31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– It is with very deep regret that I inform the Senate of the death earlier today of Sir Charles Adermann. He had been a colleague and a friend of many members and former members of the Parliament and father of our colleague Evan Adermann, the honourable member for Fisher and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. Many honourable senators on both sides of the Senate will share my regret at the passing of a person who, notwithstanding his politics, was, a fine gentleman indeed, I move:
Charles Adermann was born on 3 August 1896 at Vernon Siding in Queensland. At the young age of 28 he entered the service of his State as Chairman of the Queensland Peanut Marketing Board, a position he retired from in 1952. He served as Chairman of the Kingaroy Shire Council from 1939 to 1946. He was a man well known in his district and in his industry. In the national Parliament, Charles Adermann served with great distinction. He was elected to the House of Representatives at 11 elections; in 1955 he was elected unopposed. He was Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party from 1964 to 1966. In 1950 he became Chairman of Committees, holding that position until 1958. He served as Deputy Speaker on three occasions.
In 1958 Charles Adermann was appointed Minister for Primary Industry. Again he served the Parliament with the distinction he had brought to the position of Chairman of Committees. Over the nine years he held that portfolio, Sir Charles placed a distinctive stamp on Australian agriculture. He was liked and respected by all those with whom he came in contact. Sir Charles was first and foremost a parliamentarian. His work as Chairman of Committees testifies to this. He also appreciated the need for contact with other parliaments. He attended three conferences of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. In 1965 he was a delegation leader. His efforts for the Government and the people of Australia were recognised in 1966 when he was appointed a member of Her Majesty’s Privy Council. In 1 970 Charles Adermann was appointed a Knight Commander of the British Empire.
I believe that all honourable senators will join me in extending sympathy to Sir Charles’s widow and to his family and, of course, to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. We feel a great sense of loss for a man who distinguished himself as a parliamentarian, a Minister and a dedicated member of his Party. All those who knew him, knew him as a fine gentleman with high principles, simple dignity and indeed a true friend. We will all miss him.
– The Opposition wishes to associate itself with the condolence motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick), who has spelt out in some detail the quite distinguished parliamentary career of the late Sir Charles Adermann. Sir Charles, of course, was very well known as Minister for Primary Industry between 1958 and 1967. Having occupied that position myself some years later, I can recall that in the rural areas of Australia his name was always held in very high regard. Even though there were those who disagreed with some of the views that Sir Charles expressed, he was regarded with great respect as a conscientious and hard-working Minister. He was involved in a great amount of the new thinking that arose at that time in the administration of primary industry, especially in the area of marketing arrangements and local government. I am sure that the work he did for the rural community of Australia will not be forgotten in this generation. The Opposition extends its sympathy to Sir Charles’s family.
– I am privileged to speak on the motion of condolence that has been moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) and supported by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt). Charles Adermann possessed a combination of outstanding qualities not often given to or acquired by an individual. These qualities included a deep resolve in Christianity, absolute integrity, humility, humanity, sound political judgment, and great love and respect for his country and his countrymen. He displayed all of these qualities throughout his long term of 29 years in the Federal sphere of Parliament. I knew Sir Charles well in this place. The nation is the poorer for the passing of an outstanding Australian. His life and character stand as a magnificent example for all to follow. I extend sincere sympathy to Lady Adermann and her family in their time of grief. Mr President, my National Country Party colleagues from Queensland wish to endorse my remarks and pay further tribute to Sir Charles.
– I associate my party with the motion of condolence at the passing of Charles Adermann but, more particularly, I rise as someone who knew Sir Charles personally. I served with him in the Ministry and I had unbounded admiration for his integrity. He was a very active member- in fact a much more active member than I- in the church in which I was raised as a child. I believe that he did quite a bit of lay preaching in that church, the Church of Christ. He was a man who one could say was a Christian, not only by the stamp of the faith he wore but also by his actions. During the time I knew him I never heard him say anything nasty about anybody, and despite his senior position in the Cabinet he was always ready and humble to help anybody who might need help. One could hardly say that one regretted the passing of a man whose life was so full. I think Senator Carrick said that Sir Charles was born in 1896. I know that he lived a very full and happy life. The Australian Democrats, like the other parties, would like to extend our condolences to Sir Charles’s family.
-I would like to add my support to the motion. I had a long association with Sir Charles. He was a very great supporter of our party in Queensland, and even when he left this Parliament, he continued his association with the party. He was always very helpful to everyone within the party. As other honourable senators have said, he was highly regarded by most people in Queensland, not only in the Parliament but outside it, and in particular by the primary producers. His integrity and determination were well known and I suppose that those qualities were evident when he entered this Parliament. That was in 1943 when things were not running too well for the antiLabor parties in Australia. On that occasion Artie Fadden organised the anti-Labor parties in Queensland into one group. On almost the same day the Country Party started up in the bush. Charlie Adermann was its first candidate. He won the seat of Maranoa. He was the only one in the anti-Labor forces to win a seat in the 1 943 election.
When he came to Canberra, at the first party meeting he challenged Artie Fadden ‘s right to stand as leader of the party. That action was typical of Sir Charles Adermann. I extend my personal sympathy to Lady Adermann and members of his family. We trust that in their sad bereavement on this occasion they will recall the fine qualities that Sir Charles had and the work that he has done for this nation.
– I would like to add my words of support to the motion of condolence. Sir Charles Adermann was one of the first people I met when I joined the National Party. I appreciated his help and advice over many years. It was always well taken. I was most grateful for the association I had with him. I was very sorry to hear last night that he had had a bad turn. I was talking to his son Evan who was particularly concerned. I deeply regret his passing and support the motion of condolence. I extend my sympathy not only to Evan but also to Neville, his other son, and Mrs Bickerton, his daughter, and Lady Adermann, and the daughter-in-law and son-in-law. I know how proud I have been to have known Charlie Adermann and how responsive I have always been to the commitment he had to the National Party.
-I would also like to be associated with the condolence motion. The earliest occasion on which I can remember Sir Charles Adermann was in the days of his radio Sunday School over station 4SB. He ran that Sunday school under the nom de plume of Uncle John. When I was a young fellow in the war time nobody travelled around much. That was one of my early associations with Sir Charles and the church. Sir Charles made a magnificent contribution to Australia which has been referred to by many speakers today. He stood tall wherever he went, not because of any great physical stature or giant intellect but because he was plain Charlie Adermann to everybody. Those of us who knew him respected him. Wherever he went his whole being reflected the Christ whom he sought to serve. That meant indignation where necessary, loyalty, tenacity and determination. More than that it reflected in his life the love, concern and compassion which he showed for his fellow men. My sympathies go to his wife and family.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable senators standing in their places.
– I present the following petition from 1 56 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The petition or the undersigned citizens of South Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas the Fraser Government was elected in December 1975 after promising that pensions would be adjusted instantly and automatically in relation to quarterly consumer price index figures; and whereas that Government subsequently announced that pension adjustments should properly be made half yearly each May and November; and whereas the Government has now legislated for pensions to be adjusted only once a year, and this constitutes a serious breach of generally accepted ethics of democratic government and also deprives many needy pensioners of increases that are essential to their subsistence.
The foregoing facts impel the undersigned petitioners to request the Australian Government to uphold the principle that the trustworthiness of governments should at all times bc above question, and to appeal to the Parliament to reintroduce twice yearly pension adjustments and that the amounts allowed for earnings by single and married pensioners be increased to a more comparable level to the high cost of living before it affects the pensions.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will every pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 12 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country does not have the support of the people; that the change is causing and will continue to cause, widespread, serious and costly problems; that the compulsory tactics being used to force the change arc a violation of all democratic principles.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed to ensure that the people are free to utilise whichever system they prefer and so enable the return to imperial weights and measures wherever the people so desire: that weather reporting be as it was prior to the passing of the Metric Conversion Act; that the Australian Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional mile units to be restored to our highways; that the Australian Government request the State governments to procure that the imperial and metric systems be taught together in schools.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 83 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 sheweth:
That many Australian citizens suffer considerable distress and financial hardship as a result of inaccurate charges and accounts for the use of telephone, telegraph and other related services.
That Telecom Australia does not provide adequate information in relation to the subscriber’s number called, duration, and distance of telephone calls and telegraphic services made or used by their subscribers.
Your petitioners do humbly pray that the Senate will initiate moves to ensure that:
1 ) Telecom Australia eliminates all abuses of the account system to ensure the details of all customer accounts are accurate, and that
On request from the customer, Telecom Australia provide details of date, subscriber’s number called, duration and distance of all services for which the customer is charged.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 66 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will bc caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
Restore twice-yearly pension adjustments in the autumn session.
Raise pensions and unemployed benefits above the poverty level to 30 per cent of average weekly earnings.
And your petitioners in duty 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 petitionof 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.
-On behalf of Senator Sibraa, I present the following petition from 80 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizensof Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
Restore twice-yearly pension adjustments in the Autumn session.
Raise pensions and unemployed benefits above the poverty level to 30 per cent of average weekly earnings.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 101 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
Restore twice-yearly pension adjustments in the Autumn session.
Raise pensions and unemployed benefits above the poverty level to 30 per cent ofaverage weekly earnings.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Sheil.
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 plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country does not have the support of the people;
That the change is causing and will continue to cause, widespread, serious and costly problems;
That the compulsory tactics being used to force the change are a violation of all democratic principles.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed to ensure that the people are free to utilize whichever system they prefer and so enable the return to imperial weights and measures wherever the people so desire;
That weather reporting be as it was prior to the passing of the Metric Conversion Act;
That the Australian Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional mile units to be restored to our highways;
That the Australian Government request the State Governments to procure that the imperial and metric systems be taught together in schools.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Senators Bishop and Puplick.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources. I refer to the minerals export policy enunciated by Mr Anthony in October 1 978 and to two questions which I then asked Senator Durack about that policy, in answer to one of which the Minister in this House assured me that Mr Anthony’s actions were dictated by concern for the national interest. I now ask the Minister: What is the current state of the minerals export guidelines? To what minerals are those guidelines now applicable?
– The present state of the minerals export guidelines is set out in a statement issued following a meeting of the Cabinet in Perth on 23 April last-
– We read about it in the newspapers.
– If you have all read about it, I do not know why the question has been asked. That is the position. That is the policy. Discussions are to take place with the Premiers of Western Australia and Queensland in relation to the details of the guidelines. The specific minerals to which they apply were referred to in that statement also. I would draw that statement to the attention of Senator Button.
– I ask a supplementary question. Insofar as the statement of 23 April departs from the statement made by Mr Anthony in October 1978, to what extent does that represent a departure from the national interest as Mr Anthony described it in 1 978?
– I think one has to bear in mind the distinction which I believe I endeavoured to draw on a previous occasion. Certainly Mr Anthony made it clear in an answer he gave in the House of Representatives quite recently that what the Government is concerned to ensure in the national interest is that there is proper surveillance of exports and the prices that are obtained for Australia’s resources. That is the Government’s overriding concern. How that is done in respect of any particular minerals at any particular time is another matter. The specific guidelines announced last October were directed to a situation which was then occurring, but it was made clear that the specific application of these powers and the responsibilities of the Commonwealth Government may change from time to time.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education. Is it a fact that the Tertiary Education Commission’s report on nongovernment business colleges recommends, among other things, that each privately run college should submit a statutory declaration at the end of each quarter setting out enrolments in approved courses? Is this recommendation to be adopted? If so, will Australian universities and institutes of advanced education also be required to submit statutory declarations attesting to their enrolments?
- Senator Rocher refers, of course, to the policy in recent years of stabilising the funding of certain numbers of nongovernment business colleges, bringing them out of an ad hoc situation into a period in which they would know what the future would bring about. They have been brought under the Tertiary Education Commission. It is my understanding that since some of them are very small indeed- some of them have only several dozen students- the TEC felt that one needed to have figures for the enrolments, apart from which, obviously per capita grants to the colleges are paid on the number of students. It is my understanding that the TEC has asked for the regular certificates of enrolments. The difference between the nongovernment business colleges and the universities and colleges is therefore apparent. I would not feel that there is need for such a certificate. It is, I think, inherent in the report of the Williams committee, nevertheless, that universities and colleges should seek to have more accuracy in the number of their total enrolments. They change pretty rapidly and part-time students affect the situation, but in what we call EFTSeffective full time students- there is a need for more accuracy. We are moving towards that point.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is the Government aware that there have existed for some time motor vehicle emission controls that have a minimal effect on fuel consumption and engine performance? I commend to the Minister especially a National Roads and Motorists’ Association test in Sydney of the Japanese Honda system in 1976 which, I am assured, showed effective meeting of the second stage of Australian Design Rule 27A and at the same time barely measurable variations in engine performance and fuel consumption. Could the Australian motor industry not begin using such emission control systems instead of the wasteful inefficient ones it now uses? Does the Government not see an obligation on itself to see that local industry does convert to well proven and efficient technology rather than saying, as the Minister does in the Press today, that New South Wales and South Australian insistence on proper emission controls is a tragedy for Australian motorists? Finally, in such circumstances is not the tragedy for Australian motorists the Australian motor industry itself?
– I am sure that a large number of people employed in the Australian motor industry would have heard the last part of that question with great interest. I would have thought that as an industry the Australian motor industry at the moment is showing commendable signs of an imaginative approach to its products. The industry is one which we ought to be encouraging and not damning in the manner attempted by the honourable senator.
I will ask Mr Nixon to let me have a reply to the questions concerning emission controls. It ought to be clear to honourable senators that the Government has had an extensive interest in the question of emission controls. It has been the subject of many meetings of the Australian Transport Advisory Council. The Government has obviously done a great deal of work in this area. It should also be obvious to all honourable senators that the changes which have been made have not been without their problems, including the problems of post-manufacture maintenance and so on and the resulting efficiency of new systems. I indicated in Question Time yesterday that the serious questions raised are still under consideration by Transport Ministers round Australia. I do not believe that the answers can be quite so glib as the question was.
– I draw to the attention of the Minister for Science and the Environment a report from Gulnare in South Australia that some low-lying land with a high salt content and subject to flooding has been converted into productive country following Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation experimentation and importation. Has the CSIRO conducted any experiments on land possessing similar disabilities in the Murray Valley area? Can the Minister give any information on the progress of research and experiment relating to the improving of soil conditions in the Murray Valley area at present heavily afflicted with salty conditions?
-Over a number of years the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has conducted experiments on the salt tolerance of plants and certainly on the flow of saline water through soil. 1 noticed perhaps what Senator Davidson noticed- a report by a farmer who has had some success with producing salt tolerant grasses. My understanding is that on a property in the area to which the honourable senator referred, Mr Russell Davidson has had some success with tall wheat grass imported from Russia by the CSIRO.
Opposition members interjecting-
– In case the murmurs of the Opposition give the listeners some concern about anything coming from Russia, I inform the
Senate that this was an importation from Russia by CSIRO for soil conservation experiments as far back as 1935. The CSIRO also imported Puccinellia grass from Turkey in 1951.
The work by Mr Davidson was begun only a few years ago when he sowed trial plots with about 20 varieties of grasses and clovers. My understanding is that only the tall wheat grass and the puccinellia persisted. I have been told that, even with top-dressing, growth in the first year was very poor and it was necessary to establish the pasture thoroughly before stock were allowed to graze it. But in the second year it was quite outstanding. Those people who have some problems with excessive salting in their areas may be very interested in the question raised by Senator Davidson. I believe that limited quantities of the seeds mentioned are available from State Departments of Agriculture which are familiar with these grasses and their capabilities.
-I ask the Minister for Science and the Environment whether he recalls yesterday, during a debate involving himself, using these words:
I am assured by the Minister in that letter that there has been no formal contact with the permittees and that the official views of the permittees are unknown.
That, of course, was in respect of drilling rights on the Barrier Reef. I ask also whether he recalls quoting from a section of the letter from Mr Groom, who had written to the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman), the following words:
The Authority has received advice from the permit holder, (Australian Gulf Oil Co.) that they are not seeking renewal of oil leases within the area of the proposed Capricornia Section of the Marine Park.
I ask the Minister, firstly, which of the two statements is correct? Secondly, will he table the letter and advise the Senate of the date on which it was written? Thirdly, what action has the Government taken as a result of the letter?
– I take it that Senator Wriedt is quoting from yesterday’s Hansard. Provided that he is not using any other words, I recall in general using the words he has quoted. The honourable senator will be well aware that I was quoting from a letter that I believe he said was from Mr Groom to Mr Newman, or was it from Mr Newman to Mr Mr Groom?
– Both quotes were from ministerial letters which you yourself used.
-The point is obvious. 1 can assure the honourable senator that both the answers I gave were consistent. If I may explain, in the first instance I gave the Senate a response which National Development assures me is correct, and 1 accept it as being correct. It appears in a letter, and Senator Wriedt, if we understand the way in which he comes by letters in this place, probably has a copy of that letter without my having to table it. Perhaps he will table it. It was an assurance that the Minister for National Development had not been in touch with anyone to seek advice or information from any permittee over the particular area of the reef. In the second instance, I quoted the advice I had received that the Authority- I have not got the Hansard with me, but a re-reading of Senator Wriedt ‘s question will demonstrate that he quoted information about the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority- should discover the interest in relation to two permits that had been granted in 1 969 over the particular area we were discussing yesterday. Apparently the Authority had been assured in discussions that those permittees did not wish to renew permits over the area of the Capricornia Reef, the area sought for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. It is quite clear that the Leader of the Opposition is quoting the Minister for National Development, on the one hand, and the Authority on the other hand, lt is evident that the Leader of the Opposition can see the difference in the attitudes and explanations 1 gave.
– If I may ask a supplementary question to clarify the matter for Senator Webster’s benefit, the letter from the Minister for National Development is relying on advice from the Authority. One would assume that that Authority is part of departmental responsibility and, therefore, ministerial responsibility.
– 1 will make that point clear, if you want to mislead.
– If I may finish, as I indicated in my earlier question, I am not concerned about a letter written by Senator Webster. I am simply asking him to tell us which of the two positions is the correct one. That is all. I ask whether he will do that much. Will he indicate to the Senate whether the undated letter from which he quoted, in which the Authority had received advice from the permit holder, is the correct version of what took place?
-A re-reading of the question Senator Wriedt has just asked me will indicate the way in which he wishes to misconstrue what 1 said. In opening this question he asked whether the Minister for National Development was relying on advice from the Authority. That is typical of Senator Wriedt ‘s attitude in trying to misconstrue something. I suggest that he place the question on notice and I will seek an answer for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. The Melbourne Age today reports that the President of the Returned Services League in Papua New Guinea claims that the Australian Government has not paid some 3,000 war service pensions which had been promised at the end of the Second World War. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has refuted the claim, indicating that last year a government team to Papua New Guinea found that only a small number of eligible persons were not receiving pensions. In the light of this claim, which would concern many Australians, will the Minister arrange for a statement to be presented to the Senate giving a full account of the situation?
– I understand that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Mr Adermann, is planning to make a statement today. But the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs strongly refutes the suggestions by the Returned Services League in Papua New Guinea that the Australian Government was evading its responsibility for providing pensions for Papua New Guinea ex-servicemen who served in Australian forces during the 1939-45 War. In Mr Adermann ‘s statement it will be made clear that such suggestions are incorrect and unfair and that they are a gross distortion of the facts. Statements such as these lead to unreasonable expectations on the part of some residents of Papua New Guinea.
Mr Adermann will say in his statement that the correct position is that the Papua New Guinea veterans who are suffering disabilities as a result of their service with the Australian forces are eligible for pensions in respect of any incapacity arising from those disabilities. A special Commonwealth Act has been in existence for many years to provide pensions to eligible Papua New Guineans and this is being administered sympathetically by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. On a number of occasions the Australian Government has sent teams of officers from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to Papua New Guinea to seek out and advise those eligible for such benefits and to receive claims from them.
Suggestions have been made that a special grant or pension in addition to disability pensions should be made by the Australian Government to all Papua New Guinea veterans irrespective of their age or financial circumstances. It should be pointed out that there is no equivalent to this grant or pension made to Australian exservicemen. One such suggestion was put by the Papua New Guinea Minister for Defence in 1978, the honourable Louis Mona, at a cost of approximately $3m. However, the Papua New Guinea Government has decided not to ask Australia to provide funds and has decided that any such special pension or grant would be met from its own funds.
Successive Australian Ministers for Veterans’ Affairs have been fully aware of the various proposals and developments at all times. Mr Adermann hopes that these facts will make the true position known. His Department will be assisting the Papua New Guinea Administration in identifying Papua New Guinea ex-service personnel who may qualify for any special benefits that the Papua New Guinea Government has in mind. I need add only that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs sympathetically deals with those matters which have been accepted as a responsibility for a very long time. The statements which have been made are strongly refuted by the Minister.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General who is also the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations. It refers to relations in the oil industry. By way of preface I refer to the Liberal Party doctrine of freedom of choice. In that context I ask the Minister when the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Workers Union, particularly its oil refinery workers, can be freed from the present attempt to dragoon it into coming under the jurisdiction of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission when it has had excellent relations with the State Industrial Commission of New South Wales. When does the Minister expect to have a report from Sir John Moore, the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which may devise a formula which will give freedom of choice to trade unions which desire to remain in the various State industrial tribunals?
– This question, although containing some major legal problems, as Senator Mulvihill fully appreciates, is one within the area of responsibility of the Minister for Industrial Relations. I will refer that question to him and ask him to provide an early answer for the honourable senator.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. Does the Minister appreciate the justifiable restiveness of oil workers at Kurnell? Can it be conveyed to Mr Street, the Minister for Industrial Relations, that if their patience remains thin so that they should not be accused of being unduly irresponsible? I think the Minister will agree that Mr Justice Moore has had carriage of this problem for quite a while.
– I appreciate that further advice from Senator Mulvihill. I will certainly draw it to the attention of the Minister for Industrial Relations.
-Does the Minister representing the Minister for Health generally endorse the conclusions of Professor Opit and Doctor Dunt about policy concerning the installations of computerised axial tomography head scanners in Victoria? Can the Minister comment specifically on steps open to the Commonwealth if it decides to implement the recommendations to discourage both the installation of more CAT scanners in private practice and the free access by all practitioners to CAT scanners? Can the Minister ensure that studies similar to those done in Victoria are undertaken elsewhere in Australia with a view to developing a national policy on this matter?
– The Minister for Health does endorse the general philosophy of the Victorian studies with regard to CAT scanners. In its efforts to promote the efficient and rational use of this technology, the Committee on Application and Costs of Modern Technology in Medical Practice considered ways of making more economic and effective use of technological services. It recognised the need to develop criteria for the location and use of various technologies such as CAT scanners. Its report was tabled in Parliament in November of last year. At that time the Minister for Health asked for public comments on the report to be made by the end of March of this year. The views expressed on the report together with comments received will assist the Government in formulating a national approach to deal with the problems concerning modern technology in health care. The Government is currently funding two specific studies which are examining the cost effectiveness of CAT scanners. It is hoped that the results of these studies will contribute to a more rational provision and use of such high cost technology.
– Is either the Leader of the Government in the Senate or the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs aware that local government organisations in Australia are again running into financial difficulties because of ever increasing costs, particularly costs imposed on them by the increased fuel charges in last year’s Federal Budget? Did the Prime Minister in his 1977 Federal election policy speech state that the Government’s objective was to move towards an allocation of up to two per cent of personal income tax collections for local government over a three year period? Is the ratio existing in 1979 still the same as it was before the 1 977 election, namely, 1.52 per cent of personal income tax collections? In view of the increasing costs and the consequential imposition of additional rate burdens on ratepayers throughout Australia, particularly those already suffering hardships from the Government’s economic policies, when does the Government intend getting off the mark and moving towards its 1977 undertaking?
– I will answer the parts of the question in the reverse order to which they were asked. The Government, being aware of its 1977 policy speech as described by Senator Douglas McClelland, will consider that matter. No doubt it will be part of Budget considerations in the weeks ahead. Local government was bedevilled for many years by high inflation rates and by a rigidity in the revenue it received from rates. It has been greatly helped by the present Government to overcome costs by two factors: The reduction in inflation and interest rates and the payment of 1 . 52 per cent of personal income tax collections. Local government has acknowledged that this has been a significant help in its abatement of rates increases. The Government is aware of these things and will keep them in mind in the weeks ahead.
-Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate been drawn to the fact that there have been some 192 political executions in Iran since the monstrous regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power? Have the victims included some distinguished parliamentarians such as a former
Prime Minister, Mr Hoveida, two Speakers of the Lower House of the Iranian Parliament, Mr Riazi and Mr Sa’eed, an Information Minister, a distinguished Foreign Minister and even a former Minister for Education? Further, has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the detention without trial of the distinguished elder statesman, the 84 year old Senator Ali Dashti, who apparently is being held for the crime of assisting to come to power Reza Shah, the father of the current Shah, in the 1920s? Why has the Australian Government not protested in terms as forthright as those relating to the execution of Mr Bhutto? Has our lamentable silence been related solely to our desire to sell meat to Iran? Are sales of meat now to become a factor in determining Australia’s attitude to the violation of human rights?
– Answer that one. It didn’t come from our side, either.
- Senator Georges asks me to answer the question. I presume that this indicates that he supports the question, as such. I do not know. One is never terribly sure, when Senator Georges interjects. All Australians, I hope, would share the sadness and indeed the abhorrence as indicated by Senator Puplick at what appears to be a very heavy number of executions in Iran, including executions based upon politics. I do not know whether it is more wrong to execute a man because he is a baker or a wharf labourer than because he is a politician. But, if the only test of a man’s habits is that he holds views different from those of the regime itself, clearly one would share Senator Puplick ‘s expression of distaste that what is being done is setting a kind of precedent in the world for very grave instability and of course a total lack of democracy. I am aware of the facts that Senator Puplick has put forward in that regard. I do not know whether the Australian Government has protested directly to the Iranian Government. But I will say this: The decision in that regard would not be influenced in any way by conditions of trade. It would be influenced purely by the circumstances themselves and by whether a viewpoint of this country would be helpful to that country’s future and the world scene.
– I direct a question to Senator Carrick in his capacity as Leader of the Government in the Senate or as Minister representing the Treasurer. The Government will be aware of President Carter’s recent proposal to levy a windfall profits tax on United States oil companies which are enjoying huge profits as a result of the pricing policy of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The Minister will recall that President Carter, in announcing his proposals, stated:
Even with the windfall-profits tax in place, our oil producers will get substantial new income- enough to provide plenty of incentive for increased domestic production.
I ask: Has the Government abandoned for ever its 1977 proposal to levy a resources tax? Further, will the Government, in preparing this year’s Budget, seriously consider levying a resources tax on certain energy resource enterprises in this country, thus coming into line not only with Labor Party policy but with that of the President of the United States?
– A very good question.
– I hope that I can give a very good answer. The fact is that this Government took action recently to raise the price of oil to world parity, a policy which the American Government acknowledged was correct and which it somewhat belatedly adopted. The effect of our policy is now manifest. I should point out that in 1972, when the then Liberal Government went out of office, there were 22 oil rigs in Australia, 2 1 of which were working. When we came back into office there was one oil rig in Australia and it was not working.
What is very important to understand is that already the effect of our policies has been for the oil companies themselves not only to extend their sphere of exploration but also to exploit existing oil wells far beyond the levels of their former profitability, therefore giving to the Australian people some years extra assurance of oil. Quite clearly, whereas the Whitlam Government’s policies were disastrous, our policies have moved to significant success. They are acknowledged as such throughout the world. As to the other matters, Senator Tate would understand that they are budgetary matters and cannot be commented on.
– I wish the honourable senator had started his question not by drawing my attention to the report but by asking whether I knew that it existed. My answer to that question would have been no. I did not see the Australian Financial Review this morning. I know nothing of the matters which the honourable senator has raised. I shall see whether Mr Nixon can provide a more satisfactory reply.
-Is the Minister for Science and the Environment aware of the report published in the Age on Friday last released by the United States National Academy of Scientists which concluded that there was no known threshold below which radiation ceased to have adverse effects on human beings? Is he aware that those findings confirm conclusions made by a similar study in 1972? Is he also aware of a paper prepared by a team of researchers from the Medical Research Council’s Clinical and Population Cytogenetics Unit in Edinburgh which concluded that chromosome damage occurred even when radiation exposures were below the internationally agreed safety standards? If the answer to any or all of the above questions is ‘yes’ will he use any influence he may have on the Government to review its acceptance of the international safety standards as a matter of urgency?
– I did not see the article to which the honourable senator referred. If, as she has said, there are no known thresholds below which radiation is safe I would say that the matter would best be carried into the field of medicine. I imagine that the honourable senator is drawing the attention of the Senate to the possible dangers of chest X-rays. She told me two days ago of the enormous task that she has in flying so regularly between Canberra and Perth in attempting to carry out her parliamentary duties. If what the honourable senator mentions is something that the United States National Academy of Scientists is criticising, I accept it. The honourable senator holds up her hands in despair. Apparently the Academy of Science is referring to something which is a natural experience for all of us. However, the honourable senator asked whether I will put a proposition to the Government relating to radiation. I will review that request. It is not a matter that comes within my portfolio. The honourable senator will know that it is a matter for the Minister for Health. 1 will see that the question is conveyed to him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a report in the Adelaide Advertiser of yesterday that a charter airline known as Commodore Aviation intends to fly a regular service between Adelaide and Port Lincoln without licence approval? Is this evidence of considerable frustration amongst general aviation operators at the protracted period of Government consideration of the approval of commuter airlines in Australia? Can the Minister indicate when the Government will be in a position to announce its decision on this matter, particularly in regard to South Australia?
– I cannot tell the honourable senator when the review is to be concluded, if that be the principal matter of concern to him. I have had my attention drawn to the report about the South Australian airline and I am advised that consideration of Commodore’s application to fly between Adelaide and Port Lincoln has been deferred pending the Government’s decision on part 2 of the domestic air policy review. I will ask Mr Nixon whether he can give me some indication of when that review will be concluded. 1 understand that the applicant, Commodore Aviation, has made a claim that it has a right to be issued with an exemption under the Air Navigation Regulations to operate the service, and the Commonwealth is currently considering the legal implications of that claim.
-Is the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Home Affairs aware of the extensive public relations campaign being conducted by the Australian Mining Industry Council against the inclusion of areas in the Northern Territory, south-western Tasmania and Cape York Peninsula on the register of the National Estate? Is the Minister also aware of the contempt with which the Queensland Premier regarded the inclusion of the now departed Belle Vue Hotel on this register? With this background can the Minister assure the Senate that any objection against these registrations will be referred to an independent consultant in accordance with the Australian Heritage Commission Act and that if registration is again recommended section 30 of the Act will be enforced?
– I am not aware of any intensive campaign by the Australian Mining Industry Council. I receive a number of letters which put to me as the Minister for Science and the Environment that the Council is attempting to bring pressure on the Government. I would have thought that if it were it would have attempted to bring pressure on me as the Minister with responsibilities for the environment. It certainly has not done so in any way whatsoever, so far as I know. Whether it has brought pressure upon the Minister for Home Affairs is a question that I am unable to answer because the Minister has not discussed that subject with me. The honourable senator asks whether the Australian Mining Industry Council has used pressure in relation to areas in the Northern Territory. I must say that I am not familiar with that. I will seek advice from the Minister whom 1 represent.
The honourable senator asked a question relating to the Belle Vue Hotel. Questions have been raised about that hotel previously. I am not aware of any reason other than a political reason for criticism of the Queensland Premier. That Premier is quite used to being criticised on all sorts of counts. I am not aware of the reason for that hotel being placed on the register, if it was. But I will make myself familiar with the reason that hotel had been placed on the register or had been listed by the Australian Heritage Commission. I take it that the honourable senator was referring to the Australian Heritage Commission when he suggested that the attitude of the body which lists matters should be referred to an independent authority. I will take that question on notice and bring it to the attention of the Minister whom I represent. It sounds like an interesting proposition.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry ascertain whether the Australian firm of Mauri Brothers & Thomson has made application for a joint venture fishing project in association with Polish interests, involving trawling in waters off New South Wales, South Australia and /or Victoria and Tasmania with six or eight 250-foot trawlers? Are the applicants aware that there is a current $420,000 research program for which results are still awaited? Can the Minister give an assurance that until the results of that program are complete there should be no more joint ventures in this area?
-The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied me with some information. I understand that Mauri Brothers and Thomson, in partnership with Polish interests, have submitted a feasibility fishing proposal covering the operation of two vessels. The proposal is under consideration with a number of other proposals for operations in the area south and south-east of Australia. I am informed that the Minister for Primary Industry expects to make an announcement about that matter in the near future. I can assure the honourable senator that in considering the proposals the Government will take into consideration a range of factors, including the views of the States concerned, the welfare of the Australian fishing industry, any views expressed by the industry, and any research programs related to the fisheries in question. The Senate will be aware that the Minister for Primary Industry has said that these feasibility fishing programs are of short duration, and are entered into without commitment to future fishing rights for the proponents. They are designed to obtain knowledge about fisheries not currently harvested by Australians and their possible commercial development. Accordingly, results will be made available and will complement our own research and the development work that is being undertaken.
– I ask the Minister for Science and the Environment whether he is aware that in an interview today with the ABC the newly appointed Chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Mr Higgs, said in answer to a question about possible differences between the Commonwealth and Queensland governments:
There are always differences between any two groups of people to some degree, but I think basically the general aims arc the same and preservation of the Reef for use- not just as something to put in a museum, but has multiple uses, tourism, transport, fishing and in some areas possibly mining, which are not critical areas, and the like . . .
Will the Minister confirm that the statement by Mr Higgs reflects the policy of the Australian Government? Does the Minister agree that for environmental purposes mining can be regarded as compatible with tourism and fishing?
-The Senate will be aware that within the last few days I announced that Mr H. Higgs has been appointed on a full time basis as acting Chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. I heard Mr Higgs on the air at lunch time today. I do not have a transcript of the interview, but I believe that Senator Cavanagh has reflected correctly what Mr Higgs said. Although Mr Higgs does not speak for Government policy, I do not find any conflict between what he said and my attitude as Minister in charge of the Authority. I think we would all agree with what the honourable senator has said. That is the general aim of all concerned. Perhaps even the Opposition would grant that it would be the aim of the Government, as I would grant that it would be the aims of the Opposition, to see that the Great Barrier Reef is preserved. But there are conflicting interests in this area. Indeed, I find in relation to the many questions that I have from people who are interested in the preservation of the reef some inconsistency when I am advised, on the best of authority, that the greatest pressure on the Great Barrier Reef today is the very existence of tourism and humans on the reef.
– But that is already there. You are adding another one.
-You could bet your life that Senator Georges would come in with something. Mr President, I apologise for the comment, but I am sure that Senator Georges could speak at length on any particular subject and in any particular circumstances. I was impressed by the comment that Senator Cavanagh made, but I was very unimpressed by Senator Georges’ interference.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Whilst I can get compliments from the Minister who is impressed by my question, I direct another question to him. Do I take it that the Minister’s reply reflects government policy that mining, tourism and fishing are not contrary to proper utilisation of the Great Barrier Reef?
– If I may reiterate the honourable senator’s question, he asks me whether I agree that it is not inconsistent with the interests of the reef for mining, tourism and fishing to occur upon it. It is totally inconsistent with the interests of the reef for that to occur.
– Has the Minister for Education seen a circular from the Australian Teachers Federation in Canberra dated 8 May which purports to be seeking by survey the views of members of Parliament concerning education and the economy? Is not the wording of the short answer survey form which is attached to the letter and which is in the form of an agree-disagree questionnaire transparently subjective and aimed at seeking a response favourable to the political viewpoint espoused by this organisation? Does the Minister agree that this survey form discloses a total lack of standards of objectivity in the people who prepared this circular? If that is so, does the Minister intend to redress this organisation, the Australian Teachers Federation, and those people who belong to it?
– Why don’t you fill it in and send it back?
– Perhaps when Senator Georges fills his in and sends it back he might send a copy to me. I would be interested to see his response. I would welcome it and issue the invitation. I have not directly seen the circular but I have had it described to me. Apparently I am not on the mailing list at the moment but I have had it described to me. I have always regarded circulars sent politically to which a yes or no answer had to be given as being totally subjective and inaccurate. It is my general practice to write back and say that such questionnaires do not reflect any accurate viewpoint at all.
I am told that the main question asks whether or not the individual member is willing to agree that the Karmel and Schools Commission resource targets should be adopted. I have good news for all. Not only have the targets been achieved but they have been achieved years ahead of schedule. My authority is not the Government but the Schools Commission the accuracy of which has always been asserted by the Australian Labor Party. When Labor Party senators and members of the House of Representatives fill in this questionnaire, they will, of course, refer to the assertions of and factual information given by the Schools Commission that the government has moved faster than was envisaged. Today in Australia the standard of education in Government schools has reached a level equivalent to level 2. That is the level in independent schools which are despised by the Australian Labor Party. When I can get all government and non-government schools to levels 1 and 2, it will be a proud day for Australia. All I can say is that we are proceeding faster than anyone has ever dreamed.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. The Minister may recall that on 22
November last year I asked him a question in relation to a report attributed to Mr Ireson, the senior avionics engineer for Ansett Airlines of Australia, relative to tests purportedly carried out by that company in relation to Omega in Australia. On 8 March of this year I reminded the Minister of my question and asked him when 1 would receive a reply. As it is now almost six months since I asked the original question, I now ask the Minister: Can I expect a reply? Alternatively, is the opinion I hold that the Government has something to hide correct?
– I am sure that the Government has nothing to hide in this matter. I will seek and expedite a reply for the honourable senator.
– Has the Minister for Science and the Environment, received any progress reports on the research and development of SYNROC being conducted by Professor Ringwood of the Australian National University? As many people, including eminent scientists throughout the world, are very interested in SYNROC which is regarded as an extremely stable form of nuclear waste, will the Minister have discussions with Professor Ringwood to ascertain what funds are required to continue effectively this very important area of research and development?
-The honourable senator is apparently very interested in this important subject. He draws to the attention of the Senate a new strategy which has been brought forward by Professor Ringwood of the Australian National University for a system of disposal of radioactive wastes. It is based on the fact that in nature small amounts of the same elements that occur in rad.wastes are completely immobilised in the crystal lattices of certain minerals for up to 2,000 million years, a much longer period than is required for the safe decay of the wastes from nuclear reactors. The honourable senator has obviously read some of the information that has been published. At the moment this work is undergoing a trial process. It is my recollection that money has been made available to the professor. The ANU project is being undertaken with the co-operation and support of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission which recently awarded a $2 1 ,000 contract to Professor Ringwood for the purchase of research equipment and materials. The honourable senator will be interested to know that the contract complements a grant of $63,500 made for the project in 1978-79 on the recommendation of the National Energy, Research,
Development and Demonstration Council. If I can supply other information to the honourable senator I am sure that he will find it of great interest.
-Is the Minister for Education aware of a dispute amongst primary teachers in Victoria? I refer to the deplorable ban by the Victorian Teachers Union on its primary teacher members not to supervise student teachers in the classroom because the allowances paid to student teachers are not as high as those paid to secondary teachers. Does this not deprive those student teachers of vital experience in the classroom? Has the dispute been to the Victorian Teachers Tribunal which, by direction of a Liberal Minister, has not heard the dispute because it was told it does not have the authority to do so? Was the dispute then referred to a federal authority, the Academic Salaries Tribunal which, also by direction of a Liberal Minister, was told that it did not have the authority to hear the dispute? Is it true also that this dispute has now been going on for almost two years during which time student teachers have had virtually no experience in the classroom, to the ultimate detriment of themselves and children? I ask whether the Minister will confer urgently with his Liberal colleague in Victoria to see whether this dispute can be resolved.
– It is true that there has been a chronic dispute in Victoria amongst primary teachers. It is true that the circumstances, as I recall them, relate to a dispute over the extra loading of pay that a teacher should get if supervising student teachers. I understand that there has been some problem of the jurisdiction in which the matter could be held. My current understanding is that the Academic Salaries Tribunal itself is meeting on or about 21 May, and it may well have before it consideration whether it can hear the dispute.
– How can it possibly?
– I am indebted to Senator Button. I will let Mr Justice Ludeke know that a person of superior legal knowledge says it cannot hear it. If he overrules him, I hope we will proceed. If it appears that there is an impasse on this whole situation, I would certainly want it to be resolved.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Science and the Environment. Is it a fact that the Tasman Island weather reporting station has been converted to automatic operation? Is it also a fact that it is one of the important weather stations for fishermen, small ships and others operating in southern Tasmanian waters? Further, is it a fact that the operation of the automatic station has been far from satisfactory in that of the six elements to be relayed all have been reported on only 44 per cent of occasions during the past 12 months, and for 7 per cent of the time there have been no reports at all? Can steps be taken to make the automatic station more reliable? In view of this history of unreliability, is this a further cause for concern over the proposition that the manned station at the most important light and weather station on Maatsuyker Island be converted to automatic operation and at least a case for deferring that until certainty of weather reporting can be obtained?
-The Senate will acknowledge the immense interest that the honourable senator has in the area of Tasmania of which he speaks. I am unable to verify the actual facts that he has given, but I acknowledge that the honourable senator, by his intense interest in Tasmania, has stated those facts correctly. I have received one letter relating to the manning of a weather station. I think it is manning the lighthouse on Maatsuyker Island.
– It is also the weather station.
– I take it the weather information must come from there. My understanding is that that particular manning would be undertaken probably through the responsibilities of the Department of Transport. I think that the reliability of the equipment probably is something for my portfolio. If the honourable senator will allow me to do so, I will converse with the Minister for Transport. I know it is his wish that there should be some more reliable equipment placed on Maatsuyker Island. I will attempt to see what can be done.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is it a fact that representatives from the Aboriginal community at Lake Nash met Mr Andrew Young to complain about the alleged oppression by the King Ranch of the people on that station? Was a letter also sent to the President of the United States asking him to intervene? Is there an injunction at present restraining the King Ranch personnel from denying access to services on the station? Will the Minister indicate what action is being taken by his Department to protect the interests of the Aboriginal people at present living on Lake Nash and to provide services for those who have moved away as a result of the treatment meted out by the station manager?
- Senator Robertson’s question raises a matter that I suspect would have been concerning a good number of honourable senators. I am not able to confirm whether Aboriginals have met with Mr Andrew Young, although I know that attempts were made to arrange such a meeting. I know that some representatives from Lake Nash are in Canberra at the moment. In fact, 1 am seeing them myself this afternoon. However, 1 am not sure whether they will be able to see Mr Young; that is not a matter on which I am informed. 1 have seen reports that on behalf of these people somebody wrote to the President of the United States of America. That person who, I think, is familiar to Senator Robertson, lives in Alice Springs. I am able to confirm that an injunction was issued by the Northern Territory Supreme Court in early April on the application of Aboriginals from Lake Nash. I have sought and obtained regular reports from my Department as to what is happening in relation to this matter. It is obviously a most unfortunate state of affairs. In the light of the fact that there is litigation pending on this matter, I do not want to go too much into the rights and wrongs of it.
It is obviously a matter of great concern that the Aboriginal community is having the difficulties that it is experiencing on that station. I think honourable senators might take some comfort and heart from the fact that programs which have had the support of both the previous Government and the present Government have given those Aboriginals some tools which we have seen put to work in this case. The fact that the Aboriginals at a time of stress went to the Northern Territory Supreme Court and obtained an injunction is, in itself, a sign of advance. We have always been concerned at the inability of Aboriginal groups to obtain the proper protection of the law. The fact that they were able in this case to take what I see as most appropriate action is a sign that the sort of programs that we have been pursuing in legal aid and other areas are beginning to bear fruit. It is also true that the communities have received assistance from one organisation in Alice Springs. I cannot recall its precise name but it is an organisation which receives Commonwealth funding. The health services which were interrupted are now being provided in the area by the Utopia Health Service.
That organisation is funded by the Commonwealth and incorporated under Commonwealth law. I mention those matters, not in the sense that I believe that everything that has to be done has yet been done, but because I think it is very good that without direct government intervention these various agencies have been able to work with a great amount of Aboriginal participation.
The honourable senator quite properly asks what we are doing about the situation. Both the Northern Territory Government and the Commonwealth Government, through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, have been taking a close and active interest in this matter. My understanding is that a number of Aboriginals have been quite happy to leave Lake Nash to go to Ammaroo. In that respect both governments have been co-operating and examining whether adequate services are available for those people at Ammaroo. I understand that action is being taken now to ensure that there are. Mr Ian Tuxworth, the Northern Territory Minister for Health and Community Development, has convened a conference at Lake Nash on 19 May to discuss the situation. Participants, apart from Mr Tuxworth himself, will be Department of Aboriginal Affairs officers, representatives of the Lake Nash community and officials of the company, if they will attend. We have not yet had confirmation that they will attend. Obviously their participation would be very important. Mr Tuxworth is hopeful that the general manager of the company will be involved in those discussions.
As I have already indicated, health services are currently being provided by the Utopia Health Service. There Will be discussions between my Department and the Health Service in the near future to ensure that properly trained people are attending to the medical needs of the Lake Nash community. I understand that the requirements of the injunction issued by Mr Justice Toohey are being observed. The Aboriginal people have access to the store, and so on. Although they are continuing to experience difficulties, I can assure honourable senators that those difficulties are receiving attention.
– I have pleasure in drawing the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the gallery of a delegation from the Knesset of Israel led by the Honourable Yitzhak Shamir, Speaker of the Knesset. On behalf of all honourable senators I extend to our visitors a very warm welcome. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I propose that Mr Speaker Shamir take a seat on the floor of the Senate.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
Mr Speaker Shamir thereupon entered the chamber and was seated accordingly.
- Mr Speaker, we welcome you most warmly.
-Senator Puplick asked me whether the Commonwealth had protested about the Iranian executions. It is an important matter. I find in my brief that the Minister for Foreign Affairs indicates that on 9 April and 12 April he issued statements deploring the executions of the former Prime Minister of Iran, the former Foreign Minister and other members of the former Government. He went on to say that the continuation of secret trials and summary executions, despite the appeals made by leaders of several countries for the right to fair and open trials, was a matter of continuing deep concern to the Australian Government. He indicated that the reports that 2 1 more executions took place on 8 May brought the total executions since the revolution to almost 200, a matter, I think, that all would deplore.
– Yesterday Senator Rae asked me about an American citizen resident in Canada. He was a professor of chemical engineering and wished to spend his sabbatical leave in Australia. He was required to be fingerprinted when applying for his visa. Senator Rae asked me how long Australia had required fingerprinting. He also asked about the purpose of the action taken and its justification.
I am advised by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs that Australia does not require any persons entering Australia to undergo fingerprinting as a condition of entry. Overseas representatives of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs have no equipment for taking fingerprints. However, persons proceeding to Australia for long term stay are required to produce character certificates. It is the usual practice to request with American applicants to obtain police certificates of character. Some police authorities in America require fingerprinting to establish identity before they are prepared to issue police certificates. That appears to have happened in this case. If Senator Rae still requires further information on behalf of the person for whom he asked the question, I will endeavour to obtain it. I thought it important to give that information today.
– In Question Time Senator Primmer asked whether the Government had anything to hide about Omega and referred to questions he had raised on 22 November 1978 and 8 March 1979. 1 am pleased to confirm to the Senate that the Government has nothing to hide, as I indicated. Senator Primmer seems to have overlooked a letter dated 27 March sent to him by Mr Nixon and which responds to the questions which he has asked. There is one small error in that letter. The first paragraph refers to 13 March instead of 8 March. I will not seek leave to incorporate the letter in Hansard as it is addressed to Senator Primmer.
– It should be in the Hansard for our information.
– I will ascertain whether Senator Primmer minds the letter addressed to him being incorporated in Hansard. If he does not mind I will seek leave to incorporate the letter tomorrow.
– I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter dated 9 May 1979 from Senator Grimes:
Dear Mr President,
Pursuant to Standing Order 64, I give notice that today I shall move ‘That in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency:
The need to exempt social security recipients and low income families from the Government’s punitive economic measures’.
Yours sincerely, DONALD JAMES GRIMES Senator for Tasmania
Is the motion supported?
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
This matter is raised by the Opposition at this time because the Parliament is in its last weeks before the next Budget sittings, because the Government is preparing for the Budget and because a counter view needs to be presented to the rising tide of speculation and opinion in the community as to the possibility of cuts in welfare expenditure in general. A counter view needs to be given to the concerted and rehearsed chorus of cries for cuts in welfare expenditure by members of Government parties, and by their supporters in the manufacturing and mining industries and in the media. We have it on the authority of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) and many others that they intend to cut Government expenditure. We believe that there is nothing much we can do to stop what we see as this misguided approach to economic planning in the community. We believe it is important that in any cuts in Government expenditure the poor, the disadvantaged and those reliant on public expenditure should not be the ones to suffer and should not be the ones who are asked to bear any of the burden for the Government’s misguided economic policies.
Banner headlines such as ‘ Fraser ‘s Blitz on Pay and Pensions’ have appeared in the Daily Mirror this week followed by speculative articles on what the newspaper thinks will happen. The front page of the Australian of last Monday said: The Government is coming under intense pressure to bring down a tough public expenditure cutting Budget’. The Australian Financial Review on the same day had this headline: Budget cutters still to consider welfare’. The Sydney Morning Herald of the following day carried this headline: ‘Health benefit cut believed to be approved’. Referring to a Cabinet committee, the ensuing article stated:
It is expected to start vetting welfare expenditure in earnest in the next fortnight.
The Opposition is aware that such speculation is often fostered by those in Government circles to try to give a false impression of cuts in Government expenditure and particularly of the direction cuts in Government expenditure will take so that when Budget time next comes things will seem better than imagined. It is equally obvious that some of this speculation, particularly that by Government Ministers, is a kite-flying exercise.
Some very senior Ministers have stepped outside the area of their portfolios and commented on social security and health and welfare. Mr Lynch, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, told an audience of businessmen recently that he believed that the unemployment benefit in this country was too high and that too many people were receiving it. I believe this is a remarkable observation from a man who receives over $40,000 a year from the public purse, whose daily travelling allowance as a Minister is more than the weekly unemployment benefit paid to a single person in this country and who supplements his payments from the public purse with profits from property speculation in which he takes advantage of concessional rates of interest provided to him by insurance companies in Queensland. Mr Viner put in his bid by saying that the concept that the unemployment benefit should be sufficient to survive on in this countrythe concept was introduced by Mr Hayden when he was the Minister for Social Security- was wrong and that we should revert to a system under which small gratuitous payments are thrown like crumbs to the unemployed. Mr Eric Robinson, the Minister for Finance, who is famous for his statement that unemployment is a myth, continually makes off the cuff remarks in speeches about dole bludgers and speaks in derogatory terms about the unemployed.
These are senior Ministers. Their party in 1974, through its shadow Minister for Labour, advocated an unemployment benefit equal to the minimum wage. At that rate the payment then would have been $80 a week and would now be over $100 a week. The gentleman who advocated the payment of such an amount is not known in this country for his consistency or in fact for his honesty. He now happens to be the Prime Minister.
– Order! Senator Grimes, you cannot make that reflection on the Prime Minister. You will withdraw.
– I withdraw, Mr President. It was not a bad try, though. I repeat that in 1 974 the then Shadow Minister for Labor, Mr Malcolm Fraser, advocated that unemployment benefits should be paid at a level of $80 a week, the then minimum wage. In today’s terms, that payment would be in excess of $100 a week. The Prime Minister’s own Ministers are now saying that an unemployment benefit of $5 1 a week is excessive and that unemployment benefits probably should be reduced. Those Ministers are joined by back benchers, particularly those in the House of Representatives such as Mr McLean, Mr Hyde and that well known financial whizkid, the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume). They regularly advocate a cut in government expenditure in the fields of welfare, health and education. But the cuts that they suggest are always very selective. They advocate cuts in health insurance and public hospital expenditure, but they never advocate cuts in government subsidies to private hospitals. They advocate cuts in public school expenditure but not in private school expenditure. They certainly do not advocate cuts in the investment allowance. Back benchers in this chamber advocate that the portability of pensions should be banned, that people such as poor Italians or Greeks or British invalid pensioners should not be able to take their pensions overseas. But they never advocate that retired Governors-General such as Sir John Kerr or retired diplomats such as Sir Alex Downer, who choose to live overseas for a large amount of the time, should have their pensions removed from them. Their advocated cuts are very selective. They have no regard for the people in this country who are in real need.
- Senator Grimes, may I interrupt you for a moment. I inform honourable senators that the Speaker of the Knesset of Israel will now leave the chamber. Thank you, Senator Grimes.
-Mr Fry of the Metal Trades Industry Association has recently been heard calling for cuts in welfare expenditure in Australia. Sir Roderick Carnegie and others also dutifully advocate cuts in the fields of health, welfare and education. Someone, in this case the Opposition, must put an opposing view on behalf of the recipients of welfare expenditure in this country and on behalf of low income earners in this country.
A look at the expenditure on welfare as a percentage of the gross domestic product in countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development demonstrates that Australia is by no means a generous supplier of welfare. A review of taxation paid as a percentage of gross domestic product in the OECD countries demonstrates that Australia is not a very high tax country, a statement that I find our present Treasurer, Mr Howard, is suddenly making more and more often, perhaps because he sees that there will be some need for tax increases in Australia this year.
I repeat: The purpose of these rumours and statements, which I believe are mostly government-induced, is to brainwash people into believing that health and welfare expenditure in Australia is some sort of luxury. Their purpose is probably to signal massive cuts in welfare expenditure apparently so that pensioners and beneficiaries, finding the Budget only half as bad as they expected, will be twice as grateful to the Government. The Government seems to be making taxpayers resentful of the fact that their taxes are used to pay social welfare benefits to the less fortunate. But in any civilised society, payments are transferred from the well off to the less well off to bring them towards some state of equality. The Government aims to make social welfare recipients believe that they are to blame because a government, specifically this Government, has over-run its deficit. It aims to have the country believe that good economic management is the same as slashing a welfare program. The Opposition does not see as sound economic management the Government’s determination to put the burden of economic recovery on lower income groups or on the least protected in the community. The Opposition does not see as sound economic management this Government’s policy of keeping an unemployment pool of between 6 per cent and 7 per cent as an economic tool, as it has done in the last year. We do not believe that it is sound economic management deliberately to underestimate by at least $ 120m the cost of paying unemployment benefits, as the Government has done this year, and then to scream because the Budget deficit is up and tax collections are down. Nor is it sound economic management to suggest that welfare expenditure will have to be cut to correct this situation.
When we talk about welfare expenditure in this country we are talking about something over $7,000m being paid out this financial year by the Department of Social Security. Of this amount, more than 80 per cent will be spent on income security payments, that is, pensions and benefits; about 15 per cent will be spent on allowances, mainly family allowances; the rest will be spent on administration and programs for the handicapped, the aged and the homeless. Over fourfifths of the expenditure on welfare goes to the aged, the invalid, the single parents and the unemployed- in other words, the people who are prevented by age, by disability or by circumstances of the job market, from obtaining employment to enable them to receive an income. The pensions and benefits that they receive represent their entitlement to what Professor Henderson in his report on poverty called ‘the right to a basic level of security and well-being’. He went on to say: . . all government action should respect the independence, dignity and worth of every individual.
Pensioners and beneficiaries had every reason to believe themselves secure in this right, as they had been under the Labor Government, until last year when the Fraser Ministry went back on its promise of twice-yearly indexation of pensions. In the first statement of policy by this Government in the Governor-General ‘s Speech on 1 7 February 1 976, the Government said:
The Government will not permit economic recovery to take place at the expense of those less well off.
We intend, by this motion, that the Senate should ensure that the Government is reminded of that promise and in the next Budget will not make a cut in welfare expenditure, thereby permitting economic recovery at the expense of those less well off. The Labor Government raised the standard pension rate from 1 9 per cent of average weekly earnings to almost 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. The Fraser Government guaranteed to protect that pension from inflation by twice-yearly indexation. We had an election in 1 977, and in the policy speech leading up to that election, the Government gave no indication that it was going to reverse the policy in its next Budget and cut out the May pension increase. The Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, said at the time:
The decision to index pensions annually was taken in the light of the anticipated reduction in the rate of inflation and in the belief that with a level of inflation of something like 5 per cent or lower an annual increase is appropriate.
In fact the level of inflation is not ‘something like 5 per cent or lower’; it is 8 per cent, the same level as the year before when twice-yearly indexation was considered appropriate by the Government. The Minister also said on the same day:
The policy itself -
That is, the policy on twice-yearly indexation- and the introduction of that policy into legislation made no qualification. A subsequent decision in this Budget has changed the approach to the increasing of pensions . . .
So pensioners and beneficiaries in this country are no longer to rely on election promises. They are at the mercy of what the Minister calls subsequent Budget decisions which change the whole approach to pensions. It is the Government’s broken faith in the matter of the indexation of pensions that has been most notable. The change without warning from twice yearly indexation of pensions to annual indexation has saved some $27m this financial year. It has cost each single pensioner $60 and each married couple receiving a pension nearly $100 in lost payments. We cannot have in this year’s Budget a repetition of that sort of thing.
The Government cannot be surprised by the anxiety and insecurity felt by pensioners and welfare organisations if promises firmly made are to be changed because of subsequent Budget decisions made in exactly the same climate of economic self-righteousness which was whipped up by Government sources, representatives of manufacturing industry, et cetera, last year when they called for cuts in welfare payments. The
Government cannot be surprised if the people over 70 years of age who receive means test free pensions are anxious because the newspapers, not accidentally we suggest but as a result of rumour mongering by the Government, are now speculating on the fate of that pension. So they should be conscious, in view of the means testing of the increase in that pension last year. We cannot blame widows for becoming anxious, even after the Minister’s firm statements that class B and class C widows might not be subjected to pension cuts this year, because subsequent Budget decisions may be made. They have no guarantee that this will not happen.
– Nevertheless, it is speculation.
– We are concerned about speculation. The aim of this motion is to have the Senate express the opinion that in this area of expenditure there should not be cuts when the Government has made it perfectly clear that it intends cuts in public expenditure.
– It has not made that perfectly clear.
– It has been made perfectly clear in statements by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. The Government has been urged to continue cuts in public expenditure by all its supporters in the community.
Any further attack on the pensioners of this country by changes in the indexation arrangements, reductions in benefits through a reduction in the availability of fringe benefits or by failure to increase the level at which they are available will merely add to the difficulties that these pensioners have faced in the last few years. They have recently had the experience of having their right to telephone concessions queried. The Opposition agrees, of course, that such concessions should be means tested, but we point out again that the way the Government did this, by sending out thousands of letters to old and sometimes confused people without public announcement or explanation, caused considerable anxiety and difficulty in the community. Pensions are no longer protected from inflation in the way that they were in the past despite the promises. Fringe benefits are not proofed against inflation or government policy changes. Supplementary benefits and rent allowances have not been protected against inflation. They have not been increased since this Government came into office. They have not been raised since the Labor Government raised them in 1975. Pensioners are concerned. We believe that the Senate should express the opinion that these people should be protected.
Family allowances are also under attack. I believe my colleague, Senator Ryan, will have more to say about this. They have been under attack since the abortive attempt to introduce a means test in the last Budget. Statements have been made in the other House about the need to reduce family allowances. While these payments took the form of tax deductions and rebates they did not attract much attention in the community. However, since they have been out in the open as a positive supplementary payment to wage and salary earners, pensioners and social security recipients with children- a move which this side of the House supported- many Government back benchers, particularly people such as the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) have been advocating cuts in these payments. Family allowances, as every mother in the community has noted, are worth considerably less than when they were introduced in 1976. If their value had been protected against inflation as the value of tax rebates would have been under any tax indexation scheme, another $300m would have been paid to mothers to compensate for the decline in the value of the allowances as a result of inflation. Family allowances are a recognition that it costs money to raise children. Similarly, allowances for the children of pensioners and other beneficiaries have not been raised by this Government since it took office in 1975. They were last increased by the Labor Government in 1 975. They have remained at $7.50 per week per child for the last four years in spite of the increases in the cost of living.
Welfare recipients and agencies are entitled to ask how seriously the Government is taking its responsibilities to provide services for the disadvantaged groups, such as the aged, the handicapped and the homeless. We all remember that a three-year program for aged persons’ accommodation to cost $225m was announced in August 1976. By August 1979, three years later, the three-year program will cost $150m, only two-thirds of the amount that was promised. Services to the aged under the States Grants (Home Care) Act were cut last year when the Government reduced the subsidy to the States from 2: 1 to 1:1.
– But it increased the amount.
– The amount appropriated was increased, but we pointed out at the time that this would inevitably lead to a reduction in the amount contributed by the Commonwealth if the States could not match the amount which the Federal Government was willing to put up. Senator Guilfoyle said at the time that this was rubbish and that a higher amount than ever would be spent by her Government. But now the Government is handing back to revenue $2.04m of the home care services money which has not been spent. It has spent only $8. 3m of the $ 10.4m appropriated. It has spent less than the $9.1m that it spent last year. That lower spending is a direct result of the Government ‘s cut in the subsidy last year. The result was inevitable. The Opposition, the State governments and the voluntary agencies said so last year. They were right.
The Government has only itself to blame if its statements on welfare expenditure are not taken seriously. A very good example of the manner in which the Government considers the less fortunate in the community is the manner in which it treats its own employees who are invalided out of service. Such people have never received protection for their payments from this Government. One cost of living adjustment in September 1976 is all that these people have received in four years to compensate for the effects of inflation. Their payments which are the second lowest in Australia are totally inadequate. They demonstrate how mean an employer a government can be. These victims of injury and illness waited for an indexation rise in 1977. They waited in 1978. They have not received one. One can only hope that they will receive one in 1979 and that the Government will consider them in the list of low income earners and social security recipients who are covered in this motion.
The Government has also underspent in the homeless persons’ assistance program this year. Last week the Minister said in answer to a question in this place that this under expenditure was due to projects not having been commenced when anticipated due to inherent delays in lead-up work. She said, however, that funds allocated for projects which had not proceeded as anticipated were made available as the projects matured and as they required them. This is an incorrect statement. Projects have proceeded as anticipated. It is the Government’s money which has not been forthcoming as anticipated. In Victoria and Queensland considerable amounts of money have been spent. Money has been obtained through bridging finance in the anticipation of receiving money from the Department of Social Security. They have not received it and they do not know when they will receive it. Yet the Government intends to send back to Treasury unspent funds amounting to $1.9m this year. I believe that all honourable senators have been approached recently on this matter. The people concerned with the homeless persons assistance programs suddenly find that instead of there being a shortage of money, an amount of money will be sent back to Treasury unless the Government changes its mind. We hope that the Government will remember this when it is considering this matter and what it will do in the Budget.
Of course, it is about the unemployed that we on this side of the chamber are particularly concerned. We are concerned in view of the Government’s record and in view of the fact that it has increased the difficulties for people to obtain the unemployment benefit. It has changed the work test. Government members have continually questioned the existence of unemployment and the motives of the unemployed. The Government has indulged in a campaign of denigration of the unemployed and it continues to do so. We are concerned because of what happened last year in the Budget when single unemployed people were excluded from the indexation of benefit payments and when unemployed people under 18 years of age received no increase in their benefit payment. We are concerned, particularly in view of the remarks of senior Ministers like Mr Lynch, that again the Government will see the reduction of unemployment benefits as a means of cutting Government expenditure. The Department of Employment and Youth Affairs recently put out a record about unemployed people. It is called C’mon, Give us a Go. Mr Warboys, the spokesman for the Commonwealth Employment Service said:
C’mon, Give us a Go’ cost $35,000 to produce and the aim of the campaign was to educate the feelings of the public to the feelings of the unemployed and create a community awareness and a wave of support for them.
I suggest that the first place the record should be played is in the Cabinet room, in view of what happened there last year when the Government just refused to grant proper indexation and pay proper increases in benefits for the unemployed.
The aim of this motion is to draw the attention of the Senate and the Parliament to the fact that a campaign is being conducted in the Press, by leaders of industry, by senior ministers of the Government and by back benchers in the Government to reduce the amount of expenditure on welfare, health and social security in particular, but also on education, in the Budget this year. This results from Government members very real concern that their predictions about what would happen last year have been completely incorrect and that they have talked themselves and the rest of the community into the magic nature of the size of the Budget deficit. They have talked the members of the community and themselves into believing that the way to lead this country to economic recovery is just blindly to cut the Budget deficit and to show no concern about the social security recipients and the low income earners.
The Government is willing to spend large amounts of money on investment allowances which assist industry to replace workers with machinery and with increased technology. The Opposition believes that any attempt to reduce the welfare vote, as is advocated by many Government supporters and people in the community, should be resisted strongly. That is why we have moved a motion that in the opinion of the Senate this should not happen.
– The Senate is discussing a matter of urgency raised by the Opposition which relates to:
The need to exempt social security recipients and low income families from the Government’s punitive economic measures.
I think it could be said that Senator Grimes who commenced the debate has canvassed widely the expenditure on welfare and on the other areas of economic responsibility of the Government. In the short time that both Senator Grimes and I have to deal with a matter of this kind it is not easy to have a wide discussion on the economic responsibilities of the Government to all members of the community, both in respect of the collection of revenue and in expenditure by the Government. It is not easy to put together what is the prospect of compiling a Budget in any one year. But it is possible to draw from what Senator Grimes has said the concern which he has at this time of the year that there should be priority on expenditure for income security matters and that there should be no discrimination against those who are totally dependent on income of this kind.
Senator Grimes spoke about speculation and the headlines that we have seen in recent days. I think that we should deplore this type of reporting because of the anxiety that it creates in the community. Pensions, benefits and welfare programs are of very great importance to those people who need the support of the Government to maintain themselves. I agree with Senator Grimes that it is important in the pre-Budget context for those people who receive benefit from income security or welfare programs to have a voice in those matters. People from other sectors of the community can speak in their own interests. There are competing priorities when the Budget is being compiled.
I would have to say that one priority which has had a great deal of attention and support from the Government is social security expenditure. It is the largest item of expenditure in the Budget. Social security has been regarded as a priority. No one would argue with the principle that those who are dependent on the income security system should receive as high a level of benefit as can be found from the community’s resources. I have said that before and it is a source of some satisfaction that this Government has been able to achieve a record level of pension payments when expressed as a percentage of average weekly earnings. It is probably appropriate at this time to look at some of the things that were said by Senator Grimes and to look at the record of his party, the Australian Labor Party when it was in government. He said that under Labor the standard rate of pension almost reached the level of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. That has been argued again and again in this place. At the time the Whitlam Labor Government went out of office in November 1975 the single pension rate was 23.1 per cent of average weekly earnings. That is ‘not nearly 25 per cent’. In fact, it is one per cent lower than the 24.1 per cent which was reached by this Government in November 1978 when the standard rate of pension was $53.20. That is the highest level at which a pension has been paid in this country. It was not reached without consideration or commitment by the Government to the expenditure that is required to meet social security payments for about two million people at the standard rate of24. 1 per cent of average weekly earnings.
– Has the Labor Party acknowledged those figures?
– The Labor Party had a policy that pension payments would reach 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. Mr Whitlam made that promise in 1972 but pensions did not reach that level. I do not dispute that the Labor Government had problems in raising the level of pensions. It raised the level from 2 1.4 percent in March 1973 to 23. 1 percent in November 1 975. But it shows that with all the policies in the world, the resources may not be there to fulfil these promises.
Mr Whitlam in his 1972 policy speech said that the first priority would be to restore genuine full employment without qualification and without hedging. It can also be shown that that promise was not able to be realised. I think that one of the things which ought to be put on record is the recent comment by Dr Scotton who was the Chairman of the Health Insurance Commission. Recently he said ‘that the unprecedently high rate of unemployment was the most tragic legacy of the Labor Government’s term and the fact that its policies contributed to it is the most damaging criticism of them’. That is a comment from Dr Scotton who was an appointment–
– It is not. That is a comment from the Australian.
– It is a comment that has been recorded as coming from Dr Scotton. It is a comment that I place on record now. I think it is one with which many people would agree. The unprecedently high rate of unemployment was one of the most damaging criticisms of the policies- and many of its policies contributed to that state of affairs- of that Labor Government.
Senator Grimes mentioned that the pension population now feels that it has no security. It has the security of the legislation which, based on the movements in the consumer price index, gives an annual indexation of pensions. It did not have that security at the time of the Labor Government. There was no security in legislation in the term of that Government that gave an automatic increase at any time. Senator Grimes has said that at this stage everyone is dependent on Budget consideration. So they were through all of the budgets of the Labor Government; they were dependent on the Budget consideration and the other decisions which were taken which affected the levels of pensions paid to them.
If we are to talk of the promise of the Fraser Government, of the promise of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and of the promise that was read by Senator Grimes with regard to the maintenance of the level of pensions so that they did not lose their purchasing power, we do need to look at the comparison of the increase in the CPI and the standard rate of pension through the period of office of this Government. In December 1975, there was a standard rate of pension of $38.75 a week. In March 1979, the standard rate stood at $53.20 a week. From December 1975 to March 1979, the increase in the CPI has been 36.9 per cent. The increase in the standard rate of pension has been 37.3 per cent. In the terms of this Government, the purchasing power of pensions in relation to CPI has not only been maintained but has also been improved. As I said, in the period in question the increase in the CPI was 36.9 per cent and the increase in the standard rate of pension was 37.3 percent.
I think it is important to say that because of the claims that are made about broken promises with regard to the maintenance of the purchasing power of the pension. Those figures show- as I have shown in other ways from time to timethat that purchasing power has been maintained as a deliberate policy of Government and as a commitment by the Government to find the funds to pay for those increases as they have occurred through our legislation. It was said also by Senator Grimes that there is speculation which is damaging, and speculation which does give concern to the poor and disadvantaged and the people who are dependent on this Government’s programs. I have said repeatedly- and I say it again- that I regret this speculation. As the Minister concerned primarily with the matters about which the speculation originates, I am very concerned as to how one is to stop this sort of speculation in a pre-Budget context -
– Well, you could stop Lynch and Co. for a start.
– I think that those who express personal views should not be regarded as expressing Government policy. Government policy is expressed in the Government’s own legislation. The Government’s record as far as income security is concerned has been one that I think bears scrutiny. It has the support of the Australian people who receive it. Further, I believe it has recognition from those who have to make the payments that make this sort of income security system possible.
Senator Grimes speculated about the concern that those who are over 70 may have with regard to future increases in their pension. Knowing they have a basic free of income test pension at over 70 of the standard rate- that was the rate before the increases of last year- they are probably not as concerned about that aspect. They know that they have that regardless of their income. Pensioners must be concerned to know that it is the policy of the Australian Labor Party to introduce a means test on the over 70 pensions-
– Nonsense! Nonsense!
- Senator Grimes, you said in the Senate that you were responsible for that change in the policy of your Party-
– No, I did not say that. I think that is an outrageous statement and you know it.
– I think the over 70s would need to hear from you that you refute the statement that you made previously in the Senate; you said you were responsible for the change. I would be happy to hear from you if you have changed your policy. It would be unfortunate if people felt a lack of security, which you might be able to allay about your Party’s policy. Probably you could take the opportunity to clarify the paper that I understand you are circulating on proposals on the family allowance. As I understand it, some papers have been prepared that would change the present family allowance system. About two million people receive the family allowance. In view of what Senator Grimes said about the need to index the family allowance and to maintain the benefit for the universal family allowance scheme, I think that some clarification of the paper circulated by him, which may change by $1 a week the family allowance paid to families on high incomes, is needed. The honourable senator may perhaps clarify what he has in mind with regard to poorer families. It was said by the ALP and others that the community would be better off under the Hayden endowment-rebate child scheme of 1 975-76. People have forgotten that that scheme embodied an income test of roughly $4 a week for the first child and $3 per week for successive children. There was no commitment to index those rebates. If we are to argue with respect to future security for those who receive either the family allowance or the benefit under the over 70 pension scheme, I think some clarification from the Australian Labor Party on its own policies would be beneficial if we are to have a rational discussion and debate on income security matters.
As far as the commitments to income security are concerned, I have always said that it is impossible and misleading to have a consideration of the indexation question without looking at the levels of inflation. On some other occasions the argument has been brought forward by the spokesman from the Opposition that we can somehow separate six-monthly indexation of pensions from inflation levels or from other economic considerations. As far as I am concerned, it is impossible to separate such a commitment which requires further funds to be found to reflect increases in inflation for the two million people who receive pensions, lt is also impossible to argue that inflation does not concern those who receive pensions.
Inflation is of great concern to the lowest income families in Australia, including all of those who are receiving almost all of their income from the Department of Social Security. The argument needs to be stated again and again that, unless there is some control of inflation levels, there is very great hardship on those in the lower income levels who are dependent upon what they receive because they pay the same amounts of money for their necessities and expenditures. Senator Grimes rightly said that about $7,000m is spent by the Department of Social Security and that the great bulk of that amount is spent on income security programs.
Whilst he did not develop the thought with regard to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development figures, I would caution anyone who wished to draw parallels between the Australian system and those of other countries because of the great differences in our non-contributory income security schemes and many other contributory schemes, income related, and other aspects that are very different in other countries. I was interested to hear him say that taxation is not at a high level in this country. In fact, I was particularly interested to hear him make that statement because his Party has not given any commitment to index personal taxation. Some statement from the Labor Party on these matters is always useful if we are to contrast the responsibilities that are accepted.
The indexation of personal income tax is a commitment of this Government to collect a certain sum of money from the people. If we relate what is paid through the Department of Social Security on income security and other welfare matters, we find that about 85 per cent of all personal income tax collections are spent on health and welfare. That gives honourable senators some idea of the commitment that is made with regard to it. I think we cannot ever have a discussion on anything relating to the Budget without recognising that, last year, health and welfare was a $10 billion figure. This was a rise of about seven times in ten years.
It is always of interest to talk in these large figures, but perhaps it is easier if we break down some of these figures and bring them down to a more personal level. I can do that in some ways that might be understood. If we look at figures that were expended on health and welfare we can see that expenditure on the age and invalid pension in 1939 represented about 20c for each employed member of the work force. If we look at the expenditure for 1978-79 we see that it represents about $10.50 per week for each employed member of the work force. There is a great difference between what was a commitment by Government in 1939 and what is a commitment by government in 1978-79. Another figure that perhaps means something if it is broken down to a more individual level is that estimated expenditure on all social security pensions and benefits for 1978-79 represents about $18.50 per week for each employed member of the work force.
This brings up the point that was being made by Senator Grimes. I notice that the point was made also by the Pensioners Federation that there is in some way a contrast between those who are working and those who are dependent on social security. That certainly is not the intention of anyone who relates figures for those who are in the work force and those who are not, or the reasons of the different categories through which they receive income security payments. To show the way in which we are financing and maintaining our system I draw a parallel with the position in May 1969, about 10 years ago, when there were 5.4 members of the work force to each member of the community who received a social security payment. In June 1978 there were 2.9 members of the work force for each person who received a social security payment.
– Thanks partly to your high unemployment policy.
Senator GUILFOYLE No, that is not the reason at all. The reason is perhaps better stated that in 1943, if we go back that far, or if we go back to the figures in 1969 and look at the age pension population, about 55.6 per cent of the aged population were receiving an age pension. In 1978, 78.2 per cent of aged persons were receiving an age pension. So there has been this great growth in the number of people who do receive pensions through age. There has been a rapid increase in the numbers who receive them as invalid pensions, widows pensions or supporting parents ‘ pensions.
To go back to the beginning of the table that I have, in 1943 about 38 per cent of persons of pensionable age were receiving an age pension. In 1 978 it was 78 per cent. So the percentage has doubled from 1943 to 1978. Regardless of the level of pension that is paid, the income security system which now applies to our age pensioners has provided a pension for about 80 per cent of the people of pensionable age. If we look at the number of people who are not receiving a pension we would probably be looking at those who receive Commonwealth Government superannuation, State government superannuation, bank officers receiving superannuation and people of that kind. With the changes which were made to the income test through this Government in 1976, where the means test was replaced by the income test, people who have assets are now tested simply on their income. So we do find that this very significant proportion of people of pensionable age do receive the pension. The other figures that, perhaps, are relative to this are that the population of pensionable age as a proportion of the total population in 1943 was 9 per cent. In 1978 the figure was 11 per cent. So we see an aging population as well as an increase in the number of people who are benefiting from and accepting the age pension at the time that they reach that particular age group.
We find also that in aged persons accommodation there are increasing needs and there are increasing numbers of community organisations who wish to provide, in their local communities, aged persons projects. In the period of this Government’s term of office, about 500 new selfcontained hostels and nursing projects providing 15,000 beds have been approved. In the three year period a great deal will have been achieved.
Senator Grimes pointed to the fact that the total program of $225m has not been spent. I want to give an assurance that funds are being made available in accordance with the approvals that were given for that three-year program. As funds have been called for under the three-year program for which we announced the approvals in 1976, those funds are being made available. A remarkable number of projects are nearing completion in this year. I can assure honourable senators that, with the numbers of projects that I am opening personally and with others being opened on my behalf, the activity over the last 12 month period has given a significant improvement in aged persons accommodation.
In addition to the aged persons accommodation, there is a need for an expansion of home care services. Senator Grimes referred to this. I have stated on several occasions that the Commonwealth Government in this year did provide an increased amount. Based on State budgets, the total Commonwealth and State expenditure will rise from $ 13.6m in 1977-78 to $ 16.7m in 1978-79. The Government is, as has been said, dependent upon the expenditure that is made by State governments because under the Act their expenditure is matched by the Commonwealth Government. I welcome the fact that several States did announce that they would increase the expenditure on State grants for home care services. I am aware of the numbers of new positions which we have been able to approve because State governments put forward applications for increased services. It will be understood that, when a service has been approved, it may expand. It expands at the rate at which the State is prepared to develop that service, and that expansion is matched by the Commonwealth Government. I am aware that many people in the community see very great benefit from the development of satisfactory home care services, and the domiciliary services and other services that many local governments and other groups have developed. Their services are of enormous benefit to those aged persons and invalids in the community who are able to benefit from them.
At the same time as looking at welfare expenditure I think we need to look at those other programs of government and talk of what has been able to be done in the matter of child care and children’s services, services for handicapped people where the three-year program has given a much wider spread and improved service in our rehabilitation services, and in the very many excellent services which are conducted by the community groups, in some cases where we with State governments are jointly sharing projects. All these things have been commitments of government in each of the three Budgets which have been introduced. Whilst there may be speculation from many people in regard to the forthcoming Budget, I simply stress that in each of the Budgets there has been improvement in the income security system and there has been improvement in welfare programs. I naturally go forward into the Budget with my proposals for the maintenance of the income security system, with some new proposals, and with capital programs for many of the services that I have mentioned. It is a determination of government as to what is able to be done.
Without impinging on what are necessarily Budget considerations and decisions, I simply say, as I have said before when referring to widows and others, that it is thoughtless and extraordinary that at this time each year speculation about every social welfare program causes anxiety to many people. Over the past three Budgets there has been no reason for people in receipt of a particular category of pension to feel concerned that there would be a sudden upheaval in their life or income security. I simply regret that we are continually arguing about speculation at this time. If Senator Grimes thinks that I would see any merit in kite flying on these matters I would like to assure him- and I do not think that he implied that I would believe that that was useful- that I see no value in it all. I am in a position to see the concern of the people affected by speculation. I am in a position to see the effect of that concern in correspondence and representations, and all of the upheaval that it causes to a fairly busy office and department.
It may be in the minds of some people that social security is to blame because the Government has overrun its deficit; I do not see it that way at all. In this country there is a Social Services Act, there are income security programs, and there is a National Welfare Fund from which payments under the Social Services Act are met. The fact that in conjunction with Treasury and others, we budget for that expenditure with the best knowledge and figures available to us at Budget time and then overrun it because we have more aged people, invalids, widows or supporting parents and more unemployed, who take up pensions, does not lead me to suggest that anyone should be resentful of the fact that we have overrun our deficit.
Under the Social Services Act those benefits continue to be paid from the National Welfare Fund on the appropriate dates with the consequent adjustments. This payment gives security. Regardless of whether additional Appropriation Bills are passed, the National Welfare Fund makes the payments under the Social Services Act in accordance with the terms of eligibility. This, to me, offers a great deal of security. Fears about a Budget deficit being overrun, whether there are funds to cover the next issue of cheques, should be laid to rest by stressing that in this country the National Welfare Fund expenditure is automatically paid in accordance with the appropriate Act.
Some comment was made with regard to compensation for Commonwealth Government employees. As I said earlier, I am aware that no increase has been made in the rates for Commonwealth Government employees and representations have been made on this matter. I would hope that as a result of Budget consideration compensation payments again reach a level appropriate to that reached at the time the last increase was made. It was said that only one or two governments are now behind us in payments. On the last consideration several governments were behind us. With the changes in the Victorian Act I believe that there will be only one other government making lower payments for compensation.
Senator Grimes has brought forward, in a responsible way, his approach to the forthcoming Budget. I can assure him that I will certainly be making the strongest representations regarding those matters which are within my responsibility.
Senator GRIMES (Tasmania )-Mr Deputy President, I wish to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. Two matters seriously affect me and I believe they should be mentioned in this personal explanation. The first is that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) claimed that I had distributed a paper advocating the non-indexation of family allowances and the removal of $4 a month from families receiving family allowances for each child. That is not so. The first point in the paper is, in fact, that family allowances should be indexed. The second point is that the amount indexed should be directed to lower income families. The $4 is a reference to the Canadian scheme, which removed $4 a month from family allowances.
The second misrepresentation was the claim, which is repeated often in this place, that I advocate a return of the income or means test for those pensioners over the age of 70 years. That is not my policy or that of my party. I certainly admit that I do not believe that the abolition of the means test for those between 69 and 65 should be a top priority of any party in this day and age. I believe that they should be included in a national superannuation scheme. I advocate and retain the policy of my party that pensions for those over 70 should be free of means test.
– I support my colleague, Senator Grimes, who moved the following motion:
That in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency:
The need to exempt social security recipients and low income families from the Government’s punitive economic measures.
I support the motion because, as my colleague, Senator Grimes, has pointed out, at this stage there is a great deal of speculation throughout the community about where the axe will fall in the forthcoming August Budget. I was very pleased to hear the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) defend her Department, her income support programs, and the extent of appropriations she is able to secure for her responsibilities as Minister for Social Security.
The Minister’s defence, admirable as it was, does not dissipate the anxiety felt throughout the community and by senators in this chamber about the Government’s intentions with regard to social security and low income families in the next Budget. I would remind the Minister that the anxiety which is caused at this time of year is not only caused by responsible or irresponsible speculation in the newspapers. It is now caused by the Government’s own record. However carefully the Minister might set out the relationship between the consumer price index and inflation and the decision of the Government with regard to the indexation of age pensions, the fact remains that age pensioners in this community did have half-yearly indexation of their pensions. They no longer have that. They have only yearly indexation. Despite the arguments put forward about the inflation rate and how this might alleviate the effects of abolishing the six-monthly indexation, pensioners who are my constituents and pensioners who are constituents of every senator in this chamber claim- and they should know- serious distress and disadvantage arising out of the Government’s abolition of the sixmonthly indexation.
How can pensioners and other low income groups in our community who are dependent upon government programs feel secure at this time of the year when the Government has gone back on a specific promise? The specific promise was to maintain six-monthly indexation of pensions. That promise was broken and we have only 12 monthly indexation. There can be no argument about the effect that the abolition of sixmonthly pension adjustments would have on the recipients, lt was distressing in the extreme and contributes significantly to the fears and anxieties now felt by that section of the community.
It is also the case that statements by Cabinet Ministers and senior Ministers in the Government to the effect that we are spending too much on social security, to the effect that the unemployed are getting too much money, to the effect that the unemployed are not genuinely without employment- statements of the kind quoted by my colleague, Senator Grimes, by the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson), the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) and particularly by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch)- do affect the public. These men do have status as Cabinet Ministers and what they say publicly is taken by the public- rightly so, I believe- as an indication of what this Government intends to do. It may not be the intention of Senator Guilfoyle to reduce unemployment benefits or to reduce social welfare payments, but the decisions in these matters are made collectively by Cabinet and the men making these statements are influential members of the Cabinet. I believe that it is not good enough for the public for Senator Guilfoyle to say that the statements made by Mr Robinson,
Mr Viner and Mr Lynch are personal comments which do not indicate the Government’s intention.
We are concerned on this side of the chamber. We are concerned that the Fraser Government is pursuing a set of priorities in government funding that puts the pensioners and low income earners a very poor last. We have watched with dismay the deterioration of the position of the poor and the low income earners in Australia during the three and a half years of Fraser Government rule. At the same time, the profitability of big business has flourished, tax evasion by the wealthy in our community has prospered, and oil companies have received huge windfall profits because of the way in which the Fraser Government has decided to achieve import parity for the price of oil in Australia. Like all recessions, the effects of the economic recession we are experiencing are not distributed equally across the community. The poor, the pensioners, the unemployed and their families slip further behind in their ability to maintain a reasonable standard of living for themselves and their families, while big business and others in a position to exploit the economic circumstances make profits.
I remind honourable senators that when we talk about low income earners and pensioners, when we talk about those on low incomes in this community, we are not talking about a minority. We are not talking about a handful of citizens who need special protection. We are talking about the majority. Despite the myths that prevail around the countryside that most people are well off and that there is an egalitarianism with regard to income, the fact remains that we are a very unequal society in terms of income. Figures to this effect are published in various sources, but I remind the Senate of a statement made, admittedly in 1971, in the London Times on 10 March. It is still very pertinent and very relevant. The statement reads:
Distribution of wealth (in Australia ) is among the most inequitable (unequal) in the civilised world. The rich are very rich and the poor are very poor and while there is really no excuse for poverty in such a potentially rich country, nevertheless it exists to an alarming degree.
– Who wrote that?
– That appeared in the London Times on 10 March 1971. I refer Senator Hamer, who has suddenly shown an interest in this debate -
– The statement is absolute nonsense.
– I refer Senator Hamer, for contemporary and up-to-date data on income distribution, to a very admirable publication recently put out by the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union entitled Australia Ripped Off’ which collates a number of statistics, all from official sources such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics and other reputable data-gathering bodies in this country. The publication collates a number of figures which show just that situation. For example, at August 1 978 the average weekly wage was $ 1 80 a week, 56.4 per cent of workers received less than $180 a week, and 16 per cent were earning less than $100 a week. The average male wage at this stage is $205 a week and the average female wage is $136 a week. Senator Hamer is about to leave the chamber or move around and show his contempt for these figures. His attitude is typical of the attitude amongst the privileged in this community that there are no such people as the poor in Australia and that nobody earns less than a few hundred dollars a week. The facts gathered by the agencies now administered by Senator Hamer’s Government show otherwise. They show that the bulk of Australians earn a very low income indeed as compared with the income earned by the top two or three per cent.
I refer now to the priorities of this Government and our concern for them. This is the main point that I want to make in my contribution today. If we look at the way in which the Government has acted with respect to taxation and companies, we find that the 40 per cent investment tax allowance to companies has cost $400m this year. We find that changes in the oil pricing policy have resulted in $100m windfall profits going to the big oil companies. We find that the abolition of estate and gift duty has cost $30m. At the end of the coal export levy in the next financial year, there will be a cost of $ 100m. Company taxation will be reduced by $300m in the financial year 1979-80, with the implementation of full trading stock evaluation. The total revenue forgone in the financial year 1977-78 through the main taxation concessions to industry was in excess of $820m. I think it is worth looking at those subsidies to big business and corporations and comparing them with what is saved by reductions in social security. Although this Government has made much of the need to reduce public expenditure and has got enormous mileage out of the wasteful extravagances of the Whitlam Government in respect of public expenditure, the Fraser Government has not reduced public expenditure. Overall, there has not been a reduction in the amount of taxpayers’ money that is collected and spent by government. What has happened is that there has been a reallocation of that money. Certainly there have been cuts in public expenditure- time will not permit me to enumerate them in detail- in areas such as pensions, child care, legal aid, Aboriginal health programs and community health programs. There have been savings to Government in that area, but the savings have merely been redistributed in the form of investment allowances and other subsidies to big business. So what we see is not a saving of the taxpayers’ money but a redistribution from the social services area to assistance to corporations. Of course, that is all we can expect from a government with the philosophy of this Government.
- Senator Hamer has withdrawn.
– Yes, Senator Hamer has withdrawn, perhaps to look at the publication I referred to and check the figures. He will find that they are quite accurate. I remind the Senate that the saving from the abolition of the halfyearly indexation of pensions was $60m which, adjusted for inflation, might mean a total of $70m. For a saving to the Government of $70m, we have all the disappointment, concern and hardship caused to pensioners in our community.
It is a very fine thing that we have here in the Parliament today many members of the Australian Pensioners Federation who have come to Canberra to put the case for pensioners throughout Australia. It is very admirable that pensioners are energetic, organised and committed enough to do this, but it is very shameful that the case they now have to argue is the case to regain a benefit they once had. Eighteen months ago, when I met with members of the Pensioners Federation, they had come to Canberra to put the case for quarterly indexation of pensions because they felt that half-yearly indexation was inadequate. Since that time they have gone backwards, and now they have to come to argue the case for half-yearly indexation. At the same time, many programs conducted throughout the community which are important for low income earners, not only pensioners, are going without adequate funds. I will give an example of one program which has caught my attention. The Working Womens Centre in Newcastle runs a range of services such as a child care program for working women in the area, including migrant women and aged women. Recently this organisation had to close its health centre because it was unable to get from State or Federal government the $20,000 it needed to maintain the service until the end of the financial year. For want of $20,000, an essential community health service is being closed down. At the same time, something like $400m is going to the income investment allowance. lt is the priorities of this Government that the Opposition questions at this stage. It is our concern to raise these matters for discussion in the Senate in the hope of persuading the Government to reallocate some of the money in the forthcoming Budget to the areas where it is most needed. We do not want the position of the pensioners or low income earners in our community to deteriorate any further. We do not want any greater gaps between the rich and the poor in this country than we have now. I am very pleased that recently the Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, admitted on a P.M. program that there are many unmet needs in our community. The Minister enumerated those needs as being in the areas of the handicapped, aged persons’ care, domiciliary care and so on. There are many unmet welfare needs in this community. We want to see the Government proceed to meet some of those needs. Whatever economic strategy it will implement in the forthcoming Budget, we urge the Government to exempt from its harshest provisions the pensioners and the low income earners.
– The motion that has been moved by Senator Grimes is that it should be the opinion of this Senate that the following is a matter of urgency:
The need to exempt social security recipients and low inconic families from the Government’s punitive economic measures.
Senator Grimes read that motion at the beginning of his speech, and that was the last we heard of it. He did not in any way relate his remarks to the wording of that motion; rather, he gave a surprisingly responsible speech, based on his record of participation in these debates, urging responsible actions in the social welfare area. This Government has a very good, strong and popular record in achieving such needs. He urged Government members and senators in particular to make sure that the needs of welfare recipients and those who receive benefits from the Department of Social Security are not overlooked in the forthcoming Budget in August this year.
Indeed, the record of achievement of the Government in the last three years is such a very good one that it gives a great deal of security and confidence to the people of Australia that the Fraser Government will continue to enact responsible Budget decisions in the area of welfare services. I cite the figures in the social security and welfare budget over the last three years of the Fraser Government. There has been an increase in the three years of 27 per cent, 16 per cent and 7 per cent respectively in this area of spending. There has been an increase in the amount spent in those three years from $5.1 billion in 1975-76 to an estimated $8 billion in this financial year. The Government has given very high priority to the needs of members of the community who gain benefits from a social security system.
Senator Grimes’ motion has not been directly referred to in the debate in the Senate this afternoon. The rather woolly speech that he gave was one that I, for my part welcomed as one which supports the views of those honourable senators who wish to see the momentum of the Government’s welfare record continue into the next Budget. Senator Ryan sought to support her colleague with a more flamboyant and caricaturing speech about the reallocation of resources and did not in any way refer to the substantial gains by welfare recipients in Australia. She rather based her remarks on evidence that she quoted from an article in the London Times, of all places, without stating who wrote the article, how responsible the person who wrote it was, on what evidence that claim was made and, moreover, that it was written eight years ago in 1971.1 believe that the Opposition, in a debate such as this, should use relevant evidence and real arguments to influence the Senate or indeed the Government. It should use the kinds of arguments that I believe Liberal and National Country Party members are daily urging upon members of this Government and, I believe, with very good success. Senator Ryan tried to support her colleague with statements about reallocation in what was, to my mind, a caricaturing speech and one which does not require real consideration.
The main statistic to which the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has already referred, and which I want to underline, is that during this current financial year in the area of age pensions- the area to which Opposition speakers have most directed their attention this afternoon- the present Government has achieved the highest level of pension payments as a percentage of average weekly earnings. They are at the level of 24. 1 per cent. The aspiring Mr Whitlam of 1972 and the Australian Labor Party, then in Opposition, promised that within three years a Labor government would lift the pension to 25 per cent rate of average weekly earnings. In those three years it increased the rate from 21.4 per cent to 23.1 per cent. It did not keep its promise. It did not live up to the goal that it had set for itself. In comparison, in three years this Government has lifted the rate from 23 per cent to 24. 1 per cent. That is the highest ever level of pensions as a percentage of average weekly earnings. Therefore, all the arguments of the Opposition spokesmen this afternoon, which have concentrated upon this level of government provision for age pensioners in our society, collapse because this Government has been able to achieve the highest level on record. With regard to the security of age pensioners, the Fraser Government has lived up to its promise to bring in automatic indexation of the pension. This was achieved in 1976 and has given a very real measure of security to pensioners in this country who know that pensions now will be indexed automatically each 12 months according to cost increases.
– Did Labor introduce such a thing during its period of office?
– Labor never introduced such a measure. Indeed, it was a Liberal government that set the pace, as was the case with family allowances; it was a Liberal government that introduced family allowances. 1 believe the pensioners of Australia are not fooled by the caricaturing or carping attitude of some Opposition spokesmen who try to undermine these achievements of the Fraser Government.
– Did Labor not have the worst inflation rate when it was in government?
- Senator Messner asks about inflation. I was about to say that the broad economic strategy of the Government, which was endorsed overwhelmingly in 1975 and 1977, is to bring down the rate of inflation and to have a responsible approach to economic management in this country. That strategy has been successful in more than halving the rate of inflation. This means that pensioners’ savings are all the more valuable and secure and that they are not frittered away, as was the case in the Labor years in the early 1970s when there was an extraordinary rate of inflation. I believe that it is right that the Fraser Government should continue to be so fully committed to this economic strategy which, by its record of achievement, assists pensioners. With regard to indexation, the reduction in the rate of inflation has directly given more value to the money that pensioners receive through the social security system. I should acknowledge the long and careful statement that was made by the Minister for Social Security this afternoon itemising the achievements of her Department and of the Government in a broad range of government measures in the welfare area. It is a record that should be supported and commended by the Australian people.
I want to spend a few minutes examining the words used in the motion moved by Senator Grimes. The terms of the motion have not been referred to by Opposition speakers in the debate this afternoon. Rather, they have exhorted honourable senators on this side of the chamber in a woolly and caricaturing way, to be successful in keeping up the momentum of the Government. Some words used in the motion stand out in my mind. The motion states that the Government has somehow introduced punitive economic measures against the recipients of social security benefits and low income families. There is nothing punitive about the Government’s decisions. Those who are receiving social security benefits have not been punished in any respect. Let us take the example that was most discussed by the Opposition speakers- 12 monthly indexation of pensions. Age pensioners, along with all taxpayers and all other areas of Government budgeting, have taken an equal share in the expenditure restraint. The decision has led to age pensioners forgoing less than $20m. This must be compared with the $3, 362. 8m which has been appropriated this financial year for aged persons assistance programs, which include pensions and allowances. This cut in expenditure represents half of one per cent of the Government’s spending on assistance for the aged. Yet the Opposition places all the thrust of its argument upon this one example which amounts to one half of one per cent of the Government’s spending on aged persons assistance programs.
The Opposition, by the weakness of its argument, has only reinforced the excellent record of the Fraser Government in this area. I believe that the momentum of the Government’s achievements will continue into the August Budget, not because of half-hearted urgings by the Opposition but rather by the responsible gathering of evidence and the arguments put forward by members of the Liberal and National Country Parties to Ministers of the Government to use in the formation of the Budget. I believe that the next step in the welfare areas will be for the Government to reintroduce six monthly indexation of pension rates. In the more prosperous climate of Australia’s economic recovery and in the light of other factors, the reintroduction of six monthly indexation may be an option for the Government. The validity of the one example used by the Opposition evaporates entirely. I believe we should have every confidence that the Government will continue its excellent record of achievement. As 1 believe that this matter has been sufficiently aired in the Senate, I move:
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Grimes’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Australian delegation to the thirty-fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
-by leave- I move:
Briefly, may I suggest that because of the position in which many Australians find themselves at present this matter be brought on for debate at an early time. The rights of these citizens are limited. This report is a vehicle which will enable us to debate the serious situation in which they find themselves. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
-Mr President, may I get an assurance from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick ) that this report will be debated at an early time. Could the Minister give that assurance at this moment and not at a later stage?
– in reply- I do want a debate to be brought on. I do want to give that assurance. But until one can see how the pattern of the business of this Senate will emerge, taking into account its priorities in the next three weeks, I am unable to give the full assurance. However, I will keep the request in mind and with the best of good will will try to comply.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the report of the Australian Bureau of Animal Health for the years 1974 to 1978.
– by leave- I move:
I wish to make some remarks in connection with this report and when I am finished I will seek leave to move another motion in relation to the report of the Australian Egg Board.
Mr Gee, in his report to the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, states in his opening remarks:
This is the first consolidated report of the activities of the Australian Bureau of Animal Health. Since its inception in 1974 . . .
It is well worth noting that this Board was created during the reign of the Whitlam Labor Government. It is often said by honourable senators opposite, in an attempt to discredit the Labor Party, that our Party does not have any concern for primary producers or for people who derive their income from primary production. We now know full well- and Mr Gee has given conclusive proof of this- that it was a Labor Government that set up the Australian Bureau of Animal Health in 1974.
But let us look at the report a little further. The reference to the Australian National Animal Health Laboratory gives some very revealing statistics. Mr Gee had this to say about the Laboratory in his report:
The first positive action in relation to the development of a high security animal laboratory complex in Australia came in 1964.
That is exactly 1 5 year ago. What did the Liberal Party do about the matter when it was in government? We had to wait until 1 974 when a Labor Government made the finance available actually to bring this Laboratory into being. On 2 April 1974, the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, issued a Press statement to the effect that the
Labor Government would make available the sum of $56m to construct this Laboratory. So we had a wait of 10 years from the time that these discussions first took place to the establishment of a national animal health laboratory. We had to wait until we had a Labor Government in office actually to do something for which primary industry in Australia had been crying out- that was the setting up of a national animal health laboratory- so that we could have some control over any exotic disease outbreak should it occur in this country.
Mr Gee, as I have said, has given conclusive proof that the Labor Party in its wisdom did something concrete to establish this laboratory, despite the fact that honourable senators opposite try to create the impression in the minds of country people, particularly primary producers, that we are not concerned with their welfare. I advise every farmer who is listening today to obtain a copy of this report which has been tabled, to read it thoroughly and find out the correct position as to what has happened to the Animal Health Laboratory. Despite the fact that the Labor Government made available $56m -
– And cancelled it.
– It did not cancel it. It lost office because of the actions of people in the Senate. Senator Archer was not a member of the Senate then although two of his colleagues from Tasmania were. Because they would not knuckle under to the Fraser Government they lost their endorsement. They were ex-Senator Marriott and the late Senator Bessell.
– That is absolute rubbish.
- Senator Rae says ‘rubbish’. He knows better. I have had discussions with one of them. I know for sure. That is why the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had to go to Yarralumla and cause the Whitlam Government to be sacked. He could not depend on the vote of Senator Marriott and the late Senator Bessell.
– I take a point of order. That is an unfair slight on those two gentlemen. I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Order! There is no point of order. The gentlemen to whom the honourable senator referred are not members of Parliament at present.
– I expected that sort of statement from Senator Rae because the truth hurts. He knows that what I am saying is the absolute truth. As I have said, I have spoken to one of the gentlemen who is still alive.
– Which one?
– A simple deduction would tell the honourable senator that.
– Tell me which one.
– I do not need to tell the honourable senator. I give due credit to the late Senator Bessell. I found him to be a man of great credibility in the Parliament. I am on record as saying that. However, I return to the Animal Health Laboratory. It has not yet been brought into being by this Government. Despite all the promises it made at election time, it is still not a viable concern. 1 do not know whether the Government has got past clearing the site to establish it. I refer to some of the other remarks pertinent to this report that are made by Mr Gee. He said:
A committee was established by the Commonwealth in 1 968 to examine laboratory needs further. This body sought the advice of industry. At the same time, the Commonwealth and States Veterinary Committee carried out its own investigation. Both State and Commonwealth supported the development of a laboratory but there was disagreement concerning the setting of priorities vis-a-vis other activities such as the off-shore quarantine station.
We know that the off-shore quarantine station is to be constructed at Cocos Island. Not much work has been carried out on that either. Yet this report indicates that as far back as 1968 discussions on the quarantine station had opened up. Eleven years have gone by and it has still not been constructed. Further in the report Mr Gee said:
Good progress was made and by the end of 1 973-
I agree with him because a Labor Government was in office- . . there was sufficient information for Government to approve the establishment of the laboratory on a site in Geelong at a cost of $56m. The matter was considered by the Parliamentary Works Committee and a report presented to Parliament in October 1974 recommending construction. At this stage all parties agreed that the laboratory should go ahead, lt now became a matter of national priorities and unfortunately Australia was entering a period of economic stringency.
Mr Gee was talking about the present time. He continued:
During 1975-76 (here was further refinement of plans and specifications and in 1977 site works were commenced. Late in 1977 the Government made a total commitment to construction and on 20 March 1978 the first sod was officially turned by the Prime Minister at a function held on the site.
As far as we are all aware that is about all that has happened. The first sod has been turned. This laboratory was first talked about in 1964, 15 years ago. We are still waiting for an animal health laboratory to be established by a government which repeatedly claims that it has the interests of the farmers at heart and that the
Labor Party has not. I do not need to say any more because I think the report speaks for itself. If honourable senators opposite who are trying to ridicule what I am saying read the report they will see that the facts are set out in it.
In conclusion, I say that the Senate is indebted to the Director of the Bureau of Animal Health for putting down this report. It is the first report of the Bureau. If it had not been for a Labor government and the advocacy of Senator Wriedt who was Minister for Agriculture and Dr Everingham who was Minister for Health and who insisted that we go ahead with a scheme that had been first advocated in 1964, a report on the Bureau of Animal Health would still not have been tabled in this Parliament. There would not have been a bureau of animal health under this Government. The Government would not establish it when it was in power prior to 1972. We took the bull by the horns and proved to primary producers that we have their interests at heart, more so than honourable senators opposite. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 23 of the Egg Export Control Act 1947, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Egg Board for the year ended 30 June 1 978.
-by leave- I move:
I am not going to speak at the moment on the Australian Egg Board report because I know once again by the derisive remarks of honourable senators opposite every time I speak on the poultry industry that they have very little sympathy for egg producers in Australia. We have only to read Hansard to find that out. I am very proud to have been an egg producer. I am proud of the people who produce eggs in Australia. I may speak at a later date when this matter is brought on for debate. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate bc made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
-Some unfair remarks have been made. I regret that Senator McLaren did not continue at this stage to make the remarks that I think are important to this subject. I believe he is entitled to speak. Honourable senators are now under some sort of constraint by the Leader of the Government (Senator Carrick).
– You know that is not true.
-The Leader of the Government says that it is not true. Today, for the first time in a very long time, the Whips failed to come to an agreement. If that agreement had been reached it would have cost us another 20 minutes to debate a very important matter of urgency. The agreement could have been that the leading speaker in the debate took 20 minutes and the subsequent two speakers on the Opposition side took 1 5 minutes each. The Leader of the Government took it upon himself to make the decision that that should not be permitted. I think the Leader needs to be reminded that there are a variety of forms by which the Opposition can take up the time of the Senate or recover the time that was lost by his failure to allow the Whips to come to an agreement.
That is the clear position. For the first time in many months the Whips failed to reach an agreement. Opposition senators can retaliate only by using the forms of the Senate to debate fully whatever matter they wish to debate without any constraint whatsoever. The Government, therefore, will need to use whatever device it can discover to bring its legislation to an early conclusion. That is the position to which we have been brought. All sorts of motions come before the Senate to allow business to proceed. This is one of them. We will continue to debate these motions and inform the Government that without our co-operation the passage of its legislation through this place will be difficult. I regret having to say this but it is fairly clear that agreement between the Government parties and the Opposition will be difficult to reach from now on.
– I reject totally the substance of the remarks of Senator Georges. Through the whole of this autumn sittings on every aspect of the business of this Senate I, as Leader of the Government in the Senate and with the support of Government senators, have been more than generous and gone far beyond what the Labor Party in government would have dreamed of doing. Mr President, let me remind you that the Government has permitted Question Time to overrun repeatedly to give concessions to the Australian Labor Party. We have in fact had an excess of urgency motions on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and indeed we have established a pattern whereby we have had an acknowledgment that there would be two speakers from each side on the business to be done. Although it is very unusual honourable senators have taken the opportunity to speak on the motion that a Bill be read a first time and this has taken up many hours of the time of this Senate. The Labor Party has had the full use of all these procedures. In due course within the proceedings of this House I intend to outline these matters.
Today when I was told there was to be an urgency motion I indicated that we would do what we had done in previous times and have two speakers from each side of the House. That is a pattern that has emerged with the proliferation of urgency motions. Later I will make a statement on the business before the Senate. I indicate that it is not true to say that we have tried to cut down the speaking time of the Opposition. If it is necessary I will table before the Senate evidence that day by day and week by week in both the Budget sittings last year and in the current sittings we of the Government have never used the gag except in the ordinary protocol of understanding. In fact in these autumn sittings we have bent over backwards to give the Opposition many more facilities than before.
No government will respond to threats. I think it is a very sad thing indeed that the Opposition today should start threatening. I make no threats at all. But if it is necessary, because the Opposition wants to give this kind of performance in public, of course the Government must look to the rules of the Senate and to getting the business of the Senate through. What Senator Georges has said is not a true representation of what the pattern of behaviour in the Senate has been. We have previously had very amicable arrangements. I hope that will be so for the future. That is the only way in which a civilised Parliament can conduct itself.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report of the National Employee Participation Steering Committee entitled ‘employee participation: A broad view’ together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) relating to the report.
In the report entitled ‘Employee Participation: A Broad View’: there is an account of the state of the game in Australia and a very important statement about the circumstances which exist in this country. We all read and perhaps admire the achievements of countries such as Sweden in relation to this very important matter. The report notes: lt would not bc appropriate to attempt to copy the experience or overseas countries and transplant their systems of employee participation. Recognition needs to be given to Australia’s own social, economic, political and cultural history and environment. To be effective, systems of employee participation should be developed which are tailored to suit the needs and conditions of enterprises in Australia. Such systems could well vary from locality to locality . . .
In setting out to achieve, as it were, the purposes which are hinted at in that statement the Minister for Productivity, as I said, has been successful in engaging the co-operation of the ACTU, the union movement broadly, the employer organisations and bringing them together to prepare this quite important document which in a sense gives a degree of leadership on this whole important question.
On page 2 of the report there is a recognition of the circumstances which are to be encouraged and the circumstances in which this report is brought down. For example, there are references to increasing recognition by management of social issues outside the enterprise, changing attitudes in society towards authority, increasing opportunities and desire for participation in matters affecting the community, the impersonal nature of some large enterprises, the broadening of trade union interests beyond their traditional concerns of pay and working conditions, a widening gap between the reality of work and employees’ expectations of it, and the need for great efficiency, adaptability, creativity and competitiveness in Australian industry and the recognition of the contribution which all employees can make towards meeting this need. That is the statement on why this report has been produced.
As I said, I sincerely compliment the Government and the Minister for Productivity on what I regard as a fine and creative report which is balanced and sensible and displays leadership in the field of industrial relations for the first time since this Government came to power. In referring to that fact I draw attention to the totally Jekyll and Hyde approach of this Government which is illustrated on the one hand by an intelligent and creative Minister in Mr Macphee and, on the other hand, by the mad ramblings of a clique of senior Ministers who use industrial relations in this country as a cynical weapon in politics.
I say to Government senators that when they are voting in their party room and have to choose between the people who start to howl when the sun goes down about industrial relations- the maddies’, the ‘heavies’ of this Government, the graziers whose industrial relations knowledge is founded in the agricultural revolution- and the creative people in this Government, and there is one at least who can be responsible for the production of a report of this kind, I hope that in the interests of this country they will make an intelligent choice. It is in that spirit that I commend to the Senate this very valuable report and congratulate the Minister responsible for its production.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The Senate is debating a motion to take note of a paper which was the basis of a statement made in the other place by the honourable Ian Macphee, Minister for Productivity. The paper involves the launching of a new concept which is a concept of getting together. I think this is a major breakthrough, a philosophy that the Australian Democrats have been advocating since our formation. It might be said that it is a relatively insignificant statement and not the most important paper that has been presented to this Parliament. However, I feel impelled to give an unqualified compliment to the Minister, Mr Ian Macphee, for a magnificent breakthrough.
Another feature of this paper is that there are three human beings involved in the breakthrough of having a look at worker participation. It is interesting to note that the three men are men of goodwill. My unbounded admiration of Bob Hawke is no secret. I have always had a high admiration of the Minister for Productivity, Mr Ian Macphee, and although I concede the toughness and sometimes ruthlessness of Mr Polites, I acknowledge him to be an efficient person and a person who is susceptible to argument and logic. The classic lesson we can learn from this paper is that worker participation- not the kind of worker participation that terrified the unions when such a suggestion was put under another guise in previous years, but genuine worker participation, as Senator Button quite aptly described it- can create an environment for future discussion, for future consultation and for future consensus. Of the many books that I have read on futurism in Australia one book that impressed me more than any other, I think, was the book by Professor R. C. Birch of Sydney University. He wrote about confronting the future and putting down the problems that confront us in the future. He gave several illusions that we have accepted since the Industrial Revolution. One of these was that we could force human beings into a situation where they would do mind-boggling, souldestructive work five days a week with no social cost. I think this report recognises that. These three men of good-will at least have opened the door for discussion on this question.
Worker participation has had a sorry history in Australia. If one wanted to be objective one could blame the trade union leaders for rejecting it and for being suspicious of it. But after one has done that, to be fair, one has then got to say that they were tricked so many times by management, by proprietorship, by the capitalists. One could blame the employers for being so recalcitrant in even accepting it and thinking that this was just another way the unions were trying to screw them. The sad history of the past 20, 30 or 40 years is that worker participation has been something that people were inclined to say out of the sides of their mouths because it was a dirty word. I do not want to give this paper more credit than it deserves. All I will say is that it does create an environment, to use Senator Button’s words.
What the paper does do is open up a vision that if these three men of different political persuasions can get together and at least agree on a formula, what sort of exciting possibilities does it open up in the future. Senator Button quite properly said that the greatest cause of loss of productivity in Australia is not strikes but industrial accidents. He was not making a political point. It is a fact found by a series of objective committees. Why cannot we find men of goodwill to sit down across the table, not in the glare of publicity where people grandstand but in secretrepresentatives of the Government, of the trade unions and of the employers- to try to resolve these problems by compromise and consensus?
The biggest social problem facing Australia at the moment in my view is automation and computerisation, and I am ashamed to say that. It should not be a problem. Automationcomputerisation should be something which we all look forward to as a time for greater leisure, of greater spare time to enjoy those things that stimulate us mentally, spiritually, intellectually, physically or whatever. Unhappily it has become a monster- something that scares us because we know it is going to cost jobs. I am of a persuasion that that problem too can be solved by people of goodwill. The only possible answer long term is a shorter working week. But a shorter working week cannot be achieved by just reducing hours and having exactly the same levels of pay. Further, the worker cannot be expected to bear the whole brunt of this. Why cannot a tripartite group of people who have got together on this - the three of them, the trade unions, the employers and the Government- sit together and come to some compromise in solving that problem? In my view unless it is solved before it hits us, it will result in one million Australians being unemployed by the year 1982. I have been repeating this prediction now for 12 months. That situation would create a society which would not be a stable society but a society of the haves and the have nots.
Worker participation does work. In my former electorate, when I was a member of the lower House, there was a company called Philips Industries Ltd which manufactures, as we know, television sets, records and whatever. That company employed 1,500 people. The company’s production was down and its profits were down. Absenteeism was rising and the number of accidents was rising. Finally the management of that company called a meeting, not of the trade union leaders but of all the workforce, and said: ‘We are in trouble. Can we get together?’ Out of that conference came worker participation- the cellular structure on the factory floor. The employees are now in charge of production on that factory floor. Foremen are now virtually absent from the factory floor. Wages have increased, productivity has increased and profitability has increased. Absenteeism has almost disappeared. The atmosphere on that work floor has improved to such an extent that I would have thought that it would have provided a classic example of the success of worker participation, of employee participation, without the employees being exploited as they had been in previous experiments of schemes disguised as worker participation.
The national president of my party is the chairman of a company which was the forerunner in worker participation, Siddons Industries Ltd. Not only has that company introduced a cellular structure with a virtual absence of foremen or overseers but it has introduced a scheme of flextime and all sorts of things. I have spoken to most of the men in that company. They are better off and are happier with flextime. By agreement between management and labour, men are working a four day week. They sometimes check out at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Management is happy, the proprietorship is happy and the trade unions are happy. This has been done by consensus, by getting around the table and compromising as was done by Ian Macphee, Bob Hawke and Ian Polites- three men of goodwill. I want to register in the Senate our approbation- it is almost excitement- that this social experiment, and that is what it is, has succeeded. I end as I began. Without any equivocation, I commend the Minister for Productivity and the Government on this action.
Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) proposed:
That the adjourned debate be made an order of the day ibr the next day of sitting
– 1 wish to speak to the motion. We have evidence before us again of a desire by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) not to allow debate on important matters. In normal circumstances we would have come to an agreement to limit the debate on these matters and to continue it at some future date- perhaps on Thursday during the time allotted for General
Business or at another time. However, because of the breakdown in the arrangements today, many of us on this side of the chamber believe that we should take this opportunity to speak when a matter is before the Senate and not at some future date. Perhaps the message is getting across to the Leader of the Government in the Senate that this place can run only by arrangement, agreement and consensus. If he has not already appreciated that fact, he may do so before tomorrow and we may get back to the understanding that we have more time available for debate.
Senator Carrick commented earlier today that the Government had been very tolerant of the Opposition. I thought that he made those remarks in a rather patronising way- almost as if the Opposition had never co-operated in the program of the Senate. He also said that the gag had been applied by the Government very seldom during his period of leadership and during the period prior to that. I point out to him that the reason the application of the gag has not been necessary has been because of the cooperation of the Opposition in supporting some reasonable passage of the legislation. I must make it clear that the failure to come to some arrangement on the urgency debate meant that an honourable senator who wished to speak in that debate was excluded from doing so. The Leader of the Government may not be aware that this same honourable senator was excluded from debates on three previous occasions due to the gag being moved in urgency debates. We accepted the situation then because we managed, by arrangement, to get three speakers on either side. lt seems to me that we must press the point that this place cannot run effectively unless the party Whips are allowed to come to some reasonable agreement as to who participates in debates. The Whips are the only people who know what is the position of each honourable senator and his participation in debates in this place. For some time the Whips have allowed honourable senators on both sides of the chamber to take part in debates. There has been an agreement by honourable senators to cut down their debating time, even on broadcast days, to allow for a fuller participation in debates. I speak at this stage to impress upon the Government, and especially the Leader of the Government, that there are many times we can enter a debate to put our point of view on matters which will take up far more time than the time which the Leader of the Government may save by being obstructive. If I may say so, he was definitely obstructive today.
– I wish to speak to the motion that this debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. It is important to note that the moving of such a motion is in conflict with the statement presented in the other place by Mr Macphee, the Minister for Productivity. He heralds this tripartite agreement as possibly a great achievement and states that there may be something in worker participation. He cites as an example the great improvement in the boot’ industry which was on the point of bankruptcy until worker participation was introduced. The industry is now at the point of improving. If there is any organisation in Australia from which we can obtain knowledge on workers participation, it is the Amalgamated Metal Workers’ and Shipwrights Union. Senator Button and Senator Chipp were allowed to speak when the paper was presented. Possibly the only representative in the Senate from the Amalgamated Metal Workers’ and Shipwrights Union, Senator Mcintosh, also wanted to make a contribution to this debate. As a result of his inability to contribute, we will possibly never know the future desires or the participation of the Amalgamated Metal Workers’ and Shipwrights Union. I think that we are all the losers as a result of this gag motion that the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– He could have risen after I did. I was not gagged.
-He did but the Government Whip moved this motion. Let us be honest; the debate will not come on again during this session. If the Government thinks that the debate should be relegated to some future date, it does not grasp the importance of the statement presented by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) on behalf of the Minister for Productivity. The Government is not only abrogating people’s democratic rights but also it is depriving the Senate of the value it may have received from the contribution of Senator Mcintosh. The Government is not permitting an honourable senator to speak on this matter on behalf of one of the biggest unions in Australia. This is in complete contradiction with the appeal made by the Minister for this proposal to succeed. The Government is damning it. The Government has the right to do that. The trade unions can look after themselves, but we are of the opinion that rather than having the continuous fights and industrial disputation we would achieve more if we could get some agreement on workers participation.
On many occasions in this chamber 1 have been deprived of a right which I thought I had to meet the requirements of an agreement my Whip had come to with the Government Whip. I made that sacrifice because I knew that there must be co-operation if the Senate is not to be a shamble. The Opposition has been co-operative. It is only today that there was an inability on the part of the Whips to reach an agreement. This was aggravated by the refusal to permit a knowledgable senator to contribute to this debate. We must now rethink our position. I know that the Government has the numbers. Possibly we cannot do much in opposition. But honourable senators opposite will have a much happier life and the business of this House will be expedited if we forget bygones and come to some agreement in the future. I ask the Government not to use the power of numbers that it has because it will make life very difficult.
– I do not think that the question confronting the Senate is the power of the Government to act in certain ways including the power to gag a debate such as this one. It is very unfair for Senator Cavanagh to say that on the Opposition side people wish to contribute and on this side people perhaps are disinterested. That is far from the fact. The way I see the situation is this -
– Are you revolting against your Whip?
– The honourable senator has had his say.
– But are you revolting against your Whip?
– I am just saying, Mr Deputy President, that there are many honourable senators who wish to discuss these various -
– And your Whip will not let you.
– That is not the question, Senator. The question concerns the practice of the Senate. If when papers are presented we debate each one as it comes forward, the business of the Senate will be disrupted. My viewand I am sure that it is shared by all honourable senators on the Government side- is that I wish to see the Senate discuss matters such as the paper that is before us. I make a point on our recent discussion on fuel emissions control and related matters. I understand that all parties agreed to the adjournment of the debate. So, it should come forward again for debate. In the discussion on fuel emissions control, various honourable senators spoke by leave. Because of the understanding that the debate would be resumed at a later date, many people, including myself, did not participate at that time. I would suggest that the same situation applies tonight. The usual procedure in the Senate when a paper or report is introduced is to adjourn the debate to a future sitting. This gives honourable senators time to look at the paper or report. I would suggest that at some stage in the near future this paper should be debated.
– I wish to say a few words on this topic. I felt I had been gagged in the debate. Two or three minutes before Senator Chipp stopped speaking, I noticed the Whip on the other side talk to the occupant of the Chair. I do not know, but I suspected then that the gag was to be moved. So, I jumped up on my feet as quickly as possible. I know that I was on my feet first. I felt that it was important that I contribute something to the debate. I desired to say something on the paper. Everyone was eulogising workers’ participation. I felt I had something to contribute. I felt that i had walked into a stopwatch in sheep’s clothing in relation to the type of participation about which we speak. There are other points that should be made on the matter. I should have had that opportunity to express my views. There were one or two points in the paper that I would commend, but there were others at which I felt we should have had a close look. The opportunity should have been provided to bring those points before honourable senators so that they may have the time to think further on the points mentioned in the report before a fullscale debate takes place on it. 1 feel that I have been deprived of passing those remarks about the paper. Therefore, I am opposed to the motion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Scott)- You are not being deprived now, Senator.
-I am not being deprived. Well, let me talk about the paper.
– Having been given the opportunity, what are the points you would have made?
-1 would have commended the Committee for looking at the changed attitude towards authority. There is a changed attitude towards authority. Disenchantment exists in our community. The disenchantment is through our whole society. It is not only towards those in authority upon whom they look as bosses but also towards the Parliament as a whole. Because of the expectations that exist throughout Australia, this disenchantment arises in our society. On page 2 of the paper, mention is made of the impersonal nature of some large enterprises. Not only is there a disenchantment in our society, but also is there an alienation which exists in the work force. It is an alienation which I am pleased to say was noted in the report. I can remember a form of such alienation when I was a shop steward. At one time one could negotiate with the firm and with the boss; one could come to some type of arrangement. But today, with the growth of national and transnational companies, as far as I am concerned, the boss is just in the same boat as the worker. He is only a subcontractor to a national or transnational company. Those are the matters that I wanted to bring up.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator, I do believe that the Senate is debating the resumption motion. The debate on the paper has been adjourned. Have you anything further to say on the matter of the resumption of debate?
– I am trying to explain why I was opposed to the debate coming on at a later hour today. Those were some of the points that I wanted to bring up and to expand upon. I did not have that opportunity.
– I rise on a point of order. I believe that the intention of Senator Mcintosh is to bring to our attention the reasons which he would have brought forward to justify the continuation of the debate. He claims that they are so important that the debate should continue now. Therefore, that argument illustrates why the debate should not be adjourned until the next day of sitting.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There is no point of order as I see it. The debate has been adjourned. Senator Mcintosh was speaking to the motion for the resumption of the debate. Has Senator Mcintosh anything further to say?
– Yes, I have something further to say. I was against the motion because I felt that those points were important. I did not have the opportunity to express them. At one point in the document mention is made of democratisation. I felt that at that point the paper was getting to the core of the situation not so much with respect to workers’ participation, but regarding the democratisation of industry. Those are the matters that I felt 1 was not given an opportunity to express. The motion, which was agreed to, prevented me from saying those things. It is important, especially in the Senate, to realise that this situation exists. In this Parliament we should realise that it is not good enough to represent people. We have to be a representative of the people. That is how people feel today. They do feel disenchanted. Because the motion was moved and carried, some honourable senators did not get an opportunity to express those views at all. I feel that we should be going through this report thoroughly at a later hour today.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I point out that the debate on that matter has been adjourned.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (Quorum formed)
Report on Departmental Expenditure on Newspapers and Periodicals
-I present the report and transcript of evidence from the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations.
– I raise a point of order. At the time Senator Cavanagh called for a quorum to be formed the vote had not been taken on the motion for the adjournment of the debate to become an order of the day for the next day of sitting. The question had not been put and declared by you to be carried. The vote had not been taken.
– Nonsense, he said that several times.
– He did not. My colleague Senator Georges at that stage had called for a division, at which time my colleague Senator Cavanagh called for a quorum to be formed. That quorum having been formed, I suggest again, with respect Mr Deputy President, that you should now put the question that the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting, at which time Senator Georges might- a quorum being present- be able to determine whether he wants to renew his call for a division.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I do not believe that there is a point of order.I believe that the motion was carried. I heard only one call for a division, from Senator Georges, and no more. It is my understanding and belief -
– I did call, but with my weak voice I could not be heard from that distance.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I merely say that if 1 failed to hear you, Senator Cavanagh, that is unfortunate. I heard Senator Georges call once and that was the only call I heard. The motion was declared passed.
– Peter, that arrangement is off.
– I find myself in an exceedingly difficult situation. I just had a call from across the chamber that the arrangement that was made is off. An arrangement was made whereby I, as Chairman of the Committee, would present two reports and seek that the debate on the reports be adjourned until tomorrow to be dealt with then. I propose to reverse the order in which I was intending to deal with those reports and to introduce a report relating to ‘Departmental Expenditure on Newspapers and Periodicals’. I ask Senator Douglas McClelland to take the time that it takes me to introduce that report to reflect upon the other arrangement.
– I will do that.
– I present the report from the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations on its inquiry into ‘Departmental Expenditure on Newspapers and Periodicals’.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- 1 move:
That the Senate take note of the report.
In so doing, I indicate that as a result of a recommendation by the Senate Estimates Committee B in October 1 977, the Senate referred the matter to this Committee on 28 February 1978 for investigation and report. The Committee set out to ascertain the level of expenditure on newspapers and periodicals by Commonwealth Government Departments, and to investigate the guidelines which exist for the control of that expenditure. The expenditure by Commonwealth Departments on newspapers and periodicals in 1977-78 is set out in the report. Total expenditure was approximately $ 1 , 599,000. The amounts spent by each Department ranged from $607 to $258,100, and averaged approximately $53,000. In May 1978, the Departments of Finance and Administrative Services reviewed departmental purchases of newspapers and periodicals. There are no universal Government guidelines for Departmental expenditure on newspapers and periodicals. However, the Departments of Administrative Services and Finance in the review examined the internal procedures of each Department for the control of expenditure on those items.
Procedures for dealing with requests vary from department to department; however in all departments the approval of senior officers is required. A number have rules, guidelines or policies, set down by senior officers, within which the approving officer makes decisions. The review was initiated following the Treasurer’s expression of concern in early 1977 for economy measures to be taken by all departments. It found that individual departments have a widely varying need for newspapers and periodicals. Whilst the major daily and weekly publications are common to all departments, each department has an individual need for particular publications. For this reason it was not considered desirable for general directions to be issued to all departments curtailing expenditure on newspapers and periodicals. Moreover, between 1976 and 1977, the actual purchases of newspapers were found to have been reduced by 9 per cent and of periodicals by 2 per cent. The Committee has no doubt that it is necessary for public servants to have ready access to newspapers and periodicals which are the basic sources of written information in countries such as Australia. Having reviewed the present costs, and the management methods of departments to control expenditure on newspapers and periodicals, the Committee considers that they are satisfactory in view of the relatively low level and slow rate of growth of this expenditure. This was the same conclusion reached by the Government review. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Rae) proposed:
That the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I wish to speak briefly to the motion to explain why Senator Douglas McClelland felt obliged to call across the chamber. We did come to an agreement. Apparrently Senator Douglas McClelland and Senator Rae had discussed the matter that was to come before the Senate. It was also arranged with me and we came to an agreement that Senator Rae should proceed in the way that he has proceeded. For that reason we did not obstruct him, although I believe Senator Douglas McClelland was tempted to do so. I make these few remarks to indicate that there is possibility for agreement at these levels and that it does facilitate the passage of legislation and the program of this Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report on Capital Territory Health Commission Annual Report 1975-76
– I present the report and transcript of evidence from the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations on its inquiry into the Capital Territory Health Commission Annual Report 1975-76. In doing so I thank the Opposition for its co-operation in making the arrangement to enable me to present this report tonight on behalf of the Committee. I also thank the Opposition for agreeing to the arrangement that I would present the report and indicate a motion, of which I give notice for tomorrow, on the basis that the matter can be debated tomorrow. The Opposition can indicate its views then and, as I understand it, its support for the motion.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the report.
In doing so, I indicate that this Committee has been given the responsibility by the Senate for the continuing oversight of the activities of Commonwealth statutory authorities. In August 1 977 we became concerned about the delay in the presentation of the 1975-76 report of the Capital Territory Health Commission. Preliminary inquiries were made at the time. The report was eventually tabled in the Senate on 2 1 February 1979, that is, over two and a half years after the completion of the financial year to which the report related. As a result of this late presentation, the report was formally referred to this Committee by the Senate. We have subsequently taken evidence at public hearings from the Capital Territory Health Commission, the AuditorGeneral’s Office, the Department of Finance and the Department of Health. We were primarily concerned with the reasons for the delay in the presentation of the report and with the problems which occurred in its preparation. The history and the causes of the delay in the presentation are set out in the Committee’s report. The essential problem was a dispute over the form of the Commission’s accounts.
The Committee considers that the circumstances surrounding the report’s disgracefully late presentation represent an unsatisfactory disregard for the obligations and responsibilities to the Commonwealth Parliament of the Commission. If the 1975-76 financial statements of the Commission had been presented to the Parliament in the 1976 Budget session, they would have been accompanied by a qualified certificate from the Auditor-General. They were not in fact presented until over two years later- and yet were still accompanied by a similar qualified audit certificate. The lengthy negotiations and discussions which had occurred in the interim resulted in no substantial change in the report as presented to the Parliament. The text of the report, comprising 126 pages, was ready for presentation in the 1976 Budget session. This was held back for over two years because of a dispute over the accounts, which comprise 4 pages and which were eventually presented in the same form as originally prepared. The text of the report, as finally seen by the Parliament, whilst informative and detailed, was largely of historical interest only in view of the time which had elapsed since the period described.
This Committee has set out its views on the relationship between statutory authorities and the Parliament in its first report on ‘Statutory Authorities of the Commonwealth’. As stated there, it is essential that authorities are accountable and responsible to the Parliament which creates them. A primary form of this accountability is the presentation of an adequate annual report within a reasonable time. The history of the 1975-76 report of the Capital Territory Health Commission represents a totally unacceptable standard of accountability. The solution to the problem is one which the Committee has suggested elsewhere. We consider that the Commission should have presented an interim report, with draft financial statements, to the Parliament while the accounting dispute was being resolved. We have suggested in our report on statutory authorities that such a practice be introduced for all authorities through an annual reports Act. If this provision had been in operation the Parliament would have received a report on the Commission ‘s activities not only for 1975-76 but also for 1976-77 and 1977-78. Reports for these later years have not yet been tabled. We consider that the Commission should certainly present an interim report should a delay occur again in the future. The Commission itself considered and rejected the possibility of presenting an interim report for 1975-76. For the reasons outlined in our report we consider that this decision was incorrect.
A further, and even more important, matter arose during this inquiry. The accounting dispute occurred because the Commission wished to employ a system of cash accounting. The Committee was informed that this system was introduced throughout Australia’s hospital services when the cost sharing agreement between the Commonwealth and the States began. However, a cash accounting system has serious drawbacks. The Department of Health admitted in evidence that the system does not disclose the true cost of Australia’s hospital service because items such as the provision for superannuation and long service leave and a number of other matters are omitted.
The Committee regarded this evidence with great concern. The situation appears to be that because the provisions for certain liabilities are excluded from the accounts used by hospitals the complete liability of government, and therefore of the taxpayer, for the services is unknown. There are few more expensive facilities financed from the public purse than hospitals. It is bad enough that the financial details of these services are not known but even worse when the intentional ignorance of these unstated liabilities amounts to a disregard for a large and mounting degree of indebtedness which the taxpayer at some stage will have to meet. We therefore intend to request that the Committee be given additional terms of reference which would enable us to investigate hospital costs so that the real expense of the provision of hospital services in Australia may be taken into account in determining health policy. We intend that this inquiry would lead to a recommendation on a form of accounting which would readily disclose those full costs in the future.
We note the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare entitled ‘Through a Glass, Darkly; Evaluation in Australian Health and Welfare Services’ which was tabled in the Senate on 3 May 1979. The Committee, in its report, expressed its primary concern over the lack of evaluation of Australia’s health and welfare system and also stated that bodies should be accountable for the public moneys which they use. We, in our area of responsibility, express our concern in relation specifically to the accountability and costing of hospital services. The additional reference which the Committee will be seeking will be the cost accountability of Australian hospital services. Pursuant to Standing Order 36aa, I give notice that tomorrow I shall move:
That the following matter be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations: The Cost Accountability of Australian Hospital Services.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned. (Quorum formed).
– by leave- On 1 May, I outlined the legislation the Government is proposing for passage before the winter recess. I undertook to report to honourable senators on this matter week by week. I do so now. I also referred to the need for reasonable expedition in the consideration of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Bill and associated Bills which are at present before the Senate. It is worth while mentioning some of the history which lead to the introduction of this legislation, and the opportunities which have been provided for consideration of the issues involved. The Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security conducted an exhaustive and comprehensive investigation into all aspects of Australia’s national security, extending over nearly three years. On 5 May and 25 October 1977, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced to the Parliament the Government’s decisions on the reforms which were to follow the Royal Commission’s recommendations and foreshadowed the legislation currently before the Senate. The Government tabled those parts of the reports which the Royal Commission considered could be made public without prejudice to national security. Thus the Parliament and the people were authoritatively informed of the fundamental considerations relating to national security, compiled and assessed by an independent judicial authority with full access to all the information, and the time and resources to analyse it thoroughly. These tabled reports were freely available to honourable senators and obtainable by the public. 1 turn now to the progress of the legislation and to the full opportunity which has been provided for debate of the Bills in the Senate. On 7 March, the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) gave notice of his intention to introduce the Bills. The Bills were introduced on 8 March. Subsequently the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) and other members of the Opposition were briefed on the contents of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Bill by the Director-General of Security. The second reading debate was resumed on 21, 27, 28 and 29 March, and concluded on 3 April. Consideration in Committee of the Whole has already continued on 3, 4 and 5 April and on 2 and 8 May. In brief, the legislation followed a most detailed examination by a royal commission, lt has now been before the Senate for two full months and still awaits consideration by the House of Representatives. It has been debated on 9 occasions, on 6 days of which it was the only legislation considered by the Senate, and on 4 days it was debated while the Senate’s proceedings were being broadcast.
During all this time the Senate has not been required to pass other major Government legislation. There has been no attempt, however, to stifle reasonable debate on first readings or urgency debates raised by the Opposition. Honourable senators will agree that all reasonable opportunitiy has been provided for a detailed consideration and public debate of this legislation. In addition, the Government has demonstrated a willingness to accept the substance of amendments and to insert provisions in the Bill designed to give a statutory base to matters raised during the debate.
There has been no attempt to hurry the legislation through the Parliament. As I have already mentioned, however, we will need to finish our consideration of the ASIO Bill with reasonable expedition. This significant statutory reform should not be delayed.
Other legislation coming forward will also need to be considered by the Senate in the next few weeks, and already it is apparent that additonal time will be required. I advise honourable senators that the Senate will need to sit from Monday 28 May to Thursday 3 1 May and during the first week of June at least. I must also indicate that it may have to sit into the fourth week after resumption. Tomorrow I will move that Government Business take precedence of General Business after 8 p.m. We may have to consider similar action in the coming weeks also.
These arrangements should provide adequate time for the consideration of all the important legislation the Government is bringing forward. As soon as I can I will provide lists of legislation on a weekly basis as was so successfully worked out last year, at which time we had the full cooperation of this chamber. I seek co-operation for the program to be carried out.
– by leave- There are two things which unfortunately have delayed the normal business of the Senate tonight. The matter that has been the subject of some debate over the last three-quarters of an hour concerns the rights of honourable senators to speak. Some people feel that they have been aggrieved while others feel that commitments have been broken. I do not wish to go over that ground again because we have been through the debate many times since I became a senator. Unless we can get some watertight agreement, which is very difficult, we will go through the same thing again at some future time. We all accept that it is only by agreement that we can make the place work. We know that it is the responsibility of the Leader of the Government- I accept this because I took exactly the same view when 1 sat in the chair opposite- to get the legislation through. One endeavours to do so in the most reasonable form possible. However, we recognise that it is difficult to do so in the absence of a watertight agreement on procedures. I believe that we ought not to allow a repetition of what has occurred tonight because we all know that it is wasteful of time.
That brings me to the second matter, which results from the words just uttered by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). There are no grounds on which an Opposition can be put in a position of not being allowed adequate time to debate any matters that come before this Parliament and I am concerned about the statement that has just been made by the Minister. He referred to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Bill. We all know thai a quite considerable amount of time has been spent in debating that Bill. The Minister wants reasonable expedition of the Bill, and that is understandable. But I do not accept the proposition that the fact that the royal commission spent three years in drawing up its recommendations on this Bill has any relevance to the way in which it should be treated in this Parliament.
So much time has been spent on this Bill because it is important. I was glad to see that the National Times recognised this last Sunday week when it indicated that the quality of the debate and the degree to which the legislation was being examined by honourable senators on both sides of the chamber was an object lesson to honourable members in the other place. That is the way in which we ought to deal with legislation of this importance and magnitude. The very fact that we are debating all these amendments to the ASIO Bill I believe reflects credit not only on the Opposition but also on the Senate. With great respect to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, it does not matter if we are here until the second or third week in June. It will be unfortunate, but it will not be the first time that we have sat until the middle of June to complete our business. If the legislation warrants that extra sitting of the Parliament, then we should stay here and consider it. We cannot gloss over legislation as important as this ASIO Bill. There are people on both sides of the chamber, only a limited number certainly, who have spent a great deal of time examining the provisions and the implications of the Bill. Until the Minister made his statement, I admit that I had some sympathy for the problem he had earlier in the evening. But if we are to be subjected to that type of reasoning in order to expedite legislation in this chamber, then with great respect to the Minister, I must say that I lose sympathy for his argument. That is not to say that we need to have these arguments every night. I certainly hope we do not because, as I have said, we have seen them on all too many occasions.
I shall wind up my remarks by saying to the Government that we recognise the difficulties of getting legislation through, but if the Government in its wisdom decides to bring down such complex and important legislation as the ASIO Bill that is before us, then we as a Senate have to recognise that we must be prepared to spend the time in consideration of that legislation. I am quite sure that if we did not do that we would be recreant in our duties to the Parliament and to the Australian people.
-by leave -I want to put to both leaders that the Whips are the people most concerned with the easy and reasonable passage of legislation through this place. It is not possible to arrive at a watertight agreement. What is arrived at is an understanding, and that understanding has worked well in the past. It is not the Whips’ prerogative to control what happens during the Committee stage of Bills. Might I suggest to the Senate that if it had looked carefully at this complex legislation, which derived from three years of investigation by a royal commission, it would have sent the Bill to a committee for discussion, as it has done with other complex legislation. The committee could have discussed it, come to some consensus, and sent it back to the Senate. What is happening, of course, is that the Committee of the Whole is carrying out the work of one of the standing committees, which should have been given responsibility for the legislation.
What the Leader Opposition (Senator Wriedt) has said is correct. The Senate is to be commended for its scrutiny of the legislation. The scrutiny has been lengthy and may be even lengthier. Nevertheless, it is necessary to allow the Whips to come to some agreement so that the rights of other honourable senators not involved in the debate on this legislation will not be diminished in any way. I can assure the Government that, provided the Whips are allowed to come to some understanding on how they should proceed, we will not have to sit into the second week in June. In fact it is quite possible by arrangement on both sides to facilitate the passage of the legislation as we come to a close. We have done so previously. We have succeeded in coming to such an agreement on innumerable occasions over the past two or three years. The procedures and the atmosphere of co-operation break down- may I chide both leaders herewhen they begin to interfere with the work and the responsibility of the Whips. Having said that, at a reasonable time both leaders, may care to answer that charge. Nevertheless, let me put it fairly clearly to them: The Whips are in a better position to understand the needs of honourable senators on both sides of the chamber, and I think that they can carry out their duties effectively without the occasional advice and direction they may receive from the top.
– by leave- It is not my intention to speak at length on this matter. I merely wish to say that it might be gleaned from the remarks of the Leader Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) that the Opposition has been uncooperative so far as the passage of this legislation is concerned. Indeed, far be that from the truth. The simple fact is that, according to my recollection, on no clause that has been debated in the Committee stage of the Bill, has a division been called by the Opposition, and in many instances the clauses dealt with highly contentious and controversial matters.
From that point of view we have exercised restraint and co-operated with the Government. Senator Button and Senator Evans have been handling this matter principally on behalf of the Opposition in the Committee stage. There were a number of matters which 1, as a member of the Parliament and a member of the Opposition, would have liked to have raised during the Committee stage but because of the shortness of time available and the other matters which have come forward I have kept out of the debate and have left it to my colleagues, Senator Button and Senator Evans. Far be it that the Opposition has been obstructive in the passage of the legislation. We have been co-operative. If the Government continues to adopt this truculent and arrogant manner it will be the worse off when it comes to our attitude.
– by leave- I rind myself on the same wavelength as Senator Douglas McClelland, but with this variation: With the approval of Senator Button and Senator Evans I have deliberately refrained from participating in the debate until the later clauses are reached. However, with their concurrence I intended and expected to have a reasonable hearing on clauses 39 and 41 as there is a tremendous interest by the trade union movement and ethnic communities in the structure of the Security Appeals Tribunal. I went to the extent of alerting the Attorney-General, Senator Durack, of the fact that I would expect him to amplify considerably the structure of the Tribunal having in mind what happens in a much enlarged appeals tribunal in Canada. When I heard the utterances of Senator Carrick I was aghast to learn that my tolerance was going to be abused. I have not yet recovered from the shock. I feel that I have kept the peace. I have followed loyally the instructions about cooperation given by Senator Button and Senator Evans. I want an assurance that I will not be stifled when we come to clauses 39 and 4 1 .
Senator McINTOSH (Western Australia)by leave- My reason for speaking is that I do not wish my name to be associated in any way whatsoever with a speedy passage of this Bill. I do not want to be associated with co-operating with the Government in any manner in order to pass this Bill through the Senate within two or three weeks. Personally I do not care if it stays in the chamber for six months. It should be fully discussed. We have only reached clause 28. We have 93 clauses to consider. Quite honestly I do not want to be a party to a Bill whose only purpose is to legalise something that is already operated by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders bc suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Bills being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
-The High Court Justices (Long Leave Payments) Bill makes provision for payments in lieu of long leave not taken upon the death in office or the retirement of a justice of the High Court. The payments proposed to be made under the Bill are the same as those that have been made in the past pursuant to specific authorisations by Cabinet.
The Government believes that payments to High Court justices such as those dealt with in this Bill should not depend upon the exercise of Executive discretion but on legislation. This Bill is intended to put the matter on a proper basis and to honour undertakings given by me and my predecessors to the Senate Estimates Committee that legislation would be introduced to authorise these payments. In a companion Bill, the Judges (Long Leave Payments) Bill, identical provisions will be made in respect of the judges of other federal courts. It is appropriate, however, that the provisions for justices of the High Court be made in a separate Bill because of the special position occupied by that Court which is the court established under the Constitution whereas other federal courts are created by the Commonwealth Parliament.
The Bill provides for the payment on the retirement of a justice who has completed not less than 10 years’ service, or on the death of a justice irrespective of whether he has completed 10 years’ service, of an amount calculated at the rate of 5.2 weeks for each completed year of qualifying judicial service or an amount equivalent to one year’s salary whichever is the lesser. If after 10 years a justice retires or dies in office without having taken any long leave, he, his widow or dependants, as the case may be, shall be paid a sum equal to the amount of one year’s salary as at the date of his retirement or death. If, however, he has taken some long leave, then on retirement or death an amount is payable calculated on the basis of 5.2 weeks for each year of his service less the period of long leave actually taken. The maximum payable is the equivalent of his annual salary at the date of retirement or death. I stress that in no circumstances will a payment under the Bill exceed an amount equal to a justice’s annual salary. If on the other hand a justice should die in office before he completes 10 years’ service then an amount is payable calculated on the basis of 5.2 weeks for each year of his service. When a justice retires the payment is, of course, to be made to him. If, however, a justice dies in office payment is made to the spouse or, if there is none, to his dependants, or in any other case to the legal personal representative.
The Bill also provides that where a payment is made to dependants of a deceased justice the amount payable shall be distributed between or among those dependants as directed by the Attorney-General. There is already a similar discretion in the Judges’ Pensions Act 1968 in respect of the distribution of a judge’s pension and such a provision is reasonable in legislation dealing with payment in lieu of untaken leave so that account can be taken of the particular circumstances of individual dependants. Finally the Bill provides that, where a person who would otherwise be the recipient of a payment is under a legal disability, the Attorney-General may pay an amount payable under the Bill to a trustee. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
The Judges (Long Leave Payments) Bill is a companion Bill to the High Court Justices (Long Leave Payments) Bill 1979 and makes similar provision for payments in lieu of long leave not taken upon the death in office or the retirement of a federal or Territorial judge or a person who, by virtue of an Act, has the same status as a judge. The reasons for the introduction of the legislation and the relevant provisions of the Bill are the same as those referred to in my speech on the companion Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill 1979
Consideration resumed from 8 May.
– The Committee has before it the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill 1 979 and three associated Bills. The Committee is considering the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill 1979. I remind the Committee that the consideration of clause 18 and the two amendments moved thereto by Senator Evans have been postponed. The Committee is at present considering clause 28 as amended by an amendment moved by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). Senator Evans has moved an amendment to sub-clause 1 at line 27. The question is:
That the words proposed to bc left out (Senator Evans’s amendment) be left out.
Question resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 29 to 32- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 33 provides that the Director-General shall furnish to the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) a report in respect of each warrant he issues, that is to say, a warrant relating to the various matters which we have been discussing such as telephonic interception and search. Throughout the entirety of this debate, the Opposition has moved a number of amendments which increasingly seem to be disagreeable to the Attorney-General. We make no apology for the fact that those amendments in various ways tend to hedge in the Attorney-General in the exercise of his function to make him apply his mind from time to time to various important issues related to this important legislation. In respect of this amendment, the Opposition is again concerned to ensure that the information which is made available to the Minister is also made available to the Leader of the Opposition. We do that because it is another check and balance, as it were, on the frivolous exercise of this power which the Director-General has.
We have had a great deal of advice about the impeccable Director-General who apparently we now have. But, of course, we are dealing with legislation which does not provide for Mr Justice Woodward to go on forever and it is important that the provisions in the legislation be as proper as they possibly can be. We have said on a number of occasions in the course of this debate that in preparing new legislation in relation to a security organisation in Australia we have a unique opportunity to benefit from the experiences of the past in the United States of America, Germany, the United Kingdom and, indeed, in
Australia itself where, without adequate supervision and checks and balances of this kind, quite serious instances of abuse of the powers of an intelligence organisation have been found by, for example, Mr Justice Hope. They are set out in the report of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security. In the course of running to this legislation, the Government has inserted a new clause 20a which provides that the DirectorGeneral shall consult with the Leader of the Opposition about the general direction of ASIO and what its activities are. That is a very general provision which was proposed as an amendment by the Opposition and which the Attorney-General ultimately accepted and moved as an amendment to the legislation. If the Government is willing to accept a suggestion made by Mr Justice Hope in his report that there should be consultation with the Leader of the Opposition about these matters, I think it is only proper that it should accept the whole of the spirit of Mr Justice Hope’s report. I will refer the Committee to it. The Judge emphasised on a number of occasions that there should be a bipartisan approach to security matters and at page 2 1 9 of the Fourth Report, Volume I, he said:
If there is to be a bipartisan approach it is necessary that the opposition party or parties should be informed about security matters, and the appropriate way to do this is for consultation between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition and by reports by the Director-General of Security to the Leader of the Opposition.
I interpolate there that the Government has come half way. It has conceded our position about the desirability of consultation between the Director-General in this case and the Leader of the Opposition. It has conceded that point. It is not, of course, an enormous concession but it is important in the context of this legislation. Mr Justice Hope did not refer only to consultation. He referred to consultation with and to reports by the Director-General to the Leader of the Opposition. That is precisely what this amendment is about. Clause 33 deals with the DirectorGeneral reporting to the Minister about his activities. The amendment which we have moved deals with the Director-General also reporting to the Leader of the Opposition about his activities. That is precisely the position which was adopted by Mr Justice Hope. Not only did he make this specific recommendation in pursuit of the notion that there should be a bipartisan approach on security matters, but also he had this to say:
This practice -
That is the practice of a bipartisan approach and referring these matters to the Leader of the Opposition- is regarded as basic in various parts of the democratic world and should bc regarded as basic in Australia. With a truly bipartisan approach I think that supervision by the Executive and where appropriate, by a review tribunal, will protect both the interests ofthe nation and the interests or citizens.
That is what the Opposition, which has been criticised at times for delaying the passage of this legislation, and for being tortuous about the details of the legislation, is concerned to do- to protect the interests of this nation and the interests of citizens. If the Government brings into this chamber a sloppily drafted piece of legislation full of half-baked notions of what civil liberties in this country mean or ought to mean, it is our function and our obligation as an opposition to point out these matters.
We are grateful to the Minister for making concessions about some of the points which we have drawn to the attention of the Government and particularly the point about consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. I know that the Minister will tell us that the DirectorGeneral, Mr Justice Woodward, will report to the Leader of the Opposition anyway. But we are talking about legislation. We are talking not about the practice of one judge or of one Director-General of Security with one Leader of the Opposition. We are talking about legislation which will presumably last for a considerable period. If it does last for a considerable period, as I said before, it ought to be correct in accordance with the views of Mr Justice Hope and embody the democratic checks, balances and safeguards to which I have referred.
I invite the Attorney-General, in the spirit in which he went half way with the royal commission recommendations, to screw his courage to the sticking place, go the full way and accept the recommendations of the Royal Commission in full. They are totally consistent, one with the other. What has happened to date in relation to this point can truly be described as a halfhearted gesture. This is the second half of the point which Mr Justice Hope was concerned about and the second half of the point about which we as an Opposition are concerned. I commend the amendment to the Committee.
– The Government cannot accept this amendment. The Committee is dealing with a clause relating to warrants issued by the Minister on application from the Director-General in relation to the special powers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Clause 33 reads:
The Director-General shall furnish to the Minister in respect of each warrant issued under this Division a report in writing on the extent to which the action taken under the warrant has assisted the Organisation in carrying out its function of obtaining intelligence relevant to security.
The Opposition has moved as an amendment to that clause that the Minister shall, as soon as practicable after the receipt of the report from the Director-General, furnish a copy of the report to the Leader of the Opposition. We have already debated earlier Opposition amendments which sought to intrude the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) into all details of these special powers for the granting of warrants. Under the proposal, he would be advised about the particulars of a warrant when it was first issued. The Committee has not agreed to those amendments. The amendment now moved by the Opposition seems to be complementary to those earlier unsuccessful amendments.
The reason why the Government is not prepared to accept this amendment is that it seems to be based upon a misconception of the role of the Leader of the Opposition in relation to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. In the nature of things, he cannot be involved in the details of government. The fact of being Leader ofthe Opposition means that he is not a member ofthe Government: He is the opposite to being in government. This amendment seeks to involve him in the details of the administration of the Organisation. The Government is not prepared to accept that amendment. The Government has provided very handsomely in this legislation for the Leader of the Opposition to be informed in two ways about the Organisation. Firstly, the Government has already proposed- and the Committee has accepted the provision- that the Director-General of the Organisation shall consult regularly with the Leader of the Opposition for the purpose of keeping him informed on matters relating to security. He will be given a briefing by the Director-General as to the way in which the Organisation is exercising its special powers. As I have said earlier in debates on this matter, how successful and how detailed that briefing will be is something that will be worked out in the last resort between the DirectorGeneral and the Leader of the Opposition.
I propose to move an amendment at a later stage to enable the Leader of the Opposition to be given a copy of the annual report of the Organisation to the Government. In that report he will be given a great deal of information about the Organisation. The Government believes that these two provisions will give the Leader of the Opposition a very adequate understanding of the operations of the Organisation, but without burdening him with the administrative details ofthe Organisation. As I have stated, I cannot imagine how the Leader of the Opposition would have the time to interest himself in the sorts of details about the administration of the Organisation in which he would be involved- if he is taking this matter seriously- if the amendment were carried. For those reasons, the Government is not prepared to accept this amendment. (Quorum formed)
– I appreciate the view which the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has put regarding this amendment. I will rephrase that statement. I do not appreciate it at all. I am not sure that I even understand it. I wish seriously that the Minister would at least do the Opposition the courtesy of reading its amendments before he rejects them. Perhaps the gift he is lacking is the gift of understanding. He seems to imply in rejecting this amendment that, if it is passed, it would involve the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) in performing some sort of executive function, that is, he would have to become a part of the Government, as it were, for the purposes of receiving this little piece of paper about which we are talking.
That is not so at all. He would not have to do anything. He would not be involved in the process of government. He would not be required to perform any executive function. He would be receiving a bit of paper. The purpose of the Leader of the Opposition receiving the bit of paper is to provide some check on the activities of the Director-General and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. That is what it is all about. People throughout Australia are concerned about the details of this legislation. I have discovered that concern in the last week, from Cairns on a hot day to Tasmania on a cold but very pleasant evening. It exists in all those places. These people must be even more concerned to hear the Attorney-General in this chamber provide an argument which indicates that he has no idea of the nature of the amendment which the Government and he are rejecting. It is a very depressing situation for the Senate.
If the Attorney was to get up and say: ‘Look, I have my riding instructions from the Prime Minister’ or something like that and we reject this amendment because he said so, and he is now overseas’, it would be more appreciated than the Attorney getting up and implying that this amendment is directed towards something to which it is clearly not directed. The reference in Mr Justice Hope’s report refers to the provision of reports to the Leader of the Opposition. Mr Justice Hope is not a fool. He did not suggest, as the Attorney suggests, that by one fell stroke of the legislators’ pen the Leader of the Opposition would become part of the Government. Vote against the amendment if you are set on this course of obstructing anything which is designed to protect civil liberties. If you are set on that course vote against it, but do not do it on the basis of the specious arguments which have just been put.
Clause agreed to.
– The amendments to clause 34 standing in my name are really part of a group of amendments to clause 34 and an additional clause 38a. I wonder whether it might be more satisfactory to deal with all these amendments now or just deal with the Opposition amendments to clause 37 and then deal with my amendments in the one group, either now or later. Certainly my proposed amendments to clause 34 and the proposal to insert a new clause after clause 38 can be moved together.
– Might I suggest that the appropriate course would be to wait until we get to clause 38 before dealing with the consequential amendments to clause 34. Would that be acceptable to the Attorney, rather than anticipating it now? There are a number of other questions which arise with respect to clause 34 before we get to the actual operation of the appeals system itself.
– Are you proposing that the Committee postpone consideration of clause 34?
– No, just consideration of those particular amendments.
– Are you suggesting that the Committee consider the amendments to clause 34?
– Later. There are other matters arising with respect to clause 34 which we would like to deal with now, if we may. These matters are more in the nature of questions than actual amendments. They could be dealt with now and we could leave the amendments that are to be moved in respect of clause 34 until we come to deal with proposed new clause 38A which also is to be moved by the Attorney. Is that procedure acceptable?
– Perhaps I should put the question that clause 34 stand as printed.
– If it is in order we could postpone consideration of clauses 34, 35, 36 and 37 until we have considered clause 38. 1 am wondering whether Senator Evans has considered the fact that Senator Button has an amendment to clause 37.
– Perhaps it might clarify matters if we dealt now with clause 34 and clause 38A, but do it the other way round. We have no objection to the amendments to clause 34 to be moved in the Attorney’s name as they stand at the moment. There is a further amendment that we want to move to that part of the Attorney’s motion which will come up in new clause 38a, but we can do that when we get to it. We can perhaps accept the amendments to clause 34 and deal with the other matters we want to raise in respect of clause 34 before going on to the other clauses.
-In view of that statement I think that is the tidiest way of dealing with this matter. Any controversy apparently will come only in relation to the wording of proposed new clause 38A. I move:
These amendments are consequential on a subsequent amendment that I will be moving to insert a new clause 38A. I propose to deal with the explanation for those amendments at that stage.
– Is it the wish ofthe Committee that the amendments to clause 34 be taken together? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
Amendments agreed to.
-There is a further question that arises now with respect to clause 34 that I wish to bring to the Attorney’s attention. It goes to the definition of ‘security assessment ‘ in this clause where it is stated that: security assessment’ or ‘assessment’ means a statement in writing furnished by the Organization to a Commonwealth agency expressing any recommendation, opinion . . .
Does that mean what it appears to mean, namely, that the only kind of communication which will count as a security assessment for the purposes of this part of the Bill is a communication which is in writing? Is it the case that an oral communication that might be made by the Director-General of Security or someone acting on his behalf to a particular agency conveying some opinion about a person’s security status will not amount to a security assessment for the purposes of this Bill and therefore not bring into play the appellate procedures which are specified in Part IV? If it is the case that oral communications- communications which are not in writing- are not such as to bring into play the appeal tribunal provisions of this Bill it would appear to be a very serious deficiency indeed in the way the Bill is constructed. It would appear to necessitate further amendment, namely, the deletion of those words ‘in writing’. Before moving such an amendment could I seek the Attorney’s response to that question.
– The structure of clauses 34 to 38 have to be looked at as a whole. They are designed to ensure that certain types of actions defined as prescribed security, administrative actions can be taken against a person only on the basis of a security assessment. Of course, that then gives rise to the right of appeal. So the security assessment on which prescribed administrative action can be taken must be, as defined, a statement in writing. That bolsters 38 ( 1 ) which states:
So the structure of the definition of ‘security assessment’ is related to the taking of prescribed administrative action against a person. Of course what is the prescribed administrative action is set out also in clause 34.
– Could I get a little bit of clarification on that. I have become so confused with the number of amendments that I find it difficult to know where we are. There is in this Act provision for appeal against a security assessment. The definition of ‘security assessment’ in the Act states: security assessment’ or ‘assessment’ means a statement in writing furnished by the Organisation to a Commonwealth agency -
We have just defined ‘Commonwealth agency’ in another amendment. ‘Commonwealth agency’ as defined in the original Bill means:
Do I take it that that is the only assessment against which a person has a right of appeal? The Organisation has power to make its findings available to an authority of the State, which we have just defined. If the information about a person is not required by an authority of the Commonwealth but is important to the agency ofthe State, it is passed on to the agency of the State but there is no appeal against that assessment which has been given to the State because it has not been given to the Commonwealth. I take it that that is a correct interpretation.
– That is not the combined effect when we take into account proposed new clause 38A. This is why I suggested that one had to look at the amendments to clause 34 with proposed clause 38A. Proposed clause 38A states:
The Organisation shall not-
communicate directly to a State or an authority of a State . . . any information . . . advice concerning a person which the Organisation knows is intended or likely to be used by the State or an authority of the State in considering prescribed administrative action … or
furnish to a Commonwealth agency otherwise than in the form of an assessment any information . . . if the Organisation knows that the Commonwealth agency intends to communicate it to a State . . .
It provides that the security assessments in respect of a State officer must be made through a Commonwealth agency. That is where the appeal provisions are triggered. 1 had not explained that because 1 thought I would do so when we came to proposed clause 38A.
– The matter is even more complicated by what the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has said. I am told that the fears I have about a lack of appeal against a security assessment can be overcome by reading proposed clause 38A. Proposed clause 38A reads: . . Where any prescribed administrative action in respect of a person by a State or an authority of a State would affect security in connection with matters within the functions and responsibilities of a Commonwealth agency, it is within the functions of the Organisation to furnish a security assessment in respect of that person to the Commonwealth agency, for the purpose of its transmission to the State or the authority of a State for use in considering that prescribed administrative action.
As the security assessment is furnished by the Commonwealth agency 1 take it that there is a right of appeal. I ask the Minister whether there is a right of appeal under proposed clause 38?
– The answer to Senator Cavanagh ‘s question is yes. The right of appeal is given on the basis of a security assessment.
– Does the appeal have to be through the authority of the Commonwealth?
– When we were dealing with clause 17 on 5 April I asked why all people in the community should not have the right of appeal. I mentioned a number of working people who would not have the right of appeal. In answer to a question raised by Senator Cavanagh the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) replied on 5 April. His reply is recorded on page 1398 of Hansard. Part of it reads:
The Director-General advises me that only on very rare occasions would he be making any security assessments outside those areas. Indeed, as I said in my second reading speech, in relation to the Opposition amendment extending the rights of appeal to assessments given to a State authority, the Director-General is proposing that in future in the rare cases where he may give a security assessment to a State about a State official, such an assessment should be given through a Commonwealth agency so as to preserve the right of appeal. So I think that the answer is that although it is true that there is no right of appeal outside these specific areas provided for in Part IV which we will be debating at a later stage, the Director-General will be very unlikely to give any security assessments about people outside that area.
I believe that not to give the right of appeal to all people in the community is not only unfair but also unjust. Numerous people need not work for the Commonwealth Government, its authorities or contractors, or for a State government or its authorities. For example, now that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority has been disbanded people working on the waterfront do not work for an authority. They handle munitions and all sorts of things. A security assessment could be made on them. That assessment need not be in writing. In the true sense of this Bill it is not an assessment but simply a report to their employer. Those people are discriminated against. Any number of other people could come under assessment. In the past people who have done no more than protest against certain things have been given security assessments. Many trade union leaders have suffered unduly as a result. I refer to what Mr Justice White said when he looked at what happened in South Australia. A report of his remarks states:
After perusal of a small sample of the 4 1 , 000 dossiers held by the Special Branch in Adelaide, acting Justice White reported having found ‘scandalously inaccurate opinions’ about the political standing of prominent citizens. ‘I have seen a number of cards where information patently false to my knowledge, has been used to the attempted disadvantage of certain persons ‘.
My perusal of Special Branch files show that many hundreds of people have done nothing more than take an active part in many causes where time and changing opinion have usually proved them to be right in the eyes of most Australians- campaigns against involvement in the Vietnam war or conscription for the purposes of that war, the importance of the environment and ecology and so on. They are the kinds of activities that active persons with a social conscience and a vision of a better Australia are entitled to be involved in without the brand ofsuspected subversion’.
That is the type of thing about which I am concerned. I believe that there are numerous people who would come under assessment but who would have no right of appeal. It was because of such conditions that the unions, not only in this country, but throughout the world, appealed to the International Labour Organisation for a provision to give all people the right of appeal. I draw attention to ILO Convention No. 111. It was ratified by Australia on 15 June 1973. It came into force in Australia on 15 June 1974. Article 4 ofthe Convention No. 1 1 1 reads:
Any measures affecting an individual who is justifiably suspected of or engaged in, activities prejudicial to the security ofthe State shall not bc deemed to bc discrimination, provided that the individual concerned shall have the right to appeal to a competent body established in accordance with national practice.
Unless this clause is amended to give all people in the community the right of appeal if an assessment or report is made on them, I believe it will contravene Article 4 of Convention No. 1 1 1. 1 do not believe that this country should be considered a banana republic. Once conventions are adopted by a country they should be honoured by that country. The trade union movement has fought hard and bitterly in the past to overcome the disadvantages created for them by security organisations in many countries. If provision is not made to cover all people in the community most certainly this will be taken up by other bodies. I appeal to the Committee to look at this question. On 5 April the Attorney-General indicated that not all people would have the right of appeal. I ask that provision be made in this clause to give that right.
– I have said already that the matter has been taken into account in proposed new clause 38a, which I will be moving when we reach that stage of the Bill. At the very beginning of this debate on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Bill, I suggested that the amendments to clause 34 and clause 38a should be taken together so that we would not be in the state of confusion that seems to be the case now. I have referred already to clause 38 and quoted its provisions. The position is that on 5 April there was a good deal of debate here about the problem of rights of appeal where a security assessment was given in relation to a State employee or the employee of an authority of a State. The Opposition’s proposal was that the State ought to set up a security appeals tribunal. I opposed that amendment for reasons that we then discussed. I said on 5 April that I would look to see whether there were other ways of ensuring that there would be a right of appeal for a State employee who was the recipient of an adverse security assessment. We have, I believe, satisfied the problem by the amendment contained in the terms of proposed new clause 38A.
Senator Elstob will realise that the Bill before the Committee did not impose any obligation on the Director-General to provide security assessments to a State in such a way as to trigger the appeal provisions of the Bill. I said then, and Senator Elstob has quoted my statement, that the Director-General was given an undertaking through me that he would make the assessment only in such a way as to trigger the Bill. That assurance was not acceptable to the Committee, and I recognise the concern that there was not an obligation to make the assessment in such a way as to trigger the appeal provisions. That is why I will move proposed new clause 38A, which I believe will have that effect. When we come to deal with that clause no doubt there will be some debate about its actual terms, but I am proposing to meet the point that has been of concern to Senator Elstob.
– I readily accept that proposed new clause 38a will go a great deal of the way towards meeting the kind of problem to which Senator Elstob was referring in the context of security assessments provided to States or State authorities. However, as I understood Senator Elstob ‘s remarks, they were not by any means solely directed to that situation. They were directed rather to the provision of security assessments to employers in the private sector in particular, who are outside the context of the description ‘State authorities’ or ‘State governments’. Indeed, in many instances they are also outside the description of prescribed administrative action at the Commonwealth level.
I appreciate that if the Attorney-General is minded to take the point that Commonwealth contractors and employees of Commonwealth contractors are to some extent caught within the description of prescribed administrative action, employees of Commonwealth contractors accordingly would retain their appeal rights, as the Bill is now drawn. I appreciate that the definition which applies at the moment in the Bill is a fairly wide-ranging one and preserves a wide range of appeal rights. I also appreciate, as I indicated a moment ago, that proposed new clause 38a will extend that to some extent into the State arena. But there remains the problem to which Senator Elstob has adverted of security assessments being provided by Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to private sector employers who at the time the assessment is provided do not satisfy the description of Commonwealth contractors. I understood the Attorney-General in his remarks of 5 April, which are set out on page 1398 of Hansard, to be acknowledging that security assessments might be provided from time to time outside the immediate range of situations to which Part IV of the Bill is specifically addressed. I understood him to be acknowledging that that might arise in the private sector situation to which I have referred as well as in the State situation to which he has confined himself in his reply. So the point does remain that there are some potential areas in which security assessments could be provided which would not give rise to appeal procedures under this Bill.
– If there are some areas which are not covered by this clause I think that that is serious and the Committee should consider it. From the Attorney-General’s remarks about his reliance on new clause 38A, I took it that any security assessment that may go to a private employer will to through the Commonwealth agency, which will transmit it to the State agency. The State agency may then give it to any employer within the State. On my understanding, the fact that it goes through the Commonwealth agency- the Organisation reports only to the Commonwealth agency although the report may be submitted to a State agency and then distributed- gives a right of appeal on any security assessment that may be made, no matter where it finishes up. Is that a correct interpretation?
– The obligation applies to any assessment which the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation knows is intended or likely to be used by a State or an authority of a State in considering prescribed administrative action against an employee of the State. If clause 38 is agreed to, the Organisation in providing security assessments to Commonwealth agencies, through Commonwealth agencies to State government or State authorities, to Commonwealth contractors and therefore in respect of private employees of Commonwealth contractors, must do so in such a way that there is a right of appeal to the Security Appeals Tribunal.
– In what way does he give it so it establishes a right of appeal?
– Through the clause we are presently debating. Honourable senators have to read together clauses 34 to 38; and then proposed new clause 38A. The Organisation informs me that it does not provide security assessments to any other class of person. It provides assessments only to Commonwealth agencies, in a few cases to State authorities and State governments- which it will do through Commonwealth agencies- or in respect of the private employees of Commonwealth contractors. That covers the ground of the Organisation’s activities in providing security assessments.
-With respect, Mr Minister, I am not sure that it does, lt might be an extreme or an isolated occasion, but nonetheless it would appear to be possible under the powers vested in the agency in clause 17 to communicate intelligence for purposes relevant to security. Bearing in mind the width of the definition of security earlier in the Bill, which includes terrorism as well as subversion, it would appear to be possible and within the agency’s power, if the mood so struck, to communicate security assessment information directly to a private employer who was not a Commonwealth contractor. It seems possible for such information to be communicated, albeit that is not one of the more likely or routine ways in which the agency would be likely to exercise its power. Nonetheless, it is a possible way of exercising the power of communicating security assessments. To the extent that it is possible for prejudicial information of this kind to be communicated to a private employer, the only point that Senator Elstob has been making is surely that under those circumstances should not an appeal also lie in that situation? It may be that that is misreading the powers. It may be that a provision is buried away in the Bill which prohibits such a communication at the Director-General’s discretion directly to a private employer not being a Commonwealth contractor. If that is so, if the Attorney would tell us about it, we will not pursue the argument any further.
– What would be the position of a minister of religion who goes on to a defence establishment such as a warship and who demonstrates against the use of nuclear power? He could preach to that congregation that it was immoral to use nuclear power in the community. Could anyone tell me that such a minister of religion would not have a security assessment made of him? Although he can go on to such an establishment he is not an employee, he is not part of an authority. I believe that there will be numerous occasions when people will not have the right to appeal under this Act.
– What Senator Elstob is now saying is correct. What we are talking about in this clause is security assessments for the purpose of prescribed administrative action. Clause 34 dennes prescribed administrative action as meaning:
We have added after ‘authority of the Commonwealth’ these words ‘or under a State or an authority of a State’. The definition continues:
We must have regard to the fact that what we are talking about here, the rights of appeal, are in respect of that type of security assessment.
-The comments made by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) may have answered Senator Elstob ‘s last point, but F am not sure that he has answered my point about a direct communication to the private sector employer other than in the form of a communication that would constitute prescribed administrative action’ within that definition. I am asking the Attorney to acknowledge that ‘prescribed administrative action’, although it may be wide ranging, is not wide ranging enough to cover a situation of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation communicating to some private sector employer that there is a potential terrorist risk in the form of one of its employees. I do not want an answer which relates to a situation where there is a question of access to Commonwealth places involved, a situation where that private employer is a Commonwealth contractor or a situation where that employer is in any way an official governmental agency, either Commonwealth or State. I am asking the Attorney to address his mind to that small segment of the problem which does not appear to be covered by the Act at the moment.
– I am sorry that I did not deal with that point. I think the matter that Senator Evans raised is correct. As the honourable senator said, it is a question which is separate from the one raised by Senator Elstob. It certainly would be feasible under clause 17 for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to be able to communicate that sort of information to an employee of a private contractor. But part of the Organisation’s role is to provide information of that sort to police forces, presumably to private persons or to governments. That is part of its general function. We are talking about the provision of what is known as security assessments about a person in relation to his employment by the Commonwealth or, in some cases, by a State, or about actions under the Migration Act, the Passports Act or the Australian Citizenship Act. The Organisation is in the business of vetting people for Commonwealth employment and for other matters. I concede that the passing of information to anybody, including the private employee, may effect his employment with that private employer.
– And ought there not under those circumstances to be a right of appeal and ought not the Bill be redrafted to enable that?
-What the honourable senator is asking for is really quite a different right of appeal to the one which is being provided for in this clause and which was recommended by Mr Justice Hope. What the honourable senator is really opening up for debate is the question of whether there should be a right of appeal against any adverse opinion which ASIO holds about a person. Of course, ASIO would be obliged to tell spies and terrorists that it knows about them and that they have a right of appealing to a security tribunal, so that they can prove that ASIO is wrong in its assessment of them as a spy or a terrorist.
-This is an important point. I am sorry to labour it. Senator Elstob raised it, and it deserves a more serious reply, with respect, than the one which was just given by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack ). The situation being put to the Attorney is that where the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation not merely possesses information about someone but communicates it to a private employer- we are taking just that narrow situation- and the effect of that communication is to prejudice the employee in his occupation with that employer, where there is prejudice of that kind occurring, there ought to be a right of appeal in exactly the same way as the Bill elsewhere provides a right of appeal for situations where a Commonwealth employee is the subject of such a communication by the organisation or all the other changes which are run by the Act. The situations included here cover ones where the employee in question is the employee of a Commonwealth contractor.
All we are saying is that the principle of allowing an appeal where persons are prejudiced by adverse assessments or communications in the nature of assessments should be continued. That principle has been readily accepted elsewhere in the Bill. Would not the Attorney be prepared to contemplate changing the Bill further to cover that one extra corner- a potential situationwhich seems until now, until Senator Elstob raised it, to have eluded everybody’s attention.
– It did not elude Mr Justice Hope. He could not see a way clear to go that far.
– If the Bill gives an appeal right in respect of someone who is an employee of a private sector Commonwealth contractor, where there has been an adverse security assessment affecting that employee, what is the problem, either in practice or in principle, which inhibits the Government from giving a similar appeal right in those odd situations where there may be a similar communication to a private sector employer who does not happen to be a Commonwealth contractor? What is so magic about one’s status as a Commonwealth contractor? Did Mr Justice Hope direct himself specifically to that problem? If so, what was the distinction he was able to seize upon which justified a right of appeal being given in the case of a contractor but not in the case of a non-contractor?
-I wish to comment on that aspect. Mr Justice Hope at page 1 93 of the second volume of his fourth report dealt with this situation and stated that his recommendation did not include a number of people in respect of whom security intelligence is communicated for various purposes. He referred, among other things, to some State public servants, some local government employees, some other key point employees, some university and other educational staff members, some officers, members of trade unions and some other persons employed in the private sector. That covers the areas about which the honourable senator spoke. After examining this aspect Mr Justice Hope stated in paragraph 25:
I have given a great deal of thought to the question whether I should recommend that a right of appeal should be given to the Australian citizens or residents concerning whom security intelligence is thus collected or communicated. I have found the matter beset with problems. It is difficult to see how intelligence collecting, used or communicated primarily for operational purposes could, without more, be the subject of an appeal. Again, intelligence could be communicated, eg, to a special branch, for operational purposes, but later, and quite properly, communicated by the special branch for a purpose related to employment without ASlO’s knowledge.
He specifically considered the aspect raised by the honourable senator but did not find it possible to make a recommendation. There may be some injustice in the situation where something that falls just short of being a security assessment under this definition is not covered by an appeal. I can see the force of the suggestion made by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) that any sort of communication might otherwise be included. It is difficult to see where the line will be drawn. Maybe, if this legislation is reconsidered, the line ought to be drawn at another point. This matter was considered by Mr Justice Hope, but he could not see that the legislation should cover the cases mentioned.
– I state with respect to Senator Evans that I believe Senator Elstob was dealing with a more general point altogether. Senator Elstob is concerned about the general problem.
– I am not just concerned about the general problem. I am concerned about people who are not members of the Commonwealth, its authorities or agents or of a State or its authorities. Some people who are not in those categories deal with the Commonwealth. I pointed earlier to the stevedoring industry. At one time employees were members of the Stevedoring Industry Authority; they are now private employees. In the past security assessments or security reports- call them what you will- have discriminated against people who should not have been discriminated against. The trade unions have tried to get the International Labour Organisation conference to accept an amendment. The matter to which I have referred has not been taken into consideration. Although I agree that it is only a minor point, I believe it should be considered. It is said that this Bill is supposed to show some justice. In the past there has been no justice for many people in the community. Terrible assessments have been made about people; terrible things have occurred in the past. I believe that the Bill should be amended to take care of this aspect, minor as it is.
- Senator Elstob’s remarks open up a wide area. He gave an instance earlier of what he saw as the problem. It led me to think that he was talking generally. He spoke about somebody who could be the subject of an ASIO opinion and who wanted to go onto a defence establishment. He said that ASIO would give information to the defence authorities about the person. That is why I believe that Senator
Elstob ‘s concern ranges much wider than the matter we are discussing now, which is about vetting people for employment.
– I hope that situation to which you just referred is covered by the Bill.
– Yes, of course it is. I understood Senator Elstob to be concerned widely about a right of appeal being available against any adverse assessments that ASIO may hold about anybody.
– That is not true.
– I am sorry if I misunderstood the honourable senator. He referred to an adverse opinion which ASIO may hold about somebody who wants to go into a Commonwealth establishment. The person need not be going there as the employee of anybody; he could be going there for some motive of his own. That is an entirely different question. It is what I had in mind when I said that we were not providing a right of appeal and never intended to provide a right of appeal about the sort of intelligence information that ASIO has generally about spies, terrorists or other people who may be engaged in subversion and other activities. That is why I introduced that aspect into the debate. It seems to have upset Senator Evans that I have done so. I am sorry that I cannot always respond in ways agreeable to Senator Evans. The position in relation to employment generally is that ASIO does not provide information about people to potential employers. That is not ASlO’s business; its business is to provide information about whether somebody should be employed in a position primarily by the Commonwealth and to a very small extent by a State or by a Commonwealth contractor. That is the area in which we are providing an appeal.
Senator Evans raises some possibility that the Organisation may provide a similar type information to a private employer. I have conceded that the Bill does not specifically deal with that situation. As Senator Missen said, Mr Justice Hope considered that aspect and his recommendation was that the area opened up too many other problems. I can see why. It is mixed up with the wider problem. Therefore the Bill, as it is drawn, deals with the practicalities of the situation and with what in fact happens- not with what might remotely happen- in this area. As I have said, I am advised that the DirectorGeneral of Security does not and will not provide the sort of vetting that is worrying Senator Evans.
– I take it that Senator Elstob is worried because information was provided by the White Commission in South Australia to a State agency. Information has been provided, I believe, by a Commonwealth agency in the past. Much of the material of the State agency was supplied by the Commonwealth and passed on to employers. Therefore, it is possible for the information to be supplied. We are told that under this Bill that information cannot be provided in that way. It can go only to a Commonwealth authority.
In my speech on the second reading of this Bill, I told honourable senators how I had been told that I could not go onto a certain part of an Australian defence establishment because of a security assessment which I never knew had been made. I could not find any reason for my not being allowed onto the establishment. I simply was not allowed onto the establishment. A sand carter, for instance, who is carrying sand for building construction might well find that security officials refuse him entry to a particular establishment. Such a refusal would have to be conveyed to the man’s employer who could be a private contractor. Should a sand carter who is not allowed onto an establishment because of a security assessment which is entirely false not have the right of appeal?
– He does.
– Well, I would doubt very much that he does. The right of appeal is the main question. This right has not existed in the past. Senator Evans said that this right of appeal exists for an employee going onto a security establishment. But there is no right of appeal even if the information somehow gets to the employer through the State agency that his employee will not be allowed onto a security establishment. Senator Missen said that Mr Justice Hope examined this question and said that it was too difficult- indeed it was impossible- to answer. Senator Evans made an appeal to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) to consider the matter to see whether he could come up with some solution. Mr Justice Hope was sympathetic about the matter, but he could not find a solution. But surely we have the legal brains in this chamber to work something out because it now seems that everyone agrees that this is an unfortunate situation which should be covered by legislation.
-In the interests of moving this discussion along, let me confine this last contribution to just a couple of sentences. I am indebted to Senator Missen for drawing attention to that section of Mr Justice Hope’s report in which His Honour confronted these problems. But I note that among the problems that Mr Justice Hope put in the ‘too hard’ basket was the matter of communications by the Commonwealth to State authorities which would have the effect of prejudicing State and local government employees. The particular problem to which Mr Justice Hope did not find himself able to recommend a solution has apparently proved itself not to be beyond the Commonwealth Government’s resources of ingenuity because that is exactly the situation that is attempted to be dealt with in the proposed new clause 38a. AH we are asking for is that the Commonwealth exercise perhaps just a little bit more ingenuity and consider the possibility of a further amendment to deal with that residual situation. Accordingly, I move:
I do so in order to enable an appropriate amendment to be prepared to cover the matters which we have been dealing with relating to the definition of ‘prescribed administrative action’ and security assessment’.
– I am not prepared to agree to that motion. I believe that the Government has given the very fullest consideration to these matters. We have introduced an amendment to meet what was a realistic problem which we conceded might arise. We are not prepared to delay the matter by searching around for solutions to problems which, on my information, are just not likely to arise.
I think that Senator Cavanagh ‘s point really relates to the point raised earlier by Senator Elstob. ‘Prescribed administrative action’ applies to any action that relates to or affects the access by a person to any place, access to which is controlled or limited on security grounds. So, if information were to be passed for the purpose of limiting anybody’s access to a place whose entry is controlled on security grounds, such information would have to be put in the form of a security assessment. Therefore, it would be subject to the right of appeal.
– I am still not satisfied. I believe that there will be people in the community who will suffer and, unless the matter is covered by legislation, the Government will be contravening an International Labour Organisation convention. If these amendments are agreed to, it will be only to the advantage of the Government. If the Government thinks that the trade union movement will accept this provision lying down, it has another think coming. The trade union movement has suffered in the past. There is a way out of this problem and I believe it should be taken. The Government has the numbers to ride roughshod over everyone, but I warn it that it will not get away with it. I think that this matter should have been set aside so that it could be looked at thoroughly. The trade union movement fought for many years to get a right such as this written into the ILO convention and the Government’s actions most certainly will be reported to the ILO convention when it meets next month.
Question resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 35 and 36- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
-by leave- I move:
This is the famous Catch 22 clause. The amendments that I have just moved will have the effect of deleting paragraph (a) of sub-clause (2) and sub-clause (4). The substance of the clause as it presently stands is to make it possible for the Attorney-General to certify in particular situations that the subject matter as such is so security sensitive that the person who is on the victim end of an adverse security assessment should not be entitled to be furnished with a copy of that assessment. The result following inexorably from that is that he then has no rights of appeal at all. If, under the structure of this whole Part of the Bill, as the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has been at pains to point out, it is interconnected, the provision of a right of appeal, under Part IV, depends upon there being furnished to the person in question a copy of the assessment in question. Where that assessment is not furnished to the person in question, where he is not notified of the existence of the security assessment, if the substance of that security assessment is not disclosed, he is in the position of not having a right of appeal at all.
That is a bizarre situation. It is, as has been quite properly described in the media and by many commentators, as a Catch 22 situation. If a person is a security risk, he does not get notified about the existence of an adverse security report and, if he does not get notified about the adverse security report against him, he cannot appeal against the adverse security report having been made in the first instance. This is a situation which appears, on the face of it, to be quite intolerable. It means that a whole class of persons, namely those persons in respect of whom the Attorney-General is prepared to certify that the withholding of notification is essential to security, is affected by the operation of ASIO and has no right of appeal. The only possible argument one can imagine for the retention of this provision is one which I expect we will hear falling from the Attorney’s lips in a few moments to the effect that situations may arise where it is inappropriate, impracticable -
– Or dangerous.
-. . . or dangerous to the interests ofthe nation for the person in question to be tipped off about the existence of ASIO interests in him or the existence of an adverse security report about him. No doubt it will be put to us that situations arise from time to time in which spies or other security risks or subversives are moleing their way into government organisations of one kind or another, about whose existence ASIO knows but whom it does not want to alert, for the moment anyway, to the existence of ASIO knowledge about them. It is suggested that perhaps this is the sort of situation in which an adverse security assessment in respect of a person ought not to be notified to that person. I suggest that there is a relatively easy way out of that situation which would be quite practicable in nearly all the circumstances one could imagine. It is simply for ASIO to keep silent, keep its knowledge to itself, maintain its own scrutiny over the person in question- or the sleeper, if one wants to describe him in that way- and not furnish an adverse security report to anyone about him. I suggest that that relatively straightforward solution to the dilemma with which the AttorneyGeneral will no doubt confront us in a few moments is one that satisfactorily resolves nearly all the situations of a security sensitive kind which were perhaps in the mind of the draftsmen putting in this clause.
It might, however, be further argued- I am anticipating once again what appear to be the most likely objections to the Opposition’s argument in this respect- that there may be some situations in which it is not good enough for ASIO simply to keep silent and not communicate to anyone its suspicions, concerns or information about the person in question. It might be suggested that there are situations in which it is necessary for ASIO to tip off the organisation or department in question in order that the person, albeit without him knowning what is going on, may be denied access to particularly security sensitive information or be denied some promotion into a high security risk job. If that is the level of the claim on which this whole clause depends that in turn is a situation which it is not necessary to provide for in the way in which this Catch 22 clause does.
I suggest that that sort of situation in which it is necessary in order to stop some promotion being made or some information being supplied to the person who is a security risk but who it is not desired for the moment to tip-off is already provided for in clause 38 (2) of the Bill. That enables the Organisation in a temporary situation ofthe kind described in that clause to take action of a temporary nature to prevent access by persons to any information or place pending the ultimate furnishing of a report to the agency or department in question. One would not wish to see clause 38 (2) misused in any way but it would be within the spirit of the Bill and potential operation of that clause for it to be applied in the kind of situation to which I have referred.
I am trying to anticipate what will no doubt be claimed to be the justifications for the Catch 22 clause- the provision that a person not be notified about the existence of a security report if the Attorney-General certifies that the situation is one of a grave security risk. I have attempted to identify the kinds of arguments which perhaps will be used in justification of that clause and indicate that there is no real foundation for them. To the extent that exotic situations might arise from time to time when it is necessary for the organisation to act in a circumspect way and not notify the person of the existence of information or adverse reports about him, one can readily think of ways in which the Bill could operate so as to enable those situations to be dealt with.
The remaining point that needs to be made about clause 37 as it presently stands and operating as it does to deny a whole class of persons an appeal in situations in which the AttorneyGeneral certifies that those persons cannot have an appeal is that it offends very obviously against the International Labour Organisation Convention to which Senator Elstob referred. The Attorney did not seem to be especially disposed to take the existence of ILO Convention 1 1 1 very seriously when we were discussing it a few minutes ago. Perhaps he will be prepared to take it a little more seriously in this context. Convention 1 1 1 which concerns discrimination in respect of employment and occupation provides in Article 4, as Senator Elstob said, as follows:
Any measures affecting an individual who is justifiably suspected of, or engaged in, activities prejudicial to the security of the State shall not be deemed to be discrimination. provided that the individual concerned shall have the right to appeal to a competent body established in accordance with national practice.
The Convention recognises a legitimate ground of exception from its general operation where security matters are an issue provided that there is a right of appeal. What 1 am putting to the Government is that the operation of clause 37 allowing the Attorney-General in effect to certify that no appeal shall lie in a particular case is on its face blatantly offensive to Article 4 of the Convention to which Australia is a signatory. It will get Australia into a great deal of trouble in international forums if clause 37 is persisted with in the form in which it presently comes before this House.
– Is it your wish, Senator Evans, to take the two amendments to clause 37 together?
– Is it the wish of the Committee that these amendments be taken together? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
– I wish to speak to this clause. I have already spoken to it on a previous occasion in the debate on the second reading. As I am following Senator Evans I shall mention another matter. I noted his remarks last night when speaking of what he called the failure of Government Ministers to participate in this debate. He interjected to say: ‘Even Missen and Puplick have run’. I take this opportunity of expressing my contempt for the remarks that Senator Evans made on that occasion. He knows quite well why 1 was not in the chamber yesterday.
– I was corrected by the next speaker and I acknowledged that correction, but Hansard does not record my acknowledgment of what the speaker said.
– I am pleased to hear that, unreported though it is, the honourable senator was corrected. Perhaps he will be a little less loose with his tongue in future.
– We must always hope for the best. I wish to speak specifically to this clause because I accept that there is substance in the objection which has been made to the fact that there is no right of appeal whatsoever to those who it is decided are too dangerous to be given notice of the fact that an assessment has been made against them. At the same time, I do not think the Opposition proposal which wipes out this clause is a satisfactory answer. I do not think we can brush off the fact that situations will arise in which people who are thought to be spies, on what appear to the Director-General to be adequate grounds are seeking access to a position or seeking promotion. These facts of course, I can understand, could not be communicated without considerable danger to security. It is not an answer to say, as Senator Evans said, that perhaps in that situation an assessment is not furnished. In other words, the honourable senator says that the person should be allowed to be appointed to a position and the department employing him should have no knowledge of the situation. I do not know whether he was serious in that suggestion, but clearly the answer cannot be to do nothing.
At the same time, as I said in my speech on the second reading debate, I think there is clearly a real Catch 22 situation- a situation in which the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has evidence that indicates that someone is particularly dangerous. That evidence may be quite wrong. It may be based on the wrong person. It may of course be quite exaggerated or be malicious. These situations are known to have existed in the past. It is then in the hands of the Attorney-General to make a decision, as he must, on the evidence which is before him to deny that person the right of appeal. To my mind that is not a satisfactory situation at all. One will realise that Mr Justice Hope in his suggestions went further than the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) is going in this legislation because Mr Justice Hope said that decisions on this matter should be made by the Prime Minister himself, not by the Attorney-General. In other words he said it was of such significance that it ought to be transferred to the Prime Minister for decision. I do not find that an altogether satisfactory answer either but it is certainly not a solution which has been chosen in the legislation.
I put to the Attorney-General another solution to this problem which could well be adopted. When the Attorney-General believes there is a dangerous situation and a person should not be notified the facts should then be reported to the presidential member of the Security Appeals Tribunal. The evidence should be put before him so he can satisfy himself whether the person should be notified. In other words, why should he not examine the evidence which is put forward and then make his decision? As he and other members of the Tribunal are being entrusted to hear the appeals generally and are being entrusted to acquire further particulars in appeals, why should he not also in a situation in which an appeal is to be denied have the opportunity of saying: ‘Let me look at the evidence, let me decide whether you are acting on reasonable ground or not’? Clearly someone such as KGB agent who is clearly identified but not yet dealt with and who is applying for access to positions will not be notified.
The taking away of a person’s right of appeal, I believe, is very serious. This legislation is setting up a tribunal but it will still leave an opportunity for colossal mistakes to be made and for someone to never know what has been done or said against him. I believe that there ought to be a remedy in the hands of the presidential member of the Tribunal. He should look at the evidence and if he says so notice should not be given. But I do not think it should be left to one man to make this decision upon one set of untested evidence. I suggest to the Attorney that this is a solution which would be fair to the person who is assessed and fair to the Government.
– Are you going to move that way?
– I am not going to move amendments. I am putting suggestions to the Government.
– I support the remarks Senator Missen has made. As 1 understand the Opposition’s amendment, it relates only to the proposed deletion of clause 37 (2) (a) and does not relate specifically to any matter arising under subclause (2)(b). The amendment also proposes the consequential deletion of clause 37 (4). I will deal, if I may, with both sub-clause (2) (a) and sub-clause (2) (b) in terms of departure in this legislation from the suggestions made by Mr Justice Hope. In relation to paragraph (a), as Senator Missen has indicated, in paragraph 154 of the Second Report of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security His Honour said:
The Prime Minister alone should be entitled to veto notification, and then only if he certifies that that course is necessary in the interests of the security of the nation. He should give this certificate in his character as leader of the government and not as the minister administering the ASIO Act or any other legislation.
The Government has decided to depart from that suggestion by substituting the AttorneyGeneral for the Prime Minister. In respect of subclause (2) (b), I note that Mr Justice Hope in fact indicated in paragraph 1 5 1 of the same volume that the decision to withhold the grounds contained in a security assessment could be made by either the Attorney or the Director-General of Security. The Bill in fact does not give the
Director-General the right to involve himself in that decision.
I believe a valid case can be mounted for saying that there will be occasions on which it may be proper that an individual should not be apprised of the fact that an ASIO assessment has been made because the assessment is of such a nature that the revealing of it, in the words contained in sub-clause (2) (b), would be prejudicial to the interests of security of the nation. I know that this has been described as a Catch 22 provision. I know that editorials, for instance, in the Courier-Mail and the Sydney Morning Herald have particularly drawn attention to this fact. I do not accept the premise that Senator Evans has put forward that it is a reasonable course of action for ASIO to remain silent or that, failing that, one should seek to expand the operation of clause 38 (2) into what might become a more regular practice than it would be under the circumstances of the Bill as it stands at the moment.
I am certainly concerned, although I may not have any degree of expertise to make judgment, about the extent to which such a provision contravenes an international convention to which Australia is a signatory. But it seems to me that the point that has been put forward by Senator Missen, that is, that the decision to deny to an individual Australian citizen any notification of the fact that an adverse security assessment of him exists, should not be left solely in the hands of a person who, whatever his character as AttorneyGeneral, is also nevertheless a partisan political figure who has been elected in a partisan political situation. The suggestion that Senator Missen makes for the reference of this matter to the presidential member of the Security Appeals Tribunal and the reliance upon some co-operative endeavour between the Attorney and that presidential member to determine whether in fact the case that is presented by the Attorney to the presidential member is one which is sustainable in terms of denying to an individual Australian citizen the knowledge that he is the subject of an adverse security assessment is one that seems to me to warrant a good deal of consideration by the Minister perhaps in line with the attitude which the Minister has very reasonably taken on the provisions in clause 1 8.
I believe the principle that says there may be a situation in which an individual should not be told that an adverse assessment exists is probably a sustainable point of view. The question therefore is not a matter of debating that, but a matter of debating whether in fact the civil liberties of the individual concerned are adequately protected by vesting this power in one elected public official or whether they are better protected by vesting them initially in one elected public official, with that official being required to have his decision subject to review or further consideration by a person who has been appointed to a particularly sensitive position as the presidential member of the Security Appeals Tribunal. In that capacity he is going to be a person, if the appeals system means anything, of unquestioned probity and integrity, and a person who is accepted in a bipartisan spirit or accepted throughout the whole of the community as having that particular stature and standing.
To that extent I believe that the amendment moved by Senator Evans simply to delete subclause (2) (a) and consequently to delete subclause (4) founders on the rock of practicality in terms of the administration of security matters in this day and age. But the suggestion that there ought to be some review over and above the unilateral certificate of the Attorney-General ought to commend itself for more serious consideration than appears at the moment to have been given.
– I assure honourable senators that this matter has been given the very greatest consideration. The Government has decided on this solution to it. The matter certainly is one which I am not disposed to change. I will, of course, take on board what has been said this evening by Senators Puplick and Missen; but, as I have said, it is a matter to which the Government has given very great consideration. I appreciate the distinction that has been drawn; that there are two questions here. There is the question of the amendment moved by Senator Evans on behalf of the Opposition to the effect that there be no provision in the legislation to cope with the situation where a person who otherwise by this legistlation has the right to be notified that there is an unfavourable security assessment concerning him is deprived of his right of appeal. Therefore, any person such as that would have to be told that there was the assessment or the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation would have to take some other steps to overcome the problem.
In listening to Senator Evans speaking in support of his amendment, I thought that he rather answered his own case. He set out all the objections to his own case very effectively. I do not know that I can add much to them. It is a fact that according to his case either ASIO would stand aside and maybe let a man who is a wellknown, well-documented spy of serious proportions be employed by the Commonwealth Government in a sensitive situation, or ASIO might be able to take necessary action under a clause which is not meant to apply to that situation at all, namely, one under which it might be able to take action of a temporary kind pending the satisfaction of these rights under the Act. But neither of those steps seems to me to be desirable. I am glad that they are seen to be undesirable solutions by my colleagues on this side of the chamber.
This talk about Catch 22 situations have been given a lot of currency in the Press in a very exaggerated way, asking: ‘What is the good of a right of appeal, because the Attorney-General can stop a person getting a right of appeal?’. That sort of argument completly overlooks the provisions of the legislation which state that the Attorney-General can do this only if he is satisfied that the making of a security assessment in respect of that person is essential to the security of the nation- not just affecting it, not just prejudical to it, but essential to the security of the nation. Those are very strong words indeed and they are intended to be exercised and obviously could be exercised in their terms only in what would be exceptional situations.
The question then arises as to who is to exercise this power. The fact that the proposal that there should be such a power of withholding this information certainly was recommended by Mr Justice Hope. He saw it as such an exceptional and serious situation that he recommended that the power should be exercised by the Prime Minister himself. The Government accepted fully the seriousness of this matter, emphasised as it was by that recommendation of Mr Justice Hope. Although it believed that this was a matter which is essentially an Executive decision- the exercise of Executive responsibility- it believed that it was a matter which would be burdensome to be exercised by a Prime Minister who is not otherwise directly concerned in the administration of this Act. Although the Prime Minister has a very strong interest in and concern with the Act, he is not directly concerned with the details of its administration. He has many other responsibilities. Therefore, the Government decided that it was better that the Attorney-General, who is, by and large, directly concerned with this matter, should be the Executive member who would be responsible for exercising that power.
The Attorney-General is given other very strong powers in this legislation, particularly in approving the issuing of warrants. Under this legislation the Attorney-General may not in many cases be the Minister exercising the power, although normally he would be; but those powers of the Attorney-General under this legislation have not been challenged in this Committee debate. Therefore, it does seem perfectly appropriate that he ought to have the power to make this type of decision which is concerned with making an assessment of what is essential to the security of the nation.
– What is your answer to the point about the International Labour Organisation Convention?
– What I have been saying is that it is an exceptional situation. These international conventions that one can read out lay down general provisions. We are taking a major step in providing a Security Appeals Tribunal for what are the major situations, for the vast majority of cases. We are, in any terms, substantially satisfying the provisions that have been read out. This is dealing with an exceptional situation and the only question really that needs any consideration is the one that has been raised by Senators Puplick and Missen. We are about to adjourn and I will consider the amendments overnight.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Temporary Chairman having reported accordingly-
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 21 February 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
1 ) Such an article did appear. As to the remainder of the question the position is:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 22 February 1979:
What statistical projects have been deferred or abandoned by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 1977-78 and 1 978-79, and for what reasons.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In 1977-78 and 1978-79 it was necessary to review the ABS work program to contain it within its allocated staff and financial resources.
Work on the development of a Wholesale Trade Census in respect of 1 977-78 was discontinued during 1977-78.
During 1 978-79 it was necessary to make further program cuts. To minimise the impact on statistical users, these cuts were made in statistical projects which: were not considered to be mainstream economic and social indicators: were as self-contained as possible so as not to have major repercussions on interrelated projects; and were of such a scale so as not to concentrate the whole impact on one sector of the economy.
As a result, the following collections were discontinued:
Household Income and Expenditure Surveydevelopment work for a 1979-80 survey abandoned;
Quarterly and Annual Job Vacancy Surveysabandoned during 1978-79;
Foreign Participation studies- further studies abandoned; and
Agricultural Finance Surveys in respect of the years 1978-79 and 1979-80.
The Government recently approved the re-introduction of the quarterly survey of job vacancies from May 1 979.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 27 Feburary 1979:
– The Minister for Finance has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: 1 refer the honourable senator to the Prime Minister’s answer to Question No. 1335 (Hansardof 2 May 1979, page 1608).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 3 April 1979:
1 ) How much fuel is normally consumed by a Boeing 727 (200 series) in flying non-stop from:
How much fuel is normally used by the Indian Pacific rail express on a Sydney-Perth journey, and assuming all berths are occupied, how many passengers does a normal train carry.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
1 ) In flying non-stop, a Boeing 727 (200 series) would normally consume
The fuel consumed by an aircraft on a particular flight would vary with weather conditions.
-On 6 March 1979 (Hansard, page 493) Senator O ‘Byrne asked me, as Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice concerning deposits insurance for permanent building societies. The Treasurer has provided the following information in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government has been considering the matter of deposits insurance for permanent building societies following the submission of a report by a working party of Commonwealth officials established to investigate the matter.
Submissions have been received from groups representing building societies and other sectors of the finance industry and discussions held with those groups, as well as with the States.
The issues are complex and their resolution could have important implications for relevant sectors of the finance industry and for Commonwealth/State responsibilities in this area. Accordingly, Ministers have decided to seek more detailed examination of certain issues.
As part of this process, the Prime Minister and the then Acting Treasurer discussed this topic recently with building society representatives and I have myself had a further discussion with them in recent days. The Government will be moving to finalise the matter as quickly as possible.
TPI Pensioners: Meal Allowances
-On 4 April 1979 Senator Cavanagh asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, the following question without notice:
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?
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Persons required to travel in connection with Repatriation treatment can qualify for reimbursement of fares and payment of subsistence allowance for accommodation and meals.
Where an overnight stay away from home is not necessary, a meal allowance may be paid in respect of meals partaken while travelling or attending for treatment.
The Government decided in the 1978 Budget that, as from 1 November 1978, subsistence allowance would be payable on the same basis as the allowance payable to Public Service personnel. Therefore, a meal allowance is only payable where a person is absent from home overnight. Or where absences exceed 13 hours or involve travel before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m.
The rates of meal allowance are:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 May 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790509_senate_31_s81/>.