Many of the people who come here come from British Commonwealth countries and they speak the English language. This enables them to move into jobs much easier. I have in mind the typical case of a national librarian from the United Kingdom who comes to Australia to get the feel of the Australian library system. I also know of a case concerning a boy from the Royal stables in Britain who worked at the Bart Cummings stables at Randwick. They are the easy ones. I am certain that there have been people from outside the British Commonwealth to whom we have given working visas and that this has been advantageous. I know that the system can be abused but I believe that the Government should open up immediate discussions with the countries that I have named, starting with Italy. I know that there is a difficult problem- this applies to Britain and Ireland as well- because of European Common Market obligations and that in a tight job situation an Australian or a New Zealand national has less job security.
I am not suggesting that this Government should get on to a collision course but I see no reason why the Australian Government should not call in the Italian Ambassador and tell him that we believe there should be a quota system. Perhaps 50 or 100 Australians with Italian parents could be allowed to spend 12 months in Italy to explore the culture of their parents at leisure instead of limiting them to a visit of 90 days, perhaps on a very tight budget. I believe that the Government should take this matter on board. I am going to release information on this situation to the Italian newspapers La Fiamma and // Globo. Those papers at times have lambasted successive Labor and Liberal governments and I recognise their right to float an idea. I also recognise that there are two sides of the coin to be considered. I hope that the Minister will take up these negotiations. It is really a corollary, I suppose, of our cheaper air travel. I know that most ofthe children under 30 years of age of post-war migrants believe that this is something that should happen. I repeat that the dialogue that was commenced by Foreign Minister Willesee and the Employment and Immigration Minister Clyde Cameron should be continued by their present counterparts. I hope to get a very early response as to what the other overseas governments feel about these innovations. I leave the matter on that note.
– I rise to raise a matter which I believe should receive some explanation in this House before it adjourns tonight as we will not be resuming until next week. As is known to everybody in this place and everybody in the Parliament, there have been rumours all evening that a Cabinet Minister has resigned. The news was on television, it was broadcast over the radio repeatedly tonight, and a few minutes ago an announcement was made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that he had the resignation of the Minister for Finance, Mr Robinson, and that Mr Howard is the Acting Minister for Finance. No reasons or explanations are given for this extraordinary state of affairs. We hear a lot -
– Tell us about Clyde Cameron.
-We hear a lot in this chamber and we hear a lot from Senator Rae. We heard a lot from Senator Rae, at the time he mentioned, about the Westminster tradition, about the responsibility of the Executive to report to the Parliament- both Houses of the Parliament, I might add, as Senator Rae frequently reminds us- about the necessity, in order that parliamentary democracy may survive, for us to get such reports, and about the Executive being responsible to both chambers of this Parliament. We should not go home this weekend without being told, in this chamber and in the other place, what has happened, and why a Minister with a portfolio such as that held by Mr Robinson has resigned. We should receive an explanation in this Parliament rather than through the newspapers or through rumour. We should not go home until we have done so. There are many reasons why a Minister may resign. He may be ill, he may be dissatisfied with the Government of which he is a member, or he may have been caught doing something that a Minister should not do. We in this place should be told what has happened. We should not have a repetition of what happened in another place where the Prime Minister entered and said: ‘I have the Minister’s resignation. I have appointed Mr Howard the Acting Finance Minister and you can all go home and mind your own business ‘.
– It took one and a half hours to get that confession out of him and then only after a lot of divisions.
– As Senator McLaren said, there were repeated divisions and repeated calls for explanations, but nothing was given. It is not as though Mr Robinson is a stranger to this sort of controversy in this place. I believe that this makes it even more important that we should receive an explanation. As a result of a previous controversy in which Mr Robinson was involved, Senator Withers is no longer sitting opposite as Leader of the Government in the Senate but he has remained here. He has been sitting completely silent for six months next to Senator Townley on the back benches. As we all remember, Mr Robinson was accused by one of his colleagues in the House of Representatives of attempting to fiddle the electoral boundaries in Queensland. As a result of that he was suspended from his job, or he resigned from his job, while a commission of inquiry was held. That commission found that he had not done anything wrong as a Minister on that occasion. So Mr Robinson has been the centre of controversy before.
Mr Robinson is also known for some of his famous statements, such as his statement that unemployment in this country is a myth, which he made only 12 months ago. Mr Robinson is the representative of the Prime Minister on a committee which is trying to sort out the air routes in Queensland. He has negotiated on behalf of the Prime Minister with that fine, upstanding citizen, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, the Premier of Queensland. Has this got something to do with the resignation of Mr Robinson? Whatever has happened, a man in a crucial position in the Cabinet, a man who was recently given extra powers over expenditure in this country so that he can authorise expenditure without going to the Cabinet for approval, has quite suddenly and quite strangely resigned. The first news we heard about it was from the Press. The second news we heard about it was a statement by the Prime Minister without an explanation. This should not happen.
Of course, Mr Robinson is not the first Minister to resign. Mr Garland resigned and then was reinstated. Senator Sheil was sacked before he could be sworn in as a Minister. The former Attorney-General, Mr Ellicott, resigned on a point of principle and then came back to the ministry again. Senator Withers was the Leader of the Government in this place and he resigned. As I have pointed out, Mr Robinson has stood down in the past. All that I am saying, and I repeat it, is that we should not leave this place tonight without receiving an explanation of what has happened.
– A fishing expedition.
-It has nothing to do with fishing. So many times in the past we have been told by Senator Baume and his colleagues, by the fine, upstanding gentlemen opposite, that we should be told by the Executive what is going on. Therefore, I move the following amendment to the motion that the Senate do now adjourn:
After the word ‘adjourn’, add the words ‘after receiving a report on the retirement of the Minister for Finance ‘.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Scott)- Senator Grimes, I understand that you cannot move an amendment to the motion that the Senate do now adjourn.
– I was about to second the proposed amendment to the motion because I think that we are entitled to receive an explanation. Now I can only join in the plea for an explanation.
– You know the Standing Orders. You can negate but you cannot amend.
-No, we could add words as well. Despite you ruling, Mr Deputy President, which was given on the advice of the Clerk of the House, I still say that it is an area for debate. At least a Minister is in the chamber attending to the affairs of the Senate. He will know of his responsibilities. We are entitled to be treated with respect, as we have discussed tonight. We should play a special role. That Minister should realise his responsibility. I am sure that if he has any information he will tell us the reason for the resignation of the Minister for
Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) and that we will not have to wait for the Press reports in the morning to find out why this senior Minister has resigned. If we are to have any prestige as members of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, we are entitled to be advised of the actual happenings.
– You have been told.
-We have been told that he has resigned. What is the reason for his resignation? The Parliament is full of rumours. We think that a responsible Minister should tell us the reasons for the resignation. We will read of reasons in the Sydney Morning Herald or the Australian tomorrow but we will not know whether they are true. I suppose that after a number of days we will get to the truth of the matter. But surely we are entitled to a better service than that. We should be advised now of the whole matter. The rumours that are circulating concerning the resignation cast serious doubts about and reflect upon other members of the Cabinet, not Mr Robinson. I hesitate to repeat the rumours because they may not be true. The Minister could reassure us by giving us some explanation.
– Since when has that stopped you?
-At one time it would not have stopped me, but I have been influenced by Senator Missen. There is a code of ethics that I believe he observes and I think that we should also observe. Here we have the situation of a Minister who was suspended at one time because accusations were made -
– Not suspended; that is not true.
-He resigned from the ministry for the duration of an inquiry. It could be argued that that was a suspension. He was not a minister during the investigations of an inquiry. He was exonerated by the inquiry. But the Leader of the Government in the Senate was found guilty of some impropriety and lost his position when it was thought that his action was taken to protect and advantage the very man who, as reported in a three-page letter, has said that he can longer work under the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The present Prime Minister resigned from a previous Cabinet when he wanted to stab someone in the back and get to the position he now holds. I do not know whether Mr Robinson has those ambitions. I do not know whether he has counted the numbers in the Caucus as a result of the Caucus meeting this week and has found that he wants to be on the winning side when turmoil comes and, as a result, thinks that he had better get out of his position in the ministry; nor do I know whether, as Senator Grimes said, as a member of the Central Executive of the Queensland Branch of the Liberal Party of Australia he has been negotiating on behalf of the Prime Minister concerning Trans-Australia Airlines and country air services only to find that the Prime Minister has made a secret deal with the Queensland Premier and the upshot is that Mr Robinson has had enough of the whole affair and does not want to damage his reputation by associating himself with skulduggery such as that which is going on within the Liberal Party at the present time.
– What has happened to Senator Georges?
– What was your wise interjection, Senator Walters?
– I was just wondering where Senator Georges is tonight.
- Senator Georges has a mission in Queensland. He is there to fight the reactionary attitude and dictatorship represented in this House by the present Government and by Senator Walters from Tasmania. At the present time Senator Georges is doing a job in Queensland that he or any democrat could be proud of doing. But not so Mr Robinson. I have heard no report of Senator Georges resigning his portfolio. So, whatever danger he may be facing, he is not in the position in which Mr Robinson finds himself. All we are asking from Government senators is that we be treated as respected representatives of the electors of Australia. We ask them to give us a reason for Mr Robinson’s resignation so that we, as part of Her Majesty’s Parliament, can be informed people who know what is happening in this country and not people who have to rely upon newspaper publicity and reports for the purpose of informing ourselves. If, as is thought by a number of Liberal senators in the chamber tonight and as is indicated by the turmoil evident on the Government benches, what has occurred is the corruption or the breaking up of the present Fraser Ministry, the Government should be honest and let us know that. If the Government thinks it can patch up the situation for the time being, it should let us know at least that, so that we, as informed people, may tell the electors that the worst is in front of them.
– Where is the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick)? Is he in the building? If he is here in the building, why is he not in this chamber listening to this debate? Why is he not issuing the statement which he is obliged to issue in his position as the Leader of the Government? Does the Senate intend to permit the Leader of the Government to treat the Senate with the contempt which he is showing it at this moment by being in the building and not being in the chamber? An hour and a half ago rumours were flying around this building to the effect that the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) had resigned from the ministry. Everybody was asking: ‘ Why has he resigned?’ Of course, it was not very long before the customary, and perhaps uncharitable, reply to such questions was being thrown around. People were asking: ‘Has he been caught with his fist in the till?’ If the Leader of the Government has no respect for the Senate -
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy President. Standing Order 418 makes reasonably clear what is tolerated in the Senate and what is not. I think the remarks which were just made went beyond the tolerable limit. I am not taking this point of order in relation to what was said by the two previous speakers, but I think what has just been said is the’ sort of remark which, made under privilege, without the slightest possible justification and as a throwaway smear, goes past that which is tolerable in a chamber of this sort. I think it should be withdrawn.
– May I speak on the point of order, Mr Deputy President?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Scott) -Order! Senator Walsh, you are perhaps testing tolerance, and I ask you to moderate your language.
– I am quite happy to withdraw the remark, but Senator Rae’s objection just emphasises the point that I am making. That question is being asked around this Parliament. It has been asked around this Parliament tonight. Where is the Leader of the Government? Why is the Leader ofthe Government not here in the chamber? He has just entered the chamber. Perhaps now he will lay to rest these smears which are being thrown around Parliament House about the former Minister for Finance. Let the Leader of the Government tell us why the Minister for Finance resigned, and people will stop asking that question.
This latest resignation, of course, just continues the record of scandal with which this Government was ridden even before it was elected. Seven days before the election in December 1975 the Canberra Times broke a story about a Minister in the then caretaker Government being involved in electoral malpractice. He was finally suspended because of that story. In 1977 the then Treasurer and Minister for Finance stood down from his position when it was revealed that that Minister, Mr Lynch, was involved in some highly profitable land speculation; he was a speculator in common with one Peter Leake, who had used his access to inside information gained as a member of the government planning committee to remove all of the risks from speculation. It was highly profitable and the former Treasurer was a beneficiary of that highly profitable land speculation.
After the former Treasurer was stood down the Prime Minister said that he had received a report on Mr Lynch ‘s activities from Mr Lynch ‘s accountant and Mr Lynch ‘s solicitor. The Prime Minister said that this account had completely exonerated Mr Lynch from any suspicion of malpractice. But the Prime Minister said that he would not show us what was in the report prepared by Mr Lynch ‘s solicitor and Mr Lynch ‘s accountant. The Prime Minister said that the report cleared Mr Lynch but he would not make it public. I presume that we have the Prime Minister’s word of honour that that secret document prepared by Mr Lynch ‘s accountant and Mr Lynch ‘s solicitor clears Mr Lynch of all suspicion of unsavoury business conduct.
– He is an honourable man.
– Yes, he is an honourable man, as Senator Mcintosh said. We learned from Senator Withers the day after he was sacked by the Prime Minister something about the man of honour who leads this country. Senator Withers revealed, and the National Times later published, that the Prime Minister had invited Mr Robinson- strange that his name should keep cropping up- to amend the testimony that he had given to the inquiry into electoral malpractice in Queensland. The Prime Minister invited the former Minister for Finance to perjure himself. The Prime Minister said that he would deny knowledge of Senator Withers having contact with the Chief Electoral Officer, which knowledge the Prime Minister had gained from Senator Withers and others as early as 24 January 1 977. Senator Withers asked the Prime Minister how if he was to become the scapegoat and to be dismissed the Prime Minister would cope with the fact that he himself was a party to that information for some three months before he set up the royal commission.
Senator Withers told the bevy of journalists that were in his office that night- the National
Times and the Australian Financial Review later published this-that Mr Fraser said that he would deny that he had heard it on that occasion. So we have the Prime Minister, on the word of Senator Withers, saying that he would deny that he knew what he did know and the Prime Minister inviting the former Minister for Finance to perjure himself to the electoral inquiry. But on the word of honour of the man with this record we are supposed to accept that this secret document prepared by Mr Lynch ‘s accountant and Mr Lynch ‘s solicitor clears Mr Lynch of all suspicion of business malpractice.
The Prime Minister, to defuse this issue, decided that he would set up a committee on public duty and private interest. It was headed by a former Liberal Party Minister, Sir Nigel Bowen. One of the other two members was Sir Cecil Looker, the former Chairman of the Melbourne Stock Exchange, the exponent, the great proselytiser of the rule of self-regulation for stock exchanges. He does not want public bodies sticking their noses into what happens in the Melbourne Stock Exchange. This is the Sir Cecil Looker who has been appointed to investigate what should be divulged about the pecuniary interests of politicians, a committee which the Prime Minister appointed to try to defuse the Lynch affair.
What did we find out two weeks ago? This Sir Cecil Looker who is going to protect the public interest on that inquiry is the same Sir Cecil Looker who demonstrably failed to protect the interests of the depositors in Associated Securities Ltd. Does the Prime Minister believe that a man with a personal business record such as that is a fit person to serve on such a sensitive committee which is supposed to protect the public interests?
This resignation is part of a continuing sequence of scandal which has ridden this Government since before it was elected the first time and which has continued unabated ever since. I am pleased to see that the Leader of the Government has returned to the Senate. I hope he now proceeds to give us a proper and full explanation of why the Minister for Finance has resigned.
– We have just had the usual rigmarole, confused thinking and recollection of innuendo and abuse that we expect from Senator Walsh, all of which is totally irrelevant to any matter that could be of any interest to the Senate at the moment. The only matter I wish to take up is that which was raised by Senator Grimes and by Senator Cavanagh who said that the Government had some obligation to the Senate when a Minister resigned. The fact is that the former Minister for Finance, the Honourable Eric Robinson resigned at an earlier hour this evening. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has gone into the House of Representatives and he has informed the House of that fact. Honourable senators can read what the Prime Minister said on the subject in Hansard tomorrow morning. Honourable senators on the opposite side show an abysmal ignorance of constitutional conventions. I suppose we are not to be surprised by that. The fact of the matter is that if there are any traditions about explanations in these matters then the explanations are given by the Minister who has resigned. Ministers are perfectly free- they are given every facility- to go into a House and give the explanations for their resignation. That is all. The tradition as far as a resignation is concerned is as I have said. The Prime Minister has gone into the House and announced the facts. He has spoken briefly about them. What the Prime Minister has said will be, of course, available tomorrow morning for honourable senators who are interested.
During the adjournment debate Senator Mulvihill raised the question of entry into Italy of Australian citizens who are of Italian extraction. On behalf of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) and in reply to Senator Mulvihill I have to emphasise that, of course, such a matter is one for the Italian Government or for the government of the country concerned. Certain countries provide special concessions for various types of extended holidays for young Australians. Australia has made provison to reciprocate these arrangements to allow young citizens of those countries to enjoy working holidays in Australia. One would not presume that any decision by Australia to establish such an arrangement for residents of a particular country would lead 0381 the government of that country to reciprocate by providing similar concessional entry to Australians. Indeed, the Minister is aware that many countries, including those in the European Economic Community are subject to international arrangements or to domestic legislation which severely limits their discretion to make special concessions for the entry of people from abroad, particularly when that involves taking up employment. In view of these matters I do not give the honourable senator any cause for optimism that an arrangement could be developed in the short term to overcome the problems to which he has referred.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.4 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 2 1 November 1978:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) Mr Miller’s appointment as Special Adviser commenced during June 1978 flowing on from his role during 1977-78 as Chairman of the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation. The arrangement was that Mr Miller would receive no salary for this position but that certain administrative facilities of the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation would be retained for the purposes of assisting him and in anticipation of the creation of a Bicentennial Celebrations organisation.
The administrative facilities consisted of office accommodation and office facilities, official transport as required and a staff of two persons- an information officer and a steno-secretary.
No expenditure relating to Mr Miller’s new post is included in the 1977-78 period. Expenditure on facilities provided for Mr Miller brought to account during the period 1
July 1978 to 31 December 1978-excluding the costs of facilities referred to in the October meeting of the Estimates Committee and associated with the July meeting of the Bureau of International Expositions in Paris- total $45,400 made up as follows:
The Department of Administrative Services is meeting only the cost of the facilities which have been continued on. Within the context of the arrangements normal administrative processes, including certification were applicable, are applied by the Department in meeting these expenditures.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 23 November 1978:
When may I expect a reply to the question I asked in the Senate on 9 November 1978 (Hansard, page 1834), concerning the Defence Service Homes Insurance Scheme.
– The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I wrote to the honourable senator on 30 January 1979, providing an answer to his question.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 February 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790222_senate_31_s80/>.