31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) left Australia on Sunday for a visit to Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States, on a range of transport matters. The Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) will act as Minister for Transport until Mr Nixon’s return on 24 June. I also inform the Senate that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) will be unable to be with us this week essentially because of the death of his mother early this morning and his duties in regard to the swearing in of the new High Court judge. Questions which would normally be asked of Senator Ourack should be either directed to me during his absence or placed on notice.
– I present the following petition from 234 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That in order to: - facilitate the development of the North of Australia - provide an all-weather rapid land transport system from north to south and vice versa - facilitate better defence of Northern Australia - provide improved transport for primary and mining products to southern markets - boost tourism
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should:
Urge that the Federal Government give favourable consideration to proceeding forthwith with the completion of the construction of the North/South railway from Alice Springs to Darwin as a matter of priority.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– On behalf of Senator Keeffe, I present the following petition from 19 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth that the construction of a uranium enrichment plant in North Queensland and the mining of uranium in the Herveys Range area should not be proceeded with on the following grounds:
1 ) No safe method has yet been devised for the disposal of nuclear waste.
The mining of uranium ore exposes workers to considerable danger from radon gases.
The danger of poisonous chemicals seeping into surface and underground water supplies as a result of uranium ore mining and refining of uranium ore could pose serious health hazards for persons living in the Townsville region.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should take all possible steps to abandon or postpone indefinitely the mining of uranium in the Herveys Range area, and the construction of an enrichment plant in the Townsville region.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The Petition of the undersigned citizens of 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 sys terms be taught together in schools.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Senators Carrick and Colston.
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 Archer.
Notice of Motion
– On behalf of the Attorney-General, I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I will move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to prohibit the interception of telecommunications except where specially authorised in the interests of security or in connection with inquiries related to narcotics offences, and for related offences.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I remind him of a question I asked in the Senate last Thursday concerning the Government’s attitude towards tax sharing arrangements with the States, in the event of there being any variations in personal income tax at the Federal level. The Minister will recall that he indicated that he would refer the question to the Treasurer to see whether we could be given some information. I now ask him: Can he advise the Senate what the Government’s intentions are in the event of variations arising?
– At the moment, I have not a response from the Treasurer. I will seek that response. My understanding, drawing upon my recollection, is that the question of the Leader of the Opposition was in such general terms that it might have been better if he were to make it more explicit. If he would like to add to his question either formally or informally so as to give a better understanding of it, that may aid in obtaining a fuller reply.
– I ask a supplementary question. Does the Minister understand what the 39.87 per cent of income tax sharing arrangements means under the present Act? Am I to believe or is the Senate to believe that, as the Minister responsible, he does not understand what I am talking about? I put to the Minister that he does understand the question. The question last week was not complex, as he described. It puts the simple proposition that the Government had to face during the last Budget. I ask: Has the Government’s position changed? Is it rethinking its position? If so, has it advised the State Premiers of its intention possibly to reconsider the position?
-I understand perfectly the meaning of the 39.87 per cent factor in
Federal-State tax sharing arrangements. But that is not my understanding of what Senator Wriedt’s question is and was. Indeed, he has added to it today. The matter of tax sharing arrangements is one that may have policy overtones. His question refers to the attitudes to State Premiers. Since I only represent the Treasurer here- I am not the Treasurer- it is my bounden duty to refer the question to the Treasurer and to obtain the information. I have undertaken to do so.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Commission for the Study of Communication Problems is currently considering proposals for licensing journalists and imposing penalties for incorrect reporting? Has it been brought to the attention of the Government that the proposal seeks the creation of a journalistic code of ethics and an international Press council, as well as licensing and penalties for coverage deemed inappropriate or insufficient? Will the Minister tell the Senate the Government’s attitude to this initiative, with particular reference to the possible effects on maintenance and protection of freedom of the Press in the Western democracies.
– The matter raised is important. The Department of Foreign Affairs is closely following present developments within the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation context concerning the drafting of an international instrument for what is said to be the protection of journalists. This draft instrument includes sections which would seek to define a journalist, to establish journalists’ duties and rights, to create an international Press council and to establish sanctions against misconduct by journalists. The present instrument has been drawn up by Mr McBride, who heads the International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems established at the request of UNESCO member states to investigate the principal communication problems in contemporary society. The McBride draft was discussed at a meeting of professional Press representatives in Paris on 17 and 18 May 1979. Whilst a full report of the meeting is still to be received by the Government, it is my understanding that the meeting did not agree with proposals contained in the draft instrument concerning registration of journalists, a code of ethics or the establishment of a Press council, but it agreed on the need for protection of journalists when on perilous missions. The draft instrument is not central to the work of the Commission and it is not clear at this stage whether, or with what changes it will be incorporated within the Commission ‘s final report which is scheduled for publication this year. It is not a UNESCO initiative. If I receive further information I will let the honourable senator know.
-My question, which I direct to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, refers to a question I asked a month ago about the destruction of a number of copies of a report of the research unit of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal relating to children’s television. I recall the Minister’s replying that he would obtain an answer for me. I am hoping that he has not done so because I ask: Does the Minister have an answer to that question and, in particular, could he tell me how many copies of the report out of the total number printed were destroyed?
– I understand Senator Button’s concern that he should not do a Primmer’ on me and accuse me of not answering something that was answered. In this case he is properly drawing my attention to something to which, as far as I know, he has not had an answer. I regret that and will seek an urgent reply for him.
– My question to the Leader of the Government concerns an answer he will recall having given on 23 May 1979 regarding a second Sydney airport. Since then has the Minister seen comments attributed to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Lionel Bowen, and to statements made by the Mayor of Ashfield, Alderman Herman, and can he say whether these comments are an accurate representation of the situation with respect to a second airport in Sydney.
– Because this matter is of substantial importance I sought to check the accuracy of the comments.
-No doubt Senator McAuliffe, along with others, will be interested in the reply. I am bound to tell Senator McAuliffe, and perhaps it will relieve him of his smile, that the statement by Mr Lionel Bowen was totally inaccurate. There is no substance at all in his statement that the committee report on the Major Airport Needs of Sydney has been finalised and is being delayed. If it were so it would be the Wran Labor Government which would be conniving in the delay. That would be an interesting situation because the MANS report is a joint Federal and State report of a committee on which the Wran Labor Government is heavily represented by, I think, four departments. I am advised not only that the report is not withheld but also that it is not even drafted, much less printed. So we have the very simple situation that the basis of the statement is totally wrong. The position with regard to the MANS study is quite simple: The joint Commonwealth and State committee has not reported to either the State or Federal Government. Therefore the Commonwealth and State governments are not in a position to make any decision at all with regard to future airport needs.
– I am surprised that you are so up to date in your knowledge of airports.
– I am even more up to date in my knowledge of Brisbane airport. Senator McAuliffe would be delighted to know that. The fact of the matter is that there is no tissue of truth in the statements that have been made. They are being made to frighten people for political ends and are totally untrue. When the MANS committee reports it will be a joint State and Federal report and it will be a matter for joint discussions between the two governments. The State Labor Government has an equal responsibility in this matter. I regret that publicity should have been given in the style in which it has been given.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Last Friday in Brisbane, the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia rejected the Australian Wheat Board’s submission that the wheat marketing case was settled and committed Ubergang’s case for hearing in the full High Court. In the Budget session, the Government will introduce the new wheat stabilisation Bills, which need to be passed by 30 September. In the event of the Court’s emasculating the Bills either before or after they are passed, what contingency plans does the Government have for wheat stabilisation? Will the Government be seeking a referendum to amend the Constitution?
– I will refer the question to the relevant Minister for answer.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. In the last few years the present Darwin airport terminal has come under considerable pressure through being overcrowded and outmoded. Also, the customs facilities are unable to cope properly with the increasing numbers of overseas visitors. Having in mind that civil authorities urgently require the updating of the Darwin airport terminal, what action does the Government intend to take to alleviate the somewhat chaotic situation that is now being experienced?
– I imagine that the answer to this question lies somewhere between the responsibility of the Minister for Transport in his civil function in respect of airport terminals and perhaps the Minister for Defence. In those circumstances, I will direct the context of the question to both Ministers.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Does the Minister concede that on most matters the Australian Government tends to follow the advisings of the American authorities? Is the Minister aware that the United States National Cancer Institute has warned that a chemical, selenium sulphide, contained in antidandruff shampoos may cause cancer, and that these products are on sale in Australia? Can the Minister say why the Australian Government has ignored the rulings given by the United States Government medical authorities on 2,4,5-T and now on selenium sulphide?
– I have no information on that matter from the Minister for Health but I will refer the question to the Minister and get an answer as soon as possible for Senator Gietzelt.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science and the Environment. Some months ago I asked the Minister a question about the sheep blowfly. I have since received further representations from graziers’ organisations pointing out to me the enormous cost of blowflies to the wool industry and what they regard as the relatively low priority placed on this problem by Australian research organisations. What is the extent of current research being undertaken into sheep blowfly in Australia.
-The honourable senator directed a question on this matter to me previously. I agree with his comment on the disastrous effect of this affliction. The sheep blowfly continues to be the major pest of the Australian sheep industry and it is likely to remain so. It is not possible for me to state the total amount of Australian research that is being carried out on this fly. But I can say that my Department, mainly through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, realises that there is an urgent need for new approaches to the problem. At the present time these are being directed mainly to genetic areas. These new approaches involve genetic manipulation techniques to produce fly strains which can be used to control the wild fly population and research into breeding sheep which are resistant to the blowfly strain.
Senator Thomas will be interested to know that four divisions of CSIRO are involved in this investigation. The Division of Entomology is undertaking genetic research and the development of control methods, biological and ecological studies and chemical controls including oviposition deterrents. The Division of Animal Health is making a reappraisal of the relative importance of the predisposing causes of strike. The Division of Applied Organic Chemistry is looking to develop insecticides and is undertaking a study of chemicals which affect blowfly behaviour. The Division of Animal Production is looking at fleece characteristics associated with the susceptibility or resistance of individual sheep, sheep breeding for resistance to fly strike and the use of chemical treatments to produce permanent inhibition of wool growth around the breech and other areas of sheep. So a wide variety of work is being conducted within the CSIRO in an attempt to assist the wool industry with the blowfly problem.
– I ask the Minister for Education a question concerning a dispute in Victoria, about which I asked him a question on 9 May to which he gave me a most hopeful and helpful answer. The dispute concerns a ban by the Victorian Teachers Union on its primary teachers’ supervising student teachers in the classroom because the allowances paid to student teachers are not as high as those paid to secondary teachers. Is it true that the dispute has been continuing for two years? I ask the Minister whether in his answer to me he stated:
My current understanding is that the Academic Salaries Tribunal itself is meeting on or about 21 May, and it may well have before its consideration whether it can hear the dispute.
In response to that statement Senator Button interjected that the Tribunal did not have the power to do so. Senator Carrick disputed that statement. Senator Carrick then concluded his answer by stating:
If it appears that there is an impasse on this whole situation, I would certainly want it to be resolved. 1 now ask the Minister: Is it true that the Commonwealth has argued that Mr Justice Ludeke of the Academic Salaries Tribunal did not have power in this area and therefore the dispute is still unresolved? Will the Government introduce a simple enabling amendment to the legislation as a matter of urgency this session so that the Tribunal can hear the matter and resolve it?
– And also apologise to me.
– I must acknowledge the earlier elements of Senator Chipp ‘s question. I do not know for how long the dispute has been going on, but it has been going on for a very considerable time. It is a fact that Senator Chipp approached me in the terms to which he referred and that my response was broadly in the terms to which he referred. It is a fact that the Academic Salaries Tribunal met on 2 1 May. But, subject to my actually seeing the transcript, I understand the argument was not about the Tribunal’s ability to hear a particular case but rather about whether the present legislation enables the Tribunal to hear section of some kind of educational matter rather than the total matter. The Tribunal felt that it could continue with some of the matters left over from the Campbell tribunal and that to do so would be good law.
The Commonwealth suggested that the legislation, as introduced, would not allow partial hearing of the matter. I think that Mr justice Ludeke in effect has reserved his judgment; that he is scratching his head on the matter at the moment. Indeed, we are looking to see whether the obvious thing to do is to introduce a simple amendment. We are concentrating on trying to see whether the legislation needs amending, not for the specific purpose to which Senator Chipp referred, but for the purpose of allowing the Tribunal to hear particular applications without the need to hold a total hearing. I hope that Senator Button will agree with that interpretation.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health had her attention drawn to an article in the Mercury of Saturday, 26 May, in which the Tasmanian Minister for Health is reported as having stated that 500 people could lose their jobs from within the State hospitals system. Does the Minister agree with the stated assumption by the Tasmanian Minister that those people will lose their jobs because of the mini-Budget announced on Thursday night? Rather, should the Tasmanian Minister not blame his own inefficiency?
– My attention was drawn to the article in the Mercury. I am unable to state whether in Tasmania 500 people would lose their jobs. I draw attention to the statement of the Minister for Health last Thursday in which he said that the Government would establish a national inquiry to examine the efficiency and administration of hospitals throughout Australia. I understand from the Minister’s statement that State governments agree with the Federal Government that hospitals are disproportionately costly and that there is a need to have an inquiry to identify factors leading to the rapidly rising costs of hospital services and to recommend ways in which these may be further reduced.
I also draw attention to the Minister’s statement that the average occupancy rate of hospital beds, only 68 per cent, supports the belief that there is an oversupply of hospital beds and that about 50 per cent of hospitals have less than 60 per cent occupancy. These factors need to be made the subject of a national inquiry. If it so happens that some adjustments need to be made in State hospital systems, the States will have an opportunity to discuss these matters at the inquiry. As I understand it, the Tasmanian Minister told the conference that hospitals would have to do some self-examination because there should be some changes. If as a result of that examination in Tasmania it is found that rearrangements need to be made, I think the facts I have mentioned, which would be the subject of an inquiry, may lead to certain decisions being taken. However, I am unaware of the statement with regard to 500 people losing jobs. I think that this is perhaps an early prediction and that other solutions may well be found at the national inquiry.
-The Leader of the Government in the Senate will recall that after fewer than 500 days in office the Whitlam Government, which was elected in 1972, was forced to go to the polls, and that after the Whitlam Government was re-elected in 1974 only 579 days in office were possible before the Parliament was dissolved. Now that the present Government has been in office for 535 days since it last faced the people, is it now willing to go to the people once again to allow Australians to have the opportunity of voting out the disastrous Fraser Government?
– In terms of numeracy we will give Senator Colston two points for neatness. We will not dispute his accuracy with sums. As to his literacy, as to his ability to understand the difference between the qualitative disaster of the Whitlam Government and the qualitative success of the Commonwealth Government, let me quote a report of what the Federal President of the Austraiian Labor Party said in support of the full success of the Fraser Government:
In London on a seven weeks’ overseas tour Batt is reported to have spoken like a Malcolm Fraser emissary. The Australian business mood, he said, addressing the London Chamber of Commerce is ‘ right for economic recovery’.
Over the longer term Batt said he was sure the Australian economy would present a picture of ‘enormous strength ‘.
Australia’s attitude to foreign investment, said the ALP President, was ‘moderate and accommodating’ and the ALP was flexible in ‘seeking to preserve the bipartisanship of Australian policy in relation to foreign business’.
But it gets better. Honourable senators will remember that Senator Colston failed to get his two points for literacy. The article continued:
Labor under Gough Whitlam had learnt some lessons rather painfully’, he said.
So he gets two points for numeracy and no points at all for literacy, logic or philosophy.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs seen a report in the Press supporting previous accusations that the Soviet Union, through Swiss agents, has been buying large quantities of chrome from Rhodesia and reselling it to the United States at a considerable profit? In view of the fact that United Nations sanctions have been ignored almost entirely by the major powers, will the Minister ask the Foreign Minister to initiate moves in the United Nations to have these sanctions lifted, as they represent little more than a joke?
– I do not have any first hand or accurate information on the matters which Senator Maunsell raises. They are important matters. If the facts are as stated they deserve a response. I will bring the matters to the attention of the Foreign Minister and seek an answer.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I am prompted to ask this question about airports in view of his spontaneous and fulsome answer to Senator Baume. Is the Minister aware that airport safety standards, as laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, exist at only two of the six international airports in Australia, namely, Sydney and Melbourne?
– A Dorothy Dixer.
– It is not a Dorothy Dixer. It might be a bit foxy, though. In view of the expected increase in the number of air travellers in the foreseeable future, what steps has the Government taken to update and improve standards at the other international airports throughout Australia?
– Of course, the question should have been directed to my colleague, Senator Chaney, as the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. If I may reply to the parts of the question in reverse order, I am surprised that Senator McAuliffe needs any information about the fact that the Fraser Government, unlike the Whitlam Government, has decided to take steps- and has already done so- for the upgrading of Brisbane airport.
– But what assurance is that? You have not kept one promise yet.
– The assurances are that the work is being undertaken, unlike what happened under the Whitlam Government. As to the specifics of the other airports, I will get the information and let the honourable senator know.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction. Does the South Australian Land Commission owe the Commonwealth $52m plus $17m accumulated interest, totalling $69m, as the result of agreements entered into by the Whitlam Labor Government? Is it a fact that no payments of interest are actually due until 1984? Has the Commonwealth Government reviewed the value of the real estate held by the Land Commission? Does the book value of such real estate exceed $80m? Does such value reflect an accumulation of interest, rates and administration expenses and not the true realisable value of the land? Is this the same accounting practice of which Associated Securities Ltd was accused before its collapse in February? Will the Government investigate the true value of real estate held by the South Australian Land Commission to see whether its loan of nearly $70m, which is rapidly increasing, is recoverable in the light of the likely and considerable fall in values?
– I noted five parts to the question that the honourable senator has addressed to me in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction. I think the core of his question is whether I will seek to have investigated the reasons for the problem, and whether the information, as he has given it, is correct. I will not capitalise on Senator Carrick ‘s two marks for numeracy or other matters, but I take it that the comments that the honourable senator has made are correct. Something that interested me while Labor was in office was that a government could believe that, in competition with private industry, it could enter upon the purchase and development of land and sell it to the public more cheaply than could private enterprise. To me it was amazing that State governments ever carried that role forward.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications whether he is aware of the fact that television viewing is the dominant activity in the lives of many of Australia’s children, absorbing as it does well over 1 ,000 hours a year which, in duration, outstrips both schooling and parental formation of their outlook? As the promised six months for governmental response to the Senate’s report ‘Children and Television’ has expired, and given the tremendous support for that report’s recommendations throughout the community, especially in Tasmania, I ask: Will the Government urgently, before we rise for the winter recess, inform the Parliament of its response?
– Honourable senators will be aware that this Government, I believe for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, has undertaken a responsibility to respond to parliamentary committee reports. All honourable senators would agree that this was a very important step, particularly insofar as the Senate- with its emphasis on committee activities- is concerned. If the reaction to the report is overdue, on behalf of the Minister 1 express my regret. I will certainly ascertain from him when a response can be expected.
– Is the Minister for Education aware of claims by the President of the Australian Teachers Federation, Mr Van Davy, that the Government’s education policy bears no relationship to the needs of schools, that it will add to unemployment among teachers and other education personnel, and will reduce the capacity of schools to respond to the social pressures placed on them by youth unemployment? Are these claims true? Further, is it true, as alleged by Mr Davy, that grants made to independent schools in the last two years have meant that the biggest increases have gone to the socalled wealthy schools.
– This ought to be a good one.
– A Labor senator interjects, ‘This ought to be a good one’. It is. The fact is that, when I became Minister for Education, the Australian Teachers Federation asked: ‘Will you give us a firm undertaking on one important thing, that is, that you will maintain a degree of progress which will enable the resource targets of the Schools Commission to be achieved on time? That is our test of success in school education’. I said that we would not give undertakings but that we would do the best that we could. It is now history, as recorded in the report of the Schools Commission, not only that we kept on target but also that we reached and surpassed our target in all States years ahead of time.
– What does the ATF say about that? You are fiddling again.
– Of course, there is no truth in the allegation at all. There is an interjection that we are fiddling again. If I am fiddling, so is the Schools Commission because its report expresses precisely what I have said. I will be grateful for such interjections.
It is suggested that we have given money to the so-called wealthy schools. The average level now achieved by government schools, I am proud to say, is level 2, as established by the Schools Commission- the so-called wealthy schools. I am proud that government schools have attained that level. I am dismayed that the Australian Labor Party has mounted an attack on nongovernment schools to try to prevent them from reaching that level. The fact is that 90 per cent of all non-government schools are at level 6- the level of gravest disadvantage. The fact is that the Australian Labor Party has not a feather to fly with in regard to education. We have achieved our targets years ahead of time. We have recognised the disadvantage to which the Schools Commission has referred. We have brought the government schools to level 2, which honourable members opposite sneer at in regard to nongovernment schools. I can only hope that we will move further onwards in regard to both systems.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I ask whether the
Minister can explain the implications of a paragraph appearing in a judgment given by Mr Justice Brennan of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in relation to a recent deportation case which stated: lt was relevant that Mr Pochi’s liability to deportation depended in part upon an apparent failure by the Department of Immigration and Ethic Affairs to advise him that a grant of citizenship had been made.
Is it not a fact that a person who obtains citizenship can be deported only for an offence that occurred before citizenship was granted? What are the details of Mr Pochi’s application for citizenship and its subsequent processing, and was the Minister aware of all these facts when deportation proceedings were instituted?
– I have some advice on this matter from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. As a general statement, the Minister wishes to say that once Australian citizenship has been conferred the grantee cannot be deported from Australia, being no longer subject to the deportation provisions of the Migration Act 1958. With regard to the other questions raised by Senator Mulvihill, I am advised that, although the grant of a certificate of Australian citizenship to Mr Pochi was approved on 25 February 1975, he did not receive advice of that approval. Other correspondence from the Department to his only recorded address at the time was returned unclaimed. On the day on which he applied for citizenship Mr Pochi sought permission to re-enter Australia after a proposed visit to Italy. It would not be administratively practicable to attempt to follow up all instances where unclaimed mail is returned, especially when people have indicated an intention to travel overseas. A subsequent application for citizenship was received but was not proceeded with to finality in view of the receipt of information that Mr Pochi was to be charged.
The effective date of the grant of citizenship to a person over the age of 16 years is the date on which he or she takes the oath of allegiance. As the oath of allegiance was not taken by Mr Pochi, Australian citizenship was never conferred on him. It is by no means unusual for persons approved for the grant of a certificate of Australian citizenship not to proceed. There are hundreds of such instances every year. I am advised that the Minister had before him in this instance all the facts needed to take a decision in the light of policy and the provisions of the Migration Act.
– I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs a question which refers to a newsletter circulated by Gununamanda Inc. Pty Ltd. Has the Minister been informed, as alleged in this newsletter, that last Friday two Federal Government Department of Aboriginal Affairs officers flew into Mornington Island and held a quickly convened secret meeting of the company directors of Gununamanda Inc. Pty Ltd and the Mornington Shire Council? Is the Minister aware that Mrs Annie Chong, who is a company director and shire councillor, has accused the Federal officers of attempting ‘a take-over of the company on Mornington Island in much the same manner as they have taken over other Aboriginal enterprises in the Mount Isa area; for example, legal aid, Injilingi Pre-school, Dajarra General Store’ and so on. I ask what comment the Minister can make on the transcript included in the newsletter of a conversation between Mrs Chong and a Mr Roger Pettit, the company’s business manager and adviser, in which, in response to Mrs Chong ‘s letter to Mr Pettit asking why might some agents of the Federal Department want to take over the Company?’, Mr Pettit replied:
Gununamanda is a comparatively successful company and probably the largest private employer of Aboriginal people in Queensland. Maybe some DAA agents feel that it should be administered directly by their department . . .
– I was not aware of the issue of this newsletter which has been referred to and extensively quoted from by Senator Martin. I would not wish what Senator Martin has been saying to be read by any honourable senator as being her words rather than those of the newsletter which apparently has been circulated. The newsletter does contain the allegations which have been read out by Senator Martin. As my attention has only just been drawn to it, I am not in a position to say that I have checked the allegations. The newsletter goes on to refer quite accurately to the policy of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Government, which is certainly not to take over Aboriginal organisations. The newsletter recites as a fact- it is factual in the sense that it reflects actual policy- that: ‘We have been assured by the Queensland Regional Director, Mr Don O ‘Rourke, that it is not their Department’s policy to take over Aboriginal-run organisations’. I am more than pleased to put on record that that is the case. In regard to the allegation that specific organisations have been taken over by the Department, I state that I am sure that would not be true but obviously I will have to go back and check the particular situation. The newsletter also indicates that the people who should be running this organisation are those who are established, by the memorandum and articles of association, as being those who should run it, namely, those on the board of directors. That would certainly be my view and the view of my Department.
-Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen an article on page 7 of the Australian Financial Review of 25 May in which it was stated that the Australian taxpayers will help to underwrite a corporate fund raising campaign by the ruling National Party in Queensland to the tune of $ 1.2 m? The article further claims that a letter sent by the President of the National Party in Queensland, Sir Robert Sparkes, stated that the tax dodge in this scheme is legal if donations pay for advertisements placed in the National Outlook. Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate confer with the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to see whether the scheme is one of the kinds of scheme the Treasurer intends to stop, as he mentioned in the mini-Budget last Thursday? Will the Minister inform the Senate of the outcome of the discussions in the near future?
– I believe that I saw a news report purporting to say the kind of thing that has been indicated by Senator Elstob. I cannot say whether what has been said is true or false but I will direct the attention of the Treasurer to the matter and to Senator Elstob ‘s request for a response.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In response to a question in the other chamber, the Minister for Primary Industry recently advised that 54.7 per cent of the cattle population in Australia was yet to be tested for brucellosis. Can the Minister ascertain and advise whether the program of eradication is up to date? Is it still hoped to have the disease eliminated by the date set down?
– I understand that the program is still on schedule. I have been advised by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation that in some areas the program is a little ahead of schedule and I know of no actions at present which are likely to delay that program. I understand that the Minister for Primary Industry is satisfied with the progress to date. I will check on that matter and advise the honourable senator.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, arises from a letter signed by him on behalf of the Prime Minister and dated 6 December 1977. It referred to Australian Capital Territory hen quotas and gave an undertaking that hen quotas in the Australian Capital Territory, as determined by the Australian Agricultural Council, would be strictly enforced. I have already asked one of the Senate attendants to give a copy of that letter to Senator Carrick. I now ask the Minister whether he is aware that hen numbers in the Australian Capital Territory are now reported to be 20,000 in excess of the figure set by the Australian Agricultural Council and that these birds are reported to be housed on the property of Parkwood Eggs Pty Ltd. Will the Minister request the Prime Minister to honour his promise, as set out in his letter of 6 December 1977 to the Australian egg industry, to the effect that he would strictly enforce hen quotas in the Australian Capital Territory?
-I thank Senator McLaren for the copy of the letter which I will read in order to refresh my memory on the facts. I am not aware of the information relating to the Australian Capital Territory. If there are breaches of the law, the Government will look at them. I will bring this question and the matter raised previously to the attention of the relevant Minister and seek a response for Senator McLaren.
-My question, which has four parts, is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Firstly, how many individual children are catered for at the Australian National University staff child care centre? Secondly, what was the total amount for staff salaries at the centre for 1977-78 and the total running costs for 1977-78? Thirdly, what is the total of individual direct and indirect subsidies- such things as rent forgone, and payment for telephone, electricity, heating and such facilities? Fourthly, what payment is made by the parents for this service?
– I am not able to give all the detail required by Senator Walters, but I am able to say that in the present quarter the average daily number of children at the ANU preschool and child care centre is equivalent to 90 full time children. I understand that the licence is to cater for 80 children, but the number of children at the centre on any given day exceeds that number because of part time attendance. I do not have any details of staff salaries for the financial year 1977-78, but I have some information for the calendar year ended 31 December 1977. Staff salaries for that calendar year amounted to $ 1 72,000. In accordance with the Child Care Act my Department subsidises some qualified staff to the extent of $58,000, and the total running costs of the centre for the calendar year 1 977 totalled $207,000.
I will have to supply the detailed information required by Senator Walters. However, I am able to say that there are two scales of fees for full day care. For children over two years of age the cost is $34 a week, and for children under two years of age the cost is $37.50. I will supply the other information as soon as possible.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Science and the Environment. I remind him of a statement he made in the Senate last Thursday. He said that I had not placed a question on notice. For his information I point out that a question was placed on notice. The Minister might indicate that he did not state the position correctly. My question concerns–
– When did you place it on notice?
– It is on notice.
– I’ll bet; and that is the flaw in your argument.
– It was on notice that day. It was drawn to my attention. At the meeting of Commonwealth and Queensland Ministers on 1 7 May to discuss the future of the Great Barrier Reef, did the Queensland representatives indicate that the attitude of the Queensland Government was that the region of the reef as currently defined under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act should be redefined to include areas of the reef only, thus excluding from the reef region significant areas of territorial sea adjacent to the Queensland coast? Did they also indicate that only on that basis would the Queensland Government be willing to enter into a joint management arrangement covering this very restricted reef region? What was the Commonwealth ‘s response to the Queensland proposals?
– I note the opening remarks of the honourable senator, and I invite him to place on record whether he put that question on notice after I had requested him to do so -
– The answer is no.
-Or whether, as he was attempting to convey to the Senate, he placed it on notice before I had spoken -
– Do not try to make me sound like a liar when you have made a mistake yourself. You are a fool of a man. You really are a fool of a man.
– We will just see. We know the tricky type of attitude that Senator Wriedt had. He came into the Senate last week attempting to blame the media for statements that he had made about North West Cape. We know the misleading type of person that he is.
- Mr President, I rise to order. What the Minister is saying is unnecessary. I seek a withdrawal of his remarks. I accused Senator Webster of being misleading in the Senate, but I established the fact that he was misleading. He has just made an assertion which is completely unwarranted and I seek its withdrawal.
– Offence has been taken by the honourable senator to words used.
– I withdraw the implication. The Leader of the Opposition seeks from me a disclosure of the discussions between the Federal Attorney-General and the Queensland Attorney-General. I do not act as Senator Wriedt does. We know that Senator Wriedt came into this chamber- whether or not he wishes me to withdraw some other statements I hope he will not ask me to withdraw this assertion- last week and a fortnight prior to that with papers that had obviously been given to him and which had been stolen from a particular file. He was the receiver of those documents.
– I raise a point of order. It relates simply to relevance. Senator Webster was asked a specific question for which I assume there is a specific or a non-specific answer. Allegations against Senator Wriedt have nothing to do with the answer to the question.
– I ask the Minister to continue.
– I was saying that Senator Wriedt came in here–
– I raise a further point of order.
– Keep it relevant. The point of order that was raised was heard by the Minister. He must be relevant. I ask Senator Georges to do likewise.
– This is a further point of order. I seek a withdrawal. I raised a similar point last week and you ruled me out of order. Let me put it to you again. The charge by the Minister that the Leader of the Opposition was in receipt of stolen goods is one that ought not to be made in this place. That is what he is saying. He knows as well as I do that papers, letters and information come into our hands without being solicited. That is the state of the game and that is what the Prime Minister indicated was fair enough.
– Order! Speak to the point of order.
– I am speaking to the point of order. The Minister says that the Leader of the Opposition is in receipt of stolen goods. That puts him in the position of being charged as a receiver. I say that such a charge, unfounded as it is, should be withdrawn. It should never have been made in this place.
-Mr President, I offer you a withdrawal of the remarks if Senator Wriedt will disclose in this place where he got the papers.
- Mr President, I know it is hardly necessary for me to rise. I know that you will not accept a qualified withdrawal of that nature. I ask for an unqualified withdrawal.
– That is so. That was no withdrawal. The Minister said that he would withdraw. Then he qualified it in a way which rendered it not acceptable.
– I did qualify the withdrawal, Mr President. I was going on to say that Senator Wriedt has a standard by which he is able in this place to disclose apparently the secret discussions at the Premiers Conference.
- Mr President–
– There is no point of order required. Has the Minister withdrawn?
– There is no more discussion needed. The Minister will reply to the question.
– I was going on to say that the standards of the Leader of the Opposition were such that he was able to disclose here, apparently with quite a clear conscience, the secret minutes of a Premiers Conference.
– What has this to do with the question?
-This is particularly important.
– Reply to the question forthrightly.
-Mr President, you allowed a question of me that related to the confidential discussions between Ministers of the Queensland Government, my colleague the Attorney-General, and me. I think the Leader of the Opposition is well aware of what is the reasonable situation here. I take it that his standard is such that he would like me to respond. As I have said, he has disclosed quite secret information in this place, and apparently it does not worry him. May I point out the difference between Senator Wriedt and me. He believes that that type of information can be displayed to the public. I have a reserve. I am prepared to protect the confidentiality of discussions in which I am involved.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. It relates to the reduced air fares to north-west Tasmania. Senator Chaney will be aware that on 24 May the Minister for Transport announced his approval for Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia to charge lower air fares from Melbourne to Devonport and Wynyard. The Minister said:
That is a Warrnambool based company- are now operating over an airline route, it would not be appropriate to constrain the two major airlines from competing with the new Bizjet service.
Are Ansett and TAA providing this service at a lower passenger mile rate than that applying to any one of their other routes? Is this competition fair competition, or are the two major airlines subsidising this service out of profit from other routes? Rather than this nonsense of APEX and super-APEX air fares, will the Minister try to persuade these two major airlines to introduce, in addition to their present services, a low charge, no-frills, no reservation, standby only service on all major routes throughout Australia?
– I regret that I am not able to advise the honourable senator about the passenger rates that apply on specific routes around Australia. The questions that he asks are most pertinent, and I look forward to obtaining a response from the Minister for him.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: How does he explain away the general criticism of the Government and the general assertion by the media that the
Government has lost all credibility in view of the fact that it has failed to honour its election promises made on two occasions? How does the Government justify the fact that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has reported that there is a shortage of skilled labour while the Government itself, through its staff ceiling policy, refuses the intake of apprentices needed to train skilled workers? How does the Minister justify the difference in policy between the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs and the Minister for Industrial Relations in respect of the calculation of the advantages of full employment? When does the Government intend to adopt policies to restore the economy and to encourage full employment?
– One great characteristic of the Fraser Government, as distinct from the former Labor Government, is that it has decided that in terms of taxation it will be honest with the electors, that it will not harvest inflation and take tax secretly from the electors while pretending that it is not putting up taxation. If there is any test of credibility, the Australian Labor Party falls to pieces, because taxation harvesting is a dishonest method of putting up taxes. What the Fraser Government said was that by its tax scales and by its tax indexation, any government that was intending to change the taxes would have to be honest; it would have to come out and confess. This Government is in fact doing precisely this. The Government has said that it has a problem.
If we are talking about credibility, let me say this: A person earning $10,000 under Whitlam Labor taxation rates paid at the rate of 45c in the dollar. A person earning $10,000 under the Fraser Government paid at 32 per cent, now 3316 per cent. This shows a slight difference in credibility. As to the question of skilled labour, the years of neglect by the Labor Government, running down technical and further education, and cutting funds to technical and further education, protracted the shortages. I am happy to say that the intake of trainee apprentices under the various new schemes is considerably on the increase. If we are talking about full employment, I point out that 10 years ago when we had full employment in Australia 59’A per cent of all those over 1 5 years of age who wanted work obtained work. That was full employment. Today 6 1 lA per cent of those over 1 5 want work and have work, and there are still some who have not. In other words, we have created a broader base for employment than existed in the past. There is still a need for more employment. There is no difference fundamentally between the concepts of the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs and the Minister for Industrial Relations. It is our aim to stop a continuance of the dreadful situation in which, in 1974-75, with one stroke of the pen, 1 10,000 people were taken out of manufacturing industry and started the slide of unemployment in Australia. The Whitlam Government started the unemployment. It made costs so vast that the level of unemployment soared. It is no justification for Senator Bishop now to talk about credibility. The credibility is on the side of the Fraser Government; even the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party has to admit that.
– I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: When will the Government provide jobs for all the people who want to work, as was promised at the general election when the Government won office from the Australian Labor Party?
– I am happy to say that, over the past eight or nine months, month by month, there has been a very real increase in the level of employment, unlike what happened under Senator Bishop’s Government. Now we are moving to the creation of more and more jobs with the policies which have been acknowledged internationally and nationally as being successful and, indeed, as more successful than the policies of the Government of the United States of America or of the previous Labour Government of the United Kingdom. We are creating jobs and we will continue to do so.
-Mr President, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Mr President, you will recall that at about 10.20 or 10.25 on Thursday night last a division was called in this Senate. At page 2 137 of the Senate Hansard for 24 May the names of those honourable senators who voted for the proposition are listed and the names of those honourable senators who voted no are listed also. Under the ayes the name ‘Collard, S. J.’ appears and under the noes the name Collard, S. J.’ appears, I presume that Senator Collard did not vote both yes and no and that where the name ‘Collard ‘ appears under the ayes it should read ‘Colston, M. A.’ I imagine that in the weekly edition of the Senate Hansard that will be corrected but, because it will be some time before the weekly edition appears, I wish to place this matter on record at this stage so that those people who read Hansard will know that I did vote in favour of the proposition.
– That will be rectified in accordance with the vote cast.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a brief explanation.
-I refer to a statement made by the Minister for Science and the Environment, Senator Webster, during Question Time to the effect that I had not done as he requested I do on 23 May, namely, place on the Notice Paper a question to which I sought an answer. I want the record to show that, as appears at page 3488 of the Notice Paper, on 23 May I placed the question on the Notice Paper. It was on the following day that the Minister accused me of not having placed the question on the Notice Paper.
– I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter dated 28 May 1 979 from Senator Ryan:
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 Government’s deliberate policy to allow social security and health services to decline.
SUSAN RYAN Senator for the Australian Capital Territory
Is the motion supported?
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– I move:
The Opposition raises this matter as a matter of urgency today, which is the first opportunity we have had to do so, because of the provisions of the mini-Budget which was presented in this place last Thursday night. It is the contention of the Federal Opposition that the contents of the mini-Budget reveal a determination- a deliberate policy- on the part of the Fraser Government to reduce the standard of living of all Australians and, in particular, to withdraw proper provision of social security and health services for the community. The mini-Budget introduced in this place last Thursday night was bad news for all Australians. It exposed the total failure of the Government’s economic strategy and the chaos of its health and welfare programs.
There were two outstanding features in the mini-Budget: First of all, as the media of this country have already noted, all the promises of the Fraser Government regarding tax relief and tax indexation were broken. Secondly, universal health insurance was finally and totally destroyed. The subsidy for primary health care was abolished and hospital charges were increased. The end result will be that most Australians, particularly those with families, will have to pay more than they can afford for health care. As a result, the health of the community will deteriorate and consequently the overall cost of health care to the community will increase.
I would like to specify one group of people who have suffered dreadfully as a result of the Government’s failure with regard to health insurance provisions. I refer to Commonwealth Government pensioners under the compensation for Commonwealth employees legislation. These people are on compensation, many for the rest of their lives, because of the service they have given to the Commonwealth Government. They are overwhelmingly former workers of the large employing agencies of the Commonwealthpostal workers, Telecom employees, Commonwealth drivers and police. They have had only one rise in their compensation payments in the four years that this Government has been in power; whereas workers have had many rises and until last November even pensioners received rises twice a year.
– How is this pertinent?
- Senator Teague seems to be wondering about the pertinence of this matter. To prove their eligibility for compensation benefits these people have to go continually to doctors for certificates. They cannot go to a new doctor because it is important that they stay with the doctors who know their medical history. They are in receipt of only $80 a week, they are taxed $3.70 a week and they have no fringe benefits. and no medical entitlements whatsoever. I contend that these pensioners cannot, on the sum of $76.30 a week, afford health insurance of $ 1 5 a week. If they are uninsured they will pay $9 a week or more for one test and one trip to a specialist would cost $ 1 8 or $27. This is an extra financial penalty on the exCommonwealth workers whose compensation the Fraser Government has refused to raise, for a trifling $100,000 a year. This is only one group which will be very seriously disadvantaged by the changes in health insurance and by the abolition of universal health insurance which the Government has just perpetrated.
The effects on social welfare and health services of the mini-Budget are, I believe, of basic concern to the entire community. I would like to draw the attention of honourable senators to the words of Cardinal Freeman, the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney. He said, during a 2SM broadcast last night that it would be unjust if the family, the sick and the aged were chosen as victims of reduction in Government benefits. He referred to a national income survey taken in 1975 which showed that 7.3 per cent of families had incomes below the poverty line. Quoting the Australian Government Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, the Cardinal said that family life could be harmed by the stress and restricted opportunities created by low income. He said:
We should work together to create a nation in which the needs of the family are always our prime concern.
The words of Cardinal Freeman are very pertinent to what I am saying today because the tax and health measures of the mini-Budget will force more Australian families than the 7.3 per cent who are already in poverty into poverty and into the concomitant distress of living in poverty.
As well as its attacks on the well-being of families, the mini-Budget is a scandalous document because of what it has omitted. We are attacking the mini-Budget for that reason also. We and the pensioner community of Australia believed that there was a likelihood that the Government, in bringing down a mini-Budget, would decide to restore justice in the area of age pensions. We believed that it would restore the twice-yearly indexation which had been promised to pensioners by the Fraser Government and by the Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, and which had been withdrawn.
I contend that it is scandalous that the twice yearly indexation of pensions was not restored in the mini-Budget of last week. The situation of pensioners in our community in relation to wage earners has deteriorated ever since the Fraser Government came to power. I cite figures to support this statement. The increase in the age pension between 1972 and 1975- the years of the Labor Government- was 93.75 per cent. The increase in the consumer price index for the same period was 50 per cent and the increase in average weekly earnings for the same period was 67 per cent. During the period of the Fraser Government we have had an increase in the pension of only 37 per cent, whereas the increase in the consumer price increase has been 35 per cent and the increase in average weekly earnings has been 32 per cent. So it is quite clear that during the period of the Fraser Government the ability of pensioners to keep up with the cost of living has deteriorated markedly in comparison with their ability during the period of the Whitlam Government to cope with increases in the consumer price index.
Another omission which is the cause of great concern is the failure of the Government to do anything at all in the mini-Budget in regard to family allowances. There has been no indexing of family allowances since they were increased and no attempt to compensate families for the loss of income which resulted from the abolition of the rebate scheme. I simply draw the attention of the Senate again to figures which show that as at the end of the last financial year the following losses have been incurred by families as a result of the failure of the Government to index or increase the family allowance payment: For a family with one child the loss has been $3.50 a week, for a family with two children, $8.50 a week; for a family with three children, $ 14.50; for a family with three children with one student child, $14.50; and for a family with three children with two student children, $ 14.50. It is quite clear that by the changeover to the family allowance system, which initially was of benefit to families, this has now become another area in which families are failing to keep up with inflation. The mini-Budget which was presented last week contained no relief for taxpayers, families or pensioners.
The other glaring omission about which I would like to make a few remarks is the Government’s total failure to do anything to create jobs. Australia has about half a million people unemployed at this stage. Unemployment has reached that level because of the economic crisis we are in. The Government brought down a miniBudget in response to the economic crisis. What do we find? We find that not one cent is allocated for the creation of jobs. The only mention that the unemployed got in the statement by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) was a threat to remove social security benefits from some of them. The Treasurer’s threat to remove social security benefits is not an isolated one amongst the Ministers of this Government. We have had similar threats from Mr Viner, Mr Lynch and yesterday from the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony. All of them are orchestrating a new campaign against dole bludgers. All of them are making remarks and statements which seem to be aimed deliberately at penalising unemployed youth and at creating within the community a tremendous prejudice against unemployed youth. We believe that all of this is designed to build up in the community a climate whereby the Government will be able to afford to withdraw unemployment benefits from young unemployed persons.
At a time when we have a ratio of unemployed youth to job vacancies of something like 30 to 1 , it is a scandal that all the Government can do is threaten the unemployed youth with withdrawal of benefits. The Australian Labor Party knowsand I believe that the general public knows- that what the unemployed youth want is jobs, not threats. To get jobs they need some training. Yet the Government is refusing to train young people. It is condemning young people to the dole, harassing them with regard to their eligibility for benefit and creating prejudice in the community against them. Yet it is doing nothing effective to train the majority of them for employment.
I would like to refer to a question that was asked of the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) in the other place on 23 May 1979 by my colleague, Dr Jenkins, with regard to training. He asked: ls it a fact that the Government intends to bring 40,000 to 50,000 skilled tradesmen to Australia as migrant workers between 1979 and 1985? Can he explain why the Government spends thousands of dollars sending migration officials around the world to recruit skilled labour when in Victoria alone the ratio of apprenticeship seekers to unfilled apprenticeships is 57 to one? ls it a fact the Australia’s reliance upon immigration as a source of skilled tradesmen denies training opportunities to thousands of unemployed young people, causing unnecessarily high levels of youth unemployment?
The reply from the Minister was totally unsatisfactory. It is quite clear that the Government, for its own reasons, prefers scurrying around the world seeking skilled migrants to giving job training opportunities to Australian youths who are currently unemployed in such scandalous and tragic numbers.
– Can you be specific?
– The honourable senator asks me to be specific. I will be very pleased to do so. I have here, and I will be happy to table it if required, an advertisement that was inserted by the Australian Government in a German newspaper. It says that Australia is looking for people qualified in different trades. The tradesmen required are enumerated as computer programmers or computer analysts, toolmakers, fitters, mechanics, motor mechanics, panel beaters, turners, boilermakers, carpenters, ladies hairdressers, butchers, pastrycooks and bakers. We ask: Why are those categories available to skilled persons who wish to emigrate to Australia, when thousands and thousands of Australia’s youths are unemployed and would love the opportunity to train -
– I rise to a point of order. I would ask that that advertisement be tabled. Senator Ryan offered to table it.
-Is leave granted for such tabling?
– At the end of the speech.
– Yes; but it can be tabled now. Does Senator Ryan wish to table the document?
– I table the document. I am glad that Senator Walters has insisted on its being tabled, because it makes so clearly the very point that the Opposition makes. Although hundreds of thousands of our unemployed youth would dearly love the opportunity to enter upon an apprenticeship, and there are job vacancies in these skilled areas, the Government is making no provision for them to do so. We are not arguing that people with these skills should not emigrate to Australia. However, if there are job vacancies in these areas, and Australian youths are anxious to train for them, why does the Government not spend some money to get them off the dole and into training for available employment? I hope that during this debate a Minister will answer this crucial and fundamental question on behalf of the Government. Instead of funds for the training of unemployed youth, and other unemployed people being increased, or maintained at the same level, there have been, in fact, cuts in training programs. The figures show that by the end of March 1979 a total of 17,308 trainees were enrolled in the National Employment and Training scheme, compared to a peak figure in August 1978 of 52,664. This is a reduction of 67 per cent.
The Special Youth Employment Training Program, the only Government measure in operation that has the potential to reduce youth unemployment, has been savagely cut back. The number of trainees now stands at 8,233 compared to the peak figure of 39,319 in August 1978. This is a reduction of 79 per cent. These savage reductions in traineeships for Australian youth simply cannot be squared with the
Government’s claims that it does not wish to see young people unemployed. The solution is in its own hands. It is quite proper for the Government to embark on training schemes that will enable young people to train rather than be subjected to the dole and all of the social opprobrium that that brings with it. It is a scandal that in response to an admitted need for trained workers, the Government has recruited only 230 extra apprentices. In response to the claim that employers need more assistance to take on apprentices, which is true, the Government has increased the apprenticeship training subsidy by only $ 1 a week. This is totally inadequate. This is not a situation which the Opposition or the public can take as evidence of good faith with regard to the unemployed. It is clear that the Government is deliberately acting in such a way as to continue a high level of unemployment, particularly amongst youth; it is deliberately acting in such a way as to arouse community antagonism to unemployed youth in order that it may proceed with what will be more severe work tests or other devices to reduce the number of young people in receipt of unemployment benefit.
I wish to make a few remarks about the question of work tests and the statements of many Ministers that there are unemployed people who do not want to work and that the taxpayer should not subsidise them. It is my experience as an elected representative of the Australian Capital Territory, and it is the experience of many of my colleagues, that the parents of young unemployed persons do not wish those young people to be forced away from home to look for work. With all the social problems that are rife in the community at the moment- in particular the drug problem but also the problems of violence, sexual violence and so on- families are not happy with the situation where 16 and 17-year- old girls and boys will be forced to leave home to travel to other cities or to country towns in search of work. The Opposition has never claimed that unemployment benefits should be paid to people who do not want to work. It does believe that work tests should be realistic. It does not believe that the Government can disguise the facts of unemployment by introducing unrealistically severe work tests that will require, in particular young people leaving home and travelling to strange cities or towns to seek jobs, often which do not exist anyway. The Opposition believes it would add to our social problems and to the problems of unemployed youth if such tests were to be introduced.
– It is Depression mentality.
– As my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland says, it is Depression mentality. I suppose there are some people in this place who can remember the Depression, and there are others of us who have studied the effects of that economic crisis on the society of the time. One of the worst effects was the terrible disruption to families caused by the breadwinner and young people leaving home to search for work. The Opposition believes that the youth of this nation wants to work and needs the chance to work. It believes that a responsible government could follow the example of many democracies in Europe, the United States of America and Canada, and embark upon job creation and proper training schemes. That is the appropriate response to the level of youth unemployment, not these veiled threats and accusations of being dole bludgers; not these insinuations that we are to have work tests that will create even more pressure and strain on families.
I know that my colleague, Senator McClelland, has much to add to this debate. The Opposition considers that the mini Budget brought down last Thursday night represents the total failure of the Government’s economic policy and the total failure of a responsible government to cope with the problems facing this society. The Opposition was shocked and horrified to see universal health insurance abolished. We on this side know that the effects of maintaining such high levels of taxation on the average family will be catastrophic. We know that the failure of the Government to do anything about job creation and training will simply exacerbate the problems of unemployment. We know that the failure of the Government to secure the health services of this community will be counterproductive both in an economic and in a social sense.
The Opposition seeks from the Minister during this debate assurances that the hints and threats by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and, as recently as yesterday, by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony)- a person who speaks with great authority on this matter- will not be carried out. We want to be assured that unemployed youth will not be the new scapegoats for particularly harsh work tests and that withdrawal of benefit will not be supported by the Government. In conclusion, I allege again that the decline in the living standards of pensioners in the community, the anxiety and distress caused to genuinely unemployed persons, the difficulty they have in getting unemployed benefit and, particularly now, the total disruption to the health services, are matters of urgency.
– In introducing the debate on this matter of urgency, Senator Ryan referred to the deliberate policy of the Government to withdraw social security and health services. As I am the Minister responsible for social security matters, I feel that I must spend some time talking on that subject, although with repeated urgency motions and in other ways during recent weeks we have gone round and round in this Senate with regard to social security matters.
I think that it should be stated that in the speech of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) on 24 May there was one paragraph of particular importance to me and to the two million Australians who receive social security benefits. This was contained in the paragraph:
Against the severity of these cuts there will be attempts to frighten people receiving Commonwealth social security pensions and benefits and repatriation payments. These payments will be maintained by the Government. The fearmongers should be ignored.
It should be said that what has been outlined by Senator Ryan is, in the words of the Treasurer, fearmongering as far as social security pensioners and beneficiaries are concerned. It has been said that their pensions and payments will be maintained, and to try to portray otherwise in this urgency debate overlooks that particular statement that was made effectively by the Treasurer to try to allay the fears that are aroused in the minds of those who are dependent on social services payments for their livelihood and for the support of their familes. I state that at the outset because I think that should be restated, and the reassurance should be given by me, as it was given by the Treasurer last week.
Senator Ryan has referred to a number of matters, but I feel that we cannot look at an urgency debate of this kind without going back to the economic realities which must be faced as a Government puts together both sides of a Budget including the revenue which we extract from the Australian people in direct taxation and through other Government charges, the expenditure which arises from the enormous systems of social security and health cover which have been developed, and other matters that have been referred to in the debate today. In order to put that into its true perspective, I quote some extracts from a recently released book titled Public Expenditures and Social Policy in Australia. This was a book written by R. B. Scotton and Helen Ferber. It might be appropriate to quote R. B. Scotton on a day such as this when we may* be talking about health insurance schemes. I read from page 26 of that book:
The unprecedentedly 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.
I think that that ought to be analysed when we look at the responsible measures that were taken last week with regard to expenditure. The unprecedentedly high rate of unemployment was the most tragic legacy of the Labor Government’s term. It is appropriate that Senator Ryan should refer to unemployment and to unemployed youth. It is also appropriate that we should see that in the those years of 1973, 1974 and 1975 this difficulty was created and it has taken longer to correct it and longer to improve employment opportunities, real employment -
– But it is getting worse.
– We heard the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) say today that there are more people employed than has ever been employed before.
– But there are more unemployed too.
– It took but three short years to create this difficulty in employment prospects and it has taken three years to start to improve it in order to see the recovery which we are now able to detect. I read further from the book of R. B. Scotton:
In summary, while the rate at which public expenditures were expanded in 1973 and 1974 added fuel to imported and inherited inflationary pressures, the government’s insouciance about violent changes in real wages, relativities and conditions in this period made a major contribution to the intensity of the subsequent unemployment and the difficulty of reducing it.
That is an unassailable fact. There is difficulty in reducing unemployment. There is a record of this rate of public expenditure growth which put out of all reasonable and rational perspective the relativities in budgeting. A further extract talks of the inappropriate stage of the business cycle and of the pace at which aggravated inflationary pressures of this increased Government expenditure. It reads:
However, there can be no doubt that two central policies of the Labor government- the expansion of public social expenditures and the encouragement of substantial wage and salary increases- contributed to the intensity of both problems and the difficulties of the subsequent readjustment. Wage and public expenditure policies were both pursued with the deliberate intention of equalising income distribution, and it would be ironic indeed if the redistributive consequences of the additional degree of inflation and unemployment were found to have nullified the direct effects of the policies.
It is widely believed that inflation is regressive in its incidence. In the words of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, ‘. . . inflation favours the rich and the powerful; the position of poor people deteriorates’.
That is the argument that we need to’ debate today- the matter of inflation, its control, and the effect that rampant inflation has on everyone in the community, in particular the poor people who rely on Government income for their livelihood and those who rely on a lower income from their earnings. The people who are on higher rates of salary have difficulties with inflation but in many ways they are able to safeguard against it. Those in the low income group have the least opportunity to protect themselves against inflation.
Senator Ryan referred to some figures with regard to the consumer price index and the rates of pensions. I quote a table which I have had prepared which shows that the increases in the consumer price index from December 1975 to March 1 979 totalled 36.9 per cent while the increase in the standard rate of pension during that same period was 37.3 per cent. A CPI increase of 36.9 per cent has been covered by this Government through an increase of 37.3 per cent. That shows that the Government’s promise to maintain the purchasing powers of pensions has been maintained. The assurance given by the Treasurer that the government will maintain the social security payments should enable people to discard entirely what was said by Senator Ryan when she talked about a Government deliberately withdrawing social security from the Australian people.
If we look again at figures- and I do not like using figures too much in a speech because I believe that people can lose track of what is being said- we find that in the Australian Labor Party Budget of 1975-76 a total of $5,000m was spent on social security and welfare and this represented 23.2 per cent of the Budget. In the Budget of the Government for 1978-79 a total of over $8,000m is being spent, which is 27.8 per cent of the Budget. So, on a percentage of the Budget, and on funds that are being extended on social security and welfare, the record of this Government is second to none and ought to be acknowledged.
Senator Ryan referred to the lack of indexation of family allowance payments. I acknowledge that there has been no increase in the rates that have been given to family allowance payments, but $ 1,000m is spent on family allowances in this country and a factor that is not recognised is that in the 1976 Budget this Government replaced the Hayden tax rebates for children and child endowment with family allowances, and this initiative brought greatly increased assistance to some 300,000 families with 800,000 children who did not benefit from the Hayden scheme of tax rebates. That additional number of the lowest income people who were not able to have the advantage of tax rebates-300,000 families and 800,000 children- are now receiving substantial family allowances, whereas they were unable to take advantage of the tax rebates because of the level of their income in previous years. Those are the sorts of things that ought to be acknowledged.
If we are to talk about policies, perhaps the only document which we could relate to the debate of today, where we are charged with withdrawing social security and health services, is the Hayden alternative budget presented at the time of the Budget last year in which we saw that family allowances would not be indexed. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) made some reference to family allowances in his speech, but when he put down figures to show that he too was economically responsible, he was careful to make no allowance to index family allowances. He made no allowance for the reintroduction of a maternity allowance. He made no allowance for raising pensions to a different level. He certainly said that a Labour government would index pensions twice yearly, but he made no allowances for these other things which are now being brought forward as if they were Australian Labor Party policy. One only needs to look at the policy laid down by the Leader of the Opposition to see whether the matters raised are realities or simply political attitudes to be expressed at an appropriate time.
If one is to see what the policy of the Labor Party is, one must look at what was said by the Leader of the Opposition at the time of the last Budget to see just how far the Labor Party is prepared to return to economic irresponsibility referred to in the quotations I read from Scotton. I think it would be understood that, at a level of $8,000m which is to be spent on social security and welfare, there is not much room in this country for anyone to make wild or elaborate promises, if a reasonable level of tax or other charges on the Australian people is to be sustained. One could start questions again, as I have with Senator Grimes, with regard to policy on the means test for those who are over 70, for those who may require a pension because they are in nursing homes or in private care requiring additional assistance, and all those other things that we have discussed previously. I simply say again that under this Government the standard rates of pensions have reached the highest level in comparison with average weekly earnings that they have ever been in this country. To ignore that and to talk of a withdrawal of social services from the Australian people sounds rather ridiculous.
In regard to health care, reference has been made to difficulties experienced by Commonwealth Government employees. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) has supplied figures in regard to people who are in the lowest income groups and the way in which they have been covered by the systems for low income earners in this country. If there are people on Commonwealth Government employees compensation who are receiving $80 per week, as was mentioned, one could say that they would be regarded by doctors as being in the low income groups, and would be treated by doctors in the way that low income earners have been treated. The figures that we have received with regard to the bulk billing for the disadvantaged show that the scheme is working well, as it was expected it would. The figures I have show that, for the month of October 1978- that is, before the changes of 1 November- 1.769 million services were bulk billed. After the changes of 1 November when bulk billing applied only to pensioners and the disadvantaged, the number of services bulk billed were: 1.48 million in November; 1.307 million in December; 1.38 million in January; and 1.32 million in February. I am advised that of the 1.3 million and 1.4 million services I have mentioned, 1.2 million referred to pensioners who had been treated by doctors and bulk billed. Therefore, we have 100,000 or more people in low income families who have been bulk billed by doctors and have been treated in the way the Government expected. Their medical care has been at no cost to them. I acknowledge the fact that there has been no increase for some years in the payment of Commonwealth Government employees compensation. I can only say that this is a matter that is being reviewed in this present Budget, with recognition of the relativity between Commonwealth Government and State Government employees and the need to maintain the Government’s payment to its own employees, which payment is made by way of compensation.
I should like to refer to some of the matters in the new health arrangements that were mentioned by the Minister for Health in his statement last week. I think we cannot look at health care without facing economic reality. When we consider the figures that have been revealed, of a national health bill in 1978-79 of $8 billion, we must start to have some regard to who will pay. It is sheer nonsense to talk of free health care that can be given to one group and not covered as a cost by another. If we look at a cost of some $8 billion- remember that I said $8 billion was spent on social security and welfare payments- we start to see the magnitude of the commitment of government to maintain its programs in health and welfare. The Government decided that there would need to be a reduction of direct financial support for those who are able to pay for their health care and that there needed to be a promotion of measures to contain future cost escalation, while providing a better system of health care for every Australian. That system of health care does need to take into account health costs. It is for this reason that the Government believed that if it was to be responsible it had to establish a national inquiry to examine the efficiency and administration of hospitals throughout Australia, recognising that about 60 per cent of Commonwealth expenditure on health services is spent on hospital services, and that State governments, which also share heavily in the cost of hospital and health care, agree that hospitals are disproportionately costly.
The aim of the inquiry is to establish financial and economic responsibility in the hospital sphere. It ought to be understood that the Commonwealth’s contribution to the hospital cost sharing arrangements with the States in 1976-77 was $873m. In this year it is estimated that it will be $ 1,067m, which is an increase of 22 per cent in just a 2-year period. That rate of increase cannot be allowed to continue without our recognising that it is a cost and a quite substantial increase. The inquiry will identify factors leading to rapidly rising costs for hospital services and recommend ways in which these costs can be reduced. Other figures which I think were salutory in the statement by the Minister for Health last week were those relating to the average occupancy rate of hospital beds. Bearing in mind the high and heavy cost of hospital beds, it is somewhat alarming to see that an occupancy rate of only 68 per cent exists for hospital beds. That supports the belief that there is some oversupply of hospital beds. Perhaps there are regional and zonal difficulties, but the figures in totality show that there is only a 68 per cent average occupancy and that 50 per cent of our hospitals have less than a 60 per cent occupancy of their beds.
The Government certainly needs to treat as urgent an inquiry of this kind, because the average cost of a hospital bed in Australia is now $ 1 50 a day. Six years ago it was $4 1 a day and in 1976 when the present charges of $40 and $60 a day were introduced the average cost was about $120 a day. Therefore one can see the rapid increase each year in the cost of a hospital bed. Yet there is a number of unoccupied beds in hospitals around Australia. I would think that the State governments also would welcome the inquiry in which they will participate. The Australian people have a right to see that there is efficiency in health care as well as the provision of health care. Perhaps as a general comment I could say, in regard to both social security and health services, that it should never be thought that compassion and efficiency are incompatible. In fact, if government is to be responsible it must find that compatability between efficiency and compassion.
I should like to refer to my own area of responsiblity because Senator Ryan raised the matter of unemployment benefits. She referred to some of the statements made by Government Ministers in recent days. The matter of unemployment benefits is the direct responsibility of my Department, shared with the Commonwealth Employment Service. In one year expenditure in this area has risen to $900m or $ 1,000m. If there was an administration of that sort of public expenditure without efficiency, I believe the Government could be charged with negligence, but as far as I am concerned my Department will administer the programs for which it is responsible with compassion and efficiency, finding a compatability with a proper accountability of public expenditure. I say that with regard to unemployment benefits, and I know that the Minister for Health would wish to say that with regard to expenditure which is under his control.
The Commonwealth Government has been contributing 40 per cent towards the cost of a scheduled medical service and meeting all scheduled costs over $20. Under the new arrangements the patient will be responsible for medical costs up to $20 of the scheduled fee. The Commonwealth will meet all scheduled medical fees above $20 for each single medical service. Pensioners with health benefit cards will continue to be eligible to receive an 85 per cent benefit in respect of each scheduled medical service, with a maximum payment by each patient of $5 for any one service where the scheduled fee is charged. It is important to recognise that under social services legislation a very large percentage of our pensioners hold health benefit cards. Almost 80 per cent of age pensioner groups are receiving pensions. I understand that about 80 per cent of age pensioners have health benefit cards. Thus it will be seen that a great majority of our pensioners is treated under the health benefit card system whereby 85 per cent of the scheduled fee is paid by the Government. There is no change to that cover or to the security which pensioners have for the medical attention they require.
As I have said, anyone, including a Commonwealth Government employee who received a limited compensation payment who is classified by a doctor as being disadvantaged will continue to be eligible to receive medical accounts bulk billed at 75 per cent of the scheduled fee. Such people will not be asked by the doctor to make any direct payment. These changes also apply in respect of optometry services covered by the health insurance scheme. The Government will continue to guarantee universal protection against higher cost items of medical service. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) has released information about health insurance contribution rates. I believe that a great deal of publicity will need to be given to them. People will need to understand what their responsibilities are in relation to health care for themselves and their families. After all, health care is a responsibility and in this country it is one that has shown an enormous growth in expenditure, to the extent that the Government felt it needed to take some decisions prior to the Budget which will be presented in August.
I will give an instance of the sort of expenditure involved: In 1972 health costs represented 5.97 per cent- almost 6 per cent- of the gross domestic product. In 1975 health costs represented 7.76 per cent of the gross domestic product and they continued to grow as a proportion of the gross domestic product. We need to look at these figures with a reasonable degree of responsibility. In 1977-78 health costs represented 7.89 per cent of the gross domestic product. The figures for this year are not available yet. These matters were given attention in the Treasurer’s statement which everyone wishes to call ‘a mini-Budget’. Senator Ryan has mentioned matters that were not noted in the statement. It was not intended that the statement cover all matters that would receive the Government’s attention in the forthcoming Budget. However, it was necessary to clarify the Government’s proposals with regard to personal income tax and to be specific with regard to health. Also it was necessary to give the assurance that was given with regard to the maintenance of social security payments.
Other matters in other departments were the subject of comment. But to suggest that because items were omitted from the statement last week we should assume that there is to be a withdrawal of services or programs overlooks the role of the Budget which will be announced in August. This statement referred to some matters.
It was not a statement which projected what would be contained in the Budget in its totality nor was it one which was designed to cause alarm about those matters which were not mentioned.
The matter of urgency that has been stated as the Government’s deliberate policy to allow social security and health services to decline’ has not been properly sustained in the argument that has been presented. If there is to be a policy to maintain social security and health services in this country it needs to be one which recognises economic responsibilities, the capacity of people to pay and the role of the Government to marshal the resources available in Australia in order to see that those people who are the least advantaged receive special protection. This Government feels that it has a responsibility to provide for those who are the lowest income groups, who are in the categories of the aged, handicapped, invalid and those who are single parents and widows to give them cover with social security payments.
The Government also feels that unemployment benefits should be paid to those people who are eligible to receive them. It is also the responsibility of the Government to see that there are systems which provide the health care demanded by a community of the standard of the Australian community. However, it is also the responsibility of the Government to see that, in the words of Scotton, these are not irresponsible economic policies, policies which would cause damage to future employment prospects or damage the economy of the community as we saw happen in the years of the Labor Government. This statement was brought down last week so that people in this country would know what the Government’s intentions were prior to its preparation of the Budget and also to announce matters needed to be announced at this stage.
It is not the attitude of the Government nor is it the record of the Government that services should be withdrawn. Again, I wish to assure people who receive social security payments that the statement of the Treasurer to maintain these payments was made seriously. We hope that it will dispel the fears which are aroused in people every time there is speculation of the kind that I have mentioned. The Government assures the Australian people that it is economically responsible. It is certainly not, as was said by the Leader of the Opposition, a ‘bunch of amateurs’. Neither is it a bunch of incompetents. The Fraser Government has shown a degree of economic responsibility which has reduced substantially the rate of inflation. The economy has shown signs of recovery and proper employment opportunities. I think that this Government can teach the Opposition a great deal about economic management. It is a government in which the Australian people will sustain their confidence.
-The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) remarked that the Australian people do not want wild and elaborate promises to be made by governments. I agree with her statement. However, I remind the Minister that it is the Government of which she is a member that made promises in 1975 and gave undertakings to the Australian people in 1 977. It is this Government of which she is a member that is now breaking those promises of 1975 and going back on the undertakings given in 1977. I agree that whilst the Australian people do not want wild and elaborate promises to be made, they certainly want a government which, when it makes such policies, adheres and implements them. If the Government finds that because of its own economic inertia it is not able to implement its policies, the members of the Government are the ones who are answerable to the Australian people. It is because of this Government’s failure to adhere to its undertakings to the Australian people that the Opposition today has moved a motion attacking the Government’s policy to allow social security and health services to decline.
– But they have not declined.
-My friend, Senator Teague, says that they have not declined. During the short time that I have available to me, I will show him by how much they have declined. If he thinks I will fall for the old trap of answering interjections in a 15 minute speech, he has another think coming.
In supporting the motion which has been moved by my colleague, Senator Ryan, it concerns me to note that the Government, in failing to implement its undertakings and to carry out its promises, has acted as though it could not care less about the ‘have-nots’ of Australia. Since this Government came to office, it has blazed a trail- a trail of reduction in services, a trail of creation of hardships, a trail of increasing tensions and division throughout the Australian community, a trail of establishing permanent economic uncertainty and instability. But as it has blazed that trail it has left behind for all time, in charcoal ruins, any value there is in the political world, in the word ‘credibility’. I am absolutely amazed at the Government’s reneging on its undertakings, and in such a cavalier and arrogant manner.
I do not need to remind the Government of its 1975 undertakings. There was an undertaking to provide a job for all Australians who want to work; there was an undertaking not to interfere with Medibank. My colleague, Senator Ryan, has already dealt with that very objectively. A decision by the Government in June 1 976 to interfere with Medibank cost the Australian wage earners at least $8 a week in their pay packets. If that has not been a decline in social security and health standards- and Senator Teague has denied that there has been a decline- I do not know what is. We all know that unemployment has never been higher that it is now. We also know that Medibank has not only been emasculated but indeed, regrettably, completely destroyed. That, too, is a decline in social security and health standards.
The 1975 promises were broken. The most blatant attempt ever to buy votes was an advertisement showing a hand with a fistful of notes- we all remember it in the 1977 election campaign- and Mr Fraser uttering some prophetic words. I heard Senator Guilfoyle at the table this afternoon say that it has taken three years to start to improve the economic conditions that the Government inherited from the Whitlam Government. Let me remind Senator Guilfoyle of the opening sentence of the Prime Minister’s 1977 policy speech. In the very first line, he said:
Our nation is on the move. We are ready to stride into a new era of prosperity and development. We have broken through in the tight against inflation.
– That is true.
– If it is true, why is the Government imposing such penalties and harshness on the wage and salary earner and on the underprivileged people? In the same speech, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said:
We have been able to reduce inflation, reform the tax system, revive business and start interest rates falling . . .
Again in the same speech, he said:
Because of our job assistance strategy, because of the growth and development our policies have made possible unemployment will fall from February . . .
February 1978, 15 months ago- . . and keep falling.
That 1 977 policy speech is confirmation today of what is alleged in the urgency motion that the Opposition now moves. On the Government’s own admission, made in the House of Representatives and in this Senate last Thursday night, that 1977 election speech was a policy of falsehood, and it was a policy of deceit. Not one person who voted for the Government in 1975, and not one person who voted for the Government in 1977, believes the Government today. There is not one person who gives the Prime Minister or this Government any credibility. Unemployment has never been higher, the underprivileged have never been greater in number, and the future has never been more bleak for the younger generation of Australians.
After his dismal statement in this Parliament last Thursday night, the Treasurer (Mr Howard) himself went on the airwaves of Australia, on a program called Nationwide, with my colleague, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and the Treasurer told the Australian people in their lounge rooms that this time next year inflation certainly will be no better, and this time next year unemployment will be higher.
Senator Guilfoyle today referred with some satisfaction to a statement that was made during the Treasurer’s speech last Thursday night. She referred to this passage:
Against the severity of these cuts there will be attempts to frighten people receiving Commonwealth social security pensions and benefits and repatriation payments. These payments will be maintained by the Government. The fearmongers should be ignored. It should be clear, however, that the Government is determined that unemployment benefits will not be paid to those who are not genuinely seeking work.
Senator Guilfoyle seemed to obtain some comfort and satisfaction from those words. Let me remind Senator Guilfoyle and other members of the Government of* something that was set out in the last Budget Speech under the heading of ‘Social Welfare Payments’. The following quotation is from page 2 12 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 1 5 August 1978:
The 1976 decision to subject to tax a wide range of social welfare payments has been extended;
Never did the Government say during the 1977 election policy speech that it would impose a tax on social welfare payments. But the Government did that in the 1976 Budget, and last year the Government decided to add to it. It said:
The other such payments now to be subject to tax, as from I November 1978, are, broadly:
Invalid pension for persons under age pension age
Sheltered employment allowance
Repatriation service pension on account of unemployability or pulmonary tuberculosis for persons under age pension age.
Tuberculosis allowance for persons under age pension age
Tuberculosis housekeeper allowance
Rehabilitation training allowance
Rehabilitation living-away-from-home allowance
Incentive allowance (rehabilitation allowance).
That is the Government’s track record. If Senator Guilfoyle can gain some satisfaction and some comfort from the words I have cited from the speech last Thursday night and on which she relied, I dare say that very few of those who are receiving social security benefits will place the same reliance on those words.
Last Thursday night the Government decided to lash out once again at the Australian taxpayer, the wage and salary earner, and the underprivileged members of the Australian community. As has been said by Senator Ryan, the health scheme is now a sick scheme. If people do not spend $20 on an early medical consultation, they will not get any refund from the Government. Because of 23 years of neglect by a series of conservative governments, one million people in Australia could not afford health insurance when the Labor Government came into office in 1972. It was left to the Labor Government to introduce a scheme commonly known as Medibank. When we came into government one million people, or 10 per cent of the Australian population, could not afford health insurance benefits. When we left government three years later anyone in Australia who was sick and in need of attention could get attention for that sickness. But today the situation is probably worse than it was when we came into government in 1972. What this Government will do, as a result of those policies, is flood the casualty departments of public hospitals with queues of people. The charges imposed by hospitals have gone up by some 25 per cent.
Let us compare our record in government with this Government’s record. When we came into government we established a hospital development program. In 1974-75 we spent $30. 3m on that program. In 1975-76 we spent $107.15m on it. This Government carried on the program in 1976-77 and on 30 June 1978 the program was terminated. What did this Government do last Thursday night as far as educational assistance for the Australian people is concerned? Its program on educational assistance has not been announced yet. What is the Government doing as far as transport charges are concerned? It is putting them up to ridiculous heights. What is the situation as far as import charges are concerned? Another 2 per cent is to be imposed on each item.
But what is the situation as far as unemployment is concerned? In addition to the measures announced last Thursday night, inflammatory statements are being made by Ministers and back bench Government members. Just recently in Melbourne the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Mr Lynch, the former Treasurer, said that too much is being spent in social welfare payments to the Australian community. Only last week the honourable member for Canberra, Mr Haslem, said that no one under 25 years of age should receive the unemployment benefit. Yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony at Murwillumbah, in his electorate, said that a review of the unemployment benefit has to be undertaken. What the younger generation of this country needs is work. It does not want to be cajoled or threatened. I remind the Government that the unemployment benefit for single people under the age of 18 years has not been increased by lc since May 1975. For four years, despite the hardship that the younger generation has suffered, there has not been an increase of lc in the benefit to alleviate the problems that confront the younger generation. I support the motion moved by Senator Ryan.
– It was rather difficult to detect from the speeches delivered by Opposition senators that the motion which we are actually debating, as moved by the Opposition, states that the following is a matter of urgency:
The Government’s deliberate policy to allow social security and health services to decline.
It is a rather remarkable motion. In a short sentence it makes two completely false statements: There is no such government policy and social security and health services are not in decline. The Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, has dealt in some detail with the way in which our social security services are being maintained and improved as the economic situation makes it possible. I wish to give a little more detail on what is going on in the health field. The criticism of the standard of health services comes rather oddly from the Australian Labor Party. When it was in government it failed to formulate a health policy which bore any relationship at all to economic facts. The Labor Party produced a scheme which proved to be extraordinarily extravagant and indulgent to the well-off and, in the process, it practically drove the Government bankrupt. Those types of services are never free; they are paid for by the taxpayer. The taxpayer could not afford the many extravagant schemes produced by the Labor Party.
It is about time that the public realised the damage done to the country during the Labor regime. Not only did the Labor regime cause economic damage- that was bad enough- but also its mismanagement and its policies had a damaging effect on people’s expectations. It produced a generation of Australian people who thought that there were such things as free lunches. That generation thought that things were provided for them by governments without their having to make any effort for themselves. I believe that that did great damage to the whole social ambience of this country. That is particularly true in the health area. When the health scheme of . the Labor Party was produced the Labor Party did not properly consider the financial circumstances of individuals. Resources were not directed as they should be directed in a proper social security or health policy, namely, to the areas of greatest need. In fact, the Labor Party’s record in that area is so disastrous that I think the less its members talk about the subject the better it will be for them. Let us consider what they did.
– Why did you promise to maintain it?
– I will come to that in a moment. The open-ended commitment the Labor Government entered into with Medibank was associated with doctors fees increasing by nearly 60 per cent in three years. The Labor Government had open-ended cost sharing arrangements with the States. It also had a hospital development plan, of which Senator Douglas McClelland spoke with pride. That plan in fact poured hundreds of millions of dollars into further hospital development without any attempt being made to rationalise the growththe proper and needed growth- of the hospital system in Australia. I am delighted that Senator Douglas McClelland mentioned that plan because it was a perfect example of gross mismanagement and waste in a health care system.
Let us look at what happened. In 1972-73, when the Whitlam Government came to power, health costs represented just under 6 per cent- 5.97 per cent actually- of our gross domestic product. Three years later those costs represented 7.84 per cent of our GDP. The country cannot afford that rate of increase. Since then, through careful management, we have been able to maintain health costs at about 7.85 per cent of GDP. Control of the amount of our resources which is put into health care is vital in the battle to control the national inflation rate. As Senator Guilfoyle pointed out, the control of inflation is vital to social wellbeing. Nothing is more damaging to the retired generation- those people on social welfare- than rapidly increasing inflation rates which erode savings and destroy expectations. One of the greatest contributions that any government can make towards the social wellbeing of the people is to produce a stable currency. It is our firm commitment and our strong intention to do so.
asked me about the health scheme. We make no apology whatsoever for our changes to the health insurance system. Our fundamental social welfare policy rests on our commitment to put scarce public resources into the areas of greatest need. We do not support a policy under which everybody in the community is entitled to receive a high level of benefit regardless of his income, as was the case with, say, the former Medibank Mark 1. Under that scheme, 85 per cent of medical fees were met, with a patient paying a maximum of $5. That policy was extremely wasteful of resources. What we have done is to maintain our adherence to a fundamental undertaking to provide universal standard ward care, with treatment by doctors engaged by the hospitals, at no cost to the patient. We maintain our commitment to make standard ward care available to everyone free of charge.
As has been announced, under the proposals relating to health services which will come into force on 1 September, the Government will meet all scheduled fees of more than $20. Effectively that will protect everyone against catastrophic illness. All scheduled medical fees above $20 will continue to be paid fully by the Government. Pensioners and disadvantaged people will remain covered for all their medical expenses. They will continue to pay nothing. 1 must confess, when the scheme for disadvantaged people, which left the discretion with the doctor, was introduced I was concerned that that might impose too great a strain on the medical profession. I am delighted to hear that in fact the integrity and efficiency of the medical profession are making the scheme work extremely well.
Senator Guilfoyle quoted some figures, which I will repeat for the information of the Senate. Since bulk billing, which is now restricted to pensioners and the disadvantaged, was changed to that system it appears that there are on average 1.4 million services a month under this scheme. A bulk billing working party has been set up to look at how the scheme is working. I am told that that committee’s preliminary advice to the Minister is that it is working extremely well. This is an important way in which the Government is achieving its objective of getting the best value in health care for the dollars spent.
Also against this background the Government has decided to ask the States to agree to an inquiry into hospital administration and hospital efficiency and productivity. We must remember that 60 per cent of our health costs go in hospital care. We have a very high utilisation of our hospitals. We have 1,600 bed days per 1,000 people per year, which can be compared with 1,207 in the United States of America, 1,100 in England and 900 in Scotland. But even with that high utilisation- thanks, in pan anyway, to the scheme mentioned by Senator Douglas McClelland- we have far too many hospital beds. Our utilisation of hospital beds is about 68 per cent. Worse still, the hospital beds are badly distributed. What we urgently need is a proper rationalisation of our hospital system.
I draw the attention of the Senate to an excellent document which was circulated a few days ago and which is entitled: ‘ Report on Rationalisation of Hospital Facilities and Services and on Proposed New Charges- A Discussion Paper’. The document makes some points on which I think we should all ponder. I draw attention to a couple of those points. The document states:
Studies in Australia and overseas indicate large differences in lengths of stay for the same illnesses and operations, only partially explained by social and geographical factors.
Later the document states:
Surveys of customary practice in Australia have shown large variations in surgery rates between different areas, even after allowing for differences in age composition. The highest rate for tonsillectomy is five times the lowest rate; there is a three-fold variation in the rates for appendicectomy and gall-bladder removal, and almost a five-fold variation in rates for removal of the womb.
These are real problems for any health care system, and we badly need a national inquiry into how to ensure that our hospitals are properly and economically used. There never has been a national inquiry into the hospital system and it is high time that one was held.
Our first aim must be to ensure that we do not have an excessive number of hospital beds, because they are very expensive- $150 per day per used bed. Hospital beds must also be properly distributed. We must ensure that unnecessary operations are not carried out in hospitals. We must ensure that the length of stay of our patients in hospitals is not unnecessarily long.
– That is up to the medical profession.
– Yes, we need the cooperation of the medical profession and of the hospital administrators. We must aim, in our health insurance system and health care system, to endeavour to achieve those ends.
– What about private hospitals run by doctors to make profits?
– Private hospitals run by doctors hold about 30 per cent of the patients in hospital care. They, of course, must come within the scope of the inquiry. We must aim to ensure that first rate hospital care is available on a basis of need. This, of course, is in line with the general Government policy on health care and social welfare benefits. As a government we must be economic with community resources and at the same time provide excellent health care to all who need it, with no one denied such care because of social disadvantage. This is our aim; this is what we are achieving. I move:
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the motion (Senator Ryan’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 annual report of the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters for the period 14 September 1977 to 31 December 1978.
– On behalf of Senator Webster and for the information of honourable senators, I present the resolutions of the 106th meeting of the Australian Agricultural
Council held in Christchurch, New Zealand, January 1 979.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-by leave- On behalf of Senator Walters I table additional information received by Senate Estimates Committee C and seek leave for it to be incorporated in the Hansard record of the Committee ‘s proceedings.
-by leave- I table additional information received by Estimates Committee F and seek leave to have it incorporated in the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until Tuesday, 29 May 1979 at 10.30 a.m.
– I have received a letter from the Opposition Whip in the House of Representatives advising that Dr Neal Blewett, M.P., has been selected to fill the vacancy on the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act, caused by the death of the Honourable F. E. Stewart, M.P.
– by leave- I move:
I simply say by way of explanation that this Committee had arranged this very important meeting without the knowledge that the Parliament would sit in the morning tomorrow. Therefore, I hope that with the indulgence of the Senate this may be permitted.
– I just continue my protest about such sittings of committees. Many meetings might have been arranged in the belief that the Parliament would not be sitting. I have always opposed the sitting of committees during the sitting of the Parliament. I just formally notify my objection to this proposal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave- Last week a draft program was made available, indicating the legislation that the Government has for passage during the rest of these sittings. Honourable senators will be aware that it is a full program, but it will be apparent also that it is a feasible one, provided that consistent progress is made each day from now on. By the end of this week it should be clear whether we will complete all the essential Bills by the end of next week or whether the Senate may have to sit beyond then. Honourable senators would be well advised not to enter into other commitments for the week beginning Monday, 1 1 June, until the situation is quite clear.
I will endeavour to advise the Senate of the legislation that the Government considers necessary for passage each day. In this way, we will all be aware of demands that are to be made on our time. Today the Government is hoping to complete the debate on the two income tax Bills and the two appropriation Bills. I would hope that some progress might also be made on the two wool industry Bills.
-by leave- It is important that there should be an expression of opinion from this side of the Senate on the program which has just been announced. Therefore I speak to it both for myself and in case other members of the Opposition might also like to express an opinion upon it. The program that has been announced for the next two weeks is one that could have been achieved had it not been for the recent sudden intrusion by the Government of some extraordinary legislation by way of a mini-Budget. Accordingly, it is too much to expect the Opposition to take kindly to the introduction of such draconian- I have been told that is the correct use of the word- or draconic legislation without -
– St George and the dragon.
-According to the dictionary, both uses are correct. To return to the serious matter that is before the Senate: The Leader of the Government (Senator Carrick) has lightly put before us a certain program and expects to achieve a certain amount of progress concerning it each day. Naturally the Opposition- being not likely to behave as have oppositions of the past when we were in government- will co-operate as much as it can. But it is impossible to co-operate in the face of obstruction. I refer to the obstruction of which the Government has been guilty in introducing legislation which allegedly it considers to be of an urgent nature and which, if urgent, is so only because of its own fault. It is legislation which could have been withheld until the normal time for presentation of the Budget. Instead, the Government has imposed upon the nation a Budget in mid-stream, as one might term it.
– This is a responsible government.
– It is being responsible after having been very irresponsible in its application of an economic theory which has come to be known as Fraserism, which is exactly what it is. Government supporters have had imposed upon them- to the cost of the whole nation- an economic philosophy and direction which are those of a single person. At question time today we were berated with references to Labor’s past. Labor was in office quite some time ago and I would have thought that by now the Leader of the Government would have forgotten in some measure the problems which the Australian Labor Party is alleged to have created and would have been willing to consider the problems that this Government has created. The situation in which it finds itself is exactly the same. We are facing a $4,000 m deficit, a deficit which, when Labor was in office, was described as reprehensible. When this Government is in office it is described as a result of the responsible application of the economic theory which it considers to be correct.
Nevertheless, I am getting somewhat away from the Minister’s statement concerning the program of the Senate. The Government has itself made it difficult to fulfil its program within the next two weeks. It has asked the Opposition to limit in some way discussion of matters that it considers urgent, so that the passage of Government legislation may be facilitated. In the face of what might have been thought to be a mild statement but was in reality a provocative one, we can merely respond that we will do our best to comply with the program, but do not wish in any way to concede any of our rights of debate. I have expressed that opinion in the hope that perhaps it will be reinforced by other honourable senators on this side.
– by leave- The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) has just reminded us of the program that the Government has set itself. I take it that it is the program that was circulated to honourable senators last Thursday, but the Leader of the Government has not told us that today, in the other place, a series of six or seven Bills associated with the two statements made in the Senate last Thursday- that of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and that of the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), as presented by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), will be introduced.
Senator Carrick has said that he hopes that the income tax Bills which are on the Senate paper for discussion will be dealt with today, also the two appropriation Bills and the wool industry Bills- all this in something less than four hours. Then, of course, we are to go on to consider all the other legislation that is listed on the Notice Paper, not forgetting all the Bills that are to be introduced in the other place and must come here for ratification or otherwise. I would hope that if some Government supporters are true to what they have been saying, they will cross the floor and vote against them.
Be that as it may, what the Leader of the Government has told us in regard to making progress completely ignores the fact that some Government supporters have admitted that the measures which were proposed last Thursday by way of statement- and must now be introduced by way of legislation- have been under discussion in the Government ranks for many weeks. Government supporters knew that these measures had to be taken yet, at the last minute, the Leader of the Government has requested the Opposition to go along with what the Government is doing and enable the session to be brought to an end as soon as possible. There is only one possible reason why the Government would want to do that. That is to stifle public debate and Opposition criticism. As we have seen in the past, when this Government is in office, but Parliament is in recess, the Press is very quiet in regard to criticism of Government policy. However, while Parliament is sitting the Government is open to challenge because the Opposition is able to level legitimate criticism at it.
I join Senator Georges in saying that although the Opposition will do everything possible to expedite the Government’s program, 1 for one will not renege in respect of any comments that I want to make in criticism of the Government for what it has done. 1 intend to remind the Government- and will do so as often as possible- of the many promises that it has repudiated, especially that contained in the fullpage advertisement which in 1 977 fooled many of the country’s taxpayers into believing that the Government- as was illustrated by a handful of $5 notes- would put about $70 a week back into their pockets. That is one promise that has been completely repudiated by this Government. Indeed, there are many things to which we could draw attention- for instance Medibank, for which in the limited time available last Thursday night, the Government was criticised severely.
There are also many other Government proposals, including those affecting primary producers to which one could refer. Those of us who have a great feeling for the problems of primary industry will want to comment on the way in which primary producers, too, will suffer as a result of those proposals. I hope that the Leader of the Government does not think the Opposition will lie down and let the Government get away with these draconian measures, as Senator Georges has described them, which have been introduced at the last minute in the hope that they will be passed by the Parliament without being subjected to Opposition comment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Webster) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Webster) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill seeks interim appropriations, totalling $754m, for expenditure on capital works and services, payments to or for the States, and certain other services for the period1 July 1979 to 30 November 1979. The Bill includes $100m for the Advance to the Minister for Finance- the same amount as was provided in last year’s Supply Act (No. 2).
As I emphasised when introducing Supply Bill (No. 1 ) 1 979-80 the provisions in this Bill are not to be interpreted as in any way anticipating what amounts may be included in the 1979-80 Budget. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 24 May, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Gietzelt had moved by way of an amendment in respect of the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill ( No. 2 ) 1979:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to remove all references to taxation on mineral royalties for Aboriginal organizations’.
– When the Senate adjourned debate on these Bills last week a number of honourable senators had spoken on behalf of the Government and the Opposition. I thank Government senators for their support of the Bills. I will make rather more mixed remarks about the contributions of Opposition senators.
– Speak up.
– We cannot hear you.
-The Government opposes the amendment which has been moved by Senator Gietzelt on behalf of the Opposition. I am sorry that honourable senators opposite did not hear me thank Government senators for their support of the Bills, and say that I would be rather more mixed in my comments about the contributions of honourable senators opposite. (Quorum formed). Before the quorum was called I was proceeding to mention some of the points which have been made by Opposition senators in respect of the legislation which is before the Senate. Senator Gietzelt, who led for the Opposition and who moved the amendment, described the legislation as being a number of things. In no respect do I think that he was accurate in the way he categorised the legislation. He began by saying that this was a discriminatory tax. Of course, he was making that allegation in the sense that in some peculiar way this tax discriminated against Aboriginals. I suppose it could be said that there is an element of discrimination in this law and in the tax which is imposed. As other Government senators did, I refer Senator Gietzelt and the Opposition to section 26 (f) of the Income Tax Assessment Act. It states:
The assessable income of a taxpayer shall include-
f ) any amount received as or by way of royalty -
There is then an exception which does not apply but the sub-section (f) continues to an amount other than an amount that is not income within the ordinary meaning of that expression. The fact of the matter is that there may be some room for doubt as to the precise nature of the royalty payments which are being received by Aboriginals under the various arrangements which apply but this system of taxation will impose a very low percentage rate of taxation. It is the standard rate but it is imposed on only 20 per cent of the amounts received. I do not believe that it is fair to categorise this legislation as being discriminatory in the negative sense that was put by Senator Gietzelt. He also described the legislation as racist. I believe, once again, that that is an unhelpful remark which cannot be applied to this legislation in any accurate way.
The comments of Senator Gietzelt and Senator Keeffe suggested to me that they were fighting different battles. Senator Gietzelt was making it quite clear in his remarks that he has very deep concern about the whole concept of capitalism- about international capitalism in particular but about national capitalism as welland he is concerned about the whole mining scene. I suggest that very little of what he had to say in that area had anything to do with this legislation. He also categorised the legislation as being retrospective. It is hard to see on what definition of the word ‘retrospective’ that that could be said of this legislation. It does not apply until the next financial year. It applies to income received subsequent to the introduction of this legislation. I do not believe that it is in any sense retrospective.
I also challenge the assertion, which was made in Senator Gietzelt ‘s speech, that Aboriginal funds which are taxed under this legislation are being taxed more severely than the funds of mining companies. He based those remarks on analyses which, I think, were in the Fitzgerald report and which related to the ability of mining companies to invest their funds in ways which enable them to make deductions against income. That is a most unfortunate remark because some Aboriginal people might read those speeches and believe that they are factual, and not understand that companies are taxed at a rate in excess of 45 per cent in the dollar as against the 6 to 7 per cent which is imposed by this legislation.
Senator Gietzelt also said that the Government has stated that there are minerals on the Aboriginals’ land and that those minerals must be mined. That is the sort of broad statement that is being made about the Aboriginal land rights legislation in the Northern Territory which is quite misleading. There are specific mineral projects and in particular projects where rights have accrued prior to the passage of this legislation in respect of which it is quite true to say that the Aboriginal land owners are not given the right to veto mining; the only thing they are given is a right to extract an agreement and in the default of an agreement, to go to arbitration. But in the generality of cases- in the cases where mining is to occur in the future and there are no vested rights- the legislation in the Northern Territory gives the Aboriginal owners the right to veto mining development. I suppose the simplest proof of that fact is the way the mining industry is continually making representations about and objecting to the fact that the legislation does so provide. I regret that, in the attack on this legislation, the debate was broadened to cover aspects of Aboriginal affairs which are not really raised by the legislation. That set the hares running in a way which I think is unproductive and unhelpful to the Aboriginal people.
Senator Keeffe went on to say that this legislation was a continuation of attempts to keep Aboriginals as third class citizens. The Government emphatically rejects that sort of allegation. Subsequent to the arrangements with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited over Groote Eylandt- arrangements which were made not by government but by missions associated with the Aboriginal community and which arose out of straight commercial negotiations- the Government has intervened to ensure that certain royalties will flow to Aboriginal communities. The diversion of income to Aboriginals in that way is a substantial attempt to ensure that they are not third class citizens but are put in a position of economic independence and, indeed, a position of some economic power. The fact that the Government, in looking at this pattern, says that it is appropriate that some taxation should be imposed on the income which will flow to Aboriginals through these arrangements is in no sense a repudiation of commitments which are aimed at improving the lot of Aboriginal people.
I think it would be quite extraordinary if, as part of our general desire in this Parliament to see the position of Aboriginals improved, we were putting forward the argument that in some way it was necessary to exempt Aboriginal income from taxation. I think that was an extraordinary proposition and not one which the Opposition would advance if it were considering this matter in full Caucus and deciding on views it wished to put into operation when it was in government. It is a matter of great interest that there is potential for very substantial income to flow to Aboriginals under the arrangements which presently apply in the Northern Territory. During the debate Senator Gietzelt or Senator Keeffe referred to Mr Turnbull ‘s reports, which are public documents relating to the economic development of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
I shall give some indicative figures. I do not adopt these figures, because they involve guesses as to future development in the Northern Territory. I refer the Senate to a table which appears at page 73 in Mr Turnbull ‘s first report. It shows projected Aboriginal property income in the Northern Territory. The figures appear under these various headings- ‘royalties from manganese’, ‘royalties from aluminium or alumina’, rent on mining lease areas’, and ‘uranium royalties’. The total figure for 1977 is $2. 19m; the figure in 1 978 is $2.43m; and the figure in 1 979 is $2.60m. Because of the projected uranium mining which is to occur there is then quite a take-off. Mr Turnbull’s estimate- and he gives the basis of that estimate in his report- is that by the year 2000 there will be an income of $5 1.36m. That is a substantial amount of money and under existing arrangements it will flow from only three minerals in the Northern Territory. There is no provision for the development of coal deposits or other projects in the Northern Territory. We are looking at a substantial income which it is hoped will flow to Aboriginal communities. Under this legislation we are arranging to provide a firm basis of taxation which will take into account that some of the income is based on compensation and should not, therefore, be subject to taxation.
I do not think that it would be fair to say that the totality of the income received by Aboriginals is compensatory in a legal sense, because the Aboriginal Lands Rights (Northern Territory) Act specifically does not limit the agreements which Aboriginals are entitled to negotiate to obtain compensation for the loss of surface rights to land. In general State mining Acts require that compensation should relate to the loss of surface rights, loss of surface use and so on. Under that legislation one is looking at a genuine compensation position in the legal sense. Under the legislation before us now we are looking at arrangements negotiated between parties without that limitation. It is very difficult to say the extent to which one is looking at what in the legal sense is compensation and what is an income-producing asset. The Government has tried to isolate 20 per cent- one-fifth- of the payments and it has said that those payments should be subject to the standard rate.
I am critical of the contributions of Senators Keeffe and Gietzelt. In this difficult area of improving the lot of the Aboriginal people they do little good in making the sorts of speeches that they made, which are devisive and accusatory and which in my view are not in line with the facts of the case. The later contributions by Opposition senators- and I refer particularly to those made by Senators Robertson and Cavanagh- were of a different key and of a different character. They raised matters to which I wish to respond briefly.
Senator Robertson made a speech which was very much directed to his concern for the position of Aboriginal people. I do not believe that he was trying to fight other battles which had nothing to do with the legislation before us or the Aboriginal people. He made a number of statements about the fact that tax is not paid on compensation. I have already addressed some comments to the Senate and I will not repeat them. Although some honourable senators opposite were concerned at some of the technical points put forward by Government senators, it is important to see that the principle that a compensation payment should not be taxed needs to be examined in the light of the nature of the payments which were actually received. As Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, I would be most unhappy to see written into the land rights legislation the provision which has been sought by the mining companies- which in fact was not accepted by the Government- that in some way Aboriginals should be limited to that compensation element to which Senator Robertson referred. I have already referred to the provision which makes it clear that royalties are to be taxed generally as income.
I query one point in Senator Robertson’s speech. He referred to the involuntary nature of the Gemco agreement on Groote Eylandt. As I have already indicated my understanding of the matter is that those arrangements pre-dated the legislative arrangements that we now have, and that that community, represented by the missions that were involved with it, negotiated arrangements with Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd having obtained the mineral rights to Groote Eylandt by taking out leases or exploration rights under the Northern Territory mining ordinances. The agreement relating to Groote Eylandt provides us with a valuable precedent. If one examines Mr Turnbull’s report and the effect which the flow of royalties has had on the community of Groote Eylandt, one gets a great sense of optimism and a feeling that here is a way in which the lot of the Aboriginal can be improved. Mr Turnbull, in his report, documents the way the Aboriginal community of Groote Eylandt has used its traditional structures to organise itself and to use those funds in a positive way. For example, in only one year has the community spent more than it has received. After considerable debate on Groote Eylandt over the last few years Mr Turnbull reports that the Aboriginals there are determined not to spend their current income at all. The Aboriginal people on Groote Eylandt are determined that they will invest all current income and spend only the proceeds of their investment. I think that that shows a very positive intention on the part of the people to use those royalties for the permanent and long term betterment of their community. I for one take that as a sign that the sorts of arrangements that we now encourage through legislation are arrangements which will enable the Aboriginal people to establish a form of financial independence which they have not had since white settlement in Australia.
It was suggested by Senator Robertson that the attitude of the Government is that Aboriginals cannot handle their own affairs. I can only point to the legislation which has ensured that Aboriginal communities will be gaining access to funds which will be totally within their control, through the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, and through arrangements which exist under that Act, to give the lie to Senator Robertson’s suggestions. It is the fundamental attitude of this Government that not only can Aboriginals manage their own affairs but also it is essential for their own betterment that they do manage their own affairs. The Government stands strongly behind that principle.
Any remarks which I wanted to make about Senator Cavanagh ‘s speech are taken up in the remarks which I made on other Opposition speakers. The Government believes that this Bill is a fair provision, and that it has been properly put forward to clarify the law and applies to the very considerable funds which will flow through the Aboriginal communities in the future. It is a Bill which warrants the support of the Senate.
There was one other matter which I wanted to mention and that was the serious allegation by SenatorKeeffe that in some ways an attempt was being made to cook the books about infant mortality in the Northern Territory. I can only say, that earlier this month the Department of Health in the Northern Territory sent me a document dated April this year, which reports on the latest infant mortality figures. I have not yet referred the comments made by Senator Keeffe to the Northern Territory Administration for a response. I am pleased to say that the information sent to me by the Northern Territory Department of Health shows a resumption of the downward trend in infant mortality in the Northern Territory. There is an analysis which has been made by the Northern Territory Government of the overall position relating to infant mortality in the Territory. I am sorry that the Senator saw fit to make the remarks that he did in an area which quite properly causes people very great concern. I commend the legislation to the Senate. As I previously indicated, the Government does not support the amendment moved by Senator Gietzelt.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Gietzelt’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
– I seek some clarification of the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) which is to amend the laws relating to income tax. Of all the Bills I have studied, I have never found one as hard to understand how it could work as is the present one. I preface my remarks by saying that I am pleased that Senator Chaney in his reply to the second reading debate said that the payment cannot be considered as compensation in the legal sense. I said that someone should give the dictionary or legal definition of, or judgments on, what compensation is. Those definitions would not fit the definition in the Bill. This does not alter the fact that originally the payment was compensation for the Aboriginals for the disturbance or loss of the use of their land. As a result, they have to receive something that has been agreed, plus royalties now payable, or an increase in royalties that may become payable while the land is being mined.
Knowing something of the distribution of royalties, I am at a loss to understand what is assessable income. The tax payable is 6.4 per cent, but it is on an assessable income. Assessable income is defined by clause 7 which seeks to insert proposed new section 2 1 8U which in part states: mining payment’ means a payment made to a distributing body or made to, or applied for the benefit of, an Aboriginal or Aboriginals, being-
Section 68 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 relates to royalties. This provision refers to any portion of increased royalties which the Government decides may be payable to the Aboriginals. Proposed new section 128U continues:
That provision relates to royalties with respect to mines mined under the provisions of the Atomic Energy Act. The proposed new section continues:
any other payment made on or after 1 July 1979 under provisions of a law of the Commonwealth or of a Stale or Territory that relates to Aboriginals or under an agreement made in accordance with such provisions, being a payment made -
Honourable senators will see that these provisions do not relate only to mineral royalties. The funding from the agreement is taxable and will have to be taken into consideration as regards monetary royalties in respect of any future agreement made with Aboriginals.
It is unfortunate that this proposed tax of which the announcement has just been made is to come into operation after the main agreement allegedly has been made. I think that that interpretation is open to challenge. If the agreement was made legitimately, there is nothing to say that the same agreement would have been arrived at if notice had been given that Aboriginals were not to receive a portion of what they had been told would be paid to them as compensation for disturbing their land. We are told that the body which has to pay the tax must do so 2 1 days after payment has been made to the Aboriginal distributing body. Honourable senators will see that clause 3 of the Bill provides for a proposed new section 23AE. Sub-section ( 1 ) of proposed new section 23AE reads:
In this section, ‘Aboriginal’, ‘distributing body’ and mining payment’ have the same respective meanings as in section 128u.
Sub-section (2) provides:
Where a mining payment is made to a distributing body, no part of the amount of the payment shall be included in the assessable income of that distributing body.
Sub-section (3 ) provides:
Where a mining payment is made to, or applied for the benefit of, an Aboriginal or Aboriginals, no part of that payment, shall be included in the assessable income of that Aboriginal or of those Aboriginals, as the case may be.
It appears from that provision that some exception is made with respect to the amount of assessable income. Sub-section (4) reads:
Where a distributing body has received a mining payment and expends the whole or a part of the amount of that payment (which whole or part is in this sub-section referred to as the ‘relevant amount’) in making a payment to or for the benefit of an Aboriginal or Aboriginals or in making a payment to another distributing body, the relevant amount shall not be included in the assessable income of that Aboriginal or of those Aboriginals or of any other distributing body, as the case may be.
Some exemption is provided there. My reading indicates that the relevant amount will not be included in the assessable income of the distributing body. I turn to sub-section (6). This provides:
The reference in sub-section (4) to the expenditure by a distributing body of the whole or a part of a mining payment shall be read as not including a reference to any amount expended by the distributing body for the purposes of meeting its administrative costs (whether in respect of remuneration or allowances or otherwise).
Reference is made there to a payment made to a distributing body. Some of that payment is taxable- in other words, it is an allowance that is assessable- but some of it is not. The ‘interpretation’ clause of this Bill- clause 7- provides: distributing body’ means-
Mention is made of three main distributing bodies. The first is the Aboriginal Land Council. We know that there are three of these in the Northern Territory. The second is an Aboriginal Council established by Part III of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976. I believe that that is the Aboriginal trust benefits organisation. The third category is an association, society or body incorporated under Part IV of that Act. To my knowledge that reference relates to the trust organisations appointed by the Aboriginal community and which hold in trust the Aboriginal land which has been granted by the Minister to be Aboriginal land. Part of the income of those three distributing bodies is not taxable.
The method of distribution of mining royalties is a distribution to the Land Council which retains 40 per cent of that sum. A decision must then be made whether the remaining 60 per cent goes to other defined distributing bodies and is not taxable. I have doubts whether the proportion which goes to those bodies for their administration or otherwise is taxable at that stage. From the 40 per cent that is received from the Land Council, some proportion- I do not know what is the exact proportion, but let us assume it is 20 per cent- goes to the Aboriginal trust account. The purpose of that account is to distribute money to Aboriginals throughout the Northern Territory to meet a financial need. That sum is not taxable. In that instance my reference is to the money that is paid in respect of the administration body.
A proportion is handed to the Aboriginal tribal elders on the settlement. My point in this respect is that the payment is not in the form of income to any Aboriginal. Very little of this money would go to Aboriginals in the form of hand-outs. We heard the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs say that the Aboriginals at Gove decided to spend only the interest earned from the capital and not the capital itself. The fact is that in the case that we are considering the only Aboriginals who receive income are those employed by the distributing councils, and that income is subject to the same taxation laws as apply to ordinary income earners. The other funds might be paid to provide an oval, a hall or housing for an Aboriginal community. No personal remuneration or benefit goes directly to the Aboriginals.
– What of the case of the distribution of funds to an individual to buy a Land Rover?
– Yes, such a distribution could be made. But if I borrow money for the purpose of buying a Land Rover, my loan is not taxable.
– No borrowing is. What about a grant?
– I borrow my money from private sources. No tax is paid on it. However, I gather that the portion of any payment from an Aboriginal benefit trust fund which goes to an Aboriginal for the purpose of assisting in the purchase of a Land Rover, a boat or some item which will permit him to carry out his occupation, to improve his status or to increase his earning capacity in the community, is taxable.
– No, that is not the case.
– If it is not, that is my mistake. I am trying to establish how the mining company which has to withhold the money and pay it to the Commonwealth within 21 days knows what portion of the amount paid to the distributing bodies is taxable. If we look at the proposed new -
– It is all taxable.
– What is the provision?
– Section 23 of the Act relates to the taxability of subsequent payments.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
-Mr Chairman, before the suspension I had the floor. The suspension of the sitting suited me because the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, by way of interjection, said in effect that I was wrong and that the whole amount of a mining payment was taxable, presumably at the rate of 6.4 per cent. Obviously that is incorrect because some part of that payment is not assessable income. I do not understand this and I seek some clarification. Perhaps it would be appropriate if at this stage I gave the Minister an opportunity to explain the provision. I ask him when explaining it to try to explain proposed new section 2 1ZG (2) which reads:
The Commissioner may apply the whole or a part of a credit referred to in sub-section (I) in total or partial discharge of any liability to the Commonwealth . . .
Is the calculation of the assessable income made on the amount after withholding tax has been paid to the Commissioner by the mining company?
– May I say that I have shared some of the difficulties which Senator Cavanagh has expressed with respect to the drafting of this Bill. I say that without disrespect to the draftsman and without suggesting that this makes this particular Bill in any sense peculiar. I think members of the Committee will agree that working out precisely what income tax legislation means is not one of the easier tasks assigned to us, and it is often difficult to fit the description of the second reading speech to the particulars which are contained in the legislation. I am grateful that I did have time in which to give some consideration to the matters raised by Senator Cavanagh. I will endeavour, to the best of my understanding, to explain that the Bill does do what the Government indicated it would do, and that the difficulties which Senator Cavanagh sees in it are difficulties which in fact do not exist.
I think I can best explain the matter by saying firstly that the payments which are to be extracted under this Bill are payments which fall under proposed Division 1 1C, to which the honourable senator made some reference before the adjournment. The sections in that Divisionproposed section 128U and following sectionsindicate the nature of the income which is to be taxed and how that tax is to be collected. If the Committee examines proposed section 128U it will find that there is a definition of ‘distributing body’, as referred to by the honourable senator, and mining payments, which are described as being certain payments made pursuant to various Acts. They are generally described as being payments made after the particular date under the provisions of a law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory that relate to Aboriginals, or under an agreement made in accordance with such provisions, being a payment made:
in consider;! tion of the issuing, grunting or renewal of a miner’s right or mining interest in respect of Aboriginal land;
So we have these forms of payment defined, and we then find in proposed section 128V:
I interpolate, that is a payment of the type which is described in the previous section- is made to, or applied for the benefit of, a person, that person is liable to pay income tax on the amount of the mining payment at the rate declared by the Parliament for the purposes of this section.
But it is in the other Bill which we have before us where the rate is declared to be 6.4 per cent, although there is reference to that percentage in the withholding provisions which appear subsequently, in particular in proposed section 1 27ZB. So this new tax with which we are dealing is a tax which is dealt with under this Division and those sections indicate to what money that tax is applied. It is the whole of the moneys which are described as a mining payment. Those sections stand together as sections which define the taxable income and the way in which the tax is to be collected.
Many of the remarks by Senator Cavanagh related to clause 4 in the Bill, which proposes to insert section 23AE in the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Act. I think the simplest way that I can explain that is to say that proposed section 23AE proceeds to ensure that payments which are caught under Division 1 lc do not also attract normal income tax.
– Where do I find section 1 1C in the parent Act?
– It is a new division which is inserted by this Bill. A new Division 1 1C is inserted in Part III of the Income Tax Amendment Act. The sections which follow are included in that new Division. As I said before, they define the types of payments which are made subject to this particular tax of 6.4 per cent. That tax is different from income tax in that it is not tax which is imposed on an assessment of assessable income. It is a withholding tax which is imposed on those payments in gross. Honourable senators will find that those sections, when read together, provide for a deduction of 6.4 per cent of the totality of those payments by the person making those payments either to individual Aboriginals or to a distributing body.
If the Act provided no more than that, the danger would be that certain of those payments would also become part of the assessable income, either of bodies or of individuals, and would thereby become subject to normal income tax. So clause 4, which proposes to insert a new section 23AE in the Income Tax Assessment Act, proceeds to provide that certain moneys are not included in the assessable income either of organisations or individuals who receive them. So that section is to be read as ensuring that double taxation is not imposed, that the Commissioner cannot argue that, even though this new withholding tax has been imposed, it is subject also to normal income tax.
If the Committee looks at proposed section 23AE it will find that the first sub-section simply says that certain words have the same meaning as in proposed new section 128U. Then subsection (2), and I think this is a fairly clear subsection, reads:
Where a mining payment is made to a distributing body, no part of the amount of the payment shall be included in the assessable income of that distributing body.
That means that if, for example, a Land Council receives income in the form of one of these defined mining payments, that income is not added to other income which it may receive and which may be assessable under the Income Tax Assessment Act. It simply operates as a means of ensuring that these mining payments are not subjected to income tax under the normal income tax provisions. They are not included in the assessable income of the distributing body. The first sub-section deals with payments to a distributing body by, say, a mining company, and the effect of that on its assessable income, which is nil. Proposed sub-section (3) deals with payments which might be made direct either to an Aboriginal or to Aboriginals. Similarly, it provides that a mining payment as defined made to or applied for the benefit of an Aboriginal or Aboriginals is not part of the assessable income of that Aboriginal or those Aboriginals. So it will have been subjected to the withholding tax under the subsequent proposed sections in the new Division 1 1C, but it will not be part of the assessable income of the individuals concerned and thereby subject to normal income tax.
Proposed new sub-section (4) deals with distribution by a distributing body to Aboriginals and provides that if a distributing body has received one of the defined mining payments subject to withholding tax from a mining company and it then proceeds to expend the whole or part of that money in making payments to or for the benefit of an Aboriginal or Aboriginals or in making payment to another distributing body- another Aboriginal organisation- the amounts of money so distributed are not included in the assessable income of the recipient. So again it is an exemption from what might otherwise be an obligation to pay income tax. Proposed new sub-section (5) deals with a payment by a distributing body to a different distributing body. Proposed new sub-section (6) then covers the situation that we do not wish to exempt from tax payments which are made to third parties as part of the administration of the distributing bodies.
– So there is no deduction from the 6.4 per cent?
– No, there is no deduction. What it means is that if a body, such as a land council or some other distributing body, uses part of those moneys to employ people on a salary, the salary received by those people will not be exempt from normal income tax. We are simply providing that a third party who is not receiving money by way of grant but is receiving payment as part of the administration of the distributing body should pay income tax on his salary in the same way as any other person.
The last proposed sub-section covers the fact that it might be that some of that money will be used to buy goods or services. Let me take an example which is common in that situation. There might well be a considerable demand for some of the money to be spent on the purchase of Toyota vehicles. We do not want a situation in which money flowing to a Toyota dealer is exempt from the normal provisions of income tax law. What that proposed sub-section covers is the fact that money, although it might have come through a mining payment, if paid to a supplier of goods and services, is to be treated in the hands of the provider of goods and services as being a normal sort of income and therefore subject to normal income tax law. I think that that covers the major point which Senator Cavanagh made before dinner. I must say, as I opened my remarks by saying, that I had the same difficulty as the honourable senator expressed before dinner in following the construction of these proposed new sub-sections. But I think that if we look at them in terms of being the imposition of a different form of tax, namely, a withholding tax at a special rate of 6.4 per cent -
– But it makes it more brutal than I anticipated, doesn’t it?
– I do not believe that it is brutal in any sense because it means that all payments, other than payments in the form of salary or in meeting administrative costs, are considered not to be assessable income. It ensures that, say, a supplier of paper does not get a peculiar form of income- the amount paid for the paper forms part of the general income of his business. People who supply goods and services are treated under the income tax law in exactly the same way as they otherwise would be treated. Aboriginal beneficiaries of grants and things which are made using that money receive money which is exempt from the normal income tax law and the money is not taxable in their hands under the Income Tax Assessment Act. I think that the proposed new sub-sections in fact clearly lay down the pattern which is mentioned in the second reading speech, which is simply to provide that a special rate of tax should be withheld from this special type of payment and that the money should not thereafter be subject to income tax in the hands of the beneficiaries whom the payments are meant to benefit.
– I want to make a number of remarks about the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) while we are in the Committee stage. Unfortunately for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney). I heard his derogatory comments this afternoon concerning my earlier contribution. I repudiate what he said. I propose to distribute my statements widely to Aborigines so they can know the full truth of the matter. Firstly, I want to ask one question, then I will follow it with a number of remarks. I ask the Minister whether the Aborigines were told at the time of the signing of the mining agreements that the Government intended to tax their royalties and the extent of that tax. If they were told that, will the Minister table the appropriate document in this chamber before this Bill is put to the vote?
– That is a very easy matter to which I can respond. On 20 July 1978 a statement was made by the Treasurer. Mr Howard, and the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner, which announced the decision by the Government to clarify the taxation position of revenues received by Aboriginal groups from mining on Aboriginal land. I am quite happy to have that statement, which is not a long statement, incorporated in Hansard. The statement makes it quite clear that the Government decided that from I July 1979 revenues received by Aboriginal groups from mining operations anywhere in Australia would be taxed on the basis of the standard rate of personal income tax- namely, 32 per cent- applied to 20 per cent of gross revenues. In other words, on 20 July 1 978 the provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) were publicly announced as being applicable from 1 July 1979. The first of the agreements referred to in the debate, which I think was the Ranger agreement, was entered into in November 1978 which, of course, was subsequent to the date of the announcement to which I referred. Mr Chairman, I seek leave to incorporate the statement in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
TAXATION OF ABORIGINAL MINING REVENUES
20 July 1978- The Treasurer, the Hon. John Howard, and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Hon. Ian Viner, today announced a decision by the Government to clarify the taxation position of revenues received by Aboriginal groups from mining on Aboriginal land. The Ministers commented that, because of the unusual nature of the Aboriginal bodies to which revenues from mining would flow, if the present income tax law were allowed to apply there could be some inappropriate and unintended effects. The Government considered that it was desirable to make clear in the law the way in which income tax would fall on these moneys.
The Government has decided that, from I July 1979, revenues received by Aboriginal groups from mining operations anywhere in Australia will be taxed on the basis of the standard rate of personal income tax (32 per cent) applied to 20 per cent of gross revenues. The Government will introduce an amendment to the income tax law to give effect to this decision. The tax will be collected by the withholding system, that is, it will be deducted before payments are made. The withholding will be made at the first payment point. The tax deducted will be the final tax, i.e. there will be no subsequent tax assessment process. This means that Aboriginal groups will not have to bring the amounts they receive to account for income tax purposes. Distribution by the groups will also be free of any further income tax in the hands of the recipients.
-The Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2 ) is quite an important Bill. What I want to say about it perhaps would have been said more reasonably in the second reading debate, but as we are considering the Bill as a whole in the Committee stage, I think I can make the observations which I wish to make now. I disagree with the Australian Labor Party. We voted against its amendment because we felt that it had overlooked a very important point, namely, that perhaps more important to the Aboriginal people of this country- I speak from some knowledge- than money is self-respect. I feel that it is important to the Aboriginal people of this country that they should be seen to be like everybody else, to bear their burden in the community at some stage, just as everybody else does. It is not necessarily a good thing for a community to regard the Aboriginal people as something separate, something different, something like a child to whom people have to look down.
I must confess that when I heard the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) speak along those lines I felt a certain sympathy. It is a sympathy which the Australian Democrats would share because, in our own small way, we have tried so far to make contact with Aboriginal people. As I think I have mentioned in the Senate before, we found that Aboriginal people do not like being called Aborigines, among other things. That is not their name for themselves. I think that we have to come closer to this kind of contact and try to assimilate these people as a people with every right, including the right to pay taxes. But I agree with the Government that that rate of tax should be mild. It is mild, as the Bill states.
I think that there is another side to the coin. The Minister has said to us that this is the first major opportunity for the Aboriginal people to be given a great investment, the virtual control of a large sum of money from this country. Whatever one believes are the merits or otherwise of minerals or of the mining of minerals, it certainly is good that that should be happening in our society. I believe that the Minister is a sincere man. He has said certain things. I hope that he is backed up by the Government. I believe that the Government’s credibility in this matter of there being an intelligent, reasonable investment by Aborigines to their own benefit, in which they are consulted carefully over a period of years, is very much at stake. I conclude my remarks by saying that very many Australians will be watching the Government’s performance in this regard with the greatest of care. I hope, for the future of this country and all the races who inhabit it, including the Aboriginal race, that the Government is sincere. This is its one big chance to be sincere and I hope that it takes it in that spirit.
– That speech by Senator Mason surprised me. I have spent a lot of time with Aboriginals and I thought that I knew them. However if Senator Mason has spent some time with Aboriginals and understands them, I now realise that I know nothing about them. The honourable senator spoke about the Aboriginals having to bear a burden. Have they not borne a burden ever since the white man occupied this territory? Did we not promise the Aboriginals some compensation? They are the race that we have termed ‘Aboriginals’. Is it not a fact that this is the way in which they want us to recognise them?
I thank the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) for his explanation. This matter has now become clearer to me. I thought that assessable income was in relation to the withholding tax. Apparently that is not the case. Assessable income is to be exempt from other income tax that the receiver would normally pay. This makes the situation more serious and, I think, more difficult. Money received by the employee of the distributing agent will have been taxed before he receives it and because he receives it as a salary it will now be subject to a second tax. In effect, the payment is subject to double taxation. Tax is paid by the Aboriginal organisation which receives the payment from the mining company. The Treasury also taxes the individual employee who receives the payment as salary from the royalties of the mining company. Of course, if there were not double taxation the number of people who could be employed by the distributing agent might be increased. Inevitably the payment would be taxed further down the line. That proportion of taxation is distributed to the organisation that is registered under Part III of the councils and associations legislation which provides for the Aboriginal Benefit Trust.
Money paid to an employee for a Toyota car would be assessable income. But if the money is paid to him because he is in distress, if it is a charitable payment it may not be for a Toyota; it may be for the purpose of saving him from being evicted from his house- that sum of money is still not deductible or it still becomes assessable income for the purposes of -
– No. Any payments of that nature are not assessable income in the hands of the recipient.
– Any payment for what?
– Any payment of that nature would be covered by either sub-section (3) or sub-section (4) of proposed section 23AE and would not be assessable.
– Any payment made for distress -
– Any payment of the sort about which you are talking would not be assessable in the hands of the recipient.
– The payments are of two characters. To the extent that they are income they are assessable. To the extent that they are capital they are not assessable.
- Mr Chairman, I rise to order. Who is answering the question- Senator Watson or the Minister?
-Order! Senator Cavanagh has the call.
– I will defer to the Minister.
- Mr Chairman, I am sorry. I was a little disorderly in making my response. I was trying to be helpful. I meant no disrespect to the Senate or to Senator Cavanagh. The position is covered by either subsection (3) or sub-section (4) of proposed section 23AE, which I think makes it quite clear that if a payment of the sort with which we are dealing here- one of these mining payments- is applied for the benefit of an Aboriginal or Aboriginals, no part of the amount shall be included in the assessable income of that Aboriginal or those Aboriginals. Sub-section (4) covers the situation where the distributing body has the money and then passes it on for the benefit of an Aboriginal or Aboriginals. The relevant amount again is not included in the assessable income.
So, this part of the legislation is concerned only with people who are dealing in a commercial sense with a council or a distributing body. We are simply trying to ensure that their commercial income from this source is dealt with in exactly the same way as their commercial income from other sources. Where the money is distributed to an Aboriginal community or an Aboriginal person for purposes related to the advancement and welfare of that group- indeed, for any pupose which is not related to the direct administration of the payment of the salary of that person- it is not assessable. So, there is no double taxation for Aboriginal people in the circumstances to which Senator Cavanagh has been addressing himself.
– I acknowledge what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has said. Of course, in his previous remarks he said that if the payment was made for the purchase of a Toyota four-wheel drive vehicle it would be taxable.
– It would be taxable only in the hands of the Toyota dealer; not in the hands of the man for whom the Toyota was being purchased. The Toyota dealer, which might be Jim Cavanagh Pty Ltd of Darwin, is in the business of selling Toyotas. The distributing body says: ‘We think it is important that such and such an Aboriginal should be able to have a Toyota so that he can go out to his outstation’. He gets the money. That money is not assessable. We are just trying to ensure that the Commissioner of Taxation does not find that because the money has come from those funds the commercial organisation with which one is dealing then says: ‘This money is a mining payment and therefore we should not make it part of our assessable income’. Sub-section (4) says that, where a distributing body- that is a council, an association or something- has received some money from a mining payment, which is defined later on, and expends part of the amount of that payment- we will call it ‘part’- in making a payment to or for the benefit of an Aboriginal, the relevant amount shall not be included in the assessable income of that Aboriginal. He is quite clear. The Commissioner of Taxation is not going to say to the person concerned: ‘You got $ 10,000 to buy a Toyota’, or ‘That amount of money was paid on your behalf; so you are going to be taxed on $10,000’.
On the other hand, sub-section (7) does not operate to exclude from the assessable income of a person an amount that is paid to him as consideration for goods or services provided by the person. The goods or services are provided in that case by the agent. I know that I am giving a lot of advertisement to a certain make of motor vehicle, and I apologise for that. The provider of the motor vehicle in the commercial sense does not have any protection from including that amount of money in his assessable income. If the provision were as Senator Cavanagh suggests, I can assure him that we would withdraw it for reconsideration; but, quite clearly, when he looks at this part of the legislation I think he will see that it protects the Aboriginal person in that context from having any addition to his assessable income, whereas it catches the people who are simply, in the normal course of business, dealing on a commercial basis with the distributing body or with the individual Aboriginal.
– I thank the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) for his remarks. The situation is clear, until legal counsel gets it before acourt of the land–
– We will amend it if there is any problem.
-That will make the matter more difficult. But this brings me to the point that I made in my speech in the second reading debate. It is a brutal Bill because all moneys received for distribution by the Aboriginal land councils, whether it be by way of chanty or compensation, are to be taxable from the initial stages. The only protection in this Bill is a provision to prevent double taxation from being imposed on certain people and a provision to permit taxation to be imposed on the same money if received by people who should not get a benefit under the provisions of this Bill. I do not want to take the issue any further.
-The reply of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has not satisfied me. The situation now has been confounded and confused further by the statement of Senator Mason, who unfortunately has no knowledge apparently of his own party’s policy on Aboriginal affairs, which is a resonable sort of policy and certainly much better than that of the Liberal Party or that of the National Country Party. I wondered why he voted against the Labor Party’s amendment, but I suppose that in the game of politics one can switch from party platform to party platform. Obviously now the Australian Democrats are going to support not their own policies but those of the Liberal Party. I appreciated his remark about the Minister’s trying to be sincere. 1 will not quarrel with that. What Senator Mason has not accounted for is the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has a heart of stone. He had decided that all his Ministers- in fact all the members of his party- must be cast in his own image. That decision puts the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the situation of being cast in the image of the Prime Minister- with a heart of stone.
The Minister did not give me a satisfactory answer whether at the negotiations for mining rights and at the signing of the respective agreements the Aboriginal people had been told that this tax would be imposed on any of their royalties. He has not been able to produce the document. The only statement that he has been able to make is that that very famous man in current history, Mr Howard, made a statement that certain types of taxes would be established. During the last two weeks I talked extensively to Pitjantjatjara people, Walpiri people and people from a number of other tribes in central Australia, and none of them know anything about this at all. They are not involved in the uranium mining programs at the moment, but because of the Government’s ambitions, programs and policies there will be a time when all these people will be involved in some form or other. They have not been told. They are not in the habit of reading Hansard because it is not readily available. In fact in my two weeks in the area I saw one twoday old newspaper and heard three or four news broadcasts. This was because of the isolation of the area. Therefore, I contend that the statement that I made on 24 May that they were certainly not told that the Government would tax their royalties is still true.
I want to refer to a number of other points. I hope the Minister is able to enlighten me in some way. This matter relates directly to the Bill because in 1975 when Mr Ellicott made his statements- and I have a tape recording of the voice that made the statements- he said quite clearly that under the Liberal Government things would be much better, not worse, than they were under Labor. That is another promise that has not been kept. When the land rights legislation was introduced in 1976 we were critical of it and we said that many responsibilities would be given away to the Northern Territory Government. That has now come to pass. Things that ought to be the responsibility of this Government, if it were prepared to stand up to the social realities, have been handed over to somebody else. It is a case of buck-passing. Recently I was critical of the Minister when Mr Everingham from the Northern Territory complained that the Federal Government was holding up things in the Northern Territory uranium provinces because the development areas were inside national parks. I waited with great hope for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to cut Mr Everingham down to size and to say that certain guidelines, particularly in relation to environmental protection, have to be maintained. All these things are consistent with what the Government is trying to do with the royalties. In other words, the Government has given away the Aboriginal people totally in favour of the mining companies. This is another point that I made of which the Minister was critical. The Government is not establishing its own policies; the transnational mining companies are establishing its policies. I still think that the Government has made a deal with the mining companies and has told them that it will get money back from the Aborigines through taxation.
I was interested in the comment by the Minister that things are really good in relation to infant mortality. All this is going to have a bearing as this development comes to pass. This tax leaves less money to be spent on looking after these sorts of things. 1 assume that if this Government is ever lucky enough to be re-elected it will pursue its policy by taking all government grants away from the Northern Territory Government and saying to it: ‘You can take the money out of your mining royalties’. That is the long term objective of the Prime Minister and nobody is going to buck the Prime Minister on it. Honourable senators opposite are just as frightened of him as they are of Holy Joh and they will pursue this line to the bitter end. 1 know it is good for the Government if it can increase the infant mortality rate, because it will reduce the family allowance payments that have to be made and this will save money for the Government. That might seem a hard thing to say, but the Government saved a considerable amount of money last year by not having to pay family allowances for Aboriginal kids who died. Tonight the Minister was critical of that I said recently. He said he had good figures, but he did not produce them. If they are produced I will want to know how they have been compiled. Were they compiled from a section of the Northern Territory or did the Government pick them out of certain statistical records that have been made available? The general evidence indicates that last year there would have been an increase in infant mortality and not a decrease. That is why I was a bit caustic recently when I made reference to this matter. All in all, the points I am emphasising tonight back up what I said last week. This legislation is another confidence trick on the Aboriginal people. As my colleague, Senator Cavanagh said a while ago, it is a very cynical Bill and is more brutal than it appeared to be when it was first produced in this chamber.
– I wanted to get the call immediately after Senator Keeffe resumed his seat because he has made a couple of statements which in my view are quite despicable. For a start, he misquoted me, about which I complained to him previously. Quite simply, he misquoted me again when he said that a little earlier today I said that things are good about infant mortality. That is not what I said. I said that I had received some figures from the Northern Territory which showed improvement. To put those words into my mouth is quite wrong. I wanted immediately to correct what Senator Keeffe had said. I must say also that for Senator Keeffe to say that it is good for the Government to have increased infant mortality is a disgraceful allegation and one which, of course, I utterly reject. Senator Keeffe has repeated the sort of comment which earlier today I complained that he made in his speech at the second reading stage. That sort of statement is inflammatory. It does not help the situation. It is not in accord with the facts. In my view it is quite clearly a disgraceful allegation of which he ought to be ashamed.
I come to the few brief comments he made which are relevant to this Bill. He conceded that the Pitjantjatjara people and the Walpiri people are not engaged currently and were not engaged at the time in negotiations relating to minerals. The statement which I have had incorporated in Hansard is a public statement which was released in July by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and by the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, ft relates to the imposition of tax on royalties. I am advised by my adviser here that, in addition, a letter was sent from the Government to the Chairman of the Northern Land Council drawing his attention specifically to the Press release. That matter is not within my personal knowledge, but my adviser tells me that that was done. There is simply no basis to suggest that in some way we have snuck up on the Aboriginal people and tried to take them by surprise. The fact is that I receive a great volume of correspondence from Aboriginal organisations and individuals. I must say that I have received none with respect to this matter. I did see a newspaper report which suggested that one of the councils was saying that it wished the legislation could be proceeded with and disposed of so that it could get on with its business, but I have received no protest at all from Aboriginal people.
I sincerely ask Senator Keeffe to give serious thought to the wisdom of making the sorts of statements that he has just made. Do they really serve any good purpose insofar as the Aboriginal people are concered? I ask him please to give some thought to the possibility that such observations are utterly destructive of what both he and this Government wish to achieve for the Aboriginal people, a substantially better way of life than they enjoy generally in Australia at the moment.
– I had not intended to rise again on the Bills, but since Senator Keeffe has chosen to make an unspecific statement concerning Australian Democrat policy in this regard, I feel that I should stress to him and to other honourable senators that the relevant point of Australian Democrat policy is very basic to our Party: It is that this country is a multi-racial society and that, within reason, all Australians should share the same privileges and responsibilities. I do not believe that the requirements of these Bills are unreasonable. Far from it. I think, when I speak of the Aboriginal people, of some rather quiet, very responsible and law-abiding people who live in the inner suburbs of Sydney. I believe that there are more Aborigines in the inner suburbs of Sydney than anywhere else in Australia.They are trying to get along, trying to be decent, reasonable, honest Australians. I know that frequently they have a pretty rough time of it, but they are prepared to accept that challenge.
To return to the policy of the Australian Labor Party and the remarks of Senator Keeffe, I say that it is not right that Aborigines should be treated by them as some kind of children, something that has to be protected or treated as a lower order of society. Until one reaches the stage of recognising them as people, and encouraging them to be people, like us one will get nowhere with them.
– I accept Senator Mason’s paternalistic explanation of what he feels is his policy; I do not intend to argue the point. But I do not accept what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has said, because the statistics show that since his party has been returned to government infant mortality has increased. It was disgraceful before–
– That is not fair.
– It is fair, and if the honourable senator is not prepared to face the truth I suggest that he spend a couple of hours looking at the statistical evidence of what is actually happening. In the first year of this Government’s term in office infant mortality increased minimally and it has increased since. The Minister must accept the responsibility for his Government’s having withdrawn health improvement programs, some medical services and a whole lot of other things. Let us not beat about the bush. If anybody has been despicable it has been the Minister, for attempting to defend an indefensible policy of his Government, that of cutting back expenditure on Aboriginal affairs, health, welfare and education, and in regard to land and mining rights. The cutbacks have occurred in just about every field that one could name. Let us face the realities of the situation. Far from the Minister expecting me to apologise to his Government, he ought to be apologising to the Aboriginal people of Australia for what his Government has done to them in the last3½ years.
– You are playing politics with the Aboriginal people.
– The honourable senator’s colleagues put politics back into Aboriginal affairs, just as they did with social security and a lot of other things. I am sorry that Senator Kilgariff, a member of one of the more obscure parties in the Northern Territory, should deign to interject at this stage. He and the party that he supports have put politics back into social security by wiping out twice-yearly adjustments of pensions. He will not get away with that with the pensioners, some of whom were National Country Party supporters. They may not be any longer. The honourable senator must face realities in this area too. I do not want the Country Party to turn this matter into a political donnybrook. It has very weak ground on which to do so because in every instance it has supported the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) with the heart of stone, who has decided that the poor, the sick, the children and the Aborigines of this country will suffer so that he can make up the deficit in the Budget. That is what cutting back in all of these fields amounts to. If there is an honourable senator on the other side of the chamber who has any softness in his heart at all he must feel ashamed when he goes home at night about the policies that he is supporting.
I do not want to walk away from any of the accusations that I have made in regard to these Bills. What Senator Cavanagh, Senator Gietzelt, other honourable senators on this side and I have said has been true all the way. The Government and its supporters are out to take the Aborigines for an economic ride and it does not matter to them as long as they can keep their coffers filled with ill-gotten gains.
– I simply wish to acknowledge the support that has been given the Bills by the Australian Democrats, and to thank them for it.
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment or requests; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) put:
That the Bills be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 22 May, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Last Tuesday evening, I stated that the incidence of cancer was increasing throughout Australia. I believe that the majority of cancer in Australia is caused by industry. I stated that cancer of the scrotum is caused by white oil. This was discovered by the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union. The discoveries have not been made by the medical profession or by the Department of Health. They have been made by workers’ organisations. It is estimated that in Australia 20,000 Australians will die of cancer next year. Much of this cancer is caused by conditions that workers have to endure. Last Tuesday night, I said that the Waterside Workers Federation had sent six people to the National Health and Medical Research Association for tests. Three of those six people were diagnosed as having asbestosis. Since that period, a further 20 people have been sent. Of those 20 people, another six are suspected to have asbestosis and must have further tests. This example shows the extent of asbestosis in Australia, especially in people who work in the asbestos industry.
As yet there are no details about what is happening in any of these industries in which these people work. No research has been undertaken in Australia. We can rely only on research that has been undertaken in other countries. Almost half of the cancers in the United States have been caused by exposure to chemical carcinogens in the work place. This information is taken from a report by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and is authorised by the most distinguished governmental scientists in carcinogenesis statistics. This report was released in September 1 978. It is based on the analysis of the causes of death in relation to asbestos and other known major carcinogens such as arsenic, benzene, chromium, nickel oxide and petroleum fractions. It fails to take into account the wide range of other chemical carcinogens in the work place and it fails to take into account the cancer mortality due to the spillover of chemical carcinogens from the work place into the surrounding community.
There has been no information from the work place of what chemicals are likely to be of danger to workers in many of these industries. I believe that that lack of knowledge is causing a great deal of insecurity in the work place in Australia. Overseas studies have proved that workers in petrochemical works are very likely to contact cancer. It takes approximately 20 years for this disease to manifest itself. In the past, the majority of cancers has been blamed on smoking. I am not saying that smoking is of no danger to the population.
– That is sensible, senator.
- Senator Baume, from studies undertaken in the United States, it is estimated that 400,000 people in the United States will die of cancer next year and it is recognised that 25 per cent of those deaths will be caused by smoking. It is recognised also that 40 per cent is caused by industrial carcinogens. That is the relevant point. That is what has not been taken into account. I do not say that anyone who smokes and works in a petrochemical industry or industries which use asbestos or fibreglass -
– What about the coal industry?
– I would say most certainly that in the coal industry they are vulnerable. It is just not good enough to say that smoking is going to cause all the cancer cases.
– Does anyone in authority ever say that?
– You give us that impression.
– That is only because you don’t listen.
– You whippersnapper.
– There is profit in not listening.
– I rise on a point of order. I would like to know whether that has been recorded in Hansard. I did not hear what Senator Puplick said. May I ask what the remark was?
– I did not hear the remark either.
– What is the point of order?
– The point of order is one of decency. If honourable senators have the courage to say anything let it be said loudly enough to be heard and answered.
– There is no point of order.
-The tests that have been conducted in the United States have not been conducted by people who have no recognition in the industry. The American Cancer Society has said that tobacco is involved in about 25 per cent of cancers and likely to cause 80,000 deaths out of a total of 400,000 cancer deaths in the United States. The Society states that tobacco is the causative agent in about 80,000 of those 400,000 deaths. It is no use saying that tobacco is the only cancer causing agent. The American Cancer Society has said that in all studies that have been conducted in the past of people who have contracted cancer the only question that has been asked has been: ‘Have you smoked in the past?’ A patient who has contracted cancer has not been asked: ‘Where have you worked for the last 20 years?’ The industries in which they have worked have not been taken into consideration, yet that is a relevant and important point. I am concerned about the fact that in this country, and in many other countries, a comprehensive study has not been made to determine the causes of cancer. Cancer is increasing to the extent that this year 20,000 Australians will die of cancer. 1 believe that should be of sufficient concern to all honourable senators for them to worry about what is happening. In the last few weeks in my industry three of six people tested for asbestosis have been confirmed as having asbestosis.
– Which industry is that?
– That is the waterside workers’ industry. We had not handled asbestos more than perhaps once in every three months. As a result of the last test that was conducted a further 20 people were sent to have X-rays and, of those, six have had to go back for further tests.
– That is only the tip of the iceberg.
– It is the tip of the iceberg. People working in the benzine industry have a real problem.
– They are not listening now.
– Yes, they are. I am waiting to hear about the coal industry.
– In the coal or benzine industries people certainly have something to fear. My concern relates to that which has been hidden in the past. In Australia we use a dye known as Red No. 40. Australia probably produces some of the best meat in the world but there is a stupid requirement for butchers to paint all the meat red. Today there is much concern that some of this red dye is the cause of cancer. I would like to illustrate this by reading from what some of the scientists have said concerning the dye Red 40.
One of the major food dyes we use in this country now is Red No. 40.
This dye was tested in America by Hazelton Laboratories. The test was carried out on rats only. Most of these animals died at a fairly early stage from pneumonia and other kinds of intercurrent infections. Towards the end of the experiment there were not enough animals alive to be able to know whether the agent produced cancer or not. On the basis of this test the Hazelton Laboratories stated: ‘No real problems exist with red dye No. 40. ‘
In order to prove further what has been happening, where we have relied on tests that have been conducted overseas, in April 1 977 a team of federal inspectors arrived in a suburb of Chicago called Northbrook, Illinois. They were there to look at the records of a laboratory called Industrial Bio-Test, which was then a commercial testing laboratory which has tested thousands of chemicals, industrial chemicals, food additives, feed additives and pesticides. This laboratory had been the major laboratory for efforts by the chemical industry in America to develop comprehensive toxicological programs. One of the tests was conducted on Red Dye No. 40. On the morning of 12 April, federal scientists went to Industrial Bio-Test and were met by the President, a Mr Frisk. They were told by Mr Frisk: Gentlemen, there has been an unfortunate misunderstanding. We accidentally destroyed all our records last night’. This is one of the laboratories that has tested thousands of chemicals which have been declared to be safe. When these investigators went to inspect the laboratory it was unfortunate that all their records had been burnt the night before. This is one of the things that are going on. It is not surprising. If we look at the records and the history of all this, we find that in 1918 asbestos was considered to be a serious health risk to workers. In 1918 insurance companies throughout the world refused insurance policies to workers in the asbestos industry. By 1936 it was known that the asbestos industry was dangerous to workers.
– They wouldn’t do anything as money was involved.
-This is right. What I am saying tonight is that there is much that is not known of what has to be faced by workers and people living in the suburbs in which industries are situated.
– Do you think Senator Baume ‘s welfare committee would have been interested?
– Do you think it is medical complacency?
-I think there is a lot of money involved and I believe that many things are swept under the carpet. It is totally unfair for workers in these industries to pay tax and then an additional tax when their health is being sacrificed. I think it is morally wrong for families to be deprived of their bread winner and I believe it is also wrong for the community to pick up the bill to treat these affected people. Industries should have regard to these problems. If waterside workers had known of the dangers of asbestos 20 years ago- the information was available at that time- many of them would not be affected by asbestosis today. That is the crux of the question. Much information is hidden in industries and we do not know the effects of the chemicals with which we are working. We do not know just what causes the problems at a later date. I think that there should be an inquiry.
A great deal has been said about how we should reduce the cost of medical treatment in this country. I can agree with that. I think that it is much more important to keep workers healthy and to be able to provide for their families. I believe that that is only right. Why have not the medical authorities or the Department of Health explained to the workers what are the problems? In the last few weeks I have been aware of an area in Australia- I am not going to name itwhere many children cannot co-ordinate. I suspect that the industry in that area is affecting the population. I do not have sufficient evidence as a layman to prove what is happening, but the school teachers in that area have said to me that they are surprised and quite concerned about what is going on.
I believe that there should be proper investigations. As I have said, in the past many things have been swept under the carpet. I do not think that this is good enough. I believe that the Standing Committee on Social Welfare of which Senator Baume is the chairman and of which I am a member, should and could do a great service to this country if it looked at this problem. I do not think that industries should be closed down willy-nilly. I am not suggesting that at all, but I believe that the safeguards taken in any industry should be looked at with the welfare of the worker in mind. Workers should be alerted to the problems in an industry if they exist. People would be willing to wear respirators and protective clothing in industries in which there is a problem. In my experience in the work place, this has not actually occurred. It is only through the organisations that represent the workers and through the unfortunate illnesses and deaths of people in these industries that the unions have taken some action and found out the position. I believe that that is simply not good enough. I will be taking action on the matter as a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare.
I recommend to honourable senators who are really interested in this problem a book entitled The Politics of Cancer. Unfortunately it is not possible to buy it in this country but it is available from the Parliamentary Library. It was written by Samuel Epstein in America. He has 30 years of experience in the field and he is recognised throughout the world. He highlights many of the problems to which I have referred. I think that all honourable senators would do well to look at this book. This is a problem which I think will increase. I believe that we should endeavour to overcome many of these health problems in our society.
– I wish to elaborate slightly on a question I asked a fortnight ago in this chamber concerning visits of certain members of the Royal family to Australia. In particular, I was concerned at the cost to the Australian taxpayer of these sojourners wandering around this nation performing what I thought to be highly artificial tasks or minor ceremonies. I know that Senator Davidson will be particularly interested to listen to my contribution to this debate. In my view and in the view of many Australians these ceremonies and tasks contribute very little- indeed, nothing- to our general well-being. You will recall, Mr President, that I excluded from my remarks the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles who, under our present constitutional arrangements, have a certain role to perform which I believe they discharge with a certain vigour and charm, probably to general acclaim.
However, I would be less than honest with honourable senators if I did not indicate a wish on my part- this is a desire which I believe is shared by many millions of Australians of all political persuasions- for the time when the Queen on her visits to Australia will be greeted simply as the Head of the Commonwealth of Nations and Head of State of a former homeland, an ancestral home of a significant, in fact, the larger part of our present population. She should be shown the deference, respect and courtesy due to any visiting head of state, particularly of a nation which has contributed a people to the Australian population. She should be accorded only a little more deference than would be accorded to, say, the presidents of Italy or Greece on a visit to Australia. The added significance would come from her role and status as the Head of the Commonwealth of Nations.
My absolute personal conviction is that I do not see hereditary monarchy, even less do I see an English hereditary monarchy, as the best or most suitable means of providing a head of state for Australia. An Australian Governor-General, independent of formal links with any of the nations which have contributed to our history through the migration of their nationals to this land, would be ideal. He would be an indigenous Australian Governor-General with no links to any former homeland. But an English hereditary monarchy is, in the opinion of many Australians, a symbol of a directly contradictory society to that which we are attempting to create in Australia. We want an egalitarian and pluralist community. The hereditary crown symbolises a completely different, contradictory sort of society to what we want. We should have nothing to do with it. When one has an hereditary head of state, one is really saying that access to decent living conditions, proper health care and a stimulating and full education for one’s children, depends on the family into which one is born. That is what an hereditary monarch symbolises and is all about. I totally reject the principle that a head of state for Australia be chosen from an hereditary group. After all, in Australia we believe that everyone, into whatever family he or she is born, ought to be given a fair go with access to living conditions of a decent standard, adequate health care and proper education, without regard to family ancestry. An English hereditary monarchy simply sharpens the contradiction. Particularly since the Second World War Australia has been markedly pluralist, culturally and ethnically.
As I said initially, the Queen should simply be greeted as head of state of a former homeland, the ancestral home of the largest and perhaps still the most significant, but not by any means the only, section of our population. It seems to me to be totally absurd to require Poles, Greeks, Arabs or the Irish to acknowledge the English monarch as head of the new nation to which they have come. They probably come to Australia precisely to escape the old social structures of Europe or at least the consequences of those structures. Of course this is to say nothing of those Australians whose claim to this continent preceded European settlement and who must view the English crown as the fount of much of their present alienation within this nation. I hope it is understood that I am speaking simply as an Australian. I am immensely proud of this nation and hopeful for its future. We should recognise that what was appropriate in a certain point in our history is no longer apt and should be abandoned without any sense of betrayal but in order to signify our national independence within the community of nations.
Last Monday afternoon in Smithton in northwestern Tasmania I presented a flag to the St Peter Chanel primary school. I explained the flag to the small children there. 1 pointed to the Union Jack and explained it in the proper historical perspective as symbolising the first British settlement in this continent. I emphasised the significance of the Southern Cross. I may have lost some votes because I told the children to ask their parents to take them out and show them the Southern Cross, and that night was a bitterly cold night in that part of Tasmania.
As I emphasised it is a fact that from every part of Australia, every part of this great Commonwealth we can see the group of stars known as the Southern Cross. To me these stars symbolise our national unity. We can thank providence for allowing us to live in and create a nation under the aegis of that benign constellation. Surely we can devise forms befitting our independent national status under the Southern Cross. I hope that by 1988, our bi-centenary of European settlement, the left hand top corner of our flag will portray perhaps the kangaroo as a symbol as much Australian as the maple leaf is Canadian. I believe that day will come soon but in the meantime we acknowledge and live courteously within the present constitutional structures.
The point I made in my question two weeks ago was that our patience and tolerance are stretched by this Government’s refusal to say no to the wealthy wanderers jetting in and out of Australia at our expense. My question concerning the cost of Royal visits was the product of a revulsion at being asked as a taxpayer to do more than greet the Queen as head of state, or her consort or heir, on their visits here. Constantly, it would seem, we are being required to foot the bill for the travels of a much wider selection of the remnants of Queen Victoria’s family.
– Order! I ask the honourable senator to be careful. He has used the words remnants of Queen Victoria’s family’. I ask him not to speak in any way disrespectfully of Her Majesty.
– If those terms are disrespectful I regret having used them. I will be happy to substitute the words ‘the descendants of Queen Victoria’. My disquiet in this matter was triggered in early February by a civic reception. A civic reception was held for Miss Australia in my home town of Devonport in north-west Tasmania. She was a vivacious girl who by her own effort and talent- not by virtue of the family into which she was born- had put herself in a position where she was working her heart out on behalf of handicapped children. She was making a real contribution to Australian society. The tea, pastries and sandwiches at the reception cost, I guess, in the region of $25 to $30. In the same week the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester graced us with their presence. So that they could travel around Tasmania a Rolls Royce was jetted in at a cost of $8,000. The Hercules aircraft in which it was transported cost $ 1 ,600 per hour to hire. I believe they did nothing of value for the Tasmanian community while they were there. The civic luncheon held on the north-west coast cost some $2,500. 1 contrast this amount with the expenditure on the reception for Miss Australia.
At that time the thought occurred to me what fools we were to be allowing the Gloucesters to escape the rigours of the northern winter at our expense. An expression came to my mind that I realise it is not proper to use in this place. It was a vague indication of something which lives on the energy of something else. I was trying to convey the idea of certain members of society depending for their well-being on the energies and the hardearned results of the work of the Australian community.
– What the honourable senator says has a content of disrespect. I ask him to be careful.
– I raise a point of order. Some of the things that Senator Tate is saying perhaps may not be acceptable in your own personal view, Mr President, or perhaps in the view of other honourable senators, but surely what he is saying is legitimate. He is expressing a point of view which surely is legitimate.
- Senator Wriedt may have noticed that I have not raised any objection. I simply indicated to Senator Tate that he should avoid anything which could be regarded as disrespectful to Her Majesty.
- Mr President, on the point of order, 1 respectfully submit that your very intrusion into the debate would intimidate an honourable senator of Senator Tate’s sensitivity.
– There is no intimidation whatsoever of anybody.
– I raise a point of order. I do not accept the word ‘intimidate’ in respect of the Chair. In fairness, Mr President, you were merely recognising what Senator Tate was saying and giving due warning within the Standing Orders regarding what a senator may and may not say. I accept the ruling of the Chair. I do not accept what Senator Georges has said.
– I call on Senator Tate to continue.
– I accept the proper limits of debate which have been indicated to me, Mr President. I move to some more factual material in the appropriations we are debating tonight. Page 14 of the explanation of the additional estimates for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in 1978-79 shows that the expenditure on the visit of Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra and the Hon. Angus Ogilvy, members of the Royal Family, who visited Australia for some 13 days. Initially some $50,000 was allocated to cover their tour. At the end of the 1 3 days it was found that the budget figure was inadequate. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has now come to this Parliament seeking $ 105,000. That is an average of $8,000 a day. For the visit of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, to which I have adverted, the initial budget figure of $50,000 was found to be inadequate. The estimated cost of the visit is now $90,000. Over a 16-day visit, that is $6,000 a day. I emphasise that the figures I am giving are for Federal Government expenditure of a direct kind only.
These are two instances of the Federal taxpayer being required to contribute towards costs averaging $7,000 a day. As a State taxpayer and as a municipal ratepayer the average Australian in an area to which these Royal visitors go would be contributing in the order of $10,000 to $12,000 a day. Hence my question to Senator Carrick on 2 May 1979 could not have been too far from the mark when I suggested that the cost of a four-day visit by Princess Anne in mid-July would be of the order of $25,000, or an average cost to the Federal taxpayer of $6,250 a day. Therefore, I cannot accept the answer that I have since received from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He said:
The figure of $25,000 mentioned in recent Press reports as the cost of the visits is pure speculation. The visit is scheduled to take place from Thursday 19 to Monday 23 July and details have not yet been finalised. It is therefore not possible to provide, at this stage, an estimate of the cost.
As I have shown from the average cost of two recent Royal visits, I think $25,000 would not be far from the mark for a four-day visit by Princess Anne. To say that that amount is pure speculation is, I think, quite wrong. It must be regarded as informed speculation, on the basis of the very estimates which have been submitted to this chamber For its consideration at this moment, unless of course as a result of public opinion Princess Anne does what many consider to be the right thing and uses her own wealth and pays for her own visit here as World President of the Save the Children Fund. I suggested early in May that some such course could be graciously and honourably taken by Princess Anne, thus freeing the $25,000 and enabling the Australian Government to make a direct gift to the Save the Children Fund. This would immediately relieve the plight and suffering of wretched children in this International Year of the Child, a suggestion which I notice was repeated by Gerald Reece in the Sun of 8 May.
If my protest were due to myopic preoccupation with extravagances involved in being privileged to have the relatives of Her Majesty crowding into Australia, such protest could be understood in its own terms. It would lead to the sort of editorial written in the Australian on 3 May. That editorial stated:
In a somewhat different way, it is pleasant to see the Queen and some of her family. The Queen is, after all, still very much Queen of Australia and she is a most agreeable person, fully worthy of our national affection.
But we must ask if the royal route is not getting just a little crowded . . . Our official visitors this year are costing something like half a million dollars. Perhaps that is rather too much to pay for a comparative handful of Australians to get a royal smile.
But something more than a mere revulsion at the extravagance involved in these tours lies at the base of my concern. This is where I found the heated and vigorous defence of the Leader of the Government (Senator Carrick) so surprising because I believe Senator Carrick ‘s defence of these visits lays bare the injustice of the priorities in social expenditure pursued by this Government. What am I to say to an unemployed 17- year-old youth who comes to my office in Devonport, a presentable lad unable to find a job, despite his best endeavours? What am I to say to a pensioner who asks that every six months her pension be adjusted to keep pace with the cost of living? What am I to say to a family man who faces an extra $3.50 a week for health insurance costs as a result of last Thursday’s mini-Budget’s breaking the Medibank promise? What am I to say to the pay-as-you-earn wage and salary earner who cannot afford elaborate tax avoidance schemes and who now has to continue paying the 2.5 per cent tax surcharge as a result of last Thursday’s mini-Budget’s breaking the tax relief promise? What am I to say to these fair and just requests for Federal Government action to alleviate their distress, when the Leader of the Government in this chamber so strenuously and heatedly defends and encourages the continuing raids on our national Treasury by one of the wealthiest families in Europe? This is what the letters to my office have been saying as a result of my question. I believe they go to the heart of the matter. I quote from two of those letters. The first stated in part:
The sycophantic attitude of the present Government is to be expected of a conservative and elitist party which prefers to squander taxpayers’ money on the external symbols of power and prestige than to remedy some of the manifest injustices of our society.
The second stated in part:
At a time of high unemployment and recession generally it is galling to have extensive public moneys spent on such luxuries.
That is the point. That is the accusation. We are governed by a Cabinet which seems incapable of grasping the public’s innate good sense about what is fair and just in the distribution of our hard earned wealth. Excluding the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles, who have a constitutional role to perform, the continued subservience of this Government to other members of the royal family symbolises its total loss of touch with the vast majority of Australians. I believe that at the next election the Australian people will have no hesitation in ridding themselves of this promise-breaking, incompetent Government which pursues and defends such manifestly unjust spending priorities.
– I refer to a subject that has already been spoken on by my colleagues, Senator Doug McClelland and Senator Reg Bishop, and that is the statement by Senator Peter Rae that TransAustralia Airlines should be sold. In my view, and in the view of the Opposition, a view which I am sure is held by many Government members as well, the sale of TAA to private interests would be a disastrous mistake. TAA is a profitable public enterprise. Its operating profit in the year 1973 was $6.76m, in 1974 $3.7 lm, in 1975 $4.52m, in 1976 $4.88m and in 1977 TAA made $9.5 lm. TAA’s annual report for 1978 was tabled in the Senate recently. It showed that the profit was $2. 8m. TAA costs the Government absolutely nothing to maintain, and makes quite a sizable contribution to public revenue.
Let us go back to the reasons why TAA was established. It was brought into existence to compete against private interests and prevent the undesirable economic and social effects which occur when industry is controlled by a monopoly of private interests. Recently we saw an example of the way in which TAA can serve the public when a private enterprise would not. The recent domestic fare cuts for advance purchase bookings were initiated by TAA and followed by Ansett Airlines of Australia. They were a direct result of pressure from the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon). This pressure would not be effective if the government link were broken and TAA were sold to private investment. We do not want a situation where two companies like the Ansett group of companies funnel off profits from their airways for investments in ventures like Associated Securities Ltd. The implication in Senator Rae’s statement that TAA could be sold to the public, meaning small investors is ludicrous. The sort of capital flow necessary to buy an enterprise the size of TAA would inevitably result in single corporation control of TAA, possibly even outright foreign control. The argument that selling TAA would be beneficial to its employees also fails to hold water under examination. The Government could quite easily introduce profit-sharing, especially a system of productivity bonuses, job enrichment programs and worker participation at board level, as well as work council level. All this could be done without selling TAA to private interest. Indeed, many of these things would not be possible if TAA were sold to a private company.
This Government calls itself a free enterprise government. I think Senator Rae would agree with that. I do not believe that at the moment if one looks at the airline policy, both internal and international, one could possibly say that it is a free enterprise government. Senator Rae said that the two airlines do not compete. He said the timetables were farcical. I would certainly agree with him in many instances. Perhaps one of the worst examples would be the route from Melbourne and Sydney to the Gold Coast, the particular airline route that services Tweed Heads and Coolangatta. Here we have a tourist airport. The airport itself and the facilities are disgraceful. Because of the timetables, there is often a situation where there are two large Boeing 727 aircraft on the runway at the same time. People, including international tourists, have no facilities at all at the airport. When both airlines leave at 8 o’clock in the evening, that airport is then completely deserted. If anybody wants to leave that tourist area after that time, there are no flights.
If Senator Rae were serious, he would be discussing some other options. One that I wish to speak about briefly would be an amalgamation of Qantas Airways Ltd and TAA and then, following that, the allowing of some deregulation in some areas of Australia. Perhaps then we could have some cheap tourist packages coming into
Australia. What we have at the moment is a situation where somebody coming to Australia from the West Coast of America pays a fare which is as low as $480. If he arrives in Sydney or Melbourne he then has to pay in excess of $400 to go to one of the other capital cities. I think the fare to Perth from Sydney at the moment is $440. So it costs him as much to visit another place in Australia as it does to travel all the way from the west coast of the United States. If there were an amalgamation of Qantas and TAA, perhaps those people who come into Australia not only from the United States but also from Europe would be able to see Central Australia, the Great Barrier Reef, Tasmania and Western Australia for a special fare which would be worked out with the international airline company- in this case Qantas.
Perhaps then we would not have the farcical situation we have at the moment whereby a firstclass passenger arrives in Australia- obviously as he has travelled here first class he has a lot of money to spend as a tourist in Australia- gets ofl” his international first-class flight and goes on to an internal first-class flight in Australia and immediately is asked whether he would like to purchase a drink. It costs, say, $2 for the average drink. If he does not feel like an alcoholic drink and says: ‘I wouldn’t mind a glass of soda water’, he is then asked as a first class passenger to pay 20c for that drink on an internal first class flight in Australia. If it could be proved- I am sure it could be proved on some routes- that there should be a subsidy for rural areas, perhaps it should be a direct subsidy and not the sort of hidden subsidy that we have at the moment under which people in particular areas are paying higher fares. Perhaps then we would be able to deregulate the east coast of Australia. 1 am deliberately leaving Perth out of this because I know that there are particular problems with Perth.
If we deregulated the east coast of Australia we could then compare our situation with the situation which exists on the west coast of the United States at the moment. For example, if a person is in California and wishes to fly on an airline from San Francisco to San Diego, a distance of approximately 700 miles, the fares start at as low as $28 one way. If a person wanted to fly from San Francisco to Los Angeles, approximately 500 miles- the distance between Sydney and Melbourne- the fares start at $32. 1 recently took advantage of one of those fares. Under that arrangement, one has a firm booking on a regular flight; one does not have to take part in a shuttle. Those are the sorts of prices which the airlines in the United States have been able to get down to for those distances.
Airlines are already in existence in Australia which would like to take advantage of a situation in which there was a deregulation of the particular run about which I have been talking. For example, we have East- West Airlines Ltd, which is a very efficient airline based in Tamworth in New South Wales. It is a good example of a decentralised industry. All its service and maintenance work is done in a country town. I am sure that if it were allowed to compete on the run between Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast and then further up the north Queensland coast it would be very keen to do so. Already it is competing against the major airlines, TAA and Ansett, on the Sydney to Alice Springs run and the Sydney to Hobart run by using- it was forced to use- Fokker Friendships, F27s, small prop-jet planes. That airline was able to reduce fares on the run between Sydney and Alice Springs. Then, what happened? TAA and Ansett got together, looked at the timetable structure and went into what I thought was quite a cynical manoeuvre to squeeze East- West Airlines out of that run. Of course, East- West, on a run such as that and on the run to Hobart, needs jet aircraft. But what did this Government say? It said: ‘ By regulation, you can ‘t have it ‘.
I remind honourable senators of the scandalous situation which arose here the other day with respect to IPEC Air Cargo. I am no great supporter of Gordon Barton and his enterprises. But there we had a situation in which the Government said: ‘Yes, you can compete. You can use DC3 aircraft which are 40 years old, but you can’t use any modern aircraft which you might have already’. It is like putting somebody into a cricket team and saying: ‘You can play, but when it comes to your time to bat you can only use a baseball bat’.
– Or no bat at all.
– Yes; or else he is told that he can use no bat at all. Our international airlines policy is in a shambles at the moment. As I said earlier, we have a government, which calls itself a free enterprise government, regulating international flights in and out of Australia at the moment. We have people waiting for seats to go to Europe. They cannot book on an aircraft. Yet our regulations are forcing aircraft to leave Sydney with empty seats. JAT Yugoslavia Airlines, the Yugoslav national airline, was flying two 707 aircraft into Sydney a week. I think that those aircraft carried about 177 people each. That airline bought new equipment. It bought
American equipment- DC10 aircraft specifically to operate between Belgrade and New York and Belgrade and Sydney. When the airline came to the Australian Government and asked for permission to fly two DC 10s a week into Australia they were told: ‘No, that represents an increased seat capacity. You can fly in only one DC10 a week’. That means that with a full load on the plane that airline has lost between 70 and 80 seats a week. I do not know how anybody could call that sort of action in favour of free enterprise.
The Dutch airline KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has one 747 service out of Sydney a week. It was allowed to have 190 seats sold, which meant that 1 77-odd or 1 80 seats were empty at a time when, as I said, people were waiting to fly to Europe. That airline complained and the Government has seen fit now to increase the number of seats that the airline can sell. But the point is still the same: KLM operates out of Sydney once a week with empty seats at a time when people want to get to Europe, particularly in the two aircraft about which I have talked. Recently I was talking to the NSW Manager of JAT and I asked him: ‘Why don’t you take more advantage of the cheap airfares you have to Yugoslavia at the moment? Why aren’t you pushing the tourist business harder?’ He said: ‘Over 90 per cent of our trade, even though the statistics show that the passengers are Australian citizens, in fact is migrant trade. They are people who came here from Yugoslavia, who have become Australian citizens and who are now going back to Yugoslavia for a period and then returning to Australia. There are no vacant seats at all to encourage tourism ‘.
In the Association of South East Asian Nations area, we have just seen another disastrous example of our foreign policy as it concerns airlines. We tried to stand over the ASEAN countries. This Government felt that it would be able quite easily to play one country off against another and that then the Government would be able to take advantage of the fact that one of the other airlines was prepared to break the agreement or to accept fares which were put forward by this Government. Of course, as a result of what happened Australia’s foreign policy with respect to the ASEAN countries is in tatters at the moment because those countries adopted a combined front; they did not crack in the negotiations. I do not think that it will be only airlines of the ASEAN countries which in future will present a united front to Australia. I think that that will be so on a whole range of issues, especially trade issues. The ASEAN countries will win the airlines fight because Australians are demanding the cheaper fares.
What this Government did not realise was that a whole new range of people in Australia wish to fly internationally. The only international trip that some people in this country have ever made has been to the ASEAN countries. All of a sudden those people found that for the same price they were able to go to the United States and to Europe. Of course, what the industry has now found out is that a whole range of other people in Australia in fact have never been overseas and have only taken their holidays within Australia but they now find that they can afford a holiday to one of the ASEAN countries. As the airlines in those countries put out their publicity and state that they are prepared to drop their fares, in some instances to as low as $350 return, people in Australia will demand to be allowed to take advantage of those fares.
Another area in which our airlines policy came in for a great deal of criticism- and I believe that our foreign policy has suffered as a result- was in the South Pacific. Last year I went to the South Pacific Conference in Noumea. The Australian airline policy was severely criticised. I shall quote from the report that I wrote to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence when 1 came back from the conference. At the Conference, a resolution critical of Australian airlines was put up. Part of it read:
I went on in my report to state:
Indeed, the criticism in the preamble mentioned only United States airlines.
A referral caused delays to proceedings and by contrast to the criticism of Australia, the New Zealand delegation gained great credit by making decisions on the spot to support the resolution.
While it is not unusual for one of the Metropolitan Powers to bc singled out for criticism at these conferences it appeared that on this occasion criticism was to bc directed towards the United States-
It was directed, less specifically, to Pan American Airways. My report continued:
By the vacillating attitudes adopted by the Australian delegation this was diverted to Australia as is evidenced by the damning statement by one delegation leader . . .
That delegation leader said the following day:
How much longer are we, the island countries, to allow ourselves to bc treated in this insulting and paternalistic way by some of our partners?
That statement received support from other delegations. My report continued:
The end result was considerable damage to the image of Australia in the South Pacific despite the increases in aid programs sponsored and financed by Australia, which importantly in private discussions remained a subject of great appreciation by individual delegates.
What was the reason for the anger of these delegates at this conference? It was that Australia was opposing the entry into this country of Continental Airlines Inc. This airline already flies into Micronesia and American Samoa. It is now flying into Fiji and New Zealand. It is filling a gap that was left by Pan Am and Qantas Airways Ltd. Those two airlines, because of the size of their aircraft, increasingly are overflying the smaller countries of the South Pacific. We should have seen the damage that our airline policy was doing to our foreign policy. It was quite obvious, after spending a couple of days at this conference- I am no expert on this subject- and speaking to other delegates who agreed with me, that the South Pacific island states wished Continental to fly into their area. They felt that Australia was hurting their economies by keeping Continental out.
– The United airline is the one that is now coming to Australia, is it not?
– No, it is Continental that is now coming to Australia. We tried to keep it out for a great length of time, when I am sure most Australians had no idea that the airline was being heavily supported by the smaller states of the South Pacific to which it now flies from Hawaii.
I am aware of the problems of Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia. I know what it costs these airlines to keep their aircraft on the ground. I know the problems that they have with curfews and distances. I think that if there were a merger between Qantas and TAA we would be able to generate travel and traffic into the South Pacific. It appears that Qantas now has a policy of operating a full fleet of 747 aircraft and this is leaving a gap. The South Pacific area has a very high fare structure. The governments of the South Pacific, whether we like it or not, are trying to encourage tourism. As I said, Continental is already trying to fill some of that need. If TAA were amalgamated with Qantas we would be able to fill this need with TAA aircraft. They would be able to use the runways that are already there. More importantly, the two airlines would be able to utilise their own equipment and they would be able to bring cheaper fares into the region for Australians and also for people who are already in the region and who want to come into Australia.
– Isn’t that market best served by ships?
-No, not at all. What happened in recent years, before new sophisticated equipment was introduced, was that our airlines stopped at a number of places and acted as a vital link throughout the South Pacific. That, in fact, is not the case any longer. Unfortunately, South Pacific Air, which operates out of Fiji and in which Qantas already has a great deal of money and shares, has not acted as a regional air carrier. It should. The concept was good. But at the moment the smaller island states all want to have their own national airline. Whilst other senators and I might think that is wrong, we cannot tell them that they should not have their own national airline.
If Senator Rae is right, the sale of TAA would be a disgraceful political exercise. The sale of a healthy, profitable and functional government enterprise in exchange for what? I do not know. Maybe it would be in exchange for a cosmetic job on the Budget. I believe that it would be a cynical manoeuvre and in the long term would achieve no improvement in the financial position of the Government. It would lead to a situation where two large private firms would dominate Australia’s domestic airline system, with no possibility of public accountability or influence on prices by the Minister. The sale of TAA would benefit only a handful of the larger shareholders in Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and the present Government possibly would be able to seek some temporary ways of covering up its Budget deficit. It would not benefit the employees in the domestic airline industry or the consumer or the general public. The vast majority of Australians would be out of pocket and the possibility of an efficient domestic airline service for internal passage and of potential growth in the tourist industry would be lost indefinitely.
– Some weeks ago I watched a television program in which the Australian Atomic Energy Commission establishment at Lucas Heights was discussed. During an interview an employee at the establishment made certain statements, such as ‘Risks are greater than expected’ and ‘Some equipment is not up to standard and perhaps some of this is due to shortage of maintenance staff’. The implication was, of course, that there were dangers with regard to the overall maintenance at Lucas Heights. I was particularly concerned not only about what was said by this employee but also about the fact that the television station did not see fit to ask someone else from Lucas Heights to put a counter comment. I took this matter up during the sittings of Senate Estimates Committee F. I posed questions to representatives of the Atomic Energy Commission who gave evidence to the Committee.
I wish to quote for the Hansard record a written reply by Dr Miles to a question asked during the Committee hearings. I only wish that I could go further than just reading the reply into Hansard. I wish that the people who watched that television program could hear the answers given by Dr Miles, who is one of the most senior and most responsible people in the Atomic Energy Commission. The employee interviewed on the television program created the impression that there were dangers because of the lack of maintenance. He said that there were problems of safety. Dr Miles refuted all this. He asked for permission to give a written answer. I accepted his request because this meant that, rather than give an answer off the top of his head, he had time to sit down and coolly give a factual answer to the Australian Senate. In his answer he stated:
The Commission gives first priority -
I emphasise the words ‘first priority’- to operational safety which includes maintaining at the Research Establishment the highest possible standard of surveillance of all environmental and working conditions which could affect the health and safety of Commission employees. The monitoring for radiation protection is one aspect of this surveillance.
I quote again the words: ‘The monitoring for radiation protection is one aspect of this surveillance ‘. He went on to say:
The Commission does not know of any other organisation in Australia where the standard of surveillance is higher or where the proportion of staff devoted to surveillance of working conditions is higher.
In relation to the monitoring equipment used, there has sometimes been difficulty in obtaining some spare parts for older equipment, but this has not compromised safely standards.
Again I think this should be emphasised. Dr Miles, after making all those comments, emphasised that ‘this has not compromised safety standards ‘. He went on to say:
Substitute equipment is supplied when necessary and the Commission will not proceed with specific operations until safety standards are met and safety checks on staff carried out. The Commission has a continuing program of updating and replacement of older equipment.
We know of the publicity that followed the Harrisburg incident. We know about the big headlines that appeared in the Press not for one day but for days and weeks. We also know of the genuine concern expressed by people. We know of the emotional and political concern and criticism that are expressed on the subject of atomic energy throughout the world. A television station that should be accepting its responsibilities and putting both sides of the argument saw fit to give one side and to ignore some of the most responsible men in Australia who could have put a counter argument not so much about whether Lucas Heights is good, bad or indifferent, but rather about how atomic energy affects the community generally. This is something that concerns me greatly. Two weeks ago I saw another Four Corners program. I know that Senator Georges has taken a very keen interest in mining in northern Queensland and northern Australia. On the program I saw an item with regard to mining at Weipa. This was one of the most disgraceful, biased and bigoted programs I have seen. It was not produced by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It was produced by the Granada Company. No doubt the program was shown in the United Kingdom and in other places. The sheer bias and hypocrisy of the program had to be seen to be believed. It was one of the most disgraceful programs I have ever seen because of its total bias and because no opportunity was given for the other side to put its case. There was no balance.
I am not going into the detail of that program tonight because, by good fortune, Mr Karl Stewart, the manager of the mining company at Weipa, had the courage to challenge the presentation of the Granada production. In fairness to the ABC let me emphasise that it did the right thing and invited Mr Stewart to appear on the program. In five minutes, which was about all the time he had, he refuted entirely much of the biased presentation. What concerns me is that an overseas company showed overseas a production which was presented as a factual representation of conditions in Australia. I only wish that the ABC could have taken a few photographs to back the comments made by Mr Karl Stewart. With all due respect to the ABC, I am glad that it saw fit at least to allow Mr Karl Stewart to appear on the program. I repeat: It was one of the most disgraceful and biased programs that I have ever seen. I hope that it will never be presented again.
Much of what was said in the program may have been factual, but there are two sides to every argument. When one wishes to look at the housing on an Aboriginal settlement one does not take photographs of the back doors of some of the houses or of the oldest houses on the settlements. Nor does one point the finger at a certain company and say that it built the houses. To give one example as Mr Stewart pointed out, the company gave the money and the Presbyterian Church built the houses. The Granada production did not show the bitumen roads in the township or the reafforestation with exotictimber that has taken place.
– Have you been to Weipa?
– Yes. I have been there many times. I have seen the burnt out forests where there is now reafforestation. The company is spending thousands of dollars per hectare to reafforest that country with exotic timber. The company is doing this not for tomorrow or for next year but for years to come so that the Aborigines will have an opportunity to move in and produce teak timber from the forests which have been planted. One cannot accept the bias of such a program. I had to mention that in the Senate tonight.
One of the other things that concerns me greatly is the situation of the River Murray. 1 do not mean that in geographical or physical terms. I refer to the fact that the River Murray serves three States in Australia- New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia- the latter being at the end of the major river system in Australia. In 1915 the River Murray Waters Agreement was established by those three States and the Commonwealth, but since 1915 no amendments have been made to the River Murray Waters Agreement via the River Murray Commission. During the whole of that period the Commission has dealt entirely with water quantity. One can appreciate that with the establishment of the States and the development of agriculture and industry there was a need to make sure that there would be a proportionate sharing of the waters from the River Murray. But as time has passed water quantity has not been the only problem with regard to the River Murray system. There has also been the problem of water quality. With the development of irrigation for agriculture have come problems of pollution, particularly salinity, in the River Murray system. Whilst South Australia is the most adversely affected of any State, it is not the only State that is affected. We find also that Victoria is affected by serious problems of salinity, particularly when the river does not get the opportunity to flush, which happens so often in dry years. At present amendments to the River Murray Waters Agreement via the River Murray Commisison are under discussion. I wish to quote from page 124 of the Hansard record of the proceedings of Estimates Committee F on 3 May 1979. In relation to the agreement and in answer to a question from me, Mr Manderson, who is from the Department of National Development and who specialises in water resources, stated:
In lay terms, it is to undertake water quality monitoring activities, to undertake the investigation of water quality in the mam stem and, with the consent of the State concerned, any of its tributaries, to co-ordinate the development of standards or objectives for river water quality, to contribute to the cost of remedial or preventative works relative to water quality, and to make recommendations or representations to the States in relation to the quality of flows to the river from tributaries.
That last bit is very important because what he is saying virtually is that whilst the River Murray Commission can make recommendations or representations, it has to make them to a State. Most people do not realise that the Commission itself cannot make recommendations or representations, be they on quality or- under the proposed amendments- on quality, unless there is unanimity amongst the four partners of the River Murray Commission. The four partners are the governments of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Federal Government.
It is a farcical situation. We are now proposing amendments to catch up with a problem that has been in existence for far too long- the quality of the waters of the River Murray, which is the major river system in Australia in that it serves such a vast area and covers three States. We are talking about amendments to enable the Commission to do something about the quality of water as well as the quantity of water. Yet that Commission cannot move unless the four partners are unanimous in their decision to move. In the past, particularly in South Australia, we have been concerned about the quantity of water and, particularly in the last few years, about the quality of water, primarily because of the development of agriculture as a result of the irrigation for citrus and general horticulture that the waters of the River Murray can assist in providing for New South Wales and particularly Victoria and South Australia.
But now there are proposals for the establishment of a paper works at Albury, which is right at the beginning of the river system. We all know what paper mills are like. I refer to the history of paper mills in the south east of South Australia. There are two lakes in South Australia called Lake Bonney. One of them is related directly to the River Murray system. The other Lake Bonney is in the south east of South Australia and has been virtually killed by pollution from paper or pulp works. We know the dangers of a paper works. Yet we now have a farcical situation because, although one assumes that this proposal will go ahead, the Commission will still be powerless to act unless there is a unanimous decision by its four commissioners. Without unanimity, it is like a toothless tiger. I wish to quote again from the testimony of Mr Manderson in answer to a further question asked by me, as recorded at page 125 of the same Hansard report. Mr Manderson said, with reference to the effluent from the proposed paper mill: . . following the receipt of public comment, it does appear that if the effluent standards envisaged are adhered to the operations of the pulp mill will have significant adverse effect on water quality.
One accepts that as a fact of life; it is what one would expect from a paper mill. On further inquiry we find that the effluent is to go into holding dams. But there is a limit to the amount that such a dam can hold; so the time must come when some of the effluent must be discharged into a river system somewhere. It will be discharged into a stream which will then flow into the main trunk of the River Murray system.
The River Murray Commission has no control whatsoever over the release of effluent into a stream that feeds into the main trunk. Thus, as I understand it, the Commission is powerless to do anything about it. The State of New South Wales has control over what flows into its streams. Therefore, if the Commission finds that the effluent is having an adverse effect on, and is polluting, the river system- as no doubt it will- it can merely take up the matter with the State concerned. It must first meet and decide to lay the blame upon the State responsible. It can either recommend or make representations to the State responsible which, in this case, would be New South Wales. We would have the responsible State Minister himself sitting on the Commission. He would be asked to sit in judgment on himself, to agree to criticise himself and his own State because of the quality of the water that was being fed into the main trunk of the River Murray system. This is a farcical situation. To me, it is dangerous as well.
I can only say that we, as a Commonwealth, must support the other States, particularly Victoria and South Australia, which are the sinks of the River Murray system. Those States receive the dregs and I would hope that we would not add further to those dregs in the form of the effluents of a pulp mill. History has shown that pulp mills cause pollution. It has yet to be proven otherwise. I hope that in this case the story will be different. However, I am not prepared to accept without protest the dangers inherent in this situation. Apparently we are to ask a Minister or his representative in the offending State to sit in judgment upon himself, to condemn himself and then to refer that condemnation for the effects of polluting the river system to the State authority concerned. The Federal Government has had a fair bit to do with decentralisation in
Albury. I hope that it will see fit, firstly, to change the site of the pulp mill and place it upstream of Albury. Then, if there is any effluent it will flow down the river past Albury and the people in that city will get a little taste of the problem themselves. It will make them more aware of it. I do not think that they want to harm other people, but there is nothing like being made aware of a problem.
More importantly, I hope that the Federal Government will take up the matter and support the States of South Australia and Victoria in their wish to remove this farcical aspect of requiring unanimity in decisions of the River Murray Commission and substitute instead a majority vote on major policy decisions. This could be of great importance to the various States, including my own State of South Australia, and Victoria. Pollution should not be allowed to continue. We are spending a great deal of money to combat salinity. Mr President, no one knows that better than yourself. In the past we have seen the destruction of much country and many valuable orchards. We are hopeful that these risks can be overcome by research presently being done on pollution. Let us make sure that we remove the cause and not wait until we have complaints. We should not end up trying to overcome the problems of further man-made pollution which could be avoided if the River Murray Commission were given the power to ensure that the pollution did not exist in the first place.
I hope that the Government will take note of this important matter, one that is not only a cause for concern but also a source of great danger to very many people who border the Murray River, in particular in the States of South Australia and Victoria.
– I wish to contribute briefly to this debate. In many ways, what I have to say is related to the contribution made by Senator Elstob to the debate on the Supply Bill. Estimates Committee E, of which 1 am a member, questioned the representatives of the Department of Productivity on the subject of safety on 3 May 1979. That inquiry arose from a question by Senator Mulvihill of Mr H. J. Ryan concerning a dispute that existed between the Stevedoring Industry Authority and the Waterside Workers Federation concerning an overhead crane. The upshot of all of this was the part that the Department of Productivity played in regard to health, safety and welfare was explained to the Committee. In fact, the Acting Chairman of the Committee, Senator Jessop, remarked that Mr Ryan’s contribution had been very helpful but that he had detected from what had been said that such recommendations as came from the Department were merely given in an advisory capacity. I asked Mr Ryan further:
Would you be subject to the State inspectorate then?
I was asking whether, in matters of health, safety and welfare, the Commonwealth would be subject to the state inspectorates. Mr Ryan replied:
Yes, I believe so, on a gentleman ‘s agreement basis.
That statement was supported by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), representing the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee). Frankly, I do not believe in gentlemen’s agreements when it comes to health, safety and welfare. I do not believe that there is such a thing as a proper gentleman ‘s agreement on that subject. I asked further:
What would the legal position be if a State inspector came and found that you were below standard. Could he bring a case against the Commonwealth?
Mr Ryan answered:
I am not a lawyer, but I think the answer would be no.
The Minister added:
That is a hypothetical question, lt is only of practical significance if there is any suggestion that the Commonwealth is not observing standards.
I accept what the Minister had to say but, again, it is based on a gentleman’s agreement. I believe that the Department of Productivity is working hard to achieve uniform standards; but I do not think it is good enough that those standards cannot be policed in any manner.
All too often we hear about strikes and loss of production and their effects on the government, the community and the economy. Regularly, the finger of scorn is pointed across the chamber at us, as though we were personally responsible for strikes when, in fact, constantly we are trying to analyse their cause rather than their effect. On the other hand, the Government seems more concerned about the effect of strikes than about their cause. This is so, even though it claims to be trying to foster decent industrial relations. I do not see how it can achieve them if its attitude to strikes is such that it always embarks upon a union-bashing expedition and begins to talk about the amount of time lost in strikes.
The reality of the situation with regard to the effect of strikes is not quite so bad when one looks at the statistics on accident rates in this country. Upon referring to the statistics for Western Australia, I found that the number of days lost because of industrial disputes amounted to 159,800, and that the number lost because of industrial accidents amounted to 430,420. Almost three times the amount of time was lost due to industrial accidents as was lost in industrial disputes. I then inquired of the Bureau of Statistics as to the Australia-wide figures and found that the only figures available were those for 1973-74. In that year, some 2,634,700 man-days were lost because of industrial disputes. There were 300 fatal industrial accidents, and 5,050,000 working days were lost through industrial accidents. Those figures do not include the Northern Territory, Commonwealth employees or industrial diseases. They are made up only of compensation accidents in industry. They are 1973-74 figures.
Not once have I heard honourable senators on the other side of the chamber talk about lost productivity caused by industrial accidents, which seem to amount to three times that lost in industrial disputes. It is far easier to attack unions for calling for a right to fight for wages that will enable people to live with the dignity and expectations of 1 979. It is much easier to fight against them achieving this than it is to fight to do something about industrial accidents in this country. We should be doing something more positive about the number of industrial accidents. Australia is behind the eight ball even in the supplying of figures. The International Labour Organisation gives figures for mining and quarrying accidents. The Australian figure is approximately equal to figures in most underdeveloped nations. Figures are supplied to the ILO for coal mining accidents. Again, the accidents in Australia are on a par with those in most underdeveloped nations. Australia does not supply figures for the manufacturing and construction industries, or for railways. Last week Senator Davidson spoke very highly of the amount of information available to honourable senators through the Parliamentary Library. I agree with him. I think a great deal of information is supplied to honourable senators through the Library. However, I feel that when it comes to the figures for accident rates in this country we are very far behind. In the Green Paper of October 1 975 entitled ‘Policies for Development of Manufacturing Industry’ Jackson states:
Official statistics about industrial accidents are inadequate. As near as we could find out, work-time reported lost in Australian manufacturing industry through industrial accidents which resulted in claims for workers compensation was about 7,100 man years in 1972-73. This compares with a total of about 6,100 man years lost through industrial disputes in the same year. Although simplistic this comparison gives an indication of the economic cost of industrial actions. The cost in terms of human suffering is immeasurable.
I was informed that for some time the Australian Bureau of Statistics has had a program for the uniform collection of industrial accident statistics. Such programs collate the agency or cause of an accident, the type of accident that caused the injury and the type of location of the injury resulting. It would also relate injury or injuries to industry, occupation and the resulting time off work. The program would also collate similar material on work-related disease. However, because of staff ceilings imposed on the Australian Bureau of Statistics it cannot do anything about those figures. The Bureau has figures only up to 1973-74.
The Government is very much concerned about the loss of time in industrial disputes but when it comes to time that has been lost through human suffering, which is three times the amount of time that is lost through industrial disputes, there is no one on the Government side in the least interested in the figures. 1 make Mr Macphee an exception. He has mentioned the matter on two or three occasions. The average Government back bencher has never shown any interest whatsoever in loss of work through industrial accidents. I do not wish to labour the point but I make it quite clear that, come the August sitting of Parliament, I intend to push further into the field of industrial accidents in Australia. I also give fair warning to the Department of Productivity that it should make available its experts in the field of industrial health, safety and welfare because I intend to find out just how far the Department has gone. Up to date I have been told that officers of the Department have three or four meetings a year with the State Ministers. These meetings would be to the taxpayers’ expense and I am sure they will want to know how much advancement is being made in trying to find uniform standards.
The position is deplorable in some of the States where the State inspectorate is responsible to the Department of Labor and the Department, being an employer of many people in the States, therefore is censured by one of its own employees; in other words, Caesar is trying to do justice to Caesar. I do not believe that the Commonwealth Government should be in a position where it cannot be taken to court by the State inspectorates. I believe there should be a Commonwealth inspectorate. It should be divorced from the Department. It should be autonomous, so in cases where safety is below standard something can be done about it. I do accept that the next fitter and turner who steps up to a grindstone to grind a tool and has an eye accident will not be the first, or the last, to have such an accident. Because of climatic conditions, thoughtlessness or whatever one likes to attribute it to, this will happen. However 5 million working days are not lost in a year just through the lack of temperature control or thoughtlessness on the part of a worker.
It is a thorough disgrace to come into this chamber and be castigated by Government senators about loss of productivity through strikes when three times that amount is lost through industrial accidents. The Government does not seem to be concerned about the people involved. Of course, this attitude manifests itself in the manner in which the Government dealt with Medibank.
– This evening I wish to raise the matter of Uganda, to which the attention of the world has been drawn in recent times. It is worth raising this matter in the Senate because of events in Uganda and because of the role that Australia might play in helping that country overcome its problems. It was in January 1971 that the Government of President Obote was overthrown in a military coup by the man who was to become President Amin. During the eight years that President Amin ruled Uganda it seemed that the country underwent what can only be described as a shattering decline and a terrible experience. It has been estimated by groups such as the International Commission of Jurists and Amnesty International that between 100,000 and 300,000 people were slaughtered during the time that he ruled Uganda.
It is also well known that in 1972 President Amin took the unique international action- what can only be considered by everybody who was prepared to apply reason to such matters as an inhumane decision- to expel from his country 80,000 Asian people, primarily of Indian or subcontinental origin. Of course, that contributed substantially to the economic chaos which ensued in Uganda, because in many ways those people were the basis of the commercial class within Uganda. Following their expulsion- they went to many countries around the worldUganda began to suffer very serious economic decline. It is also well known that during the regime of President Amin many atrocities were committed in that country as a result of the activities of the so-called State Research Bureau which was set up by President Amin. There can be no question that that body was set up simply to use terror to keep President Amin in power.
– 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.
– This evening I intend to expand on a matter which was raised by my colleague, Senator Elstob, during Question Time this afternoon. It is a matter which, I think, needs expansion and which ought to be put before this Parliament so that we can see something which is happening in Queensland. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) and indeed the whole of the Government has made much recently of the need to prevent tax evasion. I recall that even last week mention was made of a crack-down on tax evasion. We on this side of the House support any move which results in tax evasion being successfully combated. Those people who suffer from tax evasion are the wage and salary earners of Australia who have no recourse to tax minimisation schemes.
My purpose in speaking this evening is to make the Senate aware of a major tax fiddle being masterminded by the National Party in Queensland. It is a scheme that should be nipped in the bud by the Treasurer of this Government. It is typical of the arrogance and effrontery of the National Party in Queensland that it is attempting to bend the Australian Government’s tax rules. As the Government coalition in Queensland becomes more shaky each day the National Party has ironically set up an institution labelled the ‘Bjelke-Petersen Foundation’. Funds which are raised for this foundation are used to purchase real estate and the rents from that real estate are going to be used to provide campaign funds for the National Party and for mid-term measures directed against the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party. In an effort to entice companies to contribute to this foundation, the hierarchy of the National Party in Queensland, in particular party President Sir Robert Sparkes, has devised a shady system whereby donations to the funds would be tax deductible. That means that the taxpayer would contribute to the National Party funds. I wish to read from an article printed in last Friday’s Brisbane Telegraph. This article shows quite clearly how the tax system has been fiddled by the National Party. I quote from an article which is headed ‘Taxpayers to aid National Party’. It reads:
Australian taxpayers are to contribute to the National Party’s major fund-raising campaign through the BielkePetersen Foundation.
This became clear today as the party, through its State President, Sir Robert Sparkes, solicited contributions from major Australian corporations and told them how to write off part of their contribution into a tax deduction.
The foundation, set up early this year to raise $2.Sm to buy properties throughout Queensland for party regional headquarters is now well established.
In his letter soliciting major contributions, Sir Robert told the corporation how they could donate to the foundation and writeoff” part of their contribution to tax.
The party could grant advertisements in its newspaper National Outlook in return for donations.
The corporations were told that such a procedure had been fully checked with lawyers and accountants.
A High Court judgment said it was not for the court or the Taxation Commissioner to say how much a taxpayer ought to spend in obtaining his income but only how much he had spent.
Sir Robert told the corporations that as most companies paid 46 per cent of their profits in tax then the actual donation to the Bielke-Petersen Foundation would only cost them 54 per cent of the amount given.
On this basis the taxpayer could subsidise the $2. 5m fund by just less than 50 per cent.
National Outlook . . . has a circulation of about 20,000.
What happens? Suppose a company in Queensland is sufficiently misguided to donate $5,000 to the foundation. In return for its donation it receives an advertisement worth, say, $5, $50, or maybe even $500 in the National Outlook. One may legitimately query whether an advertisement in the National Outlook has any value, but that is another question. The cost of this $5, $50 or $500 advertisement is set at $5,000. The company pays $5,000 as a tax deduction. To my mind this is downright deception. To illustrate that this type of advertising technique is used I will read part of a letter which is sent to the people who have donated funds to the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation. A part of that letter reads:
The Bjelke-Petersen Foundation gratefully acknowledges your financial support, and on behalf of everyone involved we offer our sincere thanks.
Incredible though it may seem, despite the fact that our Party is battling to protect the free enterprise system in which individuals and companies have thousands of millions of dollars at stake, our capacity to combat the Socialists and Communists is impaired by a chronic shortage of funds.
Therefore, your financial assistance will not only serve to honour a great Queenslander who has dedicated his life to the preservation of our free enterprise democracy, but it will also help to ensure the continued strength and effectiveness of a political organisation committed to the same great cause.
The following arc the details of your intended gift. Please check and advise us if there is any variation.
Five headings are listed which are used for check lists. The first one is ‘Indicated Amount’ and so on. The fifth one is: ‘Advertising to be negotiated ‘. The letter is signed:
With sincere appreciation,
SIR ROBERT SPARKES President
BRIAN HALL Chairman
My advice to those companies which received an invitation to donate is to avoid the invitation like the plague. Not only does the scheme appear to have a questionable legal basis but also it is morally indefensible. Not only will companies which donate be working against the Liberal and Labor parties, but also they will be involved in a slick and perhaps illegal deal which only the National Party could conceive. The ordinary worker in this country cannot escape paying his share of taxation. Why should companies be able to claim tax deductions simply because the National Party’s bush lawyers in Queensland think they can get the taxpayers of Australia to aid its cause? In order that this scheme is nipped in the bud I call upon the Treasurer to give immediate notice that the Australian Government will not stand for the use of these shady National Party tactics. I ask the Treasurer to make an announcement so that the workers of Australia can be certain that they will not be indirectly contributing to National Party funds.
– I would like an opportunity briefly to conclude the remarks I was making earlier about Uganda.
– Order! The honourable senator cannot continue in the adjournment debate that which has been debated.
– It is not a subject of debate in the Senate at this time. There will be comments quite distinct from those I made earlier.
-Is the honourable senator continuing the speech he was making to the Senate?
– I would like to make different points on the same subject. I would seek your advice on that matter, Mr President. However, it is not the subject of legislation or a motion before the Senate. I would seek your advice since you have raised the matter as to whether that is in order. I would not want to proceed if it is not in order.
– I must point out that subject matters of debates should not be extended into the adjournment debate if they are part of legislation. That does not mean that subjects discussed on the Appropriation Bills, where one has a very wide range of topics which can be discussed, can be carried on into the adjournment debate. However, I will listen to the honourable senator for a little longer.
- Senator Knight is in continuation and I take it that he will be speaking tomorrow. I do appreciate that he may have entered into the debate because Senator Hamer was unexpectedly absent. Nevertheless, I think he could save himself the time tonight and continue tomorrow to make the points that he wishes to make. I do not think the Opposition would object too much to his continuing tonight other than he would have the opportunity to continue tomorrow.
– I would prefer to finish tonight. However, you have expressed concern, Mr President. I understand that if the matter is the subject of legislation or a motion before the Senate -
– You must not revive a matter which has been discussed. That is in the broad.
– In that case, I believe I would be outside the Standing Orders if I spoke.
– I will take only a few minutes of the Senate’s time. Mr President, I wish to raise a matter with you which deals with the airconditioning of Parliament House. You will recall that in May of last year, during consideration of the supplementary Estimates, I raised the matter of the cost of airconditioning certain parts of the west wing of the Parliament. In reply to a question at page 134 of Estimates Committee Hansard on 4 May 1978, Mr Guy Smith, Usher of the Black Rod, said:
We are advised that a tender has been let Tor airconditioning of the Senate west wing.
Wc understand that the work is to be completed during the winter recess and that the cost will bc approximately $135,000.
I will not refer to all of his answer but, in regard to the air conditioning of certain rooms, he said:
Wc have had that included in our draft civil works program Tor 1978-79. All being well, and provided funds are available, we are hoping to have all of that completed by next financial year.
We all know that during the last winter recess this air-conditioning work was carried out. But to my astonishment I found in the last couple of weeks that the ceilings are being pulled out of the corridors of this Parliament for some further work to be carried out. I wondered what it was for. In answer to a question I raised, I received a reply from the Acting Usher of the Black Rod, Mr Harry Evans, under the date of 22 May 1979. I expect that copies of this letter went to most senators involved. It reads:
During the next winter recess a sprinkler system for (irc protection will be installed in the corridors and rooms ofthe 1947 wing of Parliament House in which your office is located. This work is part of the first stage of a program designed to provide a sprinkler system for the whole building. Some preliminary work has already been done.
What I am asking is: If we had a draft civil works program to air-condition this place, why was the sprinkler system not incorporated at the time when the air-conditioning work was carried out? A time of economic stringencies imposed by the Government on many people in the community, Mr Smith said that an amount of $135,000 was to be spent on the air-conditioning. We now find that a lot of that work is being dismantled just 12 months since it was completed so that a sprinkler system can be installed. Surely the people who draw up the draft works program had enough foresight to know that this had to be done. Why could it not all have been done at the one time, rather than having to bring in fresh contractors to dismantle the ceilings in the two corridors concerned, to enable the installation of a sprinkler system? Surely, any person with any commonsense would have been able to do both jobs at the same time rather than go to all this added expense. I now ask you, Mr President, whether you can advise the Senate, after you have had a look at what I have said tonight, what the additional cost is to install the sprinkler system and how much taxpayers ‘ money could have been saved if both jobs had been done at the time of the last winter recess.
– I shall look at the matter as you request.
– I have always regarded Senator Colston, who spoke earlier on the adjournment, as having a distinctive style of his own, but he appears to be plagiarising very badly this evening. What he said was almost word for word from several speeches that I have heard from Sir Charles Court on the antics of the Labor Party in Western Australia, which erected a new building on the site of the old Trades Hall and let it to government departments, thereby financing the building. Sir Charles Court has made several powerful speeches which have indicated his complete contempt for that method of financing one’s party at the taxpayers’ expense. I make no comment on the Western Australian situation. I simply find it extraordinary that there is a similarity between the speeches of Sir Charles Court and the speech of Senator Colston here tonight.
With respect to the matters which have been raised by Senator Colston, I think that I am precluded from offering opinions of a legal nature and therefore withstand the temptation to do so. I offer no comment on the propriety of what has been done, except to say that it appears that Sir Robert Sparkes has made quite public the technique which has been followed in Queensland in the furtherance of the fund which was mentioned by Senator Colston. No doubt the views of Sir Robert Sparkes have been noted by the income tax authorities and they will have their own view of the matters which have been brought before the Senate tonight. I think there is a substantial body of opinion in Australia which believes that political parties should be funded completely at the expense of those private individuals who support those political parties. Other people suggest that political parties should be almost totally funded by the public. On that debate I make no comment except to say that on some other occasion we might discuss the whole matter in more detail than tonight’s adjournment debate gives us scope for.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.46 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circula
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 16 November 1978:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1979:
– The Minister for Housing and Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Ministerial Meetings with Business Consultants (Question No. 1201)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
– The Minister for Productivity has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Departmental Approaches by Lobbyists (Question No. 1228)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
What procedures exist within the Minister’s Department to record approaches made to staff by lobbyists.
– The Minister for Productivity has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am informed that officers of my Department would be expected to record significant approaches regarding departmental business from any member of the public whether direct or through lobbyists. The Department has no special procedures for dealing with such approaches, nor is any special treatment accorded them.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 27 February 1979:
– The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 27 February 1979:
– The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the Prime Minister’s answer to Question No. 1335 (Senate Hansard! May 1979. page 1608).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice, on 28 February 1979:
– The Minister for Housing and Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice, on 20 March 1 979:
Did the Prime Minister, in his policy statement for the 1977 election for the House of Representatives, announce that new arrangements would be made in 1978-79 for pensioner housing to help those who want to rent privately in their own neighbourhood: if so, what progress has been made in the fulfilment of this promise.
– The Minister for Housing and Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In March 1978 I released details of a new scheme to provide housing for pensioners. Under this scheme the Commonwealth will provide grants to the States which they can use for any of the following purposes relating to the provision of rental housing for pensions to whom Part III of the Housing Assistance Act 1 978 applies:
meeting costs of, or associated with, the acquisition, planning, and development of land primarily for residential development;
making payments for the construction or acquisition of housing;
providing funds to such voluntary, non-profit, charitable or other housing management bodies or groups as arc approved by the appropriate Minister of the Slate concerned.
enabling housing to be let to such charitable bodies and other organisations as are approved by the appropriate Minister of the State concerned for the provision of assistance to disadvantaged persons:
engaging in urban renewal activities related to public housing;
allocating funds to local government bodies for the provision of rental housing where the appropriate Minister of the State concerned considers that it would be more appropriate for such rental housing assistance to be carried out by those bodies:
making payments, or providing bridging finance, for the provision of open space, landscaping or community facilities or for costs associated with land development, including contributions to headworks or retriculation of services;
underaking, or participating in, joint ventures, cooperatives enterprises or similar arrangements in order that public housing developments may be integrated with private housing to achieve a desirable socio-economic mixture of housing;
leasing housing from the private housing sector;
The new scheme, which came into operation on 1 July 1 978, is in response to our election commitment. An amount of $ 14m has been made available for the provision of rental housing under this scheme in 1 978-79.
Pesticides and Agricultural Chemicals Sub-committee (Question No. 1508)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 29 March 1979:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Mr R. S. Belcher, Chief, Division of Agricultural Chemistry, Department of Agriculture, Victoria.
Mr C. W. R. McCray, Animal Research Institute, Department of Primary Industries, Queensland.
Dr J. G. McLean, Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Biochemistry, University of Melbourne, Victoria.
Professor C. Raper, Victorian College of Pharmacy.
Mr J. T. Snelson, Pesticides Coordinator, Department of Primary Industry, ACT.
Associate Professor L. B. Cobbin Department of Pharmacology, University of Sydney.
Mr D. E. Weedman, Registrar of Pesticides, Department of Agriculture, NSW.
Mr A. M. Hogan. Senior Chemist, Commonwealth Department of Health (Convenor and Secretary).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources, upon notice, on 4 April 1 979:
– The Minister for Trade and Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
American Defence Installations in Australia (Question No. 1591)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 3 May 1979:
Has the Soviet Union gained access to secret information regarding the operation of American defence installations in Australia; if so: (a) does the information which the Soviet Union now holds render the bases virtually ineffective; and (b) will this alter in any way the Government’s present longterm attitude to the presence of the bases.
– The Minister for Defence, has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There will be neither confirmation nor denial of such speculation in accordance with the practice of previous Administrations, whether Labor or Coalition.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 May 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790528_senate_31_s81/>.