31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
-I present the following petition form 339 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned electors respectfully showeth:
That compensation benefits payable to injured Australian Government employees and Defence Forces personnel under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1 97 1 should be increased as a matterof urgency in view of the financial plight of recipients, particularly those suffering long term incapacity and because of the significant increase in the cost of living which has occurred since compensation payments were last adjusted; and
That statutory provision should be made for the automatic adjustment of compensation benefits.
And your petitioners as in d u ty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 23 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 objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 742 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The petition of the undersigned electors respectfully showeth:
That Compensation benefits payable to injured Australian Government employees and Defence Forces personnel under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 197 1 should be increased as a matter of urgency in view of the financial plight of recipients, particularly those suffering long term incapacity and because of the significant increase in the cost of living which has occurred since compensation payments were last adjusted; and
That statutory provision should be made for the automatic adjustment of compensation benefits.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Honourable Senators in Parliament assembled. This petition of citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take urgent steps to concur with the wishes of a majority of electors at every polling booth in Australia at the 1967 referendum by resumption from the States of the major traditional Aboriginal land areas and reserves and former reserves as at 31 March 1978, to become federal Crown land pending prompt determination of freehold title for Land Trusts and eventually for defined community co-operatives.
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 petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Federal Government exert Diplomatic pressure on the Soviet Authorities to secure release from detention of a Soviet citizen Mr Igor Ogurtsov, a Graduate of the University of Leningrad, who was sentenced to seven years gaol, eight years hard labour and five years internal exile- a total of twenty years, in accordance with Articles 64A and 72 of the USSR Criminal Code.
Mr Ogurtsov, now age 40, has already served eleven years of his sentence and is currently held in Concentration Camp No. VS 389.35- Permskaya Oblast, Stanitsa Vsehsviatskaya.
His health has deteriorated to the extent that he is not expected to live long enough to see his release from detention.
Mr Ogurtsov ‘s only ‘crime’ is, that he is a Christian, and has participated in a discussion group on the future of a Christian-Democratic System in Russia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Guilfoyle.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security whether she recalls representations that I and other members of this Parliament have made regarding the TPI Hostel in
Hobart to ensure the continued viability of that particular hostel. Is it not a fact that after consultation with departmental officers, the hostel management implemented the recommendations made by the officers about improving the efficiency of the hostel and that significant improvements in its financial position were obtained? Is the Minister now aware that the management of the hostel has recommended that it will close on 30 June? Are we to understand that the Government has no intention of providing any further assistance to the hostel and is prepared to allow it to go out of existence?
– I recall a brief that I had on this matter a day or so ago. I do not have the up-to-date information with me. If Senator Wriedt cares to wait I will give him an answer later during Question Time.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, concerns the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Bhutto. I ask: Has Mr Bhutto been under sentence of death? Is the Minister aware of expressions of concern about his safety and conditions from people, including members of the Senate? Can the Minister advise us as to the present state of affairs in regard to Mr Bhutto?
– I have some information. I know that honourable senators on both sides of the chamber are interested. I am advised by my colleague in another place that according to reports in the Pakistani Press, the Pakistan authorities have carried out the death sentence which was imposed upon the former Prime Minister, Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, by the Lahore High Court and which was confirmed by the Pakistan Supreme Court. Honourable members will be aware that on 6 February 1979, the Pakistan Supreme Court, by a four to three majority, upheld the death sentence imposed upon former Prime Minister, Mr Bhutto, by the Lahore High Court in March 1978 for alleged complicity in the murder of the father of a political opponent. A petition to review the case was rejected by the Supreme Court on 24 March this year. Last minute appeals for clemency were not accepted by the Pakistan authorities.
The Australian Government deeply regrets the execution of Mr Bhutto. Honourable members will recall that many countries and international organisations appealed to the Pakistan authorities to exercise clemency on humanitarian grounds. Australia was among the first to do so.
The Government made further representations on Mr Bhutto’s behalf in February of this year. We regret that they were not successful. Mr Bhutto will be remembered, of course, as a controversial figure and whatever views may be held about his attainments during his term as Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, it must be recognised that he was prominent internationally because of his energetic espousal of issues of concern to developing countries. Because of the deep concern of all honourable senators, following a conversation with Senator Wriedt, I propose to move at the end of Question Time, with the approval of the Senate for leave for Senator Wriedt to move a motion so that for a limited time, a discussion can be held.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations: Has the Government examined the recommendations made by the Federal Executive of the Transport Workers Union in the context of the current industrial dispute? Is the Government aware of the results of meetings held today by the Transport Workers Union? In the light of those two matters- if the Goverment is aware of either or both of them- and in the light of previous statements, what action does the Government now propose about deregistration of the Transport Workers Union?
– I am aware of the result of the meeting of the Transport Workers Union today and I presume that my colleague the Minister for Industrial Relations is fully aware of it and has further examined any recommendations that have been made. I have not any particular information or any knowledge about that matter. However, in anticipation of a question of the kind asked by Senator Button, I am endeavouring to obtain from the Minister for Industrial Relations fuller information on this matter. I hope that I will have that information for the honourable senator before the end of Question Time.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development: With the reduction in world crude oil supplies and in particular the cut-back for Australia, which has resulted in a greater need for conservation of our petrol supplies, will the Government give the strongest support to those States opposing the introduction of stage 3 of emission control, which at present is supported only by the States of New South Wales and
South Australia and which, if introduced, would increase fuel consumption in motor vehicles by at least 5 per cent, causing a scandalous waste of a very scarce energy source?
– I recall answering a question in relation to this matter a little while ago. I think it was just prior to a meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council.
– It is more urgent now.
-I agree with Senator Young that the matter is certainly a very urgent one. The Minister for National Development expressed some general views which I conveyed to the Senate in that answer. I will refer the question back to the Minister for National Development to see whether he has any further uptodate information that I can give to the honourable senator.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Education, relates to a recommendation in the report of the Williams Committee on Education and Training. The Minister would know that the report recommends the establishment of a committee to examine the feasibility of re-introducing fees for tertiary students. I ask the Minister: Firstly, can he give a categorical assurance that such a committee will not be set up and that tertiary fees will not be re-introduced so that students and parents can plan for the future without fear of financial penalty? Secondly, does the Minister propose to set up a committee for this purpose? Thirdly, what is the Minister’s own attitude to the reintroduction of tertiary fees? Finally, if the Minister cannot be as definitive as he would wish to be at this time, and I can appreciate why he might not be because there are conflicting reports on this matter- for example, the Anderson survey and the Blandy survey- can he give the Senate an idea of when he might be able to make a definitive statement to the Senate on this question?
– The Williams Committee report will be considered in its entirety. I think it should be reported on and studied in its entirety. I know that there is concern in sections of the community about a suggestion regarding a review of the present ‘no fees’ situation. However, my understanding is that the Williams Committee envisaged that a committee should look at the matter. I do not want to comment in any way on any aspect of the Williams Committee report at this moment and no assumption should be drawn from that. Cabinet has set up a committee to study the whole of the Williams Committee report. This will necessarily take some little time. Much of the report is a matter for Budget consideration and therefore would involve the procedures of the next few months. I hope that before Parliament rises for the winter recess, various decisions on the Williams Committee report which have been taken up to that date can be made known. I will endeavour to expedite the matter.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, concerns Ayers Rock. Has the Government a clear view of the status of the Uluru National Park land in relation to the ability of local Aboriginal communities to seek, by way of a land rights application, the exclusive use of the area by those communities? Is it the Government’s view that given the unique and special significance of Ayers Rock in our country, all Australians have a real interest in having responsible access to the area?
-The Government has appeared before the Aboriginal Land Commissioner in the hearing which began this week and which included inter alia a claim over Ayers Rock. The submission put forward on behalf of the Commonwealth Government was that the land is a reserve, not unalienated Crown land and hence is not available to claim. As far as I know, Mr Justice Toohey has not yet ruled on that submission. It is a matter which remains to be determined.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for National Development agree that in view of the Iranian and Harrisburg crises it is about time that some urgency was exhibited by the Government in putting forward a coherent energy program for Australia? In view of the publication last week of the far sighted Labor Party Green Paper on energy matters and the favourable editorial comment upon Mr Keating ‘s analysis and proposals I ask: When can we expect the Government to produce, belatedly, its own Green Paper? Can the Minister explain why the Government’s Green Paper, rumoured to appear yesterday, did not materialise? For how long will the Government lag behind the Labor Party in informing the public of the options in this matter?
– That is a very interesting question to come from the Opposition. I know that Senator Tate was not in the Parliament when the Labor Party was in Government. If any government held back the development of energy resources in Australia, it was the Labor Government. It had a totally irresponsible attitude. It failed to conduct any policies in government other than those which held back the development of energy and other resources in this country. As I have said on several occasions in the Senate recently, the Government’s policies in relation to oil and gas exploration have resulted in notable increases in the level of exploration and in the finding, development and proving of further reserves to the extent that already our local production capacity for the mid 1980s has been increased significantly. With the exploration currently going on the increase, no doubt, will be much greater. The Government’s policy on uranium is on the record. We have policies which we are successful in implementing. I do not believe that we will learn anything from the Opposition in regard to these matters.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Social Security been drawn to the advertisement in the Mercury of 3 March 1979 for the position of a worker for the Women’s Shelter in Hobart? Does the advertisement discriminate against the majority of people who could apply for this position by the final sentence which points out that if the person applying believes in a feminist principle it would be an advantage? Does the Minister consider that a feminist principle, which is usually interpreted as a women’s movement principle, is an advantage for those who care for women forced into seeking shelter?
– My attention was drawn briefly to the advertisement concerned. I shall refrain from giving an opinion on the attitudes of those who placed the advertisement. I shall draw it to the attention of the Minister for Health under whose programs this sort of shelter is financed.
– Is the Minister for Social Security aware of an incident in the Adelaide Office of her Department two days ago in which a lady officer behind the counter was attacked? How many incidents of this type have occurred in the Adelaide office? What action does the Minister contemplate, if any, to assist the office staff in these difficult circumstances should they occur in the future?
– I am aware of the incident to which Senator Grimes referred. It related to a female member of the staff who is alleged to have been assaulted by a social services beneficiary behind the unemployment benefit counter at the Hindmarsh centre on Monday of this week. I understand that she was not seriously hurt. As the alleged assailant is to appear in court on 12 April, it may not be appropriate to canvass this incident. I recognise that Senator Grimes did not require me to do that. The incident arose from a difficulty in cashing a cheque at the Reserve Bank of Australia.
I state in response to Senator Grimes’ question that I am not aware of how many incidents of this nature have occurred in the Adelaide office recently. Relatively few incidents have occurred in the Department ‘s offices throughout Australia. Following this incident in Adelaide, the State Director of Social Services discussed the matter at a meeting with counter staff. It was decided at the meeting to appoint an experienced and mature staff member to circulate in the waiting area to identify and pacify disturbed or potentially hostile clients and to ensure that the members of the public receive prompt attention. This officer will take up duty on 5 April 1 979.
The incident has been discussed also with representatives of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association and the Australian Public Service Association which have been informed of developments. The working environment division of the Department of Productivity was engaged last year to design a model public contact area for departmental officers. Appropriate emphasis is to be given to staff security as well as to the preservation of the personal dignity of our clients. The conceptual plan has been completed and is being implemented at the Peninsula regional offices at Frankston in Victoria by the Department of Housing and Construction. The new public contact area should be operating in July this year.
Plans of this nature would be of assistance in protecting staff members from incidents of the kind which we are discussing and in preventing them. It is of concern to us that, where members of our staff are dealing with people who undoubtedly can feel, at times, under considerable strain, no violence occurs. I believe that the Director in Adelaide has this matter in hand and that we have taken the wider view of the problem.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question of the Minister for Social Security. It is our understanding that incidents of this type have happened in Adelaide particularly, and that the Minister and her DirectorGeneral have given some assurances in the past to the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association and the Australian Public Service Association. Could the Minister keep a watch on this office in particular which has special difficulties, I understand, and assure the representatives of the workers in those offices that her plans will be sufficiently carried out?
– I give the assurance to Senator Grimes and to the Senate that where staff members are dealing with public contact areas of the Department’s work, it is regarded as important that there be protection for them and security for other clients who may be using the resources of the Department. As I said, I am unaware of how many incidents of this kind have occurred in Adelaide but I certainly will refer this matter again to the Director-General of Social Services and the State Director to see that whatever action can be taken in the Hindmarsh centre is taken to prevent a reoccurrence of this kind of problem.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. I draw the Minister’s attention to an article appearing in the Melbourne Age on 27 March 1979 which criticises strongly the living and working conditions applicable to young grape pickers working in the Mildura area. Is the Minster aware of this report which claims that on some Mildura district blocks young pickers are being accommodated in crowded and sub-standard bungalows? Will the Minister comment on this disturbing report and explain why the Mildura branch of the Commonwealth Employment Service continues to mislead pickers as to earning possibilities and sends them to these grape blocks without first alerting them to the situation? In the interests of ensuring justice and encouraging young unemployed people to seek job vacancies, will the Minister assure the Senate that a thorough investigation will be conducted into the activities of both the grape growers and the Mildura Commonwealth Employment Service?
-The attention of the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs has been drawn to the article to which Senator Missen referred and it has been the subject of some examination and report by the Commonwealth Employment Service and his Department. Conditions in the harvest area vary. Many growers have excellent facilities. Some offer facilities for caravans and tents. Others, of course, have no facilities at all. It is not the practice of the CES to refer applicants to situations where accommodation is known to be totally unsatisfactory. When the CES receives reports concerning such accommodation the matter is followed up with the growers ‘ association.
As to the claims relating to earnings, employment in the grape picking area is on a contract basis. It is well known that workers are paid according to the volume of fruit picked. Inevitably, some individuals are unable to pick as much as others and perhaps do not make very much at all from engaging in that type of work. The CES accepts that the work is not suitable for everyone and, where difficulties are encountered, seeks to assist people who cannot reach a reasonable level of income. I understand that where specific problems are raised concerning either accommodation or earnings they receive attention from the CES. In the light of that, I do not think the Minister proposes that there should be any further investigation of the conduct of the CES in relation to the matter.
– Is the Minister representing both the Minister for Trade and Resources and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs aware of the claim made by the Chairman of the National Energy Advisory Committee, Mr Lynch, as reported in the Australian Financial Review of yesterday’s date that the fuel consumed by road transport could be cut by 20 per cent in little more than ten years by appropriate technical modifications? If so, what steps is the Government taking to assess the validity of the claim? If these fuel economies are possible, what steps will the Government take to ensure that the necessary design changes are put into practice and thereby ensure that the substantial cost savings that would thus be produced in this time of rapidly rising oil prices will be available to the Australian consumer?
– Earlier I answered a question, as I have on other occasions, concerning the attitude of the Minister for National Development to design changes to vehicles which could result in fuel economies. I am not aware of the claim to which the honourable senator referred but I am sure that the Minister either is aware of it or would be most interested in it. I will direct it to his attention and endeavour to obtain a more complete answer for the Senate.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs read reports of clandestine activities having been undertaken by the South African Government’s Ministry of Information, the so-called Muldergate affair, involving the payment of bribes to members of parliament, public servants and businessmen in the United States, Britain, France, West Germany, Holland, Norway and Japan, and claims that the list is not complete? Can the Minister say whether there has been any evidence of this kind of activity taking place in Australia?
– I am aware of reports relating to the alleged misuse of public funds by the South African Ministry of Information. As honourable senators will be aware, this matter is the subject of a current inquiry in South Africa. The honourable senator has asked whether there is any evidence of the South African Ministry of Information having extended its activities to Australia. The Australian Government has no evidence that it has. However, the Prime Minister has already indicated in another place that if there are specific allegations of improper conduct in relation to this matter such information should be made available.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. In view of the continuing and far-reaching dilemma nuclear engineers are faced with in Pennsylvania, the latest report that there is a nuclear reactor in South Korea approaching a similar critical state, the fact that five nuclear reactors were closed in America because they were built in an earthquake area, the fact that a reactor is planned for an earthquake area in the Philippines, the fact that a Swedish reactor has released considerable amounts of radioactivity into the atmosphere and the fact that an Italian reactor is reported as closing because of very significant amounts of radioactivity being released into the River Po, does the Government intend to differentiate between safeguards directed towards preventing the improper use of fissionable materials and their diversion into weapons manufacture and safety as concerned with the safe operation of all elements of the nuclear industry? Will the Government in future insist upon guarantees of safey as regards environmental control and operations of reactors as well as these other safeguards before overseas contracts are approved?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for National Development.
-Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware of deposits insurance schemes in North America which have effectively avoided panic runs on the funds of financial institutions similar to permanent building societies in Australia? Will the Goverment give consideration to encouraging the building society movement to establish such a scheme in Australia?
– The Government is aware of deposits insurance schemes operating in North America. Overseas experience was one of the matters covered in a report that the Government has received from a working party of Commonwealth officers which was set up to examine the matter of deposits insurance and other possible measures to improve building society stability. Submissions on this matter have been received from groups representing building societies and other sectors of the finance industry and preliminary discussions have been held at officer level with those groups, as well as with the States. The Prime Minister and the Acting Treasurer met recently with building society representatives on the matter of deposits insurance. The Government places considerable importance on this matter and will be persuing it as quickly as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. Which of the countries to which Australia exports or intends to export uranium yellow cake have light water pressure reactors similar to the reactor at Harrisburg?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for National Development.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry by referring to the fact that late last year the Australian Wine Board spent $200,000 on the promotion of dry red wine as a style. At the very same time newspapers were reporting that a Dr Chris Somers, a principal researcher at the Australian Wine Research Institute in Adelaide, had finished developing a revolutionary new style of dry red wine known as April Red ‘ which takes a mere three weeks from vine to drinking and which was received with rapturous approval throughout Australia. I therefore ask the Minister whether that does not indicate, because these two events occurred in isolation, that a considerable lack of coordination exists within the wine industry resulting in this case of less effective usage of the Wine Board ‘s promotional funds.
– I have not any information that could add substantially in an answer to that question. My understanding of the way in which the Wine Board has used funds over the past is that it has drawn congratulatory comment from those who are associated with the industry. I am aware of the production of some red wines that have found acceptability in taste although there is a shorter maturation time than previously. I well recall the benefit of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation research in this area. I had noted the work that had been done by Chris Somers in this instance and all I can do is to draw the comments of the honourable senator to the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to her statement last week that the reason for the greater free area for supporting parents and pensioners, that is, $20 a week as against $6 a week for the unemployed, is because the unemployment benefit is a temporary payment. I ask the Minister for her definition of a ‘temporary payment’. Does she consider that some 45,000 people who have received the unemployment benefit for over a year are on a temporary benefit? Finally, if the Government is unwilling to pay fringe benefits to the unemployed and sick on the same basis as pensioners, why will the Government not increase the free area so that unemployed persons can earn transport, medical and other expenses?
– When I responded to Senator Mcintosh last week I explained that under the Social Services Act the unemployment benefit is paid during the period when a person is unemployed, is willing to undertake work, is capable of taking work and is making efforts to obtain work. The unemployment benefit always has been regarded as a temporary benefit whereas a person who is receiving a pension is either receiving that pension on the grounds of age for the rest of his lifetime, having reached the age at which he qualifies for the pension, or is a supporting parent or a widow or widower receiving it for a number of years while children are regarded as dependants. They are the elements of eligibility that are applied to pensions as distinct from those which apply to the unemployment benefit.
It could be argued that a person who is on the unemployment benefit for a longer time than we would all wish to see anyone receiving that benefit is a person who has the same needs on an annual basis as a person under the pensions system that I described. But I was explaining the difference in the nature of the benefit and the difference in the free area of income which is allowed. I know that there are those who suggest that fringe benefits should apply to all pensions and benefits. That has not been the case. In the period of the former government it was not thought fit to do so. Nor do I believe that in the alternative budget of Mr Hayden last year it was contemplated that fringe benefits should flow on a uniform basis to all people who are receiving benefits or pensions. This was what I was explaining to Senator Mcintosh. I have no other comment to make except that hardship is recognised. As for introducing additional benefits at this stage, that would have to be a part of Budget consideration.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. No doubt the Minister realises that air fares that do not allow stopovers between Australia and the United Kingdom mean that passengers have to travel up to 27 or 30 hours to reach their destinations. Is the Minister aware that such lengths of air travel can impose severe health risks on some people, particularly older persons? Is the Minister able to say how many travellers die each year within a short time after long flights? Will the Minister ask the Minister for Health to issue a statement containing ways of minimising health risks to air travellers who do travel for long periods?
– I am not able to provide statistics on the illnesses or deaths of long distance overseas travellers. I will see if that information is available from the Minister for Health. I will also see what statement he feels it would be desirable to issue to advise people of the best ways in which to travel in comfort for long distances. I recall that many of the travel agencies and other firms issue statements or pamphlets of this kind which are of assistance to travellers. I will see what the Minister for Health considers appropriate and I will see that Senator Townley is advised.
-I am tempted to ask Senator Carrick a further question on the fabulous Flynn of the Gold Coast but, before I do so, does he have any answer from Mr Howard on the matter of the interpreters for the Commonwealth Bank that I asked about earlier?
-No, but I will try very hard.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. Is the Government concerned that the extraordinary subsidy currently given in respect of defence service homes loans is now quite out of perspective and socially inequitable? Loans are provided up to a maximum amount of $ 1 5,000 at interest rates of up to 4.5 per cent per annum to be repaid over 32 years. Is there any other Commonwealth or State welfare financing scheme that is so exceptionally generous? Why has the interest rate remained virtually unchanged since the 1940s despite other interest rates increasing- in general even doubling or trebling- in the intervening period?
– I have noted the contents of Senator Teague ‘s question. I will refer it to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs for his response. I will draw his attention to the many factors that were mentioned.
– My question relates to that asked by Senator Walters concerning the women’s shelter in Hobart. Will the Minister for Social Security also refer to the appropriate authorities a similar advertisement which appeared in the Melbourne Age of 6 January this year which sought a number of ‘co-ordinators’ for the Western Region Women ‘s Refuge? The advertisement reads:
The refuge operates as a feminist collective, and the positions involve organising political actions around women’s issues, as well as co-ordinating the day-to-day running of the house.
– What is wrong with that?
– The honourable senator may not think there is something wrong with it; I am asking the Government whether it does. Is this the kind of activity, exploiting the unfortunate persons concerned, that is envisaged by the Government in its substantial financial assistance to women’s refuges?
– I am not aware whether the women’s shelter mentioned by
Senator Harradine is supported under the community health program. I will refer the advertisement in relation to the shelter to the Minister for Health and seek information for Senator Harradine.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health what action the Government has taken to ensure that accurate records of birth deformities are kept throughout Australia with the object of establishing possible causes for such deformities? Has the Government responded to recommendations made in a report of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment following an investigation into the herbicides 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D?
– I have some information on this matter. The Minister for Health presented a statement to the House of Representaties on 24 November 1978 which referred to the establishment of a perinatal statistical unit and prospective study on pregnant women with regard to problems associated with the herbicide 2,4,5-T. I understand that the specifications for this unit are now finalised and these will be forwarded to the State health departments and advertised in the Press for the advice of those interested in establishing the unit. The feasibility and desirability of conducting the prospective study on pregnant women will be considered by a committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council at its next meeting. I understand that statistics are currently collected in Tasmania and Western Australia and a request has been made to the other four States to proceed to extend the collection of the statistics nationwide. If other matters are comprehended in the question of Senator Jessop, I will refer them to the Minister for Health in order to obtain further information.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs: Was the practice until 1 November last year to pay totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners a meal allowance when they attended the Daws Road Hospital to see a doctor in the morning and another one in the afternoon? Was that practice terminated in November of last year? Is the meal allowance now paid to TPI pensioners attending the hospital only when they have to wait a period of more than 13 hours to visit a doctor? Is that meal allowance 70c?
– I am sorry but I am unable to provide the information sought by Senator Cavanagh. I have no information with regard to the meal allowance for TPI pensioners. I will ascertain whether the allowance was terminated last year. I will also seek advice about the present rate of the meal allowance. I will advise Senator Cavanagh accordingly.
– I direct a question to you, Mr President. It relates to a statement yesterday in the Senate by Senator Gietzelt in which he said that he had been told that Australian Security Intelligence Organisation agents are in fact operating in Parliament House and, even more significantly, that he had been told that members of Parliament are part time informants of ASIO. In view of the implications of that statement with respect to the suggestion that some members of this Parliament are in fact ASIO operatives and also, presumably, the implication that some members of parliament are in fact in the pay of ASIO for information provided to that Organisation, I ask -
– I raise a point of order. Surely the matter that Senator Knight is raising is a matter of privilege. I think that he is heading in that direction. If so, he should raise the matter at the appropriate time, not at Question Time. I am not in any way attempting to inhibit his right to ask the question. All I am saying is that he should raise it at the proper time.
– This is the proper time.
– Question Time is not the proper time to direct such a question to you, Mr President. You cannot possibly answer that question. Obviously it is a matter of privilege that Senator Knight is raising. It should be raised at the appropriate time- that is, after Question Time- if Senator Knight wishes to raise it.
– I do not sustain your point of order, Senator Georges. At the moment I am hearing a question from Senator Knight. I call Senator Knight.
-Mr President, in view of the implications to which I referred before Senator Georges took his point of order, will you indicate whether you, as the Presiding Officer of the Senate, can initiate an investigation into this matter because of the import of the allegations with respect to the Parliament?
– I must inform the honourable senator that it is well established in this place that it is not for me, as President, to rule as to whether any breach of privilege has been committed. That is a matter for each and every honourable senator to decide. Honourable senators have the forms of the Senate available to them. If they wish they may submit a motion about any matter of privilege for the judgment of this chamber.
- Mr President, I seek clarification on that point.
– I raise a further point of order. Mr President, I think that the point of order I raised earlier has been sustained by your answer. If Senator Knight wishes to persist he should persist according to the ruling which you have just given.
– I have ruled that it is not for me, as President, to determine matters of privilege.
– He did not ask about privilege.
– He did. He said, as I understood him, that it was within my province as the Presiding Officer to make determinations in respect of a breach of privilege. I say that it is not. It is for this assembly to determine that.
– I ask a supplementary question. Mr President, are you ruling that this is in fact a matter of privilege? I asked whether you could investigate the matter. Can I take it from your ruling that you see this as a matter of privilege?
– No. I have replied to your question. As I understood it, you asked whether I determine matters of privilege.
– That was not my question.
-Is that so? I shall look at your question very closely and reply to it in due course.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that the Executive Director of the Australian Mining Industry Council, Mr Paul Phillips, made a public statement within the last 48 hours in which he said that the Government intended to drop the export control guidelines insofar as the mineral industry is concerned? Is that a fact? If it is a fact, why was the Parliament not informed in the first instance of the intention to take such action, instead of the Australian Mining Industry Council?
– Personally I am not aware of the statement of Mr Phillips. Whether its substance is correct is a matter for me to refer to the responsible Minister and to seek information on.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources been drawn to a letter in the Australian Financial Review entitled ‘Injustice to Shareholders’ and written by Mr K. W. A. Bridges in which the writer outlines the taxation system whereby the suppliers of all the risk capital in the Cooper Basin are receiving minimal dividends on the vast sums of risk capital invested so that consumers in the Sydney area are able to obtain subsidised gas supplies? Does the Government accept these actions as being conducive to the encouragement of further exploration and development?
– I personally am not aware of the letter in the Australian Financial Review to which Senator Archer refers nor of the details concerning the impact of the taxation laws on those who supplied capital for the Cooper Basin development. I will refer the question to the Minister for Trade and Resources. I think it would be appropriate to refer it to the Treasurer as well and to seek an early answer.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and refer to Question on Notice No. 1006 in which I asked:
Which airports serviced by either Trans-Australia Airlines or Ansett Airlines of Australia do not have a public telephone?
I received a reply which listed 1 1 Queensland centres including, incidentally, Thursday Island which does not have an airport. I ask whether only Queensland airports serviced by TAA and Ansett are without public telephone facilities or whether I was supplied with details for Queensland only.
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Transport and get a reply for the honourable senator.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. As the establishment in Australia of the animal parasite known as the screw worm would cause great economic loss to primary industry, I ask: What quarantine procedures are operating against this parasite which is established in New Guinea and some Torres Strait Islands and therefore is close to Queensland?
– I am unable to give the exact quarantine procedures that are appropriate to the screw worm. I know that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which is within the administration of my Department, is busily looking for ways in which the parasite can be controlled, and in fact has officers in New Guinea looking at the problem at present. The direct matter of quarantine procedures would be one for the Department of Health.
– My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry refers to the Government’s announcement that it will subsidise the differential in interest rates between that which would have been payable by the Australian Wheat Board to the Reserve Bank and that which the Wheat Board will now have to pay to the trading banks as a proportion of their overdrafts. I ask: Will special legislation be introduced to authorise these payments? If not, in what way will the payments be made?
– If the honourable senator places that question on notice I will get the Minister for Primary Industry to answer it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, or perhaps to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. I refer to the recent report that red mud was entering the lagoon at Jabiru, the Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd town in the Northern Territory and polluting that lagoon to quite a degree. Is the Government satisfied, now that the matter has been inquired into, that the situation was greatly exaggerated and was, in fact, the result of a heavy monsoonal storm washing clay into a drain a mere two feet wide and into flood waters in the area? Was this not a move to embarrass and hinder development rather than a genuine complaint?
– I do not have any information in regard to this matter. I will refer it to the Minister for Trade and Resources.
-Can the Minister for Science and the Environment tell the Senate how many SIROTEM machines, developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for mineral research, and manufactured by an Adelaide firm, have been sold in Australia and how many have been exported? Can the Minister also tell us how successful the machines have been in discovering new mineral resources?
– I am unable to answer the honourable senator’s question.
– I can see that the Senate would like a discourse on the SIROTEM machines. Mr President, with your permission I will now deliver that discourse. The honourable senator raises a very important question. It is one of national importance. The reason I am unable to answer his question accurately as to how many units have been sold is that I would have to establish how many units may have been sold in the last week. I am unable to do that. However, this particular piece of equipment has been the subject of notation in scientific journals not only in Australia but also overseas. I was with the Indonesian Minister for Research and Technology, Dr Habibie, only a week ago. This particular machine is creating an enormous amount of interest in his country. As the honourable senator will be aware it is a unique system of producing a low energy electric current on a circuit that has been laid down. The effect of the penetration of the current into the earth is to record, on a particular piece of equipment, the mineralisation that may be found beneath the surface of the earth. I can only say that the honourable senator shows a great degree of interest so far as his State is concerned.
-I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Is it a fact that the Federal Court of Australia has an increasing significance for litigants, particularly because it has original jurisdiction in many proceedings which may be taken under the Trade Practices Act? Does the Federal Court of Australia have a judge resident or readily available in Western Australia? If not, does it follow that Western Australians seeking to pursue their legal rights must await the availability of a judge who has to travel from one of the eastern States? In urgent matters will Western Australian litigants have to bear additional costs due to the need to brief eastern State solicitors, through their local solicitors, as well as incur extra costs in attending proceedings in another State?
– It certainly is a fact that since the establishment of the Federal Court of Australia, it has an increasing demand on its jurisdiction which is of significance for litigants. I am aware of the concern that has been expressed to me in Perth and Western Australia that there is no resident judge of the Court in Perth. However, the policy of the Chief Judge of the court is to make judges available on short notice if they are required for an urgent matter in Western Australia. I understand that that has been done on a number of occasions, although certainly on one occasion an application had to be made to a judge resident in South Australia. I think that there probably have been other occasions as well, but I do not have any details in relation to them. Nevertheless, I recognise that the matter raised is a problem.
This session the Parliament debated the Jurisdiction of Courts (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, which amended the Federal Court of Australia Act and vested State supreme courts with jurisdiction to hear in chambers applications of an urgent nature which normally are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Court. I think that that particular problem will largely be overcome by the amendments to that Act when the legislation comes into operation. If a federal judge cannot be made available quickly in Western Australia an urgent application can be made to the State Supreme Court. However, as I said, it is the policy of the Chief Judge of the court to make judges available and by and large he has succeeded in doing so. It is also the policy of the Government to have a Federal Court judge resident in each of the capital cities of Australia. So in due course I trust that there will be a judge of the Federal Court resident in Western Australia.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Science and the Environment, relates to project ‘Storm Fury ‘ and a recent statement by the head of his Department that many advantages had been gained from the visit of the United States aircraft which took part in some experiments during a cyclonic situation in Australia. I ask the Minister To what extent have any of the procedures within his Department been changed because of that experience? What are the obvious advantages to the country? Is it intended that the Minister’s Department and the Australian Government will take part in the ‘Storm Fury’ project? In short, what have we gained from that particular experience?
-Project ‘Storm Fury’ is one in which the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration- NO AA- is involved in attempting a moderation of cyclones.
As I understand it, in the United States there is a six-month period in which the Administration’s aeroplanes are able to fly into the eyes of cyclones. In some instances they have dropped silver iodide in particular areas of the circular current to see whether the course of the cyclone could be changed or whether the strength of the wind within the cyclone could be moderated in any way. They claim to have had some success. My Department was approached a few years ago to see whether the aircraft might be used during a corresponding time in Australia so that a full 12- months’ service might be gained from the very expensive equipment involved. That Administration ‘s aircraft came to Australia this year and flew into a number of cyclones in the Northern Territory and in Queensland. The aircraft came to Canberra and a number of us were able to see the equipment. If I remember correctly, there was $7m worth of aircraft and equipment.
A decision was made by my Department that no moderation trials would take place in Australia; that is, whilst the aircraft would fly and perhaps measure temperatures, wind and water vapour in cyclones, there would be no attempt at modification. One of the reasons for that was the very important matter of legal responsibility. For instance, a cyclone might be redirected onto a course different from that which it was originally taking, thereby enabling it to . cause damage in another area where normally nature would not have allowed it to act. So no modification has taken place in cyclone abatement.
An agreement is yet to be reached between the Australian Government and the United States as to whether Australia will proceed with any cyclone modification. No action has been taken to moderate the weather in this country. But there are negotiations between the States. The various Premiers have been contacted and State departments have had their say in relation to this matter. I feel confident that we will be anxious to have the NOAA aircraft here again in future years at least to take note of the type of cyclones we have. At the moment no modification of cyclones is taking place.
– I address my question to the Minister for Social Security. Did a committee from the Housing Commission of New South Wales, the Office of Child Care, the Kindergarten Union and the New South Wales Department of Youth and Community Services report to the Minister in December 1977 that there was no significant unmet need for long day care in the New South Wales suburbs and areas of Glebe, Airds, Macquarie Fields, Lethbridge Park, Hebersham, Shalvey or Windale? Did the committee indicate that the main unmet need was for sessional pre-school care in these areas? Is there any reason not to accept the validity of these findings?
– I recall that a working party was established in 1977 with the Kindergarten Union to look at the way in which we may be able to assist the Union in programs of pre-school education in a number of areas in New South Wales. The working party was established by us to offer assistance to the Kindergarten Union because of the level of fees that it was concerned it would need to charge low income families for pre-school education. I am advised that the working party concluded that whilst there may well be a need in many areas for other children’s services, such as neighbourhood centres which can provide a range of services including a minimal amount of full day care, the question to be decided by that committee was whether the Kindergarten Union could convert any of its pre-schools into full day care centres. In the event it was decided that it would be preferable for the Kindergarten Union to continue to operate the pre-schools.
The working party was not required to, nor did it reach decisions about, the main unmet needs of the areas mentioned by Senator Baume. The needs for long day care are under continuing examination by the Office of Child Care. I will call for an up-to-date report from the Office on the present estimated unmet needs for long day care in the areas mentioned by Senator Baume and in other areas of New South Wales. We are concerned that the children’s services program should, as far as possible, be directing attention to the range of services which are required in addition to the assistance which we give to State governments for pre-school education.
– I express my gratification and appreciation to all honourable senators and Ministers for the fact that both today and yesterday 34 questions and a number of supplementary questions were asked and answered. This gave many honourable senators an opportunity to ask their questions and receive replies. The asking of 68 questions as well as a few supplementary questions in two days is a very good record. I thank all honourable senators for it.
– Earlier in Question Time, Senator Wriedt asked me about the TPI Hostel in Hobart. I was unable to give him the information he requested. He raised the matter of the financial difficulties of the Hostel. I state, as he may have stated in his question, that we have had discussions involving a number of people with regard to the Hostel. Late in 1977 a senior officer from my Department visited the Hostel and discussed its operation in detail. Following these discussions, changes were made to staffing arrangements and the supply of meals which should have enabled the hostel to operate within its income. But the assistance that was provided did not overcome the real difficulties which existed in the hostel. I am unable to offer any assistance additional to the personal care subsidy of $ 1 5 a week which is paid in respect of each eligible resident. The Department is aware that the financial problems have continued.
In November 1977 the Government set up a joint State-Federal working party on hostel accommodation when it was found that a small number of hostels were in difficulties. A report from that working party is expected to be received soon. The TPI hostel in Hobart has been included in the survey of the working party. I could offer to send an officer again to the hostel to see whether the Department can make any further suggestions to assist; but we certainly will give consideration to the hostel’s difficulties in line with the recommendations and the report of the working party. I advised Senator Wriedt of that information recently but I believe that the letter has not yet reached him.
The honourable senator asks whether I am able to offer any additional assistance. I am afraid that under the programs of my Department at present I am not able to offer any assistance other than a personal care subsidy.
-On 3 April Senator Sim asked me a question concerning the current position regarding consideration of a joint foreign fishing venture. The question related to the proposal submitted by Kailis Kaohsiung Fishing Co. Pty Ltd. The Minister for Primary Industry informs me that, following discussions with representatives of the company, a large measure of agreement has been reached at official level. Outstanding issues are under active consideration by the Commonwealth and the States concerned with a view to finalising arrangements before the 200-mile Australian fishing zone commences. I am also informed that some further information is required from the company. Naturally when officials have concluded their talks, the resultant agreements will have to be considered by the Government.
-On 28 March, Senator Mulvihill asked a question without notice which referred, among other things, to the Uranium Advisory Council. In my reply I recognised that the question required a detailed reply and I now wish to amplify my earlier response. As announced by the Deputy Prime Minister on 10 April 1978, the Uranium Advisory Council is an independent body representing a broad crosssection of public and industry interests. Its functions are to advise the Government and to report annually to the Parliament with regard to the export and use of Australian uranium, having in mind the hazards, dangers and problems which may be associated with the production of nuclear energy and the development of the uranium mining industry in Australia, including exploration.
In response to the honourable senator’s first question, I am informed that the Uranium Advisory Council has met three times since the membership of the Council was announced on 24 November 1978 by the Deputy Prime Minister. As an independent body, the frequency of meetings is a matter for the Council to decide. However, I understand that in the initial period the Council expects to meet monthly.
In answer to the honourable senator’s second and third questions, I state that the supervising scientist is required to advise me in the first instance on the effects of uranium mining operations on the environment in the Alligator Rivers region. He is required to submit a report to me annually which I am required to table in both Houses of Parliament within 15 sitting days of my receiving it. This will provide the opportunity for debate in the Parliament on the measures adopted for environmental control in the region.
In response to the honourable senator’s fourth question, I draw his attention to the comprehensive statement incorporated in Hansard on 29 March on the role of the Supervising Scientist and the measures being adopted by the Northern Territory Government and this Government to protect the environment in the Alligator Rivers Region.
-Yesterday, in response to a question from Senator Bonner, I gave some information about the elections on Aurukun and Mornington Island. I am afraid that some of that information was not correct and I wish to correct it now. I said yesterday that each of the councils had been re-elected. The position is that the earlier councils each had five members and that the new councils each have eight members. At Aurukun four of the five previous councillors ran for election. All were elected. The previous chairman received the highest number of votes. At Mornington Island, all five concillors ran for reelection. Of these two appear to have been elected, the election of one because of postal voting, is still in doubt, and two appear to have been defeated. At both Aurukun and Mornington Island the polls have yet to be declared. I apologise to the Senate for the mis-information that was previously given.
– I seek leave for Senator Wriedt to move a motion regarding the execution of Mr Bhutto, and to permit the Senate to discuss the matter for a period of 30 minutes.
– I thank you, Mr President, and I also thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) for the opportunity to move:
That this Senate deplores the actions of the Pakistan Government in executing the former Prime Minister, Mr Bhutto.
Mr Bhutto was one of the more amazing politicians of modern times. Upon coming to power in the wake of the breakup of his country, his main goal was to overcome the divisive trends in Pakistan and to re-build the country as a unified nation. His ideal was the achievement of a modern, liberal, democratic, Islamic state and he worked with great haste to achieve this high ambition for Pakistan. His contact with the masses of the country was something that had not been achieved by his predecessors. Indeed, his support from that quarter may subsequently lead to considerable difficulty when the next elections are held in Pakistan, currently due in November of this year.
After leading his country for 5l/i years, the former Prime Minister was ousted in a coup in early 1977. Later that year, along with a number of members of the Federal Security Force, he was charged with conspiring to murder a political opponent. Those events were alleged to have occurred towards the end of 1974. Following the longest murder trial in Pakistan’s legal history, Mr Bhutto and four others were found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. The subsequent appeal was dismissed by a 4 to 3 majority of the Supreme Court of that country. Recently that court dismissed a final review petition but made a strong recommendation to the Chief Executive to consider clemency. In taking this step, the Government of Pakistan has ignored the appeals from leaders of many countries throughout the world. It has ignored the appeals of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. It has ignored the appeals of organisations concerned with the humanitarian treatment of prisoners.
There are a number of reasons why the Senate should deplore the actions of the Government of Pakistan. While not challenging the validity of the legal proceedings which led to the conviction and sentencing of Mr Bhutto, it must be noted that there are a number of unusual features involved in the case. The key witnesses against him had originally been charged with the same offence. Only four of the nine Supreme Court judges upheld the conviction. Of the remaining five, three were against the conviction and two retired before the decision was given. On review, the Supreme Court put in a strong recommendation for clemency. Those events constituted very strong grounds for the Government of Pakistan to act on the recommendation of the Supreme Court. It is to be deplored that the Government did not so act.
Because Mr Bhutto was a politician charged by his political successors with conspiracy to murder a former political opponent, some doubt must be created in the minds of many people as to whether or not the prosecution was politically motivated. Although politicians should not be above the law, it is an extremely bad precedent to establish that administrations can be subject to legal harassment by their successors. As parliamentarians we should be particularly vigilant in examining the circumstances of cases of this nature. Suggestions that the prosecution was politically motivated gained some credence in this case because of the campaign waged against Mr Bhutto during the week before the verdict.
Probably the most important reason for deploring this action arises from the international impact that the hanging of former Prime Minister Bhutto will have. This execution by judicial fiat will not remove the chaotic political divisions within Pakistan and is likely to exacerbate them. The consequences for the rest of the world could be severe. Pakistan is in a key situation in an area which has seen more than its share of troubles in recent times. Destabilisation of the position can only create the risk of grave consequences for the rest of the world. Most of these sentiments were summed up in a letter sent by the former President of Pakistan, Mr Chaudhry, to General Zia earlier this year in which Mr Chaudhry said:
The implementation of the death sentence … is a matter of grave concern not only for Pakistan but for the international community as well. Nationally, it threatens the independence, integrity and sovereignty of the motherland, and internationally it is bound to aggravate, beyond the point of no return, instability in an area of extreme strategic importance to the economy and politics of the whole world.
The execution of Mr Bhutto can provide much more than a detonation. The subdued reaction can become more vocal and ultimately turn militantly violent . . .
The peculiarities in the judgment are too glaring and solid to be ignored. Three honourable judges have passed a verdict of clear acquittal. This fact alone is bound to raise grave misgivings in the minds of the general public about the reasonableness of implementing the capital punishment . . .
In his submission to the Supreme Court Mr Bhutto himself said:
More than my life is at stake. The future of Pakistan is at stake.
The seriousness of this issue was recognised both by the Government and the Opposition in this country. Both the Government and the Opposition made representations to the Government of Pakistan to exercise compassion in the case of Mr Bhutto. I believe that it is appropriate that this Senate, in support of those recommendations, deplores- I would hope unanimouslythe actions of the Government of Pakistan in hanging its former Prime Minister.
– I desire to second the motion which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) has moved and to support him in what he has said in respect of the action of the Pakistan Government today. I think members of this Senate would deplore that action and it is a matter on which they have expressed their views for some time. They have urged that clemency be exercised. This fatal action ought not to have been taken by the Pakistan Government. I speak not only as a senator in this parliament but also as the Chairman of the Australian Parliamentary Group of Amnesty International, which organisation has expressed its view in no uncertain terms. It has urged that clemency be exercised in respect of this political leader- a man who was elected twice to the highest position in Pakistan and a man who was deposed. His execution will be seen in the world only as a piece of political expediency- the removal of an opponent.
I do not repeat what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition in respect of the dubious nature of these actions, of the trial and of the fact that there was, on appeal, a very, very small majority prepared to take this course. Even then that majority appeared to exercise a request for clemency directed to the present Leader of the Government in that country. It seems to me that all the appeals which have been made throughout the world for the exercise of clemency have been ignored and Pakistan, I think, will suffer as a result. It is not only a matter on which concern is expressed because here is another political leader who is treated in this way. I think we are concerned because this is not the only instance. We know that in Iran there have been executions and behaviour which likewise does not appear to be the standard of a civilised country. We know that this is not the only case of the execution of a political leader, but it is to be deplored because this action removes a man who has been a leader of a country, a man of great importance in that part of the world. In addition to that factor, Amnesty International abhors the death sentence when it is exercised in any event, and in its statute, under the heading Objects’, it says:
Considering that every person has the right freely to hold and to express his convictions and the obligation to extend a like freedom to others, the objects of Amnesty International shall be to secure throughout the world the observance of the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by:
We know that in the treatment of this man as a prisoner a great deal occurred that is also a matter of criticism. Worst of all is that his life has now been destroyed; that the persons who exercise the present power in Pakistan decided to remove him. The Amnesty International group has felt concern for some time about this matter. At its annual meeting on 12 April of last year the group expressed strong concern about the recent trial and threatened execution of Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the elected Prime Minister for Pakistan, who was subsequently deposed by a military coup in that country. The group agreed that the trial of Mr Bhutto appeared to reflect a harsh political judgment rather than a criminal adjudication. Mr Bhutto was a member of parliament and the elected political leader of his country. The trial had not appeared to be a fair one and because of this the possibility of his execution was of concern to Amnesty International members in the Australian Parliament. It remains like that to this day.
We then communicated with the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and, as we all know, he made appeals for clemency. In his letter of reply to me he said:
The representations, made by the Australian Ambassador in Islamabad, stated that, in seeking clemency, the Government had taken into account our close and friendly relations with Pakistan, which enabled us, in my view, to express concern at the death sentence without, we would hope, it being taken as interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs. Our Ambassador also said that the Australian Government appreciated that the judicial process had not yet been completed, but nevertheless felt compelled to join with other responsible members of the international community who have sought clemency.
The representations also referred to the international acceptance of Mr Bhutto as an active and constructive leader of the Third World and to our strong dislike of the death sentence being carried out on political leaders.
That view, which has been expressed by our Government, by the Amnesty International group, by members of parliament and by leaders throughout the world, is such that I think it ought to have been observed. The secretary of the Amnesty International group, Senator Ruth Coleman, and I called upon the Pakistan Ambassador following that correspondence and requested him to urge his Government to take note of these pleas. It is clear that that has not been done. It is clear that it will be seen in the eyes of the world as a vindictive action. It is behaviour which must damage Pakistan in the eyes of the world. It must show Pakistan as not being the civilised country we had hoped it would be. I regret this matter very deeply. It is something of which I think the whole civilised world will feel ashamed. I hope that our support of this motion will make clear to the Pakistan Government our feelings on the subject.
– I believe that it is appropriate that this motion should be carried by the Senate not only as an expression of the Senate ‘s grief at the death of a man who until recently was a distinguished national leader and to show that the Senate deplores the action of the Government which has brought about his judicial murder but also to draw attention to what seems to be becoming an ever-increasing phenomenon in modern political life, that is, the murder of people who take political positions. It is only a few years since the former Prime Minister of Turkey was executed by the government which succeeded him. It is only a few weeks since the former Prime Minister of Iran was executed by a government which succeeded the regime to which he belonged. It is only a year or so since a former Prime Minister of Italy was murdered by an organisation claiming to hold some political objectives. It is less than a week since a prominent member of the Opposition of the British Parliament was murdered by another organisation claiming to have some political objectives.
All these actions have been works of political terrorism- in some cases by governments, in some cases by people who do not constitute a government. It seems to amuse some of the journalists in the gallery but I do not find it an amusing subject. I believe that this is a matter which should be of concern to this Parliament- I still see that the gallery finds it very funnybecause it concerns a question which confronts all of the civilised world, that is, that violence is being increasingly resorted to by those who are not prepared to allow their people to engage in political discussion and free political debate. These people are against the whole of the civilised traditions of the peoples of this world.
Mr Bhutto was a remarkable man. He was one of the most remarkable national leaders in the world. He shared much in common with Mr Nehru, the former Prime Minister of India. He was a product of both his Eastern society and also Western society. He had careers of great distinction both at Oxford and at the University of California. Professor H. R. Trevor-Roper, the historian, described him as one of the most outstanding students who had studied under him. It reflects the sort of person Mr Bhutto was that the first guest of state in Pakistan after he became head of government was Professor TrevorRoper not some visiting potentate but a scholar. Mr Bhutto was a scholarly man who sacrificed himself to work within his own country. He was removed from the office to which he was elected by a substantial majority of the Pakistan voters in a violent coup by the people who now constitute the Pakistan Government.
I do not wish to appear too easily irritated but it is disturbing that some members of the Press Gallery laugh all through a debate of this kind in the Senate. I think this reflects great discredit on them and it is a matter which the Senate ought to consider. If the matter is so amusing to journalists they should leave the gallery while it is discussed. I do not think they are the people to be reporting the proceedings of this Parliament. Mr Bhutto’s trial took place in circumstances in which one can only say that his future well-being was in severe jeopardy. Reference has been made already to the proceedings which took place within the courts. Some extraordinary activities took place so far as shuffling judges back and forth but even worse the martial law administrator, the President of Pakistan, maintained a constant running fire of comments on the guilt of Mr Bhutto. Documents prejudging the issue were circulated to all of us by the Embassy of Pakistan. To have martial law administrators comment on the alleged guilt of an accused person in a country which is ruled by martial law can be regarded only as a severe abuse of justice. This makes a mockery of the judicial processes which were allegedly followed by Pakistan.
I do not know and I do not think that any honourable senator knows whether Mr Bhutto committed the acts which he was alleged to have committed. Certainly there is very great doubt regarding this matter in view of the way the proceedings were conducted. I think that it is appropriate that we should express our protests by the Senate carrying a motion today. This matter concerns all of us, not only Pakistan. It is a serious, tragic and disturbing matter and all members of the Opposition appreciate the attitude adopted by the Government in facilitating the passage of this motion.
– I think this is a significant motion. It was moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) with the full approval of the Government. I support the comments made by the Leader of the Opposition, my colleague Senator Missen and Senator Wheeldon. The execution of Mr Bhutto was an horrendous act. Honourable senators do not lightly pass judgment on the governments or actions of other countries. I met Mr Bhutto in 1966 when he was the Foreign Minister of Pakistan. I do not know whether any other members of this Parliament met him. He impressed me as a man of tremendous intellectual capacity. As Senator Wheeldon rightly commented, he was a mixture between the West and the East, like Mr Nehru. Whatever the alleged crimes may have been, the execution of a political opponent of the Government after a division in the High Court of Pakistan of four to three, where three justices made a plea for clemency, was horrendous. The whole of the Western World, the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations, many countries of the Islamic world and the People’s Republic of China all made pleas for clemency. China may be tainted because it executes its political opponents. These were ignored by the President of Pakistan. Whatever the crimes of this man may or may not have been- and we cannot sit in judgment- the execution fills all of us with horror today. I join with the Senate in a bipartisan attitude in condemning the actions of the Government of Pakistan.
The execution goes beyond the security of Pakistan. Pakistan is of tremendous importance to the world. Nobody can judge the effects of the execution. Mr Bhutto, rightly, had tremendous support and his family has tremendous support amongst a great section of the people of Pakistan. Because of this action which horrifies us all Pakistan’s stability may well be at stake. I cannot believe that the Government of Pakistan was not aware of this. Consequently the security of our region could be put in jeopardy.
I applaud Senator Wriedt ‘s moderate terms in moving this motion. I have pleasure in supporting them in expressing my horror at the events that have taken place. In particular we must look at the future to see what effects this action will have. I find it hard to believe that the leaders of Pakistan were not aware of what this action could well bring. It is difficult to understand the motives behind the decision. It may be fear that if Mr Bhutto were not executed he would live on and be a symbol. I wonder whether that was the right judgment? Mr Bhutto is now a martyr but his family lives on. The Bhutto family is a family of significance and could well become a rallying point for dissent in Pakistan. This may bring instability to Australia. Pakistan was brought up under British law and traditions, which it followed for many years. Now these seem to have been overthrown for something which I do not understand and which I do not think anybody in this place understands.
I could speak further on this matter. I join with those who have spoken in expressing in this Senate our horror at what has happened and our fear of what may well happen. Today Senator Wheeldon spoke of the growing tendency towards judicial murder or murder by terrorists as in the case of the distinguished member of the House of Commons. To me it is all the same regardless of whether it is cloaked in a judicial atmosphere of a government of the day, in Iran or Pakistan, or a terrorist killing of a member of the House of Commons. The growth of political terror in the world seems to be one of the most horrifying elements of our present society. The Government of Pakistan, by giving it judicial authority, has encouraged the growth not only of judicial terror but also of actions carried out by terrorists with no judicial authority. I join with Senator Wriedt, Senator Missen and Senator Wheeldon and others who will speak to this motion in expressing my horror at and opposition to the execution of a very distinguished man. Whatever his faults or values may have been we should all deplore and condemn this execution.
– I speak in support of this motion and join with honourable senators in deploring the situation which has arisen. I will not canvass the rights and wrongs of the case but I think it is important that we look at the decision of the High Court of Pakistan which, by a four to three vote, rejected the appeal against the death sentence. Originally, there were nine judges hearing this case. One judge turned 65 during the hearing and was retired. Another judge had a stroke and asked for a one-month adjournment, which was refused. Both judges were rumoured to be leaning towards Mr Bhutto during the conduct of the trial. The four majority judges came from the Punjab. Maybe this is a coincidence, but it has already been used to foment regional discontent in Pakistan. Bhutto was described by General Zia as a social democrat. That interpretation might be open to question by a number of us but, importantly, it was used by General Zia as a term of denigration as he promised to lead Pakistan back to a traditional Islamic State. In view of this execution, I believe that elections in Pakistan now scheduled for November will be postponed. The present controllers could not take the risk of Bhutto’s party, the Pakistan People’s Party, being successful and possibly seeking revenge. Surely this is one of the most worrying things for all of us who believe in parliamentary democracy. It has been said on a number of occasions in this Senate that parliamentary democracy is on the decline throughout the world and that the number of parliamentary democracies declines every year.
On the Indian subcontinent where only recently parliamentary democracy received one of its greatest victories in years- I refer to Indiaand where an Opposition which was thought to be in a hopeless situation was able to win power through the ballot box this tragic situation occurs. It will lead to instability in the region and a possible reign of repression in Pakistan. It is to be deplored by all of us who believe in parliamentary democracy.
– I join other honourable senators in supporting this motion moved by the Senate condemning the execution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He certainly was one of the most distinguished people to emerge in the whole of the Indian subcontinent during the time that he served in the government of Field Marshal Ayub Khan and later in the government of General Yahya Khan. He came to power as a result of the division of his country along essentially racial lines. He has been condemned by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, again along essentially racial lines. It seems to me that murder whenever it occurs, political murder in particular, is something which should strike terror into the hearts of all of us. But when the political murder is condoned and promoted by a government it becomes a matter that concerns the international community in a far more direct sense.
I do not think it is necessary to go into the details of the trial, the way in which the state’s evidence was produced and the fact that a person in Great Britain has confessed now in fact to having been the person responsible for the murder of the person over whose death Mr Bhutto has been condemned. They are extraneous matters. I believe that this Parliament- and members of this Parliament- will have to face up to this sort of situation not only so far as the particular case of Mr Bhutto is concerned but also to the fact that the execution of deposed political leaders is becoming a more and more common practice. The execution of Menderes was once regarded as an isolated incident. We have now seen in Iran the terrifying way in which Mr Hoveida and other members of the former administration have been condemned by that government. We know from the Amnesty International report on China the extent to which political executions of former political opponents still take place there. This Parliament has to be sensitive in this particular instance and in all instances to the way in which persons coming to power, very often by means that are illegal or regarded as improper, then use the judiciary, the military and the means of force at the disposal of the state to deal with their political opponents and to silence them in the most complete way possible.
I join with other honourable senators in deploring the way in which Mr Bhutto has been judicially murdered. I regret to say that I believe the Senate may well find itself facing motions like this in increasing numbers and of an increasing frequency. It is perhaps one of the occasions that draws to our attention as free people in a free society the values and the worthwhile nature of the free society in which we are able to live, protected in our political activity from this sort of revenge. This execution is a matter greatly to be condemned. It is a blot on the world community.
It is something that all Australians should protest about on this occasion and indeed on any other occasion when the judiciary of a country is used to exact terrifying revenge upon people whose only crime in the long run may have been to hold different political opinions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter dated 4 April 1 979 from Senator Cavanagh:
Dear Mr President,
Pursuant to Standing Order 64, 1 give notice that today I shall move ‘That in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency:
The failure of the Government to reply countering the false and self interest campaign of the Mining Industry seeking to defeat the Aboriginal (NT) Land Rights legislation and the agreement reached between the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory and the Federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and the Chairman of Northern Land Council te impose restrictions on Aboriginal Control of Aboriginal Lands granted under the Aboriginal (NT) Lands Act’.
Yours sincerely, J. L. CAVANAGH A.L.P. Senator for South Australia
Is the motion supported?
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
My party and I are greatly concerned about the campaign that has been started by the Australian Mining Industry Council. It believes that the operation of the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act causes some inconvenience to its desire to rape the country and gain mineral rights for the profit of its shareholders. The campaign commenced with a great deal of newspaper publicity and culminated in a circular dated 8 March 1979 which I believe was sent to all members of Parliament. The statement concerning the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act is not correct in detail. Many falsehoods are contained in the statement. This campaign shows up the peculiar attitude of the
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) who has a responsibility to protect Aboriginals. One must question whether the action of the Minister is in compliance with the responsibility of his portfolio or whether his action has been influenced by the campaign initiated by the mining industry.
It is very obvious that someone has to refute the allegations put forward by the Australian Mining Industry Council. Aboriginals have had a hard struggle to obtain land rights and are endeavouring to keep those land rights. They can justify their claim to these land rights to the Australian people. It is wrong to suggest, as the mining industry has done, that the land rights legislation gives land to Aboriginals to the detriment of other citizens of the Commonwealth. The land rights legislation included Schedules 1 and 2 which named certain land as Aboriginal land. This resulted from Mr Justice Woodward ‘s inquiry into the land rights of Aboriginals. Nevertheless, under that legislation no other land can be granted to Aboriginals until such time as the Northern Territory Aboriginal Land Commissioner has determined that the Aboriginals have established traditional rights to the land. The Commissioner reports to the Minister after taking into consideration the claim of the tribal Aboriginals, the number of Aboriginals involved, the justification of their case and the rights of any other people who may have an interest in the land.
It is the Minister who decides whether the land shall be granted to the Aboriginals. The Commissioner does not have that responsibility. All facts are taken into consideration. Even though Aboriginals may be able to establish a claim for tribal ownership of land, it does not necessarily indicate that the land will be granted to them. Although some land was recognised in the Act as Aboriginal land, no entitlement deeds have yet been registered. Therefore, there is no such thing as Aboriginal land.
The original Aboriginal land rights Bill introduced by the Labor Government has been greatly watered down. The Commissioner does not appear to put paramount importance on the capabilities of Aboriginal tribal people to establish a land claim. As the people of Borroloola pointed out, they got the land that Mount Isa Mines did not want for a sea port and the area of land that was not required for mining purposes. Although the Aboriginals had established a tribal claim, the interests of other people were considered to be of greater value. While there has been comment about the large area of desert in central Australia that was granted to
Aborigines, it was land which no one else desired- and no one will desire it until such time as minerals are found there.
Aborigines have lost the right to control roads that run through their areas- a power which previously was contained in the legislation. The non-registration of titles related to a number of roads which, according to the Minister’s Press statement, the Commonwealth never accepted as roads. Because the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly accepted the roads as roads, we are told that an alteration will be sought to the legislation to enable roads which are unrecognised by the Commonwealth but are in Aboriginal land to be taken away from the control of Aborigines. So, encroachment upon Aboriginal land rights is increasing day by day. The most scandalous thing that the Minister has done- he has a responsibility to protect Aboriginals and to administer an Act that gives benefits to Aboriginals- is to have Mr Denton Q.C. oppose the right of the Commissioner to consider the Aboriginals’ claim for land rights in the Ayers Rock area. The Federal Government, which has the responsibility for Aboriginal lands, is opposing the Aboriginal Central Land Council’s claim to the Commissioner for recognition of tribal land around Ayers Rock.
Despite the crying of the Australian Mining Industry Council and despite the accusations that may be made by other people in the Northern Territory, no decision has been made to prohibit any activity of any person or organisation on Aboriginal land. The mining at Ranger and Nabarlek has gone ahead. No notice has been taken of the rights of Aboriginals to decide who enters their land. No more restrictions are applied today than were applied before Aboriginal lands were declared. No one has complained about being refused the right of entry on to Aboriginal land. No restriction applies. People can enter the land around Ranger and the Kakadu National Park and enjoy what is recognised as Aboriginal land and as a national park.
The reason for the opposition to the Ayers Rock area being proclaimed Aboriginal land is that it is a national park. The Aboriginals have recognised the area as tribal land for many years. They can identify many sacred sites. These sites have been protected from invasion by tourists over the years. The Aboriginals concerned have now made a claim to the Commissioner. Mr I. Barker Q.C. is appearing for the Northern Territory Government and Mr Denton Q.C. for the Commonwealth of Australia. They have told the hearing that the area surrounding Ayers Rock and the Olgas cannot be claimed to be Aboriginal land as it is part of a national park. Mr Barker Q.C, who is representing the Northern Territory Government, is also appearing for the Northern Territory Attorney-General’s Department, the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission and the Northern Territory Tourist Board. That shows the mounted opposition that the Aboriginals have to face in a claim for their land. Mr Barker told the Commissioner that he could hear claims only for unalienated Crown land. Mr Denton said that the land was not unalienated and had been dedicated for a public purpose.
We see again the Government’s support for land rights: It is opposing the claim of the Aboriginal people. Surely there is enough opposition to their claim from the interests that Mr Barker is representing without the Commonwealth’s joining in. Mr Denton, supporting Mr Barker, said that the land did not qualify as Crown land and that it was not unalienated because it had been dedicated for a public purpose. The park in Arnhem Land also was dedicated for a public purpose and it is recognised as Aboriginal land. This is no justification, in my mind, for not declaring the area Aboriginal land. The Commissioner has not only a duty to decide Aboriginal claims to unalienated Crown land; he also has the right to hear claims for alienated Crown land. He can report to the Minister on what claims may be lodged for alienated Crown land. As Mr Viner said, the matter of unalienated Crown land must be dealt with first. Tribal claims for land which at present is alienated to someone else must be dealt with in separate legislation.
The Australian Mining Industry Council puts forward the pathetic plea that Australia should have a law for all Australians, not a separate law for people of a particular race. It says that the law that applies in Australia should apply to everyone, including Aboriginals; that this is fair and in the Australian interest. The Council forgets the fact that the Australian public voted in 1967, by an overwhelming majority, that there should be special laws for people of particular races, and this included the Aboriginal people. Therefore the Australian public has authorised, if it is thought necessary, the provision of separate land for the Aboriginal people. Everyone agrees that the greatest needs of the Aboriginals are to establish their identity, to continue their culture and to carry on their spiritual worship. All these things are linked to the land they so rightly claim. We thought that we had legislation which would give them this land. Apparently, this is now to be changed because someone wants the land. The headline of a newspaper report about an address given by Dr Coombs at a seminar states:
Land rights: ‘Worse than Hitler’.
The report states:
He said acts of aggression against Aboriginals since the European occupation of Australia had almost destroyed Aboriginal land ownership.
Even Hitler, after he occupied Poland, Czechoslovakia and France left the property rights of those people unimpaired. ‘
The Federal Government, too, has shown it rates the interests of mining companies ahead of its stated commitment to restore land rights to Aboriginal communities,’ Dr Coombs said.
We now come to a covering letter which the Australian Mining Industry Council sent to each honourable senator with a paper containing its comments.
The letter states:
Since late 1978 the Council has been preparing a further discussion paper on Aboriginal land rights legislation for presentation to the Federal, South Australian and Northern Territory Governments and for release to the public generally.
I have a copy of the Council’s campaign paper. The letter in relation to an examination the Council carried out states: . . however, has led it to believe that there are mounting problems as a result of the legislation not just for the mining industry, but for all Australians.
The article attached to the letter shows this. The letter continues:
It is the enormous size of the Aboriginal land grants in the Northern Territory which is a major cause of most of the problems there including: . . . whether existing roads can remain open; the loss of options regarding future access routes; … the long and, in some cases perhaps, permanent delays in getting already discovered mineralisation developed; the disincentive for mineral exploration activity generally . . .
If we look at the Ranger project we see that the delay was not caused by the Land Council. It was caused because the mining industry would not approach the Land Council. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs were sent to coerce the Land Council into signing a document. The tribal elders have not given their consent for mining in that particular area. The letter continues:
The Council does not disagree with the basic intent of current land rights legislation but questions the direction it is presently taking. It is obvious that the rights of others and the national and State interests are given far from adequate consideration.
The Council then sets out its mis-statement as follows:
The Australian Mining Industry Council recognises that the Federal and South Australian Governments have determined that the transfer of Crown Land to Aboriginal ownership and control should, where a traditional association can be established, take precedence over any alternative land use options.
What a deliberate, direct lie that is. As I have said, the only way Aboriginals can get land is for the Land Commissioner to make a decision taking all these things into consideration. Further on in the document the Council points to the decision made by Mr Justice Toohey when, in considering Borroloola, he sets out the conditions that he thinks he must take into consideration as Aboriginal Land Commissioner under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. The Council in its document points out that the Commissioner has misinterpreted the legislation when he states that he must definitely give preference to Aboriginals. Mr Justice Toohey states:
I think that what is required of me is this:
I am to ascertain who are the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land claimed, if there be such.
1 am to have regard to the strength or otherwise of their traditional attachment to that land.
1 am to have regard to the principles spelled out in subsection (4).
That is sub-section 4 of section 50 of the Act. He continues:
For the purpose of influencing the Minister we find that the Commissioner must take into consideration- as he said- paragraphs (a) to (c) of sub-section (3) of section 50 which state:
In considering this matter we find that the Aboriginals did not come out too well in relation to their Borroloola claim although it was demonstrated that tribal ownership could be established. There were other users and others with rights. A recommendation was made in relation to unwanted sections of the commons. 1 believe that involved three islands out of five because the other islands were wanted for a deep seaport by Mount Isa Mines Ltd. The first consideration of the Commissioner was the use made by other poeple and this took precedence over other considerations. A fairer claim could not have been made in relation to the centre of Australia because no one else appeared to want the area. The Australian Mining Industry Council report continues:
In this case, however, his interpretation highlights a major anomaly in the Act which is that the method by which the land claims must be determined goes against all the principles of sound land use planning. The Act should be amended to make the application of such principles mandatory. For the same reason, the proposed South Australian legislation needs major amendment as well.
If we achieve only a denial from the Minister about the claim by the mining industry then we have done something. All those things have been taken into consideration by the Commissioner. Town planning is one thing that can be taken into consideration- not by the Commissioner so much- and it was taken into consideration when the Northern Territory Government extended corporation boundaries to cover large areas where Aboriginals have a claim. Town planning considerations got first preference over those claims. The Government of the Northern Territory then came into the dispute. It did not register titles because it was claimed that in some areas there were roads- the Commonwealth Government does not recognise that there were roadsand it was suggested that these areas should be exempt from Aboriginal control. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs went to the Northern Territory and, as a result, made a joint statement with the Chief Minister for the Northern Territory, Mr Paul Everingham. They stated: . . the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Fred Chaney, Chairman of the Northern Land Council, Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu, Chairman of the Central Land Council, Mr Wenten Rubuntja, and Chairman of the Tiwi Land Council, Mr Cyril Rioli.
How agreement can be reached with the Land Council under the Act simply by the Minister attending a meeting, I do not know, because before the Land Council can act it has to discuss the proposition with the residents of the area. It also has to take instructions from the tribal elders, the owners of the land. It is not possible to reach an agreement in one day if people involved are carrying out their duties. Once again I suspect coercion of the Land Council, as we saw in connection with the Ranger development. The joint statement further says:
Those roads which were mentioned in paragraph (b) were those which were exempt under the Schedule to the Act. The statement continues:
This is only the opinion of the Northern Territory Government. Those roads were probably only cow tracks or kangaroo trails. One of the suggested solutions to the problem is as follows:
In view of the requirement in Section 12 (3) (a) that the deeds of grant should identify the roads, an amendment to the Act will be necessary to enable the deeds to provide that roads over which the public has a right of way shall be excluded from the titles, without the necessity for the roads to be specifically identified. A suggested amended section 12(3) would read as follows:
A deed of grant under this Section shall be expressed to exclude from the grant any land on which there is at the time of the grant a road over which the public has a right of way and it shall not be necessary for the deed to identify any such land.
So after the grant is made, someone will say: There was a road there and we will now name it’. That road will not be the subject of a grant at all.
With regard to the Borroloola area, where limited grants of land were made, the joint statement says:
Pending the outcome of these talks the Commonwealth is to hold action with respect to the recommendation of the Land Commissioner in respect to the Borroloola Common. The Commonwealth will at the request of the Borroloola Council investigate whether titles can be issued to the islands which were recommended by the Land Commissioner pending resolution of the other matters.
So although the Land Commissioner has made recommendations in respect of the Borroloola Common, titles have not yet been issued. At the request of the Borroloola Council, the Minister will consider whether titles can be issued to the islands pending resolution of other land matters. I think the Minister told us, when putting down the statement, that all Aboriginals have barter rights. He suggested that each group has something that the other wants and if the Aboriginals were to barter their rights they might do a better deal than that given to them by the Land Commissioner. The Aboriginals obtained a meagre portion of the area to which they had established an entitlement, yet they have to barter that meagre portion to gain something more dear to them, something which, according to the Land Commissioner’s decision, should have been given to them or should be given to them by the Minister. After all, implementation of the Land
Commissioner’s decision is not mandatory. The joint statement continues:
The Northern Territory Government has raised with the Commonwealth its wish to have the power to resume Aboriginal land for public purposes.
What the Government can take back from the Aboriginals is never ending; nor are the restrictions it can impose. The statement continues:
Senator Chaney has requested the Northern Territory Government to use the existing provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act to obtain land for such purposes.
The only section I can see in the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act relating to the compulsory acquisition of* land is section 67, which states:
Aboriginal land shall not be resumed, compulsorily acquired or forfeited under any law of the Northern Territory.
But here we have this joint statement in which the Minister, who has a responsibility to protect Aboriginals but who is doing nothing about the matter, is saying that there is this right of resumption. The Minister, who is supposed to look after the Aboriginals, is letting the campaign of the mining industry go on without rebuttal. He is allowing it to create the public impression that there is nothing wrong with mining on this land. He is reaching agreement with Aboriginals without discussing with the traditional owners the taking away of the rights that the Aboriginal people now have. He is being stood over by the Northern Territory Government. That is why the Labor Party believes that this is a matter of urgency and a matter of which the Senate should take some cognisance.
– The Government rejects the motion which has been put forward by the Opposition. I came into the chamber assuming that the motion had been put forward because the Opposition had misread or misunderstood the public documents which are available in this matter. Having heard the speech of Senator Cavanagh, who led for the Opposition and who went so far as to make suggestions of coercion in relation to my recent visit to Darwin, I cannot put such a charitable interpretation on the motion. I would simply say that whilst I would welcome in this Senate positive attempts to examine, for example, the propositions which are being put forward by the Australian Mining Industry Council, many of which I thoroughly disagree with, I must oppose with great vigour many of the points that have been made by Senator Cavanagh.
To some extent, I think that there has been misunderstanding on Senator Cavanagh ‘s part. He has suggested, for example, that in some way the proposal for an agreement between the land councils and the Northern Territory Government and the Commonwealth Government will permit some change with respect to the future opening up of roads on Aboriginal land. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no intention to affect the position with respect to the resumption of land, the opening up of fresh roads and so on. There is nothing in the documents which would support that. I just cite that as an example of the clear misunderstanding which has been shown by Senator Cavanagh.
Two main propositions are being put forward in this motion. The first is that the Government has failed to counter a campaign by the mining industry which is seeking to defeat the land rights legislation. That campaign is described as false and one of self-interest. The second proposition is that the Government has apparently imposed some restrictions on Aboriginal control of Aboriginal land. I think that in the time available to me I can demonstrate that both of those propositions are false. Firstly, to suggest that the Government has failed to reply to the campaign of the Australian Mining Industry Council is simply to ignore the facts. Upon looking at the facts which are publicly available, it is quite clear that the Government has expressed its position clearly.
The AMIC paper was drawn to my attention shortly before it was published. I immediately responded to it by writing to AMIC and suggesting, since AMIC was suggesting talks with me, that it hold that paper until we had the chance to have talks. I believe that there is much in that paper which should not have been published. It replied to me and said: ‘Too late. We have arranged the distribution of it. But yes, we still want to talk to you as we originally requested ‘. As I understand it, AMIC’s statement was actually issued on about 13 March. So AMIC made its public statement to the members of this Parliament and, I assume, to people outside this Parliament on that date. On 14 March, I issued a public statement on the AMIC paper. I think that I should read the statement to the Senate. It reads:
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Fred Chaney, said today he was considering a paper on the Aboriginal Land Rights legislation released yesterday by the Australian Mining Industry Council.
The paper seeks amendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act.
Senator Chaney drew attention to his statement of 24 January 1 979 in which he emphasised that there would be no change to the general principles of the Land Rights Act.
He said the Act was passed only after the most exhaustive consideration of its principles and effects.
The legislation derives directly from the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Land Rights conducted by Mr Justice A. E. Woodward in 1973 and 1974 which were accepted by all major political parties ‘, the Minister said.
Senator Chaney said that when the Bill was introduced the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner invited public comment on it before there was further debate in Parliament.
Representations were made by the Australian Mining Industry Council and others and an independent person was appointed to assess them and recommend to the Government any changes which should be made to the Bill.
Senator Chaney said the Australian Mining Industry Council had made strong representations both before and after the Act was passed.
Some parts of the mining industry seemed reluctant to accept that Aboriginals had to be considered and consulted, just as some pans of the industry were opposed to the protection given to farmers under the WA Mining Act.
Mining is important to Australia’, Senator Chaney said, but it is important to give some consideration to the Aboriginal people who have been pushed around for so long. ‘
That is what I said on the day after the statement was released by AMIC. I would have thought that it left little room for doubt as to the Government’s attitude. My statement was reasonably widely reported. It referred to a statement issued by me in January. Honourable senators will remember that in January there was a front page story in the Australian newspaper which suggested that there would be a substantial revision of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act to reduce the protection against mining on Aboriginal land. I am sure that many honourable senators opposite with an interest in Aboriginal affairs would have read that article and would have been concerned by it. I remind the Senate that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in a Press conference on that day or the following day reiterated the Government’s support for the principles of the land rights legislation. I issued a Press release on 24 January stating that, and pointing out that I would be meeting certain leading Aboriginal people in Canberra at that time, including Galarrwuy Yunupingu, to reassure them about the Government’s intentions.
I do not believe that there is anything on the public record which would leave any room for doubt in people ‘s minds as to our support for the principles of the Act which we passed in 1976 and which all parties supported. It is worth remembering that in 1976-1 think it was in
May- we tabled the legislation and sought public comment on it. The mining provisions of the Bill were strengthened post-May 1976 and before the passage of the Bill in the Budget session of that year. After hearing further public comment the Government strengthened the protective mining provisions in the Act. I think it is important to see what AMIC has done as part of the on-going debate in Australia on the question of land rights which is still a live issue. Aboriginals are still seeking land rights in some States additional to those given to them by the State governments which have constitutional control over the land. It is important that the public debate should proceed in a way which increases the opportunities and possibilities for Aboriginal people to obtain additional land rights. I think that this Government has had a very constructive role in doing that.
It could be asked how far we ought to go in involving ourselves in the public debate on land rights, both Commonwealth and State. At times I have had questions in my own mind. For example, the AMIC paper essentially goes over old ground. It has largely been received critically by the media and has been described as a rehash of what has been debated for some years. To what extent does the Government keep publicly debating those issues over and over again? It is a matter of judgment. I was very pleased at the general media response to the AMIC paper when it was issued. The response was positive and in the interests of the Aboriginals, which the Government wishes to assist. That does not mean that the Government does nothing more. I draw the attention of honourable senators to what we have been trying to do. Contrary to what has been said in the Senate about the failure of the Government to reply to campaigns, the Government has been trying to explain to the Australian public what land rights are about and why they ought to be advanced.
I have a heap of papers which I propose to table. They are available to honourable senators to examine if they are really interested. I suspect that very few of the honourable senators who promoted this debate and who stood to support its coming forward will take the trouble to do so. I refer honourable senators to the pamphlet which was issued by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, my Department, on the Aboriginal land rights legislation. It is a simple, straightforward explanation of what we are trying to achieve for the Aboriginal people in this field. Was that pamphlet left rotting in pigeonholes? Was it simply a token pamphlet? It was not. It was distributed to the general public through the Northern Territory News. It was slipped into copies of that newspaper and distributed in Alice Springs. It has been made available in communities and in DAA area and regional offices. To the extent possible we have tried to ensure that it has a wide distribution. I do not pretend that it has been perfect but it has been a substantial effort.
I draw the Senate’s attention to certain fact sheets on Aboriginal land rights issued by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. These were distributed to the Press Gallery and parliamentarians. They are widely available in the Northern Territory through DAA offices and to people on request. They are dated October 1978, November 1978 and January 1979. They all try to advance the propositions with which the Senate is supposedly concerned. In the October 1978 paper there are specific sections entitled Minerals’ and ‘Consent Provisions of the Act’. In part the paper states: . . in taking account of the Aboriginal ‘s deep spiritual attachment to the land and recognising their prior occupation of the Australian continent over a period of more than 40,000 years, the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act gives Aboriginals the right to refuse prospecting or mining on their land if they do not want it.
The exception to that principle to which Senator Cavanagh referred is that the mining tenements which were in existence at the time the land became Aboriginal land have been honoured. No more than that has happened. Even those tenements are subject to agreements being completed with the Aboriginal owners or with the land councils on behalf of the Aboriginal owners. I draw the attention of all honourable senators to a background paper on land rights for Australian Aboriginals in the Northern Territory produced by the Australian Information Service and distributed to the media in Australia and overseas. I draw the Senate’s attention to the series of articles written by my predecessor, the Honourable Ian Viner, and published in the Northern Territory News. They go into the whole area of land rights and all the difficult areas which have caused public concern and opposition to land rights. I believe that those articles represent a very good attempt to explain this area to those who do not yet understand it. I am pleased to advise the Senate that I have authorised the reprinting of those articles in booklet form so that they will be readily available to students and the general public. I also advise the Senate that the departmental publication Aboriginal News which is currently being prepared and which deals with land rights will be distributedinJune.
I table those papers and offer them to honourable senators as some indication of the Government ‘s concern that we should be able to get the idea and principles of land rights across to the general public. They are a practical means of countering the anti-land rights campaigns which certainly are mounted by people such as those in the mining industry. I point out to honourable senators opposite that in a democratic country people are entitled to mount such campaigns. If they are inaccurate we should certainly counter those inaccuracies but people are entitled to have a variety of views. We are all in the business of trying to ensure that our view is the majority view and that the public will support it. In regard to land rights we have had near unanimity in the Parliament. I suggest to honourable senators opposite that if we wish to promote Aboriginal land rights further in this country we should deal with the matter as positively as possible and not simply say: ‘Look at the Government selling out land rights.’ Nothing could be further from the truth.
I have dealt with the first part of the motion which states that the Government has failed to reply to the campaign of the mining industry. I have told the Senate about the public action of this Government in regard to land rights. As I hinted in my earlier comments, I have also had some discussions with AMIC since its paper was issued. Earlier this week I spent about 1½ hours with senior participants in AMIC discussing the land rights legislation. I can only say to the Senate that the message which I have given in my private dealings both with mining companies and with AMIC has been the same message I have been stating publicly. Let me say that my public message has always included the element which I should mention to the Senate, namely, that if anyone comes forward and tells me that something is not working or cannot work in the Aboriginal land rights legislation, I will be ready to examine the matter. That is the case if Aborigines come to me as they have. I will be putting legislation to the Senate in either this session or the next session to introduce amendments that have been requested by the Aboriginal land councils as being required for the practical operation of the Act. I have told representatives of the mining companies that if they come to me and say: ‘Here is a practical difficulty’, I will discuss that practical difficulty with the Aboriginal people, I will consult with the land councils and I will examine those matters on their merits. I have no hesitation in taking that stance and I believe it is the only responsible stance for the Govern-
I submit that the members of the public ought to know this Government’s position on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act in light of the public statements the Government has made. I regret it if any of the members of the public are confused by the negative statements which are made by the Opposition. The Senate will be aware that recently public surveys showed that a majority of the Australian people support the concept of land rights and Aboriginal people having a control over mining on Aboriginal reserves. We have a Government position and a public position. I think that, in that sense, the first half of this motion is quite clearly nonsense.
I will now deal with the second part of the motion which suggests that in some way I have made a deal which reduces or imposes restrictions on Aboriginal control of Aboriginal lands granted under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. We took a lot of trouble preparing the Press release that has been quoted by Senator Cavanagh because it was drawn up following several days of discussions. I had discussions with the representatives of the land councils. I had separate discussions with the Northern Territory Government. The land councils and the Northern Territory Government had separate discussions- that is, discussions at which I was not present. Finally, we met together and tried to deal with some of these problems that have been bedevilling not only the operation of land rights in the Northern Territory but also community relations as a whole in the Northern Territory. Honourable senators opposite may think that it is positive to promote disunity within the community but I do not. I give notice to the Senate that I will try to deal with the problems of land rights and Aboriginals in a co-operative way seeking agreement between parties whenever that is possible. I am pleased to say that after days of discussions in the Northern Territory, it became apparent that agreement was possible in a number of respects- agreement in a way which did not diminish the rights of the Aboriginal people but which removed some of the thorns which have been getting in the path of progress.
I wish to respond to Senator Cavanagh ‘s complaints about the possibility of coercion and that there might be something wrong with this proposal for an agreement. I simply direct the attention of the honourable senator and the Senate to paragraphs (d) and (e) on page 2 of the agreement which, I think, make it quite clear that there has been no attempt to be smart or shifty or to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes. Paragraph (d) states:
This suggested solution is subject to the consents of the Land Councils and to closer examination by the legal advisers to all the interested parties. The Commonwealth Government would need to agree to amend the Act.
I acknowledge that this sort of agreement needs to be examined terribly carefully but I can assure the Senate that it was entered into terribly carefully. That meeting was attended not only by the people who have put their names to that agreement but also by many of their advisers, including two of the legal advisers to the land councils, Geoff Eames who would be known to many honourable senators opposite and another solicitor from Darwin, Mr Tietzel. This document was carefully discussed by all the parties before it was issued, it was amended by the parties before it was issued and I believe it represents the general agreement of those people. It is not a final agreement because those parties did not have the power to agree to a final solution. I did not have the power to commit the Government to amend the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. Let me draw the attention of honourable senators also to paragraph (e) which gives the lie to one of the basic points made by Senator Cavanagh in his speech and in his motion. The basic point is that we have imposed restrictions on Aboriginal control of Aboriginal land. Paragraph (e) states:
This arrangement is intended to preserve the existing rights of the parties.
In other words we sought and achieved a solution which did not change the legal rights of the Aboriginal owners or the legal position of anybody else. All it did was to remove the impediment which had been put up against the registration of those deeds. How did we do that? It is quite simple. In fact, it is explained in this document which I think ought to be incorporated in Hansard during the course of this debate in case those of us who debate it do not make the position clear. The problem is that at the moment the Act requires that the title should exclude roads by specific description. In other words, if it was desired to take out a road over which the public had a right of way, that road must be specifically described in the title. As the Press release points out, certain roads were excluded in that way. There happens to be a difference of opinion, as the Press release also sets out, as to what other roads ought to be excluded. That is a matter which ultimately might have to be argued out in the courts. But all we have done is to suggest that the requirement of a specific description of the road should be taken out of the agreement and that the general exclusion which exists in the
Act- that is, that roads over which the public have a right of way are excluded- should be included.
The fact of the matter is that the Aboriginal people and the Northern Territory Government seem to believe that once the deeds are registered they can agree what ought to be the position in respect of roads. That may or may not be possible. That lies in the future. But if this agreement is carried through and there is, subsequently, a dispute about whether a road ought to be in or out of the title, the parties will be just as free to litigate that point as they are now. The Government has made this arrangement with those parties in the belief not only that it can do so without affecting the legal rights of the Aboriginal people but also that it will enable the parties to talk together and to arrive at arrangements that will be suitable to them all. That, I think, is something we should all wish to see.
Senator Cavanagh mentioned another matter to which I need to respond. He suggested in his speech that because the titles had not been registered, the Aboriginal people did not have their land. Let me say that I have assured the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory on several visits that that is not the case. Their own legal advisers have joined me in that assurance. The Act provides that the title to land is granted through the issue of these title deeds. Those deeds have been issued to the people and that means they are the owners of that land. Quite clearly, the Aboriginal people also want those titles to be registered and the Commonwealth joins them in that. But the fact of the matter is that the Aboriginal people do own those lands. They have title to them and all we have a dispute about is whether they will be registered under Northern Territory law. This agreement if carried through will enable that dispute to be brought to an end. I might say that I have been advised by one land council that it accepts the agreement that was entered into. I am still waiting for advice from the other two. How long it will take them to advise me of that I do not know.
We had a situation in which the parties in the Northern Territory were at loggerheads. There is a real difference of opinion between the Northern Territory Government, the land councils and the Commonwealth Government about the need for roads to be vested in the Northern Territory Government. That is the substantial dispute between us. But that dispute is one which both the Aboriginals I have spoken to and the Northern Territory Government believe can be settled on a case by case basis. They believe that when they get down to talking about actual roads, the position will be all right. This agreement will give them an opportunity to do that without having lost the legal rights that they had before it was entered into.
The only point that might raise some query in people’s minds is that embodied in paragraph (c) on page 2 of the Press release. That talks about the passing of legislation restricting the use of roads traversing Aboriginal land by a system of permits similar to the permit system created by the Aboriginal Lands Act, provided that there would be a right of appeal by an unsuccessful applicant to the Administrator in Council.
That paragraph is in there because, in the event that a particular road was found to be one that was open to the public under the terms of the Act, and therefore one which was excluded from Aboriginal land, we could have a situation in which there was no control of passage over that road, even though it was one which provided access to Aboriginal land. It was included to protect those roads which are public, roads which at the moment can be traversed without permit. It represents a necessary safeguard for the future of Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory and is quite positive.
Reference also has been made to the other matters that are dealt with in the Press release. The land claims of the Borroloola people have been a source of concern to them since Mr Justice Toohey recommended the granting of only part of their claim. In the week that preceded the issuance of this Press release we saw the beginning of what I would regard as really constructive discussions, again between the Northern Territory Government, and the relevant land council and the local Borroloola community council. I am advised that those discussions, which have continued since, are proceeding in a most satisfactory manner; that once again we have a real prospect of the Aboriginal people concerned and the Northern Territory Government moving in agreement to obtain what both parties want.
I believe that the Opposition ought to be encouraging that son of arrangement rather than discouraging it, as Senator Cavanagh appeared to be doing in his speech. I assure the Senate that the people who are taking part in these discussions have the benefit of the appropriate professional assistance. Their interests are being protected; they are aware of what they are doing and why they are doing it. This represents a really positive development in the Northern Territory.
The extension of town sites was also the subject of discussion between the Northern Territory Government and myself and the land councils and myself and I believe that the Press release adequately summarises the position. No further extensions are in contemplation and those made to date are to be discussed by the parties who are involved and concerned. I believe we must wait to see what the results of those discussions will be.
The statement made in the Press release on the right of resumption simply confirms the point that I made earlier, which flies in the face of one of Senator Cavanagh ‘s assertions. The Northern Territory Government has raised with me its problem that it has not the power to resume Aboriginal land. I have told it that at this stage I do not wish to contemplate an amendment to that section; that it should use the existing provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act to obtain land for such purposes. That means that it should seek a surrender of land from the Land Trust; that it must follow the provision of the Act, which provides not for resumption but for negotiation, so that it can be seen that in the common interest land ought to be provided for public purposes.
I regard many members of the Opposition as having a sincere and long-held interest in Aboriginal affairs. I expect that they will often be critical of what we are trying to do and that that criticism will be extremely valuable, but in this case they have put forward views which are not sustainable on the facts.
The Government’s commitment to the basic principles of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act is clear. It has been expressed by the head of the Government and by me, speaking as the responsible Minister. We have tried to get out the story of land rights and, in the interests of the Aboriginal people and of the general community, we will continue to do so. The Senate has my commitment on those propositions and I hope that, if the Opposition does not see fit to withdraw the motion, the Senate will reject it.
Finally, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the Press release in question. That will make the debate a lot more understandable to anyone reading it.
The document read as follows-
Joint Statement by the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Paul Everingham, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Fred Chaney, Chairman of the Northern Land
Council, Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu, Chairman of the Central Land Council, Mr Wemen Rubuntja, and Chairman of the Tiwi Land Council, Mr Cyril Rioli
Over the last few days discussions have been held between the Land Councils and the Northern Territory Government, and the Land Councils and the Commonwealth Minister. Today the three Land Councils met with the Northern Territory Chief Minister and the Commonwealth Minister.
1 ) Registration of Titles:
The dispute between the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth and the Land Councils is as follows:
The Commonwealth has prepared deeds of grant to land trusts in respect of the land described in Schedule 1 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act.
Except in the cases of Delissaville, Yuendumu, Alligator Rivers No. 1, Beswick, Jay Creek and Woolwonga, roads over which the public had a right of way (if any) at the time of the grants have not been excluded from the deeds.
Section 3(5) of the Act provides that a description of the land in Schedule 1 shall be deemed not to include any land on which there was, at the commencement of the section, a road over which the public had a right of way.
Section 12 (3) of the Act provides that a deed of grant shall identify any land on which there is, at the time of the grant, a road over which the public has right of way and shall be expressed to exclude such land from the grant.
It is the view of the Commonwealth and the Land Councils that there were no roads which needed to be excluded from the grants, with the exception of the grants named in (b) above. (0 It is the view of the Government of the Northern Terri tory that there were a number of roads which were roads over which the public had a right of way at the material time and which, therefore, should have been excluded from the grants.
A suggested solution to the problem is as follows:
The deeds be amended so as to specifically exclude, in general terms, roads over which the public has a right of way and any issue as to which roads fall within that description can be resolved after the deeds of grant have been registered in that amended form.
In view of the requirement in Section 12(3) (a) that the deeds of grant should identify the roads, an amendment to the Act will be necessary to enable the deeds to provide that roads over which the public has a right of way shall be excluded from the titles, without the necessity for the roads to be specifically identified. A suggested amended section 12(3) would read as follows: “A deed of grant under this section shall be expressed to exclude from the grant any land on which there is at the time of the grant a road over which the public has a right of way and it shall not be necessary for the deed to identify any such land.”
The Government of the Northern Territory would pass legislation restricting the use of roads traversing Aboriginal land by a system of permits similar to the permit system created by the Aboriginal Lands Act, provided that there would be a right of appeal by an unsuccessful applicant to the Administrator in Council.
This suggested solution is subject to the consents of the Land Councils and to closer examination by the legal advisers to all the interested parties. The Commonwealth Government would need to agree to amend the Act.
This arrangement is intended to preserve the existing rights of the parties.
Land Claims by Borroloola People:
The Northern Territory Government has put down a framework for discussions between it and the Northern Land Council and the Borroloola Council which it is hoped will lead to agreement on proposals which can be put to both the Commonwealth Government and Mt Isa Mines. These proposals will involve, among other considerations, provision for essential town, transport and port services for the area with provision being made for additional land for the Borroloola people. Pending the outcome of these talks the Commonwealth is to hold action with respect to the recommendation of the Land Commissioner in respect to Borroola Common. The Commonwealth will at the request of the Borroloola Council investigate whether titles can be issued to the islands which were recommended by the Land Commissioner pending resolution of the other matters.
Extension of Town Sites:
The Northern Territory Government indicated that it had no further extensions in contemplation within the period of the land freeze. The only exception to this would be arrangements relating to the McArthur River development which are subject to the discussions mentioned in paragraph 2. The Northern Territory Government is to discuss with the Land Councils the extensions made to Darwin, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine with particular reference to land claims which may be affected.
Right of Resumption:
The Northern Territory Government has raised with the Commonwealth its wish to have the power to resume Aboriginal land for public purposes. Senator Chaney has requested the Northern Territory Government to use the existing provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act to obtain land for such purposes.
The Northern Territory Government has raised with the Commonwealth Minister the concern about the conversion of pastoral leases and other leasehold interests held by Aboriginals to Aboriginal land subject to the Commonwealth Act. Senator Chaney agreed this posed problems for the Territory and possibly those Aboriginals who have taken leases as pastoralists not as traditional owners. He undertook to have the matter examined after which he will have further discussions with the Northern Territory Government and the Land Councils.
Darwin, N.T. 17 March 1979
– This motion refers to what we believe to be the Government’s silence about the scurrilous and sustained attack that is being orchestrated by the Australian Mining Industry Council for the purpose of undermining Aboriginals’ rights to their own land. It is proper to refer to what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has just said. He has made one statement, that of 20 January 1979, restating the Government’s position as to land rights, but he has also made a statement since the publication of the Australian Mining Industry Council’s statement. Therefore, I think that we are entitled to draw attention to the inability of the Government to answer properly the statements and claims that were made in the nationally-released submission of that Council on 13 March last. In that statement, the mining magnates of this country said:
The legislation is causing serious problems not just for the rnining industry, but for all Australians, directly and indirectly, including the Aboriginal people whose welfare the legislation is intended to enhance. These problems will continue to grow. The Council -
That is a reference to the Australian Mining Industry Council-
I submit that part of the responsibilities and obligations of the Opposition, of the Labor Party, is to monitor what is happening in respect of land rights and, in fact, to keep the Government on its toes. I was pleased to note that the Minister, in his concluding remarks, at least gave us some credit for doing that. We recognise that the Australian Mining Industry Council is probably the most powerful lobby that exists in this country, not only in its own right but because it enjoys the support of such people as Lang Hancock, the Premier of Western Australia, Mr Court and the Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, as well as very important and vocal sections of the Australian media. Our concern is that this sustained campaign is designed to achieve modification of both the land rights legislation and the administration of it- modifications which, if adopted, would totally undermine the rights of Aborigines to administer and own their traditional land.
I do not believe that the Government or the Minister are entitled to question the motives of the Opposition on this matter. We are aware that the Government’s record since coming to office, in respect of a whole range of other matters, can only be described as a farrago of broken promises. Whilst the land rights legislation may be regarded as having the support of the Opposition, and of being a step forward, it falls far short of what was recommended in the Woodward report. When we look at the broken promises of the Government, and its dilly-dallying in respect of the pressures exerted on it from time to time by the powerful interests that exist in this country, we are entitled to take the view that constantly the Opposition should bring to the forefront in the Parliament the responsibilities of the Government. My leader in this debate, Senator Cavanagh, as a former Minister, has sufficient evidence to show that in the Northern Territory Assembly, among the miners and even within the Aboriginal Land Council itself, there are moves afoot which, if given credence and support in certain quarters of this Government, would undermine the very fabric of the legislation itself.
We accept the fact that when the original Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill was introduced in this place on 6 December 1 976 the Government, through its Minister at the time, made a number of commitments. The Minister’s second reading speech provided as follows:
This Bill will give traditional Aboriginals inalienable freehold title to land on reserves in the Northern Territory and provide machinery for them to obtain title to traditional land outside reserves.
It must be conceded that town areas, roads, tracks and all of the other aspects that were raised by Senator Cavanagh are matters of concern, surely, to the Opposition as well as to the Government itself. Of course that legislation, which enjoyed the support of the Labor Party, conceded that there was a profound association of Aborigines with their traditional land, that there were deep cultural ties and that land plays a fundamental and unique role in their cultural identity and their right to own and administer the land in perpetuity for present and future generations. Yet these fundamental tenets of the legislation are in fact under challenge by the submission of the Australian Mining Industry Council.
I do not think that we can rest assured that a statement of the Minister necessarily protects the very fundamentals of the legislation that was passed some 14 or IS months ago. One should recognise that the mining interests, both in their statements and in their finances, are part of the support sector of the Australian Government itself and that the very purpose of this Press statement by Mr Phillips is designed to force the hand of the Australian Government and to bring about sufficient modifications and changes as to realise the objectives of the Australian Mining Industry Council- a body which claims to represent the views of Australia but which we know represents foreign interests. In fact, the mining of resources in this country is now substantially under the control and influence of companies that operate outside Australia. Yet the Council says in its statement that when the mining of minerals is involved the right to enjoy the surface of the land may sometimes have to give way to the rights of the community as a whole. In other words, it is advocating such change, such modification, as would seriously weaken the legislation and may even weaken the resolve of this Government, knowing as we do the pressures that the Government is under insofar as these important matters are concerned. There is a very serious conflict of interests between the Aborigines and the AMIC over the land rights legislation.
I listened today to an answer by Senator Durack to a question involving our fuel and energy supplies. In that answer he suggested that all that had happened in the period of office of the Labor Government was designed to undermine the development of resources in this country. As we well know, the development of the campaign and the legislative processes that have flowed from it have been the result of the evolution in attitudes that has taken place in the Parliament itself and throughout Australia, but there are very powerful influences in this country that still do not accept the view of this Parliament insofar as land rights are concerned. If we look at what is under attack by this powerful lobby group, the most powerful lobby group that we have, we can see that there has been no repudiation from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) since the publication by the AMIC of this statement. It is all right for Senator Chaney to talk about the Prime Minister’s statement back in January. It is all right for Senator Chaney to talk about the fact that he tried to persuade the Australian Mining Industry Council not to proceed with its point of view and to come more to a common position. The fact is that the Council has ignored that advice.
Today Senator Chaney, to his credit, has at least committed himself in this place in a more definitive way than perhaps he did in his Press statements, which have received a degree of publication, when he said that the Government will not accede to the requests and pressures of the mining interests in this country. If that is the case, the fact that this debate is taking place is a very positive step. We believe that part of our responsibility is to keep the Government to its legislative and moral responsibilities and to repudiate, every time it is expressed, the greedy and disgusting attitude that is so often expressed by the mining magnates in this country. They are concerned only with ripping out the resources of our country and sending the profits from those ventures overseas. All their propaganda is designed to create the impression that they bring a great amount of capital into this country, that they provide a large number of work opportunities in this country and that they do not affect the infrastructure of the Aboriginal communities in any way. We know that that is not the case. Yet time and time again they present that point of view in the media of this country in an endeavour to convince the Australian people that mining, as the Australian Mining Industry Council says in this document, is in the interests of the Australian people per se.
The document that the Council has put out suggests that the legislation divides the people. It suggests that it is an expression of apartheid; that the current land rights legislation is designed specifically to achieve this end. We know that every time a Lang Hancock, a Sir Charles Court or a Bjelke-Petersen opens his mouth on questions of land rights, minerals or mining that person receives 10 times more publicity than any members of this national Parliament, other than perhaps the leaders of the respective parties. We know that criticism has been levelled even at Mr Anthony, the Minister for Trade and Resources, on the basis that he has a better understanding in 1978-79 than he had in 1973, 1974 or 1975 and that he is being accused of continuing the policy of ‘Connerism’. He has seen the benefit of that policy and, on the basis of his own experiences, has seen that those policies were in the interests of the Australian people.
We of the Opposition make no apology for bringing before the Senate a motion that says that the Government has been strangely silent about the statement of the Australian Mining Industry Council. Surely the Minister concedes that these statements of the Council are designed to enlist public support and are designed to stir the development-for-development’s sake group that exists within the Government parties. It is a very powerful group. It is a very vocal group. I am pleased, and I know that the Opposition also is pleased, to have the assurance of the Minister that, so far as he is concerned, he will seek to defend the administration of the legislation and the rights of the Aboriginal people to get title to land in the Northern Territory. If we have that assurance and if we are able in this place constantly to prod the Government to maintain that position, I think we will be fulfilling a very important role. As the Minister concedes, there is in the Parliament an attitude of support for those general principles, which are being assailed, which are being challenged and which the Government is being asked to change because they do not suit the economic interests of those who seek to exploit the areas of land which we are endeavouring to have transferred to Aborigines so as to give security and to carry out our obligations on the cultural affinities that the Aborigines see in having title to land. Therefore, we do not accept the view of the Minister that we are acting capriciously. In fact, I believe that we are acting correctly and conscientiously in protecting the rights of the Aboriginal communities in our country.
– The rights of Aboriginals seems to be the subject of continual debate in this place. One wonders about the motives of the Opposition in bringing forward this subject every now and again. If it is not raising matters concerning Aboriginal settlements in Queensland it is talking about the land rights of Aborigines in the Northern Territory.
– That is because we have the interests of the Aboriginals at heart.
– I do not know what you are because if you had the interests of the Aboriginals at heart you would not be creating all this divisiveness within the community by continually stirring up these problems.
– We do not do it, the Country Party does.
– You can say what we do. Senator Keeffe has been around enough of his State of Queensland to know that there is a growing white backlash against what is going on in the Aboriginal community. This is to be deplored because I believe that most Australians–
– The Country Party is frightened about it.
– I find that in a great number of your supporters too, Senator Keeffe.
– They will not talk to you.
– I notice that in some places they talk to me more than to you. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has answered all questions so far as the motion before the Chair is concerned and there is nothing left for me to reply to. I go to the general question mentioned by Senator Cavanagh today which has been mentioned many times in this place. It is the alteration to the Constitution way back in about 1 966.
– It was 1967. Get your facts right.
-Thank you. I know you have all the facts. Prior to the alteration of the constitution in 1967, section 51 read as follows:
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to . . .
At that time placitum (xxvi) read:
The people of any race, other than the Aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws:
That was deleted. At that referendum people voted for the Commonwealth to be able to make laws with respect to people of any race. It was not put to the people that large sections of
Australia’s land mass should be alienated for special groups, whether they are Aboriginals or of any other race. Are honourable senators opposite suggesting that people of another race should be given large tracts of land?
– That is a lot of rubbish you are talking.
– It is not a lot of rubbish, it is a fact. If that question is returned to the people now you may receive a different answer. The Opposition has accused the Government and the Minister of not carrying out its obligations. They have been carried out. What we have to do is to ensure that the land rights legislation which has been enacted by the Parliament- irrespective of whether the Government is right or wrong in our eyes or your eyes- is carried out for the benefit of the Aboriginal people. If it was not for all the stirrers who have been interfering -
– Who are the stirrers? Name a few of them?
-Mostly the Labor Party people. You know better than I do who they are; they have stirred up all the people. There is no doubt that if the Commonwealth Government, the Northern Territory Government, the mining interests and the Aboriginalsthe Aboriginal traditional owners in particularcould be left alone to make arrangements in respect of compensation and royalties, there would not be any problem.
– Is this your second -
-Senator Georges should realise that there are 14 million people in this country.
– How many?
-There are 14-odd million people who do not enjoy certain privileges that we have given to the Aboriginal people.
– Come on.
– If you look at the land you will see that those who have freehold title to the surface area do not have title to the minerals beneath the surface, except in Western Australia. We have given the Aboriginals the opportunity to obtain royalties and what have you for the minerals that are below the surface. Fourteen million other Australians do not have that privilege. Therefore, this Government is not acting against the interest of the Aboriginals. A lot of people in the community resent that particular privilege which has been given to a small section of the Australian community. I have always regarded Aboriginals as being Australians with all the rights and privileges of Australians, and with the responsibilities that go with the citizenship of this country. I do not regard them as something separate, as the Labor Party obviously does.
– We do not regard them as something separate. We regard them as something special.
– Of course you do. Your statement with regard to the Aboriginals is that they are something different from the rest of us. That is not what most good thinking Australians believe. The Government has honoured its undertakings so far as the traditional owners are concerned, despite the doubts that certain members of the Labor Party have expressed. Senator Chaney has stated that any projected amendments to land rights legislation will not alter the real text and consideration of that legislation; it is to facilitate the workings of that legislation, particularly the negotiations between mining companies and Aboriginal land councils. A great number of difficulties has been experienced over the last year with respect to uranium mining.
The Government understands why the Labor Party wants to gum up the works to stop agreement being reached between Aboriginals and the mining companies. The Labor Party wants the uranium left in the ground. Therefore its interest is not concerned with the royalties to be paid to the Aboriginals but with the fact that it does not want the Aboriginals to have any royalties at all. The Labor Party does not want the uranium mined. In that context it does not have any interest in the Aboriginal people. What is the Labor Party’s view as to what constitutes the best interests of the Aboriginal people? Surely if the Aboriginal people are left to negotiate with either mining companies or with governments with respect to land or anything else, they are the best people to judge what is in their best interests, and not stirrers who go in to try to influence them, to bewilder them, and to draw red herrings across the trail. That happened in the Ranger negotiations with the mining companies. It was not until those stirrers were heaved out of the area that the land councils were able to get into decent discussions with the mining interests. They came up with an agreement that is certainly in their interests. It allowed the mining companies to proceed with the progress and development of this nation.
Obviously the Labor Party has the same attitude to the mining industry as it has to any other industry, particularly our export industries. It does not want them. They are a damn nuisance in the community. However, we all know that the wealth and standards of this nation are decided by its export industries.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy President. Senator Maunsell has left the subject of the debate and is talking about secondary industry and the exporting capacity of this country. I suggest, with great respect, that you bring him back to the subject of the debate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Scott)- There is no substance to the point of order. I am sure that Senator Maunsell will relate his remarks to the subject matter of the debate.
– I am relating my remarks to the mining industries, which the Labor Party is always attacking, despite the fact that they bring so much wealth to and provide so much employment for this nation. As I said in a debate on another subject, the standard of living of a family is determined by the income of the bread winner. The standard of living of a nation is determined by its bread winners, which are the export industries. For the life of me I cannot understand why the Labor Party is always rubbishing export industries, particularly the mining industry. I suggest that the best interests of this nation will be served if we assist the export industries of this country particularly the mining industries. In the Northern Territory where Aboriginals are concerned we should allow the mining companies and the Aboriginals quietly to negotiate rather than have the histrionics from members of the Labor Party and other people in the community who are seeking publicity. All that this will achieve is a divisive approach which will hold-up the negotiations. This will not be in the main interests of Aboriginal people.
Ordinary Aborigines in north Queenslandparticularly Torres Strait islanders- are sick to death of all the stirrers around the place. It is amazing how many of them who have followed the Mickey Millers and the rest of the stirrers in the community have said: ‘We realise that the best interests of our people lie in going along quietly, particularly with you people who are certainly doing something for us, and not just rabble-rousing and so forth’. There is no question in my mind as to whether we should reject this motion. It is without foundation. The Minister has replied to all the accusations made and I believe that it is time we got on with the business of running this Senate.
– I want to pass a couple of remarks in order to clarify the situation following the statements made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) and Senator Maunsell, who has just resumed his seat. I assure the Minister that we had no intention of trying to create disunity. This was one of the accusations made by the Minister. Senator Maunsell was more earthy in his approach and he used somewhat sharper words. The Minister made a couple of points in relation to legislative amendments that may come into this chamber this session or next session. I hope that these will not be the result of pressure by the Australian Mining Industry Council and that they will be discussed in full with Aborigines. I hope that the amendments will strengthen the legislation. In 1 976 when the legislation was introduced we warned the Government that it was doing a damaging thing to the Aborigines in the Northern Territory by handing over power to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I know the attitude of many members of that Assembly- both previous and current- to Aborigines.
I was interested to read the Minister’s statement of agreement on roads going through Aboriginal areas. I am not sure whether the Minister knows about the Larakia area at Darwin where the local Legislative Assembly has said that it will not object to the Aborigines having land but that they will have a road through the middle of it. A number of officers and I were told that only two or three months ago. The Aborigines in that area do not want the road because they have small children. The road will become a highway and will be a diversionary road for the road that runs to the south. It will also take much of the traffic travelling to the new casino. I refer the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to the Gurinti claim. When we were in government we told the Gurintjis that they could have their land when legislation was introduced. The legislation did not provide for Gurintiis to get their land and they had to reclaim.
I noted that the Minister was careful not to pass any laudatory remarks about the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. There are a number of areas in Aboriginal affairs where the Assembly is pulling the wool over the eyes of both the Government and the Minister. The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly should be treated with caution regarding some of its operations. Senator Maunsell countered the good points in Senator Chaney ‘s speech. He suggested that the matter should be left to the Aborigines to negotiate with the Government and the mining companies. That is not allowed in Senator Maunsell ‘s State. This is one of the bones of contention with mining companies in relation to the
Aurukun bauxite claim. The Aborigines were totally excluded. The Comalco company also excluded the Aborigines from negotiations. They are at a great disadvantage. The policy of all mining companies is to practice ethnocide whether the Government wants to believe it or not.
– This is a sweeping generalisation.
-No, it is not a generalisation.
– You said ‘all’.
-Obviously the honourable senator was not listening to the first remarks that I passed otherwise he would have been able to understand that statement. Ethnocide is a clear destruction of a people by destroying their very foundations and culture. In the case of Aborigines this means death. Even though they do not physically die, when all the things that they have been associated with for generations are taken away Aborigines might as well be killed. That is the way all mining companies operate. In 1869 Archbishop Polding made a statement which was not repeated until a publication entitled Aborigines, A Statement of Concern was prepared by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace for the Catholic bishops of Australia last year. The pastoral letter in 1 869 stated:
We have dispossessed the Aboriginals of the soil, at least we have deprived them of that use of it from which they gained a subsistence, even if it be not such a use as can properly be considered to constitute a possession. In natural justice, then, we are held to compensation.
That was said over 100 years ago. The pastoral letter continues:
The fathers of this Council . . . desire solemnly to lay upon the conscience of all who have property in these colonies the thought that there is blood upon their land, and that human souls, to whom they are in so many ways debtors, in the name of natural justice, and in the name of the Redeemer, are perishing because no man careth for them. It is a thought not for the clergy alone, but for the whole Church, laity and clergy too. No one of us must dare to say with Cain the murderer, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’
Because of the limitation of time I will quote only a couple of other passages. The publication on Aborigines also states:
Many Aborigines today still face that same threat and the desperate plight of others is met with indifference, because similar values and attitudes based on cultural and racial difference persist among many white Australians.
Senator Maunsell, when he spoke in this chamber was a living example of that. The statement continues:
It is an appropriate time for a statement such as this. In the early 1970s there was a widespread determination among politicians and many others in the community to respond to the challenges being forcefully articulated by Aborigines.
This determination, and the hopes it aroused in the Aboriginal community, have largely waned and turned sour. The economic downturn- affecting the Aboriginal population far more than other groups- has been used to justify the cutting of expenditure and the breaking of election promises. These changes reflect a degree of white backlash, and a shifting of community priorities.
That was spelt out quite clearly by Senator Maunsell. In the famous Chaney document which refers to the Protestant ethic is a reference to the Ranger project. It states:
Tentative date for commencement of construction work at Jabiru is 1 April 1979. Some preliminary work has commenced.
Workforce population currently comprises 100 people with projection of 1 ,000 excluding dependants -
I suppose that we can at least double, and possibly treble, that number- expected as construction gets under way (May-June 1 979).
By the end of 1 980 the population is expected to exceed 2,000 and could approach 3,000.
Various Government Departments have requested a total of 57 housing sites in temporary township.
When that movement takes place ethnocide again will be a major problem. It will mean that the Aboriginal communities in the area will rapidly lose their culture and social ethics- all the things with which they have been associated and which mean so much to their lifestyle. Perhaps the Minister is a little testy about the Opposition charging the Australian Mining Industry Council with doing the wrong thing by Aborigines so I will refer to a book entitled From Massacres to Mining- The Colonization of Aboriginal Australia written recently by Janine Roberts. Under the heading: ‘R.T.Z. /Comalco and apartheid ‘, it states:
Policies akin to apartheid showed themselves immediately Comalco began to develop the mine.
We are warning of what will happen again. A meeting of Ministers is being held on the other side of the chamber so I will wait before continuing my remarks.
– I am listening, senator.
– We are listening.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator
– It continued:
They first wanted to move the Aborigines’ homes far from Weipa. They effectively kept out most of the Mapoon people. Weipa was to become practically an all-white area with only Aboriginal migrant workers in the mines. They used for this the pretext of ‘protecting’ the Aborigines . . . Similar reasons were used in Southern Australia for the creation of Reserves . . .
It states further:
Weipa now has the following features:
The Aboriginal settlement was permitted to stay near the mining town at Weipa. Comalco developed the mining town as a nearly all white town with just a nominal number of selected Aborigines.
The policy for allowing a token Aboriginal presence was laid down at a conference between Church and State. A few blacks were to be selected by whites … ‘A carefully selected number of Weipa (Aboriginal) couples, perhaps three in number, should be given houses in the mining township. Both husband and wife must have qualities calculated to make their acceptance in a white community a guaranteed success’.
By 197S, there were just six Aboriginal families in a town of several thousand whites.
In 1978 Comalco policy remained unchanged. They stated that Aborigines needed to be specially qualified before they would be allowed to live in the mining town.
That chapter of the book goes on in much the same way. It proves that what Senator Cavanagh and Senator Gietzelt have said today is correct. The mining companies are manipulating the Federal Government and, in particular, the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I would not be surprised if recent amendments to Northern Territory law so that Aboriginals may not make land claims in respect of certain areas were not in accordance with the planning of the Australian Mining Industry Council. The outer suburbs of Darwin were extended to the Adelaide River and an island dear to the hearts of the Borroloola people was set aside. On 23 March 1978 the Australian Mining Industry Council issued a publication entitled ‘The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) ActMatters of Serious Concern to the Mining Industry’. The Council believed this to be a very effective document at the time. These words appear on the first page of that document-
As submitted, the Northern Land Council’s proposals ought not to be regarded as acceptable either to the mining companies concerned, or to the Government, because acceptance would mean acquiescence in departures from vital principles which should be preserved.
That was one of the first comments contained in that document. It then quoted from page 240 of the Fox report. The contents of the Fox report are clear and it is available for all members of this chamber to read. The Australian Mining Industry Council objected to certain arguments put forward by the Northern Land Council, It stated:
. The Northern Land Council is arguing:
They are the reasonable demands put up by the Northern Land Council. The mining industry thought those demands were unreasonable and it has published a second document. As the Minister said, this document had an embargo placed on it until 13 March 1979. Amongst its complaints, it included: the protracted and complex negotiation leading to the signing of the Ranger agreement which foreshadows major, if not insurmountable difficulties in achieving the further evaluation and development of what is one of the world’s most important uranium provinces; . . .
The document continues in that vein. With very great respect, I suggest to the Minister that when the mining industry published this document he should have issued a very challenging counter statement. Instead, the statement issued was a mere policical whimper. I think that this is where this Government is falling down badly. This sort of injustice is being carried out throughout Australia, with some minor exceptions, but particularly in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland, and we never hear an authoritative voice from the Federal Government.
The Government does not remind the people who run these areas that a referendum was held in 1967 which gave the Commonwealth very wide powers to legislate for Aborigines. As a result of that- this will be a matter for another argument at a later date- we find that Aborigines in many parts of Australia are slipping back to where they were before 1967. This Government has a moral responsibility- particularly the Cabinet, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs- to stand up now and on every future occasion and be properly counted.
– Today, under Standing Orders, Senator Cavanagh, supported by Senator Gietzelt and Senator Keeffe introduced a matter of urgency into the Senate. That motion condemns the Government for its failure to reply and to counter the false and self-interested campaign of the mining industry, and so on. It is a little difficult then to interpret what the motion actually means. It criticises the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory and those responsible for Aboriginal affairs in the Northern Territory for their handling of the discussions that took place in Darwin a little while ago. The language that has been used today has been very extravagant and very emotional. It has been suggested that some actions have been scurrilous. Suggestions have been made that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has acted coercively. As I said, emotional language has been used and I believe that this debate has been detrimental to the Aboriginal people of Australia.
I regret that we have to debate such a motion in this place. But the fact is that the motion has been moved and charges have been made. Therefore, honourable senators on this side of the chamber have to refute them. I believe that most people in Australia, other than honourable senators opposite, applaud what Senator Chaney has done since becoming Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. No suggestion that he has acted coer.cively can be substantiated. As honourable senators opposite said, one needs to get the facts right. I suggest that the motion introduced today is erroneous. I should like to refer to the Laurie Oakes Report of 4 April 1979. Of course, most honourable senators read this report which comes out regularly in this place. Laurie Oakes is a critic and he reviews various things. No one can say that he supports the Government or otherwise. I refer in particular to an article headed Powers that Be- Chaney answers the land rights critics: make the system work’. The first paragraph reads:
In early March, when the Australian Mining Industry Council produced its discussion paper attacking Federal and South Australian Aboriginal land rights legislation, the Federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs prepared a draft response to be issued in the Minister’s name. Before approving its release, the Minister, Senator Fred Chaney, wrote in an extra paragraph. It said: ‘Mining is important to Australia, but it is important to give some consideration to the Aboriginal people who have been pushed around for so long.’ It was a significant addition in view of the recent claims that Senator Chaney and the Federal Government are planning to water down the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act.
This matter was referred to early in the debate. There is absolutely no suggestion that this represents a watering down. Naturally adjustments have to be made to a very comprehensive and important piece of legislation such as the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act to ensure that it works in the way in which the Government wishes it to work. We know full well from practice and from the way that the legislation has been applied that the Government is honouring the Aboriginal land rights legislation. The Opposition has criticised the Minister, saying that he has done nothing about this matter. This is absolutely ridiculous. In Canberra on 14 March, the day after the discussion paper came out, the Minister publicly stated his and the Government’s feelings on the matter.
I refer now to further negotiations that took place in the Northern Territory some four weeks ago. I was with the Minister at the time. Time does not permit me to discuss fully the Press statement that was released on the matter. The Minister has had it incorporated in Hansard. I suggest that the people interested in this subject should read the Press statement in Hansard. It makes the situation clear. It refers to negotiations between the Minister, Senator Fred Chaney, the Chief Minister for the Northern Territory, Paul Everingham, and three land council chairmen. Two of those land council chairmen are close friends of mine. The third I would say is a friend. I was happy recently to lunch with Galarrwuy Yunupingu. I will tell the Senate some other day about what he had to say. One of his fears is the intrusion into Aboriginal affairs of certain people. If they wish to assist Aboriginal people they should keep at arm’s length in regard to many of these matters.
The land rights Bill introduced by the Labor Government contained absolutely no provision for negotiation and consultation between the Aboriginal people and Ranger Uranium Mines. This seems rather surprising.
– It is amazing. With all the charges that the Labor Party has made it is amazing that in its Bill it did not give the Aboriginal people the right to consult with Ranger Mines at Jabiru.
– That is extraordinary. Senator Cavanagh, who is trying to interject, refers to moral responsibility. If the honourable senator had a moral responsibility, why did he not try to protect the Aboriginal people in the days when his party was responsible for Aboriginal affairs?
I will now answer one or two points concerning the Aboriginal Land Commissioner. The Commissioner has heard many Aboriginal land rights cases. I think I am correct in saying that all the recommendations that have been made to government by Mr Justice Toohey, the Aboriginal Land Commissioner, have been agreed to by the Federal Government. It is a lie to suggest that some coercion is connected with the claims that have been made. I refer now to the situation concerning Ayers Rock. I suggest that there is a tremendous misunderstanding of that situation. Let me quickly draw attention to the fact that there is no parallel between the situation concerning the Kakadu National Park and that concerning Ayers Rock. Kakadu National Park is Aboriginal land; it belongs to the Aboriginal people. It is theirs for eternity. They have leased it for use as a national park. The situation at Ayers Rock is completely different. The land was not formerly Aboriginal land but it is now. It was a reserve for quite a while. The Central Land Council made a claim on behalf of the Aboriginal people but it has been withdrawn because it involved nothing more than a point of law. It is not a matter of opposition by the Federal Government or the Northern Territory Government. It is a question of the law as it applies to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. The application by the Central Land Council was withdrawn because the land is not unalienated. Under the Aboriginal lands legislation, all Aboriginal land was passed to the Aboriginal people. This amounted to many hundreds of thousands of square miles in the Northern Territory. It was open to the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory to make a claim on Crown land outside Aboriginal reserves that was unalienated, that is, that was not held by any type of lease. The situation in the Northern Territory now is that land on Aboriginal reserves automatically belongs to the Aboriginal people. The Aboriginals are getting title to the land. There is no argument about that. The Aboriginals can make application for unalienated land. But it has been determined, as a point of law, that Ayers Rock is alienated land. So the claim cannot be accepted.
– When was the declaration made?
– I am always hearing such noise in the background. The honourable senator speaks whether he is on his feet or sitting down. Let me read the decision of Mr Justice Toohey which was handed down in Alice Springs at 2.30 p.m. It reads: l:That theCLC -
That is, the Central Land Council- has withdrawn its claim to the northern area of vacant Crown land i.e., the land to the north of Lake Amadeus. 2: The CLC has agreed that the Yulara Village site is alienated land and therefore this part of the claim has been withdrawn. 3: The Commissioner has ruled that the National Park is alienated land and therefore not within his jurisdiction. 4: He has also ruled that the south western comer of the vacant Crown land i.e. the sedimentaries immediately adjoining the National Park is unalienated land and therefore is within his jurisdiction.
It is likely that the claim will continue. It is a pity that the Labor Party, when it presents a motion such as this, does not get its facts straight. It comes forward with what I suggest is a lot of rubbish. The motion it moved today is a non-event. It is no race because every claim contained in the motion has been disproved. Quite a lot more can be said on this matter.
As I have only two or three minutes left to me just briefly put the Northern Territory viewpoint to members of the Senate who insist on bringing forward motions relating to Aboriginals which are wasteful of time, expensive and only succeed in raising the tempo of debate. The people of the Northern Territory have one future. I have said before that their future is coexistance, that is the ability to live alongside each other. I assure honourable senators in this chamber and the people of Australia that this is what the people of the Northern Territory are endeavouring to do. But it is very difficult when we have people in other parts of Australia who use their positions in various ways to make false assertions and who do their utmost to try to put heat into the system.
I suggest that if they wish to help the Aboriginal people and the people of the Northern Territory they do other things, rather than introduce ridiculous motions. This motion is not a genuine move. It is trying to white ant the policies of the Government and what the people of the Northern Territory are trying to do. I suggest that if these people have the time and the patience they should go and see Cyril Rioli, the Chairman of the Tiwi Land Council. They should see Galarrwuy Yunupingu, the Chairman of the Northern Land Council and Wenten Rubuntja, the Chairman of the Central Land Council. They should take the time to sit down with these people. They will say exactly what I have been saying today and that is: Please leave them in peace and let them get on with the work that they are endeavouring to do. I move:
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the motion (Senator Cavanagh’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Majority ……. 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6.6 to 8 p.m.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the interim annual report of the Legal Aid Commission (Australian Capital Territory) for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report by the Industries Assistance Commission on vegetable oils and fats: animal oils and fats, etc.
– On behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory I present a report on planning in the Australian Capital Territory- Procedures, Processes and Community Involvement, together with extracts from the minutes of proceedings of the Committee and the transcript of evidence.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-by leave-The statement dealing with this report is necessarily a lengthy one and I will therefore seek leave to incorporate it. However, before doing so, I would like to make a few points. This matter was referred to the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory on 8 December 1 976 by the then Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr Staley. The inquiry has been interrupted by a general election, a number of changes in membership of the Committee and by the referendum on constitutional development in the Capital Territory. The Joint Committee has sought to give the matter detailed attention and this has also added to the time taken with the inquiry. This report is in many ways a follow-up report to that of the Senate Select Committee on the Development of Canberra in 1955. As a result of that inquiry, the National Capital Development Commission was established. This Joint Committee itself was created and the period of real growth in Canberra as a national capital began.
The Committee, in its report, has referred to the importance of greater consistency in the policy of governments in relation to Canberra. For example, the report states that:
In the Committee’s view growth should henceforth be at a more uniform rate not subject to the sudden sharp rises and falls that have characterised the past . . . The impact of government policy on the ACT economy must also be acknowledged and policies devised to encourage a steady rate of growth and it is hoped that governments will respond to this challenge.
The Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory has recommended significant adjustments to the planning process in the Capital Territory and to the role of the community in that process. It is proposed that there be a system of structure and development plans in the preparation of which the community will be closely involved from the early stages. However, the Committee has also recommended that planning and development control should remain centrally co-ordinated and that the unified and generally consistent approach to planning under a single statutory authority, that is, the National Capital Development Commission, should be retained. At the same time, the Committee believes that NCDC’s planning authority should extend over the whole of the Capital Territory and not just to the plan of the layout of the city area. The Committee has also suggested that community councils be established as a continuing focus for community participation, both for citizens and for planners. The Committee sees a continuing role for the Joint Committee itself to be exercised at the request of the Minister for the Capital Territory or at the discretion of the Committee on matters affecting the national interest in the Capital Territory. The Committee has also suggested that the Commonwealth and the Government of New South Wales establish a regional advisory body for the south-east region of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory and that this should be done within about the next five years. The Committee has also recommended a land use tribunal to hear appeals as to decisions of the relevant authorities on permits for proposed works and applications for changes in leases. The Joint Committee is firmly of the view that this should operate as informally as possible.
The Joint Committee, in its report, has sought to draw on the lessons of the past and to make recommendations in a practical and reasonable manner to meet what we are able to foresee as the needs of the future. In many ways this has been a difficult inquiry. The Committee recognises that it has a particular responsibility to Australia’s national capital and to the people who live here. But we also have a responsibility to this Parliament and to the people as a whole to whom Canberra and the Capital Territory are constantly developing as an important symbol of national pride and unity. We hope that this report will go a considerable way towards meeting these varying obligations. Mr President, I seek leave to incorporate the comprehensive statement on the Committee ‘s report.
The statement read as follows-
The report I have just tabled is one which the Committee hopes will be of some significance in the history of the development of Canberra and the ACT. In 1955 the Senate Select Committee on the Development of Canberra presented a report which set out proposals for the future planning and building of the national capital and resulted in the creation of the National Capital Development Commission. That report also led to the appointment of the first Joint Committee of this Parliament on the ACT. At the time of that report Canberra was often, and with some justification, referred to as the ‘bush capital’, a distinctly Australian description and one carrying clearly derogatory connotations. The great depression and World War II had almost halted development in the capital and the bulk of the public service was still located in the State capitals.
In 1955 Canberra was a large country town with a population of 33,000. It is now a unique city and national capital of about 220,000 inhabitants. The essential elements of Walter Burley Griffin’s design for Canberra, still incomplete in 1955, are now established and the central offices of the public service have moved to Canberra with only a few exceptions. Most of the major problems to which the 1955 Senate Committee addressed itself have been dealt with, but the growth of Canberra and its impact on the surrounding region have led to new problems.
The development and planning process in Canberra over the past two decades has generally met the needs of the national capital and seat of government functions. But in that time Canberra has become a large urban community with residential areas stretching well beyond the areas of direct national capital or seat of government significance. Some older areas of the city are in need of redevelopment and an ‘infill’ program has been suggested for some undeveloped land within established residential areas. There is a growing need for the citizens of Canberra to be able to contribute more directly and effectively to the planning of their city and to be able to appeal against planning decisions which they consider adversely affect them or to which they object for some other reason.
It was because of changes such as these over the twenty years following the Senate Select Committee’s Report that the Joint Committee on the ACT was asked on 8 December 1976, by the then Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr Staley, to consider and report on the adequacy and public acceptability of planning procedures and processes in the ACT including:
the adequacy of community involvement in planning and development;
the role of the National Parliament, particularly in planning the ‘national ‘element of Canberra; and
the relationship between the various groups involved in this process.
Commonwealth government policy has a direct impact on the ACT and this is frequently more immediate, and at times traumatic, than in other areas where local and State governments also operate. Commonwealth governments must therefore recognise a special responsibility in this respect to its citizens who happen to be residents in the nation ‘s capital city. Proposals made in this report will contribute to achieving a more even pattern of growth without the frequent disruption which changes in government policy have caused in the past. However, this depends ultimately on the will of governments and this must include the will to provide the citizens of the capital with a sound and coherent economic base on which local people can make decisions. As the report states:
In the Committee’s view growth should henceforth be at a more uniform rate not subject to the sudden sharp rises and falls that have characterised the past . . The impact of government policy on the ACT economy must also be acknowledged and policies devised to encourage a steady rate of growth and it is hoped that governments will respond to this challenge.
One of the immediate issues which the Committee had to consider was evidence of many breaches of lease purpose clauses in Canberra and an apparent reluctance on the part of the authorities to enforce these lease provisions. The lease agreement is the key control document for implementing town planning in the Territory. The Committee concluded that lease purpose clauses should be enforced and has recommended that substantial fines be imposed for breaches, with continued failure to comply leading to the termination of the lease. The Committee also feels that the procedure for applying to vary lease purpose clauses should be modified. Finally, there should be a right of appeal by both applicants and third parties against decisions made on section 10 and section 1 1 a applications regarding lease purpose clauses.
It is a cause for some concern that the Commonwealth is not at present subject to development control under the City Area Leases Ordinance. As landlord the Commonwealth can authorise incompatible uses or can with impunity engage in incompatible uses in premises it occupies. The Committee has therefore recommended that Government departments and instrumentalities be obliged to conform with statutory planning provisions and lease purpose clauses.
On the question of public participation the Committee believes that the local community can have a greater role in planning and development without adversely affecting the national interest in Canberra as the capital and seat of government. There should be much more scope than at present for those affected individuals, groups, organisations and institutions to put forward their views on land use intentions and to participate from the earliest practical stage of the planning process. The community should have the oportunity to have a part in establishing the goals that subsequent planning policies are designed to achieve. The Committee has recommended that the three-year proposals and any firm long-term programs of NCDC should be tabled in the ACT House of Assembly so that the Government and its authorities can be better informed of local views on these programs.
The Committee believes that planning and development control should remain centrally co-ordinated and that the unified and generally consistent approach to plannning under a single statutory authority should be retained. However, the planning system should be more accessible to the citizen. A system of Structure and Development planning for the ACT would ensure that policy is stated and accessible to all who are involved in or interested in the planning and development process and would ensure that members of the community have a role, if they wish, in that planning process.
To facilitate participation in planning the Committee has therefore proposed a system of Structure and Development Plans, with statutory force, and has set out in its report the steps for the preparation of these Plans. The Structure Plan will be a series of statements of overall planning policy and will provide a framework within which detailed development proposals are to be formulated. It will not express detailed planning and development proposals- these will be contained in Development Plans. The Development Plans would be the official land-use plans for the ACT and would replace the existing plan of lay-out of the City of Canberra. The Committee has recommended that the National Capital Development Commission Act be amended to provide for a system of Structure and Development Plans with the Minister for the Capital Territory the final arbiter in the preparation of these Plans. The steps for the preparation of the Plans would ensure community participation from the earliest stages and would preserve the Parliament’s role as guardian of national capital aspects and the Burley Griffin plan.
The Committee has also proposed a Land Use Tribunal to hear appeals against decisions of the relevant authorities on permits for proposed works, and applications for lease purpose clause changes or permits to carry on a profession, trade or occupation on a residential lease. The Tribunal would have a number of members with expertise in relevant disciplines so that expert panels can be selected for particular appeals and should operate as informally as possible rather than in the manner of the adversary trial system. The Tribunal shoud not hear prosecutions for breach of lease purpose clauses which would be dealt with by the courts.
- As a result of its inquiry and following the recent referendum in the Territory on constitutional arrangements, the Committee believes there is a need for community organisations which can both represent the local community and act as a point of contact for planners and other Government agencies. The Committee nas therefore recommended that community councils be established on a voluntary basis. As well as having a role in the planning process these councils could give residents at the neighbourhood level as strong a voice and authority to adapt local services to local circumstances and wishes as is compatible with the claims of the wider community.
The proposed planning system will require examination of the environmental impact of urban development at a much earlier stage and with a wider perspective than generally occurs at present under the impact of proposals legislation. The Committee has said that there should be memorandums of understanding between the Minister for the Capital Territory and the Minister for Science and the Environment to ensure that the system of Structure and Development Plans and the Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act work in a comprehensive and complementary manner.
In its report the Committee has expressed the view that the Commonwealth Government and the Government of NSW should give immediate attention to the establishment of a regional advisory body for the South East Region of NSW and the ACT as recommended by the South East Region Steering Committee in 1976. The Committee further recommends that both Governments table in their respective Parliaments a statement on joint policy for the region, before the conclusion of the 32nd Commonwealth Parliament.
There has been a Joint Committee on the ACT in each Parliament since the Committee was first appointed in 1957. The role of the Committee has evolved over this period with the growth and changing nature of Canberra itself. The Committee has at times worked as a quasi-appeal body, hearing objections to particular planning proposals because of our role in relation to the plan of the lay-out of the city and Burley Griffin ‘s concept for Canberra. It is not entirely appropriate that a committee representing the national interest and Parliament should become involved in disputes at the neighbourhood level simply because of the absence of any other mechanisms for the proper examination of grievances. The proposals in this report for the preparation of Plans, for an appeal tribunal and for community councils, should assist in meeting this shortcoming in the system of government and administration in the ACT. The Committee has also sought to suggest a realistic role for the House of Assembly, taking into account the recently expressed views of the people of the Territory.
In 1976 the report of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System recommended that some of the functions of the Joint Committee on the ACT, mainly in relation to the plan of lay-out, be transferred to a standing committee of the Senate which would also carry out some of the functions presently performed by the Public Works Committee. In the report I have tabled this Committee has proposed that the plan of lay-out be replaced by a set of Development plans and has set out the steps for the preparation of these plans. These include provisions for Parliament to examine and advise on plans where the national capital interest is involved. The Committee has proposed that it exercise, at its discretion, scrutiny on behalf of the Parliament. However, in reaching this decision I should point out that the Joint Committee has not addressed itself specifically to the proposal in the report of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System. Nevertheless, we have assumed the retention of a Joint Committee as representing all elements in the National Parliament in its involvement in the planning and development of the national capital city.
It is also noted that in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances of March 1979 that Committee, when taking action on ACT ordinances which are considered to deal with matters more appropriate for Parliamentary enactment, intends to notify and seek a reaction from both the House of assembly and this Committee. This would add a new role for the Committee. This matter was not considered in the context of the report I have just tabled as the Senate Committee’s report was tabled when this Committee ‘s report was with the printer.
This report has taken two years and four months to complete. The matter was first referred to the Committee in December 1976. In the 30th Parliament the Committee received sixty three submissions and heard seventy one witnesses. Discussions were held with persons and organisations involved in planning in Darwin, Adelaide and AlburyWodonga. The Committee reported progress before the 30th Parliament was dissolved in November 1977. In the 3 1 st Parliament the matter was referred again to the Committee in April 1978. The Committee heard a further thirty three witnesses and visited Hobart, Melbourne, Penh, Brisbane and Sydney and consulted with people involved in planning in those cities.
In November 1978 the Committee announced that it would await the result of the referendum on constitutional issues in the ACT before completing its report as the outcome might affect our report. We also wished to give further consideration to some aspects of our inquiry, particularly the means of public participation and procedures for appeals against planning decisions. Late in 1978 the Committee appointed two specialist advisers to assist in completing its deliberations. The Committee was csr.ctrr.ed that its report be as comprehensive as possible and that its recommendations take into account the future role of the House of Assembly while giving the people of the ACT an adequate say in the planning of their community.
The Committee has experienced many changes to its membership during the inquiry with only 4 of the 10 members on the Committee at the time the matter was first referred remaining on the Committee which completed this report. In addition to the present members, the Committee has had 9 other members on the Committee at some time during the inquiry. All of these factors have contributed to this report’s being so long in preparation.
In preparing its proposals the Committee has tried to draw on the lessons of the past. At the same time we have necessarily had to try to formulate procedures that will overcome the difficulties that have emerged with Canberra’s growth, the community’s needs and the problems, aspirations, values and needs of the capital and the community in the future. We have not sought to be dogmatic, but rather to be as precise as we have felt each particular issue either permitted or required. The Committee has suggested adjustments to the existing planning system which we believe conserve its important strengths, remove or limit its shortcomings and make it more responsive to the needs and wishes of the community. The Committee has sought to propose a planning system which is both practical and responsive and which will accommodate future changes in community needs and wishes at the same time as it meets the inevitable demands of a national capital and growing urban complex.
1 would like to thank all those who have contributed to this inquiry. First of all my fellow members of the Committee, the specialist advisers Dr Alan Fogg of the University of Queensland and Mr Bob Graham, the Hoban City Planner and all of those who gave evidence to the Committee at public hearings and in consultations. I would also like to thank Phil Bergin, Allan Kelly, Michele Purcell and Lyn Coutman of the Committee Secretariat and Don Nairn and Terry Watson who worked on the Secretariat for much of this inquiry. It has been a long and at times difficult inquiry. The Committee recognises its responsibility to the national capital and its community, but above all to this Parliament and the people of Australia as a whole for whom this city is growing in stature as a symbol of national pride and unity. We have had these matters always in mind in preparing this report.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- Last week in a reply to a question from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) in the House of Representatives, the Treasurer (Mr Howard) indicated that he hoped to provide the House with some figures to illustrate the level of tax avoidance which has been practised in Australia in recent times. The figures provided in this statement are indicative only and are not meant to be a definitive calculation of the total threat to revenue posed by tax avoidance.
It is a matter of record that no Government has been as active in closing tax avoidance loopholes as has this Government. Over the course of 1978, the Government introduced five Bills to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act. There have also been major amendments to counter sales tax avoidance schemes. The Treasurer has already foreshadowed further amendments to deal with schemes covering such things as expenses of discharging mortgages, variations of prepaid interest and rent schemes, abuses of the trading stock provisions, abuses of the mortgage deduction for borrowing expenses and variations of the Curran scheme. I anticipate that these amendments will be presented to the Parliament shortly.
Tax avoidance undermines the basic equity of the taxation system. It allows a relatively small group of individuals to shift their tax burden to those who cannot enter into such schemes because of the size or nature of their incomes or to those who, while able to do so, choose not to participate. The Government will continue to be uncompromising in its attack on artificial tax avoidance schemes. No area will be immune from that attack.
A standing arrangement exists whereby the Commissioner of Taxation draws to the Treasurer’s attention particular schemes of tax avoidance as soon as sufficient evidence of those schemes comes to his notice. On every occasion on which a scheme has been brought to the Treasurer’s attention by the Commissioner in this way action has been taken to eliminate the scheme. The Government will continue the practice of announcing its intention to take legislative action against particular schemes with effect from the date of announcement.
It is, of course, impossible to quantify the total threat to revenue posed by tax avoidance schemes at any given time. However, it is possible on the basis of claims made in taxation returns pursuant to particular tax avoidance arrangements to gain some idea of the magnitude of tax avoidance, the resultant threat to revenue and the erosion of the equity of the tax system which loss of revenue from those schemes represents.
The Treasurer has been informed by the Commissioner of Taxation that examination of tax returns for 1977-78 has revealed total claims for deductions from assessable income totalling approximately $1,41 lm under certain tax avoidance arrangements. On the quite realistic assumption that the average tax rate of those involved would normally be approximately 50 cents in the dollar, the amount of revenue at stake in respect of those claims is approximately $705m of which approximately $253m would, if the claims were successful, be set off against tax on income of the year 1977-78 and the balance of $452m against tax of subsequent years.
The claims of which I speak arise out of schemes against which the Government has already taken action. The Commissioner of Taxation will be vigorously contesting all claims under these schemes. The total sum of approximately $1,41 lm includes claims for deductions totalling $94 lm under the so-called Curran scheme and its variants and approximately $2 95 m under trading stock schemes. I stress again that the figures I have used represent claims made under schemes against which, on the best advice available to the Government, the Parliament has effectively legislated or legislation has been foreshadowed.
The figures do not, of course, measure in any way the total volume of revenue which would have been at risk if the Government had not acted as it did last year. Nor indeed do they measure, and in fact, it is impossible to measure, the potential revenue loss from schemes about which the Commissioner of Taxation has not yet received full information. I am conscious that a scheme-by-scheme approach adds to the bulk and complexity of the Income Tax Assessment Act. However, until an effective general antiavoidance provision can be inserted in the Act and is demonstrated to be effective, the Government has absolutely no alternative but to continue a scheme-by-scheme approach.
A considerable amount of work has been done on the feasibility of rewriting section 260 of the Act. Students of our taxation law and practice will be aware of the formidable nature of this task. I can only say that the results of that endeavour will be made known to the Parliament as soon as practicable. Honourable senators will be aware of the recommendation of the Asprey Review Committee that an advisory committee on taxation be established. The Treasurer sees considerable merit in that proposal and intends putting certain recommendations to the Government in relation to it. In framing his recommendations the Treasurer is seeking the views of a number of interested bodies, including those representing the legal and accounting professions.
Needless to say, the Government is anxious to ensure that, in the process of acting against tax avoidance schemes, there are no unintended inhibitions placed upon normal commercial transactions. The Treasurer does not believe this has occurred with the legislation which has been enacted to date. However, it is something which the Government has very much in mind when framing anti-avoidance legislation. The Government very much welcomes comment and constructive criticism on its taxation legislation. Where the legislation is of necessity very complex- this is inescapable in the antiavoidance area- there is a special need to have such comment and constructive criticism. I commend the statement to the Senate. I present the following paper:
Tax Avoidance- Ministerial Statement, 4 April 1 979.
– I wish to speak briefly to the statement that has just been put down by the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick. Having read it a second time I am at a loss as to its purpose. It appears to be a reiteration of what the Government has been saying for the last year or two about tax avoidance schemes. In the main the Opposition supports the Government’s intention of ensuring that persons who are engaging in these schemes and avoiding the provisions and spirit of the Act for personal profit are prevented from doing so. Such actions are to be deplored. We as an Opposition generally support that principle.
I am not quite sure why the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has made this statement again this evening. It is true that the Government has been active in closing tax avoidance loopholes, as he said, but it is also probably true that no government on record in recent years has had more reason to increase its revenue than the present Government because of the difficulties in the economy. Apart from that, the statement appears to us to be a reasonable one. In principle it certainly has the support of the Opposition.
– I do not wish to reinforce what the Leader Opposition (Senator Wriedt) has said; I merely want the matter put on the Notice Paper so that we are able to debate it at an opportune time. For that reason I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave On 20
March 1978 the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced the establishment of the Inquiry into Whales and Whaling to be headed by Sir Sydney Frost. The report of the Inquiry was tabled in Parliament on 20 February 1979. I wish to outline the background to the Inquiry’s establishment and the Government’s response to that report. There is a natural community concern about an activity which threatens the extinction of any species, particularly when it is directed against a species as special and intelligent as the whale and there is a fear that the continued existence of these special forms of wildlife are threatened by continued exploitation. The harpooning of these mammals is offensive to many people who regard killing them as inconsistent with the ideals of mankind and without serving any valid economic purpose in mitigation.
On the other hand, a number of Australian livelihoods depend on whaling. A whaling station operated from Albany in Western Australia for many years. It was of long standing importance to that region. Australia’s policy on whaling has been to maintain an active role on the International Whaling Commission to regulate strict whaling activity within the rules of the Commission and to ensure the continuance of whales as a renewable marine resource. Given these differences between the whaling industry and conservation considerations, and also the considerable debate as to what has happened to whale populations, the Government decided that the appropriate course was to commission an independent inquiry to examine every aspect of whaling.
The Government has now completed consideration of the report and has accepted all the Inquiry’s recommendations. The Government is to prohibit all whaling within the impending 200-mile Australian fishing zone, including any extension of the zone to include a fishing zone off the Australian Antarctic Territory.
– That is an excellent decision.
– I note Senator Puplick ‘s comment. His address to the Senate on this matter was of importance. The Government upholds the central conclusion of the Inquiry into Whales and Whaling, namely, that Australia should pursue a policy of opposition to whaling and that this policy should be pursued both domestically and internationally through the International Whaling Commission and other organisations. The Government will continue to be an active member of, and to support, the International
Whaling Commission and to support efforts to revise the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. In particular we will seek the extension of the Commission’s charter to the conservation of all cetacea. Satisfactory substitutes are readily available for nearly all whale products; therefore the importation into Australia of all whale products and goods containing them is to be banned from 1 January 1981. Subject to normal budgetary considerations, Government funding for research on whales will be continued at no less than present levels.
Arrangements will be initiated soon to implement the Government’s decision on the report. The Whaling Act 1960, which basically is concerned with the regulation of whaling, is to be repealed and appropriate protective legislation to succeed the Whaling Act is to be developed for discussion with the States. The administration of this protective legislation is to become the responsibility of the Minister for Science and the Environment. The Government’s decision represents a change in policy from one of conservative utilisation of whale stocks controlled by international agreement to one committed to a vigorous and active policy of protection. This change in attitude has been influenced by community concern not only in Australia but throughout the world for the need to conserve these unique creatures.
I am sure that this change of policy will be very favourably received by most Australians. The Government’s deliberations have been immeasurably assisted by the hard work and dedication of many individuals and the conservation organisations, in particular Project Jonah.
– A very valuable organisation.
– I note the part that Senator Missen played in support of that organisation. I would like to pay tribute to Sir Sydney Frost for the dedication and thoroughness with which he conducted the inquiry. All honourable senators who have read the report will agree that it is a well reasoned and comprehensive document and it has led to this Government’s total commitment to protect the whale so that present and future generations of Australians can have the opportunity of seeing these wonderful mammals in their natural habitat rather than seeing them merely as exhibits of an extinct species in a museum.
– by leave- I move-
That the Senate take note of the paper.
The Opposition is delighted with the decision that has been made. The basis of it is a unique situation which existed at the commencement of the last national election campaign. The major political parties both nailed their flags to the masthead, as it were, and stated their policies on whaling. I remember that at the national conference of the Australian Labor Party in Perth, I, with Senator Wriedt and Senator Button added that whaling policy to our Party’s platform. I moved the resolution to this effect. Reference was made to Project Jonah, the Greenpeace organisations and people like Jodi Smit and others responsible for organising public support. This is one of those rare occasions when the major political parties are on the same wavelength and we can get major breakthroughs on a conservation matter.
– Order! It is being more than two hours after the meeting of the Senate, and in accordance with Standing Order 127, this debate is now interrupted.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That Standing Order 127 be suspended for this day.
-I think that all Australians will agree with the reform that has been instituted in relation to the haven for whales in our 200-mile offshore fishing zone, regardless of the International Whaling Commission’s deliberations. We talk sometimes about this great southland- this land of the Southern Cross. This decision will make this part of the world a haven for mammals, particularly whales.
- Senator, you raised this matter in the Parliament seven or eight years ago.
– That is a point well taken. As is the case with many causes, people struggle on and eventually the majority is with them. One point puzzles me a little. We applaud the fact that the 200-mile Australian fishing zone is now a haven for whales. But when we sought information from the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) about our sovereign rights in the Australian Antarctic Territory, some ambiguity arose. I am happy that it is stated as a fait accompli on the second page of the Minister’s statement that the fishing zone also embraces the Australian Antarctic Territory. I was puzzled by the apparent coyness of the Minister when he responded to earlier questions from Senator Wriedt and Senator Button. I hope that that matter can be clarified. This is an internal or a semi-internal decision.
I notice we have transferred the future policy making directive role from the Department of Primary Industry to the Department of Science and the Environment. Those honourable senators who have been members of Estimates committees know of the dedicated officers, such as Dr Boden in the Minister’s Department. Last week we were indebted to Senator Puplick for the documentation he presented. Those honourable senators who have read about Muso, the blue whale and other reports will know about the rising opinion on the matter. What I have been concerned about is that in the past we have been reluctant to give reports to our Parliament on IWC debates. Senator Puplick touched on this matter. The Americans were rather caustic about how we voted at these International Whaling Commission meetings. The Minister for Science and the Environment told me that it was a case of taking the middle ground and trying to blunt the thrust of the Soviet Union and Japan which wished to maximise their operations. The Minister said that it was better to blunt that thrust than to find there was no ceiling to the number of whales taken. My understanding of what Senator Puplick said is that the general idea is that we should not take a sort of shandygaff attitude. Our attitude should be to go for the lot. That was a broad attitude and I know that it will be difficult to follow.
We applaud and welcome what has been done to put our house in order. The Opposition hopes that the Australian Government will take a militant stance at future deliberations of the IWC. I believe that with a man like Dr Boden leading the Australian delegation we will have a pretty solid attitude. I say with all due respect to the people in the Department of Primary Industry, that they were more interested in the marketing and the carcass aspect of whaling. Dr Boden is a confirmed conservationist. I will leave honourable senators with this happy thought: I have noticed that in the past the United States of America often sent a couple of parliamentarians to these IWC meetings to watch United States interests. On the other side of the coin, I was in Japan with a socialist delegation a couple of years ago when the Russians were negotiating a fishing agreement with Japan. A couple of Russian deputies attended those negotiations. The thought that I am trying to launch tonight is that in future meetings of the IWC a further plunge into this adventure might be taken. Perhaps
Senator Puplick and I could be sent as a bipartisan delegation to watch how our delegates vote and how the other delegates vote.
– I wish to say how much I welcome the statement which the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) has put down this evening. I know that many honourable senators on this side of the chamber have been concerned with this matter. Senator Missen and I have both had a considerable amount of contact with the people from Project Jonah throughout the course of” this inquiry and prior to the decision which has now been made. I very much welcome the statement which the Government has put down this evening. It is a very important statement, a very great victory for the whales and all conservationists. In the light of that fact I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Discharge of Orders of the Day
– Following consultation with the Opposition, the Australian Democrats and Senator Harradine, I seek leave to propose a motion to discharge Orders of the Day from the Notice Paper.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That the following Orders of the Day be discharged from the Notice Paper 3 Public Accounts- Joint Statutory Committee- 1 74th Report. 9 Mainline Upgrading- Adelaide-Serviceton Rail LinkBureau of Transport Economics- Paper; and Mainline Upgrading- Sydney-Brisbane Rail Link- Bureau of Transport Economics- Paper. 10 Aboriginal Hostels Limited- Annual Report 1976-77-Paper. 11 Arbitration Inspectorate- Annual Report 1976-77-Paper. 13 Education Research and Development CommitteeAnnual Report 1976-77- Ministerial Statement. 14 Atomic Energy Commission- Annual Report 1976-77-Paper. 15 Darwin Reconstruction Commission- Annual Report 1976-77-Paper. 17 Pig Meat Promotion Advisory Committee- Annual Report 1976-77-Paper. 18 Cyclone Tracy-Relief Fund Reports-October 1977 to January 1978- Papers. 19 Geological and Geophysical Research Station- Paper. 21 Transport 1974-75-Cost Recovery- Bureau of Transport Economics- Paper. 22 Meat Research Committee-Annual Report 1976-77- Paper. 24 Computing Equipment Tenders- Proposed Tabling of Papers. 26 Security Forces - Commonwealth-State Responsibilities. 27 Australian Broadcasting Commission- Independence. 29 Health Care-Financing Review-Papers. 30 Aboriginal Studies Institute- Annual Report 1976-77-Paper. 32 Trade Relations- Australia and European Economic Community- Ministerial Statement. 33 Darwin and Northern Territory Freight TransportBureau of Transport Economics- Paper. 34 Marine Science Institute- Annual Report 1976-77-Paper. 35 Cyclone Tracy- Relief Fund Report- February 1978-Paper. 36 Aurukun and Mornington Island Aboriginal Communities- Joint Statement by Prime Minister and Queensland Premier. 37 Police Resources- Commonwealth- Paper. 39 Department of Aboriginal Affairs- Annual Report 1976-77-Paper. 40 Commonwealth Employment Service Review- Paper. 4 1 Albury- Wodonga Development Corporation- Annual Report 197 4-7 5 -Paper. 42 Health Insurance Commission- Annual Report 1976- 77-Papers. 43 Accommodation- Married Servicemen- Ministerial Statement. 45 Inter-Parliamentary Union- Sofia Conference 1977- Paper. 48 Tertiary Education Commission- Study Leave Draft Report- Paper. 50 Aboriginal Communities- Northern Territory- Mining Royalties- Paper. 51 Aboriginal Involvement- Economy of Pilbara and Kimberley Regions- Paper. 52 Cyclone Tracy- Relief Fund Report- April 1978- Paper. 53 Aboriginal Land Commissioner- Borroloola Land Claim- Papers. 54 Migrant Services and Programs Review- Paper. 55 Handicapped- Advisory Council Report 1977- Paper. 58 Industries Assistance Commission- Music Recording Industry- Paper. 59 Welfare and Health Co-ordination Task Force- Social Policy Development- Papers. 60 Film and Television School- Annual Report 1976-77-Paper. 62 Forestry Council- 16th Meeting- Paper. 64 Industries Assistance Commission- Interim Report on Vices- Paper. 67 International Labour Conference- 61st SessionAustralian Delegation Report- Paper. 68 Immigration Policies and Australia’s PopulationMinisterial Statement. 69 Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978-(No. 84). 7 1 Commonwealth Serum Laboratories- Independent Inquiry Report- Paper. 74 Remuneration Tribunal 1978 Review- Paper. 75 National Highway- Brisbane-Darwin- Paper. 76 Cyclone Tracy-Relief Fund Reports-May and June 1978- Papers. 77 National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Act- Agreements- Papers. 78 Schools Commission- Triennium 1979-81- Report for 1979- Paper. 79 Environment (Financial Assistance) Act- Agreement- Paper. 80 National Gallery-Annual Report 1976-77-Paper. 81 Cyclone Tracy-Relief Fund Report-July 1978-Paper. 83 Inter-Government Relations- Advisory CouncilShortterm Interchanges of Staff- Paper. 84 Royal Australian Air Force- Special Flights- Paper. 85 Public Broadcasting Development. 89 Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms Industrial Dispute- Statement by President 91 Trade Union Training Authority- Annual Report 1976- 77-Paper. 92 Dairying Research Committee- Annual Report 1977- 78-Paper. 93 Canned Fruits Board- Annual Report 1977- Paper. 94 Electoral Distribution 1977- Analysis of Initial Proposals- Papers. 95 South Sea Islanders- Paper. 96 Trade Practices Commission- Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 97 Wool Corporation- Annual Report 1 976-77- Paper. 98 Pig Industry Research Committee- Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 99 Wheat Research-Annual Report 1977-Paper. 100 Honey Board - Interim Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 101 Department of the Capital Territory- Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 103 Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization- Annual Report 1977-78- Paper. 104 Tertiary Education Commission- Recommendations for 1979-81 Triennium-Paper. 105 Repatriation Commission- Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 106 Middle East Situation- Ministerial Statement. 1 10 Egg Board-Interim Annual Report 1977-78- Paper. 1 1 2 Teaching Service- Annual Report 1 977- Paper. 113 Poultry Industry Assistance- Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 114 Dairy Corporation- Interim Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 1 1 5 National Resources- Standing Committee- Proposed Reference. 1 1 7 Australia Council Review 1 977-78-Paper. 1 1 8 Services Canteens Organization- Papers. 1 1 9 Maralinga Nuclear Tests- Paper. 120 Wiltona Hostel Re-opening- Paper. 1 2 1 Industries Assistance Commission- Interim Report on Asbestos- Short Term Assistance- Paper. 122 Albury-Wodonga Development CorporationAnnual Report 1976-77- Paper. 123 Dried Fruits Control Board- Annual Report 1977- 78-Paper. 125 Tertiary Education Commission Programs 1979-81 -Paper. 126 Tertiary Education Commission- Study Leave Final Report- Paper. 127 Local Government Grants- Recommendations for 1978- 79- New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia- Papers. 129 Industrial Research and Development Incentives Board-Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 130 Tertiary Education Commission- Nurse Education and Training- Paper. 131 Industries Assistance Commission- Printing Industry Products- Paper. 132 Marine Science Institute- Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 133 Department of Science- Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 135 Telecommunications Commission- Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 137 Defence Review- Paper. 139 Industries Assistance Commission- Annual Report 1977-78-Papers. 140 Ranger Uranium Project Agreement- Papers. 141 Chicken Meat Research Committee- Annual Reports 1975- 76 to 1977-78-Papers. 142 Wine Board - Interim Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 1 44 Science and the Environment- Standing CommitteeReport (March 1978) on Annual Reports Referred to the Committee- Ministerial Statement. 145 Election Statistics 1977- Papers. 149 Department of Immigration and Ethnic AffairsAnnual Report 1977-78-Paper. 1 50 Education- Progress since 1 976- Paper. 151 National Training Council- Annual Report 1977-Paper. 152 Prices Justification Tribunal- Annual Report 1977-78 and Half-yearly Report to 30 June 1978- Papers. 153 Aboriginal Studies Institute- Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 155 Housing Corporation- Annual Report 1975-76, and Defence Service Homes Corporation- Annual Report 1976- 77 and Interim Annual Report 1977-78-Papers. 156 Biological Resources Study 1973-78-Paper. 159 Aboriginal Land Commissioner- Annual Report 1977- 78-Paper. 161 Primary Industry Bank Act- Annual Report 1978- Paper. 1 62 Legal Aid Commission- Annual Report 1 978- Paper. 163 Export Finance and Insurance Corporation- Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 165 National Parks and Wildlife Service- Annual Report 1 977-78 - Paper. 166 Australian National University- Annual Report 1977-Paper. 168 States Grants (Schools) Assistance Act ( 1976 ) - Financial Assistance to States- Paper. 169 Taxation Statistics 1976-77-Paper. 171 Australia-Papua New Guinea- Maritime Boundary Negotiations- Paper. 1 73 Defence Service Homes- Paper. 174 Family Law Council - Annual Report 1977-78-Paper.” 175 Law Reform Commission- Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 176 International Labour Organization- 63rd SessionConventions and Recommendations- Papers. 177 Atomic Energy Commission- Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 1 78 Energy Research and Development- National Survey 1976- 77-Paper. 1 79 Safeguards Office-Annual Report 1 977-78-Paper. 180 Department of National Development- Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 181 Department of Social Security- Annual Report 1977- 78-Paper. 182 Adult Migrant Education Program- Annual Report 1977-78, and Migrant Education Program- Annual Report 1976- 77-Papers. 183 Department of Aboriginal Affairs- Annual Report 1977- 78-Papers. 184 Pig Meat Promotion Advisory Committee- Interim Annual Report 1977-78- Paper. 185 National Library-Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 187 Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development- Annual Report 1977-78- Paper. 189 Road Safety- House of Representatives Standing Committee- Government Attitude to Reports- Papers. 196 Agricultural Council- Resolutions of 105th Meeting- Paper. 197 Aboriginal Land Fund Commission- Annual Report 1977-78, and Aboriginal Loans Commission- Annual Report 1977-78-Papers. 199 Administrative Review Council- Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 200 Meat Research Committee- Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 201 Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation- Final Report- Paper. 204 Fisheries Council - Resolutions of 8th Meeting- Paper. 205 Publications- Joint Committee- Report on Inquiry into the Publication of Commonwealth Acts, Statutory Rules and Legislation of the Territories- Ministerial Statement. 209 Housing Corporation- Annual Report 1975-76, and Defence Service Homes Corporation- Annual Report 1976- 77-Papers. 2 1 1 Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee- Annual Report 1977-78-Paper. 212 Film Commission- Annual Report 1976-77- Paper. 2140rd River Irrigation Area Review 1978- Paper. 216 Oilseeds Research Committee- Annual Report 1977- 78- Paper. 217 Mainline Upgrading- Kalgoorlie-Perth Rail LinkBureau of Transport Economics- Paper. 219 Finance and Government Operations- Standing Committee- Proposed Reference. 221 International Air Fare Situation- Ministerial Statement. 222 Hobart Second Bridge-Paper. 223 Royal Australian Air Force- Special Flights July to December 1978-Paper. 227 Parliament House Security- Statement by President. 228 Film and Television School- Annual Report 1977- 78-Paper. 229 Research Grants Committee- Annual Report 1978- Paper.
– by leave- I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
1 ) That, in accordance with the provisions of section 8 of the Parliament House Construction Authority Act 1979, the Senate:
That a message be sent to the House of Representatives acquainting it of the resolution agreed to by the Senate.
Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill 1979
Consideration resumed from 3 April 1979.
– Last night, when the debate was adjourned, I was addressing some remarks to the proposal advanced by Senator Button to leave out the word ‘ultimately’ as it appears in paragraph (a) of sub-clause ( 1 ) of clause 5 of the Bill. I had previously, in relation to the whole of clause 5, made the comment that a number of editorials throughout the country had quite unfairly portrayed clause 5 as one that could be applied against any demonstration or protest march- any environmental rally or peaceful anti-uranium demonstration. I was pointing out that if one reads the whole of clause 5 it becomes quite clear, since the important criteria to be used in determining whether acts of subversion have taken place concern the use of ‘force or violence or other unlawful acts’ for the purpose of overthrowing or destroying the constitutional government of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory’, that those editorial allegations were nonsensical.
Turning specifically to the proposal to leave out the word ‘ultimately’, it seems to me that there is a considerable case for saying that it should remain. If one examines Divisions 1 and 4 of Part IV of the Bill, which are set out at pages 14 and 21 respectively and which deal with the general problems of creating and assessing security reports, one finds that in many cases attention may have to be paid to activities which, at the particular point of time when they occur, may in themselves not result in any degree of violence or, indeed, incitement to violence, unlawful act or use of force or violence, but nevertheless have the potential therefor. It is important that the wording of this provision should be sufficient that records may be kept in such a fashion as to give advance warning about the sorts of activities that may well result. Obviously, a subversive activity will be one which from time to time may lead at some distant point in time- it need not be a particularly distant point in time- to the use of force, which is otherwise regarded as the criterion for the designation of a subversive activity under clause 5.
For instance, some activities of the Ananda Marga movement which, at this moment in time, may not involve an intent to use force or violence, may ultimately lead thereto. One has only to consider the kind of allegations that have been made about the Hilton bombing or, indeed, the allegations currently being made in regard to the attempted murder of Mr Robert Cameron in Sydney.
The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has found himself in the situation of being criticised from time to time for not following the recommendations of Mr Justice Hope ‘s report. On this occasion he finds himself criticised for following those recommendations.
– That will happen quite often, I assure you.
-I have no doubt that it will, but in order not to be too selective in the way in which one approaches this matter, it is proper to review what Mr Justice Hope said. Certainly at page 4 1 of Volume 1 of the fourth report he uses the phrase ‘or are intended ultimately to involve’ which has been followed in drafting the Bill. A number of speakers have said that Mr Justice Hope did not appear to have advanced very much reason for using that criterion or definition, but one can find this if one examines Volume 2 of the fourth report, and looks at the draft submission of the United States Department of Justice and the testimony of the Hon. Edward H. Levi, the United States Attorney-General, to the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, Sub-committee on Civil and Constitutional Rights, in February 1976. On page 101 onwards Mr Levi appears to have quite substantially influenced the decision of Mr Justice Hope, and His Honour so indicates in paragraph 66 at page 40 of Volume 1. He talks about the ultimate problem that may arise. He speaks, for instance, about ‘activities “which involve or will involve ‘ ‘ the use of force or violence ‘ and the violation of federal law. He goes on to talk about matters in which there is ‘probable cause’ to believe that these sorts of things will occur, and writes specifically of the question of the immediacy of the threat or perceived threat that exists because of particular subversive activities. I believe that basically the use of the word ‘ultimately’ in paragraph (a) of clause 5 (1) is justified on the grounds that I have attempted to set forth; also, not only on the recommendation specifically made by Mr Justice Hope but also on the material upon which he has relied in arriving at that recommendation. For those reasons I support the retention of the word ‘ultimately’ in the clause and reject the amendment proposed by the Opposition.
– I am a little puzzled about what has happened during this debate. Senator Button spoke to all three of his amendments I believe that Senator Evans restricted his remarks to the first amendment. Senator Missen said that he was inclined to support the first but was opposed to the other two. He gave us a reason why he was inclined to support the first, but did not mention his reasons for opposing the other two. I am still anxious to know why, and whether we are discussing the three amendments jointly.
I have been anxious to hear the AttorneyGeneral give an explanation of the very lucid reasons offered by Senator Button as to why the particular words were unnecessary and further complicated the issue. In the hope that at some time the Attorney-General will reply, I now pose this question.’ What antecedents are we to ascribe to the word ‘ultimately ‘ in paragraph (a) of subclause ( 1 ) of clause 5? It relates to activities that will involve or lead to’. Then we come to the conjunction ‘or’ and the phrase ‘are intended or likely ultimately to involve or lead to’. I take it that the activities referred to are those which, although not so intended, may lead to the overthrowing or destroying of the constitutional government. Alternatively activities which are intended, but do not have that effect are covered. Thus there are two propositions. If the activities do lead to such overthrow it is an offence. Also, if they were intended but may not in fact, lead to the overthrow of the constitutional government by the use of force or other unlawful acts, whether by those persons or by others, it is deemed to be an offence.
I am also concerned with the degree of force that is to be involved in thus overthrowing the government. I suppose that if there were a coup and a shoot-out with the Army it definitely would come under this definition but what is the line of demarcation when there is not a question of the use of force or the overthrowing of the government by the use of force? I look forward very patiently to the Minister’s trying to give us some answers to these questions.
– The Committee is after all dealing with clause 5 ( 1) (a) which deals with the meaning of subversion when it is not of a foreign origin. We are speaking about a domestic situation. We are speaking about activities which in the normal sense would be described as political activities whether they are associated with the protection of the environment, an industrial struggle or issues associated with a contest of opinion between one group of people and the government of the day. It is a pretty wide sort of definition because there will be differences of opinion, for example, between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government. What the members of this chamber are being asked to give their assent to is an amendment that takes out of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill the word ‘ultimately’ which leaves it to somebody to determine whether the activities in which a person is engaged are subversive.
This may involve activities in a struggle of ideas between a State government and the Federal Government or anything that may lead to a forceful attitude or even the use of violence. There ought to be in this Bill provision for an assessment to be made which takes it out of the area of intent to the area of action. The intent may well be by an individual to express a point of view, to have a discussion and to participate perhaps in a demonstration in pursuance of that intent. It does not necessarily follow that that person wants to be involved in force or violence or in seeking to destroy the constitutional government. This clause seeks to give to an organisation that has been proven in the Hope report to have very considerably transgressed the law, to have transgressed in the area of normal political surveillance, to have acted illegally and improperly over a long period of years, the right to determine whether a person’s involvement or whether a view that that person might have is likely ultimately to lead to a challenge to constitutional government. I think I indicated in my speech in the second reading debate the abuses that have taken place when it is left to an individual to make that sort of an assessment.
A person having a prejudiced view or even a majority view of community attitudes at a point in time is being given the power to say that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is entitled to take the steps that this legislation gives it because it believes that a tentative action, which may only be a person sitting down in a coffee shop to talk about a particular issue, may ultimately lead to the sort of consequences that are suggested in clause 5 ( 1 ) (a). This Bill seeks to give that person the right to say that that intent, the purpose of that discussion or that action can lead ultimately to a challenge to constitutional government. I do not think the public interest is served by giving a person the right to make that sort of an assessment.
The mere possession of an idea, the mere possession of an ideology or the mere membership of a person of a political party does not necessarily mean that that person is or groups of persons are involved in an issue which may ultimately lead to a challenge to constitutional authority. Yet that is what is implied in clause 5(1) (a). Of course it is the transgressions and the errors of judgment which have been made over the last 30 years that the Government claims, in response to the report of Mr Justice Hope, that it wants to remedy. But of course this in fact does not remedy it. What the legislation seeks to do now is to provide a legal framework for those sorts of transgressions to continue. I put them in the area of transgressions when officers or persons charged with responsibilities as members of ASIO have to make a value judgment upon what a person might do. This could be done in the belief that ultimately what is done at that point in time can be properly evaluated and assessed and placed in a statement or dossier or on a record in a way which may well prove to be not involved in the thinking of the person at all.
I think it is a pretty important principle that we are fighting for in this instance because a person’s adherence to an ideology does not necessarily mean that it will lead to a course of action. For example, a person can support the Irish Republic cause or he might even belong to the IRA but it does not necessarily follow that that person supports the sorts of actions that are taken by some groups within the particular organisation. As has been indicated by my colleague, Senator Evans, because a person belongs to the Communist Party, the Socialist Party of Australia or the Marxist-Leninist Party which pursues the views of Mao Tse-tung, the mere holding of that viewpoint, the mere expressing of that viewpoint, the mere dissemination of that viewpoint does not necessarily mean that it is likely ultimately to lead, as this legislation suggests, to a course of action that involves that person in the overthrowing or destroying of a constitutional government. I think that Senator Evans quite correctly drew attention to this fact that even though the constitutions of those organisations may use certain phraseology it does not necessarily follow that its members are involved in activities against a lawful and constitutional government.
I think it was Senator Evans who referred to the Communist Party in this country. According to his figures we are talking about a small number of people- 2,000 to 3,000. There was at some stage, I am led to believe, a membership of perhaps 10 times that number. In pursuance of the ideology that security organisations have followed in this country they have for the last 30 years kept under surveillance all of those people who have belonged to that organisation. But what has that led to? Did it lead to prosecutions? What conclusions did it lead to in respect of what is considered in this legislation as being an ultimate position- the challenge to constitutional authority? In fact if one examined the Labor movement in more detail one would find that further to the Left of those three communist organisations there are sects and groups which may well be more militant and more determined to destroy constitutional government than those three political bodies. It does not necessarily follow from the way these groups pursue their political activities from day to day that they are going to be participants ultimately in the overthrow of constitutional government. This applies even if the constitution of a particular group says so.
The Opposition’s amendment ought to be given more consideration than it has received, particularly by senators like Senator Puplick, because I believe Senator Missen felt there was some merit in what we had to say. I am disappointed that Senator Puplick took a less liberal view and is endeavouring to produce evidence based on what Mr Justice Hope has suggested. The Government has not adopted all of Mr Justice Hope’s recommendations in respect of this legislation so it is not necessary that we take the view that we are necessarily committed because Mr Justice Hope or some other judicial authority overseas has expressed themselves about this or that particular aspect of the legislation. We are dealing with a domestic situation which is distinctly different. We are dealing with a political situation different from that found overseas. For example, the United States Congress and the United States legislative processes exercise a great deal more power, influence and control over the activities of their intelligence organisation. The Government is not doing that at all. The legislation here is designed to centre the power in the hands of virtually one man. If we are to use Senator Puplick ‘s suggestion of overseas experience to deal with our domestic circumstances we should be moving to support much more public accountability. The Opposition seeks to have the word ‘ultimately ‘ deleted from clause 5(1) (a). The clause is designed to protect the right of a person to hold a point of view in time which ought not to be trammelled in any way as a result of an estimation that for holding that view or for expressing that view, no matter what form of political activity he is involved in, he should be placed under some form of surveillance.
– The Australian Democrats support the Opposition amendment but I did not think Senator Gietzelt went far enough. In fact I do not think the Opposition goes far enough. Senator Gietzelt was talking about the activities of the far Left, the extremists. I agree that such people deserve some protection. As I heard him speaking I was reminded of the courageous activities of his colleague, Senator Georges, in Queensland. Clause 5 ( 1 ) (a) would embrace the activities of Senator Georges in organising protests against that hideous legislation of Mr Joh Bjelke-Petersen. The word overthrowing’ is included in this clause. I believe that every decent minded member of the Senate would be hoping for the overthrow of -
– Of constitutional government?
– It has to be by force or violence.
-The overthrow of Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Senator Cavanagh has anticipated me. He mentioned the words ‘by force or violence ‘. That bothers me because that part of the clause has not been debated as much as I would like. Force and violence have been used in Queensland but our friend Senator Georges did not pre-empt it.
– That is defamatory. It was performed by the police force there, perhaps; not by Senator Georges.
– That is the very point I am making. Senator Georges did not create the force and violence; the police force did it. The Australian Democrats will support the Opposition amendment but we wonder whether it goes far enough because this sort of clause, perhaps unwittingly, embraces the kind of activity which Senator Georges and his colleagues are undertaking in Queensland.
– May I put down the Government’s view on this amendment? There seems to be a desire on the part of many other people to speak. They have plenty of opportunities of doing so in relation to this point. The Committee no doubt will proceed at a leisurely pace. The purpose of this clause is to define the powers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to collect intelligence about certain activities, certain organisations and people. It is not a clause which makes activities as such unlawful. It does not deal with activities which necessarily are lawful or unlawful. The whole purpose of this clause is to deal with activities that have certain very clearly denned purposes. I take it that we are dealing at this stage only with clause 5 ( 1 ) (a) which relates to the following: 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 purpose of overthrowing or destroying the constitutional government of the Commonwealth or of a State-
– Force or violence by whom?
– It is the force or violence of persons who may be members of an organisation.
– What if it is police-initiated violence?
– Ultimately there must be in contemplation a commitment to the use of force or violence. The fact that somebody may be provoked to do something in a particular circumstance does not give a person a commitment to the use of force or violence. Furthermore, the use of force or violence must have as its purpose the overthrow or destruction of the constitutional government of the Commonwealth. There cannot be any substance whatsoever in Senator Chipp ‘s suggestion that this clause could apply in any way to the activities of our colleague Senator Georges in relation to street marches in Queensland.
– That is wrong.
– I must dismiss Senator Chipp ‘s intervention. The amendment is not concerned with the general definition. The only amendment before the Senate is that the word ultimately’ should be deleted from this subclause. I address myself to that point because it is the one that is relevant to this debate. The Government sees some need for the word ultimately’ being included in the clause. The Government believes that it gives added weight to the definition. The Government believes that anybody or any organisation which believes in and has a commitment to the use of force or violence at some future stage, even though it may not be engaged in such activities at the moment or may not even intend to engage in them in the near future, for the purposes of overthrowing the constitutional government of this country should be regarded as subversive and should be kept under surveillance. That is the issue. We believe that people who have that commitment or who have that belief should be under surveillance by security organisations. That is why we believe the word ‘ultimately’ should be retained in this definition. Just what resources may be applied to surveillance of such people and organisations is a matter for professional opinion and decision of the Organisation.
Last night Senator Evans indicated that on his analysis there may be a waste of resources in surveillance of certain organisations. The Government’s view is that that is a matter for the professional decision of the Organisation at any time, based upon what it knows, hears or learns about such people or organisations. Some organisations may have a commitment to the use of violence in the future. Because of the remoteness of the likelihood of violence or because of the tenuous connection or for many other reasons it may not require to be under surveillance. But we believe that this should be decided professionally by a security organisation. This legislation is concerned with giving ASIO its charter, its powers. Powers of this kind are required so that the Organisation, if it believes in its professional judgment that an organisation should be brought under investigation at any time, will have the power to do so. It seems a strange proposition that after setting up a security organisation we should say to it: ‘You are not empowered to take any notice of or investigate in any way people or organisations who have a commitment to the use of violence in the long run for the purpose of overthrowing the Government of the country. Do not worry about those. You have to concern yourself only with those who are committed to activities involving force or violence here and now or in the near future. You do not have to worry about those who are not doing that at the moment even though they have a commitment to the ultimate use of force or violence if necessary to achieve their purposes. ‘
-Firstly, I will deal briefly with the point raised by Senator Puplick which I found interesting. In effect he said that one does not look at this legislation as it stands but has available to one some sort of time machine by which one goes forward in history to make a judgment about certain actions that take place now which ultimately lead to a certain course of events. I do not follow the argument in the way in which Senator Puplick put it. Perhaps it is my fault. One has to construe this legislation as it stands and make a judgment at a particular time about what is to be regarded as subversion. One cannot gain the assistance of foresight, which may be available to one in the future, in making a decision now. I think that the honourable senator has misconstrued the point which the Opposition makes.
I refer to the observations of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) which seem to be highly confused. If honourable senators look at the provision of clause 5( 1 )(a) they will see that it is clear that the element of intention in the person who is seeking to be subversive within the meaning of the clause is covered; if he engages in activities which involve, will involve or are intended to involve the overthrow of the State by violence and so on. That is the subjective element so far as the person who is judged under the clause is concerned. This clause covers his actions if he engages in activities that involve or are intended to involve any violence or unlawful acts. That is the element of intention. With respect, the word ‘ultimately’ seems to have a different relationship to the rest of the clause. In this clause it is an element in the subjective judgment of the person who is making the decision about other people.
If an Australian Security Intelligence Organisation agent or operative, or whatever he is called, tries to make a decision as to whether certain activities constitute subversion he is entitled to introduce into his consideration an additional element. He does not have to consider what the intention is of the person now or what his activities are now but he can make an additional category of judgment. Though the activities may be innocuous now, though they may not be intended to lead to violence and the overthrow of the State, if in his opinion they have that element of ultimately leading to this course then they attract the provisions of the clause. It is that conduct to which the word ‘ultimately’ relates, not the conduct of the person who is being judged as to whether he falls within the provisions of the clause and is thus to be regarded as subversive. The word ‘ultimately’ is in quite a different category from the other words which are referred to by the Attorney-General. That is why the Opposition moved the amendment. To try to justify the inclusion of the word ‘ultimately’ in this clause by the woolly reference to the intention of the person concerned is, with respect, no justification at all.
– Clause 5 (l)(a) indicates a scenario in which a perfectly innocent situation could apply. It reads:
If a government is defeated by its Opposition, by perfectly normal, legal methods, it is overthrown and destroyed. I suggest to the Minister that this difficulty might be overcome by removing one word from the clause. That word is ‘the’ before constitutional’. The clause would then read in part ‘. . . the purpose of overthrowing or destroying constitutional government of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory’. Surely that is the principle that we are trying to establish, not to relate the legislation to a particular government. The use of the word ‘the’ confuses this clause and I see no necessity for it. It is the overthrow of constitutional government in a commonwealth, State or territory that is to be deplored and which the clause aims to avoid.
– Where are the force, violence or unlawful acts involved in that overthrowing?
– The clause also provides: Whether by those persons or by others’. That is where this comes in so dangerously.
– Force, violence or unlawful acts- where are they?
– Force, violence or unlawful acts can be from any area, not necessarily from the participant who has given the intention in this case. Surely the inclusion of the words ‘by those persons or by others ‘ -
– Violence for the purpose. You must read it all together.
– I would be most interested to hear the view of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) on the value of the word ‘the’ in that clause. It seems to bring it back to a particular government when surely we should be defending a general principle that we deplore or wish to avoid the overthrow or destruction of constitutional government of the Commonwealth or a State or territory. We do not seek the protection of a particular government controlled by a particular political party.
– On a previous occasion when I debated this matter I invited the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) to reply and to elucidate some of this maze. Although many honourable senators can explain the meaning of the legislation it becomes more confusing with every explanation. I am concerned with the attitude that the Attorney-General took in dismissing Senator Chipp ‘s argument. Perhaps it was an unfortunate argument. The activities to incur surveillance must be activities that involve the use of force, violence or unlawful acts. I think that one of the greatest ambitions of Senator Georges is to overthrow the constitutional Government of Queensland but I do not think Senator Georges intends to carry out any unlawful acts to do so. When he goes out into the streets he is inviting the police to engage in force or violence but the intention of the police is not to overthrow the constitutional government. Therefore, I do not think the police could be charged. I do not think that those engaged in force or violence in Queensland following the activities of Senator Georges are engaging in activities for the purpose of overthrowing the constitutional government. However, I think that is a poor illustration of the point I am trying to make. I shall attempt to give a better illustration.
If I went to the Monash University and told the students that in my opinion Fraser is a cur and is not fit to live in this country, in the hope that at the next election they will overthrow him, and my words lead them to engage in force or violence, I think that possibly justification would exist for my being subjected to surveillance under this clause. I think that there would be just as great a temptation for many political candidates to express certain views about their opponents on various occasions during election campaigns. The question that then has to be asked is whether any justification exists for them to be subjected to surveillance.
I am going along with my party on this matter. Obviously I agree with the amendment moved by the Opposition to clause 5(1) (a), which seeks the deletion of the word ‘ultimately’, but I have not expressed an opinion about whether its use is right. I am very concerned about this matter and I am trying to find out what this clause means. Clause 5 ( 1 ) (a) refers to: 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 purpose of overthrowing . . .
If my activities ultimately lead to the overthrow of a constitutional government by force or violence, I take it that I would not be subject to surveillance unless I intended my activities ultimately to lead to that overthrow. I may be unsuccessful and my activities may not lead to the use of violence or unlawful acts for the purpose of overthrowing a government, but if it was my intention to do so I would be subject to surveillance. If we can wake up the AttorneyGeneral, perhaps we will get some answers to our questions. In the event that he is dreaming up the answers, I will try to get as far as I can on this question. I have pointed out that because of the use of the conjunction ‘or’ it does not matter whether a person achieves his intention of overthrowing a government if his intention is ultimately to do so. If a person’s activities lead to the use of force or violence it must happen immediately, not ultimately.
– You do not have to intend it.
-One does for the ultimately’ to apply. I submit that a person’s activities may lead to force or violence but unless it was that person’s intention ultimately to overthrow a constitutional government that person should not be subjected to surveillance. It should occur only if the person’s activities are intended ultimately to destroy a constitutional government.
– There is a big difference.
-There is a big difference. There has to be an intention ultimately to do so. The fact that a person’s activities may ultimately lead to force or violence is no reason for that person to be put under surveillance unless they are for the purpose of overthrowing or destroying a constitutional government. A person’s activities may not intend ultimately to lead to force and violence but may be directed to creating force and violence immediately. The word ‘ultimately’ as Senator Button said, applies only to the intention.
– Surely the word ‘ultimately’ qualifies the whole of that. Surely ‘ultimately’ qualifies ‘involve, will involve or lead to’.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral what antecedents we should give to the word ‘ultimately’. I cannot see how the word ultimately’ applies to the first sentence up to the conjunction ‘or’.
– My meagre knowledge of English would bind me to join it with all those things.
– I have a lack of knowledge of English, but I know that the legal profession would have a bonanza if this matter went to a court of law. I may be wrong but I believe that ‘ultimately’ is disjoined from the first part of the sentence. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister to tell me whether it applies to activities that involve or will involve the use of force, violence or other unlawful activities.
– I think it is necessary to remember precisely what we are talking about in this debate. We are talking about a proposal of the Government to permit an organisation which will not be answerable to the Parliament to put Australian citizens under surveillance. All the Opposition is saying in seeking the deletion of the word ‘ultimately’ from clause 5 (1) (a) is that there is enough discretion and there are enough elements of judgment vested in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and its officers in making the judgment that some activity which does not of itself involve violence, which does not involve or lead to violence, which is not even intended to lead to violence, is likely to lead to violence.
That is quite enough. The responsibility for making that sort of judgment is a wide discretion to place in the hands of ASIO. It is something which does not have as its purpose the violent or unlawful overthrowing of a government. Nevertheless, because it is likely to lead to the violent or unlawful overthrowing of a government, it is said that it ought to be regarded as subversive.
The fact is that the words ‘likely to’ give to the Organisation a very wide discretion in putting under surveillance the activities of Australian citizens. What does that mean? What do the words ‘intends to lead to violence’ mean? How does one make that judgment? Does one make it by reference to like activities which have invariably led to the violent or unlawful overthrowing of a government? It would seem unlikely that an organisation would have enough evidence to make a judgment on that. Is it a judgment that in this particular case- despite the fact that that activity normally does not lead to the unlawful or violent overthrowing of a government- exceptionally, in the judgment of ASIO, it will?
But to add to that discretion- namely, the permitting of an ASIO officer to make a judgment that an activity which is not itself involving violence, which is not intended to involve violence but which may be likely to lead to violence- the element of ‘ultimately’ leading to violence seems to me to be asking the ASIO officer, as Senator Button pointed out, to engage in tremendous powers of foresight and prophecy because he has to look at an activity now and make the judgment that in some supposed chronological sequence of events it will lead to the violent or unlawful overthrowing of a government. We say simply that the activity that is proposed as the event which leads to a person being put under surveillance ought to be more closely, more proximately, linked to the violent or unlawful overthrowing of a government.
The word ‘ultimately’ allows too much scope for the imagination of ASIO and its officers. We believe it will lead to surveillance of ordinary innocent activity within Australia; innocent in the sense that the end may be innocent and certainly in that the method sought to change constitutional government is innocent of motives that ought to be achieved by unlawful or violent means. We are talking about the means to constitutional change. If the means outlined as violent or unlawful are shown to be in the contemplation of somebody or about to occur, of course that person ought to be put under surveillance. But that judgment ought not to be made too early in any supposed sequence of events. If it is made too early innocent political activity within Australia will be put under surveillance. That is what the Opposition objects to.
-Perhaps, like my colleague, Senator Tate, I can behave not like a lawyer and endeavour to simplify rather than to complexify the debate. I urge the Senate before it votes upon this matter to reconsider the fundamental issue of the amendment. We are not talking here about the responsibility, the duty or the power of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation simply to keep itself informed, to keep its eyes and ears open, to monitor in a general way the political and social developments in the community and to keep track in a general way of what various organisations with revolutionary aspirations might be saying or doing. We are talking about a definition of ‘subversion’ which, if satisfied, will bring into play the operation of some quite extraordinary, far-reaching and very dangerous powers; powers to tap telephones, install listening devices, open mail, intercept telegrams and enter and search premises. They are the powers we are talking about. That is why it is crucially important to keep the definition of ‘subversion’ as narrow as is reasonably possible in all the circumstances given the objectives which the legislation is trying to achieve.
Bearing in mind that basic consideration, we ought to distinguish between three levels of situation. Let us distinguish between them in a way in which the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) in his earlier reply did not. We should in the first place recognise what is happening here and now. If what is happening here and now can satisfy the definitions in the Act, fair enough, the surveillance operations should apply. The second level concerns what is likely to happen in the reasonably foreseeable future. The Opposition, with some reservations, would say that that situation is a reasonable one in which the powers should be available to the Organisation. But there is a third level of situation which goes beyond even that. This relates to what may ultimately happen in the unforeseeably distant future. All the Opposition is saying in the amendment is that the last category of situation ought to be severed from the definition. These powers, we concede, albeit reluctantly, ought to be available where what is happening now is subversive in the language of the Act.
We go so far as to say that these powers also ought to be available if something is likely to happen in the reasonably foreseeable future. What we are alarmed about when we consider the range of powers that attach to the application of the definition of subversion is that this kind of remote, unforeseeable and extremely distant contingency will set those powers in operation. We consider, from the kind of civil libertarian perspective that we hope the Government is adopting in this Bill, that those powers should not be vested in the Organisation, particularly given the appalling track record of officers of the Organisation for any kind of intelligent prophecy about or analysis of the nature of existing organisations, let alone what they are likely to do in the unforeseeably distant future.
– I think that we are grateful that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) indicated in his remarks earlier that the Government regards this matter as the pivot of all of its legislation. In fact he has made it clear that the Government regards the word ‘ultimate’ as being a desirable power to be given to officers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation so that they may make an evaluation in any given circumstance that they consider could lead to unlawful acts which would overthrow or destroy a constitutional government. In other words the Minister said that the Government wants the word ‘ultimate’ in the legislation because it is an open door, a wide net, that in fact can bring into the ambit of ASIO about one hundred thousand people.
Let us look at a hypothetical case. The Australian Council of Trade Unions represents the great bulk of the Australian work force. Two honourable senators have been members of that organisation. The Government saw fit to give a knighthood to one of the members of the ACTU- Sir John Egerton. The constitution of that organisation seeks the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange. It is possible, in fact it is more likely to be possible than probable, that certain situations will develop in time which will put the Australian Council of Trade Unions, as the titular head of the trade union movement, in conflict with the policies of the government of the day, particularly in an area of some industrial disputation. I refer, for example, to Great Britain in 1926 and in 1960-61 when a general strike was called in support of the abolition of penal clauses.
The Government is saying in this legislation that because the constitution of the Austraiian Council of Trade Unions involves a change of society, every member who is associated with that organisation, whether at the level of the executive or any of its affiliate bodies, at any time- it may be today- can be placed under surveillance by ASIO. Does the Government seriously suggest that that is protecting the civil rights and liberties of the Australian people? We are talking about hundreds and hundreds of paid officials of trade unions. We are talking about thousands and thousands of officials who are stewards or who hold executive positions in organisations and who may at some point be called on to challenge a particular piece of legislation or be involved in a type of political activity which may be regarded as an unlawful act by this Government in all of the punitive legislation which it has brought down in respect of the trade union movement. Therefore the Government is saying that any person who is a trade unionist may be held under surveillance because in the opinion of the ASIO officer the person may ultimately be involved in a challenge to the constitutional or elected government or may be involved in an unlawful act. This is how wide the net has been thrown.
In pursuance of that viewpoint- I thank the Minister for making it so clear to me what is involved in the Government’s proposals- a person is entitled to take all those other extra steps which rest in the hands of the Director-General himself- one person. Previously there were judicial procedures and safeguards in respect of telephone bugging and breaking and entering. Where is the warrant provision which hitherto would have had to be involved in the breaking and entering of a person’s home to see whether he would ultimately be involved in some unlawful act? In effect what the Government is saying is that the democratic rights and liberties will be placed in jeopardy of every person who belongs to the Australian Council of Trade Unions or to an environmental organisation that may decide to do something about the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland and so involve itself in a challenge to the view expressed by the Queensland Government that the reef ought to be mined. Let us deal with an individual Australian Security Intelligence Organisation agent who can make a value judgment as to whether a person will be ultimately involved in some unlawful act. We are allowing that person to put the great bulk of the Australian people under some form of surveillance and to record their activity on some dossier.
Let us deal with the question of violence or force. I was involved in the demonstration spoken about by Senator Chipp. There is no doubt that when the police linked arms, formed a cordon across the road and forbade the balance of the demonstrators to march, the mere fact that we attempted to move was construed by the Queensland Government and by the police force to be an act of violence.
– Or we were pushed.
– That is right. We were pushed back against the glass. In the opinion of the authorities in that State we were involved in an act of violence or force. I recall marching with members of Parliament in the big demonstration in Sydney over the Vietnam war where the police herded us onto the footpath on the corner of George and King Streets. They pushed us from behind while the police at the traffic lights held us to stop us from moving. We were involved in force and violence in order to stay upright and to stay alive. In the opinion of the authorities we were involved in an unlawful act. Therefore, every one of those 20,000 citizens who marched in that demonstration- as would be the 100,000 who marched in the great Vietnam moratorium demonstration in Melbourne- was involved in an unlawful act which could lead, in the opinion of ASIO, to an ultimate act of violence and the overthrow of the constitutional government. If the Government is really concerned about its platform and about civil liberties then it ought to be able to see the vehemence with which the Opposition is putting forward its view, and the Government ought to accept the amendment that we have suggested. If, in fact, we are conceding that there is an intention to conspire, to plot and plan to overthrow the Government, then inherent in this legislation is the right to put that person or that group under surveillance. Then the Government ought to be able to say: Well, that is fair enough, because we are dealing with an act and an intention’. But we are taking the situation into a wider definition. We are opening the door to anybody’s estimation. The Attorney-General (Senator Durack), in the second reading speech, conceded that there have been abuses by ASIO officers in the past. He now seeks to give them exactly the same rights to interpret the future intention of people. No government can claim to be representing the public interest, the rights of people, to be protecting the democratic rights of assembly, and the free expression of opinion and public and political activity, if it insists upon maintaining the word ultimately’ in clause 5 ( 1) (a).
-I was not going to enter this debate, but then I heard the last speaker, Senator Gietzelt. In my view Senator Gietzelt mentioned, quite unjustifiably, that the intention of the legislation was to enable surveillance of the activities of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I was a member of the ACTU executive for 12 years. I do not see the proposal that is in clause 5- apart from the proposal that is sub-clause (c)- as enabling such surveillance. I think it is a lot of hooey.
- Senator Gietzelt linked it to a situation analogous to 1926 with the trade union movement.
– Yes. That is precisely why 1 say that it is a lot of hooey. If the honourable senator knew what occurred on the ACTU executive in modern times he would not even think like that. We have advanced a little bit further since 1926.
– Why don’t you read the clause of the Bill instead of going on with all this garbage?
– I have read the clause of the Bill and I wish the honourable senator had told Senator Gietzelt to read the clause of the Bill. The provisions and rules of the ACTU constitution, of course, are historical but their application is in accordance with the International Labor Organisation objective for the establishment of an economic and social order in which persons can live with freedom and dignity, and pursue both their spiritual development and material well-being in conditions of economic security and equal opportunity. That is the actual application of the constitution at the present moment. Senator Gietzelt is living in the past. That is certainly not the application of the ACTU constitution at the present moment. It is a lot of hooey. I would not have entered this debate if I had not heard all the claptrap from Senator Gietzelt. We are dealing with clause 5 of the Bill. Insofar as clause 5 (a) is concerned we have an amendment by the Opposition to leave out the word ‘ultimately’. Insofar as clause 5 (b) is concerned, the suggestion is that we insert the word unlawful’ before the word ‘activity’. So far as clause 5 (c) is concerned it is suggested that we leave out the words ‘or hostility’.
– Now you are talking. You are right on.
– Yes, now we are on. So far as I am concerned I will support the amendment to leave out of the words ‘or hostility’. I cannot see why those words should be in clause 5 (c). The clause reads as follows:
Anybody with a bit of commonsense would know that the words ‘or hostility’ are unwarranted in that particular case. I am reminded by a number of people that we are dealing with clause 5 (a). The suggestion is that we leave out the word ‘ultimately’. Clause 5(1) reads:
For the purposes of this Act, the activities of persons, other than activies of foreign origin or activities directed against a foreign government, that are to be regarded as subversion are- (a) 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 (whether by those persons or by others) for the purpose of overthrowing or destroying the constitutional government of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory.
I suggest that the word ‘ultimately’ is quite appropriate. Let me remind the Senate that during my contribution to the second reading debate I asked the question: Who killed Aldo Moro? I asked that question quite deliberately because despite the fact that the Red Brigade claimed the credit for killing him, nobody knows precisely who killed Aldo Moro, the senior statesman of Italy. The reason that nobody knows is as stated by me in my speech on the second reading debate- that the excesses of the attacks made on security intelligence organisations, some of them with justification, had demoralised those organisations. Such attacks demoralised Italy’s security organisations to such an extent that even now, 1 3 months since the senior statesman of a major force in Europe, Italy, was assassinated, the assassinator has not been found. And why? It is because Italy’s intelligence services were so demoralised that they were not able to pinpoint the assassinator.
Last June I had the opportunity of having a look at the situation of terrorism in Rome. The facts are simply that the Red Brigade had groups of people who were so imbued with a false strain -
- Mr Chairman, I take a point of order. How are Senator Harradine ‘s remarks related to clause 5 of the Bill? Can Senator Harradine address his remarks to clause 5?
– If the Italians had had the word ‘ultimately’, Aldo Moro would not have been assassinated.
– Did Italy have the word ultimately’ in its legislation?
– I do not uphold the point of order. Senator Harradine, you are speaking to clause 5 (1) (a) and your attention is drawn to the word ‘ultimately’. I ask you to continue your remarks.
– Thank you, Mr Chairman. I am attempting to show that so far as Italy’s experience is concerned, if the security intelligence organisations of that country were interested in those persons whose actions or activities were likely ultimately to involve them in or to lead to the use of force or violence, those organisations now would be able to tell us who killed Aldo Moro. From my personal investigations in Rome, and from discussions that I had there, there were groups in universities in Rome and in a number of cities in Italy who were the dupes, the unwitting dupes, of the Red Brigade. They had been imbued with what was called ‘a illegitimate strain of liberation theology’ that said that evil is not so much an individual wrongdoing but is structured within society, and that it is the institutions of society that are evil- the educational institutions, the unions, the political parties, the judiciary and the Executive- these should be torn down by whatever means. That is the ultimate aspect that we are discussing now.
Some of those people were the unwitting dupes of the Red Brigade and came within their clasp. They were then told to commit a terrorist act. Of course once they had committed that terrorist act they were then in the complete control of the Red Brigade. Had the security services of Italy been able to undertake surveillance of those persons, the dupes of the Red Brigade, at that particular stage when their acts, though not intended to lead to violence, were likely ultimately to lead to violence and to the killing of the head of State, then we would know the answer to the question: Who killed Aldo Moro?
I believe that the word ‘ultimately’ is necessary for the purpose of providing to the intelligence services an opportunity to have surveillance over the activities of persons who do not intend violence but who are the dupes of those who do intend violence. I reject totally the quite unwarranted accusation by Senator Gietzelt against the trade union movement of this country that it ought to be exposed to the surveillance of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. That is an unwarranted accusation and the legitimate trade union movement would reject it out of hand. I might also mention that, as has been pointed out by Mr Justice Hope, there have been certain ASIO agents who have not acted in accordance with the charter of that Organisation. I feel that this legislation at least sets down the parameters within which both the DirectorGeneral and the officers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation can act. I hope that they do act within those parameters and do not go outside them, as unfortunately in some cases they have heretofore.
– I rose before in this debate for the purpose of getting some information. For the first time I am beginning to enjoy the debate. I do not know where Senator Harradine dines on a Wednesday night, but I would like the name of the place because it seems to bring one back to the Parliament in a jovial mood. I want to thank Senator Harradine for what he has said. He supports the argument I made in my speech in the second reading debate. I thought that his was a second reading speech on this occasion. He supports my argument completely that there is not great value in a security organisation. Aldo Moro was abducted at a time when five security guards were surrounding him. He was machine-gunned. Despite the fact that he was surrounded by five security guards, they could not tell who abducted him. But a lesser paid organisation in the form of Senator Harradine went to Rome and found out that it was not the Red Brigade; it was the university dupes of the Red Brigade. So perhaps if we were to dismiss our security protection in Australia and promote Senator Harradine we would not have so much trouble in the future. We would then perhaps be able to keep some surveillance of our security.
The only remark Senator Harradine made in relation to the clause under discussion was in condemnation of Senator Gietzelt. He said that Senator Gietzelt made some accusation against the trade union movement. Of course Senator Gietzelt did not do so. He did not make any such accusations. Senator Harradine said that the normal activities that the trade union movement carries on, and of which Senator Harradine is proud, come under the jurisdiction of clause 5 of this Bill. One can just see Bob Hawke, in an emotional speech to a mass meeting of Transport Workers Union employees, saying: ‘This Government you have in Canberra only wants a confrontation. You will never get anything while you have this Government in power’. Such an emotional speech might inflame those workers to some act of violence or to some unlawful act. I point out that continuing a strike is an unlawful act. A person making an emotional speech is likely to be affected by clause 5(1) (a). Previously his advocacy of a certain course was quite legitimate but he will now be subject to surveillance under clause 5(1) (a). Senator Gietzelt said that this clause brings in under its cloak respectable organisations whose only offence is that their activities may lead to violence for the purpose of the overthrowing of a constitutional government.
The activities of the leaders of the truck drivers on the Hume Highway could lead to violence. I do not think that many of them or many of the members of the Transport Workers Union who are on strike would vote to retain the constitutional government federally. If Bob Hawke or anyone else from the trade union movement inflames the members of the Transport Workers Union into committing an act of violenceinterference by the Federal Government could well lead to violence- which may have the purpose of overthrowing the government or at least turning people against it, he will come under surveillance. Therefore, what Senator Gietzelt said about this clause is appropriate. It ropes in innocent people in society who are not a security threat.
– What Senator Cavanagh said has convinced me that what he and Senator Gietzelt have talked about is a lot of hooey. To suggest that I, as secretary of a trades and labour council, or Bob Hawke, as President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, would be subject to surveillance by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation when addressing a mass meeting of transport workers or anyone else engaged in an industrial dispute is nonsense. This is not what it is all about. We are talking about violent activities for the purpose of overthrowing or destroying the constitutional government of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory. That does not include the overthrowing of a political party which happens to be in power. The clause refers to a government which is in existence under the constitution of a Commonwealth, State or Territory. We are not talking about whether I or Bob Hawke or anybody else does not like the political complexion of a particular government.
What Senator Cavanagh said about my statement on the Italian situation is ludicrous. I concede to the claim by the Red Brigade that it was responsible for the murder of Aldo Moro. I understood that when I visited Rome. For Senator Cavanagh ‘s information, the personnel who were guarding Aldo Moro were not of the security intelligence organisation. They were appointed to their positions from the security force of Italy, not the security intelligence organisation. The point I was making was that had Italy’s security intelligence organisation been able to undertake surveillance of groups which were dupes of the Red Brigade and whose activities were ultimately likely to involve force or violence it would have had more information which would have ultimately led to the capture and conviction of the murderers of Italy’s leading statesman.
– I enter this debate because my name has been mentioned on a couple of occasions. It has been suggested that this clause may, in some way, affect my activities in Queensland. I thank Senator Chipp for the kind remarks which he made. Having listened to the various comments made, I have a feeling that they are so very late. It would have been better to have accepted the proposition of the Opposition to withdraw and redraft the Bill. Perhaps the Bill should be referred to a committee. At the rate we are going it may be necessary for a special committee to consider the Bill during the recess period and make certain recommendations to which both sides of the Parliament agree.
This Bill is endeavouring to legitimise what is already happening, particularly in Queensland. Activities such as those in which I have taken part on behalf of the civil liberties group in Queensland are under surveillance of the type that this clause proposes and about which so much fear has been expressed. Whenever we hold a meeting in Queensland we are under surveillance by the Special Branch. Whenever we make any proposal directed towards the iniquitous laws of Queensland, it is in the hands of the Special Branch almost within the hour.
– You are not talking about illegal marches. You are talking about lawfully constituted meetings.
– I am talking about lawfully constituted meetings which are under surveillance by the Special Branch under direction from the government of the day.
– I raise the same point of order which Senator Cavanagh raised a few moments ago. Should not the honourable senator somehow relate his remarks to the word ultimately’, which is the subject under discussion.
– I have been listening carefully to what Senator Georges has been saying. I have noted that he is introducing a range of arguments. I ask him to return to the argument relating to the purpose of the amendment, that is, the use of the word ‘ultimately’.
-Ultimately I will get to the use of the word ‘ultimately’. At almost 10 o’clock it is a little late to start to draw the debate on this clause back to the Standing Orders.
- Senator Cavanagh started it.
-Perhaps he did but I did not think that the Government Whip would try to reinforce Senator Cavanagh ‘s argument, which was directed against Senator Harradine. He was drawing a particularly long bow. What I wish to say concerning this clause is that the Opposition ‘s amendment if accepted, will limit the ability of the special branches in the various States, which work very closely with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, to carry out their present activities. I entered the debate merely to reinforce the Opposition’s argument by my experience, which has been related previously by Senator Chipp. Unless there are limitations to the activities of the Special Branch in Queensland- I might add that ASIO works closely in co-operation- by the changes to this clause which the Opposition intends, it will continue to behave as it is behaving at present. There is no doubt that unless this clause is amended
ASIO, through the special branches, will carry out a very close surveillance of the activities of ordinary citizens who seek by legitimate means to change some of the regulations which flow from the laws in Queensland.
At the present time, we are considered to be members of an organisation whose activities tend towards violence. The word ‘ultimately’ is used in this legislation and it is presumed that ultimately the activities of the civil liberties group in Queensland will lead to violence. The experience, of course, is that the activities lead to violence because the police determine to confront and not to allow any legitimate movement or protest on behalf of people and groups such as the ones which I am describing at the present time. It is necessary that the Opposition amendment should be accepted. At least, we ought to be looking very closely at what is being said in the chamber tonight. It seems to me that we may have to go beyond the debate on this clause, realise the time factor involved and perhaps refer the whole Bill, and especially the Committee of the whole stage, to a Senate committee that can deal with it. I return to the point that unless some limitation is imposed on this clause of the Bill, the special branch of the State police force can extend its surveillance over ordinary citizens in Queensland with impunity.
There is another comment I wish to make which may be contrary to the provisions of the Standing Orders: If the provisions of this sort of clause are allowed to operate, so many members of Parliament will come under surveillance that the surveillance itself will fail. So many citizens will be on the list that the integrity of any citizen who does not happen to be under surveillance may be questionable. The whole of the security intention of this Bill and this particular clause will lead to such a weight of record with so many citizens involved that the whole operation will collapse under its own weight.
Perhaps I have rambled in my remarks. But I feel justified in speaking in the debate. Earlier I said that I would keep out of the debate. Nevertheless, I was used as an example of a person who is prone to violence or whose activities in Queensland are considered to be those that will lead to violence. I will be very much a victim of this clause if its provisions come into operation. I suggest that it ought to be changed. I think that there is a certain amount of sympathy to change this clause. The Senate ought to vote upon it. I do not doubt that if the caucus arrangements of the Government were in some way relaxed we would win the vote on this amendment and that would improve the Bill.
– I will be very brief. Senator Georges illustrated his argument well when a point of order was taken. The point of order was that he was not speaking to the matter being debated. It then became a matter of opinion when he said that ultimately he would get to his point. In that way the whole argument against the use of the word ‘ultimately ‘ was demonstrated. It is open to anyone’s interpretation whether something will ultimately lead to a particular point. It is on that ground that the Labor Party Opposition and a few members of the Government also seem to see the danger that lies in the use of the word ultimately’. I concur with the amendment which seeks to delete the word ‘ultimately’ from clause 5.
– I would like to indicate on behalf of Opposition senators that, in respect of this clause and all subsequent clauses in respect of which amendments have been circulated in my name, the Opposition will be unanimously opposing those clauses. I would like our opposition recorded in those terms. I understand that the Australian Democrats have a position which they would like to indicate on that basis also.
– Subsequent upon the remarks of Senator Button, I understand that the Opposition is not going to seek a division on each amendment it will move to clauses of this Bill because it feels, quite sensibly, that the time could be better devoted to debate. The Australian Democrats concur with that view and with the exception of paragraph (j) of Senator Button’s amendment to the second reading stage of the Bill, the Australian Democrats would largely concur with the views of the Opposition and will be voting with the Opposition on most of the amendments it puts. But like the Opposition, we will not be pushing the Senate to a division to save time that could be better devoted to debate.
– I do not regard myself as part of the Government nor does the Government regard me as part of it. I regard myself as part of the Opposition. In relation to clause 5,I will be voting against the first two amendments and voting for the third amendment. I will, of course, be raising a matter in relation to clause 8 which I raised in my second reading speech but which the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) did not advert to in hisreply.
– Order! The question is that the words proposed to be left out be left out.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I move-
Page 3, clause5, sub-clause (1), paragraph (b), line 9, before ‘ activities ‘ insert ‘unlawful ‘.
The proposal which was referred to yesterday was that the word ‘unlawful’ be inserted at the beginning of paragraph (b) of clause 5(1) so that the activities referred to in paragraph (b) would be unlawful activities directed to the purposes which are set out in the clause. The reasons for seeking that amendment were explained by me yesterday. I believe that other honourable senators may wish to speak to the same matter; but the purposes of the Opposition amendment, I think, were quite clearly spelt out yesterday.
-The provisions of clause 5(1) (b) extend the definition of ‘subversion’ even further than those we have been debating for the last hour and a half. It extends the definition in a very unattractive way- indeed, in a way that was not recommended in the Hope report. That reason, if no other, should give the Senate very great cause to pause before adopting the sub-clause in its present terms. Paragraph (b) is, in fact, a double-barrelled proposition. The first part treats subversion as: activities directed to obstructing, hindering or interfering with the performance by the Defence Force of its functions.
The second barrel states that the activities involve: the carrying out of other activities by or for the Commonwealth for the purposes of security or the defence of the Commonwealth.
It is the Opposition’s view that both those parts of the paragraph are objectionably wide and vague in scope and will bring within the ambit of the Bill a range of activities, many of which might be quite startling to contemplate. Let me deal briefly with the first of them. The paragraph states: activities directed to obstructing, hindering or interfering with the performance by the Defence Force of its functions-
Those words ‘obstructing, hindering or interfering’ occur quite regularly throughout the statute books dealing with criminal law, industrial law and in legislation like the Atomic Energy Act. They are words of potentially enormous scope. They can extend to any form of activity, communication or proselytisation of a viewpoint which could be construed as amounting to a hin- activity. It would extend, in my submission, to activity which simply takes the form which, it might be thought, would reduce the morale of a defence organisation by pointing to conspicuous deficiencies in its organisation, structure and the way it is administered.
I would go so far as to say that if this provision is to be given its face value, Senator Hamer ‘s speech in this chamber just a couple of weeks ago, in which he revealed in an extremely lucid and penetrating way just what a ramshackle structure Australia’s Defence Force has and that in a way that must have given considerable comfort to those people, perhaps overseas, who are interested in hearing such an analysis and in taking such a viewpoint- is that kind of attack on the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), on the Army, on the Defence Force, which represents a paradigm of subversion.
Similarly within the realm of the potential application of this clause would be the activities of demonstrators or picketers outside recruiting offices nowadays or, obviously, at a time of Australian participation in some conflict such as the Vietnam war. Such activity would visibly and obviously be directed at dissuading people from joining the defence forces and, as such, would amount clearly to an obstruction of, a hindrance to or an interference with the Army, Navy and Air Force in the pursuance of their respective functions as these terms have been defined and applied over the years, and as they appear in other legislation.
So too- and this is a point that perhaps Senator Harradine, given his earlier contribution will bear in mind particularly- it seems to the Opposition that this part of paragraph (b) has a potentially enormous application insofar as the trade unions of this country are concerned. All kinds of industrial actions, for example, the withdrawal of workers’ services in the supply or distribution of goods, might take the form, or be perceived as taking the form, of interfering with the efficient conduct by the defence forces of their operations. A simple strike which might result in delaying the supply of spare parts to a naval or army base could, in the view of the Opposition, be construed as amounting to just that kind of hindrance or obstruction to or interference with the Army that potentially would subject that union to all of the surveillance apparatus that is envisaged in this Bill.
There is no doubt that all of the unions which are affiliated with the Australian Council of Trade Unions have at one time or another engaged, for good industrial motives, in actions which could be regarded as satisfying the literal and obvious definition that is contained in this particular provision. That alone should give us pause, and lend point to the conclusion of the Opposition that the scope of this provision must be limited in some way. We suggest that that should be done by confining it to activities which obstruct, hinder or interfere but which are in themselves unlawful activities- and God knows there is now enough legislation scattered upon the statute books in various contexts, enough common law rules have been devised, to make unlawful most forms of activity that could possibly be construed as obstructing or hindering the Army, but at least that particular safeguard should exist.
A further point relates to the second half of paragraph (b), which is concerned with the carrying out of other activities by or for the Commonwealth for the purposes of the security or defence of the Commonwealth; in other words, hindering, obstructing or interfering with the carrying out of any other activities for the purposes of security. That proposition has only to be stated for one to appreciate its potential width. There can be very little doubt that this is one of the several provisions of this Bill which are, among other potential applications, aimed quite explicitly and directly at those organisations in the community which have devoted themselves to what they regard as the good democratic cause of exposing the activities, as they presently operate and have operated in the past, of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
I refer in particular to organisations such as that of Mrs Joan Coxsedge, perhaps the most conspicuous of the organisations working in this area, in its campaign against political police. There is no doubt whatsoever that the explicit language of this part of paragraph (b) would, on its face, enable the Government to employ the full range of the apparatus created by the Bill to operate against that organisation, or indeed against anyone of a like viewpoint. This provision would treat such activity as subversion and expose it to all the apparatus and listening devices, telephones taps and interception of mail that this Bill is about.
What I am saying, and let it be understood, is that there may indeed be a case for penalising explicitly certain kinds of activity which do amount to a direct harassment of the organisation in the proper exercise of its functions. If that kind of activity does create serious operational difficulties for the organisations in question, there may be a case- as indeed we are prepared to concede elsewhere in this Bill- for penalising explicitly certain activities of that direct and immediate kind. What we are most cautious about accepting the propriety of is the notion that activity which is simply aimed at communicating to the public at large what are perceived to be deficiencies and undemocratic qualities in the organisation in question, that that kind of proselytising activity- which in our view would come squarely within the terms of paragraph (b)- would be counted subversive and brings into operation all of the apparatus that this Bill is about.
We suggest that that kind of activity, which is aimed at exposing, for better or for worse, the activities of security organisations, should be treated as subversive only when it is itself, by virtue of some explicit statute or common law rule that might be applicable to it, unlawful. It should not be enough, to bring this legislation into play, that there is simply activity directed at exposing or drawing attention to, or hindering in that very indirect way, the security activities of the Commonwealth. So, in respect of both these legs of paragraph (b) we would argue that there is a very strong case for reducing their operation. They are much wider in their text than anything that Mr Justice Hope himself recommended. We would argue that the appropriate way in which to limit their operations is to preface them with the simple word ‘unlawful’, which would obviously confine their scope to biting upon activities which are the subject of penal or other sanctions in other legislation, or indeed elsewhere in this Bill.
– I emphasise again that we are here dealing with definitions of domestic subversion, or activities on the domestic scene that may be regarded as of a subversive character, for the purpose of defining the powers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. We are not here describing activities as either lawful or unlawful. We are dealing with activities which have, or may have, a particular purpose or end result.
In fact, Mr Justice Hope recommended that the definition of subversion should include the activities of persons directed to- I quote his words- ‘obstructing, hindering or interfering with the taking of measures by the Commonwealth Government in the interests of the security of Australia’. That was a very general proposition by Mr Justice Hope and this particular limb of clause 5 ( 1 ) (b), which lends a little more particularity to Mr Justice Hope’s recommendation, is simply saying that the powers of the or- the activities of persons which are directed- I emphasise the word ‘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 purpose of the security or defence thereof. The Government believes that activities of that kind, directed against the proper performance of the functions of the Defence Force, should certainly be the subject of surveillance by a security organisation.
– I just want to probe the Attorney-General’s mind on this provision in his capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street). I take it from what the AttorneyGeneral has said that any industrial action which had the effect of obstructing, hindering or interfering with the Defence Force, even if it is a goslow campaign, for example, would fall within the provisions of this clause. What I would like the Attorney-General to answer is whether this is the fourth arm of the Government’s industrial relations policy as well as a provision which deals in the generality with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
– A clause of this kind must be interpreted in a commonsense way and it would be interpreted in a commonsense way. We are simply saying that if there are activities the purpose of which is to interfere with and obstruct the performance by the Defence Force of its functions, they are activities which could be regarded as coming within a charter of an organisation concerned with the security of Australia. As I said earlier in this debate, just whether or not it would be justifiable to consider a particular form of activity to be subversive would be a matter for the professional judgment of the Director-General of security. But to leave out of the charter of an organisation of this kind an ability to keep under surveillance activities which may be designed very directly to obstruct and hinder the Defence Force in the performance of its functions would, in the opinion of the Government, be unrealistic.
– I am baffled to hear the AttorneyGeneral say that a clause of a Bill of this seriousness should be regarded in a commonsense way. It is not possible for it to be interpreted in that way. I have been trying for some time to visualise a situation in which there would be a lawful activity which would do the things of which the Attorney-General is complaining. I grasp his meaningfullybutmyassertionisthatwhatheis saying is not what is in the clause. Surely that is what we are discussing in this Committee. The use of the words ‘unlawful activities’ at least gives point to the Attorney-General’s intention. I cannot see why there should be any objection to putting in the word ‘unlawful’. There again, as with the earlier sub-clause, it would interpret and enlighten the sub-clause. But the lack of such a word poses implications at which the mind boggles. In fact for some time I have been needling the Government, as the Committee would know, over the arming of our patrol boats with missiles. I have privilege in this place but had I been an outsider doing that I could be said, under this clause, to be interfering with the Navy in the exercise of not so much the defence of the Commonwealth but its other activities. I believe it is intolerable that there should be a situation in which that sort of clause is permitted in a Bill. I am amazed that the Attorney-General can say: We have looked at that clause and we say that at some stage it may be interpreted in a commonsense way’. Either it says what it means or it does not say what it means.
– If I may say so, in support of the clause, it seems to me quite unnecessary to try to restrict it merely to unlawful activities’ or activities which are proved to be unlawful. There may be activities which are highly obstructive to the Defence Force. Bear in mind that this clause relates to purposes of security or the defence of the Commonwealth. It even restricts the activities of the Defence Force. But insofar as interfering with the purposes of security or the defence of the Commonwealth is concerned, any activities, be they legal or illegal- and many of them may be highly objectionable and may be intended to develop, perhaps later, into illegal activities- may well be activities which ought to be under surveillance and ought to be considered as subversive by this organisation. To require that it should be only those activities which can be shown to be illegal activities would, I think, be an unnecessary restriction on the activities of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I do not see any need whatsoever for the Opposition’s amendment.
– The Committee is debating the definition of subversion. Once in the mind of the Director-General some person is capable of undertaking subversive activities then he falls into a category of having certain things done to him or her. Clause 5(1 )(b) refers to a person who is engaged in ‘activities directed to obstructing, hindering or interfering with the performance by the Defence Force of its functions’. What the Opposition is trying to do is to insert by way of an amendment the word ‘ unlawful’ in front of the word ‘activities’. I really did not think that I, as a member of Parliament, would hear an Attorney-General say that he would reject the use of the word ‘unlawful’. What he is saying in fact is that even lawful activities by a citizen of this Commonwealth could well and should well bring him or her under the surveillance of the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
– If they are improper activities.
– ‘Improper’ is certainly a relative word. I thank Senator Missen for his interjection. Senator Missen has hit on my worry. Improper’ and ‘immoral’ are relative terms.
– ‘Immoral’ is your word, not mine.
– You said ‘improper’.
– That is right.
– I am extending it. Let us keep to your word ‘improper’.
– It is the best word you can rely on for your point.
– Right! Improper conduct is totally a relative concept. It is not absolute. Lawful or unlawful is one of the few things that we have in life that are absolute because it is part of a statute.
– Is it?
– Does the honourable senator dispute that?
– I dispute the difficulty of proving between lawful activity and other activity.
– The honourable senator, who is also a lawyer, tries to divert me. At least we have a starting point if something is lawful or unlawful. But if he wants to rely on ‘proper’ or improper’ that would depend on all sorts of considerations such as religion, morality, age and so on. All that we on this side of the chamber want to do is to lay down some sort of criteria because the Director-General has incredibly wide powers under this legislation, and we would agree necessarily so. But we want to restrict the definition of subversion. We support the Opposition on this matter.
While I am on my feet I make one last point. I again make a plea to the Attorney-General, as I did in my speech on the second reading debate. I understand that 3 1 amendments to this Bill are proposed by the Opposition. It has taken us over two hours to debate two-thirds of one of those amendments. Surely this is a classic case of a Bill which should be referred to a committee of this Senate which, on past performances, could do a magnificent job in ironing out these sorts of things. It has taken this Committee2½ hours to debate a couple of points. I again plead with the Government to withdraw this legislation and refer it to a committee so that at least there will be a consensus of the various political parties in this place. That would avoid wasting time by debating this Bill clause by clause.
– I have a simple question to ask of the Attorney-General. If the Transport Workers Union of Australia, as part of industrial action specifically designed to bring pressure on the Government, held up the delivery of, amongst other things, pieces of machinery to the naval dockyard in Sydney, would this amount to a significant interference with the functioning of the Defence Force? Can the Attorney-General tell me whether this action would amount to subversion in the context of this clause?
– I raise a point or order. Senator Sibraa asked the Attorney-General a question. The Attorney-General has not yet chosen to answer it. Am I to take it that he did not hear it or that he has chosen to regard Senator Sibraa ‘s question on this most important point with contempt?
– Order! If a question is asked of a Minister it is within the Minister’s judgment as to what course he takes and he accepts the responsibility for that. No point of order is involved.
– The attitude adopted by the AttorneyGeneral of not answering a legitimate question will not enable him to get this Bill through the Senate expeditiously. The Opposition does not want the Attorney-General to ignore the answering of legitimate questions that are asked of him. He should give us the courtesy of answering the question -
– Are you addressing yourself to the amendment, Senator Cavanagh?
-Of course I am. I would not do otherwise. Senator Sibraa asked a question and the same question occupies my mind. If what are accepted as legitimate activities and, in accordance with some awards, lawful activitiesandtheproperfunctionofatrade union in some industrial dispute prevents the delivery of certain materials to a naval dockyard, would they come under the surveillance in accordance with clause 5 (1) (b)? I appeal to the Attorney-General to try to answer the question. I think he may have been asleep when Senator Sibraa asked the question. As he is now awake and the question has been repeated, I ask him to make an effort to answer it.
– The length of this debate has been due to honourable senators speculating in their own minds as to what particular words in this clause may mean. I am not objecting to that but I am objecting to suggestions that somehow or other the Government is responsible or I am responsible for the length of the debate. I am prepared to sit here for as long as the Committee wants to sit to consider these clauses. I am here to explain the purpose of particular clauses and what are the Government’s reasons for putting them in the Bill, but I am not here to give kerbside opinions on hypothetical questions that any honourable senator may raise. Honourable senators are entitled to form their own judgments and opinions as to how the Bill applies to certain situations, but I am certainly not going to be giving spot legal opinions in the course of this debate as it would be most unwise for me to do so.
I have explained that the purpose of this provision in this clause is to apply to activitiesindeed, all this clause does is apply to activities generally; it is not confined to lawful or unlawful activities- which have certain purposes or certain end results. In this case we are dealing with activities which are directed at obstructing the defence forces in the performance of their functions. How that would apply would depend very much upon the circumstances of any particular case. As I said earlier, the Government believes that the powers of a security organisation in relation to subversion should be wide. The powers are based broadly upon recommendations of Mr Justice Hope.
I think the difference really between the Government and the Opposition with regard to this matter is that the Government believes insofar as matters of security are concerned that risks should not be taken with certain classes of people and organisations or with the certain types of activity which are spelt out here, whereas the Opposition wants to have a much more restrictive attitude to those matters. The Committee has to make up its mind on the broad principlesalongthoselines.
-The implications of clause 5 ( 1 ) (b) have not been adequately canvassed by the Attorney-General. I find somewhat strange and in a sense improper his suggestion that the honourable senators who speculate upon the ramifications of various clauses have engaged in reprehensible conduct. A close examination of clause 5 ( 1) (b) will show not only that it is related to what may happen with respect to the defence forces but also that it has a wider definition. We are talking about ‘activities directed to obstructing, hindering or interfering’. If the words ‘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’ are left out we have a much wider definition than has been suggested in the debate today, certainly that part of it which was entered into rather reluctantly by the Attorney-General. I read into that the fact that the very situation that was raised by Senator Sibraa in his question could apply to an entirely different situation, that it is not necessarily related to a Defence Force consideration. For example, I refer to some of the disputes in which the Transport Workers Union of Australia has been involved concerning the supply of petrol. It could be said that the failure to provide fuel to the Commonwealth for the purposes of security constitutes an activity in which all of the force of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation can be brought to bear. That is a very wide definition. It is not related just to Defence Force activity. It is related to a lot of normal and lawful activities. Again we are confronted with the same sort of net as we were talking about in relation to clause 5 ( 1 ) (a). If we are concerned only with activities that hinder, obstruct or interfere with the performance of the defence forces, we ought to say just that and not go on to say ‘or activities by or for the Commonwealth for the purpose of security’ because that is a definition which seems to me, as a layman, to have very serious and wider implications than perhaps those drafting the legislation had in mind when they put in that provision to deal with specific questions relating to defence.
I am pleased that Senator Hamer has come into the chamber, having regard to what Senator Evans said earlier about the type of statement that he could conceivably make at the National Press Club which would bring him into some area of surveillance because his activities could hinder, obstruct or interfere with the performance of the defence forces. This indicates that a wide net has been cast by those who framed the legislation. This chamber, which exercised unlawful activities in refusing Supply to a lawfully and constitutionally elected government in 1974 and 1975, is now charged by the AttorneyGeneral with not carrying out its proper function and with engaging in idle speculation in reviewing the legislation to see whether the words mean what they say or whether they mean much more than they say or they are alleged to say.
I take umbrage at the suggestion that the Minister has made that we are involved in some idle speculation. I am involved in carrying out my proper constitutional responsibilities as a senator on behalf of the people of New South Wales. Not to carry out those responsibilities would put me in a position where I would fail in my obligations as an elected representative. It is a pity that Government senators were not in the chamber and participating while this debate was proceeding. Generally, we have not had more than two or three Government senators interested in the debate this evening. They do not regard it as their responsibility to be here because they have made their decision in the party room. They are not prepared to concede that definitions and an analysis of the Bill may well be properly raised in the Senate with a view to reviewing what the Government proposes in the legislation. Criticism should be levelled at the failure of most Government senators to take any intelligent interest or part in the debate. There is much more involved in the words of the third line of clause 5 (b) than the Government has sought to convey in the second reading speech and in the debate on this clause.
– I can assure the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) that the question I asked was not put in a cavalier manner. I realise that he might not want to make what he said would be a kerbside opinion. However, the New South Wales branch of the Transport Workers Union is vitally concerned that industrial action that it has taken in the past could now be classed under this clause as subversion. It is a responsible union and it wants to know the answer to the question that I have posed. If it does not get an answer tonight it will want an answer in the very near future. The industrial action that I talked about which has been taken by the Transport Workers Union in New South Wales in the past has not been classified as subversive and it wants to know whether it will be classified as subversive under this clause.
– It is obvious that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) is not going to answer the question. I put it to him that he is required to give an answer. This is his legislation which he has introduced. He is required to give some explanations. He can call them kerbside legal opinions if he likes. In the future when someone is endeavouring to give an interpretation, or a kerbside legal opinion, that person will refer to this debate to find out the intention of the Parliament at the time the legislation was considered.
– He will be battling.
-This happens on a number of occasions. He will find out what was in the mind of the Parliament and the Minister at that time. Although Senator Missen may push that to one side as of no consequence my experience is that lawyers do go back to the originating debate. For that reason it is the responsibility of the Minister to answer the questions raised in this debate. Otherwise, we will continue to ask the Minister about this clause, he will refuse and we will make no progress at all. We will then come to a stalemate. The Minister can get upset. We can move to report progress. There may be sufficient numbers on our side to obtain that result. Perhaps there would not be. The Opposition may be left in a position of maintaining its criticism and forcing the Government into a position in which it has to force its legislation through without proper consideration. I do not think that the Minister has that in mind.
He should answer a question similar to the one that was asked by Senator Sibraa. Following on from Senator Sibraa ‘s question I would like to know: If the Army were called in to solve an industrial dispute and to maintain continuity of supply in an important area where members of a trade union object and picket and frustrate the armed Services, would that bring the union under the surveillance of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation? I am not asking for a legal opinion. There was a possibility of that in the air traffic controllers’ dispute prior to the last one. There were threats that the Army may be sent in to take over the functions of the air traffic controllers. If the union involved decided to frustrate that action in some way would that union come under the surveillance of security under this legislation? Surely the Minister can give some sort of explanation as to whether that is a possibility. He may argue that it is a hypothetical question and elect not to answer it. All our questions at this stage on this Bill are hypothetical because it is not enacted. The Minister ought to be able to give satisfaction to the Senate. Otherwise this questioning will drag on and on and the frustration will build up and the legislation will not bedealtwithinaspiritofco-operation.Itakeit that the Minister is going to refuse to give any information whatsoever. I ask whether the Minister is going to refuse to give any further information on this clause.
– I have already indicated that honourable senators can form their own opinions as to certain hypothetical situations they may bring up. It would be unwise for me to give opinions as to what might be the situation without having all the facts of a particular case before me. It is not true that lawyers look at what members of Parliament say when they interpret legislation. I have indicated that the object of this clause is not to be confined to unlawful activities. In certain circumstances this clause may apply to lawful activities, but those activities must have certain purposes and end results and must be directed to obstructing the Defence Force in the performance of its functions. Honourable senators do not need me to give them an opinion regarding this matter. In certain circumstances there may be lawful activities which, if directed in a clear way, would obstruct or hinder. That is why the word ‘direct’ is included in the clause. The Defence Force, when performing its functions, could deal with matters which come within the definition of subversion under this clause. In broad terms the purpose of this clause is to give a wide brief and power to a security organisation. In my judgment this provision would be applied as a matter of common sense by the Organization under policies laid down by the Director-General of the Organization.
– I am prompted to rise in response to what the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has just said. I have not spoken in this debate on the question of unlawful activities. I am determined that the Minister will not short circuit me by refusing to reply. He has raised pertinent points. It is for someone else to judge whether actions are directed to obstruction. I think he was right when he said that lawyers do not look at the intention of the legislation through debates in Parliament. I believe that when a clause is ambiguous they can look at the intention of the legislating authority but the intention must be read from a document. But of course one is left with no alternative other than to decide for oneself what it means. No one is very definite about what it does mean. Even legal advocates in court sometimes find when a judgment is given that their interpretation of the law was wrong.
Possiblywewillnotbegivenamoredefinite answer about this until a case has been argued in the courts.
If we take the proper literary and grammatical interpretation of this clause we must come to the conclusion, as Senator Sibraa indicated, that unions, for example, can be accused of engaging in subversive activities. This would bring them within the ambit of this clause. The industrial activities of those involved in a particular dispute can lead to inconvenience being caused to many people, including those seeking the rewards. For example, the Transport Workers Union might decide that because it cannot obtain a wage increase for its members it will stop the fitting out of a naval boat at Garden Island or some other naval port. Of course, if the awards of members of the TWU give them the right to take industrial action and they do, they are engaged in lawful activity. Without the assistance of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) to say whether our interpretation is right or wrong, we have come to the conclusion that such an activity would bring members of unions within the ambit of clause 5(D(b).
That raises an important point. We should look at the magnitude of this clause and at who could be covered by it. Trade unions have been carrying on their activities for 50 years. Under clause 5(1) (b) those activities could now be subject to some surveillance. We are hesitant about whether we should pass this clause. Senator Button recognised that the activities of the armed forces should not be held up and that no one should unlawfully hinder the performance of the Defence Force. But surely if the normal procedures of an organisation are carried out after the passage of this Bill and if those activities are not unlawful under any other Act of Parliament, they should not be hindered under this clause. If the Government wants to stop industrial activity, surely it must do so by introducing industrial legislation. We should restrict clause 5(1) (b) so that it does not encompass unions which have carried on their activities for many years.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I note that the Government and the Opposition have both circulated proposed amendments to paragraph (c) of sub-clause (1) of clause 5. Does the Attorney-General wish to move his amendment?
– The Opposition has indicated that it intends to move for the deletion of the words ‘or hostility’. I am prepared to agree to that amendment and propose to insert alternative wording. I do not mind whether we take my amendment or the Opposition’s amendment. I thought that the Opposition had moved its amendment.
– I have spoken to the three amendments because they related to the definition of subversion but I have not formally moved the amendment to clause 5(1) (c). The arrangement reached with the Clerk, which may not have been conveyed to the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), was that the Minister should move his amendment first.
– I move:
The Government has taken note of the objections to the word ‘hostility’. Perhaps it is a little weak and too general a word to deal with the situation which the Government had in mind. The word certainly could be interpreted- it has been interpreted in that way by many people- as dealing with situations where activities between groups in the community who hold very strong views on a particular subject and express those views create hostility towards them by other groups and so on. It was not intended that this paragraph should apply in that way.
On the other hand, the Government does believe that there are some activities which, although not themselves directed to promoting violence, are directed at promoting a sufficient degree of enmity or hostility between groups in the community which itself could lead to ‘endanger the peace, order or good government of the Commonwealth’. Feelings of that kind could in themselves engender violence. Therefore, it is really a matter of finding a suitable word to express that view. That is the purpose of the word hatred’. We do not think that we can find a stronger word to convey that meaning than the word ‘hatred’. We believe that if there are such activities which lead to actual hatred between certain groups in the community, then those activities are of such a character that they should come within the definition of ‘subversion’. Because of the consequences of those activities for the peace, order or good government of the country they should come within the surveillance of a security organisation.
-The Opposition is grateful for the concession which has been made by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), but with the greatest respect, we still oppose the Government’s amendment because it seems to miss the point. I should like again to explain the purpose of our proposed amendment in order to make it clear to the Attorney-General why we reject his amendment and, 1 do it in these terms: Clause 5 ( 1 ) (c) is directed to activities which are directed to promoting violence basically between different groups of persons so as to endanger the peace, order or good government of the Commonwealth.
– A football match.
- Senator Evans interjects. Of course, that is a classic example as we from Victoria are conscious at this particular time of the year. The words ‘hostility’ and ‘hatred’ are things which can be engendered by activities by a great variety of groups of people in the community but they do not in themselves in any way threaten the peace, order or good government of the Commonwealth. We say that as a matter of reality and as a matter of fact violence in any form threatens the peace, order or good government of the Commonwealth but engendering or engaging in activities encouraged to promote hostility or for that matter hatred- I take it that the Attorney-General has really borrowed the word ‘hatred’ from some racial discrimination legislation in some place or other- does not as we put it, fall within the purpose of this clause in promoting danger to the peace, order or good government of the Commonwealth.
We appreciate the concession which the Attorney-General has made but we believe he has missed the point. For example, you can sit in an armchair in Melbourne and someone can incite you. We could incite Senator Missen to hate, let me say, Senator Evans. That would be unbelievable. We could incite him to do that and there would be no threat to the peace, order or good government of the Commonwealth.
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., in accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I put the question:
Thai the Temporary Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Temporary Chairman having reported accordingly-
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., under the sessional order I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I make no apology for delaying the Senate tonight. I do so to correct one of the most outrageous statements made by a supposedly responsible Minister of the Government during the adjournment debate last night. I will quote from Hansard so that there can be no mistake that in actual fact the words that I refer to were used by the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) in reply to a speech by Senator Keeffe about the problems that were being recognised in the nuclear industry. Senator Webster, at page 1258 of the Senate Hansard of 3 April 1979, said:
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.
In reply to an interjection by Senator Georges, Senator Webster repeated:
There has been no loss of life.
That statement is very similar to one made by the Premier of Western Australia. He also claimed that there have been no deaths in the nuclear industry. In fact not so long ago he went so far as to say that there have been no accidents in the nuclear industry. I call him a rather remarkable man, not because he does, or has done, anything remarkable but because he has managed to achieve the highest possible political position in a State without ever having been prepared to listen to or acknowledge that there are opposing points of view to his own.
Sir Charles Court is very keen to get a nuclear energy station underway in Western Australia. In fact the newspapers pointed out this week that it is likely that the plans for the station could be completed by the mid-1980s and that the plant could be in operation by the mid-1990s. His comments, in the light of the Harrisburg incident, are reported in a front page article in the West Australian of Tuesday 3 April. He said:
Nuclear power stations have in fact posed less dangers than any other form of power generation.
Don ‘t let one incident obscure all that.
The article continued:
A decision on the technology and plans for the proposed WA station would be made about 1985, by which time reactor technology- including safety factors- would have been significantly advanced.
The State would also have the benefit of experiences in other countries operating nuclear plants.
WA would look closely at what had happened at Harrisburg and take full advantage of any information it got about the technological defects that took place in the plant. However, the United States was not as up-to-date in some of its nuclear technology as some countries.
The Premier then stated:
When we build a plant in WA it will be the most modern there is with the best technology that is available then, and with full advantage of anything that has happened in the meantime, including this incident.
It is obvious from that statement that Sir Charles does not think much of the United States technology. He advances the idea that by the time we get round to having a nuclear energy station in Western Australia all the problems will be solved. I repeat that the Premier said:
When we build a plant in Western Australia it will be the most modern there is with the best technology that is available then, and with full advantage of anything that has happened in the meantime, including this incident.
Does he not honestly believe that at the time of the concept of the Harrisburg station it was believed that the most modern technology was being used? Of course it was. What makes Sir Charles think that the situation will be any different in Western Australia? I would have thought that the Minister for Science and the Environment, Senator Webster, with that portfolio, would have been much more aware of what is happening in the nuclear industry. He is supposed to be the Minister responsible for science and yet he knows very little about it. He says that there has been no loss of life. He is obviously ill-informed or is deliberately trying to fool the people of Australia. I intend to put forward tonight a few facts about nuclear accidents, including deaths in the industry. I refer to both the military and civil industries.
It was my intention to cover all the accidents which could in fact result in later deaths because of leukaemia, because of lung cancer, because of bone marrow cancer, but because I understand that there are other senators who wish to speak on the adjournment I will content myself with dealing initially with those accidents that have resulted in a loss of life or perhaps serious injury to person. At another time I will use this chamber to detail very definitely some of the environmental havoc that has been wreaked by the nuclear industry. I make the point that these are only some of the accidents which are known, some of those which have been reported. They are, of course, not all of the accidents that have occurred. The Senate would be aware, as I am, that the members of the Press endeavour to hide from the general news-consuming public things that they think may to some extent disturb them.
– A real conspiracy.
– Yes; the honourable senator is quite right; there is a conspiracy between the media, Governments and big business, to hide from the news consuming public of
Australia and possibly in other countries of the world news of incidents that do in actual fact occur. If Senator Peter Baume has ever been into a newspaper office he will realise that it is one man sitting at a desk with a blue pencil who determines whether the news reporter saw what he claimed to have seen or whether we will read what that sub-editor thinks we should know. Let us look at what was perhaps the first accident in which a death occurred. This was back in 1958 in Vinca, Yugoslavia. Perhaps Yugoslavia is one of the countries to which Sir Charles Court might turn for technological advice. One death occurred. I repeat for the benefit of Senator Webster what he said in this chamber only last night. He said:
The nuclear industry is a very responsible industry. There has been no loss of life.
There was one death 20 years ago in Yugoslavia.
– The source, Senator?
– From the annual report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The Minister for Science should be aware of the SIPRI reports. If he has not read them I would suggest that they might contain a great deal of information which would be of interest to him. In 1958 in Los Alamos in the United States of America one death was caused by radioactivity in a uranium enrichment plant, and again in 1958 -
– The source?
– The source for that is also the SIPRI annual report. All of the details that I am going to give Senator Webster can be found in either the SIPRI annual report or in the Contingency Plan put out by the Work Circle Environment Centre in the United Kingdom or in Ms Coleing ‘s paper for the movement against uranium mining. All these instances are sourced; they are all authenticated.
– What about the coal miners?
- Senator Townley can discuss the coal miners at some other time. At this moment I am discussing the nuclear industry and if he does not want to learn I suggest he leave the chamber. Again in 1958, which can only be described as a particularly bad year for the nuclear industry, in the Ural Mountains in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics -
– That is communist technology.
-We are not talking about communist technology. Once again I make the point that perhaps that is one of the countries to which Sir Charles Court may be going to turn for advice before he builds the nuclear energy station in Western Australia. There was a report of an explosion which killed hundreds of people, caused the mass evacuation of thousands more, and caused countless villages to be destroyed. In the words of a witness to the after-effects hundreds of square miles of land were left barren and unusable ‘for decades, and maybe for centuries’. I do not want the Minister to take the words of a lay senator as fact. I want to read an article which appeared in the Australian on 9 December 1 976 and which was supported by an article in the New Scientist of 30 June 1 977. For the benefit of those honourable senators who may have missed this article I will read from the Australian. It would not be surprising if honourable senators had missed it. Once again we look at the irresponsibility of the Press in the placement of articles. In this case I am referring to the print media. This article appeared on page 4 which is a left hand page and that is not the most popular page for reading as any advertising agent will tell honourable senators. It is in a very small corner of a large newspaper and one can only suggest that perhaps it did not appear there by accident. Perhaps it appeared there more by design in the hope that it might be overlooked by the vast majority of readers. The article appeared under the heading ‘N-blast accident in Urals killed hundreds’. It was written by Robert Rosenberg in Jerusalem on Wednesday. It states:
A witness to the after-effects of a nuclear disaster in Russia says only chimneys remained of bustling villages devastated by the catastrophe.
Hundreds of square miles of land were left barren and unusable ‘for decades, and maybe for centuries’, by a blast in which hundreds of people died, said Professor Leo Tumerman 78, in the first public report given in the west by a witness of its effects.
Dr Tumerman emigrated to Israel in 1972 and does research work at the Weizman Institute.
As far as I could see there were no villages, no towns, no people, no cattle herds’, Dr Tumerman said in an interview . . .
A report published in London by the Russian scientist, Dr Zhores Medvedev said a 1 958 nuclear explosion in the town of Kyahtim killed hundreds and forced the evacuation of the surrounding population.
Western intelligence sources said the explosion was actually from a plutonium stockpile and not an atomic waste cemetery as Medvedev had said.
Dr Tumerman said he witnessed the aftereffects of the catastrophe when he was travelling on the main north-south Urals Highway in June 1 96 1 , on his way to visit the construction site of the first major Russian atomic power plant …
They drove for almost 32km and on each side of the main road the land was a vast nothing, the Professor said.
I asked my driver why we could not stop and he told me that there had been a tremendous explosion several years before and ever since then it had been like this ‘, he said.
We were not really close to where the explosion occurred. The entire area was “hot”, very radio-active’.
The explosion was the result of the negligence of officials. They were careless and a catastrophe occurred ‘.
– Is that in a power plant?
– No, that was in the stockpile. This product is used in nuclear energy stations or is the honourable senator not aware of that either? I was listing the number of reported accidents in nuclear energy stations and what is now described as the first major reactor accident in the United States of America in 1961. 1 have already detailed one accident which occurred three years earlier. Obviously it was not considered to be a major accident even though there was loss of life. If we want to play with words I guess we can distinguish between a uranium enrichment plant and a reactor but the result is the same. The industry is still the same and only the names have been changed. No one is being fooled. In this particular accident there was an explosion in which three people were killed instantly. That may seem bad enough but when the report goes on to say that the bodies of those three people were so severely irradiated that they had to be buried in a dump for radioactive waste, then I suggest we have just about hit the bottom of the barrel. How can the Minister for Science and the Environment sit in this chamber and say that there has been no loss of life? Is he, like Sir Charles Court, burying his head in the sand in the rather vain hope that if he does not acknowledge that a problem exists then it might just get up and run away?
Let us go a little bit further. There are more accidents. There have been a total of 58 accidents in the last 20-odd years. Let us go to April 1 963 when the nuclear submarine, the USS Thresher, disappeared while on a deep-sea test dive. There were 1 12 naval men and 17 civilians on board. No one knows what happened. If they do they are not going to tell us anyway. Because the Minister for Science and the Environment is not terribly well informed on nuclear matters let me just tell him that since the USS Thresher incident, and up to October 1976- because that is the last date that I have- there were a total of 32 accidents involving nuclear submarines. That is 32 accidents in 13 years. I hope that the Minister will recognise that anything nuclear, even nuclear submarines, must be considered as part of the nuclear industry.
– No, we do not, actually.
-Then let us get back to the nuclear reactor incidents. Let us talk about a uranium enrichment plant at Wood River Junction in the United States of America where in 1 964 there was one death from radioactivity. In 1965 at Moi in Belgium a worker’s leg had to be amputated after exposure to radiation. In 1 972 at the Surry No. 1 plant in the United States of America two deaths occurred following the blowout of a valve. In 1 975 in Oklahoma, United States of America, workers contracted plutonium poisoning in an enrichment plant, and a chief witness died in mysterious circumstances. In 1975 at Gundreminngen in the Federal Republic of Germany, two deaths occurred following a leak of 800 litres of radioactive steam during vent repairs. In April 1977, and much closer to home, there was an incident at the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights. I recognise the fact that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has never admitted responsibility publicly. I am prepared to accept that the Government has never accepted responsibility publicly, but it has in fact accepted responsibility by virtue of the payment of compensation to the widow of the man who died as a result of exposure to radiation. That happened here in Australia.
In Western Australia the Premier is hell-bent on being the first Premier to subject the inhabitants of his State to nuclear energy, something we do not need, cannot afford and certainly cannot handle. The Minister for Science and the Environment said last night that the nuclear industry is a responsible industry, and I have to agree with him. It is responsible. It is responsible for untold human suffering. It is responsible for irreparable damage to the environment, and it is responsible for the sheer waste of human as well as financial resources. All of the things I have spoken about tonight can be authenticated from the publications I have named, but in case honourable senators have forgotten them, I repeat that they include the annual reports of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Anybody who cares to look up The Contingency Plan put out by the Work Circle Environment Centre in the United Kingdom can verify the other statements.
New let us look at the Harrisburg incident. One of the things that I find remarkable about Harrisburg is the apparent willingness of the media to cover this story in totality when in the past they have been rather reluctant to discuss anything nuclear, particularly anything antinuclear. They do not want to involve themselves in a controversy. They are frightened of the big business interests withdrawing their advertising and, of course, to a certain extent they have to protect or destroy governments, depending on which point of view is held. However, the coverage of the Harrisburg incident is a little different. Harrisburg has been front page news in every newspaper in Australia and, I would suggest, front page news in every newspaper in every country for the past week. Harrisburg has brought journals such as Newsweek into the general discussion of the nuclear industry- and not before time.
Perhaps the most terrible thing about Harrisburg is the unknown. We just do not know what will happen and no one can tell us because even the experts are floundering. They do not know the short-term or the long-term effects. They cannot say with any certainty how many people may die in the short term or how many people may die in the long term from the effects of radiation in Harrisburg.
– Are you serious?
– I am being quite serious, and if the honourable senator looked at Newsweek of 15 February in which about 13 pages are devoted to the nuclear industry, he would see exactly what I mean. The article on page 6 states;
Many experts agreed that the radiation posed no immediate threat to health, but others- that is other experts- warned of cancer, genetic damage and other longterm effects from the low-level emissions.
They are floundering, whether or not the honourable senator likes to accept it. A further article on page 1 8 states:
At present the recommended maximum annual exposure to man-made non medical radiation for the general public is 300 millirems. This is five times the natural background, and is well above the typical exposure of 200 millirems a year that Americans get from all sources. A chest X-ray exposes a person to 43 millirems in a few seconds. Experts have also derived a complex formula for workers exposed to radiation that averages out to 5,000 millirems per year. But fears persist that the linear extrapolation is not accurate. Some scientists think that it underestimates the dangers of low level radiation.
In a study of some 35,000 workers at the Hannaford nuclear facility in the United States- this was the first careful study ever carried out on workers in the industry- it was established that there is an increasing incidence of leukaemia, bone marrow cancer and lung cancer amongst the workers. In fact, Dr Radford of the Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation Committee said in 1978 that occupational limits amongst workers in the nuclear industry were 10 times higher than the established norm. A study done at Portsmouth in the United Kingdom has shown that cancer deaths are 450 per cent above the expected levels.
– What about the Windscale findings?
-I can talk to Senator Baume at length about the Windscale operations if he wants to delay the Senate. In fact, I have quite a lot of documentaton on the Windscale operations. I can talk about the fact that some two million litres of milk had to be poured into the rivers and the sea after radiation exposure following an explosion. This was done because of the harmful effects the milk may have had if it had been consumed by the public. But what no one has ever bothered to tell me is what were the harmful effects on the fish, the crustaceans and the bird life. To the best of my knowledge, no one has done a study of the Windscale situation. If such a study has been done, it certainly has not been made public because governments do not like to make such things public. One would expect that they would have had time to find out. If they have found out, they certainly have not told anybody.
– The Windscale health effects have been published and have been made public. The honourable senator is very selective in what she presents to the Senate.
-That may be so, but I would suggest that the Windscale inquiry was also pretty selective. We can talk about the infant death rate in Grand Junction in Colorado, where there has been a number of nuclear incidents and where the infant death rate is 50 per cent higher than the State average. We can talk about the situation in Rum Jungle in the Northern Territory, where there has been destruction of parts of the Finniss River. We can talk about a transient worker who was employed for something like three months at the West Valley plant in the United States in a particularly high radiation level room. Two of his children have been born genetically deformed and their life expectancy is no more than 10 years. We can talk about studies in the United States which show that there is a slight increase in radiation levels in rabbits and fish around reactor sites in the United States. Of course, honourable senators opposite may not be concerned about rabbits and fish because they may not realise that many people in this world live off those rabbits and fish.
As I said before, even the experts that are quoted in the Newsweek article are in a dilemma over the Harrisburg situation. Even the community people involved, including the Governor of the State of Pennsylvania, are confused. President Carter has said that he is not sure what the long term effects will be. He is not sure whether people will have to be evacuated. The company itself has said that it does not as yet know what will be the outcome of the Harrisburg situation.
I wanted particularly to relate this situation to an incident which occurred some months ago in Western Australia. In Western Australia we have a Premier who wants to subject us to the installation of a nuclear energy station. I referred earlier to the fact that the Press was in cahoots with big business and with governments. It is quite selective in the news that it publishes. On 7 December, an article appeared in the Western Australian Daily News. Honourable senators could be excused if they read the paper and missed it because it did not receive anywhere near the same prominence as other vital national or even international news items. For instance, it was four pages after an item about pornographic posters being taken off the streets of Paris. It was seven pages after a rather lengthy description of San Francisco’s new mayoress, which ended up telling the world that she was ‘elegant’. The Wanneroo Shire Council’s rejection of proposals for a nude beach made page six. Even the Federal Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom), who at that stage attempted to foil a cat burglar, made page 12. One of the most important items, and one that could affect many people in Australia- particularly in Western Australiamade page 29. It was put in almost as an afterthought. Just so we get our priorities right it followed those delightful paid advertisements which tell where one can get ripped-off if one happens to be able to afford to dine out in Perth. This article in the Daily News of Thursday, 7 December 1978, is headed ‘Lost “hot” device underlines danger’. The dateline is Kalgoorlie. The article states:
A local anti-uranium group said yesterday that the recent disappearance of a radioactive device from the Kambalda nickel operations underlined the danger of nuclear energy.
Should the uranium industry really get under way in this area- and it won’t stop at a research plant- there will be far more lethal problems at hand ‘, a spokesman for Goldfields Against Nuclear Energy (GANE) said.
The device, described as ‘potentially dangerous’, was reported missing by Western Mining Corporation in mid-November.
It contains Cesium 137 and is used for measuring the density of nickel the time that it was not pulp. The company said it was not known if the device had been stolen or lost.
It was still missing yesterday.
The GANE spokesman said: ‘People in the Eastern Goldfields who have stopped to think will have realised how serious this matter is.
It was stated that the material has a half-life of 30 yearswhich means that exposure to it for a short time would have far more disastrous effects than would the same exposure to material with a half-life of, say, 100,000 years.
The shorter the half-life the more quickly the deadly radioactivity is dispersed ‘.
The article continues:
The loss of the device must have embarrased WMC officials.
I am sure that it did because it was some weeks later that the newspaper reported, again in a very small paragraph on a rather obscure page under the heading of ‘N-device shipped in scrap’, that in actual fact the ‘hot’ device which was causing so much concern to Western Mining Corporation’s officials had been shipped in scrap metal to Singapore. The Singapore Government really did not like it very much and it wanted to know what was going to happen to it. The Western Australian Government said it assumed that the device previously described as ‘potentially dangerous’ went to Singapore last month. This report is on 12 December so at the same time that that statement was made, on 7 December, it had already been missing for quite some time. The article said that the Western Mining Corporation was likely to be prosecuted over the incident. Honourable senators might be pleased to know that that organisation is being prosecuted over the incident now.
Of course, it raises other questions: Did the workers at the Kambalda nickel refinery know that they were working with radioactive material? Were they told that this was happening? Obviously, the Western Mining Corporation did not provide adequate security. There is no way that a potentially dangerous or ‘hot’ device can just disappear. I can assure honourable senators that it is taken quite deliberately. If it is shipped with scrap metal, it is picked up with the scrap metal. It is potentially dangerous to people’s health. The Western Mining Corporation just happens to be the organisation that is going to mine uranium at Yeelirrie. Members of that organisation are the people who presumably will be providing uranium for the Western Australian nuclear energy station if it gets under way. If they cannot be responsible for a radioactive device which they are using in their nickel mines, how on earth can they be responsible for a much more potentially dangerous material which may be available to them in a uranium mine? I now refer to an article in the West Australian of 13 December. It stated:
Western Mining Corporation has tightened security at its Kambalda nickel-mining operation to prevent the loss of any more radioactive measuring devices.
Would not honourable senators have expected that it would have tightened its security before it was lost? The company must have been aware of the potentially dangerous substance. The officials certainly knew that it was radioactive, even if the workers did not. These are the organisations that do not want us to discuss uranium, especially when people happen to be anti-uranium. They are concerned that we- I suppose one might call us the anti-uranium lobby- may be able to point out to the people of Australia that we will be in danger from radioactivity if we go ahead not only with the mining of uranium but also with the installation of nuclear energy stations. We will be in danger if we allow people to work in mines where they will be subjected to high levels of radiation. Perhaps there would be an excuse for this hiding of facts by the Government, by companies and by the Press if Australia was going to benefit a great deal by either the mining of uranium or the installation of nuclear stations. I can assure honourable senators that Western Australia which has a population of 1.2 million cannot afford nuclear energy. We do not want it. As I have already said, we cannot handle it. Irrespective of what the Government may have to say on this issue there are no adequate safeguards.
– Won’t Sir Charles listen?
– No, unfortunately he is rather like the Minister for Science and the Environment. He does not believe that there has been any loss of life in the nuclear industry. He says that it is very responsible. As I have already pointed out, it is responsible for an awful lot of things but one could not call it a responsible industry. Even the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has predicted that there will be a big drop in world demand for uranium, yet we are still going ahead with the mining of uranium. We are going to allow the Western Mining Corporation to commence operations at Yeelirrie because somehow some people somewhere along the line- I will leave it to the imagination of those listening as to where these people arewill make a lot of money. It will not be us. We will not get cheap energy. It has already been proven in the United States and other countries that nuclear energy is no longer cheap. We will not benefit to any great extent by additional income in Australia. We will not even provide a great number of jobs. The Fox report has already told us all these things.
I started this debate tonight to counteract what I considered to be the most dangerous statement that a supposedly responsible Minister in this Government could have made during the debate last night. He said that there has been no loss of life and that the nuclear industry is a responsible industry. I do not believe that we should have in this house a Minister who makes an unsubstantiated statement similar to the one he made last night that the nuclear industry is a responsible industry. It is not a responsible industry. It is in the business to make money. Let us not delude ourselves. Any consideration of responsibility is secondary only to the amount of money that the nuclear industry can rip off from the people of Australia and people throughout the world.
– At Question Time, in first reading debates and by way of questions on notice, I have tried, to no avail, to elicit some information from the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) relating to the intrusion of the largest hospital corporation in the United States of America, the Hospital Corporation of America, into the acquisition of a chain of hospitals. Those requests have been met with such deafening silence from the Minister that I raise the matter again. The silence and the secrecy surrounding this matter are obviously a cover-up of the Government’s retreat from providing a comprehensive health care facility ibr the people of Australia. What is actually happening is that the Government is narrowing the area of publicly funded health care. The Government has no mandate to do that. I want to know why it is doing that and I want to know the details surrounding that action.
The area in which there is a narrowing is in the provision of services, in the reduction of Medibank services, in the provision of hospital and health centres and in the provision of Capital Works funds available to the hospitals. The withdrawal of those funds leaves the field wide open for opportunist and profit-seeking transnationals to exploit the provision of health care services in Australia. Already a commitment has been entered into in Australia for a program which embraces the purchase of numerous existing private hospitals. Therefore, tonight I raise again the matter of the private hospital multinationals which seem to be looking at Australia as a luctrative investment area.
The Minister for Health has been very slow to answer my questions. Yesterday my colleague in another place, the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), asked the Minister for Health a question. The Minister took refuge by placing the bulk of the question on notice. T might add that it was last November when I first raised this matter with the Minister. Even the Press is making humourous reference to the supercilious cynicism of the Minister’s answer. The Sunday Press has drawn attention to the stupidity of the answers which are being given by the Minister. It makes me wonder just how well he is being briefed by his departmental advisers, or what he is trying to cover up. Have those advisers undertaken adequate cost-benefit studies? Has the Minister received a full briefing on each of the firms which are seeking to establish themselves here? I want to know why there is a silence. Are the lobbyists getting to the Minister?
– You are not reading that, are you, senator?
– I am referring to copious notes, which I am entitled to do. Senator Baume has done that and his colleagues frequently do so.
Government senators interjecting-
- Mr President, I ask for relative silence for a few moments, please, while I give this information to the Senate. I am asking for an answer on this matter from the Minister. Has the Minister read an article in the Wall Street Journal of 27 October 1978, headed Hospital Corp. of America settles suit by S.E.C. over payments in Saudi contract’? That article reveals that the HCA paid nearly $4.3m to a Liechtenstein entity called ASSEM, established between 1973 and 1977. The payments ostensibly were for ‘advisory, consultancy and liaison services’ in connection with HCA’s contract to manage the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Saudi Arabia. In fact, this Liechtenstein outfit, ASSEM, had no employees or operations and thus no capacity to perform any such services for HCA. What really happened was that ASSEM was a conduit for payoffs to some people in Saudi Arabia. HCA had $4.3m to spread around. If this operation was all above board why did the company have to spread this benefice in Saudi Arabia?
The Securities and Exchange Commission, in its law suit against HCA, said that HCA internal memoranda showed that the Hospital Corporation of America was aware that these payments were really payoffs to influential Saudi Arabians. But HCA did not disclose this information to its shareholders or to Government investigators. Has the Minister for Health asked HCA about these investigations? HCA has tried to say that it thought the $4.3m in payments was simply commission on the negotiation of the contract. I asked last week in the Senate whether the Government was aware that HCA was in a list of companies which had disclosed to the SEC that they might have made foreign payoffs.
The Wall Street Journal article has provided me with further information while I am still waiting for my answers from the Minister. I might add that $8m of the HCA investment in Australia is coming allegedly from profits made in Saudi Arabia and in Panama. My reference for this is the cover story on HCA in the August 1978 issue of Modern Health Care. I point out to the Minister that the SEC, in discussing the fees- or could we say the bribe- that HCA paid to ASSEM contended that the company did not absorb the cost of the fees but instead marked up the price for the services to the hospitals under its management contract. That is, the SEC charged HCA with price mark-ups in Saudi Arabia. This Saudi Arabian hospital contract was quite lucrative and the Securities and Exchange Commission said that HCA received approximately $27.6m in revenue between 1973 and 1977 for this hospital operation. This, after all, is the biggest investor-owned private hospital organisation in the world. It is coming into Australia unobtrusively and buying up a chain of hospitals here.
My first question on this matter was on 21 November last year when I sought information from the Minister. It is now over four months since I asked the Minister for an explanation of this new development in health care in Australia. I am asking again why the Minister will not answer the questions that I have raised. What has he to hide? Why can he not supply the Senate, the Parliament and the people of Australia with reasons for his reticence in answering these questions when the track form of this organisation in other parts of the world is such that it is using methods not tolerable in this country to intrude into other countries outside the United States of America? I demand an answer from the Minister.
– Tonight I wish to speak for a few minutes in the Senate adjournment debate. I apologise for speaking at such a late hour. I had hoped to have the opportunity to speak during the first reading stage of a Bill or possibly when the statement by the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) was presented in the Senate. I believe that it is important for us to have a debate on the economy and on economic issues. Associated with the debate on economic issues is the current position in relation to, what I term, wage-push inflation.
If this continues and gets out of hand- and I believe the Government must take a firm stand to ensure that excessive or irresponsible wage demands are curtailed- once inflation starts and goes awry it will be very difficult to get it back again. I therefore speak with a degree of feeling on this matter. Some honourable senators may doubt the wisdom of my speaking on a topic such as management of money supply. Some may argue that money supply in relation to gross national product is declining and is a matter of insignificance. Others may say: ‘Well, after all the record has been pretty good; why raise matters of concern?’ Let us get back to basics. After all, money is not only the medium of exchange, the store of value and standard of value, but also its supply affects the amount of spending. In the simple analysis we should have enough money to buy at current prices all the goods and services that the economy is able to produce. In this simple analysis, in spending less there will be idle capacity, and spending more leads to higher prices but no extra goods and services.
Two fundamental propositions arise from this. Firstly, there is a need for fine tuning. If the quantity of money is increased substantially the price is likely to fall and commodity prices will rise. We have already seen steps taken in just this last week whereby certain of the financing of the wheat was transferred to the commercial bill market. This is an indication of a step that the Government has taken to mop up what may have been regarded by many and myself as excessive liquidity in the economy. The second element is that I do not believe the Treasurer can control both the rate of interest and the quantity of money. I think attempts at this have proved unsuccessful.
The third element that must be recognised are the international movements because Australia, as a major trading nation, cannot isolate itself from movements that are happening on the world scene. I recognise that measures must be taken in relation to the control of money supply and I believe that one measure which may have to be taken- it may not necessarily be popular- is that, to some minor extent, we may have to introduce a degree of minor flexibility in our exchange rates. I believe the time has come when essentially we should be thinking of revaluing, but more of that anon. If a responsible government does not take continuing steps, we are likely to see ad hoc stringent measures, such as the Whitlam 25 per cent across-the-board tariff cuts or the Fraser 1 Vh per cent devaluation, which was subsequently reduced and caused considerable loss to a number of importing companies. I know of one such situation where $200,000 was out on finance as a result of goods imported from abroad and because of this unnecessary measure $35,000 was lost overnight. I therefore give that as an example of the need for continual fine tuning rather than ad hoc stringent measures being taken too late.
Later in my dissertation I will give some indication of the need for up-to-date indicators rather than what I shall call lag indicators and a response to those. Before doing so I wish to say that up to 1978 the Government has done a pretty good job, but I plead: do not let it go. The sacrifices have indeed been painful.
We have to deal with a delicate economy. Probably people outside the Parliament do not realise how vulnerable the economy may become in the absence of wise economic decisions. Some of the decisions are not always popular, and certainly not necessarily popular in the Press. I believe that if we allow a situation to arise in which inflation reaches a level of 10 per cent or more, then inflation will become rampant. We have seen previously the effects of such a situation. In the interests of employment and of this nation we must not let this happen again.
One of the problems facing Australia is that as export prices and profits are high these have largely caused a resurgence of wage demands. From the union point of view I suppose that those demands are not unreasonable. The consumers realise what is happening. For example, on the shop floor the housewife is now paying prices for beef that are four times what they were two years ago, and twice what they were 12 months ago. In such situations wage costs must be curtailed but a degree of price restraint is also needed. Let us look at some of the figures. The consumer price index was reduced from 15.1 per cent in 1975 to 7.9 per cent last year. Honourable senators may recall that the consumer price index of 7.9 per cent compared very favourably with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development figure of something like 8.5 per cent. So Australia had done remarkably well. For the first time, its consumer price index figure had fallen below that of the OECD average.
That reduction in the consumer price index from 15.1 per cent to 7.9 per cent in four years, was accompanied by a remarkable wage unit cost when compared with productivity gain. In other words, in respect of wage unit costs, we had a productivity gain. This alone enabled Australian industry to become very much more competitive. A lot of our manufacturers find that because of this situation they are now able to compete successfully on the export market. In addition, they are able to compete much more successfully at home. Honourable senators may ask how this was achieved? It was achieved by two means, namely, monetary policy and fiscal policy. I must admit that some of the fiscal steps taken may at the time have been a little misplaced, but their long-term effects or implication are there. I will mention only one. The investment allowance was heralded as great but, in retrospect, we have seen that the 40 per cent investment allowance was expended by companies not on purchasing Australian machines but those from overseas. However, the long-term effect will be that those Australian companies should be more efficient. Australia has indeed been a lucky country. At the same time as these two situations were happening- that is one in relation to the consumer price index and the other in relation to the productivity wage ratio is terms of unit costthere was a mild depreciation of the Australian dollar. That resulted from the adjustments that took place following the major devaluations and revaluations that were necessary after the calamity of 1976.
Let me give some figures that emphasise the importance to our international trading pattern of the depreciation of the Australian dollar in terms of world currencies. The figures are for the years 1975 to 1976 and they relate to the purchasing power of the Australian dollar in terms of special drawing rights as calculated by the International Monetary Fund on a mix of worldwide currencies. So I will be using representative figures that are used, as it were, in the balance sheets of the International Monetary Fund. In 1975 the Australian dollar bought the money equivalent of 1.074 SDRs. In 1978 it effectively purchased 0.893 SDRs. The result was that our exports were very much more competitive. Australia was indeed a lucky country. So we can say that fixing our exchange rate in relation to this selective basket of currencies operated quite successfully to the country’s benefit during this period. In other words, by 1 978 the Australian inflation rate was below the figure for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Australia outperformed OECD countries, which was very commendable. In addition we had productivity gains on unit costs.
However, over the last six months we have seen a change. World inflation is beginning to take off. It is accelerating. This is partly because of the fairly buoyant situation in the economies of the leading industrial trading nations. It is also due to an increasing trend in oil prices which has been exacerbated by the situation in Iran. The United States had an inflation of 10 per cent for most of 1978. In February 1979 the rate had risen to 15 per cent. This is a somewhat alarming figure. Because on our basket of currencies arrangement in setting the exchange rate, we may now be in a situation where, if we are not careful, we could tie ourselves in with world inflation. While world inflation was coming down we were outperforming other countries, we were doing remarkably well.
But I add a word of warning. As the world inflation rate is rising- and one only has to see the figure for America- we are in dilemma. We must do something about our exchange rate because I believe that the basket of currencies situation is not entirely appropriate in a situation of world inflation. We must guard against importing of world inflation, as we did once before. A certain amount of imported inflation is inevitable, but as a government we must mitigate its effects. Certain domestic restraints may postpone the effect for a while, but not for long. World market prices for beef have been quite significant for Australia. But I believe that we must be somewhat careful in looking at these world beef prices, because of what President Carter has done. He has opened the United States to a tremendous influx of beef to keep domestic prices down simply because- I remind Senator Baume of this- a presidential election is coming up and he wants to keep his cost structure down. I submit that as soon as this presidential election is over we will be in a situation in which, because of the powerful United States lobby, many of these beef markets could be lost. I therefore believe that we must examine and embark upon a policy of a very mild appreciation of our currency, rather than a manipulation through the Industries Assistance Commission by knocking off one company through tariffs. We must have a mechanism which affects the whole community. This is why I believe that there is some value in adjusting the exchange rate.
The reason I say that the exchange rate can be appreciated mildly or to a very small degree is that Australian producers are at the moment showing not unreasonable profits on world markets; some would say that they are showing high profits. This is true both in agriculture and in manufacturing. This situation, not unnaturally, causes new wage demands and these wage demands, as I mentioned earlier by reference to the shop prices, will be fuelled by rising food prices that effectively reduce the real wage. We must be careful that the world inflation does not speed up the demand for wage rises. I believe that such a situation would endanger what was accomplished during those hard years from 1 975 to 1978. If we keep the exchange rate fixed I believe that we could get a degree of conflict between a restrictive domestic policy and world inflation. I believe that Australia should not repeat the experience of 1970 to 1972. Australia should start to appreciate its currency very gradually and, if need be, depreciate it to some extent.
If we look at the situation of the progressive and successful countries round the world we note those countries that have followed such a policy of appreciation in the situation in which Australia is now placed. Those countries include Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Austria and the Netherlands. In fact, they include most of the European Economic Community countries. On the other hand, the countries that have followed a policy of deflation or devaluation have had severe troubles. Look at the position of the United Kingdom. Between 1968 and 1978 the United Kingdom pound was worth only about 60 per cent of its former value in terms of the United States dollar. Only in the last two years has the situation of the pound improved, and I submit that that is largely due to the oil position in the North Sea. Canada is another country which has undergone deflation. We also know the situation in Italy.
We must indeed be careful of this cost push, because certain unions actually have a monopolistic position. They are in a position to push excessive wage demands, but unfortunately nowadays the economy is so delicately balanced that the result is further and higher unemployment. The small businessmen who are unable to pay the wages disappear; the larger business enterprises continue but with machines replacing men. In such situations unemployment continues to rise. Unfortunately, to counter this we usually find that most governments tend to increase the monetary supply to try to offset some of the unemployment situations, because governments must meet the electorate ‘s expectations about the unacceptably high unemployment levels; and this is one way that it may be achieved. Therefore, we must not postpone this revision of the rate of exchange because if we wait too long, if we do not take steps to control the money supply, it may be too late.
What about capital inflows? If our currency appreciates mildly, we will attract foreign money, because foreign money tends to move to those countries where currencies tend to appreciate. In this respect I think I have already mentioned the countries of the EEC. The movements in the exchange rate must not be excessive. I believe that we must take steps to alter some of our economic indicators because as a government we must not be accused of driving the vehicle through, what I might term, the rear vision mirror. We should not only look at and react to indicators such as movements in consumer price indices, the level of unemployment and prices and the balance of payments positions, to name but a few, because I think we will find that here in Australia the consumer price index lags behind the business cycle and, as such, we may be in a position whereby we close the stable door after the horse has left. What we do need to do to overcome the situation, as businessmen do in their businesses, is to have an up-to-date position on orders and stocks and monetary supply. It is indeed true that the Confederation of Industry, in conjunction with the Bank of New South Wales, takes sample statistics from representative firms, but what is needed is a comprehensive and up-to-date figure on orders. We also need to know the up-to-date position on stocks. It is true that the Bureau of Statistics collects these figures, but by the time they are published they are woefully out of date.
What are the alternatives to not making an alteration? It is possible that a government could shore up the economy by what I may term massive government intervention, and the more it tries to shore it up the greater that intervention is going to be. I would submit that it is going to be only a short time palliative because it will be out of step with world events. I believe that we must be careful that we do not have excessive government intervention. I will cite two figures. The Dutch Planning Bureau, as compared with the Industries Assistance Commission, operates with a number of people with academic backgrounds on a ratio of something like 1 to ten; and it performs a far wider service. I believe that the Government is justified in acting on the wages policy. It must look at having a degree of flexibility in the exchange rate to ensure that we are not in a position of allowing the inflation rate to get out of hand.
– I acknowledge the comments that Senator Watson has made. They appear to be most responsible and I take it that he has researched this subject very well. It is for a Minister other than me to respond to his remarks and I will see that the responsible Minister’s attention is directed to them.
I respond on my own behalf to Senator Ruth Coleman who has raised the matter of a statement I made in response to Senator Keeffe ‘s address in the adjournment debate last evening. I imagine that it is causing some excitement to Senator Coleman but it is causing very little excitement to people on her side of the chamber. Although it is 12.10 a.m. there is sufficient attention on this subject for only two other senators on the Labor side, other than Senator Coleman, to be here. The points raised by her were in relation to a comment made that the uranium industry appeared to be a most responsible industry -
– Not appeared to be- is.
– I certainly endorse that it is. I felt that my statements were well substantiated. I acknowledge that Senator Coleman may not agree with them. She has given a list of accidents and has asserted that many deaths have occurred in the nuclear industry going back as far as 20 years ago. I will have that information researched and I will be most anxious to inform the Senate of the result of that research on another occasion. Let me assure Senator Coleman that I make no claim to be .well informed on uranium or on the nuclear industry. I am certainly not well informed on that particular subject.
As a senator for many years, and as Minister, I have attempted to become informed on a very technical subject. I have made visits to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, with a committee of the Senate on one occasion and on a private visit on another occasion. I have visited the Ranger uranium area on two separate occasions. I have visited Rum Jungle and have carried out extensive reading on the subject. However, if Senator Coleman feels that she is well informed on the subject, then so be it. It is not something which I claim. My comment was made from the position that one finds that most industrial effort has risk. I think the honourable senator would agree with me, if she has knowledge of industry, that those who are involved in industry are generally at some risk. The energy industry is no exception.
Some senators have knowledge of the coal mining industry and are aware of the risks associated with it, as with electricity that may be produced. The liquid fuel industry deals with a most volatile substance, but Senator Coleman directs not questions to those industries. I can only assume that she has omitted to do so with the intention of not drawing attention to the problems that occur in that industry.
– It is selective deception.
– I feel it is, because I heard criticism by Senator Coleman as to my position. As Minister for the Environment- I have expressed this opinion in this place before- I believe that the burning of fossil fuels in our society is perhaps one of the greatest risks we face. I have the obligation of attempting to montior the condition of the atmosphere and the change in its constituents. It is a very major problem but I have no doubt that it passes over you, Senator.
You will readily take a motor vehicle home tonight with all the expulsion of exhaust waste into the atmosphere. You will be most anxious to turn on an electrical switch tonight without any thought of the risk to those people who are involved in that particular industry. I have no doubt that you will be flying to Western Australia on the first aircraft you can board without any consideration as to the risks borne by the people in that industry. I believe that the nuclear industry is a most responsible industry. I believe my statement to be correct. Senator Coleman used words like ‘trying to fool the people’.
– Quite right.
-‘ Hiding of the facts’.
– Quite right.
-‘The Press is endeavouring to hide . . .’.
– Quite right.
-‘ Burying the head in the sand ‘.
– Quite right.
– I hear Senator O’Byrne emphasising all of these points. I note Senator Coleman has said that these are the organisations which do not want us to discuss uranium. Whenever Senator Coleman speaks in the Senate on this industry I invite her to show her honesty and her goodwill by first expressing to the Senate the occurrences in 1974 when she was a member of the Labor Party while it was in government. I recall Senator Coleman being a member of the Parliament at that time. Senator Justin O’Byrne was the President of the Senate at that time.
– This is absolutely unbelievable.
-Senator Georges was a member of Parliament at the time. I wish to draw the Senate’s attention to a document I have in my possession. It is concerned with the Ranger uranium mining project. We hear comments such as ‘only in it for the money’ and other statements similar to that. This document starts with these words:
The parties to this memorandum desire to procure the development and mining of uranium ore deposits in the Ranger Project area in the Northern Territory and the production and sale of uranium concentrate from that ore.
The document goes on to say, at page 3:
The Ranger Project shall continue in force during the economic life of the uranium ore deposits in the Project area.
It does not say that the project shall continue for a short time but that it shall continue during the economic life of the uranium ore deposits in the project area. This may surprise some of those senators who have been elected more recently. Clause 5 of the document deals with the scale of operation. It reads:
The treatment plant shall:
have an initial annual capacity of not less than 3,300 short tons of U.0 in uranium concentrate conforming to the quality specifications of Allied Chemicals Corporation, USA;
The document goes on to state:
When commercially practicable the annual capacity shall be increased to 6,600 short tons …
I imagine that this is shocking news to Senator Puplick. I know that some Opposition senators are getting a little upset about this. All that needs to be said is a statement to be found on the final page of the document. This deals with the money aspect. It states:
In calculating the net proceeds from the sale of yellow cake from the mill the proportionate costs of mining and selling and milling charges will be deducted from sales revenue.
Wait for this next part. The signatures appearing on this document are E. G. Whitlam, J. F. Cairns and R. Connor. Senator Coleman may not have known of that document. I ask that, if ever she or her colleagues suggest in this place or on public platforms that the newspapers do not report correctly and attempt to hide the facts, they should in all honesty advise us of the attitude they took at the time to the actions which their senior Ministers were taking in relation to that project. When they have done that in honesty, I think they will be able to hold their heads high and will be able to be considered reputable people in the community.
- Senator O’Byrne again raised matters which he has raised previously with regard to private hospitals. When he raised these matters previously I undertook to refer them to the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt). I will again undertake to do that and see whether
I can facilitate an early answer for the honourable senator.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 12.19 a.m. (Thursday)
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 24 October 1 978:
Has the Australian Broadcasting Commission made any representations to the Government regarding the retention of the position of staff-elected Commissioner; if so, how has the Government responded.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. I have stated publicly that the Government does not believe that the election of members of staff to Commissions is the most appropriate way, either to ensure an effective Commission or further the relationship between staff and management.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 7 November 1978:
Which airports serviced by either Trans Australia Airlines Ltd or Ansett Airlines of Australia Ltd do not have a public telephone.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Telecom Australia has advised that the following airports do not have public or leased coin telephone servicesQuilpie; Cooktown; Hayman Island; Isisford; Thursday Island; Winton; Whitsunday; Happy Bay; South Molle; Birdsville and Daydream Island.
There are, however, subscriber telephone services at these airports with the exception of Birdsville and Daydream Island.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 8 November 1978:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The delay in restoring the Cox Peninsula station has meant that Radio Australia has not had the transmitter power to compete effectively against the major international services broadcasting to the Asian region.
Telecom Australia’s latest analysis of Radio Australia monitoring reports for the March to May 1978 schedule show the following:
Example: Broadcasts to the prime target country, Indonesia, were unintelligible for 1 1 per cent of every day and poor for 28 per cent. The most frequent unintelligible period was at peak evening listening time, (ii) As to signal strength, Radio Australia’s signal every day of the period was overall less than 50 per cent effective and not effective at all at peak listening times.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 14 November 1978:
(a) Telecom Australia does not grant free telephone services, as such, to its officers.
Official Telephone Services are rent free and the holders are granted150 free meter registrations in each six monthly billing. Trunk calls and STD calls related to official business are recoverable, subject to approval by the particular Branch Head on production of a record of the calls made showing date, duration, destination and reason for each call.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 22 November 1 978:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
and (2) To provide the information sought could breach the confidentiality of the sales made to the various State and Local Government authorities and to private buyers. All sales were made in accordance with normal Government policy which, unless the Minister for Administrative Services determines otherwise, is to dispose of property surplus to Commonwealth requirements in the following order of priority:
Summary sales information based on an analysis of my Department’s records is provided in the following tables:
asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 22 November 1978:
When may I expect a reply to the question I asked in the Senate on 17 November 1978 in relation to economy rates for booked long-distance calls(Hansard, page 2 180).
The lower STD charges introduced from 26 November 1978 also apply to manually connected calls in all instances whereSTDisnotavailable.
Trunk calls originated by subscribers served by noncontinuous exchanges which close before 10.00 p.m. on week days are now charged at the Economy Rate for the last hour each day Monday to Friday inclusive, and at the Night Rate for at least the second last hour that the exchange is open for business, depending on the actual closing time. For example, at exchanges closing at 6.00 p.m., the Economy Rate applies on calls made between5.00 p.m. and 6.00 p.m. and the Night Rate on calls originated between 4.00 p.m. and5.00 p.m. Subscribers to exchanges closing at 9.00 p.m. pay the Economy Rate on calls between 8.00 p.m. and 9.00 p.m. and can take advantage of the Night Rate on calls between 6.00 p.m. and 8.00 p.m. Calls originated at all non-continuous exchanges on Saturdays are charged at the Intermediate (Sunday) Rate during the scheduled hours, a concession introducedfrom1Septemberlast.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
Did a statement in the Catholic Leader, 17 December 1978, indicate that a letter to the Minister on 27 October 1978 ‘had not even received a routine acknowledgement’: if so, is the assertion correct: if correct, why did this occur.
Yes. Yes: the lack of acknowledgement was due to shortcomings in administrative procedures covering the handling of correspondence.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 20 February 1 979:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications, has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 20 March 1979:
What is: (a) the recommended staff size; and (b) the current staff size of the Commonwealth Police at Sydney’s international and domestic airports.
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The approved establishment is assessed to cover both tasks simultaneously.
-On 19 October 1978, Senator Ryan asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, the following question without notice:
I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and refer to an article, which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, written by Isabel Lukas, the ethnic affairs reporter for that newspaper. It claims that the Special Broadcasting Service is considering a major reorganisation of ethnic radio which could involve the dismissal of about 400 broadcasters, coordinators and contributors in Sydney and Melbourne: I ask the Minister Is the sacking of these 400 people intended by the Special Broadcasting Service? If so, why is it so? What is the intention of the Government in regard to ethnic community participation in the future administration of the Special Broadcasting Service, in the appointment of coordinators for the service and in the development of programming policy by the Special Broadcasting Service.
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. Procedures relating to the selection and recruitment of broadcasters and coordinators by the Special Broadcasting Service have yet to be determined. Consultations with interested parties are proceeding, and it is hoped that an announcement on this matter will be made shortly.
Australian Broadcasting Commission
-On 21 November 1978 Senator Button asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, the following question without notice:
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question of the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Will the Minister consult with his colleague in another place and indicate to the Senate at a later stage what is the lead time in program making in the Australian Broadcasting Commission following the provision of extra funds for program making? That is to say, how long does the provision of extra funds or the absence of funds take to have effect on the infrastructure of program making in the ABC?
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian Broadcasting Commission has indicated that it plans its program output in respect of initial estimates considered alongside the appropriation made available to it in the Budget.
The lead time in program making, therefore, will depend upon an indication of the exact amount of additional funds to be made available, the time of the year at which the funds will be forthcoming and the type of program to be made.
Ethnic Television Service
-On 23 November 1978, Senator Ryan asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, the following question without notice:
I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. It relates to the proposed ethnic television service that is planned to start in a pilot form in January 1979. Will all programs on ethnic television be made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission or will private production companies be involved? Will there be any commercial advertising on ethnic television during the pilot period?
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is intended that the pilot ethnic television service to be provided through the facilities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission will present programs which may be produced by the ABC, local production companies, or purChased from overseas sources. There will be no commercial advertising on ethnic television during the pilot period.
State Hospital Funding
-On 1 March 1979, Senator Messner asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Health, a question without notice (Hansard, pages 399-400) concerning the hospital cost-sharing arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States and the report on hospitals in South Australia prepared by the South Australian Public Accounts Committee and tabled by the South Australian Government on 28 February 1979.
The Minister for Health has provided the following information:
It can be argued that the original Hospital Cost Sharing Agreements, introduced by the previous Government, were open-ended and unwieldy arrangements.
However, those agreements were deemed to be invalid in May 1976 and new agreements with the States were negotiated to apply from 1 October 1976. The new agreements provide for the Commonwealth to cost share the approved budgeted net operating costs of recognised hospitals. Thus the former open-ended financial commitment was replaced. The agreements provide for the operating cost budgets to be agreed to by joint Commonwealth/State Committees of officials. These Committees closely examine proposed expenditure and, since the new agreements were introduced, the growth rate in recognised hospital operating costs has slowed markedly.
With regard to the Report by the South Austraiian Public Accounts Committee I have recently received a copy of the report and my Department is currently examining it in relation to the Commonwealth role in the hospital cost-sharing arrangements.
However, it must be borne in mind that the operation of individual public recognised hospitals is the responsibility of the various State Governments and therefore control of funds being allocated to those hospitals and financial management of those funds is primarily the responsibility of the State Governments. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth, by way of the Hospital Cost Sharing Arrangements, is very concerned to promote good financial management and cost containment in the recognised hospital system. The major direction of the Commonwealth’s relationship with the States over hospital cost-sharing in recent times has been to ensure as far as possible that efficiency and cost-containment objectives are vigorously pursued.
As already indicated to you, discussions have been held on hospital productivity, efficiency and cost-containment involving representatives of the Commonwealth and State/ Territory health authorities. As a result of those discussions, I have received a report from the Commonwealth officials and I have recently requested the comments of the State Health Ministers on the proposals contained in that report. When these comments have been received I will be in a position to consider the matter further.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 April 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790404_senate_31_s80/>.