31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
- Mr President, it is my sad duty to inform the Senate that His Majesty the Paramount Ruler of Malaysia died suddenly during the afternoon of 29 March. Honourable senators will be aware of the unique provisions of the Malaysian Constitution for the rotation of this office among the nine rulers of the States within the Federation of Malaysia. The Paramount Ruler- the head of state of Malaysia- is elected by his fellow rulers for a five-year term, after which he resumes his position as ruler in his home State. Australia’s ties with Malaysia have been particularly friendly, as befits those with a fellow member of the Commonwealth in our own region. Therefore it is with special sadness that we note in this chamber the passing of this distinguished head of state.
His late Majesty was Sultan of the State of Kelantan before he was sworn in as the sixth Paramount Ruler on 21 September 1975. His Majesty was born on 10 December 1917 and studied in Kelantan and Penang before undertaking further studies in England. He returned to Kelantan in 1939 and served in the Kelantan Civil Service as private secretary to his father, the then Sultan of Kelantan. His Majesty served in a number of posts in Kelantan until he became Sultan in July 1960 on the death of his father. As Sultan of Kelantan, His Majesty took an active interest in the advancement of his State, and his wide experience ably equipped him for election to the office of Paramount Ruler.
Mr President, I should like to record the deep sympathy of the Senate for the sad loss sustained by the Government and people of Malaysia in the sudden death of His Majesty. I also ask that you arrange to inform His Excellency the High Commissioner for Malaysia cf the views expressed in the Senate today.
– The Opposition associates itself with the remarks of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). The late Paramount Ruler of Malaysia obviously was a man of great distinction in his country and contributed greatly to the development of that nation. I am sure that his contribution to the development of Malaysia is appreciated.
– I invite honourable senators to stand in silence as a mark of respect for the late Paramount Ruler of Malaysia.
Honourable senators having stood in their places;
– I thank the Senate.
– 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 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 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 payments in the Autumn session.
Raise pensions and unemployed benefits above the poverty level to 30 per cent of A. W.E.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of North Queensland, support this protest at the unjust treatment by the Federal Government of people depending on the old age pension, which is considered to be below the poverty level.
That we protest at the Federal Government’s failure to provide all sections of the Australian community with conditions of retirement more comparable to that section who now retire in comfort under superannuation and long service leave schemes.
That immediate action be taken to provide that all sections of the Australian work force be allowed to retire under a more comparable level than that which exists at present.
That we protest at the re-introduction of the means test for people over seventy years of age, especially those people who have already been assessed by the Social Security Department before being placed on a full age pension.
That we protest at the Government’s failure to honour their promise to have pensions adjusted in line with the C.P.I, cost of living adjustments, which is applied to all other sections of the community.
That the amounts allowed for earnings by single and married pensioners should be increased to a more comparable level to the high cost of living, before it affects the pensions.
That the amount allowable before a pensioner pays income tax which covers all forms of income, including the annual pension, should be increased, as the high cost of living warrants this consideration.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Keeffe.
To the honourable the president and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth that we object to the flow of Vietnamese refugees into Australia for the following reasons:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a referendum be held on the refugee policy.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Withers.
-I give notice that, 10 sitting days after today, I shall move:
That the Poisons and Narcotic Drugs Ordinance 1978, as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 38 of 1 978, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910, be disallowed.
-I give notice that, 10 sitting days after today, I shall move:
That Regulation 4 of the amendments of the Student Assistance Regulations, contained in Statutory Rules 1978 No. 260, and made under the Student Assistance Act 1973, be disallowed.
-I ask the Minister for Science and the Environment whether he is aware of recent Press reports in which Professor John
Lovering and Dr Victor Prescott state, following discussions with the Minister, that they believe that the Government’s anticipated White Paper on Antarctica has been scrapped because of disagreements within Cabinet. Does the Minister agree with this view and also with Professor Lovering ‘s statement that our long-term position on the Antarctic continent is dependent upon an increase in our present degree of scientific effort in that area? Does the Minister also agree with Professor Lovering ‘s implicit comment on the insufficiency of our present effort in Antarctica?
-The honourable senator comments upon an article which appeared in the Age newspaper on Saturday following the launching by me on Friday of a book written by Professor Lovering and Dr Victor Prescott of the Melbourne University. They have produced a very fine book which I would recommend to any honourable senator should he wish information relating to the Antarctic continent. He would find the book most useful. The honourable senator asks a number of questions which are prompted by that news article. I thought the news article was rather inaccurate in what it had to say because there were no discussions between Professor Lovering and Dr Victor Prescott and me on the subject mentioned. However, there was an interpretation by that newspaper as to the White Paper. I think that was prompted by a question asked by Senator Wriedt in this chamber some two weeks ago. White Papers are a matter for Cabinet and I am not here to discuss the business of Cabinet.
However, in relation to scientific effort on the Antarctic continent, I have previously expressed the view that it will be very difficult for this country to do sufficient in Antarctica in the future. We claim three-sevenths of an enormous continent and our effort there, proportionate to our size, matches the effort of any other country. For instance, our expenditure on research and logistic support activity approaches $8m. The expenditure of the United States is approximately $50m. A comparison of the populations of the two countries indicates that our contribution is particularly good. We support three stations, which are manned throughout the year, as well as an additional station in the subAntarctic. I think that the quality of our research is beyond comparison with that of any other country. However, if someone were to ask me whether I, as Minister for Science, would wish to see more funds spent on research in Antarctica I would say that I did. I have put forward projects, as have my predecessors in the portfolio. I have suggested that we need better air and sea communications. The stations need to be upgraded. In my opinion we need to establish another station at some stage.
The present Government has been most generous, I believe, in its application of funds to this area. The honourable senator will know that we are allocating a great deal of money to construct a new headquarters for the Antarctic Division in Hobart. All stations are being upgraded. We are making a feasibility study of a new ship. In January or February this year we inaugurated a new international air service. I think that Australia is making a very good effort in that continent.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I remind him that last week I asked a question concerning the progress in proposals for joint fishing ventures between Australian and foreign fishing interests upon the declaration of the 320-kilometre fishery zone. With respect, through no fault of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, the reply I received failed to answer my question. I now ask: At what stage are the long drawn out negotiations between M. G. Kailis Gulf Fisheries Ry Ltd and the Kaoshung Commercial Fishing Guild of Taiwan? When can we expect a decision on the joint venture proposals?
-On Wednesday of last week Senator Sim asked me a question on this matter. At the end of Question Time I gave an answer from the Minister for Primary Industry. Apparently that answer did not satisfy the honourable senator. I am unable to comment further on the status of the proposals. My recollection of the reply given to Senator Sim was that the matter had been taken up two years ago and a further requirement had to be met by the major fishing consortium in Western Australia. The honourable senator does not think that that is correct and I will make every effort to get an early response for him.
– My question is also addressed to the Minister for Science and the Environment. It follows the question asked by Senator Button. I remind him, as he indicated in his reply to Senator Button, that on 20 March I also inquired as to what had happened to the proposed White Paper on the Antarctic. Does the Minister not accept that the Government’s policy on Antarctica is very important to this nation in view of our international commitments and obligations towards Antarctica? Is it right for him to dismiss Senator Button’s question today, as he dismissed my question a fortnight ago, with a totally irrelevant answer about what the Government has decided to do in the White Paper? Will he admit to the Senate that this Government is divided right down the middle about its policy on Antarctica- if one could call it a policy- and that that is why the White Paper was rejected by the Cabinet? Will he or will he not confirm that statement?
-The Leader of the Opposition knows that I certainly will not confirm anything that he particularly wishes to ask me. The subject he raised is worthy of comment. I note that he criticises Australia’s attitude to its claim in the territory and that he also criticises the Government. I think that his criticism is unjustified. No government in history has given such close attention to the interests of Antarctica as has the Fraser-Anthony Government. It has shown outstanding and amazing support for that area of my portfolio. I do not think that any honourable senator could justly criticise this Government for the way it has supported Antarctic research and established those things which I brought to the attention of Senator Button. I cannot regard Senator Wriedt ‘s comments as criticism. There is a changing situation in Antarctica in relation to research and our requirement for logistic support on that continent. I could speak at length on this matter.
asked about Government policy on the matter. The Government’s policy of giving support in this area has been spelt out very clearly over several years. The honourable senator will be aware that policy on scientific research changes. I draw the attention of honourable senators to the fact that only in the last few years has there commenced to be any consideration of the enormous importance of marine and oceanographic research in those areas.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. Senator Wriedt asked for the Government’s attitude to the White Paper. Can we get an answer to that question? We do not want a speech from Senator Webster; he can make it later. Is there an answer to Senator Wriedt ‘s question?
– I call on the Minister for Science and the Environment to reply to the question.
-Will I continue to answer Senator Wriedt ‘s question?
– That specifically, and only that.
– I think that the information I have given to the Senate on this matter is quite clear. The Government has a policy; it has demonstrated its policy. In a time of restraint it has supported activities in Antarctica particularly well.
– I direct a supplementary question to the Minister for Science and the Environment. In view of the fact that we are not going to get answers to the questions that Senator Button and I have asked and that the Minister is claiming that the Government has a policy towards Antarctica, I ask: What is the Government’s policy towards claiming sovereignty over the 200-mile off-shore zone of the Antarctic?
-This policy has been spelt out in a paper put down in the Senate previously. It is surprising that the Leader of the Opposition does not recall it. Perhaps I should get a copy of it for him. The Government has stated previously that when it is looking at the 200-mile economic zone for Australia it will be considering its attitude towards the waters that surround the Antarctic area which is claimed by Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security: Is it true that children with coeliac disease have been accepted as being eligible for the handicapped child’s allowance of $15 a week when, in the absence of any other handicap, the only disadvantage they incur is the need to avoid wheat and rye products in their diet in order to enjoy normal health? Does the Minister agree that the philosophy behind the original legislation for the handicapped child’s allowance was to recompense parents of children with handicaps such as cerebral palsy and mental retardation, whose care required both financial effort and effort of time and emotional stress? What is the rationale behind the decision to grant the allowance to children with coeliac disease? Will the Minister reconsider the position?
– I think Senator Townley overlooks the fact that the guidelines for eligibility for the handicapped child ‘s allowance, introduced some time ago by the present Government, have been widened. One of the ways in which we are able to assist those parents with children who are handicapped and who have continuing expenditure is to review their financial circumstances. In the absence of the stricter guidelines which applied at the introduction of the handicapped child’s allowance, the Director-General of Social Security is able to take into consideration the financial circumstances and the continuing expenditure which may be required. A number of honourable senators expressed an interest in children with coeliac disease. As I recall the position, Senator Bishop and other honourable senators made representations to the Government that this was one area of assistance that could be regarded as of a continuing nature. The children in this classification are able to be considered. It seems to me that this is of considerable benefit to parents who have this continuing expenditure because their children have special dietary requirements. I draw attention again to the widening of guidelines for the handicapped child’s allowance, compared with those which originally applied.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Science and the Environment. The current session of the law of the sea conference in Geneva is dealing with the protection of marine environment. I ask: Why is not the Department of Science and the Environment represented at this meeting? Why has Australia’s representation been limited to junior officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs? Does not this situation expose grave negligence on the part of the Minister as he is responsible for comprehensive legislation to protect Australia’s marine environment, nationally and internationally?
– I greatly appreciate the Opposition Whip’s being interested in scientific questions. I draw his attention to the fact that, internationally, the decision on the law of the sea is a matter for negotiation by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Attorney-General. At the present time these matters do not concern my Department of Science and the Environment. I assure the honourable senator that when those matters are concluded he will find the Department of Science and the Environment well forward in seeking to protect Australia’s interests in those areas.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I remind the Minister of the interest and debate that were engendered over the last 12 months in this chamber over the two communities of Aurukun and Mornington Island. I ask: Will the Minister inform the Senate of the results of the Aurukun and Mornington Island local government elections held on 3 1 March this year. Will the Minister assure the Senate that he, through his Department, will keep an interest in the progress of these councils over the next three years?
– Some honourable senators will be aware that the Queensland local government elections were held on 31 March, which was last Saturday. These included the elections for the shires of Aurukun and Mornington Island. Those elections were held. I am advised that in each of these places the councils which had been sitting, prior to their being dismissed, were re-elected. I am sure that that is a matter of gratification to many honourable senators. It is also a matter of gratification to the Government that the agreement which was made with the Queensland Government in April 1978 has reached the point where we now have elected shire councils with statutory rights and with leases to the original land areas of Aurukun and Mornington Island. I assure Senator Bonner that the Government will take a continuing interest in the operation of those bodies. I think that their operation will be of considerable significance, not only to themselves but also to other Aboriginal communities in Queensland and elsewhere. I am pleased to advise the Senate that I will be visiting those communities and attending, I think, the initial meetings of those councils next week-end.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, refers to the review of the administrative arrangements for the application of the work test which was announced in this place on 6 March, approximately a month ago. Was that review completed in two weeks, as promised? Has the review committee reported to the Government? What action will be taken as a result of the review? Can the Senate be notified of any changes to the guidelines for the work test as a result of this review?
– My understanding is that the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs is considering a report in relation to the review of the work test. I do not know quite what stage has been reached by the Minister in regard to that review. I will refer the question to him in an endeavour to obtain an up-to-date reply. Of course, any decision that is made will be publicly announced at the time.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. It relates to the export expansion grants scheme introduced by this Parliament as part of an overall plan aimed at assisting exporters in their endeavours. Does the Minister agree that for this scheme to be successful it is essential for grant applications to be processed with relative speed? Is the Minister aware that applications for the 1977-78 year are still not being considered? Is the Minister also aware of the concern which exists within the business community regarding delays experienced as a result of the inadequate number of staff provided to the Export Development Grants Board to deal with the applications? In the interests of maintaining business confidence, will the Minister assure the Senate that, in the future, sufficient staff will be provided to ensure that all applications are dealt with promptly? Does the Minister agree that far more credibility will be given to the ‘Export Now’ campaign if that can be achieved?
-The Minister for Trade and Resources agrees that it is highly desirable that applications for a grant under the Export Expansion Grants Act be processed as soon as possible. Applications for the 1977-78 grant year close on 6 July 1979 and are now being received by the Board. Recently the staff of the Export Development Grants Board was increased and two additional members from industry were appointed to the Board itself. Following recent discussions by the Minister with the Board, an appreciable increase in the Board’s staff is now being implemented. Also under investigation are ways and means of streamlining the administrative procedures in order to speed up the processing of the applications and the grants. The increased staff which has already been appointed and the additional numbers now in train should result in the Board’s having a capability to deal with applications promptly and keep in spirit with the ‘Export Now’ campaign.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, refers to statements made in last year’s meetings of Senates Estimates Committee B by Dr Miles, the Deputy Director of Operations of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Dr Miles told the Committee that because of staff ceilings there were safety problems in the Atomic Energy Commission. For example, he said that the fire extinguishers were not being properly maintained. Can the Minister say whether that situation still exists?
-I will refer that question to the Minister for National Development and endeavour to get an up-to-date answer from him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. In the week before last the Minister replied in general terms to a question on the subject of an international common fund that is to be created as a result of deliberations by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. As one of at least ten of the commodities initially involved is copper, can he say whether Australian producers of copper support the concept? Will an international copper selling cartel be created? Can the Minister add any more information to that provided in response to the earlier question?
– I am really unable to add to the answer which I gave in the Senate to a question which was addressed to me a week or two ago by, I think, Senator Davidson. The Government is not aware of the views of the copper producers in relation to the common fund. Now that the progress of the fund has been properly announced, if the copper producers have difficulties or submissions to make presumably they will be making them known to the Government in due course.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate because possibly it covers more than one portfolio. Did the Australian Wheat Board suspend first advance payments on growers’ warrants between 20 January and 3 February or thereabouts? If so, why has the Board ‘s general manager denied it? Did the Board suspend payment because the Reserve Bank’s rural credit department refused to increase the Board’s overdraft? When, and on whose authority, did the Board get extra finance and resume payments on growers’ warrants and who in the Government and /or the bureaucracy instructed the Reserve Bank, on or about 20 January, to stop the Board’s overdraft from exceeding $800m or $850m?
-I ask the honourable senator to place the question on the Notice Paper.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security whether the capital costs associated with buildings constructed for the aged under the Aged Persons Hostels Act have not been adjusted since about March 1977, and that until then the matter was subject to quarterly review. As there is an apparent build-up in demand for this type of accommodation, can the Minister say whether she will be able to give favourable consideration to restoring these adjustments in the next Budget? Also, can the Minister indicate when funding will be provided for outstanding commitments for hostel units preserved under the Act?
– I am aware that for some time there has not been an increase in the subsidy level limits. I am not sure whether the date of the last adjustment was March 1977, but that was about when it took place. The policy of the Government is that quarterly reviews should take place, and they have been undertaken. Until recently, because of average building costs around Australia it was not felt necessary to update the subsidy level. However, in more recent months that situation has changed and there is evidence that it is necessary to increase the subsidy limit level. Recently my Department has reviewed, using the figures for December 1978, the subsidy requirements and has recommended an increased subsidy level limit. I have forwarded the recommendation to the Minister for Finance and hope that he will give it his concurrence. If so, I should soon be announcing the changes that would apply to future contracts. I am not yet in a position to indicate when all funding will be available for those hostel accommodation projects which have entitlements under the Act, but the matter is receiving considerable attention and I hope that, as soon as the Government makes a decision on certain matters, announcements can be made.
-Mr President, because of our stature both Senator Button and I sometimes have difficulty in having you see us in order to give us the call, so we have to take measures to attract your attention. I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs whether a statement on an appointment to the staff of Pancontinental Mining Ltd was also included in the departmental brief that he received on 13 March 1979 on developments in the Alligator Rivers region?
Did the brief mention that a Department of Aboriginal Affairs employee, Mr Chris Viner-Smith, had been appointed Aboriginal Affairs Manager for Pancontinental. Did the brief also imply that relations between DAA and Pancontinental were ‘much more conciliatory and less aggressive than previously’? Does this mean that the Department is now completely tied in with the Northern Territory uranium miners and that the land rights policy enunciated a few days ago by the Mining Council is now the policy -
– Could the honourable senator repeat the last part of his question?
– I ask the Minister whether the land rights policy enunciated a few days ago by the Mining Council and set out as a working or suggestion paper is likely to become the policy of his Department in relation to Aboriginal land rights and also the social aspects associated with Aborigines.
– It does appear that one note sent to me by my Department has received rather wider circulation than usual, and it would certainly appear that Senator Keeffe has had access to it. In any event, yes, I did receive a note from my Department which contained information that there had been an appointment to the position of Aboriginal Affairs Manager for Pancontinental. However, the appointment was not that of a former officer of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs but of a former officer of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. That is what was contained in the report. He was in the Aboriginal employment section of the latter Department. There is also reference in the note -
– Sometimes it is a bit hard to read your writing.
– Actually the copy I was sent was typed; I do not know about the copy that was sent to the honourable senator. In any event, it also went on to refer to the fact that officers of Pancontinental have had a number of discussions with officers of this and other departments’ and the ‘approach is now much more conciliatory and less aggressive than previously’. I am afraid that I read that to be that the approach of Pancontinental was less aggressive and more conciliatory and I can assure the honourable senator that I intend to continue reading it in that way.
I would like to assure Senator Keeffe and indeed any other honourable senator that there is no question of our being completely tied in with anybody’s policy except that which has been announced quite clearly by the Government. When it has been up for debate over recent times there has been a reaffirmation of policy both by me on behalf of the Government and by the Prime Minister who expressed the commitment to the basic principles of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. As to the policy document to which the honourable senator referred in the last pan of the question, I assume that he refers to the paper produced by the Australian Mining Industry Council and I draw his attention to the fact that I issued a Press release in relation to that. I think that the Press release makes the position of the Government quite clear. I would like to say that I remain open at any time to discuss with anybody who is interested in land rights the operations of the land rights Act. In the last few months I have had a number of discussions with the land councils and I have had some discussions with representatives of mining companies; that is a matter on which there is no secret. But I and the Government remain committed to the principles of the land rights legislation.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I think that the Prime Minister has ministerial responsibility for the Australian Science and Technology Council. Does the Minister agree that one of the key elements in future economic progress is the extent to which business in Australia undertakes realistic programs of research and development? Is he aware that the ASTEC paper presented last week on direct funding of basic research indicates that between 1974 and 1976-77 business investment in research and development fell by SO per cent in real terms and that in areas called, curiosity motivated and strategic mission oriented research, it fell by more than 80 per cent? Is he aware that ASTEC regards this as a dramatic collapse? What incentives is the Government prepared to consider to encourage greater business investment in research and development, either by the contracting out of work where possible or by the provision of taxation incentives?
– One would have to agree that the future development of this country, including its capacity to trade and the living standards of its people, must depend upon a properly based program of research and development. If Australia is to keep competitive with the world outside it must have such a program and with the growing field of technology this becomes more important. I am not aware of the precise figures of ASTEC as mentioned in the second and third parts of Senator Puplick ‘s question but my instinct is that those are the trends and they are not good. They must be trends which need to be corrected. Senator Puplick asks what will be the basic government policies to stimulate research and development in industry. I will seek a definitive statement from the Minister concerned and let the honourable senator have it.
– In directing my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications I mention to the Minister that because frequency modulation broadcasting was introduced into Australia by the Labor Government when I was the Minister for the Media I therefore take a particular interest in the subject. I ask the Minister: Have any proposals been put to this Government by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to extend FM broadcasting in this country? Have any proposals been advanced to remove from the VHF band those television stations that are now using it and which inhibit in some respects the extensive development of FM broadcasting? Will this removal from the band cost some millions of dollars and therefore is not intended to be proceeded with by the Government at this time? How far has the planning proceeded and when does the Government expect to be in a position to make a statement on the matter?
– I recall that the subject matter of the first part of the question asked by the honourable senator was discussed in Estimates committees last year when, I think, he was representing his country overseas. I do not recall the information provided at that time, but I think that it involved some proposals for extension of FM broadcasting. I will seek the necessary particulars for the honourable senator and let him have a reply. Regarding alterations to the bands and so on, what they will cost and when they will be made, I will refer those matters to Mr Staley and seek a detailed reply for the honourable senator.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he has seen the list of names and addresses of supposed staff members of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation which was published by the Committee for the
Abolition of Political Police. If this list is accurate, can the Minister say whether this action is considered as harassing the persons concerned? If so, what action is available to them?
-I have seen the list that is circulating to members and senators from Mrs Joan Coxsedge of the Committee for the Abolition of Political Police, who has been conducting a campaign of this kind for some time. I will not confirm or deny any matters relating to names of officers or agents of ASIO; nor will I make any comments. This is in accordance with the longstanding policy which the Government has recently affirmed. Publication of this sort of material, whether it is true or false, is a serious matter for a security organisation. That is why there is a provision in the ASIO legislation to deal with the matter.
-Mr President, I ask the Attorney-General a supplementary question. What action, if any, is available to the people listed?
– I do not propose to add to the answer that I have given. The individuals, of course, can consider their own positions and obtain their own legal advice.
– I ask a question arising out of the question just asked of the Attorney-General. At present is it not perfectly legal to name the occupation of any individual? Was Mrs Coxsedge in breach of any law? Why does the Attorney-General take exception to someone’s carrying out a lawful action? If there is any action that those whose names were published can take, could it be only a libel action on the basis that they were defamed by people knowing that they were security personnel?
– I do not propose to give a legal opinion to the Senate.
-Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen reports that the minimum gift to a charitable organisation eligible to be a tax deduction may be raised from $2 to $50? Is the Minister aware that many charitable organisations have large numbers of members who pay subscriptions far less than $50 and that many organisations are concerned that such a decision could adversely affect both membership and fund raising of charitable organisations? Can the Minister clarify the situation?
– From time to time I have seen a number of reports that it might be desirable to increase the minimum tax deductible donation to charities from $2 to another figure. Some charitable organisations have indicated that people tend to hold to the base of $2 as their donation and that after a period of inflation there is a need for a new minimum threshold for these donations. This matter is, of course, a policy matter. For Budget reasons I would not be able to comment on it. Nevertheless, I will draw the attention of the Treasurer to Senator Young’s question.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. As the Minister is aware, this year we are celebrating the International Year of the Child. Will the Minister give consideration to holding a ‘Year of the Aged’ to focus attention on the past achievements of our elderly citizens and to remind all sections of the community of their responsibility to the aged?
– The International Year of the Child is a year that is designated by the United Nations for celebration with regard to our responsibilities to our children and their rights. As far as the celebration of an international year for the aged is concerned, I am unaware of any decisions that have been taken by the United Nations. The celebration of a year with regard to handicapped persons is to take place soon. I appreciate Senator Elstob ‘s suggestion that we should give recognition to those who have given us most of our heritage and to whom we are indebted for all our history. As far as the making of arrangements is concerned, the International Year of the Child is one to which we are committed through our membership of the United Nations. I am not aware at this stage of any such proposal with regard to aged people.
– Can the Minister representing the Treasurer advise the Senate whether there is any arrangement by the Australian Government for Australian companies investing overseas to take out private insurance for the protection of their investment? Such protection has been available in the United States since Congress created the Overseas Private Insurance Corporation for investors and contractors.
– My advice is that no private sector insurance companies provide such cover in Australia. However, I think the question asked was whether the Commonwealth Government has introduced a scheme similar to the Overseas Private Insurance Corporation in the United States. In 1965 the Commonwealth Government introduced the overseas investment insurance scheme to protect Australian investors against loss caused by expropriation, war damage to physical property and restrictions placed on the remittance of profits or the return of capital to Australia on foreign investments.
The scheme is operated by the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation, which is a Commonwealth statutory authority. The Minister for Trade and Resources is the Minister responsible for such matters. Under the existing eligibility criteria of the scheme, insurance cover is available for all worthwhile new investments which can assist in the economic and social development of a recipient country and where it is in Australia’s national interest to insure the investment. To encourage partnerships between Australian interests and investors in the host countries concerned concessional premium rates apply when the investment is a joint venture with local interests.
-On 23 November last, more than four months ago, I raised matters concerning the inherent safety of the proposed nuclear reactor being built near Manila in the Philippines. Because I see this as a matter of fundamentals, I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Has the Government since satisfied itself of the truth or otherwise of my assertion then that the reactor is sited in a major earthquake zone, close to five volcanoes? Is the Government satisfied that the safety mechanisms of this reactor could withstand earthquake tremors? Has the Government checked the assertion that inferior concrete is being used in construction of the reactor? If the Government has not checked these things, will it do so immediately in view of the implications of the Harrisburg nuclear accident? If the results of that inquiry are less than satisfactory, will the Government cancel its agreement to sell Australian uranium to the Philippines?
-I will seek out the information and let Senator Mason have it.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Education been drawn to a scheme recently initiated in an Adelaide suburban high school in which 27 school leavers are being paid to remain at school and to participate in a work study course comprising furniture repair, book repair and industrial sewing work which thereby equips the school leavers with useful work skills? Since the scheme has considerable benefit in that it is aimed predominantly at the unemployed youth group and is internally funded through the sale of salvaged furniture, books et cetera and therefore is not a large burden upon government finances, will the Minister consider promoting and advertising the scheme in other parts of Australia?
– My attention was drawn to an article, I think in the Adelaide Advertiser of about a week ago, which referred to the scheme which Senator Messner describes as working in a high school. I was very interested to read it. I have been discussing with my colleagues, the State Ministers, the desirability and the practicability of locating potentially early school leavers and people lacking some skills, and providing within the schools additional skills, work experience with the outside world and various devices for transition from school to work. These are complex matters which involve a whole host of different approaches. Talks are very much in progress at the moment. I certainly think that the scheme that is working in Adelaide should be drawn to the attention of others and the idea copied where practicable.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Can we now assume that following the discussions between the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales at the Loan Council meeting no punitive action will now be taken against the New South Wales Government as a result of its decision to grant power workers a 37 1/2 hour week?
– My understanding is that neither Senator Sibraa nor Mr Wran can make any such assumption. I understand that the Prime Minister told the Premiers at the Loan Council meeting yesterday that the Commonwealth Government did not intend to pick up the tab for irresponsible actions by any State government which would simply increase costs and stimulate inflation. No such assumption would be valid.
-Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence explain the reasons for the procrastination and delay in the appointment of a Chaplain-General of the defence forces?
– I was not aware of any such undue delay. I will seek out the information for the honourable senator.
– My question relates to the responsibilities of the Attorney-General and the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The former may have read the Sydney Morning Herald this morning- I know that some Western Australians do not- which referred to the Flynn trial in London involving a false Australian passport and certain machinations in Gold Coast real estate. I ask the Attorney-General whether we intend extraditing Mr Flynn to face charges in Australia. I ask the Leader of the Government to find out whether the man’s passport has been cancelled. Will he be followed up for masquerading as Flynn of the Australian Railways Union to obtain that passport?
– I must confess that I have not read the Sydney Morning Herald this morning so I am not familiar with the report that Senator Mulvihill mentioned. I will have the question looked at and furnish a considered reply to the honourable senator at a later date. Senator Carrick has asked me to say that he will look into the matter of the passport.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to the 1976 report of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory concerning Canberra city wastes and to comments made by the Committee on the control and disposal of radioactive materials in the Capital Territory. I ask the Minister whether she recalls the following statement in that report:
Well tried, internationally established regulations have been in force for many years in the States of the Commonwealth and in other countries. The Committee views the proposed Ordinance for the ACT as requiring the utmost priority and recommends that its enactment be proceeded with immediately.
Can the Minister indicate when an ordinance dealing with the disposal of radioactive waste in the Australian Capital Territory will be ready and can she indicate what stage has been reached in its preparation?
– The AttorneyGeneral may feel that I am transgressing on his ground when I say that I understand that a draft radiation ordinance was prepared some years ago but it is now out of date. The Capital Territory Health Commission has placed with the Attorney-General’s Department instructions to update the draft ordinance and these are currently being considered for incorporation in a new draft ordinance. In view of the consideration of recently introduced legislation in the Northern Territory and Tasmania, further instructions will be given to the Attorney-General ‘s Department in the near future. If there is further advice, I will see that it is given to Senator Knight.
– My question, which concerns the Harrisburg nuclear plant and the general public concern about it expressed in most countries, is directed to two Ministers- the Minister for Science and the Environment, who of course would be concerned about this matter, and the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. I ask either of those Ministers whether they can state that the technology used in that plant is acceptable technology as far as the Australian Government is concerned. Can they also say to what extent the scientists or the specialists in both Departments have been watching those developments and whether they will be involved personally in an examination of that particular crisis? Further, when is information likely to be given to the Parliament? Presently the only information which members of the Parliament and the public have is coming from the national Press. Finally, to what extent will environmental matters which might concern the Ministers at present be reviewed, and when will information be given to the Parliament?
-I think that the matter really is mainly the concern of the Minister for National Development. I understand that Dr Knight, the Atomic Energy Counsellor at the Australian Embassy in Washington, has been in telephone contact with the Atomic Energy Commission on a regular basis, at least twice daily since last Friday. Dr Knight also has made specific contact with United States Government officials. The matter is certainly of very great concern and interest to the officials of the Department of National Development. I think that I should refer the question to the Minister for National Development to get a more detailed answer for Senator Bishop; for instance, information on the nature of the technology of the plant in the United States and matters of that kind.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, arises out of the Birmingham smallpox disaster of last year and the subsequent administrative arrangements which are being considered in Britain to end the present voluntary system for controlling laboratories handling dangerous pathogens such as smallpox virus. Is it known what laboratory situations exist in Australia which could give rise to disasters similar to that which occurred in Britain, whether associated with smallpox or with other pathogen induced diseases? Is it possible to inform the Senate of the control measures by which such pathogens are contained and any untoward effects made known publicly?
– I understand that the World Health Organisation was officially notified in March 1976 that no stocks of smallpox virus were held in Australia. The handling of other dangerous pathogens in Australian laboratories is considered to be of a sufficiently high standard to prevent a hazardous situation arising. Specific laboratories are available within Australia for the study of dangerous animal and human pathogens and others are currently under construction. The handling of organisms within these laboratories is dependent upon the skills and training of laboratory personnel. It is not policed by any government authorities. The confinement of dangerous pathogens to those laboratories and the safe handling within them are dependent upon the co-operation of those involved.
The Victorian Health Commission, with Commonwealth assistance, is constructing a containment laboratory at the Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital in Melbourne. This will enable dangerous and exotic pathogens to be handled under the most stringent conditions. I understand that the Department of Health is currently in the process of establishing a body to accredit pathology laboratories throughout Australia. This body will have the task of constructing guidelines under which it is proposed that State governments will arrange for the inspection of laboratories involved in patient care. Included in the accreditation requirements will be criteria for the safe handling of human pathogens. Strict quarantine restrictions apply to the importation of any microbial cultures into the country. If I have left any parts of the question unanswered I will refer them to the Minister for Health and seek further information.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is it a fact that government imposed staff ceilings are causing delays of up to one year in the extension of telephone cables and installation of telephone services to businesses and private users in the Prime Minister’s electorate of Wannon?
– It seems highly unlikely to me but I will certainly inquire and get a reply for the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. It follows from a question asked by Senator Baume last week in respect of an article in the Sun-Herald on the way in which marihuana can be used and is currently used by children. Is it a fact that the question was prompted by Mr Harrison, the Editor of the Daily Telegraph, and gives the impression that the Editor was out to use the Senate to discredit an opposition newspaper and gain an advantage in the present circulation war? Will the Minister have the matter investigated and ask his colleague the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to take this into account when answering Senator Baume ‘s question?
-We would need to set aside two hours for Question Time if questions relating to the motivation of honourable senators were permitted. I might as well be asked who prompted Senator Keeffe to ask the question he put to me today. I will put the matter to my colleague but I do not believe that it is one on which he will be able to assist the honourable senator.
– My question concerns the High Court building in Canberra. It is directed to whoever feels keener to answer it, either the Attorney-General or Senator Webster as the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory and the Minister for Housing and Construction. Is it the case that one of the two great windows in the new High Court building will contain a portrayal of the British Coat of Arms? What is the reason for this latest manifestation of the colonial cringe, particularly as there are no longer any federal appeals to the Privy Council? At whose instigation was the decision made to portray the British Coat of Arms in this way? Does it have the support of all or even a majority of the High Court judges? Does it have the support of this Government?
-I ask the honourable senator to put his question on notice.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. Will the Government give consideration to the establishment of career information centres at all Commonwealth Employment Service offices as part of the wider role of the CES to assist young people currently at school in selecting future employment commensurate with their interests and educational standards?
– I have not any details in relation to this matter. I will refer the question to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs and endeavour to obtain an early answer for the honourable senator.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, is prompted by the situation in which a couple, both aged over 70 years, find themselves. They own a property, but they have been able to receive the full age pension because they have sustained losses over the last few years and have a current debt of about $40,000. They have now sold some cattle to take advantage of the current beef prices. It is likely, therefore, that they will make a profit this year. In applying the income test, will this couple’s previous losses and their consequent debt be taken into account, or is the income test based solely on current income?
– My understanding is that the income test is carried out on the basis of income in the year in which people are being tested for pension eligibility. Those people who are over 70 years of age will be able to receive the free of income test pension at the level at which it was frozen in the last Budget. That pension is available for those who are over. 70 years of age, regardless of income in the year in which they are being tested. For any increases in that pension, people would be tested on income currently received.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs seen reports describing the barbaric treatment to which the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Bhutto, is allegedly being subjected in the condemned cell he now occupies? Has the Australian Embassy to Pakistan been able to verify or contradict these reports? If these reports appear to be true, can the Australian Government, in addition to the appeals for clemency it has made on behalf of Mr Bhutto, draw to the attention of the Government of Pakistan that such treatment of a condemned person is unacceptable to this country?
– I have seen the reports in the Press to which Senator Wheeldon has referred. I have been very concerned, as he obviously has, to read such reports on the assumption that they have some basis of fact. I am not aware whether the Australian Embassy has been able to verify them. Senator Wheeldon quite rightly points out that our Government has sought clemency for Mr Bhutto. I will draw the attention of my colleague in another place, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, to the suggestion that, if the circumstances are verified, we should make an approach along the lines that the honourable senator suggests.
– Last Thursday Senator Evans asked me a number of questions with regard to the financing of VIP aircraft. I undertook to advise him in the Senate of the information supplied by the Minister for Finance. The first question asked by Senator Evans was: Does the money to be recouped in the forthcoming Appropriation Bills represent the whole of the expenditure that so far has been authorised from the Advance to the Minister for Finance in relation to the purchase, equipping and operations of the two aircraft? I am advised that an amount of $13. 865m was authorised but of this amount only $ 10.201m will now be required to be funded this financial year. The balance, which relates to the costs of modifications, an airframe overhaul and initial spares, as well as further training of Royal Australian Air Force personnel, will be spent in 1979-80.
Senator Evans’s second question was: Is it proposed to authorise any further expenditure from the Advance for these purposes in the period after the third and fourth Appropriation Bills are brought down but before the end of the financial year? The answer which I gave on 29 March stands and there is no further information to be given on that point. The third question was:
It appears from Press reports that at least one of these aircraft has commenced operations or will be operating before the end of this financial year. From what appropriation or advance account, or from where else, will that operational cost be recouped?
I have information that the operational cost of all Royal Australian Air Force VIP aircraft engaged on VIP tasks is currently met from the appropriation provided in Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1978-79 under division 504, conveyance of Governor-General, Ministers of State and others by RAAF and Department of Transport aircraft, item 0 1 , RAAF. On present planning the 707 aircraft will not be used in their VIP configuration for VIP purposes this financial year. Accordingly, no funds are being provided in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1978-79 for this particular purpose. An amount of $422,000 will, however, be included in that Bill in respect of other RAAF VIP aircraft.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Parliament House Construction Authority Bill 1979. Poultry Industry Levy Amendment Bill 1 979. Poultry Industry Assistance Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979.
– Further to the statement by the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister (Mr Viner) on 12 April 1978, for the information of honourable senators I present the Government’s additional responses to the recommendations of the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure on Australia’s overseas representation.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present reports by the Industries Assistance Commission on the Australian citrus industry, short term assistance to non-adjustable spanners and tyres, tyre cases, etc.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications, together with a text of the statement by the
Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) concerning the report.
– by leave- I move:
This is an important report. The Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications which was established 10 years ago has done a lot- as is stated in the introduction to the report- to standardise the recognition of overseas qualifications of people from various professions and trades in this country. One gets the impression from that introduction, and from the statement of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar), that we have almost solved the very difficult and personal problems which frequently arise. I take this opportunity to briefly mention an area in which I do not believe such a finding is justified.
At the end of the section on medicine it will be noticed that the Committee claims that the eight Australian medical boards are now able to speak with one voice and to act quickly, objectively and as one in the assessment of overseas qualifications. I do not believe that this is a fair statement of what happens to some medical graduates who have been in this country for quite a while. I believe that it is absolutely ludicrous that we have so many separate medical qualifying committees in this country. I believe that if one is qualified to practice medicine in one State or one Territory, one should be qualified to practise medicine anywhere in Australia. That is part of the strange constitutional difficulties which we have. As the Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications states, it has gone partly towards solving this problem by introducing or being responsible for the introduction of the Australian Medical Examining Council certificate, which most States now recognise as qualifying someone to practice medicine in this country.
I would like to give one demonstration of how I think this is not working satisfactorily and how I believe examinations cannot operate satisfac; torily in this area. In the State that Senator Walters and I come from there is a well known mining town which has had a doctor practising there for some four years. He has practised alone, two hours from the nearest large specialist hospital and over an hour from the nearest regional hospital. He has had to cope with severe medical emergencies, obstetrical emergencies and mining accidents of great severity. He has had to cope with very severe climatic conditions, with being snowed in and unable to get patients out. This doctor has gained the confidence of the people of the town. From my personal experience I know he is an excellent medical practitioner.
On two occasions he passed the examination for qualification to practice in the United States of America. He sat for the AMEC but because he could not get relief in this town he did not pass the AMEC, as I may well not pass it and many other doctors may well not pass it who are practising and do not have the time to study. Therefore he was unable to be registered in my State, despite the fact he had been the only practitioner in this town for several years and had looked after the health and the welfare of the people there to their satisfaction and everybody else’s satisfaction.
At the same time there was another doctor who had graduated in her home country but had not practised since she had graduated several years ago. She had brought up her children and had had the opportunity to sit down and study the good books because she was at home. She passed the examination and can therefore practise wherever she likes in Australia. I am not suggesting she is not a competent medical practitioner; she is, but I am suggesting that the other gentleman is a competent medical practitioner who has demonstrated himself to be so. What I point out is that an examination of this type is not sufficient to judge one’s competence and one’s practical ability to practise medicine in this country.
I believe that in this individual case if someone is registered to practise in a town for four years, to run a hospital in a town for four years, and to cope with all the medical, surgical and obstetric difficulties there for that time, he should be allowed to practise in that State or that country because he has done it for that period of time without any trouble. I am suggesting that there is something wrong with an examination which excludes people like that. I am suggesting also that we must get away from our chauvinistic attitude that only medical graduates of Australia, the United Kingdom and some odd universities in the world are considered satisfactory medical practitioners in this country and others are excluded because they come from such undistinguished medical schools as Vienna and other leading medical schools in Italy, the United States and all over the world. We have a strange chauvinistic attitude that we are far superior to these people. This applies not only to medicine but also to nursing and teaching and may even apply to accountancy.
I am suggesting that the complacency which seems to me to come through in this report is one that we should not accept and that we should continue to seek better methods of recognising and evaluating the qualifications of those from overseas. We should not automatically exclude from practising in this country those who graduated in countries which do not have English as their main tongue. We should not become so obsessed with the number of medical practitioners that we have to try to solve that little problem by excluding automatically everyone except those from the British Isles and a few other places. Having got that off my chest I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1974 1 present agreements concluded in February 1979 in relation to the provision of financial assistance to Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania for the National Estate.
-by leave -I move:
I take this opportunity to say a few words concerning the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the State of Queensland concerning the National Estate. I noticed that the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) mentioned that the agreements had been signed in February. I have not yet had the opportunity of looking at this report because, unless a prior arrangement is made by the Minister, such reports do not become available until the Minister tables them. I noticed also that he was rather gleeful in announcing these agreements. Normally, I would be gleeful with him but I would suggest that when next he considers making such an agreement with the State of Queensland he ought to obtain an understanding from its Premier that the Bellevue Hotel and associated buildings, called The Mansions, will be restored, maintained and become part of the National Estate.
I wish to make the brief criticism that the Premier’s position as far as the Bellevue Hotel is concerned can be described only as one of the deliberate vandalism of a very noble building. He was recently on record as saying that the interior of the hotel was a load of rubbish. But he was responsible for that condition because, in order to justify his statement that it is a load of rubbish and suitable only for demolition, he undertook a deliberate course which reduced the building to a state of disrepair. Nothing could describe that course better than the term ‘deliberate vandalism’.
The Premier removed the wonderful exterior of the Bellevue Hotel and stored it away. He allowed the building to fall into gross disrepair. He allowed the internal part to be dismantled and lie in a condition of disrepair. Now he has the audacity to come forward and say that it is a load of rubbish. He ought not to be allowed to get away with that sort of behaviour. When we are considering agreements to supply money to the State of Queensland for support for the National Estate we should keep in mind exactly how the Premier of that State behaves in these matters. Unless the agreement with Queensland binds the Premier to upholding certain conditions regarding the preservation of certain important buildings, in particular the Bellevue Hotel, he is not to be trusted. Much money that need not have been spent will now need to be spent on that hotel. The argument now used is that it will cost far too much to restore it. Whatever the cost, I believe it ought to be restored and that its restoration should form part of the agreement.
The Premier of Queensland can spend more than $20m on a parliamentary annexe- a term which has been revealed as a subterfuge, because the Parliament now meets in the annexe- to house the 82 members of the State Parliament, surely he can allocate sufficient moneys for the restoration of the Bellevue Hotel. As I have said, the Bellevue Hotel has been reduced by the Premier, to justify his description of it, to a load of rubbish. I think he stands condemned for that. Lest the responsible Minister argue at some later stage that we cannot put any conditions on agreements of this sort, I refer to the example set by the Treasurer, Mr Howard, in standing over New South Wales in respect of the shorter working week for power workers in New South Wales by saying that that State will not receive the financial assistance that -
– Hear, hear!
-Is that what you say? If that is the sort of policy that this Government is to pursue in New South Wales, let it pursue the same policy in Queensland so far as the National Estate is concerned.
– That is different.
– It is somewhat different. Nevertheless let us follow the guidelines that have been laid down by this Government. Let us stand over the Premier of Queensland and say that a part of any money that is made available to Queensland for the protection of the National Estate is to go the the Bellevue Hotel, irrespective of what he thinks. His attitude has been autocratic and disruptive and, if I may stretch the Standing Orders a little, his behaviour has been that of a vandal in regard to his ability -
– That is a reflection on a person. You cannot use that expression.
– Not even when its use is justified, Mr President?
-Surely when you consider -
– That is a personal reflection, Senator Georges.
-Yes, it is a personal reflection. It is a justified reflection. As I appreciate that our Standing Orders are far superior to the Standing Orders of the Queensland Parliament, I will withdraw the remark. I could put it differently. I could say that the act of the Queensland Government, and those who are part of it, as far as the Bellevue Hotel is concerned is the act of a vandal. I do not think that that pins down the Premier of Queensland to being a vandal.
– On a point of order-
– Order! It is obvious to whom you are referring, Senator Georges. That remark is as offensive as the one which you withdrew.
– Say that it is an act of vandalism.
– It is an act of vandalism on the part of the Queensland Premier. I thank Senator Wheeldon for that. I find great difficulty in dissociating the act of vandalism from the person himself. If he is responsible for an act of vandalism, I suggest to Senator Wheeldon that we are on rather treacherous ground because -
– You have not been thrown out so far. You should accept my advice.
– I have digressed somewhat on a serious matter. I suggest that the best way for me to pursue the case I am pursuing is to seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-I present the report of the Symposium on Development Co-operation held by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Council of Europe in Paris on 6 and 7 December 1 978. 1 seek leave to make a brief statement.
– Following the ‘very strong wish’ of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that the Australian Parliament should be represented at the Symposium on Development Co-operation held at the headquarters of the OECD in Paris on 6 and 7 December 1978, three members of the Federal Parliament were selected for this purpose. They were Mr Michael Baume, M.P., the honourable member for Macarthur, Mr Ralph Willis, M.P., the honourable member for Gellibrand and Senator Shirley Walters, senator for Tasmania. The Symposium was held in the context of the growing income differences between the rich and poor nations of the world, which have been exacerbated by the political difficulties many developed nations now have in achieving aid objectives because of problems of unemployment and inflation at home. This has resulted in a decline in official aid to lesser developed countries as a proportion of the gross domestic product of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development nations. In addition, the protectionist policies of the developed world pose a major threat, particularly to the future of the newly industrialised nations, while the mounting burden of external debt by the LDCs now means that 20 per cent of their total export income is going into the servicing of borrowings. As so many of the world’s LDCs are in Australia’s region, the Symposium had a special significance for Australia.
The Australian delegation participated fully in the Symposium which provided an important opportunity to exchange views on the many difficulties involving relationships between developed and developing nations. The Australian delegation is of the opinion that, while disagreements at the Symposium were so great that no agreed declaration could be issued, the opportunity it presented to expose European parliamentarians to Australian attitudes on this matter made it worth while. In addition, the extent of evident recognition by European parliamentarians of the merit of many of the attitudes expressed by non-European participants, including Australians, suggests that failure to attend future symposiums or conferences of this kind could act to Australia ‘s disadvantage.
The Symposium, in general, expressed a strongly supportive view of the reports presented to it by the Development Assistance Commission and in particular, by Mr Mommersteeg, Rapporteur of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Although no members of parliament in the ‘developing’ world attended the Symposium, the Pakistan Ambassador to Paris, Mr Iqbal Akhund, presented a strong address stressing the need for an improvement in trading relations between the developing countries and the developed world. These papers and the addresses by Ambassador Akhund and Mr James P. Grant, President of the Overseas Development Council of the United States of America, are attached, along with the opening addresses by Mr Van Lennep, Secretary-General of the OECD, and Mr de Koster, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Also attached is a list of participants at the Symposium and a copy of the program, along with formal questions to the main speakers by the Australian delegates and a summary of the replies.
It was an honour for the Australian delegation that Senator Shirley Walters was selected to chair the public session on the afternoon of 7 December dealing with ‘Public and Parliamentary Attitudes to Relations with Developing Countries’. At the end of this session a draft declaration was submitted for discussion and a copy of this is attached. The Australian delegates objected to sections of this declaration and sought to have it amended. These amendments, along with many from other delegations, are also attached.
The Australian delegation expressed its concern to the Symposium about the uneven nature of trade benefits to donor countries that may emerge from development assistance to developing nations, particularly the newly industrialised nations. Mr Grant had pointed to the significant trading benefits that generally emerged from the provision of aid to rapidly industrialising countries in the Third World and this was underlined in a paper ‘Salient features of recent development experience and developing country participation in the world economy’ that had been prepared for the Symposium by the secretariat. This pointed out:
Exports of manufactured goods from developing countries to OECD countries have grown by about fifteen per cent per year in real terms in the past ten years. The newly industrialising countries (or NICS) account for over three quarters of OECD imports of such products from developing countries . . . OECD exports of manufactures to the newly industrialising countries have also grown rapidly. The NICS deficit in trade and manufactures with the industrialised countries rose from $4.6 billion to SI 7.6 billion in 1976 . . . over the same period, the OECD surplus in such trade with all non-European non-OPEC developing countries rose from about $ 1 1 billion to over $37 billion.
The Australian delegation pointed to this experience and expressed concern that pressures to increase the aid commitment by countries such as Australia which are not major exporters of capital equipment could well result simply in a substantial increase in OECD exports with relatively little benefit to the non-European nations providing the aid. In other words: ‘We provide the aid and you get the trade ‘.
The Australian delegation pressed the view that the developed nations should adopt acceptable trade practices, particularly in respect of imports of manufactures from the NICs. In this context, it was pointed out that, while Australia did maintain some trade restraints, it did not employ the prohibitions and similar embargoes that are maintained within the European Economic Community. As a result, the Australian delegation supported the suggested amendments to the draft declaration which stated that the meeting would renew efforts to give manufacturers from the lesser developed countries freer access to the industrialised countries’ markets. This replaces the unacceptable proposal that access be free’.
The delegation was concerned at the view expressed by European parliamentarians at the Symposium that European food surpluses could be justified by the increasing trend to world food shortages in underdeveloped nations. When this view was expressed in the draft declaration, the Australian delegation sought to amend it and argued that the enormous volumes of money involved in providing food surpluses in Europe would be far more effectively used increasing the agricultural capacity of those nations with food shortages, if the Europeans were genuine in seeking to overcome this problem. As a result, Mr Baume and Mr McNamara, United Kingdom, jointly moved an amendment that this meeting of parliamentarians: . . . considers it urgent to draw public attention to the contribution which expanded investment programs for food production in developing countries can make, not only towards the relief of hunger and malnutrition in these countries, but also to stable food prices for consumers in all countries.
The Australian delegation also sought to include an addendum that parliamentarians would endeavour:
To ensure that any progress towards liberalising world trade in manufactures be accompanied by similar moves in commodities (particularly in respect of non-tariff barriers), so that lesser developing countries will be able to share fully in any successes in diminishing the excessive protectionism of developed nations or groups of nations.
Overall, however, the thrust of the declaration received the broad support of the Australian delegation, which stressed the need for the objectives of freer trade by the industrialised nations with the lesser developed nations, and that it should extend into the Asian and Pacific regions, not only into Africa, which some European nations consider to be their sphere of influence and with which they have traditional ties.
The Australian delegation pointed out that Australia’s aid contribution to the LDCs was higher, at 0.45 per cent of GDP, than the OECD average of 0.32 per cent, and that the great bulk of Australia’s aid was untied- a situation considerably different from that obtaining for many European donors. The Australian delegation also stressed the fact that the concentration on the development of export industries among the lesser developed countries was not necessarily in the best interests of the recipient nations. In many instances, the export industries did not provide either employment or flow-on benefits to the bulk of the population and simply provided a cheaper manufacturing base for transnational corporations than they enjoyed in developed nations. It was suggested that European aid appeared, in many instances, to have the objective of bringing ultimate trade benefits to the donor country and that this improperly influenced the criteria used in establishing the manner in which aid funds should be allocated.
The delegation expressed its concern that European trading practices, as evidenced by the EEC experience, did not give cause for confidence that the expressions of good faith towards developing countries at this Symposium would be translated into practice. The parliamentarians were reminded of the extent to which the EEC had discriminated against Australian exports and those of other nations in the region, while at the same time enormous food surpluses, which had been created behind an artificial protective barrier, were now being dumped on Australia’s traditional markets in the region. The draft declaration was subjected to so many suggested amendments, including those from the Australian delegation which recommended material changes, that the Symposium agreed there was not sufficient time available to resolve the disagreements, and as a result it was accepted that the draft and the suggested amendments all be submitted to the Council of Europe as an expression of various opinions at the Symposium on development aid.
The delegation is grateful for the courtesy extended to it by the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Mr H. J. de Koster, who entertained delegates at a reception at the Chateau de la Muette and to Mr Van Lennep, Secretary-General of the OECD, who entertained delegates at a luncheon at the same venue. The Australian Ambassador to the OECD in Paris, Ambassador Donovan, and his staff provided essential assistance to the delegation.
– by leave- I present the following paper:
Preparation and Distribution of Analyses of the Proposals of Distribution Commissioners- Ministerial Statement, 3 April 1979 - and move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
Honourable senators will recall that following the report of the royal commission of Inquiry into matters in relation to the electoral redistribution in Queensland in 1977, there was discussion in Parliament concerning analyses by the Australian Electoral Office of the preliminary proposals of the Distribution Commissioners. At that time the Government tabled all the relevant documents and said that consideration would be given to determining the practices which would govern the preparation and distribution of analyses in the future. Honourable senators will be aware from the papers which previously were tabled and circulated that the analyses prepared by the Australian Electoral Office have been based on publicly available information. I might add that given time and expertise, probably anyone could produce them. Certainly it is common practice for politicians, academics, party workers, journalists and others to make assessments of the possible political effects of redistributions. Often these are published.
It is also clear that much of the public and parliamentary consideration of the proposals of Distribution Commissioners is strongly directed towards their political effects. In these circumstances the Government believes that it is quite appropriate for objective analyses of this kind to be prepared by the Australian Electoral Office. At the same time, because this information is of considerable interest both to the Parliament and to the public, it has been decided that future analyses should be tabled in Parliament with the object of assisting the consideration of the redistribution proposals. It follows that the analyses will be available to the Distribution Commissioners should they wish to refer to them.
Analyses in the past have contained statistical tables showing the percentage of the vote which would have been won by each political party in each proposed division at the preceding election had it been conducted on the proposed boundaries. They have also contained commentaries summarising the anticipated political consequences of the proposed redistribution on the basis of the data contained in these statistical tables. Lest it be considered, albeit unjustifiably, that the commentaries are critical of the Commissioners’ proposals, or are not detached in their assessments, it has been decided to confine future analyses to the statistical tables only.
– I think the Government’s decision to make available the analyses of election results and redistribution proposals is a very useful decision. It is a useful exercise in informing the Parliament and the community of voting trends that can now perhaps be looked at in a much more impartial way than previously. Perhaps it will lead to a more intelligent approach to parliamentary and public debate about redistribution. I think that most people believe that the Government of the day- whichever government is charged with the responsibility of redrawing boundaries- has somehow or other influenced the course of events for political or electoral advantage. These analyses may enable us to overcome that viewpoint which is probably an honestly held viewpoint. Of course, in the past that viewpoint did have some credence particularly in a number of States. Perhaps one could say in respect to Queensland that without doubt it would be a viewpoint that had not only credence but also acceptability that fair electoral distribution does not exist in Queensland.
The fact that the Government is prepared to make available this information for consideration by the Parliament seems to me to be a step in the right direction. At some stage in the future I would like to see the Government have a closer look at the whole electoral process in this country. Whatever happens, redistribution inevitably creates- this is due to the basis on which subdivisions are established- a feeling that a different result could accrue in a number of key electorates depending on where those subdivision boundaries are placed. Therefore, I would prefer to see a system developed where we would have not only single electorate constituencies but also some people elected to the House of Representatives from the whole of the State by a system of proportional representation. This would clearly show the expressed will of the people insofar as the party which obtained the majority of votes would, of course, be adequately represented in the Houses of Parliament. But that, of course, is a matter on which I have a personal view. It is not necessarily the view of my party and I do not speak on its behalf in this respect. I think any attempt made by governments to provide us with this sort of analysis, particularly the sort suggested by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), is worth while. It does not even constitute any consideration of the Distribution Commissioners’ attitudes. In that respect, that is probably a wise step to take at this moment. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the text of the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill proposes a number of significant amendments and additions to the Passports Act 1938-73. It aims to update and modernise existing legislation and practice by clearly embodying in the Act the reasons for which a passport may properly be denied and by increasing the range of offences and penalties. Since the responsibility for the administration of the Passports Act was transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs in March 1975, there has been a continuing review of the Passports Act and procedures which culminated in a report to Cabinet in February 1978. Honourable senators may recall the statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) on 26 May 1978 on consular services, in which he foreshadowed the introduction of important amendments to the Passports Act.
Legislation governing the issue of Australian passports has remained substantially unchanged since 1938. The significance of the legislation to the public is now considerable. An average of well over 1,000 passports is issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs every working day of the year. Present legislation gives a general discretionary power to issue or refuse passports but provides no guidelines. In keeping with the Government’s commitment to civil rights and administrative justice, this Bill seeks to provide a proper legislative basis for passport policy and a clear legislative framework for the exercise of ministerial discretion, which must continue to be an essential element in the administration of this difficult area.
The right to travel- to leave and return to one’s own country- is recognised as a basic human right. Australia has signified its recognition of this right by endorsement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. In the not too distant past, it was argued that the need to carry a passport was an infringement of basic rights. Nowadays the withholding of a passport is likely to bring allegations that a basic human right has been denied. A passport or recognised travel document, while not essential for overseas travel under Australian law, is now generally necessary for travel abroad. As well as its obligation to provide travel facilities to its own citizens, the Government, as a responsible member of the international community, has an obligation to those countries to which its citizens travel. Australian passports contain a message from the Governor-General requesting other countries to provide free passage, protection and assistance to the bearer. This imposes on the Government a responsibility to ensure, as far as it can, that passports are not issued to persons likely to threaten the national security and public order of another country, or the rights and welfare of its citizens. Of particular concern are political extremists and terrorists, drug pedlars, and persons inclined to violent acts as a result of mental illness. This concern is also reflected in the Bill.
For all the reasons I have mentioned, it has become necessary that the legislation spells out as clearly as possible the reasons for which a citizen may be refused a passport. In modern times the passport has become not only a very necessary document, but also an extremely valuable one. There is growing traffic in lost, stolen and forged passports for use in connection with criminal and terrorist activities. Complementary to the Government’s intention to combat this traffic is its concern to preserve the international status of an Australian passport as a universally acceptable identity document. The Bill’s provisions relating to offences and penalties are specifically directed toward protecting our passports against abuse and misuse.
Before commenting in detail on specific provisions in the Bill, I want to mention in general terms a number of passport-related matters which I know are of interest to honourable senators, but which are not dealt with in the Bill. The present practice of requiring the consent of a spouse or former spouse to the issue of a passport has attracted increasing criticism from applicants for passports. I am aware that this policy has caused inconvenience and even distress on some occasions, but it has been found necessary to retain it as a practical means of protecting the financial rights of a spouse or former spouse. The existing procedure provides an opportunity for the other party to take legal action to prevent the applicant from leaving Australia, and thus possibly evading maintenance obligations or settlement of property matters. The need for the consent requirement, however, will be significantly reduced when Australia becomes a signatory to the International Convention on Recovery Abroad of Maintenance, and at that time the present practice will be discontinued.
A number of people have expressed concern that their place of birth is shown in their passports, and the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence recommended in its 1 976 report on dual nationality that consideration be given to deleting ‘Place of Birth’ from Australian passports. The reasons for this concern are well known, and an interdepartmental committee set up to consider recommendations of the Joint Committee has given the most careful study to the possibility of deleting ‘Place of Birth’ and substituting ‘Place of Residence’ in its stead. However, omission of ‘Place of Birth’ would remove a significant item of personal information which enables ready identification. It is a requirement of most countries when considering applications for entry that the date and place of birth of the applicant be provided. A passport is internationally accepted as evidence on these points. A survey by Australian diplomatic missions in 1976 indicated that a number of countries would not accept passports which did not show place of birth. The authorities of certain other countries advised that although acceptable, the omission of place of birth could cause difficulties for the passport holders. The omission of the place of birth from Australian passports would clearly inconvenience the large minority of Australian travellers and it is doubtful whether there would be any advantage for those persons who seek to have this information omitted from their passports, since the information would, in any event, need to be shown in visa applications. ‘Place of Birth’, however, need not include the country of birth, and this latter detail may be omitted from a passport at the applicant’s request.
I should also explain the position taken by the Government in this legislation in relation to withholding passports from persons generally known as ‘white collar criminals’ who are suspected of attempting to escape from justice. Honourable senators will know that in the past, passports have been withheld and /or withdrawn from persons suspected of having committed a corporate offence. Such action was taken upon receipt of advice by Department of Foreign Affairs from State corporate affairs commissions, or companies’ offices advising that an investigation was in process. However, in recognition of the Government’s policy relating to human rights and the view that the Passports Act should neither be used as an extension of the judicial system nor be expected to impose any more restraint on an individual than a court would be prepared to impose, this practice will be discontinued. Passports will, in future, only be withheld from such persons if a warrant for their arrest exists, or where the applicant is the subject of an Australian court order or condition of parole which restrains that person from obtaining a passport, or from leaving Australia.
I shall now refer expressly to the principal clauses of the Bill. Honourable senators may recall that in a Press release issued jointly by my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) on 2 March, 1978 it was announced that the Government was to establish an interdepartmental committee to investigate and recommend to Cabinet legislative or administrative changes necessary to reduce the incidence of children being removed from Australia by one parent without the knowledge, or against the wishes of the other parent. The committee has concluded its investigations and will be submitting its report to Cabinet soon. This is not a problem which could be solved by new passport legislation alone, but insofar as it has proved possible, the relevant provisions have been strengthened and are set out in clause 8 of this Bill. Clause 6 inserts a new provision in the Act to the effect that an Australian passport remains the property of the Commonwealth. Whilst this is considered to be the present position at law, it is desirable that the matter be put beyond doubt. Clause 7 empowers the Minister to issue passports. Currently the position is that only officers authorised by the Minister can issue passports. It is considered that, to retain an element of flexibility in dealing with the vast range of circumstances that surround passport applications, the Minister for Foreign Affairs should himself retain an unfettered discretion to issue passports.
Clause 8 inserts a series of new provisions into the Act. These list a number of categories of persons to whom passports shall be refused by authorised officers. In brief, these are, with certain exceptions, persons who are not married and who have not reached the age of 1 8 years, unless the consent of persons having custodial rights has been obtained; persons in respect of whom the authorised officer has reason to believe that there is in force a warrant for arrest issued in Australia; persons whom the authorised officer has reason to believe are required to remain in Australia under a court order, or under a condition of parole or of recognisance, surety or bail bond; persons who owe money to the Commonwealth as a result of circumstances arising from previous overseas travel; persons whom the authorised officer believes already to be in possession or control of an Australian passport in force- unless there are special reasons- and persons in respect of whom the Minister has decided that issue of a passport would threaten security or welfare in another country. Most of these provisions, including the last one, conform with existing practice and simply give legislative expression to precedents on which successive Governments have acted. These restrictions, I should add, apply only to the issue of passports by authorised officers and do not, as mentioned above, affect the Minister’s general discretionary power to issue passports.
Clause 9 increases certain penalties in the Act and provides that passports may be cancelled in circumstances which, if they had existed immediately before the passport was issued, would have prevented the issue of the passport. Clause 10 establishes an obligation on a person to whom a passport is issued to report any loss or theft to the relevant authorities as soon as practicable. Clause 1 1 provides that an officer may demand the delivering up of a passport that has been obtained by means of a false or misleading statement, or has been used in connection with the commission of any offence against the Act or Regulations. Clause 12 establishes a series of new offences relating to the improper use or possession of an Australian passport, forgery and fabrication of passports, and the wrongful issue of passports. Clause 13 establishes greater penalties than under the original Act for a series of offences relating to the making of false or misleading statements in relation to passports, renewals or endorsements. This clause also applies to non-Australian passports where the purpose of the statements is to defeat the provisions of a law of the Commonwealth or of a Territory.
In conclusion, I wish to assure honourable senators that substantial effort has been expended to produce a Bill which provides just and equitable treatment for Australians wishing to travel overseas; which provides the maximum protection for the welfare and convenience of those travellers; which nevertheless pays due regard to our responsibilities toward those countries to which they travel; and which brings passport legislation into line with the modern and liberal philosophies of this Government. It is fitting that, at a time when the administrative aspect of the passport function is being greatly modernised by the introduction of computerisation and other new techniques, the legislation governing it should also be reviewed and renewed. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 29 March, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Button had moved by way of amendment in respect of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill 1979:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert “the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide-
that Annual Reports be presented to Parliament on the general operation of the Act and in particular the exercise of Special Powers under Pan III, Division 2 of the Bill;
that regular periodic judicial audit be conducted into the Australian Security Intelligence Organization to ensure-
that it complies with its charter and the law;
that it does not unjustifiably infringe civil liberties; and
that it operates effectively and efficiently;
that the responsible Minister be fully informed by the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization with respect to any matter, other than the contents of files relating to particular individuals, on which he has sought information and advice;
that the Leader of the Opposition be fully and regularly briefed on all aspects of the operation of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, including the exercise of its Special Powers under Part III, Division 2 of the Bill;
the proper financial accountability of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, including the auditing of its accounts by the Auditor-General, as recommended by the Hope Report; (0 the redefinition of the concept of ‘security’, and in particular the element of ‘subversion’, in order to narrow its scope and limit the possibility of its misapplication;
the restricting of the circumstances in which, and the times for which, warrants may be issued under Part III, Division 2 of the Bill;
that communication by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization to State authorities of security assessments information in relation to individuals be made only upon condition of adoption by such State of a Security Appeals system similar to that created by Part IV of the present Bill;
that the Security Appeals system be given retrospective operation as recommended in the Hope Report;
that no person be denied notification of the existence of an adverse Security assessment made about that person; and
that the communication of information purporting to identify an Australian Security Intelligence Organization employee or agent be penalised only when such information would endanger the safety of such person or itself be seriously prejudicial to security.
– The debate on these Bills has been interrupted by a weekend.
– Start over again, Jim.
– I think I developed my case last week. I reached the stage of mentioning spies in an organisation which I have encountered. Of course, under the new Act it will be an offence to mention the names of such people. Apparently Mrs Coxsedge has done that lawfully, before the Act comes into operation. Senator Walters complained about the identity of security agents being made known. It seems that she recognises the discreditable nature of the occupation. She wanted to know whether they had any redress if someone said that they were a security agent. Such things will not be permitted in the future. Suppose someone gathers my confidence and I introduce him to my mates and possibly to one of the organisations that ASIO decides is a risk organisation. ASIO may want a report. The person concerned could sit in at a meeting and I would be unable, on discovering that he is working for security, to tell my colleagues of the man’s occupation or that he is present for the purpose of spying.
Mrs Coxsedge has issued her last circular on which she can place her name. Her next circular will have to be released without a name. Her name will not be disclosed as the publisher. The next circular will have to be issued anonymously through the Press. To inform my colleagues in an organisation that I know that someone is present for the purpose of spying I have simply to stand up and drop a scrap of paper, which I deny ever having, with a note on it. This is making criminals out of people in a way which we desire to avoid. I have serious doubts about whether the consequences and dangers of security organisations are not more serious than the benefits we obtain from them. I cite the Iran situation where terrorist activities continue. Some 79 per cent are successful.
I think that my views are supported by the bombing of a car in the House of Commons car park over the weekend. If anyone wanted to get Mr Neave one would have thought that there were many places to plant a bomb in his car, while it was at his home or at some other location, other than right under the nose of security. Such an occurrence does not leave us with the knowledge that security is looking after us. We have seen what happened in that unfortunate incident. I take the inevitable view. I believe that the money spent on security would have a much more desirable effect if it were given to publicly involved organisations working to improve the quality of life. This would have much more effect against sabotage and terrorism than spending it on a security organisation. Nevertheless, terrorism, like air pollution, is here to stay. While I do not like our security organisation, have never liked it and do not think that it is effective, we have to face up to the fact that we have it and that it will continue.
We know of the disagreement between the two political parties about having the minimum of infringement upon the civil rights of the individual. It is all right saying that the old ASIO was bad and that we are trying to tighten it up so that it will be good. I refer to the illustration used by Senator Lewis last week. He asked the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) whether the Society for the Protection of the Privacy of the Individual was sponsored by the Church of Scientology. He said that he had a circular in his hand quoting the name of the organisation. Of course his question- whether the Society was sponsored by the Church of Scientology- was a breach of Question Time. He was seeking information that he had already. He wanted the Minister to verify what he thought was condemnation of an organisation which had the effrontery to advocate the protection and the privacy of the individual. We are still sneaking behind doors to denigrate those who are doing a job in society and associating with organisations in which we may not believe. I leave discussion on the value of association at that.
I think that I should warn the AttorneyGeneral of matters which other honourable senators may bring up in the Committee stage of this debate. I will definitely want to know more about clause 5 which reads:
I ask honourable senators to listen to our domestic subversion-
I do not know what ‘overthrowing’ applies to, but surely every political speech containing the emotion shown in 1975 and possibly 1977 and other years could well bring the accusation of subversion. Sub-clause (c) relates to activities directed to promoting violence or hostility. It relates to violence or hostility, not both, between different groups of persons in the Australian community which would endanger the peace, order or good government of the Commonwealth. Many present activities will be considered unlawful and subversive under the new Act. I wonder how much of the agitation against Sir John Kerr in 1975- he was hounded and cried down at universities and at various demonstrations in Australia- was contributed to by the subversion of Labor Party members because of their description of Sir John Kerr’s dismissal of a lawfully, democratically elected government? Will we be able to say such things in future? Clause 8 states that the Minister is not allowed to override the opinion of the Director-General. The Director-General is set up as a dictator. We know what this could mean in relation to the Director-General of the Department of Social Security. In this case people can be locked up, charged or spied upon on the say-so of the Director-General who is responsible to no one. The Parliament gave him the power. At least as bad as an Attorney-General may be from time to time, he can go only to some limits because he is responsible to the Parliament and the people at election time.
As I have mentioned, while we could excuse some interference in the civil rights of individuals for security reasons, any breach of State or Commonwealth law that is discovered and which carries a penalty of three years, whether for security or any other reasons, has to be reported to the State with a view to prosecution. Clause 24 provides that security personnel can break or enter, open drawers, remove records and take copies of any document. So there we have the act of breaking and entering justified and legalised.
Furthermore, listening devices may be used. They may be used, in accordance with clause 25, where there is a suspicion about activities being prejudicial to security. Clause 24 ( 1 ) (c) provides that the organisation may be authorised: to inspect or otherwise examine any records found in the premises and to make copies or transcripts of any record so found that appears to be relevant to the collection of intelligence by the organisation in accordance with this Act . . .
The use of listening devices may be authorised by the Minister upon the receipt by the Minister of a request by the Director-General for the issue of a warrant under this provision. The Minister only has to be satisfied that a person is: engaged in, or is reasonably suspected by the DirectorGeneral of being engaged in, or of being likely to engage in, activities prejudicial to security . . .
The person need not have done anything. But if it is suspected that he is likely to engage in such activities, the Minister has the right to issue a warrant for the Organisation to break into that person’s premises. The Organisation can enter premises for the purpose of installing or removing a listening device. The premises need not be an office. ‘Premises’ can mean a meeting room, a trades hall or even an office where a meeting is taking place, for example, the meeting of Commonwealth drivers tomorrow. A listening device could be planted in that office and the Organisation would have the right to break into and enter that office. ‘Premises’ could even mean the Caucus room.
The Organisation also has a right to open postal articles without the person to whom the article is addressed being notified of the Organisation ‘s intention to open the article and being present at the opening of the article to make sure that no documents are planted after the article is opened. This is contrary to Customs procedures, whereby it is necessary, or it is usual, to notify an addressee of an intention to open an article so that he can be present when that is done.
In accordance with clause 37 and in ‘the interests of security’, notification of a security assessment being carried out on a person may be withheld from the person being investigated. There is no compulsion to give that person notification of a security assessment. But when one is notified of such an assessment being carried out, and one appeals to the Tribunal, the Tribunal hears the evidence of those who are making the allegation without the attendance of the appellant. The appellant need not even be informed of the charges being laid against him or of what evidence is being brought by those who make the charges. Witnesses may be examined without an appellant having the right to crossexamine those witnesses in the proceedings of the Tribunal. Of course, any interruption of the proceedings of the Tribunal carries a penalty of $1,000. At present, demonstrations outside places where tribunals are sitting, especially industrial tribunals, are becoming a habit. I can well imagine someone who believed he had been wrongfully accused in a security assessment having sufficient popular support to arrange a demonstration at the time of the Tribunal’s proceedings.
I will leave the debate on security matters at that. Again I express the point that time will tell. Our greater security measures will not stop terrorism spreading to Australia, which is the warning issued by Sergeant Jack Fletcher to the Australian public at an Adelaide symposium.
– The Senate is being given a rather unique opportunity because, as far as I can gather, this is only the third occasion on which the Parliament has had an opportunity to discuss, debate and deliberate upon the activities of the national security organisation called the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation since its establishment in the 1 940s. That in itself raises a very important question because, as the Hope report indicated, it is a body that is operating, on many occasions illegally, outside the scrutiny and the consideration of the national Parliament. In 1956, when the principal Act was amended, we had an opportunity to speak about the operations and the activities of this clandestine Organisation and we have again been given that opportunity.
No matter what might be said by Government senators, and I think they have been fairly conspicuous by their failure to match the Opposition in the debate speaker by speaker, it does appear to be the attitude of this Government in particular- it was the philosophical position over the years of the previous coalition governmentsthat anything goes as far as the activities of ASIO are concerned. What we are being asked to do in respect of this piece of legislation is virtually to continue to give that Organisation a blank cheque.
Nowhere in any of the debates have we really had an analysis of the activities of ASIO. A number of arguments have been advanced about the need for a body such as ASIO. I do not contest the fact that in the world of today we need to have an organisation concerned with intelligence gathering in the area of terrorism. But, after all, the original concept of the Chifley Government 30-odd years ago was to establish an organisation to investigate and to consider the bona fides of public servants who would have access to classified or secret information. Of course, what we have seen in the intervening years has been a considerable broadening and a considerable extension of that original charter to the degree that the civil liberties of many people in this country have been affected.
I want to deal with some aspects of that because I think we are entitled, during these very brief encounters with ASIO, to examine the way in which ASIO operates. I do not believe that it operates in accordance with its charter and I do not believe that it will necessarily operate in accordance with the legislation that will be passed by both Houses of this Parliament. I find myself agreeing with the views that have been expressed that the fact that we have a particular head of ASIO who is operating in accordance with protocol, in accordance with principles and in accordance with the legislation does not mean that we have to put our faith in that individual when in fact the legislation does not protect properly the interests of the people who are affected by the activities of this Organisation. The mere presentation of this Bill evokes a great number of fears in those who are concerned about civil liberties in Australia. The fundamental flaw in the legislation now before the chamber is that practically no attempt has been made by this Government to establish any fundamental watchdog procedures that would constrain ASIO within the bounds of the law and within the wishes of the Parliament and of the Australian people.
It may well be, of course, that because we now live in a more open society, in a more liberalminded society, some minor constraints need to be placed on the activities of this Organisation. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s when the cold war mentality permeated the Parliament and the thinking of the Australian community, one could not have foreseen that even these minor steps could have been taken towards some degree of public accountability. I suppose that some progress is being made in this legislation but I do not believe that it adequately protects the basic interests of those people in Australia who are affected by its operation. The operation of ASIO under this legislation does not even come close to the implementation of this Government’s own political philosophy on individual rights and responsibilities. The Liberal Party platform states:
The Liberal Party vigorously advocates individual liberty and the fundamental rights of freedom of speech, organisation, assembly, procession, religion and non-violent dissent. Controls over the free actions of the individual are to be avoided unless there is clear evidence that the similar rights of others and the protection of the community require the imposition of controls.
Does that sort of philosophy exist in this legislation? I suggest that the amendment moved by the Opposition is more in line with the philosophy of the Liberal Party than the legislation itself. The intention of this Bill is to broaden the powers of ASIO and legitimise its previously illegal activities. Even the Government concedes that it has operated in that way. It was also indicated in the Hope report. Under this legislation the powers of ASIO to spy and snoop are to remain almost limitless. The legislation excludes the organisation and the DirectorGeneral from public accountability and parliamentary control. As my colleague Senator Cavanagh said, the special powers to be granted to ASIO, including powers of forced entry, search, removal of documents, bugging and the interception of mail, pose a grave threat to personal freedoms and open up a whole range of abusive activities.
We have no evidence that those who have been responsible in the past for the abuses referred to in the Hope report have in any way been brought to book. Why should one section of the Australian community which has acted in this way be outside the bounds of the law? Anybody else who transgresses the law, whether he is in the political field or in commercial practice, is brought to book. We have not been told whether officers who have been involved in a transgression of the law have been demoted, removed, retired or in any way censured for those grave breaches of protocol, regulations and proper activities which hitherto were supposedly the way in which they should operate. This Bill and the associated Bills with which we will deal in no way confirm in the minds of Opposition senators that we can have any confidence that those abuses will be contained, simply because a particular director-general, due to his own personality and integrity, occupies a balanced position. I agree with Senator Missen that that is not a sufficient safeguard to protect us from the past or from the future.
What does this Bill do? It flows in the opposite direction to the manner in which all other security organisations operate throughout the worldthose about which we have any public information. It is directly contrary to overseas trends. In particular it is contrary to practice in the United States of America, a country which has learnt from bitter experience the dangers of an unrestrained political police force. In that country there has been a spate of legislative and judicial activity designed to guarantee the protection of civil liberties. There are special safeguards within the Constitution to protect the rights of the individual. There are organisations concerned with civil liberties and the protection of the democratic rights of the people. Even so, the intelligence organisations in that country have thumbed their noses and carried out a whole range of illegal activities which can only cause concern to the whole of the democratic world. Admissions have been made concerning bribery and corruption, assassinations, the overthrowing of legal government and so on.
The recent American Freedom of Information Act, the Church report and the Pike report all show the direction which the United States is taking to deal with this very question. Yet this legislation is no more than one tentative step forward in the direction of public accountability of the activities of ASIO. The public ventilation of the abuses in the United States in the reports to which I have referred has contributed to a curbing of the oppressive powers of organisations such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There is no excuse for us. We in Australia have been told that various political police forces have engaged in illegal, discriminatory and oppressive activities. They have been exposed many times and in great detail. I refer in particular to the White report. After a perusal of a sample of 41,000 dossiers, Mr Justice White from South Australia said:
I have seen a number of cards where information, patently false to my knowledge, has been used to the attempted disadvantage of certain persons . . .
My perusal of Special Branch files shows that many hundreds of people have done nothing more than take an active part in many causes which time and changing opinion have usually proved them to be right . . . campaigns against involvement in the Vietnam war or conscription for the purposes of that war, the importance of the environment and ecology and so on. They are the kinds of activities that active persons with a social conscience and a vision of a better Australia are entitled to be involved in without the brand of suspected subversion . . .
Senator Puplick referred to the report of the New South Wales Privacy Committee entitled ‘The Special Branch: Criminal Records in New South
Wales’. That report shows that in the States in which Labor governments have taken steps to protect the civil rights of people and the right of legitimate political activity, groups of up to 100,000 people at certain times have had their names included and their activities noted in dossiers. This surely raises questions about the way the security body operates in order to protect the security of this nation. It seems to me that we have not really looked at the way in which ASIO itself operates. It consists of part time operators and full time professionals. What are their qualifications? Are we prepared to leave somebody else to determine the qualifications of such persons to operate allegedly in the defence of the security of this country?
What is the mental attitude of the people who are sought out to become part-time operatives of ASIO? What is their political attitude? What is their religious attitude? What is their attitude towards the Jewish community, blacks and homosexuals? Surely these are relevant questions when these people will operate at a subterranean level of our community with a view to collecting information which is not necessarily related to the security of the country. Are these people with a balanced viewpoint or are they people with an unbalanced viewpoint? Many people have warped views about a whole variety of issues. Are those sorts of psychological considerations involved when part time or professional ASIO agents are paid by this Government and this Parliament to operate in the interests of the Australian people? Are they people who are bigoted about religious matters or prejudiced about political matters? Are they intelligent people? Are they able to make assessments about your political activities, Mr Acting Deputy President, or about my political activities? Are they efficient and even-handed, healthy in mind and spirit? What is their integrity and professional honesty? None of these things are provided for in this piece of legislation.
Before I deal with a matter which is a little more substantive, I want to refer to my own experience. Some 10 years ago I was fortunate enough to see my security file which was made available to me by a top official in the Returned Services League. I was surprised to find the comments that were made on that security file. They were in line with Mr Justice White’s general summation in his submission to the South Australian Parliament. It was stated that I was friendly with a particular girl. According to their warped mind, I was friendly with this girl because her father was concerned with shipping movements. Accordingly to them there was no physical attraction to the girl. I took her out not because in some way I liked her but because I had some sort of subversive attitude. I was interested in her because her father was connected with shipping movements. This was on the file in 1939. It is true that this was prior to ASIO being established; nevertheless it was on the ASIO file.
I will mention another case. When I was active in the Labor youth organisation I was invited to some classes on Marxism. I said yes. The person involved took me through a whole series of buildings out to the back, where there was, I suppose, some sort of a hideout, in order to discuss with me the question of Marxism. When I look back on it I remember that there was great excitement in those days for an 18 or 19-year-old person to have this happen to him. That person subsequently made some comments which appeared on that file. I do not know whether he made those comments because I rejected an improper suggestion that he made to me; but the fact is that things that appeared on the file disturbed me very greatly. Yet we are not given access to this sort of information. On that file- there is no doubt that it is a file dealing with me- my birth date is wrong; my mother’s name is wrong; my father’s business is wrong; as to the company for which I worked, whilst the first part of the name was correct, the rest of the name of the company was incorrect; my Australian Imperial Force number was wrong; the date on which I enlisted was wrong; and the date on which I entered camp was wrong. Yet the file included a great deal more on my personal and political activities.
Unfortunately, my colleague Senator Mulvihill is not present in the chamber. When there was a dispute in my local Labor Party branch during the split in 1956, I was accused, according to this file, of having a bias against the Catholic Church and causing 28 members to be put out of the branch. The decision to reform my local Labor Party branch was made by Mr Colbourne and Mr Mulvihill because of the activities of some of the people in the branch. Yet on that file I am identified as a person who hates and has no time for Catholics. That is not my position at all. It is important for us to know whether the people who make these sorts of assessments and judgments about people’s attitudes have a competence to make those judgments and to put them on a file. The information appears not only on the ASIO files but also in the State police special branch files. Some people have suggested- I do not reject the suggestion out of hand as Government senators may dothat this information probably goes on to the files of the Central Intelligence Agency. It has been suggested that there is an interlocking or an exchange of information. It is that sort of activity that Mr Justice Hope has condemned out of hand.
The period to which I am referring was when a Mr Spry- I think he might have been knighted; that is what this Government mostly does to people who do its dirty bidding- was in charge of ASIO. This is when this sort of information and these dossiers were collected on people. For example, he was the person in charge of ASIO who provided the then Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, with a list of communists. On the subsequent day the then Prime Minister had to say that he was wrongly advised. He withdrew the allegation that Mr Cavanagh, as he was at that time- a bona fide and active member of the Australian Labor Party- was communist. What sort of disciplinary action has been taken against those people who have put this information in documents which may well finish up in public libraries or in archives- information that will be used in judgment upon those of us who have been engaged all of our lives in legitimate political activities? I have never been, and never will be, engaged in any subversive activity. I know and, in fact, most other members of the Australian Labor Party know that they have their names on lists kept by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. In fact, they might even have their names on lists associated with the Australian Security Intelligence Service which operates under the Department of Foreign Affairs.
If we examine the activities of security organisations, we find that Australia is not the only country which does not take disciplinary action or bring people to book for the bad and unfair things they have done. I have yet to see or hear of any action being taken against the American intelligence organisations as a result of their failure to protect the life of former President Kennedy. There has never been any suggestion that, somehow, the security organisations failed in their task as, indeed, the security organisations in this country failed in their task to protect the honoured overseas guests in the Hilton Hotel bombing outrage. There was a clear deficiency on the part of our security organisations.
We are not even allowed to discuss the matter or to ask questions. Unfortunately my party played the same game when it was in government. The attitude adopted is that we will not discuss the matter or in any way answer questions, because that has been the practice for 30 years. It was the practice in the United States of America; but, fortunately, the legislative arm and public opinion in that country have brought about a sufficient change in attitudes to lead the American Congress to exercise some control over the activities of its intelligence organisations. It was not until the then Senator Murphy became Attorney-General and exercised some very genuine consideration and jurisdiction over ASIO that we were able to get to the bottom of the horrible Croatian terrorism that was plaguing many parts of our Yugoslav communities- terrorism that could be described only as intimidation of people who did not want to be involved in terrorism and who did not want to be put in a position of being forced to take a partisan political view in their new, adopted country.
I find it amazing that this Government and the media moguls try to describe Senator Murphy’s visit to the organisation in Melbourne for which he was responsible as constituting a raid when he had present Commonwealth Police officers and members of his own staff who were concerned with the problems of Croatian terrorism and the impending visit of the Yugoslav Prime Minister. The invitation had been extended to the Prime Minister during the life of the previous government. Senator Murphy was carrying out his proper constitutional obligations, not only to the Government and the Parliament, but also to the people of Yugoslavia, by protecting the person of the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia. In order to establish what happened it ought to be said in this debate that there was a meeting of interdepartmental heads from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney-General’s Department and several other departments whose names do not immediately come to mind. At this meeting a decision was made not to give the Australian Labor Party Government any information that differed from that which had been given to the previous Government. Fortunately, from the point of view of the safety and the future of the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia, an agent of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation correctly reported that matter to the Attorney-General. It was on the basis of that information that some senior public servants, who are on the ASIO payroll as part-time informants, deliberately set out to refuse to make available to the Government of the day, the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, basic information concerning the visit to this country of a friendly foreign head of government. Senator Murphy took steps to check whether that information was being kept from the Australian Government and he established to his satisfaction that it was. I would hope that disciplinary action was taken. I do not know whether it was. Sometimes it is difficult to know when a person is shifted sideways, upwards or downwards. If a person is shifted downwards it means a demotion, but if he is shifted upwards or sideways it is difficult to work out whether that represents a reprimand or a censure for the person concerned. I do not know- Parliament is never told these thingswhether that was the reason for Mr Barbour’s change and for the subsequent appointment of Mr Justice Woodward. If it were not I ask: Who were the other officers and people, who have not been publicly identified, who made a decision to withhold proper information from ‘the properly constituted and elected Government’- that wonderful group of words that keeps coming into debates in this Parliament.
I have been told that ASIO operates within the Parliament; that there are people in the Parliament who report on the activities of the Parliament. I have been told that members of the Parliament are part-time informants for ASIO. Why should they not be placed in Parliament as they were placed in all other Australian organisations? They are in trade unions. Senator Bishop would know that. Some years ago articles were written in the Sydney Morning Herald by a special correspondent which stated that ASIO informants were in parents and citizens organisations, in progress associations, in returned services leagues, in trade unions and in political parties. In other words, wherever there are political activities and places where decisions have to be made, then the arm of ASIO operates. It operates within the Parliament. I think it is about time that the Government told us about some of these sorts of activities. I think it is about time that the Government came clean. Take the example of the case involving Mr Coleman who could have become the Premier of New South Wales. I refer to the accusations of Robert Mayne made on the program This Day Tonight on 9 February 1978. These allegations were made no more than a year ago. Mr Mayne states:
I was approached about 2 years ago by a very wealthy Sydney businessman, the son of a Sydney knight -
It is amazing how these knights keep turning up- and he invited me to the American Club in Sydney and said, I am having a Liberal MLA come along and an officer from ASIO. We went to lunch and we discussed the production of this magazine which was to be called ‘The Analysis’. They were to provide me with the information; the information was to come from ASIO files, as they later gave me; I was to write it and they were to pay me a thousand dollars a year to do it. We went to lunch. I met the man from ASIO. His name was Redford, and who according to the Prime Minister, is still with the organisation.
Has any disciplinary action been taken against Mr Redford or against Peter Warren? Honourable senators may ask: Who is Peter Warren? He is the son of Sir Edward Warren. I would not call him a captain of industry. He would be a general, if we look at the number of business companies with which he is associated. He is in so many places. His son is an ASIO agent. He was the person who set up this operation. What is his background? He was bom with a silver spoon in his mouth. He is a man who would have obvious prejudices, unless he were an extraordinary man. I would have grave doubts about that as he is the son of a knight. His brother is a business tycoon in Sydney, Australia. Mr Warren is engaged in an organisation which sits in judgment upon trade unionists. I wonder what sort of objective assessment he could make about delegates of the miners federation from one of his father’s mining companies, or the shop steward from one of the metal engineering companies operated in the Sydney region in which his father has a vested interest. He probably has a vested interest in it too. These are the sorts of people who are recruited to ASIO.
I am talking now about the full-time people in ASIO. Let us look at some of the people who are recruited to ASIO on a part-time basis. I remind honourable senators of the young gentleman who was arrested here in the early part of last year. I did not seek out his name but he was recruited to work for ASIO. Honourable senators will remember that he went to an embassy. He was a lad less than 19 years of age. The moment he was put on the payroll he decided that he was going to do something else. That is the kind of 1 8 and 1 9-year old person who is asked to become a part-time operative for ASIO. Let us look at the case of Janet Langridge. I asked the Government about this matter a year or so ago. She made a statutory declaration and she was sent to me by a Sydney barrister to whom she had given certain information. When I asked a question of the Minister, he said: ‘No comment’. Three times in 30 years we are able to comment about this matter; so here I go. The declaration by Janet Langridge of Coulter Street, Gladesville states:
On or about 8 August 1 976 1 was interviewed by 2 persons who identified themselves as working for ASIO.
Their names were Terry Poulos and a person called Ken. I was asked to attend meetings of the Young Socialist League and later I made contact with the Spartacist League, and report on a monthly basis for which I was paid personally in cash $30 a month.
From February 1977, 1 was offered a full-time salary, and was given to understand that I should not mention to the TEAS Authorities that I was in receipt of this income -
Here we have the case of ASIO agents asking a young girl to break the law by not stating this income on the declaration required in respect of her Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowance- an allowance payable under legislation enacted by this Parliament. That is the first thing that is asked of her. The statement continues:
My salary was $600 per month which sum was initially paid in cash to me, but more recently partly in cash and partly into the St George Building Society Account No. 17-35 1849 directly by the organisation (ASIO). In return for this remuneration I understood my duties were to report on the identities of the members of the Spartacist League and substance of the debate and resolutions passed at their meetings.
I was led to believe that reports on the personal associations of the members, relationships and habits, would be of use to the organisation.
We have here an organisation, which the Government claims is respected and has been reformed, asking this girl to investigate and report upon the social habits of her friends, her colleagues. Is that regarded as legitimate? Is that regarded as right? Is that regarded as proper in the defence of a principle? What principle is involved here that we should concern ourselves with people’s personal habits? They may have body odour, they may have certain sexual preferences- I would not know- but what has that to do with the security of this country? Miss Langridge ‘s statement continues:
On the 1 1th June I voluntarily informed Mr Tom Kelly solicitor, of my involvement with ASIO and with my consent a tape recording of the interview was made. On 12th June 1977 I spoke to Terry Poulos and indicated that I no longer wished to continue my association with the organisation. On the 15th June, Terry Poulos and Laurie Pollard -
Under this Bill I am committing breaches if I identify ASIO agents - both as members of ASIO, visited me at my flat and indicated that they wanted me to sign a statement refuting the unsigned transcript in the possession of Tom Kelly.
Here again they are asking a young girl to sign a statement which was not in accordance with the facts.
I believe we have to take it for granted that this organisation needs to be accountable to this Parliament. We cannot tolerate an organisation like this, operating at it has in the past, where there is this type of activity- the recruitment of young people and prejudiced people; the recruitment of members of parliament to spy upon their colleagues; the recruitment of senior members of the Public Service to do likewise. The legislation which we are being asked to approve does not provide in any way the sorts of safeguards necessary unless the amendments that the Opposition proposes to move in the Committee stage are accepted. In looking at security organisations and the people who really make the decisions for our society, the only experience I can draw upon, in addition to the United States experience, is what happened in Europe prior to World War II. When countries such as Hungary, Romania and Poland were threatened with invasion by the fascist forces of Mussolini and Hitler, the people who sold out and co-operated with the advancing forces, the people who made the decisions which placed their countries in jeopardy, the people who placed the security of their countries second to their own position in society, were those in the business and corporate sectors of society. I recall reading that Thyssen, the big German industrialist, described how he had contributed towards the development of the subversive organisation from within. He said that he had financed and encouraged the development of the Nazi Party.
Where were the intelligence organisations then in protecting the security of those countries? The threat did not come from the radicals or from the people’s movements; it came from those who exercised real power within the community. If we look at the evidence that is available to us- I am talking particularly of Mr Coleman, Mr Redford and Mr Warren- we realise that it was the same types of people in the European countries who, when the security of their countries were threatened, facilitated the terrible tragedy of Europe.
There is no evidence that ASIO concerns itself with what happens in the corporate sector of our society. In fact the evidence from Mr Justice White, Mr Justice Hope and Mr Wran’s privacy committee is to the contrary. The evidence is that the spy, the infiltrator, the part-time eavesdropper and snooper concern themselves with legitimate political activity.
Today it is political activity of a completely different nature. Ten years ago it was the war in Vietnam and the problems of conscription. Today we are concerned about uranium mining. We are concerned with what has happened in the United States these last few days. People have a legitimate reason to be concerned about that event. There is no reason to suggest that people who march next Friday and Saturday in various cities of the Commonwealth constitute any sort of threat to the civil rights or security of this country, yet that is where ASIO agents will be. They will be there taking photographs. Its members will be trying to identify Mr and Mrs A,
B and C, trying to put their names in dossiers. That is what happened in respect of Fraser Island, Lake Pedder and Black Mountain when concern was expressed about the ecological problems existing in our country. ASIO is headed in the wrong direction. It is not aimed at areas where experience shows it is needed- the surveillance of the top echelons of our country. If there is to be surveillance at all there ought to be some surveillance of the activities of those particular organisations.
Subversion is defined in this Bill in such a wide way as to place everybody in that category. It is defined as follows:
Activities that involve, will involve, or lead to, or are intended or likely ultimately to involve or lead to the use of force or violence or other unlawful acts.
Who determines that? Is it the people I have referred to who recruit kids at universities? What type of individual really believes he can go on to a university campus to recruit people within the interpretation of that definition? Ostensibly they are able to say: ‘It is our opinion that that person may involve himself in some unlawful act’. Who can make that sort of judgment? Make no mistake about it, such a judgment has been made on me. I have heard it far and wide. But it is one that is not true. It is one that in no way can be borne out by attitudes, actions, statements or life style, yet that sort of judgment is entered upon thousands of files that still operate in some way, shape or form. I am surprised to hear such a person as Senator Hamer say that we ought not to be too excited about dossiers and ask: ‘What is wrong with having it on a dossier?’ If there is no value in having such information on a dossier, if we follow the honourable senator’s illogical thinking to its conclusion, what is the point in having it at all? Is it, as has been suggested, that ASIO would make it available to different organisations, as has been done in the past? If there is no value in it, if it cannot do the individual any harm, what is the point in having it?
In the 30 years during which this information has been collated, what person has been arrested, imprisoned or charged in our country to show that anyone is operating against Australia ‘s overall interest? Certainly, we all have views about the operation of our laws and the policies of governments, but I will guarantee that in other circumstances Mr Bjelke-Petersen could be one of the heads of ASIO. That is the sort of person who would be put in ASIO- a prejudiced, warped, bigoted man such as the Premier of Queensland. His attitude is such that he even claims that one of the Government senators is a red ragger because he dares to stand up and be counted in respect of the problems of the people in his State- one who obviously, because of the attitude that is taken by the ultra-conservatives, will be battling to remain a member of the Senate. But I submit that probably that is the sort of person whose sentiments are overwhelmingly those of the people who go to make up ASIO.
Information in respect of Croatian terrorism had to be dragged out of ASIO. If we examine the list of people which Senator Murphy presented as being involved in Croatian terrorism, the ones whose names he elicited and made available in the records of the Senate, we find that they were people who had been engaged in acts of intimidation of violence and unlawful acts generally. They are not suitable people. We know the wrath that fell upon the head of Senator Murphy in trying to elicit that information. Such evidence as is available- it is neither overwhelming nor compelling; we are dealing with a clandestine organisation about whose operations we can get only a glimpse- is sufficient to show that it ought to be investigated in the same way as, in the United States, the Church Committee has examined the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Surely no one will suggest that Senator Church, Mr Pike and the other members of the United States Congress who have been involved in the public scrutiny of these organisations have improper motivations, or that they are actuated by any but the highest ideals.
Surely no one would suggest that the Opposition is not taking the same approach in this matter. Surely no one would suggest that those disclosures and that penetration of the way in which those organisations have operated in that country have weakened in any way the security of the United States of America. On the contrary, I believe they have strengthened it. The American people have been shown that they have members of the Congress and members of the Senate who are prepared to perform their proper legislative obligations to examine the activities of organisations which spend large sums of money in the pursuit of what are considered to be the illegitimate activities of the people concerning whom they collect information.
I ask whether it is any wonder that Mr Justice Hope, in summing up ASIO’s capacity for intelligence assessment, wrote so despairingly: 1 must report that I saw little evidence in ASIO that the qualities of mind and expertise needed were recognised, or available in any large measure.
The extent of the incompetence to which he referred was well documented. His report is pervaded by references, both direct and indirect, to the conservative, biased and conspiratorial political beliefs and activities of the organisation, its operatives and its sponsors, who are the conservative elements of this country.
Some 12 or 13 years ago my wife applied for a position as a librarian with the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s establishment at Lucas Heights. She obtained that position, subject to a security clearance. She is a professionally-trained librarian. It happened to be a local job and was one which she had the expertise to carry out. As there was an ASIO file on her, she did not get the clearance. The only crime that I can imagine my wife ever committing politically is that of being married to me, and of having had some genuine concern about the war in Vietnam. This was later to develop. She then voluntarily gave her services as a librarian to the organisation that was concerning itself with the struggle concerning Vietnam. She was given no reason for being denied the clearance. She was not spoken to, interviewed or in any way given an opportunity to refute the sort of value judgment that denied her that position. Is that really an expression of the liberalism for which, supposedly, this Government stands?
I was very disappointed to note the attitude adopted, with one or two exceptions, by Government supporters in this matter. One would have thought that they would have been as concerned as we are to protect the rights and civil liberties of the people of Australia. Those files, dossiers, statements- or whatever one likes to call themare compiled on the political activists of this country. Whether we agree with the views of such persons or not is not particularly important; whether they are people on the far Left, the far far Left, on the far Right or the far far Right is important. I have in mind a person such as the Premier of Queensland. For example, I saw today a letter from Mr Charles Porter in which he refused even to discuss with the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Australia, Dr Everingham, the problems of Aborigines in Queensland. That gives some indication of the way in which people with that kind of thinking operate in the democratic processes of our country. Unfortunately, it has to be said that such people have too much influence in ASIO.
It is no wonder that Mr Justice Hope made the comment, which I cannot put my finger on precisely at the moment, that legitimate political activity had to be protected at all costs. It will not be protected if ASIO, under its charter, past, present or future, uses the same sort of personnel and adopts the same sort of attitudes as it has for the last 30 years- people of prejudice, people of the belief that everybody who engages in legitimate political activity in some way can be involved in unlawful acts and subversive action, and is thus a threat to the democracy in which we live.
Those of us who are in the radical movement surrender to no one our defence of the principles of liberty and freedom, of the right of assembly or of any of the principles that are embodied in the platform of the Liberal Party. Those principles are ours also, but we suggest seriously that in adopting this legislation honourable senators will not be protecting those principles; that if there is any genuine concern for those principles mature consideration will be given, not on a party-political basis, but on the basis of those very general provisions of our amendment which seek to provide for a watchdog responsibility on the part of the national Parliament and for both the Parliament and the Minister, an opportunity to exercise their rightful responsibility to protect the very liberties with which we claim to be concerned in relation to the security of our country.
-The Senate is discussing the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill 1979 and some associated Bills. Like many other speakers I intend to confine most of my remarks to the major Bill, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill. I would like to quote from something written by Bertrand Russell in the course of the Reith Lectures for 1948-49 on Authority and the Individual. It is a pleasure to be able to quote in a debate such as this from such a civil libertarian as Bertrand Russell. He said:
The primary aims of government, I suggest, should be three: security, justice and conservation. These are things of the utmost importance to happiness, and they are things which only government can bring about.
I shall come back to Bertrand Russell. Prior to the Second World War the Western world had allowed its defences to lapse. Thirty years later it has been revealed that there were in fact some defences because of the secret gathering of information prior to that war- not action, simply information gathering. These activities were to lead to the development during the war of secret warfare as a weapon. By that I mean not just a gathering of information, although that was important, but actual covert action for a military purpose. It is important to recognise and appreciate the difference between the different activities of information gathering and covert action. The latter was perhaps another of the many evil things which we learned during that war. They include nuclear weapons, which have led to nuclear diplomacy; resistance tactics, which became guidelines for fanatics and terrorists; psychological warfare, leading to disinformation activities; and intelligence agencies involved in covert activities threatening the people and the nations and the principles that those agencies were created to defend.
Let us consider the problems in guarding our people from the actions of terrorists. We must ever be alert to people who may attack us. Our police must be warned in adequate time of the possibilities of such an attack, and that is the task of ASIO. ASIO must be able to find out about those possibilities before they happen. That is its task and I would have thought that all Australians and in particular all parliamentarians would have agreed on that. Certainly parliamentarians would be the first to complain bitterly and properly if an attack occurred, but apparently not all parliamentarians agree that we should have a body seeking such information for early warning to our police forces. Take for example the comments of my colleague from western Victoria, Senator Primmer, who last week told the Senate and the people of Australia:
I hold the view that an organisation such as ASIO is not required in any democratic society.
He was not satisfied with writing out ASIO in Australia. He went on to say:
There may be some degrees of differences between the KGB and ASIO . . . But I suggest that in the totality of the matter there is not a great deal of difference between the organisation under which the Soviet people have been oppressed over the years and an organisation such as ASIO . . .
He acknowledges that the KGB has oppressed the Soviet people and he applies the same sort of principle to ASIO. I wonder where he can point to some Act of the Soviet Parliament which gives the KGB its charter and sets out the limits of its activities. It seems to me that Senator Primmer and a number of other honourable senators on the Opposition side have failed to understand or have even failed to read section 17 of the Act. ASIO has no power to oppress the people in the way the KGB has. Under section 1 7 the powers of ASIO are limited to obtaining, correlating and evaluating of intelligence relevant to security, communicating that information to others and advising Ministers in relation to those activities. If we look at the old legislation we will see that all that happened under it was that the Organisation was established. There were in fact no limitations on what it might do. Now the limitations are set out quite clearly in the Act for all to see. I wonder where the limitations of the KGB are described. Certainly we need ASIO to warn us about the activities of terrorists and spiespeople who would destroy our way of life.
This Bill is quite remarkable. It lays down a chaner for a security service. I do not know of any other charter in the world for a security service. The legislation lays down fairly and squarely precisely what ASIO can do and it is there for all to see, including members of the Opposition. Clearly, in my view anyway, it is one of the great advances in legislation in this field. It endeavours to carry out the findings of Mr Justice Hope. We do know that prior to the introduction of this legislation the Executive introduced some of the requirements of Mr Justice Hope which could be put into effect other than by legislation. This legislation rounds off those recommendations. Let us look at some of the things that Mr Justice Hope spoke about. We should remember that he is a former president of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties. He did not denigrate in his report some of the former Directors-General of ASIO and their staff as has been done in this chamber today and previously. Certainly he was critical of what might be called bureaucratic ineptitudes. Certainly he was critical of growth without guidelines, but those problems are not related just to ASIO. I know some large organisations both private enterprise and government which suffer the same problems. It seems to me that some speakers have used quotations from Mr Justice Hope’s report simply to explain their own emotive viewpoints. Mr Justice Hope has recognised ‘that a balance between the rights of individual persons and the preservation of the security of Australia as a nation is no simple or easy thing to achieve ‘. That is contained in his fourth report. He has also rejected the view that some people had expressed to him that espionage is not a significant problem in Australia. He said:
Australia must not be so naive as to think that it has some exception from clandestine operations or that it need not take steps to protect itself against them.
He concluded by saying that this was substantiated by ‘a large amount of intelligence held by ASIO which cannot be made public’. Surely honourable senators opposite are not suggesting that Mr Justice Hope had not read or studied that evidence. In fact he went on to publish 10 selected cases involving 13 people in espionage and the expulsion of 161 people for espionage activities. Surely this is sufficient proof. It is all set out in the fourth report of Mr Justice Hope. Honourable senators who want to read more about that may do so. I suggest that some honourable senators opposite should acquaint themselves with these facts. Secrecy and the need to know are the two essential ingredients in effective security. Yet some speakers have argued for extension of the need to know well beyond anything which may be considered even elementarily necessary. They would have ASIO publish a report in Parliament. Why stop there? Why not publish it in the Times or some other newspaper?
During the Second World War the head of British intelligence was Sir William Stephenson. In a writing recently published he posed the ultimate question: Will the democracies consent to their own survival? In other words, will we protect ourselves or allow ourselves to be protected; or, in the course of guaranteeing our freedoms, will we destroy ourselves or allow ourselves to be destroyed? He wrote:
Will the democracies consent to their own survival? We failed to face that critical question prior to 1939. Not one of the democracies honestly confronted the obvious threat to its survival. They would not unite, rearm or consider sacrifices for individual or collective security. There were those that argued the sacrifices were not necessary.
Of course, we know that prior to 1939 members of the Australian Labor Party were among those who argued strongly along those lines. Sir William continued:
We are rightly repelled by secrecy:
It is interesting that the head of British intelligence said that we are rightly repelled by secrecy. He continued:
It is a potential threat to democratic principles and free government, yet we would delude ourselves if we should forget that secrecy was for a time virtually our only defence. It served not only to achieve victory, but also to save lives in that perilous pursuit.
The weapons of secrecy have no place in an ideal world. But we live in a world of undeclared hostilities in which such weapons are constantly used against us, and could unless countered, leave us again unprepared, this time for an onslaught of magnitude that staggers the imagination. And, while it may seem unnecessary to stress so obvious a point -
One wonders whether in this Senate today these words should be read over and over again- the weapons of secrecy are rendered ineffective if we remove secrecy. One of the conditions of democracy is freedom of information. It would be infinitely preferable to know how exactly our intelligence agencies function, and why and where, but this information, once made public disarms us. So there is the conundrum: How can we wield the weapons of secrecy without damage to ourselves? How can we preserve secrecy without endangering constitutional law and individual freedom?
I believe that those words sum up the question. This is the issue which Mr Justice Hope faced and which the Attorney-General faced when he drew up this legislation. I know that this is the issue which the Government back bench faced when it applied its collective mind to this legislation. This legislation is a fair and proper balance between the national interest and civil rights. It is a delicate balance. I refer again to what Bertrand Russell said. He was talking about the primary aims of government being security, justice and conservation. He said:
At the same time, no one of them is absolute; each may, in some circumstances, have to be sacrificed in some degree for the sake of a greater degree of some other good.
He went on to say:
To inhabitants of Western countries in the present day, a more interesting kind of security is security against attacks by hostile States. This is more interesting because it has not been secured, and because it becomes more important year by year as methods of warfare develop. This kind of security will only become possible when there is a single world government with a monopoly of all the major weapons of war. I shall not enlarge upon this subject … I will only say, with all possible emphasis, that unless and until mankind have achieved the security of a single government for the world, everything else of value, of no matter what kind, is precarious, and may at any moment be destroyed by war.
There has been much ill-informed comment on this legislation, both here and in the media. This is mainly because so many people seem to think that the Government is creating an active body. I say again that this is an information gathering body.
– But how is the information used? That is what we want to find out.
– The dissemination of that information to the proper sources, of course, is a vital factor to which apparently some members of the Opposition take objection. I cannot see how members of the Opposition could possibly be opposed to the dissemination of this information to the Prime Minister of Australia and the Leader of the Opposition. So long as ASIO does not act as a police force- it has no powers of arrest- I cannot see that the criticism which honourable senators opposite make of the Organisation is valid. Those who have studied the methods used by foreign agents might be concerned that the legislation is unnecessarily restrictive. However, the Director-General of Security believes that it will not limit the activities of intelligence gathering beyond what he believes to be fair and reasonable. I accept his assurances and the assurances of the AttorneyGeneral in this regard. The legislation is designed to be bipartisan. It will affect only the extremists on both sides.
The Opposition has proposed a number of amendments, including a requirement that the Organisation present an annual report to Parliament. I have indicated already that I cannot see any future at all in that proposition. I have referred already to the need for secrecy counterbalancing the need to preserve our freedom. The disclosure of such activities would destroy our security. Any simple information supplied to a foreign agent must be of value to him. I saw the amendment which proposes some judicial audit. I will be interested to hear in the Committee stage what the Opposition proposes in relation to that. I would have thought that if an audit were to be carried out properly the only way would be to audit every act of the Director-General. That would mean that the auditor would follow along, day by day, checking the activities of the Director-General, and we would end up with some form of conjoint management. Everyone appreciates that an auditor should check, and usually does check, every item of money going into and out of an account. That is the way a proper audit is carried out. I take it that the judicial audit which the Opposition proposes would involve a judge, who would conduct the audit, examining in every way the activities of the Director-General.
What is needed here is trust, not suspicion. We need to appoint directors-general who are fairminded and sound. The people of Australia need to be able to trust their Attorney-General and their Director-General of Security. The fact that the Leader of the Opposition will be consulted in the appointment of any future Director-General of Security will be some aid to this result. I do not say that the appointment inevitably will be the result of such a consultation, but it certainly will be aided by it. One clause of the Opposition’s amendment refers to financial accountability. Those of us who checked on this matter have discovered that proper financial accountability has been a fact of life for ASIO since 1 949 when the then Prime Minister, Mr Chifley, in consultation with his Treasurer and other Ministers, agreed to an arrangement whereby the expenditure was checked by the Auditor-General except in some sensitive areas where the Director-General was able to certify as to the expenditure. We are unable to devise a better system than that for these particularly sensitive matters.
One completely new aspect of this legislation, which seems to have struck some emotive response from Opposition senators, is clause 90 which deals with the identification of ASIO officers other than the Director-General. Some honourable senators opposite have proposed that all officers should be identified. In fact, one honourable senator this afternoon obviously endeavoured to do that in some way or other. I do not know whether he was identifying officers of
ASIO or not but he certainly believed that that was what he was doing. There is not the slightest doubt that the release of such information would endanger these officers and their families and would put ASIO in a situation in which it would be very difficult for it to continue to act. We are talking about identifying officers but we could go further and talk about the identification of agents. No doubt some Opposition senators would want us to identify agents. There would not be the slightest doubt that their lives and the lives of their families would be endangered if in any way it became possible for them to be identified. Public identification of officers of ASIO undoubtedly creates the opportunity for the agents of ASIO to be identified by contact through those officers. Other Opposition amendments will be considered at the Committee stage. Some of them are interesting. I believe that some of them would simply carry on the current activities of the present Director-General. It may very well be that amendments, if they were properly drawn, could be acceptable to the Government.
This Bill in my view is a model Bill. It defines and limits the activities in which ASIO may engage. In relation to the invasion of civil liberties it requires warrants. It restricts security checks to those who have access to or who need to know the information and to those employed in sensitive areas. There is nothing in this Bill, in my view, which the people of Australia need fear. On the other hand, it will cause concern to those who would attempt to overthrow us and our way of life by revolution. There is not the slightest doubt that it will cause concern to those who would attempt to overthrow us in a violent manner. Unfortunately there are some people in Australia who take the approach that the sooner they can overthrow the Government of Australia as presently constituted- I do not mean as a political party- the better. That is an unfortunate fact of life but one of which we must be aware. Until a better day exists then, clearly, what is needed is information on the activities of these people. Certainly safeguards are needed to prevent the abuse of our ASIO body.
I do not deny that in other countries intelligence organisations have been used by their officers in a worse than unfortunate manner. Clearly we must prevent such abuse taking place in Australia. I believe that this Bill is a massive step forward in the prevention of any such abuse. As in all enterprises, however, the most important thing will be the character and the wisdom of the people to whom the powers are entrusted. That will be the decisive factor. In the integrity of their guardianship lies the hope of the free people of this country to endure and to prevail. The Bill sets out to achieve those aims. I believe that under the present Director-General the guardianship of the organisation is in good hands and deservedly has the confidence of the people of Australia. I support the Bill.
– I support the amendment moved by the Opposition to the motion for the second reading of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill. I think that the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted. I did not intend to make any comments about the speech made by Senator Lewis because I am the last speaker in what has been a very long debate. However, he talked about people in Australia who are trying to overthrow the Government by violent revolution. If that is the case we must have a very poor intelligence organisation because I cannot recall the last time anybody was arrested in this country for trying to overthrow the Government by violent revolution.
I wish to make a number of points concerning the legislation before us. I think the first and most obvious objection is the context in which the legislation has been introduced. This Bill has the most wide-sweeping ramification for civil liberties of any legislation introduced into this Parliament since the previous Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill was introduced by the Menzies Government in 1956. The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) said in his second reading speech:
The legislative reforms are so fundamental and wide ranging that a completely new Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill rather than an amendment to the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act 19S6 has been drafted.
One would think therefore that legislation as important as this, with so many consequences for the quality and type of intelligence that governments must receive and of such widespread consequence for individual rights, would warrant lengthy and considerable public debate. Instead the Government has gone out of its way to limit public debate. Even parliamentary discussion and assessment has been limited to less than one would expect on such an important Bill as this. Although the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced on 27 October 1977 that legislation concerning ASIO would be introduced in order to implement the recommendations of the Hope Royal Commission, little was said about the matter.
The legislation was drafted in virtual secrecy. Government leaders did not consult with Opposition leaders on the content of the Bill. This is particularly ironic because the legislation will make it legally binding on the Prime Minister to consult with the Leader of the Opposition on future appointments of ASIO directors-general. Yet, there has been absolutely no consultation with the Opposition on the contents of this Bill despite the conciliatory remarks made by the Attorney-General about bipartisanship in this debate.
I would like to make a few observations about the Government’s approach to this legislation in terms of allowing public debate. The Government has introduced amendments to the Customs Act concerning narcotics and the powers of customs officials to intercept telecommunications. This coincides with this ASIO legislation which also contains some reference to narcotics. Surely this has added to public confusion on the matter and presents critics of the legislation with a scattered target to aim at.
Copies of the Attorney-General’s second reading speech were unavailable until minutes before it was delivered. This was wrong, considering the importance of this legislation. Once the speech was delivered it became the news and any comments or criticisms from the Opposition took a back seat. This is not terribly important in itself but honourable senators will realise that there has been limited public airing of the issues concerned in this legislation. Another example to which I would like to refer- this perhaps is only a coincidence- is the fact that at the Australian Government Publishing Service bookshop in Sydney it was impossible to get copies of this Bill. Many honourable senators would be surprised at the number of people who went to the AGPS bookshop in Sydney. Obviously there was tremendous interest and people were trying to get copies of this Bill but in fact they were not available for scrutiny.
I have had representations from a number of civil rights groups and individual citizens concerned about aspects of the legislation. Many of them feel that the Government is rushing through this legislation without giving time for public scrutiny. There has been no time for concerned organisations to prepare position papers or to raise objections to any particular aspect of the Bill that may concern them. I would not have thought that such matters were very important, nor would I normally raise these objections, but these Bills are so important that the Government should have been prepared to make provision for consultation with the Opposition and also to allow sufficient time for public debate.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) I seek leave to make a statement relating to the current industrial disputation and to move a motion to take note of the statement.
– I seek leave to incorporate the statement in Hansard.
Leave not granted.
– Since this Government was elected in December 1975 all its efforts have been directed towards improving the industrial relations climate in Australia. These efforts have resulted in a dramatic reduction in the levels of industrial disruption compared with those of the Labor Government. However, the very worrying and disruptive developments in recent weeks in industrial relations have required, and received, careful consideration by the Government. Specific decisions have been taken in response to them.
In relation to areas of employment where the Commonwealth has appropriate legal powers relating to terms and conditions of employment, within the full limits of those powers a firm policy has been adopted. In circumstances where wage claims and claims in regard to terms and conditions are being pressed via work bans, limitations and other disruptive industrial action, Government policy provides for. (a) no work as directed, no pay; (b) stand downs; and (c) applications for stand down and/or suspension clauses to be inserted in awards where they do not presently exist. The Federal Government will be advising employers to adopt a similar approach.
This goes to the heart of the problem; that is, unions taking industrial action of one kind or another prior to or during a hearing of their claims by the responsible tribunal. There is no need for such action. Proper procedures are always available and it is both unreasonable and irresponsible for any union to behave in this way. It leads to unnecessary loss of income for the people engaged in this action, loss of production, export earnings or contracts, disruption to trade, concern for business profitability and, hence loss of job opportunities and community inconvenience. No one wins; everyone loses. Campaigns of industrial disruption which attempt to intimidate employers, the Government, the public and those with the responsibility to administer industrial relations institutions are an affront to the community. They will be resisted by the Government with all the powers it can bring to bear to make all parties work within the established system for settling differences in industrial relations.
The Government will be submitting to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that the Commission recommend or direct return to work or cessation of bans in these circumstances, and will be advising employers to do the same. Furthermore, it will be submitting to the Commission that it not proceed to hear the unions ‘ arguments while direct industrial action is continuing or order a secret ballot to determine union members’ attitudes to the industrial action being pursued where that is considered appropriate. The Government will encourage State governments involved or affected, other employer interests affected and other unions whose members may be affected by the industrial action to lend their support to return to normal work.
The Government reiterates in the strongest terms its expectations that employers will subscribe to a policy of wage restraint and should not give in to industrial pressure. It will also examine possible action against employers who concede to industrial pressure and expose other employers to similar action. It must be demonstrated to the unions that their cause will not be advanced by industrial disruption. As already announced in the case of the Transport Workers Union, the Government will consider applying for the deregistration of a union engaged in action which interferes with interstate or overseas trade and commerce or the provision of the public service by the Commonwealth or the State. Employers affected can, of course, take a similar approach.
In relation to the TWU, reports in this morning’s press that the Government has halted proceedings relating to the deregistration of the transport workers union are false. Action which had already been started to prepare all the documentation necessary for filing of an application for deregistration is continuing. It will be completed. On completion of the documentation, and if all strikes, bans and limitations have ceased and there is no further threat of such action, the Government will consider whether to go ahead with filing the application. Should further industrial action take place or be proposed, the application will be filed immediately.
There is also a major industrial dispute in the paint industry, which involves the Miscellaneous Workers Union. This threatens thousands of workers with stand downs. The Government has informed the paint companies that it expects them to continue to resist wage and other claims outside the indexation guidelines. Should a settlement be made outside the guidelines, the Government will instruct the Prices Justification Tribunal to institute an immediate inquiry into the industry. However, the Government will fully back the present resolve of the paint manufacturing industry to oppose the wage claims. It will ensure that this industry and other industries and their employees are not placed in jeopardy by any continuation of the dispute. Accordingly, consideration will be given to the importation of paint free of duty under by-law in order to make up any shortfall in production.
As is apparent from this statement, the Government is prepared to use a range of measures to deal with industrial disruption according to the circumstances. The effects on the community are becoming so serious and widespread that no responsible government can ignore them and we do not intend to do so. I present the following paper:
Current Industrial Disputation- Ministerial Statement, 3 April 1979 and move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
-The shot fired by the Government tonight is, of course, a shot in the Victorian election campaign. It has no other purpose. It has no relevance to industrial relations. It is a desperate attempt to get a desperate Premier- the Premier of Victoria- off the hook. The evidence of that is contained in the statement of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). I have never seen such a sloppy statement about industrial relations. I have seen a lot of sloppy statements about industrial relations since this Government came to power, but this is by far the worst.
– You have written a lot of them.
-We will hear from Senator Missen in a moment. He knows all about this matter. I shall refer to some of the particulars of the statement which I have described as sloppy because I do not want Senator Missen to go away with any greater degree of ignorance than he has now. As I have said, the predominant purpose of the statement is to fire a shot in the Victorian election campaign.
Let us look at some of the particulars of the statement itself. It is said in the first paragraph that the improved or dramatic reduction in the level of industrial disputes has been a result of this Government’s industrial relations policy. It is quite true that there has been a reduction in the level of disputes. It is not a result of the Government ‘s industrial relations policy; it is a result of the Government’s employment policy, which has had a significant and very important impact on the level of industrial disputes. The increase in the level of unemployment which has accompanied the employment policy of this Government has, of course, placed a great degree of in terrorem pressure on the normal industrial relations system of this country. To claim that as an effort of the industrial relations initiative of this Government is quite ridiculous.
Let us look at some of the specific measures introduced by the Government when talking tough, as it is again doing in the industrial relations area. It always talks tough when there is an election about. Hardly any of the industrial relations legislation which has been introduced into this Parliament by the Fraser Government has been used. It has all been introduced into the Senate in an atmosphere of high drama because of some industrial dispute which has always in reality been solved by the intervention of Bob Hawke and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. In the context of this statement the Government is properly concerned that its industrial relations policy is in fact being run by the ACTU. That is where Mr Hawke comes into the Transport Workers Union dispute.
Let us look at some of the specifics of the statement. This is an indication of the tough action that will be taken. The Government’s policy, as set out in the statement, provides ‘no work as directed, no pay’. That is the Government’s policy, and it is very interesting to hear it after all these years. Secondly, the policy provides for stand downs. Thirdly, it provides for applications for stand down and /or suspension clauses to be inserted in awards where they do not presently exist. If I might say so, that exhibits the extraordinary legal confusion in the minds of whoever drew up this statement for the Government, because the statement ‘No work as directed; no pay’ in fact means the suspension of employment. That is all it can mean. Later on in the third arm of the ‘tough’ statement, there is the suggestion that the Government will move for stand down and/or suspension clauses to be inserted in awards where they do not exist. Of course that is the traditional procedure which has been adopted by the industrial relations system in this country for a very long time. Before stand down clauses are inserted in awards, there are procedures which take place in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to determine whether it is appropriate for a stand down to take place. Certain criteria have been developed by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in this regard.
At present there is no right in the arbitration system of this country for employees to be suspended. There is no right at common law for employees to be suspended. There is a very proper reason for that. It is because suspension of employment means placing an employee in limbo insofar as his livelihood is concerned. It is for that reason that the system of suspension of employment has not been allowed, has never been allowed, by the authorities in this country. For such a provision to be included in this statement as an arm of government policy is really quite extraordinary and one would ask how the Government intends to implement it. Does the Government intend to go to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and say to that body: Look, for the first time in your life, we are asking you to put what we call suspension clauses in awards’? For the first time, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will be asked to do this, presumably by the Minister for Industrial Relations, Tony Street, or by the Attorney-General, Senator Durack, or somebody like that. What an extraordinary provision that would be, Mr President, if somebody in this Senate were suspended without pay for a particular activity, or, in Senator Missen ‘s case, more particularly an inactivity. It would be regarded as reprehensible and of course that would be normal in the employment situation in Australia.
Of course it is wrong to suspend people without pay, without any defined rights whatsoever. Is it seriously suggested by the Minister that this Government will go to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and ask it to indulge in that sort of thing? This is part of the rubbish, the absolute rubbish, which is inherent in this statement. It is quite clearly there. The statement has been thrown together at short notice for the purpose of the forthcoming Victorian election. Malcolm Fraser is stunting again in order to get his friend, Dick Hamer, off the hook and in order that his friend, Dick Hamer, might in turn get him off the hook when his particular problem arises and when he has to go to an election. That is the problem and that is the purpose of this statement. When one looks at some of the specific detail in the statement one can see the sort of rubbish in which the Minister is engaged.
For years in this place we have had this beefy sort of rhetoric about lost production and concerns of the public and so on. Nobody likes the consequences of industrial action but let us get the matter in perspective just a little. I want to put to the Senate a passage from an article by Professor Clifford Donn of Macquarie University. An extract from this article was published in the Australian newspaper in February 1977. At that stage Mr Hamer, the Premier of Victoria, whom we in the Senate are now desperate to get off the hook, was asked what he thought about the contents of this article. Mr Hamer said that he thought that the article was very sound, that there was a lot to be said for the views of Professor Donn about industrial relations and that there was a lot of exaggeration in Australia about the consequences of strikes and industrial stoppages. That was Mr Hamer’s view in 1977. Just listen to what Professor Donn had to say in that article which was discussed in the Melbourne Herald of 14 February 1977 and upon which the Premier of Victoria gave his views. Professor Donn said this:
It is probably safe to conclude that Australia is among a group of the most strike-prone Western countries. That group includes Britain, Canada, Finland, Ireland, Italy and the USA. More specific statements about Australia’s strike rating cannot be justified on the basis of existing data.
In the area of costs, the ILO data vastly exaggerates Australia’s strike losses in the strike-prone industries of mining, manufacturing, construction and transport. A more valid measure of the overall economic impact of strikes would include all employees in all of our industries. When this measure is used the ILO figure of 1,390 strike days per 1 ,000 employees is cut by roughly half. If we compare this with the average work year, we can show that approximately one-third of one per cent of all potential worktimes was lost because of industrial disputation in 1975. Thus, less time is lost through strikes than through industrial accidents, a single national holiday, or the common cold. Even this onethird of one per cent of work-time lost exaggerates the economic cost of strikes to society. Lost production is often made up out of overtime or out of inventories maintained for such purposes. Competitors may fill the gap. Often, production doesn’t even slow down during a dispute. On occasion, strikes may be precipitated at times of slack economic activity when output is unwanted by the employer; i.e. strikes may substitute for temporary retrenchments. It is sometimes claimed that the economic damage done by strikes is greater than the raw numbers indicate because the losses are disproportionately concentrated in a few industries. However, the other side of this proposition is that there are very large sectors of the economy which are rarely, if ever touched by strike activity . . .
Australia is not peculiarly strike-prone. Strikes are not a great economic burden and are not a major drag on productivity when management is competent and creative. Finally, the strike often remains the only effective way for employees to resist the unilateral will of employers. Thus, the right to strike constitutes a fundamental freedom in a democratic society.
That is the statement to which Mr Hamer gave his almost unqualified approval in February 1977. Of course what we are concerned about here is what I would call the pre-election werewolf sort of atmosphere which possesses this Government. As the moon goes down on another Liberal government, the dogs begin to howl this sort of jargon which we heard in the Minister’s statement and of which I will give honourable senators another classic example. That classic example is what happened in October 1977 when honourable senators on the other side of the House were seeking justification for holding an election a year earlier than their Government ought to have held one. At that time the justification was supplied by the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony. His words were these:
Sooner or later the Government has to face up to this issue and go to the Australian people and say: ‘We are prepared to govern with courage and a sense of responsibility, but you have got to back us’.
The Government could not stand up to the unions knowing that it only had ‘six months life left in a parliament’.
We’ve got to know that we’re going to stand up there, be firm, and know that we have a period of two or three years in front of us to try and get this country under control.
That was an interesting statement made in October 1977 by Mr Anthony. It makes this statement made tonight look ridiculous because in October 1977, Mr Anthony was suggesting in this Parliament that what the Government needed was an early election so that it could get the unions under control and this sort of problem would never arise again. But of course it has arisen again because Mr Hamer has a problem in Victoria.
I have referred to some of the specifics in this statement. I have referred to the ridiculous section about the causes of an improved level of disputation. I have referred to some of the legal concepts in this statement which are just ridiculous. I have referred to the old rhetoric about the need to conduct secret ballots in strikes, a matter which has been debated in the Senate on numerous occasions before. I wish now to refer briefly to the two specific areas of disputation which are referred to in the statement:
The statement deals with the Transport Workers Union dispute. Undoubtedly, it is a dispute which inconveniences many people in the community. I suppose that it has inconvenienced many honourable senators in the last few days. But this dispute is about a wage issue. Seventy thousand transport workers throughout Australia have received a wage increase of $8 and 30,000 members engaged in the same industry have not. If Government senators have not learnt after three years in government that they cannot handle a dispute on this basis and deny to some what has been given to others in a situation in which traditional relativities are important, and if they have not learnt that such disputes have to be settled by negotiation rather than by the threat of deregistration, then they have learnt nothing.
I think it is important to refer to the context of this matter. What does the Government hope to achieve by its threat to deregister the Transport Workers Union? Quite clearly, the statement which was brought down tonight hopes to achieve this result: If the transport workers when they meet throughout Australia tomorrow decide to go back to work, the Government will be able to say: ‘We frightened them into going back to work. We settled this dispute’. All Government senators will be able to say that tomorrow if the transport workers decide to go back to work. They should all feel beaut because if that happens it will be the first time in the history of the Fraser Government that they have been able to claim that they have done something towards settling an industrial dispute instead of provoking one. There is the possibility of that happening tomorrow because of this statement. Government senators will say: ‘The transport workers have decided to go back to work. It was our good work in the Senate. We frightened hell out of them’. That is one thing which Government senators might be able to say. That is why the statement has been brought down.
The alternative is that the transport workers will not go back to work. Government senators will then be able to say: ‘We toughed it out. We went ahead and deregistered them’. Government senators ought to think very seriously about the consequences of that action. I would bet them any money they like that ultimately the Transport Workers Union will not be deregistered. This statement is another piece of huffing and puffing from the Government. If the Union is deregistered the Government will have more disputes on its hands than it could possibly imagine. It will have to put down one of these statements every day until the Victorian election.
– We might.
– Of course the Government might. That is the cynical way in which it uses the industrial relations system of this country- not as an area of creative policy making and thinking, but as a purely cynical exercise in trying to gain political advantage. That is all industrial relations means to the Government. That is all that this Government’s industrial relations policy has ever amounted to. It has done nothing in 3lA years to introduce legislation directed to solving industrial disputes in this country. We have seen nothing but empty rhetoric. That is a problem about which the Government ought to be very concerned. Government senators ought to think very seriously as ‘legislators’ about the consequences of this sort of action. It is typical of the whole tone of this statement.
This statement slides from the sublime to the ridiculous in the really tough suggestion that if the paint manufacturing industry does not stand up to the painters the Government will ensure that the industry is fixed up. It will allow the importation of paint free of duty under by-law in order to make up any shortfall in production. That is the most unique and coloured suggestion that has been made in this statement. To continue the analogy, Government senators are painting themselves into a corner by that suggestion. They should think through the consequences of such an action. On all sorts of occasions and in relation to all sorts of industries Government senators would have to say: ‘There will be no more trouble in that industry because we will bring all the stuff in from Taiwan without any duty. We will fix you right up.’ I invite Government senators to see how they would get on with the development of that line of industrial relations policy in the next 12 months. It would be edifying indeed to see the development of that policy by this Government.
Through this statement the Government is saying to the trade unions: ‘You blokes have to go to arbitration. We in the Liberal Party are great believers in the arbitration system. The employers do not have to go to arbitration. We will deal with them in another way. The arbitration system is deficient for employers. We will use import duties to threaten employers but we will threaten you with the arbitration system. The problem is that the Government has never really thought through what is involved in the arbitration system and how it works. It is an exercise which I commend to the Government. If it is to work it must be seen to work with fairness and equity to both sides. The Government cannot go outside the system for one section and operate inside the system for the other sections. That problem is inherent in this statement. It has not been considered by the Government.
One cannot reiterate points sufficiently for Government senators in the interests of this country. I am not speaking in the interests of the Liberal Party for which Government senators use industrial relations in a cynical way. I am concerned about the interests of this country. Government senators should start to cerebrate about the possibility of doing that themselves. I condemn this statement as one of a long line of totally cynical exercises which is provoked again by the moon going down or the blood alcohol going up. Such exercises are always carried out by this Government at the time of a State election or when it has some other problem in respect of which it wants to get off the hook. It will not work. This is a transparently cynical, sloppy and ignorant statement which the Minister has brought down. I very much regret it.
Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– The motion before the Senate is:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
The Opposition has had a chance to read the statement made by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) and to listen to Senator Button’s comments on it. My view is that such an outrageous statement is a highwayman’s statement, the debate on which ought not to be postponed until the next day of sitting. The debate on the statement should continue at a later stage today. For that reason I am speaking about the motion. As I have said, this statement is outrageous. Senator Button indicated that what is proposed will not work. Nevertheless, it will cause a considerable amount of discontent in the community. This shows the Government’s extraordinary approach to industrial relations.
I speak on behalf of the Miscellaneous Workers Union. I am concerned with the section of the statement which deals with that Union.
– Are you speaking to the motion?
– I am speaking to the motion. I am making the point that the statement must cause considerable concern, if not for supporters of the Government, for members of the Opposition. We need to debate this statement promptly. The Government has sought to adjourn the debate. Senator Button did not endeavour to seek leave to continue his remarks later, because he felt that other honourable senators would like to make some comments on the statement. It may have been possible for some Government senators to express their point of view on the statement and at least to expose the Government. The only word that comes to my mind to describe this statement is ‘abhorrent’. If Government senators endeavour to support it they will put themselves in what I consider to be an abhorrent position. The sooner we debate the statement, the better. The sooner Government senators start to support statements of this sort and try to justify or rationalise them, the better. The sooner we have a debate in this place, the better. The sooner honourable senators on this side of the chamber have something to say on this sort of statement, the better. My view of it is -
– Quite so. Truer words were never said.
-Let us take a look at the statement. Even Senator Missen would pull away from this statement because he knows that it will lead to continual industrial unrest.
– Do you mean that the unions will not abide by it?
– Let us consider a recent dispute which took place.
– Order! Senator Georges, you must confine your remarks to the motion now before the chamber, which is that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. That is the motion before the Senate to which you should be speaking.
-Mr President, I am endeavouring to impress upon the Senate the importance of the statement and, for that reason, the need to debate it, not tomorrow, but today. For that reason I must support what I am saying with references, especially when I am interrupted by interjections from Senator Walters. I was about to remind the honourable senator of the air traffic officers recent dispute, which was suddenly solved, and of the arbitrator’s comments on the attitude taken by the Public Service Board. An outrageous, obstructive and completely non-understanding attitude of the Public Service Board led to a dispute which was entirely unnecessary and which forced these men to take industrial action.
The statement which has been put down tonight will drive men to take further industrial action. It will not solve what it seeks to solve. The Government is exposing its position and its attitude. My view is that the Government’s attitude should be fully exposed. The arguments should be thrust back at honourable senators opposite because this is not the way to solve industrial disputation.
What we would do if we had the opportunity to debate this matter at a later time this day or, for that matter, at the present time would be possibly to expose the Government’s deliberate provocation of the workers of this country to serve its own political ends. The Government is trying to confuse the electorate and to shove the blame for its economic mismangement upon the workers of this country. That is exactly what the Government, the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) are doing. I would have thought that honourable senators would not descend to using the same tactic. For that reason I oppose the motion that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. What I propose by opposing this motion is to bring the matter back on for debate at this very time.
If we, as a Senate, oppose this motion- I would expect that certain honourable senators on the Government side would accept this argument- we can proceed with this very important debate. Unless we resolve matters of this kind in the Senate and give some sort of guide and direction to the Government, we are in for a long line of disputes in which the workers will be placed at a disadvantage by some foolish action of this Government- a position in which they should not be placed.
– What would you do?
– I would change the economic direction of this Government. I would look at the distinct and realisable possibility of putting a considerable number of the 500,000 unemployed people back to work. I would not seek to do what this statement seeks to do; that is, suspend another 100,000 workers. I would not seek to destroy the workers and the companies of this country with a threat to import cheap commodities and cheap products produced with cheap labour overseas. If the Government destroys their conditions, it will destroy the conditions of us all. But that is not an understanding that honourable senators opposite have. The sooner we debate the statement, the better. At some time some understanding and enlightenment may be shown by honourable senators opposite in their party rooms in order to change the direction of this Government. For that reason I oppose the motion that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. If we, as a Senate, oppose the motion, we can continue this very important debate on the most outrageous statement which the Attorney-General has presented.
Motion (by Senator Peter Baume) put:
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the motion (Senator Durack’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner and before I was rudely interrupted, I was talking about the lack of consultation with the Opposition on these Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bills. Although I know that we cannot discuss the statement that has just been put down I point out that it is another example of the lack of consultation that has been occurring between the Government and the Opposition. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) pointed out that the Hope Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security was established by the Whitlam Labor Party Government. Mr Justice Hope is to be commended on presenting a comprehensive and detailed report. However, the final decisions about ASIO’s structure, its function and powers, are political and Parliament must take the final responsibility. The Government cannot wash its hands of responsibility for this legislation by saying that it is exactly the same, or very nearly the same, as the recommendations that were made by the Royal Commission. The Opposition will not simply pass the legislation because the concept of a royal commission was sponsored by both major parties. The responsibility for legislation is still with this Parliament. That is the reason why the Opposition has sponsored a number of amendments to the Bill in a constructive spirit and in the hope that the amendments will be accepted and that improvements will be made. I must say that I was encouraged by some of the comments that were made by Senator Lewis prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner when he said that he thought that there would be some agreement between the Government and ourselves on some of the amendments that had been moved.
Some of the reforms recommended by Mr Justice Hope, including many of those already implemented by the Government, apparently have been successful. For example, the establishment of the Office of National Assessments is a case in point. I think that its intelligence collection and reporting, especially regarding the recent Sino- Vietnamese conflict, is consistently accurate and timely. A number of honourable senators on this side of the Senate, who are members of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence found the reporting from the Office of National Assessments to be very good, to be a no-nonsense type of reporting and better than some of the stuff that we have had in the past. The general administrative improvements in training and recruitment of staff since the appointment of Mr Justice
Woodward have also been welcome developments. I believe that the redefinition of the relationship between ASIO, other intelligence services and the Commonwealth police and Customs, will also prove to be beneficial.
The establishing of a Director-General with more clearly defined statutory responsibilities and powers is also an improvement. However, it stops short of what I believe to be necessary; that is, that the Director-General should be obliged to provide the responsible Minister, on request, with any information that is relevant to his or her portfolio. Under the proposed legislation the final decision as to what information will be disclosed and what will be withheld is to be left to the discretion of the Director-General.
There are basic reasons why the Minister should have full access to this information automatically rather on the fiat of the DirectorGeneral. Surely it is a basic principle of responsible government that the Minister be accountable to Parliament and, through it, to the people. If the Minister cannot be trusted with the information without its having been vetted by an official, we are in fact denying one of the basic tenets of parliamentary democracy. I am not saying that the Attorney-General should be able to look at all the contents of the files that he might be able to get from the Director-General but the important point is that he must have access to those files and, in fact, must know whether they exist.
Another important point, about which I am sure most honourable senators have received representations and complaints from constituents, concerns the whole issue of telecommunications interception or telephone tapping. I know a great number of people are concerned about loss of privacy and the development of this Big Brother type of bureaucracy. It is obvious when one looks at the society in which we live today that, inevitably, telephone taps will be undertaken by security organisations. Most of the communication between people today is by telephone. I believe that in certain circumstances ASIO should have these powers but they should be used in emergency situations only. Also, provision should be made whereby ASIO will be accountable. Under this legislation the AttorneyGeneral is responsible for issuing warrants, but in emergency situations the Director-General can issue them. This seems to me to be a very dangerous provision. If the Attorney-General refused to issue a warrant and the DirectorGeneral decided that an emergency existed he could than allow the telephone to be tapped anyway.
I do not know how many telephone conversations ASIO would intercept, but my guess is that it would certainly be a lot more than need be intercepted. I am also worried that, if these matters tended to become procedural, senior officials could simply tend to sign warrants without first undertaking a serious review. That would concern me greatly. That is one reason why all warrants should be subject to judicial authorisation. That should be so, even though the AttorneyGeneral and the Director-General might act with absolute prudence on every occasion. This section of the Bill could compromise the AttorneyGeneral at the best of times and, at worst, could allow ASIO’s powers to be dangerously abused. It is usual in cases involving criminal detection for police to be required to obtain a warrant from a magistrate in order to conduct a search. The same proviso could and should apply to the operations of ASIO. No warrant should be issued for telephone interception other than at the discretion of a court.
Another point about which I have always been concerned- it is one that I have raised previously in the Parliament- concerns the financial and general accountability of ASIO. Another improvement that has derived from the report of the Hope Commission is that ASIO is to be subject to some external discipline by the intelligence and security committee of Cabinet. However, ASIO receives a considerable appropriation and is virtually immune to the financial scrutiny to which government departments are subject. No Estimates Committees examine ASIO’s accounts, but surely some rudimentary estimates of the amount spent by ASIO could be provided for scrutiny. Even if we merely looked at a number of headings, with a rudimentary breakdown of the amounts spent on, for instance, administration, operations or transport, and these were reviewed from year to year, we would at least see whether in a particular section there had been an increase in the amount spent.
The best way to develop a similar scrutiny in respect of ASIO would be by conducting a confidential joint party review. I believe that Senator Missen referred to that and spoke of the situation that exists in the United States. If that is not possible- I am prepared to acknowledge that the Government might not be prepared to agree to it- at the very least ASIO should have to face a complete judicial audit and review, which would then be the subject of a detailed report to the Parliament.
I have already said that I would prefer the establishment of a joint party committee of review along the lines currently employed in the United
States. This is because I believe that any review of an intelligence service’s expenditure and activities must be comprehensive and should be such as to keep the organisation continually in check. If it is not kept in check, it will be the intelligence community and the public that will be the losers. We have only to look at the example provided by the Central Intelligence Agency in the United States. After revelations were made concerning it there was certainly a lack of public support for it. I understand that this has been followed by a loss of morale in the CIA itself. One has only to look at the standard of United States intelligence on a world-wide basis, and in particular at what has happened in Iran, to become very worried about it. I refer to the fact that the United States was receiving poor reports, or none at all, on what was happening on the oil fields and among the oil workers in Iran. That concerns me greatly.
It is possible, even probable, that large amounts of ASIO funds have been spent upon essentially wasteful investigations- for example, spying on many of the small groups of university extremists, such as some of the Trotskyist organisations which, despite all of their rhetoric, are harmless in terms of security. How much money has been wasted on this type of investigation? I do not think there has been any need for the sort of monitoring that has taken place of the activities of these small groups in the universities. It has been a waste of ASIO funds. I think it was Senator Mulvihill who said earlier that all we seem to get from the fringe groups of the far Left is much rhetoric, many pamphlets and, at the most, perhaps a few broken windows, but that it is the far Right that has been making the bombs.
– Apparently the honourable senator doubts that that is so. Who has been making the bombs? Who were the people who were recently apprehended in New South Wales with plans to blow up Sydney’s water supply or the Elizabethean Theatre? They were not some Trotskyist group or fringe group of the Left. I think that the honourable senator would agree that they were organisations of the Right. A judicial audit and review would be a more open way of assessing value for money spent and also of ensuring that ASIO was following its charter.
Another important aspect of the Bill in its present form is that it acknowledges the right of appeal of persons who have had an adverse security report. However, this section is virtually useless since any person who is adversely affected by a security report will not be able to know exactly what has been reported about him. It will therefore be impossible for him or her to prepare any real defence. Surely this will negate whatever value this reform may have had. In fact, it makes the whole procedure of appeal a farce, reducing it to a ludicrous Catch-22 situation. It could be said that since one is a security risk already, one cannot be allowed to see evidence that has led to one being considered to be a security risk in the first place. Indeed, it would be funny if it were not for the fact that people’s careers, rights to citizenship and even basic human rights are being threatened by this sort of idiocy. It reminds me of the closed courts of totalitarian regimes, which this Government so rightly condemns. Totalitarian regimes of both the Left and the Right justify such courts on the grounds of national security. That is why I would not support such a Bill unless a right of appeal were allowed whereby any person who was accused of being a security threat would have a normal right of appeal during which he or his advocates could hear the claims that were being made against him.
The most obvious priority for ASIO is counterespionage, but this aspect of its functions will not be assisted unless ASIO is directed to pay greater attention to the activities of foreign intelligence services. I have mentioned on previous occasions my concern about the activities of foreign intelligence agencies in Australia. I mentioned that American Congressmen who had served on intelligence committees had told me of their experiences concerning CIA activities in foreign countries, including the successful infiltration of other intelligence agencies, even those of allies. That certainly could include Australia. Steps must be taken to ensure that such penetration is made as difficult as possible. In that regard, I recall spending some few hours with Congressman Otis Pike in the United States. He was able to tell me of some quite horrific situations that he and his colleagues had been able to uncover in the course of conducting an inquiry into the intelligence services of that country.
Another important area that ASIO must be concerned with is the activity or potential activity of terrorist organisations. Australia’s only experience in recent times with terrorism has been with the Ustashi and Ananda Marga or whoever it was that perpetrated the Hilton Hotel bombing. And was not that a disgraceful situation? Has anybody been arrested over the Hilton Hotel bombing? There has been a great silence on that. One of the things that I raised during a hearing of an Estimates committee was that after that bombing the Government made funds available to shopkeepers or those people who had lost business because of the closing of the Hilton Arcade and a small fund was set up to provide for the education of children of the parents who were killed in an explosion. Of course it was not nearly enough. This is the sort of priority that was set. If it had not been for the Municipal and Shire Council Employees Union, the union that represented those people who were killed and which raised $90,000 through an appeal in Sydney, the families of the people who were the subject of that bombing outrage would be in a much more difficult situation today.
I have already mentioned that there is reason to believe that there has been wastage and political bias in intelligence gathering- the most obvious example being the continuous allegation of ASIO activity in the trade union movement and the revelation during the Salisbury Royal Commission in South Australia that ASIO had actually provided money and manpower to the South Australian Special Branch to spy on members of the trade union movement and the Australian Labor Party, none of whom could by any reasonable standard be considered security risks. A repetition of these sorts of wastage, incompetence or bias cannot be prevented altogether but it can be reduced if there is responsibility to a judicial body for the issue of all warrants, a review of the expenditure and activities of the organisation and an annual reporting to Parliament. This at least provides a method of ongoing criticism by the Parliament even when the Opposition could know only the broad outlines of the activities of ASIO for the year. I will conclude by saying that we of the Opposition recognise the need for an efficient intelligence organisation. However, we are far from happy with the Government’s reluctance to encourage public debate and we do not believe that key sections of the legislation before us take the forms of ASIO far enough. I hope that the Government has looked at the amendments that have been moved by the Opposition and will at least be prepared to go along with a majority of them.
– This has been a long, interesting and, I believe, a very significant debate on the motion that the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill and the related Bills be read a second time. I am encouraged by the general attitude which has been expressed by honourable senators who have spoken on this legislation. I think that the debate has revealed very wide common ground in the Senate in relation to the fundamentals of this legislation. True it is that there have been differences of view and there are proposals for amendment to the legislation, but by and large it does appear to me that the debate has revealed some basic common ground in the Senate on this legislation. I believe that that is a very great advance that has occurred in recent years in the public debate and is reflected in the parliamentary debate on this subject. It is no doubt due first to the report of Mr Justice Hope after the analysis he gave and in particular the very sober and responsible recommendations of his report; and secondly, to the large measures of reform of the organisation which have been undertaken by the present Director-General of the organisation, Mr Justice Woodward.
The need for a security organisation as the arm of a democratic government in a democratic society does present a number of dilemmas. I think that this debate has brought out in fairly stark relief the nature of those dilemmas. There is the basic dilemma of how to provide in a democratic society, dedicated to the preservation of the liberties of the subject, for some restrictions on those liberties in the interests of security and in support of the actions which are inevitably required for a security organisation to do its job. That perhaps is not a dilemma which is confined to a security organisation or legislation in relation to a security organisation. It is one which the Parliament of course is frequently dealing with but somehow or other it probably is brought into starker relief by this type of legislation, particularly when it does contain powers in respect of such things as using listening devices, opening mail, tapping telephones, the entry to premises and so on. There probably is a greater collection of such powers all in the one package of legislation than certainly would normally be presented to the Parliament; so very clearly there is that dilemma. There is a dilemma of how to provide for accountability of some kind for an organisation which, if it is to be effective and of its very nature must operate substantially in secret. I think that is probably a dilemma which is unique to this type of legislation. I think there is another dilemma, and that is how to reconcile the need for ministerial responsibility with the protection of people from political interference with an organisation and the use of an organisation for political purposes by Ministers or the Government of the day. I think that also is a rather unique dilemma presented by this legislation.
These are all matters over which all of those who have been concerned with these problems have agonised. First and foremost was Mr Justice Hope himself. He obviously, with his distinguished background as a lawyer, as a judge and as someone dedicated to civil liberties, as he is, came to some very firm conclusions in relation to all of these matters. He came to the very firm conclusion that there was need for a security organisation. He came to the very firm conclusion that that organisation had to have powers adequate for the performance of the duties which would be placed upon it- duties which of course ultimately are placed upon it by the vote of a democratic parliament.
The Government, in a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in October 1977, after having given a good deal of thought and study to Mr Justice Hope’s report, indicated that it would adopt substantially his recommendations and would be legislating in due course to give effect to them. The Government also accepted many other recommendations made by Mr Justice Hope which could be implemented without legislation and, as I said, a great many of the reforms recommended by Mr Justice Hope have been put into effect under the leadership of the organisation by the present DirectorGeneral, Mr Justice Woodward. In this debate there has been some criticism that the legislation is being rushed through the Parliament. I find it very difficult to understand how that complaint could have much substance. It is now about 18 months since the Prime Minister made his statement, since the Hope report was tabled and those parts recommended to be published were made available to the public. There has been a considerable opportunity for public discussion and debate on the recommendations which the Government made quite clear it intended to implement by the legislation that is now before the Parliament.
– You are not suggesting that this legislation reflects the Hope report accurately, are you?
– I suggest that it substantially reflects it. I do not think that that is disputed. The legislation is having a fairly slow passage through the Senate, let alone the Parliament. It is almost a month since the legislation was introduced into the Parliament. I believe that the debate has been moving along at a fairly measured pace in the Senate. No doubt we have a long Committee debate ahead of us in this place. The legislation then will be sent to another place and, because the Parliament will rise for three weeks for the Easter recess, it will be some time before it is debated in that other place. No doubt there will be ample time in that other place for debate on the legislation and a further reconsideration of it. Therefore, I believe that there is ample opportunity for the public to study the legislation and to make representations and for them to be aired in the Parliament. I must reject very firmly any suggestions that the Bills are being rushed through the Parliament in any way.
The Government has indicated- indeed, it is the recommendation of Mr Justice Hope- that matters relating to security, if possible and as far as possible, should be bipartisan. The Government has given considerable thought to the amendments proposed by the Opposition and to other comments that have been made directly, through the Press, and by correspondence that has been received.
– The resurrection of the Townley Committee.
– I can assure Senator Mulvihill that the question of a parliamentary committee- I do not know about the Townley Committee as such- has been considered. I will deal with that in due course. The debate which we have had here in the Senate has given considerable encouragement to the Government’s hope that there will be at least some measure of agreement, if not full agreement, on the fundamentals in relation to this legislation and the future of the Organisation. In relation to the motion for the second reading of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill, the Opposition has proposed that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted with a number of amendments; but, as I have said, it is significant that the Opposition has not opposed the legislation and that, in the principles it is suggesting should be inserted, it has not really opposed what I regard as the fundamental requirements and powers of the Organisation which are contained in the legislation.
I propose to go through the points that the Opposition has proposed be dealt with in the suggested redrafting. The Government does not accept that the Bill needs to be withdrawn for a major redrafting. Some amendments to the legislation would be acceptable to the Government. However, the Government believes that these amendments can be made in the Committee stage in the ordinary way. There is no need for the Bill to be withdrawn and redrafted, and thereby delayed, as proposed in the amendment to the motion for the second reading.
The first proposal by the Opposition is that annual reports should be presented to Parliament on the general operation of the legislation, particularly in relation to the exercise of the special powers. The question of a report to Parliament was very carefully considered by Mr Justice Hope; and he recommended against a report to Parliament. I believe that that makes good sense and is sound reasoning, because in the nature of this Organisation very little of its activities can be made public. Therefore, for a report to be of any real value by its nature it could not be made public. A report that could be made to the Parliament would be, by its nature, a very watered down one. However, the legislation contains a provision, recommended by Mr Justice Hope, that the Director-General of the Organisation should report to the Government. The Organisation has done so and the Government is of the view that that report should be made available to the Leader of the Opposition under conditions of secrecy- as Mr Justice Hope recommended, on Executive Council conditions.
The Organisation has reported to the Government and a copy of last year’s report has been handed to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) by the Director-General. The Government is committed to that as a principle to be followed. Furthermore, I am considering at the moment whether the Minister in charge of the Organisation or I could provide to the Parliament from time to time some statement in relation to some of the matters contained in the report and thereby give the Parliament an opportunity to discuss the Organisation. I am inclined to believe that the Government could provide such a statement. I take note of the complaints made in this debate about Parliament rarely having an opportunity to discuss these matters. I concede that it is a reasonable proposition that Parliament should have that opportunity. As I have said in relation to the annual report- the report should be of worthwhile character, one which would enable the Government to perform its duties of supervising the Organisation- it would not be possible to make such a report public, consistent with the need of the Organisation to operate under conditions of secrecy.
I refer now to the second point raised by the Opposition. It wants the Bill to be redrafted to provide that there should be regular periodical judicial audit of the Organisation to ensure that it complies with its charter, that it does not unjustifiably infringe civil liberties and that it operates effectively and efficiently. The Government believes that by the various measures it has taken and the policies which it proposes to follow in relation to this Organisation it has gone as far as it is necessary to go in supervising the activities of the Organisation and ensuring accountability. As I have said, an annual report will be presented and it will be made available to the Leader of the
Opposition. The Government has set up a committee of officials, of Permanent Heads of departments, to deal with intelligence and security matters and Cabinet has established a subcommittee on intelligence and security. The legislation sets up a security appeals tribunal which will be presided over by a judge and two other people who will, of course, be exercising power by the virtue of the tribunal’s consideration of security assessments provided by the Organisation. It will be expressing attitudes about the nature of those assessments and the work of the Organisation. Thereby, it will be keeping an independent and judicial eye on the activities of the Organisation in that particular area. This will reveal a good deal about the way the Organisation carries out its work.
We heard in the debate expressions of concern about some of the attitudes of officers and the attitudes of the Organisation. The attitudes of the officers or the Organisation are to some extentsubject, of course, to the control of the DirectorGeneral reflected in these matters. Therefore, in the security appeals tribunal area the opportunity will exist for an independent body to express views and, thereby, to give directions to the Organisation about the assessments and about the views which are expressed in those assessments. Although the Government is not prepared to include this in the legislation it is prepared to consider inviting Mr Justice Hope- providing he is available- to have a look at the Organisation on a future occasion, perhaps not in two or three years time but certainly within five years. A man who has expert knowledge and is familiar with this subject will have an opportunity of looking at the way in which the Organisation is working following the presentation of his report and the introduction of this legislation which is the result of his report. I think that to incorporate a firm obligation in legislation to have a judicial audit presents very considerable problems. It presents drafting problems and it presents administrative problems. To do so now would be to provide for administrative and policy matters which really are the responsibility of another government and another parliament. We do not think it is appropriate for it to be included as an obligation in this legislation.
I refer now to the third point raised by the Opposition. The Opposition believes that the responsible Minister should be fully informed by the Director-General with respect to any matters relating to individuals about whom he sought information, other than the contents of files. I think that there has been some misunderstanding about the question of ministerial responsibility in the Bill. The clause of the Bill dealing with this matter- no doubt we will be debating it at a later stage- provides for general accountability to the Minister and for the Minister to give general directions to the Organisation. It simply limits the power of the Minister to override the opinion of the Director-General in relation to the collection of security information about a particular individual, the communication of intelligence about a particular individual or the nature of advice that should be given. It does not really limit the obligation of the Organisation and of the Director-General to provide full information about the activities of the Organisation. But to reveal whether or not a file is held on a particular individual would be, we believe, a dangerous precedent because it could give rise to political interference with the Organisation or the use of the Organisation for political purposes. The Government believes that this particular clause provides a protection for individuals. The mere fact that a file is held on a particular individual is not a reflection on an individual. People who are cleared for particularly sensitive jobs in the Government would have files on them for the purpose of getting such a clearance. The mere fact that a file exists on an individual is no reason to believe that person is a security risk.
The next point raised by the Opposition is that the Leader of the Opposition should be briefed on all aspects of the operation of the Organisation. The Government has accepted that principle and continues to accept it. But whether details should be given about the exercise of special powers is another matter. When all is said and done, these are administrative matters. No provision exists in the legislation for the Prime Minister to be informed about the exercise of each of the special powers. This is very much a matter for the Minister in charge of the Organisation.
I deal now with the financial accountability of the Organisation. I emphasise that the Organisation always has been and will be subject to the provisions of the Audit Act. It has been a practice in the past, and it is now provided as a result of recent amendments to the Audit Act, for some special accounts- I am instructed by the Director-General that it is a very small proportion of the accounts of the Organisation- to be the subject of a special certificate by the Minister so that the Auditor-General does not audit them in the usual way. Arrangements are being made between the Director-General and the Auditor-General for an auditor to be selected to audit these accounts and to provide the basis for the certificate of the Minister which, as I have said, is provided for in the recent amendments to the Audit Act in the form of new section 70D. These amendments were passed by Parliament quite recently.
At the Committee stage the Government will be prepared to consider an amendment on one aspect of the definition of subversion. I do not think that I need say anything further about that at this stage. The only other matter in regard to redrafting to which I think I need refer is the provision that the communication by ASIO to State authorities of security assessments should be the subject of appeals. The Director-General informs me that in the past the Organisation has given very few assessments to State authorities and that in future it is proposed that if any are required- they would be very few- they would be passed through a Commonwealth agency and therefore would be subject to the security appeals system.
As far as the retrospective operation of the security appeals system is concerned, I will be moving an amendment to ensure that no prescribed administrative action can be taken in future in relation to a security assessment given before the operation of the provisions of this Bill. (Extension of time granted). The Government has given this matter a great deal of consideration and it has come to the conclusion that it is not practical to have a retrospective operation of the security appeals system. This may go back many years. I think that the Opposition recognises the difficulties because it is proposing to move amendments to enable the Ombudsman to conduct investigations as to the existence of assessments and so on.
One of the major problems in this area is that the events which have followed assessments have passed and people have been dealt with on the basis of those assessments. One cannot undo what has been done in the past. I will be proposing an amendment to ensure that no administrative action is taken in the employment or immigration area on the basis of any security assessment which has been made prior to the passage of this legislation. For instance, anybody who has been refused a passport or citizenship can apply again and his application will be the subject of a fresh assessment and thereby a right of appeal. As I have said, to provide for a right of appeal about matters in the employment area, where what has been done in the past cannot now be undone, would be to impose a great deal of administrative and practical problems for little purpose.
– You have reserved for yourself a discretion.
– We do have a discretion. A case which seems for some reason to be particularly serious can be referred to the Security Appeals Tribunal. We believe that the amendment I will be proposing, along with the existing provisions, will give sufficient power to deal with cases where anybody may have suffered any injustice. The Government cannot accept the suggestion that no person should be denied notification of the existence of an adverse security assessment. We believe that the provision in relation to it is very tightly drawn. I think Senator Hamer emphasised that. It is possible that in rare cases a situation will arise in which it is absolutely vital for security reasons that the person concerned not be informed.
I turn now to the final point in the Opposition’s amendment, which states that the communication of any information purporting to identify an employee or agent of the Organisation should be withheld only when this information would endanger the safety of that person or would be prejudicial to security. The Government believes that the matter of whether information is prejudicial to security is really not a matter that can be assessed by a court. As to whether it endangers a person, the likelihood of that always being apparent is one of the reasons that that provision has been inserted in the Bill. It might be a little bit late to determine that after the event rather than before it. All in all, the Government believes that the most satisfactory way of putting some control on the exercise of that provision, which obviously concerns the Opposition, is to insert an amendment providing that no prosecutions will be launched under the provision without the consent of the Attorney-General.
I think that the amendments which the Government is prepared to make to the legislation in the light of the debate have now been circulated. No doubt we will be discussing these amendments in much greater detail all through the Committee stage. In summary, I believe that we can achieve some further measure of bipartisanship in relation to this matter by adoption of some of the suggestions that have been made during the debate and in particular by the adoption of some Opposition proposed amendments. As far as the Government is concerned, those that are accepted do emphasise the -
– That is at this stage. Surely there is some prospect of your being moved by the Committee debate.
– I may yet be persuaded. I hope that I have revealed some openmindedness in relation to this matter, even beyond the second reading debate. The Government is prepared to ensure- we have always agreed with this in principle and it has been recommended by Mr Justice Hope- the statutory requirement that the Leader of” the Opposition will be given regular information and briefing about the Organisation by the Director-General and will also be given the annual report of the Organisation.
– He will be much better off than Government back benchers, will he not?
- Senator Missen said that the Leader of the Opposition will be much better off than Government back benchers, but the nature of a security organisation is essentially that it does operate in secret. Is it suggested that Parliament might be able to obtain such information as to the workings of an organisation in any sort of detail without that information becoming public? This is just one of those dilemmas which I mentioned earlier in my speech. There must be restrictions on the ordinary principles of parliamentary information and parliamentary debate in relation to an organisation such as this. But we believe that as a compromise, involving the Leader of the Opposition and informing him of these matters is an important development of the principle of accountability and it does give an earnest to the principle of bipartisanship. It is one of those very anxious dilemmas that we face in this whole area. It is not one that we would want to espouse in other matters. This is just one of those situations whereby there have to be restrictions of this kind.
As I said, I believe that there is a very broad agreement about the fundamentals of this legislation and, in particular, the need for this Organisation. We have come a long way in recent years under the leadership of Mr Justice Woodward as Director-General of the Organisation. I take the point that we cannot simply rely on the man who is in charge of the Organisation or on the men who are running it. Nevertheless, that is a very important consideration indeed. In an organisation of this kind, more than in others, we have to rely on the standing and responsibility of the Director-General. That is why the appointment of the Director-General is a matter of such vital importance and again one on which there will be consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.
– Can the Opposition be consulted on the appointment of the AttorneyGeneral, too?
– The question of the appointment of the Attorney-General of course is different because he is accountable to the Parliament.
– He is accountable only if he will tell us something. If he just says ‘No comment ‘, that is very difficult.
-It does not follow that one has to tell the Parliament everything. The fact is that the Attorney-General primarily and the Prime Minister and the Government are responsible for the Organisation. If people raise matters about the Organisation, if they ask questions about it, even if they are not answered, and if problems are raised, I can assure the Senate that they are not ignored by the Minister or by the Government. I am very conscious indeed of the responsibility that I have just as I am sure that all of my predecessors were conscious of their responsibilities and just as I am sure that my successors will always be very conscious of the responsibilities that they do bear. They will take note of criticisms and of questions which are asked and matters which are raised about the way in which the Organisation may be operating. As I say, the mere fact that questions are not answered certainly does not mean to say that they are ignored. I do not think that there is anything further that I want to add in relation to this debate except to -
– There were a couple of other things that you have not answered.
– Perhaps most of them can be raised in the Committee stage. In conclusion, I want to thank the Senate for this very responsible and, if I might say so, very rational debate which has taken place in relation to this most important measure.
- Mr President, the Committee stage amendments have not been circulated. Is that correct?
– They have not been issued. They will be distributed in the Committee stage. Are you content with that, Senator Harradine?
– Yes, Mr President.
That the amendment (Senator Button’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the Bills be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill 1979
Clauses 1 to 4- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 5 (Meaning of subversion when not of foreign origin).
– I move:
Page 3, clause5, sub-clause (1), paragraph (a), line5, leave out ‘ultimately’.
The Opposition has three amendments to clause 5. They have been circulated, I understand, on a printed sheet. Although they are separate amendments, I think it is perhaps convenient for the Committee to deal with them together.
– No; one at a time.
– It appears to be the wish of my colleague to deal with them one at a time; but I will indulge myself by dealing with them together. It is convenient to do so because they all relate to the definition of ‘subversion’. The relevant portions of clause 5 state:
For the purposes of this Act, the activities of persons, other than activities of foreign origin or activities directed against a foreign government, that are to be regarded as subversion are-
The clause then sets out the matters which are to be regarded as subversion. The first matter with which we take issue appears in clause 5 ( 1 ) (a), where the types of activities which are to be regarded as subversion include: activities that involve, will involve or lead to, or are intended or likely ultimately to involve or lead to, the use of force or violence -
For the purposes of this clause the activities which can be regarded as subversion constitute in a sense an offence against this seciton; that is to say, they constitute an activity and the inclusion of the word ‘ultimately’ in sub-clause (a) of clause 5(1) really adds nothing to the definition or precision of what is meant by activities which will lead, in the end, to the use of force or violence or other unlawful acts. If that word ultimately’ were excluded from this provision it would be related to activities leading to or intended to involve or lead to the use of force or violence. The word ‘ultimately’ only adds a vagueness to the specification of what is meant. It is a very important definition and one which should be defined with precision in the legislation. The addition of the word ‘ultimately’ only adds vagueness and uncertainty to what should be a matter of precision. Of course, it becomes a matter of subjective opinion what activities fall within the description of subversion. If the word ultimately’ is included, the range for a much wider degree of imagination, when imagination should properly not be allowed, is greatly enhanced. It is for that reason that we suggest the deletion of the word ‘ultimately’.
We have sought in the second amendment which is to clause 5 (1) (b), to insert the word unlawful’ before the word ‘activities’. Subclause (b) states: activities directed to obstructing, hindering or interfering with the performance by the Defence Force of its functions or the carrying out of other activities by or for the Commonwealth for the purposes of security or the defence of the Commonwealth;
In a sense, it is a fairly vague provision; but activities which would not otherwise be unlawful seem to us to be wrongly prescribed as falling within what might be termed the definition of subversion. For example, there is a wide range of activities in which persons might engage. The activities might include a demonstration with placards advocating a particular view. The view might be directed towards hindering or obstructing the performance of some activity of the Commonwealth. This would not, in itself, be an unlawful activity and therefore, in our submission, it is not one which should be prescribed by the legislation in the way it is.
Similarly, there may be forms of industrial action of one kind or another which may hinder the Commonwealth in some ways, but they would not be unlawful activities. Under this clause of the Bill, we could potentially be making unlawful activities in society which otherwise might be regarded as quite lawful activities. It is for that reason that we will move this amendment. We see a lack of imagination by the draftsman or the eminence gnse who lurks behind the draftsman in their approach to this clause of the Bill. We again seek further precision in relation to the definition or description of the word subversion’.
The third amendment relates to the use of the word ‘hostility’ in sub-clause (c) of clause 5(1). In seeking to define subversion the clause reads as follows:
Now ‘activities directed to promoting violence’ would presumably be unlawful and undesirable activities. But there may be all sorts of activities which coincidentally or otherwise might promote hostility between persons or groups of persons which are not unlawful activities or activities which could, in the wider stretch of the imagination, in our view, be described as subversive. It is for that reason that we again seek further precision in this somewhat sloppy drafting which occurs in each of the three sub-clauses of clause 5(1). If one looks at the Oxford Dictionary definition of expressions like ‘subversion’ or hostility’- subversion is not even defined in the Oxford Dictionary- one finds that the mere reference to the dictionary definition shows the imprecision and sloppiness of terminology which is present in these three sub-clauses of clause 5(1). No doubt other people will wish to contribute to the discussion of these particular amendments, but I assure the Senate that the amendments are designed to improve the legislation, having regard to the general view which the Opposition has of this Bill and the views which have been expressed in no uncertain terms during the course of the second reading debate. They are not meant to be niggling amendments in any way. They are amendments which are put forward in a constructive spirit in relation to what is a very difficult subject matter and that is the definition of subversion or the description of acts which can be regarded as subversive. It is in that spirit that the amendments are put forward. I have taken the opportunity to speak to the three amendments together because it seems to me that the three sub-clauses have the same generic quality about them, that is to say, imprecision, vagueness, uncertainty and sloppiness.
-The definition of ‘subversion’ is perhaps one of the more difficult tasks that Mr Justice Hope had. I understand and believe that it gave him more difficulty than most of his other tasks put together. Certainly it is the loosest and wooliest of all the different concepts that make up the over-arching concept of security with which this Bill is concerned. I certainly approve- I think the Opposition as a whole approves- of the attempt which has been made in this Bill to give at least some statutory definition to the concept of subversion, and security as a whole, which was lacking in the previous legislation. Indeed, I go further and say that I have no objections to the general structure of that definition of subversion as it appears in the Bill where it is left quite openended as far as foreign initiated action is concerned. Some attempt has been made to detail the concept of subversion so far as domestically originated action is concerned.
In Mr Justice Hope’s recommendations with respect to the domestic aspects of subversion, without spelling them out here in detail, it was clear that the concept of force or violence as an element in the notion of subversion- the concept of overthrowing the constitutional government, of unlawfulness in the activity involved or contemplated by the persons in question- was the basic flavour that emerges from his definition. It is certainly regrettable that the definition of subversion, as it appears in the Bill before us, reaches much more widely than the explicit recommendations on page 41 of the first volume of the fourth report of Mr Justice Hope. The subject matter of our second and third amendments, which Senator Button foreshadowed, goes directly to the extension of the definition beyond that which Mr Justice Hope recommended. I wish to specifically concentrate my remarks on the first amendment, as I understand that technically we are debating only the first of the amendments relating to clause 5. Our first amendment goes to something which Mr Justice Hope did, in fact, recommend and which has been picked up unaltered in the Bill and that is the use of the expression ‘ultimately’ which appears in clause 5(1) (a). Included in the definition of ‘subversion ‘ are:
Now the word ‘ultimately ‘ was not subject to any extended argument or analysis by Mr Justice Hope, and nor has any been offered during the second reading speech or anywhere else in the course of this debate. The point that I wish to make is that the word ‘ultimately’ really has quite a lot of significance in this clause. It ought to be subjected to very close scrutiny in this respect by the Senate. The basic question that is in issue by the use of a word such as this is: How close a nexus must there be between rhetoric and action so far as the group, potentially subject to surveillance under this legislation, is concerned. The Opposition suggests that it is sufficient- it ought to be sufficient so far as the Government and the Organization are concerned- if the use of force or violence and so on is intended or likely; in other words, if it is likely within the reasonably foreseeable future or within some practically realistic time span. In our view what ought to matter is that there be- to put it yet another way- some reasonable apprehension that there will in fact be violence or this kind of activity within some realistically foreseeable future.
The point that I am making is this: If the word ultimately’ stays in the Bill then we have caught up as potentially subversive- therefore subject to all the powers that are vested in the Organisation by this Act- all those rather pathetic little splinter groups particularly of the far Left which engage in most cases more out of a sense of duty rather than any real belief in fuzzy, millenarian rhetoric about the ultimate revolution. It seems to me highly undesirable that groups of this kind should be routinely brought within the scope of the legislation in the way in which they are when a word like ‘ultimately’ appears. One ought to examine a little more closely the types of groups which would be caught up by the definition as it stands, but which in my suggestion arguably ought not to be if a more narrow and precise definition were applied here, such that there had to be some reasonable nexus between the kind of rhetoric engaged in by the group and its actual, likely contribution to domestic violence. I make this point particularly in the light of the sorts of contributions we had from Senator Lewis and others of his kind during the second reading debate in which he asserted, as a matter of obvious and uncontested reality, that revolutionary groups which were scattered around the Australian political landscape were quite properly the subject matter of Australian Security Intelligence Organization surveillance. The particular revolutionary groups Mr Justice Hope adverted to quite specifically in his report as having in their political platforms quite explicit revolutionary aspirations, were the Communist Party, the Socialist Party of Australia and the Communist Party of Australia Marxist-Leninist. It is appropriate to spend a moment or two on each of those.
Mr Justice Hope, in relation to the Communist Party, stated at page 47 of Volume I of the fourth report that the revolutionary objective of that party, as most recently reaffirmed in 1972 in the 23rd National Congress, had been expressed in its constitution the following terms:
The Communist Party of Australia (CPA) is a Marxist party which is a voluntary union of people who actively work to achieve a revolutionary transformation of Australia and the establishment of a socialist, independent Australian republic.
However, the point about the CPA, for anyone who has any kind of realistic grasp of the political landscape of the Australian Left, is that it is a group with only about 2,500 members nationally, on the recent best estimates. I do not know whether they are as good as Mr Justice Woodward’s recent best estimates but they are the ones usually accepted. It is the kind of organisation which in my view ought not, whatever it says in its platform, to attract the kind of scrutiny to which it would inevitably be subject if the present definition of ‘subversion’ remained. Perhaps the simplest way of setting out the points that I want to make about the CPA is to quote from the relevant passage of a book which probably will be the subject of a good deal of reference in this debate. I refer to Richard Hall’s recent book The Secret State in which at page 1 1 1 he has this to say:
The CPA has operated independently of the Soviet and China since the early sixties. It has been more of a radical group than a political party, operating on the fringe of society in search of causes and seeking to attract recruits on the basis of its support for various issues- aboriginal land rights, green bans, gay lib, women’s affairs, etc. There is not the faintest suggestion that it is likely to resort to planned violence, and even if its leaders succumbed to some violent fantasy they would find their membership far behind. Strikes, demonstrations, rallies and sit-ins are their right as free Australians- CPA members and leaders find rhetoric about the streets comforting in that it convinces them that there is a real prospect that history will give them victory. (Something similar motivates a street evangelist.) But the reality is that whenever there have been large crowds in the streets in Australia, for example over Vietnam or over the events of November 1975, it has been not because of the CPA or any of the Communist Parties, but because of the Labor Party and the coming together of small, largely informal groups. There is simply no reason to infiltrate the CPA with ASIO or Special Branch spies: if there were an attempt to turn the CPA into a party of violence it would split the party sufficiently to alert the security forces.
I adopt that kind of analysis. I turn now to the position of the Socialist Party of Australia- the pro-Soviet rump group- which is presently believed to have only around 350 members and in respect of which Richard Hall, at the same page, pertinently and accurately has this to say:
The SPA is a party with a largely aging membership who have chosen to stay loyal to the Russian homeland. They very clearly see the CPA’s street dreams as ‘adventurist’, to use the marxist jargon. There is currently no rational evidence to suggest that the SPA is in any position to violently overthrow the constitution or that any of its members seriously advocate that violent overthrow. They should be left alone.
Again, that is a realistic assessment of that situation. Obviously, I carry no brief for the SPA, as a political party, but I believe that that is a realistic assessment of its revolutionary capabilities, notwithstanding the rather more extravagant rhetoric that is quoted in respect of its constitution by Mr Justice Hope.
Finally, the third body that attracts Mr Justice Hope’s explicit attention, at page 48 of the report in question, is the CPA(M/L), the China-line communist party which recently, of course, found itself split into two rather bitterly-opposed factions, with its barely 1,000 members divided between those who pledge undying loyalty to the Gang of Four and the Cultural Revolution and those- the larger group- who support the current more pragmatically-inclined Chinese leadership. Again.with respect to the CPA(M/L), it is appropriate for the Senate to consider and take seriously the analysis by Richard Hall, who wrote:
The third party, the CPA(M/L) is arguably a case for surveillance, but only arguably. Certainly during the Vietnam war some alleged Maoists, as a matter of principle, tried to turn demonstrations into violent affairs which, after all, some police acting as agents provocateur also tried. There was some minor damage to American companies’ property (and, ofcourse, there was always the spectre of the training ground in the Dandenongs replete with stolen gelignite). There are continued links with that shadowy organisation, the WorkerStudent Alliance in SA which has been involved with some violence in factory situations and has used language glorifying violence. But even when those arguments are put as of today -
He was writing in 1 978 - the CPA(M/L) cannot be said to be anything other than an insignificant group on the margin of Australian society. One suspects the most likely prospect of violence is some Maoist party members beating up their CPA rivals in the Builders’ Labours’ Federation, but that is a matter for ordinary police measures. Certainly Chinese foreign policy in the post-Mao period would hardly encourage wild schemes of revolution in Australia.
Obviously we can debate the merits or otherwise of these far Left splinter groups that are scattered around the landscape at the moment but the point I wish to make is simply that the use of words such as ‘ultimately’ in this definition does encourage the kind of atmosphere, indeed a legal state of affairs, whereby ASIO is fully reinforced in any latent inclination that it might have to deploy all its resources- I think quite unjustifiably- against these groups.
The basic problem with the use of the word ultimately’ in this definition- and why we want it out- is that it confuses a commitment to ideology with a commitment to action. I take the view that in a free society the proper criteria for security surveillance or investigation should start not with ideas but with the question of violence, the question of action and violent action at that. The security service would, in my view, certainly be justified in the surveillance of an organisation if it, or anyone acting under its influence, had engaged in violent action or there were a reasonable apprehension that it would so act, but the word ‘ultimately’ as it appears in the definition does not express that sort of concept anything like explicitly enough. It leaves it, as my colleague Senator Button says, too open, too vague, too possibly replete with the opportunity to be misused against groups which do not deserve that kind of infiltration and attention. It should, in our view and certainly in my view, come out.
-May I briefly, in the time remaining, say that as far as I am concerned the second and third proposed amendments do not seem to be justified, and that in the case of the third I prefer that offered by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). However, I urge the Attorney-General to give consideration to the first amendment. I have been persuaded, certainly by what Senator Button said, that there is some justification for it. It seems to me that the word ‘ultimately’ is not necessary. I know that it is used in Mr Justice Hope’s report. I do not know why. Certainly he has not explained his reason for so doing. It seems to me that it is difficult to tell just to what extent ‘ultimately’, in the sentence with which it is linked, refers to other parts or phrases.
Also, the problem which arises is that the activities referred to may lead not ultimately but immediately or quite soon to violence. It seems, as used in this clause, to be unnecessarily restrictive. Subversion is a very difficult concept and, frankly, I think that it needs to be defined pretty careully. It has often been misused. It seems to me that the use of the word ‘ultimately’ here is unnecessary, that it could be done without, and that the provision would be much clearer if, in fact, it were not employed.
– I wish to comment on clause 5 of the Bill and, as Senator Button did, try to encompass in my remarks all three of the proposed amendments. It has been said in a number of places, editorially in particular, that this definition of subversion is inherently unsatisfactory; that it is so broad that it could be applied to virtually any demonstration or protest march in Australia. For instance, on 19 March the Sydney Morning
Herald expressed concern that it might apply to all environmental and other groups that were opposed to uranium mining for trying to obstruct an activity that was carried on by various mining corporations which had agreements with the Government or were participating with it. I think we have to draw a far more precise line in terms of seeking to interpret -
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I put the question:
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Temporary Chairman having reported accordingly-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Scott)-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., under the sessional order I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I want to raise a matter in the adjournment debate which has not been discussed in this chamber today, although it has been discussed in another place, and that is the cause of the near tragedy at Three Mile Island, Harrisburg, and the problems associated with the nuclear reactor. In particular I want to make a call again as the Labor Party has consistently done over a lengthy period for the banning of uranium mining. If the Government is not prepared to go that far it should at least call a moratorium on the development of the new uranium mines in the Northern Territory. If this is the type of accident that can happen- and there are other examples apart from Harrisburg- then obviously this country is morally at fault if it supplies the yellowcake to other countries to be used by them when this type of near tragedy- not yet a tragedy but maybe a tragedy- will occur. We called for a lengthy period of debate on the matter of uranium. That was done, I think, quite coldly, calmly and technically and not for political reasons. It is significant that Mr Anthony a few days ago said:
I believe that one of the big potential markets for our uranium ore is the United States.
This was at a meeting in Washington which is only 240 kilometres south of the scene of the near disaster- maybe yet a disaster- with the United States Energy Secretary Dr Schlesinger. Today those who listened to the radio programs would have heard that the United States Energy Secretary is under assault by the American people with his resignation being called for. Over the years the so-called experts have said that this type of disaster could not happen but it has happened previously in Russia and now it has almost happened and may still happen in America. So those people who have been trying to convince the Australian people- and I am talking now about the so-called pro-nuclear experts- over a long period that it is for the good of this country that we should mine our uranium are probably amongst the minority of people in the world who are totally dedicated to mining without realising that the safeguards have not been properly carried out, will not be properly carried out and that major accidents may happen around the world.
The United States has 70 nuclear power plants. They generate only 13 per cent of electricity supplies in that country. The United States does have another 75 plants under construction and about another 60 on order. Back in about 1974 the orders for reactors peaked. Last year, 1978, there were only two new orders. It is a very strange thing that Western countries are not using more of their resources to develop other alternative energy supplies. The Labor Party has been saying for a long time that there ought to be more money spent on research. The Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster), who is in charge of the House at the moment, is probably one of the victims of people on this side of the House who have tried to persuade him that there should be more research into solar energy and plants for the development of vegetable alcohol, if one may describe it in that way, in the same way that the plant at Sarina does use sugar cane for the development of alcohol.
We have tremendous resources in this country in terms of coal and areas of land which with irrigation we can use to grow alternative crops to produce the type of alcohol that will drive motor vehicles quite successfully. We have vast deposits of shale at Julia Creek and at a place near Gladstone but we insist on manipulating our uranium market for the sake of supplying other countries- and I will say something about what is proposed as far as Australia is concerned shortly- which say that they need it. Uranium is a very short-term remedy in the world energy crisis. If all the known deposits are utilised it may supply a minimum of power for only 20 or 30 years at the most. We cannot use it in aeroplanes, motor cars or stationary motors. In fact the only way we can use it is to provide electricity and there is no guarantee of course that it is any cheaper than the orthodox methods. When President Carter was elected he said in one of his promises to the nation that a safety officer would be employed at every nuclear reactor throughout the country. That did not happen. Only about one-fifth of the required number have been appointed to date and it is significant that there was no safety officer at Three Mile Island of the type that President Carter was speaking about.
What really happened? I want to quote just a few paragraphs from what I believe to be fairly reliable reports coming out of America in the last few days. The report reads:
Detailed knowledge of how the nuclear leakage occurred still lies hidden in the steamy, lethally radioactive chamber that houses the plant’s reactor.
A nuclear reactor is part of a sealed system, in which the core of enriched uranium is kept in a state of controlled fission whose temperature of which is governed by a closed circuit of pressurised water.
At about 4 a.m. on Wednesday -
That is Wednesday of last week- while one of the Three Mile Island plant ‘s two reactors was working at 97 per cent capacity, two pumps driving one of the water circuits failed.
The fault resulted in a severe pressure build-up, causing safety valves to open, allowing a large quantity of water to overflow into a second circuit by a series of interconnecting chambers, as should normally happen.
As the pressure reduced, the valves linking the two sealed circuits failed to close again automatically.
I might say that this is one of the faults that can occur in any of the water pressure operated reactors anywhere in the world. The article continues:
Thus the level of the water for cooling the core dropped greatly, allowing the fuel to reach an abnormally high temperature. Subsequent events appear to have been a combination of human error and technical failure.
But those who want to use uranium for the production of power tell us that there cannot be human errors in spite of the accidents that have happened at various nuclear power plants around the world, and that there can be no technical failures. In the last few days two of Australia ‘s experts have said this again and it has been repeated as late as today by none other than Professor Sir Ernest Titterton. I quote again from the earlier statement:
One of the water circuit’s pumps was shut off for no reason, provoking a new, critical drop in pressure and, perhaps the meltdown of pan of the fuel . . .
If there was a meltdown the fuel would, within minutes, become a huge ball of incandescent radioactive material, which could melt the steel shell around the reactor and even the concrete walls of the building.
If this fireball escaped from its concrete casing, the theory is that it could bore into the ground until it hit subterranean water deposits, setting off explosions of radioactive steam into the atmosphere.
That is why the United States Government has looked at the possibility of moving probably a million people from this area. Already some 30,000 have left voluntarily. Most of the Australian newspapers have carried out very responsible reporting on the American disaster but I want to quote only three or four paragraphs from an article in the Courier-Mail written by Jack Lunn whom I have known for many years and a man who is a very responsible reporter. Jack Lunn is at the moment in America and this is what he said:
A jet plane could hit the Three Mile Island $ 1,000m nuclear power station and not damage its important sections. ‘
A guide stated this flatly, as a fact, when he showed me through this massive nuclear power plant on Easter Saturday last year.
To stop any jet all the important sections of the plant are housed in two-metre thick reinforced concrete.
To stop human beings there are a series of checkpoints.
To stop infiltrators there is a body search.
At the visitors centre, guards examined my passport then gave me a half-hour television and talk lecture on the station, and what to do in case of emergency.
Then we drove to a guarded bridge, which crosses to Three Mile Island in the middle of the Susquehanna River. Bridge guards checked my passport, asked questions, then let me across the bridge to the station entry.
Here a cold-eyed man wearing a revolver, a navy blue uniform and badges, ordered me to empty my pockets.
I did just that.
Five other guards watched while he then ordered me to lift my arms and spread my legs. He gave me a quick efficient, all-over body search.
Take it from me. The plant was designed to keep out saboteurs. Even to keep out a jet plane.
This is the crunch-
Unfortunately it could not keep radioactive gas in.
Only a few days ago two copies of a paper carrying instructions on how to make a hydrogen bomb- a type of bomb more dangerous than any other- were allowed into Australia. One newspaper, declaring that it had a sense of responsibility, decided to give its copy to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I am not sure that the Prime Minister ought to be in possession of that document, because I do not know that he is trustworthy enough to be in possession of such a dangerous document, in view of his attitude to the mining of uranium.
I am not sure that even Sir Ernest Titterton ought to be allowed to see it. Perhaps I would put him in the same category as Harry M. Miller. Sir Philip Baxter and Sir Ernest Titterton are the two people in this country who have spread the same story for years and years: There is no danger associated with the mining of uranium; there is no danger in constructing nuclear reactors; in fact, there is no danger at all so far as uranium is concerned. I recall that in a public statement I made in 1966 I complained of the heavy fallout from the French bomb tests in the Pacific. Professor Titterton, as he then was, said that I did not know what I was talking about. Only last year a doctor in my town claimed that some of the mutations of babies and some of the increase in leukaemia were caused by what had happened in those years of the French bomb tests.
What happened at Three Mile Island is feared by responsible people around the world. Almost every country in which nuclear reactors are situated and in which the government is acting responsibly has decided to carry out certain extra safety precautions. In the last few days in West Germany 100,000 people in the Hanover area and along the roads to Hanover gathered to protest at the establishment of an underground dump for nuclear waste near Borleben, a small town in that locality. West Germany has 15 operating nuclear power plants and hopes to have another 1 1 operating by the mid-1980s. It is one of the countries where there have been accidents associated with nuclear reactors. In fact, in 1975, two workmen at one of the reactors were killed by radioactive steam that came from one of the breakdowns in the plants.
Already in America five of the reactors have been closed down because of the fear of earthquakes in the localities in which the reactors are situated. South Korea has only one operating nuclear reactor and has begun a safety check on it. It is situated at Kori, 350 kilometres south of Seoul. The plant was built by the Westinghouse company, a company which was able to say in 1975 that it would be able to get uranium from Australia because there would be a change of government. It was probably during the time when the Westinghouse company was associating with Sir John Kerr and the present Prime Minister- who now has the hydrogen bomb theory in his briefcase- but before the actual sacking of the Whitlam Government.
Sweden has six reactors and plans two more. In the last two or three years a conservative government was elected in Sweden. A major promise in its platform was that it would eliminate nuclear power plants. It said that it would build no more plants and would gradually wind down the country’s nuclear power stations. The government did not do this because the Liberals and the Democrats which comprised part of the conservative coalition baled out and decided that they wanted to keep the stations. A former Prime Minister, Torbiorn Falldin. resigned over this matter. He has now demanded that Sweden shut down the Ringhals 2 reactor, which is exactly the same type of reactor as that operating at Three Mile Island. Denmark has no nuclear power stations. Some Danes do not want them and consider the Harrisburg accident a blessing in disguise. The people who do want nuclear power stations feel that the Harrisburg accident is just one of those things that happen. The people opposed to the building of a nuclear power station in Denmark feel that if this lesson is learned Denmark will not construct a new reactor.
In November 1978 a referendum was held in Austria. The result was a narrow margin in favour of those who did not want nuclear power stations built. The people who opposed the building of nuclear power stations have now decided that as far as they are concerned Harrisburg might also be a blessing in disguise. In France there is a large body of opinion which does not want to see a continuation of the construction of nuclear power houses. The Government of France is very much like the Government of Australia. It has said: ‘It cannot happen here’. The Government of France was saying that in France yesterday and again today, in the same way as the Australian Government is saying it.
When this accident happened one of the first reactions of the Australian Government ought to have been to send experts immediately to Three Mile Island. However, there was a great reluctance. In fact Mr Newman made a number of contradictory speeches or Press statements about whether the Government would send anybody. If Australia is not prepared to do at least that, then we are not very interested in what happens in the handling of uranium. Italy has three reactors and is inclined to be cautious. Its reactors produce less than one per cent of its electricity requirements. Italy is adopting a fairly responsible attitude in saying that there ought to be much more debate and inquiry before it continues with the construction of this type of reactor. Brazil has one reactor under construction, with plans to build up to eight pressurised water reactors of exactly the same type as that which caused the trouble at Three Mile Island.
In the accident at Three Mile Island a large amount of infected water- for want of a better description- totalling more than 1,500,000 litres, flowed from the disabled plant into the local river. Officials said that it had a very slight level of xenon, one of the by-products of uranium reactors. Despite this, in Australia we are undeterred- unimpressed in fact- by anything that may happen. The Nabarlek project will be developed at an even faster rate. There has been no decision by the Government to hold up any development. A newspaper article states:
Queensland Mines Ltd is negotiating the sale of a further 3,000 short tons of uranium from its Nabarlek deposit to the two Japanese power utilities, the Shikoku Electric Power Co Inc and the Kyushu Power Co Inc.
The negotiations -
This was late last week- were announced in Canberra yesterday by the chairman of Queensland Mines, Mr J. S. Millner, and the president of Shikoku, MrT. Yamaguchi.
Mr Millner anticipated no problems gaining Federal Government approval for the sale, if it eventuated. It has approved the negotiations and had taken part in discussions about a letter of intent to be signed by the two power companies. Mr Yamaguchi said he hoped the new sale would be concluded by the end of June.
Queensland Mines already has sales contracts for 3,500 short tons of uranium with the two power utilities. The sale of another 3,000 tons would mean that some 65 per cent of the total Nabarlek reserves of an estimated 10,000 tons would be committed.
That is the story of development that goes on. Sir Charles Court announced a few days ago that in a few years he hopes to have the first nuclear reactor plant in Australia operating in Western Australia. We have the same story in respect of Queensland. The Premier of Queensland has decided that a uranium enrichment plant should be built at Townsville in north Queensland. A further story has been circulating- I think it has some substance- that the Metalex Yabula company, which is having a great number of problems in mining less than high grade nickel ore, might be converted at a later stage to become part of a uranium enrichment plant. There are uranium deposits at Bog Hole Creek at Harveys Range just north of Townsville. Developers are moving there on the promise that they will have the opportunity to start mining in that area. I do not know whether mining is imminent or whether it is something planned for the next few months. No one else knows either. One of the great problems of the present Federal Government is that it is not prepared to be frank with the Australian people about what it proposes to do concerning the mining of uranium except in respect of those areas where it has already declared itself.
The Labor Party has said that there should be no further mining of uranium in this country until such time as we are convinced, totally, that there will not be the possibility of a nuclear accident, that there will not be the possibility of uranium being used for other than so-called peaceful purposes and until such time as we can dispose of nuclear waste in a safe manner. A story was floated in this country a few months ago- I think it came from Government sourcesthat a new method of disposing of nuclear waste had been discovered. Such a method has not been discovered. As recently as yesterday, in newspapers published in Australia, statements were made that as yet there is no safe way of disposing of nuclear waste.
I am appealing to this Government to do the very best it can, under extremely difficult circumstances, to ensure that people with basic scientific knowledge, not pro-Government people, are sent to investigate all aspects of this disaster in the United States. I know that the Government is not prepared to go as far as banning uranium mining but in addition at least it should declare a moratorium on mining uranium at this stage in order to ascertain whether it is worth while going ahead with it. If we were to become the government tomorrow we would not go ahead with it. I think those are the facts that we ought to realise, and that people of this country ought to realise. Two Premiers, Mr Petersen in Queensland and Sir Charles Court in Western Australia, ought to have pressure applied to them by the Federal Government to prevent the planning or establishment of a nuclear reactor plant in Western Australia, and the planning or establishment of a uranium enrichment plant in Queensland.
– I note the comments made by Senator Keeffe. I believe that we should be careful to avoid over-reaction to any premature assessments of the situation which he has described. As is known, the Government is monitoring closely the situation and United States authorities have been most helpful in this regard. I understand that it will be some time before a detailed technical investigation can be completed. Its conclusions will then be examined by the United States and by this Government. We should take note of the fact that President Carter has said that investigation may well show that some modification of reactor components is necessary. An important consideration in the Government’s decision to permit the export of uranium was its recognition of the need to supply essential sources of energy to a very energy-deficient world at the present time. Of course, the Government was also conscious in coming to its decision, of the fact that the nuclear power industry has an excellent safety record. I think that to date its record is unmatched by the record of any other area of energy production, certainly within this country.
– That is challengeable, you know.
– I doubt that it is challengeable. I note that Senator Keeffe did not rise in this place today to complain about the 10 deaths- I think that is the figure- on Victorian roads at the weekend. I do not know how many people were killed on the roads in Queensland.
– Oh, come on.
-Yes, I know it is a case of ‘come on, come off’.
– That is not power production, is it?
-Senator Keeffe makes many inconsistent statements in this place and he criticises people -
- Mr Deputy President, I want to take a point of order about that statement.
-You would want to take a point of order when you have had your say. You are bound to want somebody to sit down.
– I raise a point of order. Either I will seek the opportunity to make a personal explanation after the Minister stops speaking or I would suggest now that he should withdraw the remark that he just made. I have made no statements in this place that cannot be backed up by some sort of documentary evidence which is mostly unchallengeable.
– I have nothing to withdraw.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There is no point of order. I ask the Minister to complete his remarks.
– I was going to give Senator Keeffe some information that may be of interest to him but I suppose that it would be difficult for him to assess it properly. He made several comments about individuals to which I take objection. They are most eminent people in the community. I imagine that one day Senator Keeffe would hope to reach their level of recognition in the community. He criticised men like Sir Philip Baxter and Sir Ernest Titterton. I do not doubt that those gentlemen took exception to what Senator Keeffe said in earlier years. Senator Keeffe has been proved wrong during the many years that I have known him and he has been in this place about the same time I have, as I recall it.
- Mr Deputy President, are you going to let that sort of garbage go on?
– It is worth noting that Senator Keeffe stands up in this place for some purpose and tries to put into his speech the great attitude that he takes as a Labor senator. Senator Keeffe did not indicate to the people of Australia that it was the Labor Government which committed the Australian people to purchasing an interest in a uranium mine. He did not declare that the great Mr Whitlam was a party to doing that. He forgets about that. All Senator Keeffe does is stand up and say: ‘If we came to government tomorrow we would not permit uranium mining’. Why did the Labor Government permit it when it was in government?
– Did they really do it, senator?
-They really did it. We see now how quiet Senator Keeffe is.
– I will debate that with you at any time.
– I do not doubt that Senator Keeffe would debate it with me. There is no doubt about the fact that this Government was left a legacy by the Whitlam Labor Government of a 50 per cent interest in the largest uranium mine in Australia with the obligation to provide 75 per cent of the funds for the development of the mine.
- Who signed the contract?
-Who signed the contract? Well, Senator Keeffe, I think the discussion is best kept to the facts concerning the situation which has arisen in the United States. Nobody wishes to see that situation occur in Australia. The nuclear industry has been a most responsible industry. There has been no loss of life in that industry although that could occur at any time.
– That is nonsense. There were 15 killed in West Germany.
-There has been no loss of life. Yet, in every other area of energy production great loss of life has occurred. Senator Keeffe advised me that he intended to raise this matter tonight. I had some interesting advice for him but perhaps I can give it to him on another occasion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 12 September 1978:
– The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1)to(6)Nil.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 13 September 1978:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The following statutory bodies established by legislation administered by the Minister for Defence have a responsibility to report through the Minister to Parliament:
(a) In respect of the DFRDBA, Section 16 ( 1 )and (2) of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973, which states: 16(1) The Authority shall, at such time and in respect of such periods as the Minister directs, furnish to the Minister reports dealing with the general administration and working of this Act and (except in respect of any period commencing before1 October 1 972 ) of the previous Act (other than Part III of the Act). 16 (2) The Minister shall, as scon as practicable after receiving a report, cause a copy of the report to be laid before each House of the Parliament.
(a) In respect of the DFRDBA, the 1977 annual report was presented to the Minister for tabling on 23 May 1978, the 1978 report on 21 November 1978.
(a) In respect of the DFRDBA, the 1 977 annual report was tabled in Parliament on 23 May 1978, the 1978 report on 23 November 1978.
(a) DFRDBA: delays were encountered at a number of steps in the preparation and production of the 1 977 report.
asked the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice, on 19 September 1978:
– The Minister for Housing and Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The following information has been obtained from the Ministers responsible for housing in each of the States and Territories:
At December 1978 State housing authorities had applications for accommodation outstanding as hereunder:
In the Australian Capital Territory there were 556 applications outstanding for houses and flats.
In the Northern Territory there was a general public requirement for 300 houses.
New South Wales- generally within a range of 12 to 48 months
Victoria- for tenancy of a house, 9-12 months in the metropolitan area and up to 3 years in the country; for purchase, 4 years metropolitan
Queensland- high priority cases, with no specific locational requirements, in Brisbane are placed in about 4 to 6 weeks; others wait up to 3 years, or more in some centres
South Australia- for a house 32 months in the metropolitan area, 18 months at Elizabeth and ranging from 6 months to 2 years in the country; for an elderly persons unit, 5 years in the metropolitan area and 32 months at Elizabeth
Western Australia- for rental, on average about 18 months
Tasmania- for a house 14-18 months; for an elderly persons unit 24-36 months
Australian Capital Territory- for a house about 1 1 months and for a flat about 6 weeks
Northern Territory- for a rental house 8 months.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 28 September 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The information requested in parts ( 1 ) to (4) was sought from the South Australian Health Commission but is not currently compiled. Accordingly, I have asked the South Australian Minister for Health whether he will make special arrangements for the information to be extracted.
From information supplied by the Stale health authority under the hospital cost sharing arrangements the gross operating costs of recognised hospitals in South Australia during the period requested were:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
Did the Trans-Australia Airlines timetable effective from 29 October 1978 indicate that on Sundays a BrisbaneBundabergGladstone flight would depart from Brisbane at 8.30 a.m.; if so:
on which Sundays between 29 October 1978 and 18 February 1979 inclusive did this service not operate;
why did it not operate on each of those occasions; and
was an approach made to any other airline to provide a substitute service.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
10 December 1978, 24 December 1978 and 21 January 1979.
On each of these Sundays traffic was sufficient to operate separate direct flights between Brisbane and Bundaberg and between Brisbane and Gladstone.
In view of (b) the question of approaching another airline to provide a substitute flight did not arise.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
– The Minister for Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1979:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Industry and Commerce: Ministerial Meetings with Business Consultants (Question No. 1182)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
– The Minister for Industry and Commerce has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2), (3) and (4) The members of my personal staff and I are contacted on occasions by representatives of organisations on behalf of firms. However, time and cost considerations do not permit detailed recording of a type which would enable me to provide the honourable senator with the information requested.
Defence: Ministerial Meetings with Business Consultants (Question No. 1189)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 21 February 1979:
1 ) On what dates since 10 December 1977 has the Minister or members of his personal staff met representatives from:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
) Other than occasional casual and social meetings with representatives of some of the firms mentioned neither I nor members of my personal staff have met in any formal sense with representatives from:
Departmental Approaches by Lobbyists (Question No. 1209)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
What procedures exist within the Minister’s Department to record approaches made to staff by lobbyists.
– The Minister for Industry and Commerce has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
My Department is responsible for administering existing Government policies and providing advice on the formulation of new policies all of which concern both industry and commerce. Consequently it is normal for companies, industry organisations, unions and individuals concerned with these policies to make approaches to my Department, and they may choose to use the services of a lobbyist to do so.
Whilst no formal procedures exist to identify and record approaches by lobbyists in a separate consolidated form all written approaches are retained along with other relevant papers on departmental files.
Departmental Approaches by Lobbyists (Question No. 1214)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 21 February 1979:
What procedures exist within the Treasurer’s Department to record approaches made to staff by lobbyists.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No formal procedure designed specifically to record approaches made to staff by lobbyists exists within my Department.
When representations are made to the Department, it is normal practice for a record to be made and, as appropriate, I am informed.
Various organisations representing financial and other business interests have contact with the Department through consultative committees and other group meetings. I am kept informed about such meetings.
Departmental Approaches by Lobbyists (Question No. 1216)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1979:
What procedures exist within the Minister’s Department to record approaches made to staff by lobbyists.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator ‘s question:
The general practice in the Department of Defence has been for officers to report or record conversations with persons outside the Department. This record is then distributed for action or information to the relevant functional areas.
Departmental Approaches by Lobbyists (Question No. 1226)
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 21 February 1979:
What procedures exist within the Minister’s Department to record approaches made to staff by lobbyists.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Any such approaches are generally recorded on file.
Departmental Approaches by Lobbyists (Question No. 1230)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Special Trade Representations, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1 979:
– The Acting Minister for Special Trade Representations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Because of its nature, and its activities, my Department does not receive many approaches from businessmen and organisations representing the interests of business groups. However, as a matter of course, records are kept of all significant discussions.
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1979:
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
My response was that Australia would not countenance that kind of action; that it strongly deplored the importation and perpetuance of old quarrels, but that action involving restraints on the freedom of individuals in Australia would only be taken as provided by Australian laws.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1979:
What steps have been taken since 1 June 1978 to fulfil the pledge given by successive governments that the Moore Park Engineers’ Depot, New South Wales, would be vacated and placed at the disposal of the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 27 February 1979:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Overseas Investment in Australia (Question No. 1362)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 28 February 1979:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Helicopter Landings in Public Parks (Question No. 1365)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 28 February 1979:
1 ) Did the Commander of the Second Divisional Field Force in Sydney apply to the Hurstville Municipal Council for permission occasionally to land a light helicopter in a public park known as Oatley Park, Oatley; if so:
occasional landings would be made on weekdays but more frequently on weekends between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. and between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.;
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
) An application was made to the Hurstville Council but it was submitted by Headquarters Second Division Field Force Group to the Municipal Engineer.
The procedures and safety requirements to be observed with such cases are prescribed in Army Flying Orders and accord with requirements of the Department of Transport.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 28 February 1979:
1 ) How many officers have resigned from:
) What are the ranks of these officers.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 6 March 1979:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 6 March 1979:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There is no obligation on the Commonwealth’s part to compensate land owners who may have been disadvantaged through rezoning decisions of State State Planning Authorities.
CSIRO Establishment at Baker’s Hill, Western Australia (Question No. 1444)
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment, on notice, on 21 March 1979:
Does the Government intend to close the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization establishment at Baker’s Hill, Western Australia; if so: (a) what is the proposed date of closure; and (b) what are the reasons for the closure.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
CSIRO has no intention of disposing of, or discontinuing the research being conducted on, this property.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 20 March 1979:
Was a meeting held in August 1978, between representatives of Commonwealth and State Departments of Health, on hospital productivity, efficiency, and cost containment; if so:
who convened this meeting; and
was agenda item (2), suggested by the Commonwealth Department of Health at that meeting, the rationalisation of private hospital utilisation and resources.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Commonwealth officials of the Social Welfare Policy Secretariat and the Department of Health convened and had meetings during August and September 1978 with officials of the respective State Health Departments/Commissions.
Agenda item (2), suggested by the Commonwealth officials at the meetings with individual States was ‘Rationalisation of recognised and private hospital utilisation and resources’.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 2 1 March 1979:
Does the Department of Administrative Services pay the departure tax for all Ministers who leave Australia; if so, why, and does the same procedure prevail for other Members of Parliament; if not, why was the departure tax paid by the Department of Administrative Services for the Ministers for Trade and Resources, as indicated in the answer to Senate Question No. 1 1 43.
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Since departure tax is necessarily incurred on overseas visits, it is included in the costs charged to the appropriation under the control of the Department of Administrative Services for official overseas visits by Ministers and Members of Parliament.
The tax is not paid by the Department of Administrative Services when Ministers and Members of Parliament travel overseas for private purposes or when members undertake visits for overseas studies and investigations in accordance with entitlements provided for in Determination Number 1 978/9 of the Remuneration Tribunal.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 2 1 March 1979:
Were any exports of kangaroo meat, made during 1976 to 1978, accompanied by a certificate from the Department of Primary Industry attesting the meat’s fitness for human consumption. If so:
To what countries were such exports made and in what quantities;
Did the certification fulfil the requirements of the Commonwealth Exports (Meat) Regulations.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. The Department of Primary Industry is unable to certify as to fitness for human consumption for Kangaroo meat under the existing provisions of the Exports (Meat) Regulations.
Renovations to Prime Minister’s Lodge
-On 23 November 1978 (Hansard, page 2433) Senator Keeffe asked me, as Minister representing the Prime Minister, a question without notice concerning expenditure on official establishments. The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Expenditure on official establishments- both the estimated costs for the ensuing year and the actual costs for the preceding twelve months- are shown in the Budget papers. The costs of the four official establishmentsGovernment House, Admiralty House, Kirribilli House and the Prime Minister’s Lodge are shown together- see Mr Whitlam ‘s answer Hansard, 4 November 1975, page 2776, referring to this method of presentation.
-On 22 February 1979 Senator O ‘Byrne asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources, the following question, without notice:
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 Peko- Wallsend 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?
The Acting Minister for Trade and Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Decisions as to the resumption of copper mining operations in the Tennant Creek area are matters for the commercial judgment of the company concerned, in this case Peko- Wallsend Company Ltd.
The copper price has of course shown a welcome increase over the past eight months rising from an average of $1,200 in June 1978 to $1,6S0 per tonne in February 1979. I imagine that this movement has influenced the company in any decisions it has made. It is the Government’s hope that the buoyant conditions in this and other metal markets continue.
It should be noted that the increased output from the proposed Tennant Creek operations would not affect world prices of copper on which Australian copper prices, including prices for Mount Lyell copper, are based. The total Australian production of copper is less than 3 per cent of world copper production; also the additional 20-25,000 tonnes per annum of copper to be produced by Warrego must be seen in the context of a Free World output of the order of 7 million tonnes per annum.
Against this background there would be no reason whatsoever to establish a marketing authority, as suggested, to protect the position of Mount Lyell or any other Australian mine.
The honourable senator has referred to the scheme that has assisted in maintaining the Mount Lyell copper mine at Queenstown, Tasmania, in production. By virtue of the increased productivity at the mine and the improved copper prices, the company has not required financial assistance under the Government’s scheme since August 1978. This is a most gratifying result.
-On 28 February 1979 Senator Gietzelt asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, a question, without notice, (Hansard, page 332) concerning alcohol consumption and the advertising of alcohol. The Leader of the Government subsequently referred the question to the Minister for Health.
The Minister for Health has provided the following information:
I am aware of the report assembled by Dr Santamaria, to which it is believed Senator Gietzelt referred. However, the figures quoted in it refer to the period ending 1 974.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that the seasonally adjusted value of retail sales of beer, wine and spirits was 13.61 per cent of total retail sales for the September 1978 quarter.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures also show that, although there were major increases in alcohol consumption between 1 964 and 1 974 the situation has since changed remarkably. Between 1974 and 1977 the total national consumption of beer, wine and spirits rose by 1 .7 per cent, 29.4 per cent and 5.8 per cent respectively. The average per capita consumption of beer fell by just over 2.0 per cent, per capita wine consumption rose by 24.5 per cent and per capita spirits consumption rose by about 8 per cent. The average per capita consumption of alcoholic beverages, expressed as ethanol, increased by only just over 2 per cent between 1 974 and 1977.
The Government is concerned about the possible association of mass media advertising and increasing drinking by the young, and the Commonwealth Department of Health has taken an active role in the ongoing development of guidelines for the voluntary control of advertising. I believe that considerable progress has been made in obtaining observance of those guidelines and that that has been a valuable achievement.
The Government is currently considering advice on the recommendation concerning alcohol advertising contained in the report, of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare, entitled Drug Problems in Australia- an intoxicated society?
Tax Deductions for Donations to Charity
-On 6 March 1979 (Hansard, page 487) Senator Rocher asked me, as Minister representing the Treasurer, a question, without notice, concerning the income tax provisions. It was suggested in the question that the minimum amount that might be claimed as a gift be increased from the present $2 to $50. It was also suggested that income tax deductions be allowed in respect of gifts to approved institutions active in the areas of arts, amateur sport and overseas aid. The Treasurer has provided the following information in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As I understand it, the purpose of increasing the $2 minimum to $50 would be to lead donors to increase the size of their gifts, possibly substantially. I am not in favour of such a change to the gift provisions. Whether it would lead to greater or smaller giving is uncertain, but one thing is obvious; such an increase in the minimum would quite unfairly penalise the donor whose gift has to be small because that is all he or she can afford.
As to the question of allowing income tax deductions in respect of gifts to institutions active in the areas of the arts, amateur sport and overseas aid, I would point out that several institutions active in the arts are already covered by the income tax gift provisions. Consideration has been given on a number of occasions to the possibility of extending the gift provisions to include gifts to other artistic bodies and to organisations in the areas of sport and overseas aid. On each occasion it has been concluded, however, that the provisions should not be so extended.
In this context, it is relevant that the amount of revenue forgone through the allowance of gifts is quite outside the Government’s determination; it depends wholly on the generosity of donors and their individual marginal rates of tax. It could thus come about that in cases where a modest direct contribution from public funds might be considered as warranted, a substantially larger amount of revenue was forgone through the allowance of gifts. That is not a very efficient way of providing assistance out of the public purse. Direct financial grants are a much more precise method of assistance. The Commonwealth Government does of course provide such a direct grant assistance in all the areas referred to by the honourable senator.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 April 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790403_senate_31_s80/>.