31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
-I present two petitions from 124 and 20 citizens of Australia, respectively, as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Membersof the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly paymentsthat the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920.000 aged invalid widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
Restore twice-yearly pension adjustments in the Autumn session.
Raise pensions and unemployed benefits above the poverty level to 30 per cent of average weekly earnings.
And your petitioners in duty bound will every pray.
Petitions received and one petition read.
-On behalf of Senator Keeffe I present the following petition from 120 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920.000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
Restore twice-yearly pension payments in the Autumn session.
Raise pensions and unemployed benefits above the poverty level to 30 per cent of average weekly earnings.
And your petitioners in duty bound will every pray.
– I present the following petition from five citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country does not have the support of the people;
That the change is causing and will continue to cause, widespread, serious and costly problems:
That the compulsory tactics being used to force the change 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 utilise whichever system they prefer and so enable the return to imperial weights and measures wherever the people so desire:
That weather reporting be as it was prior to the passing of the Metric Conversion Act:
That the Australian Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional mile units to be restored to our highways:
That the Australian Government request the State Governments to procure that the imperial and metric systems be taught together in schools.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 3 1 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the credibility of the Westminster parliamentary system is weakened by the resignation in protest of Ministers of the Crown without adequate explanation of the reason or reasons for the resignations being given to the electorate and that the situation is further exacerbated by the reappointment of the recently resigned Minister within a very brief period, again without any meaningful explanation to the people of Australia.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, take note of the need for the electorate at large to be fully informed so that the confidence of the people is not diminished in the democratic process in general and the parliamentary process in particular.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Australian Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
That the Australian Government request the State Governments to procure that the imperial and metric systems be taught together in schools.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Senators Button, Mason and Mulvihill.
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 Mason.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Guilfoyle.
– I seek leave to amend paragraph 3 of Government Business, Notice of Motion No. 1, standing in my name, to read:
With the indulgence of the Senate, I point out that a list of sitting times for next week has been circulated. I also forecast that it may be necessary, depending upon the progress made next week, for the Senate to sit on Friday as well.
Notice of Motion
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I will move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to the establishment and development of a township at Jabiru in the Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory.
Notice of Motion
– On behalf of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) 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 amend the Copyright Act 1968.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the Prime Minister on 1 7 November 1975, in his address to the nation, said:
In two years Australia will have spent $6, 500m more than we have got- over $500 for every Australian … the recovery-
That is, the recovery of the economy- is a myth. The economy is not coming out of its recession. The facts were all available to the former government. They are facts that should have been available to the Parliament.
Does the Leader of the Government agree that the expected deficit for the last three years of the Fraser Government is now $9.5 billion? Does this not demonstrate, in the words of the Prime Minister in 1975, that at best the Government did not understand the extent of the damage caused by its incompetence and that its economic policies have failed?
– I am not aware of the precise wording or figures used by Mr Fraser in those days. But, of course, he was so right in thus describing the previous Whitlam Government. I presume that Senator Button, in depending upon the monetary figures cited, must also be willing to give validity to the comments made by the Prime Minister about the disaster that had preceded the making of the statement. I have not before mc details of the deficits. Of course, the deficits should be related to the size of the gross domestic product and also to the ability of the Government to manage the deficits.
– Ha, ha!
- Senator Button may laugh, but by that I mean the capacity within the money market to finance the deficits. The final part of Senator Button’s question may be answered in this way: The one miscalculation that the Government made was to underestimate the extent of the damage done to the economy in the three years of the Whitlam Government.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question. Is the Minister not aware of the size of the deficit in the three years of Fraser government?
– I do not have in my mind the precise figures from time to time. I am aware that yesterday the Treasurer indicated to the public that the figures being supplied by the Treasury indicated that the Treasury may have overestimated revenue collections and that therefore the deficit may blow out. The point I made is that 1 did not have in my head the precise addition of the three deficits of this Government. Nevertheless one should look at the deficits against the aggregation of the GDP of the time. I remind honourable senators that for this year the projection is that the GDP is likely to rise by 4 per cent or more. This is encouraging. 1 also remind honourable senators of my answer that it is on the fiscal, or financial, management of the deficit and of the economy as a whole that the Government should be judged.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Productivity. In view of the many initiatives being carried out by the Government in the development of alternative and supplemental energy sources and their application to industry, I ask the Minister whether he is aware of the claims of two brilliant Queensland inventors, Adrian and David Little of Mount Isa, that their revolutionary solar tracking device cannot get adequate support from Australian industry. This unique design, which won the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Inventor of the Year award in 1978 and the World Health Prize of a gold medal at Geneva in the same year, has the potential to earn many millions of dollars for Australia in exports. Furthermore, the Littles have received the most generous offers from industry in America to reside and go into production there, which means that the invention would be lost irrevocably for Australia. If Australian industry fails to seize this opportunity, can the Littles apply under the Industrial Research and Development Incentives Act 1976 for support for their development?
-My attention had been drawn to a couple of interviews on the radio program AM. One was on a day that I had to admit to not having listened to that valuable program. These interviews gave much of the information to which the honourable senator has just drawn the Senate’s attention. It appears that the two Queensland inventors to whom he has referred have produced something that is particularly significant in the area of solar energy. The potential value of solar energy as a supplementary form of energy at this stage is well established. I am sure that all honourable senators are interested in seeing this sort of invention developed to the advantage of Australia.
I make it clear to the Senate that the inventors seem to be complaining about the lack of interest of industry, rather than the lack of interest of government. The main thrust of what is said is that Australian business has shown little or no interest and the inventors have had to go to the United States of America where, to the contrary, a great deal of interest has been shown. I can understand Senator MacGibbon’s concern about that. I have made some inquiry of the Minister for Productivity, Mr Macphee, and I understand from him that this is the sort of project which is considered under the Industrial Research and Development Incentives Act. A board considers applications under that Act. I think this invention should be drawn to the board ‘s attention to see whether assistance can be provided.
-Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate confirm that the reasons for the Treasurer’s announcement yesterday that the deficit will overshoot estimates by about $746m this year are: firstly, the Government’s failure to appreciate that demand for tobacco, spirits and beer would drop when prices rose after the excise increases in the last Budget; secondly, the fact that there are fewer taxpayers because of the rise in unemployment; thirdly, the higher than anticipated dole payments; and fourthly, tax evasion? Will the Minister agree that the shortfall being caused in this way was due to the Government’s failure to understand the economic problems confronting Australia when it put together its Budget last year?
-If I can translate from the original Gaelic of the question- or was it the original Erse- as I understand -
– Did you understand the question? Would you like him to repeat it?
- Mr President, it so happens that my Scottish ancestry enables me to translate from the original Gaelic, so perhaps we may proceed without the help of Senator Georges who will remember that P. G. Wodehouse once dedicated a book to his dear wife, without whose endearing help the book would have been completed in half the time. The Greeks did have a word for it.
The Treasurer indicated yesterday that information coming to him from Treasury and taxation sources suggested that the size of the deficit might be larger than had been anticipated and he believed that he ought to communicate that information to the Australian people. As I understand it, the elements fall into two compartments: firstly, an amount of $200m-odd which resulted from extra spending because of government decisions and, secondly, an amount of some $500m which resulted from now emerging over-estimations in a series of compartments. A primary one has been tax avoidance. It is significant that the Government’s calculation of pay-as-you-earn figures, which indicate the state of the employment market, the ability of taxpayers to pay tax and the size of their wages, is to be adjusted by only some $46m which is an error of a fraction of one per cent.
It is quite clear that there has been a pretty accurate calculation in terms of the Government’s understanding of what was happening in the community. It is a sad reflection that Australia today is learning the bad habits of other Western countries at both ends of the scale- at the higher income end by way of tax avoidance and at the other end in relation to cash payments. It is a sad thing that that means that the bulk of wage and salary earners have to bear the burden for the tax avoiders. There were some suggestions that there need to be adjustments for the over-estimations in the other departments, but they are the main factors in the situation.
– Is the Minister for Science and the Environment aware that a solar energy power station is to be set up under an agreement between the Australian National University and the New South Wales Government? What form will the plant take? When will it be completed?
-Publicity has been given recently to the assistance by the New South Wales Government to a research team from the Australian National University. I understand that the team is producing something more than a power house in western New South Wales. I am uncertain of all the facts; I think they are a little unclear at the moment. But the advice 1 have is that there is an agreement between the New South Wales Government and the Australian National University and that a team of scientists from the ANU Research School of Physical Sciences led by Professor Steven Kaneff -
– Did the questioner give you the answer this morning?
– . . . will install and commission within two years a 25 kilowatt electrical power plant which is driven only by solar energy.
– He is a walking encyclopedia.
– It is amazing how Opposition senators break in. Mr President, may I just mention to you that I believe that this could be an interesting question. It has been raised before. Indeed, the interest of the New South Wales Labor Government was demonstrated when it decided to put $lm into this project. I think I had a letter directed to my office from a Labor member of the House of Representatives who asked me whether I would obtain some information on this matter. To be perfectly honest I regret so far as Senator Maunsell is concerned, that I am reading from the basis of what I have sent the Labor member of the House of Representatives. Does that help you, Senator Cavanagh?
– I raise a point of order. We now have another example of a planned question and answer. The Minister has endeavoured to justify it by describing the correct way in which Senator Maunsell should have obtained information, that is, to do exactly as a Labor member did. He should write the Minister a letter to obtain a complete answer. Question Time should not be abused as the Minister is again abusing Question Time, by giving lengthy answers to prepared questions.
– I must advise the honourable senator that he has no special licence to usurp the judgment of the Chair in these matters. I call Senator Webster.
– I raise a point of order.
-There is no point of order.
– I wish to speak to the ruling, if I may. Surely I can attract your attention to a breach of the Standing Orders. I believe that there is a breach of the Standing Orders here.
– Your point of order is not sustained.
– I strongly object to the words which were used by Senator Georges. I did not intend to give a long answer but I will now give a very full one. I had taken only one or two lines -
– I suggest that you be as brief as possible.
– I was going to point out to you, Mr President, some of the unique features of this activity. I think that it is of great significance that a full answer on one of the first solar energy systems- that is what Senator Maunsell ‘s question draws to the attention of the Senate- is to be denied by the attitude of the Labor Party. I think that is most regrettable because here we have, with the assistance of a State government, an attempt to bring to a town in New South Wales the first solar powered electrical station in Australia. Senator Maunsell is correct in attempting to bring this matter out at Question Time. I can understand what the Opposition senators have attempted to do during the past weeks immediately I commence to answer a question.
– No. The Minister must adhere directly in his reply to the subject matter of the question.
-That is fairly harsh on me. Opposition senators are able to pull me to pieces but I must in fact stick to one or two lines. The ANU scientists have already begun work on the project, concentrating on the very early phases of specifications for the equipment and the construction operation for the plant, including supports and drives for the concentrators. This is a matter that has been brought forward in Question Time previously. It is a unique operation by the Australian National University. I feel that a question of this nature, a question of the highest level, should have the attention of the Senate while information is given for the public good. I regret that Labor has taken this attitude in respect of a development in New South Wales.
– Have you sent that letter yet to the Labor member in the House of Representatives?
-I doubt that I ever will.
-I ask the Minister for Science and the Environment: Is it a fact that the Capricornia section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has not been declared because the areas of permits Q/4P and Q/5P infringe on the proposed section of the Marine Park?
-Mr President, I thought that you would take exception to a question being repeated here on so many occasions. That question has been asked of me on at least five occasions in this place. Seeing that the intelligence of the questioner is so dull that he is not able to read Hansard, I will give him the answer again. The Capricornia section of the Marine Park has not been declared because of consultations on constitutional matters that are to take place between the Commonwealth and Queensland.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question. Is the Minister aware that a quarter of an hour ago in answer to the same question in the House of Representatives the Minister for National Development, Mr Newman, said yes?
– I am not privy to information gained from the House of Representatives or from stolen documents which seem to be so readily available to the honourable senator who apparently is filling in today for the Leader of the Opposition. I am not aware of the comment. I would be pleased if the honourable senator would give us information.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to a report in Time magazine of 1 4 May on the new government in Britain which states:
Thatcher is so concerned over growing Soviet power that Tory strategists have considered the formation of a joint USEuropean fleet based on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
Is the Government aware of any such proposal? If it is, has the Government responded in any way to it? What effect would such a proposal have on discussions between the Soviet Union and the United States for a reduction of naval forces in the Indian Ocean region? What stage has been reached in those negotiations?
– While the Government is aware of the report in Time magazine to which the honourable senator refers, it is not aware of any proposal to form a joint United StatesEuropean fleet based on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. I am reluctant to speculate on the effects that such a proposal might have on the negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States concerning stabilisation of their military presence in the Indian Ocean. These negotiations have been in abeyance since February 1978 following increased Soviet deployments during the conflict in the Horn of Africa. Clearly, both the situation in the Indian Ocean region and the general international political climate will be important factors in any agreement between the two super powers to resume talks. The Government is on record as supporting an agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union on mutual arms limitation in the Indian Ocean. It would welcome the resumption of talks by the super powers to this end were the situation in the region to permit this to take place.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question. I am genuinely seeking information about why the Government voted in the way it did yesterday on the matter of public importance concerning oil exploration on the Great Barrier Reef. As I understand it, the motion moved by the Opposition contained three components. The first related to the Prime Minister’s complete and unequivocal guarantee that the Government would not allow drilling that would do any damage to the reef. The second related to the Queensland Government’s intention to allow drilling in the region of the reef. The third component related to the Commonwealth Government’s maintaining full jurisdiction and control over the Great Barrier Reef region. Which of those three components impelled the Government to vote against the motion when it was put?
– In my speech yesterday I sought painstakingly to make those two things clear.
– You were wasting all the time.
– I am again grateful for Senator George’s interjection. He is so informed about the State of Queensland, of which he remains an expatriate. I direct myself to Senator
Chipp ‘s question. The first premise in the motion was that the Commonwealth Government had established a clear and unequivocal statement. I said that that was the unqualified objective. I then referred to the fact that the latter part of the motion suggested a methodology or a mechanism for achieving the objective. I said that whilst the Commonwealth Government had undoubted total constitutional power and could use that power- and in its discussions with the States was working within that constitutional powerthe Government felt that the wording of the motion was so narrow that it was inflexible in the situation. Whilst we respected the objective, we found the mechanism too delimiting, even though we may move through that mechanism to assert our constitutional power. I hope I make that clear. I stress the fact that we regard this as important.
Whilst I am on my feet, I also remind Senator Button in relation to the Capricornia region that yesterday I made it clear that we believed that, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority having the power to declare particular regions, will be capable of declaring the Capricornia region as part of the national park in the very near future.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I refer to reported evidence by Commander Travers to the Australian Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs that whilst passenger traffic had increased at Perth airport, the detection of drug offenders had not. Commander Travers commented that staff might not be as thorough as they should be, but more staff and better facilities were part of the solution to the problem. I ask the Minister for an assurance that Commander Travers ‘s evidence will be noted and that steps will be taken to improve facilities at Perth airport.
– I am not aware of the nature of the facilities for drug detection at Perth airport. I acknowledge, with Senator Sim, the need for the most rigorous methods for detection of drugs. I share his view that the importation of drugs, particularly hard drugs, is one of the most serious of crimes. I will bring to the attention of my colleague, the Minister in another place, the comments of Commander Travers. I must say of my colleague, Mr Fife, that he is absolutely resolute in his determination to suppress in Australia the importation and trafficking of drugs.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Prime Minister failed to pay the $ 10 departure tax due prior to his leaving for the opening of the Papua New Guinea Parliament several months ago? Is the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs still waiting for this payment?
– I thought that this question had been asked and answered in the negative in another place. In case my recollection is wrong, I ask Senator Primmer to put the question on notice. I will then get an answer for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources. I refer to a meeting held yesterday between the State governments and the Commonwealth Government at which discussions took place on the feasibility of establishing a uranium enrichment plant in Australia. I ask the Minister: Firstly, were all State governments invited to attend that meeting? Secondly, were representatives of all the States present at that meeting to discuss the establishment of an enrichment plant in Australia?
-I am aware that the Commonwealth Government convened a meeting which was held yesterday to discuss the feasibility of uranium enrichment. That is a very important matter to discuss because, as honourable senators will know, a uranium enrichment industry, properly located and controlled in this country, would be very labour intensive and could be of immense value to particular States. My understanding is that all States and the Northern Territory were invited to attend that meeting and that representatives of all States and the Territory, with the exception of Tasmania, came to it. I understand, by inference, that South Australia was represented at the discussions on the feasibility of uranium enrichment. Of course, that would apply also to other States which held the same political philosophy.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is it a fact that yesterday the two national airline operators announced a reduction of nine flights each a week to the north-west coast of Tasmania from 1 1 June? Is this reorganisation directly consequential on the Government’s permitting
Bizjets to operate into Devonport by way of commuter service? Will the Government guarantee that fully serviced scheduled flights operated by Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of. Australia will continue with no reduction in the number of seats currently available? Further, at the expiry of the six months provisional licence granted to Bizjets and before renewing the permit, will the Government seriously consider the effect that renewal would have on the employment of TAA and Ansett staff numbering 66 on the north-west coast?
– I will refer that matter to the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, for reply.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and draw her attention to claims made by a Mrs English who is a senior nutritionist with the Department of Health, that the widespread habit of families living on what she called ‘fast foods and takeaway meals’ was having serious consequences. Mrs English was speaking at a food science convention in Adelaide when she made this statement. Is the Minister aware that the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts gave attention to this situation in its report on children’s television? ls the Department of Health aware that evidence to the Committee indicated that 44 per cent of advertising time between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. was devoted to fast foods, compared with 6 per cent in the next time period? Will the Minister draw to the attention of the Department of Health the terms of the Senate Committee’s recommendation in the report which calls for a conference to be held between the Department, the Australian medical and dental associations and the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal? Will the Minister seek the urgent and early arrangement of such a conference and respond to the national concern expressed in the Senate Committee’s report?
– I am aware of the recommendations contained in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts. I know that it has received the close attention of the Minister for Health. I will refer to the Minister the request of the honourable senator in regard to the calling of a conference between the parties he named. I will seek a reaction to that suggestion from the Minister for Health.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for
National Development. Is it a fact that agreement was reached between the Wagga Wagga City Council, the Cootamundra Shire Council, the Australian Gas Light Corporation and the National Pipeline Authority for the development of a natural gas pipeline to be constructed to serve the cities of Wagga Wagga, Cootamundra and Young in New South Wales? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether it is a fact that the National Pipeline Authority will not now be granted the funds to go ahead with that project?
– I ask the honourable senator to place his question on the Notice Paper.
– Is the Minister representing the Foreign Minister aware that the Australian nurse, Sister Jennifer Boyd, who was murdered by terrorists in Rhodesia last year while on her rounds visiting medical clinics in the tribal trust lands, will be honoured by the Government of Rhodesia today in a ceremony at the Mercy Hospital in Melbourne where Miss Boyd received her training? Has the Minister been informed that Mr Greg Aplin of the Rhodesian Information Centre in Sydney will conduct the proceedings on behalf of his Government and that Miss Boyd will be made a member of the Rhodesian Order of the Legion of Merit, Civil Division, posthumously?
– The Department of Foreign Affairs provided me with, among other briefs, some information on that matter. I have been informed of the ceremony to be held today at the Mercy Hospital and that Miss Boyd’s parents will travel from Gippsland to attend. I understand that Miss Boyd died on 27 September 1978, with four African district security assistants accompanying her, when their vehicle exploded a land mine and was fired upon from ambush. I am informed that Miss Boyd had been working in Rhodesia since 1 97 1 and had earned the respect of the people in the Mrewa district, especially the many black African patients she attended.
The Government has on a number of occasions made clear that it deplores acts of terrorism, which have continued to cause suffering to innocent civilians both black and white. The death of Miss Boyd was particularly tragic and senseless. I am not aware of the other specific points that Senator Sheil made regarding the posthumous award or the attendance of particular persons at the ceremony. I will seek out the information and let the honourable senator have it.
– I direct a question to you, Mr President. My question is prompted by my concern for those Senate employees who had to work into the early hours of this morning. Can you provide details of those Senate employees who worked past 2 o’clock this morning and how many of them will be paid overtime for the full time that they worked? Can you also advise whether any Senate employees who worked past 2 a.m. and who were again on duty when the Senate met at 10.30 this morning are eligible for penalty rates because of the short time they had away from their work place?
– I shall make inquiries about the matter to which the honourable senator refers.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to an article which appeared in today’s Australian Financial Review and which indicates that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics expects the average income of grape growers in the McLaren Vale grape growing area of South Australia- incidentally, that is not the country seat of an honourable senator- to fall by 55 per cent to $4,600 in 1978-79? Does the Minister agree that this region, which is obviously undergoing economic hardship and does not have the diversified production base of other regions such as the Riverland, deserves particular attention by the Government in its discussion on the final Industries Assistance Commission draft report dealing with the industry which has yet to come to the Government and which by its recommendations appears to play down such hardship?
– I read the Australian Financial Review article this morning. As the honourable senator has indicated, and as I read the article, the IAC report is as yet only a draft report. Of course it has yet to be considered by the Government, along with a number of other shades of opinion that may prompt the Government in its thinking on this matter. Certainly the wine and grape producers of the honourable senator’s State will be taken into account when the report is considered. The article which appeared in this mornning’s Australian Financial Review was headed ‘SA grape growers’ income “down to $4,500” ‘. This headline is particularly disconcerting. The suggestion is that there may be a 55 per cent fall in income. If one compares that with the $26,000 currently predicted as the average income for primary producers, one sees that Senator Messner is quite correct in bringing this matter before the Parliament. It is a matter of considerable concern to the constituents in his State. I will see that both the Minister for Primary Industry and the Treasurer have notice of the question.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications had drawn to his attention evidence given to Senate Estimates Committee B in its recent hearings, by the Commonwealth Employment Service, establishing that the overall average cost of the Australia Post courier service in metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas for the delivery of messages is $1.90 per message whereas the average cost per telegram is $3.70? Does the Minister accept that that amounts to prima facie evidence that telegrams, like most other Telecom services, are now wildly overpriced?
-The figures cited by the honourable senator are very interesting. I am not familiar with the evidence given to Estimates Committee B and I really do not know quite what conclusion one can draw from the figures. For example, I do not know the comparabililty of the range of addressees that are involved in the courier service and the telegram service. In any event, the honourable senator has raised an interesting matter which I shall refer to Mr Staley for consideration and reply.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald today under the byline of one Andrew Kruger which refers to a meeting of Government senators yesterday morning. He states:
Senator P. Rae (Lib.. Tas.) and Senator A. Missen (Lib., Vic.) made it clear they would not tolerate ‘penny-pinching’ measures . . .
Has the Fourth Estate developed some extraordinary powers which we mere mortals cannot attain? Is Senator Missen, whose body is overseas, currently here in spirit and communicating with the media? Did Senator Rae, who has no voice because of a heavy dose of influenza and whose only communication with his colleagues is by nodding or shaking his head, shake his head so profoundly in the meeting that the shock waves were transmitted to and interpreted in the Press Gallery? If the Press can develop and refine its new-found powers, can we expect not only more accurate but also even prophetic reporting?
– This should be good. Take your time.
-I am indebted to Senator Georges, who urges me to take my time. The fact is that this proves that not all mediums are reliable in their capacity for extra-sensory perception. Those who knew the Army in the old daysincluding Senator Primmer and others- will know that there is a saying in the Army that a verbal message is not worth the paper it is written on. I commend that saying to people. It is true that Senator Missen is overseas at this moment. Unless there is extra-sensory perception and intra-terrestrial communication, Senator Missen has not conveyed his views. Sadly, for the moment, but happily temporarily, Senator Peter Rae has acute laryngitis and cannot utter a word. Let me simply say having been to the party room, that he did not communicate yesterday. The fact is, therefore, that we have from the party room the various ghostly voices that are heard at all party meetings and are communicated- sadly, however inaccurately- in the Press. Nevertheless, I do not want to reflect upon the other qualities of the medium concerned.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, Mr Pearson, has carried out a survey of informal votes cast during the 1975 and 1977 elections? Is it a fact that Senator Chaney, when he was Minister for Administrative Services, was involved in that survey being initiated? Does the survey show that the great majority of informal votes were cast for candidates of the Australian Labor Party? Can the Minister say what the purpose of the survey is? Is it a fact that it is intended to make the survey available to the Parliament so that optional preferential voting can be instituted with the intention that all votes properly recorded will be properly reflected in the ultimate result?
– I regret that I have no recollection of the matters contained in the second part of the honourable senator’s question, which was related directly to my period as Minister for Administrative Services. He asked me whether I was involved in the initiation of a survey of this type. Quite frankly, I have no recollection of that. There is some faint stirring of memory, but I really cannot rely on it. I will seek for the honourable senator as soon as possible an answer to all four parts of his question.
– I ask the Minister for Education whether he is aware of what is referred to as a ‘staffing agreement’ made in 1977 between the former Premier of Tasmania, Mr Neilson, and the Tasmanian Teachers Federation, in which it was agreed that 642 extra teachers were to be appointed. As letters have been written to honourable senators requesting that Federal funding be made available so that this undertaking can be met, I ask: Was the Minister a party to that undertaking? Was he consulted before it was given? Did he undertake to provide the necessary funds for the provision of the additional 642 teachers? Does he consider the additional appointments at this time to be a Federal or State responsibility?
- Senator Archer asks a series of questions. It is true that the former Premier and Treasurer of Tasmania, Mr Neilson, announced in his 1977-78 Budget Speech that agreement had been reached with the Tasmanian Teachers Federation concerning future staffing policy to reduce teacher loadings. The agreement meant that the total teacher force should be increased by 642 over a four-year period. The increase in the 1978 school year was to be 183, and in the 1978-79 Budget provision was made for a further increase of 1 77 in teacher numbers, bringing the total increase in two years to 360, or 8 per cent. I was not a party to this undertaking; nor was I consulted before it was given to the Teachers Federation.
The Commonwealth, through the Schools Commission, makes grants to the States for overall resource usage in schools, based on advice provided by the Commission. The Commission has advised that in 1 976-77 per-pupil operating resources in Tasmanian government schools had exceeded the Commission’s target standards at both primary and secondary levels. That was before the agreement to increase staff numbers was entered into. In fact, for that year Tasmanian primary schools had the most favourable per-pupil resource levels of all government systems- 16 per cent above the Schools Commission’s target standard and years ahead of the target year. Tasmanian government secondary schools schools, at 7 per cent above the secondary target standard, ranked second among the six State government school systems. Policy on the provision of staff in government schools remains a State responsibility.
I sought this information because I had shown to me copies of the letters that had been circulated on the subject. That was an attempt, before the event, to stir up amongst teachers in Tasmania apprehension and fear that actions by the Federal Government would result in some disemployment of teachers. Let me simply say that no such actions have occurred or will occur. What has happened amounts simply to scare tactics, with no basis at all. If a State government makes an undertaking to employ teachers, it does so without qualification and within its own Budget. If the State Government says today that it has not the money that it needs for that purpose, it has nevertheless the capacity, through its own wide range of taxes, to provide funds for such employment. Let it stand up and be counted and not lean, for its broken promises, on others.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, refers to the Australian National Railways and the determination expressed in the last Federal Budget that a $60m cost-saving program should be instituted by the Australian National Railways Commission. The Minister will know, from questions asked, and statements made, in the Senate, that such cost savings have affected apprenticeship intake and railway service to country areas, and that Commission officers have consulted frequently community and other leaders in respect thereto. I ask: Is the Minister able to state to what extent those costsaving objectives, which have worsened services, may have been reviewed and reduced in effect, and whether the Minister taken action to moderate them? Also, can he review some of the matters, which are presently causing a great deal of industrial discontent among the unions? Will he say to what extent the recent determinations of the Treasurer in respect of expenditure cuts affecting transport are likely to add to that situation?
– I will refer all those questions to Mr Nixon for reply.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I remind the Minister of the recent publication of an evaluation of the Victorian Liberal Government’s initiatives in the area of random breath testing. If the results showed a drop of 25 per cent in serious injuries and a drop of 70 per cent in deaths over a period of random breath testing, compared with a control period, can the Minister advise whether the Northern Territory plans to test the program? Is she aware that the New South Wales Labor Government steadfastly refuses so to do? Does she endorse the value of social interventions which reduce death and injury to Australian citizens- often innocent citizens in the case of drink drivingand does she know whether there is any intention to introduce such a program into areas where the Commonwealth has an executive function?
– I have some information on that report. I am aware, following the testing that was undertaken in Victoria, that in the two-year period there was a reduction of 72.4 per cent in recorded fatalities. This was attributed to the very significant increase in the random breath testing that had been conducted in the State of Victoria. It would need to be supported by a demonstration of a longer term effect and by thorough analysis of casualty data before the trend could be established. Preliminary analysis by the Victorian Road Safety and Traffic Authority shows promising trends in injury reduction since the stepping up of random breath testing measures in Victoria. However, I understand that recently there was a reference to a drop of 25 per cent in serious injuries during the measurement period. I am informed that that was an error in the Press report, which did give some publicity to the matter. 1 do agree with the honourable senator- and I know the Minister for Health agrees- that the study does emphasise the value of measuring the effects of social interventions. This was an important measure that was undertaken. I understand that the Minister for the Capital Territory accepted the advice of the Law Reform Commission and introduced in 1977 the current Australian Capital Territory Motor Traffic (Alcohol and Drugs) Ordinance, which is based on the Commission’s recommendations. That Ordinance provides that a person may be required to submit to a preliminary breath test where a police officer has reasonable cause to suspect that that person has alcohol in his body, has been involved in an accident or has committed the offence of culpable driving. I understand that the Australian Capital Territory Police are satisfied that the current legislation is working effectively, but it will be kept under review.
The Minister for Transport has expressed the view that at the Australian Transport Advisory Council he would press for wider adoption of random breath testing if the Victorian trial proved successful. I take it that, following the results of that testing, he would be interested in seeking, in the Advisory Council, the cooperation of the States and Territories in regard to this sort of preventive intervention. As far as the Northern Territory is concerned, I am unaware of what action it has taken. I will seek any further information required from those concerned.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Yesterday in another place the Prime Minister gave figures purporting to be the costs of converting the two Boeing 707 aircraft for use in the VIP fleet and for defence purposes. Can the Minister supply the Senate with the continuing costs of the refit that will be necessary each time the aeroplanes are converted from defence to VIP use?
– These are not matters on which I have any first hand information; nor do I know whether there will be a continuing need for major configuration changes. I suggest that the honourable senator put the question on the Notice Paper, and I will get the information.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I refer to the Australian Government’s policy of advertising in overseas countries to attract a wide range of skilled tradesmen to migrate to Australia. In particular, I refer to a paper on this matter from West Germany, tabled in the Senate on Monday by Senator Ryan. What is the urgency for attracting such tradesmen to come to Australia? Why cannot such vacancies be filled by unemployed persons already in Australia? What steps can be and are being taken by the Government to train unemployed young people in these needed skills and trades?
– Australia has lodged advertisements in the West German Press indicating an interest in receiving migration applications from people in a range of skilled occupations. In all cases the occupations are in persistent under-supply in certain locations in Australia. Australia has chosen to advertise for these occupations in view of the inability of Australian employers to fill local needs from within the Australian labour market. In all cases a long period of training is required to produce the appropriate level of skill. It would be irresponsible for Australia to refuse to fill the vacancies through immigration in the hope that after a prolonged period they could be filled through domestic training schemes. Many of the occupations advertised are key jobs upon which employment of ancillary workers depends. Any delay in filling them would impede the creation of job opportunities for less skilled workers already in Australia.
Many statements have been made with regard to training and retraining programs for Australians but it would be simplistic to suggest that retraining programs might wholly replace selective migrant recruitment. Immigration is in no sense a substitute for retraining and the reverse applies also. The Australian Government currently operates a wide range of training programs to equip Australian workers to fill various local skill needs. However, the Government recognises that the supply of certain skills through immigration will continue to be necessary to fill needs which arise at short notice and to acquire new skills and techniques currently not in Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Earlier this morning I asked Senator Webster whether it was a fact that the Capricornia section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park had not been declared because of petroleum exploration permits. Senator Webster replied that the section had not been declared because of discussions on constitutional matters between the Queensland and Federal Governments. Also this morning, in answer to an identical question in the House of Representatives, the Minister for National Development, Mr Newman, said: ‘Yes, that is the reason why the areas have not been proclaimed as part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park’. I now ask the Minister-
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. I have been in touch with my office and have been informed that Mr Newman has advised that he answered yes to two questions, which were not the questions which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is attempting to infer.
– Let him infer. There will be another day.
– There is always time for Senator Carrick to read the note which has been passed to him. 1 know that that is important. The question is: Which Minister is in fact misleading the Parliament on this important issue?
- Mr President, as I gather from Senator Webster, no Minister is misleading the Parliament- only the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce aware that Qantas Airways Ltd and Air New Zealand Ltd have introduced a special low return fare of $A135 to apply during the JuneAugust period? As this period is the winter season in Australia and New Zealand, can the Minister provide the Senate with information about the likely effects of this move on the Australian winter tourist industry?
– I am not able to provide the information requested by the honourable senator now, but I do not think he sought that. I will seek the information for him and give him a reply as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. Earlier today, in reply to a question from Senator Button, the Minister said that comparisons of the size of the deficit in different time periods were not particularly relevant unless they were related to a percentage of gross domestic product. I am able to tell Senator Carrick that during the three fiscal years under the Labor Government the deficit averaged 3.3 per cent of GDP and, with the increase in this year’s deficit announced by the Treasurer yesterday, the average deficit for the three fiscal years under the Fraser Government will be 3.5 per cent of GDP. I ask: By its own standards has this Government failed and will it apply its own yardstick and call an election?
-If Senator Walsh looks back to the last Budget of the Whitlam Government, he will find that under that Labor Treasurer the Budget heading not for a deficit of approximately $2,000m which he had indicated, but double that amount. Indeed, if Labor senators require me to table in the Senate at another time the progression of the figures to show what would have happened had the trend of the last year of the Whitlam Government continued, I will happily do so. The projected deficit would have risen to between $4,500 and $5,000m. Because of the radical action of the Fraser Government in reducing expenditure in its first half year in office the deficit that built up in that last year of the Whitlam Government did not approach $5,000m. Therefore, the basis of
Senator Walsh’s question is totally false. If any Labor senators desire me to do so, I will obtain a paper on the progression of the deficit during the last year of the Whitlam Government. Now we have eloquent silence.
– I direct a supplementary question to the Minister. As a point of fact, I inform him the projected deficit for 1975-76 was $2.8 billion and not $2 billion as Senator Carrick stated. More importantly, how was this Government able to estimate in November 1975 what the deficit would be at the end of that fiscal year when the excuse given by the Treasurer last Thursday night for not making a final decision on taxation was that the Government could not estimate the deficit at the end of May?
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I submit to you that some honourable senators are taking advantage of supplementary questions. Senator Walsh’s question is not a supplementary question. It is a new question.
-Supplementary questions must always be directly relevant to the original question.
– I also raise a point of order. I ask you, Mr President, to look at Hansard tomorrow. I believe you will find that Senator Walsh has asked another question. By using this device, the Opposition is repeatedly taking away the opportunity of Government senators to ask questions.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the same point of order. While you are looking at what Senator Lewis has asked you to look at, would you also endeavour to calculate the time taken by Ministers in answering questions as opposed to the time taken by honourable senators on this side of the chamber when asking questions?
– I am very conscious ofthe time taken and the relevancy required in a question seeking further information. It is very difficult to reject the asking of a supplementary question because of certain aspects of it. I call the Leader ofthe Government in the Senate.
-I take Senator Walsh’s question as being an invitation to me to present to the Senate an accurate statement on the progress of the Whitlam Government’s last Budget. I will do so and in so doing I will respond to his question on how that trend could be estimated in general terms. The fact of the matter is that there is no difference in what has happened. The trend of the present deficit is from some $2.8 billion to about $3.4 billion or $3.5 billion. The trend of the Whitlam Government Budget deficit was from $2.8 billion to about $5 billion. That is a slightly different record.
– In view of the upward surge of interest in securities listed on Australian stock exchanges, will the Leader of the Government in the Senate state the current attitude of the Government with regard to foreign ownership and control of established profitable Australian companies?
– The honourable senator asks about a policy matter. His question requires a precise answer. I ask him to place the question on the Notice Paper.
While I am on my feet I move that further questions be put on notice.
-Several days ago Senator Douglas McClelland asked me a question on oil shale deposits at Glen Davis. I have a brief answer. Oil shale is one possible alternative source of liquid fuel in Australia in the future. Substantial investigation of commercial prospects for the processing of oil shale in Queensland is under way. The Government is supporting associated research and development work in relation to one major deposit. It is well known that deposits of oil shale were mined and processed at Glen Davis. In emerging energy circumstances, it might be appropriate for the development prospects of this deposit to be reassessed. No doubt the holders of the lease will be giving consideration to this. At this stage it would not be appropriate for the Government to initiate a feasibility study but the Department of National Development is available to consult with interested parties and to examine whether support of associated research and development work might be appropriate.
– No. It is traditional for the Leader of the Government in the Senate to ask that further questions be placed on notice. By arrangement and acceptance one hour is allowed for questions, but the Minister has the right at any time to ask that further question be placed on notice.
– On this occasion the Minister did not ask that further questions be put on notice. He moved that further questions be put on notice. I think the Hansard report will show that what I have said is correct. I ask you, Mr President, whether I am entitled to speak to that motion?
– No. It could have been a slip of the tongue by the Leader of the Government.
Senator CARRICK (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate)- by leave- Inadvertently I did use the word ‘move’. I should have asked, as is the procedure, that further questions be placed on notice. I now do so.
- Mr President, I think that we are getting out of order. The Leader of the Government -
– I raise a point of order, Mr President.
– I am taking a point of order. The Leader of the Government in the Senate moved that further questions be placed on notice. I have argued many times that that is the correct way to end Question Time. The Minister should either move a motion or seek leave -
– I raise a point of order.
– I am hearing a point of order now.
– With respect, Mr President, Senator Georges did not say that he was taking a point of order. He stood up and started to speak. My point of order is that Senator Georges should either speak to a point of order or speak by leave- one or the other.
– Yes. Senator Lewis is quite right. Senator Georges, as you raise this matter -
– And I will continue to raise it.
– At times when a slip of the tongue occurs leniency is extended. I thank Senator McLaren for pointing out that the Leader of the Government had made a little error in using the word ‘move’ instead of asking that further questions be placed on notice. That is nothing at all. We have given Senator Georges leniency in the same way time and again. If I were he I would not raise an issue of this nature. He is wasting time. The Minister has indicated that he made a mistake. The matter has been explained. It is all over.
– I am not accepting that.
– Yesterday Senator Keeffe and Senator Townley asked questions about the crash of a DC 10 aircraft in the United States of America and about certain matters which might relate to the operation of aircraft in Australia. I was able to give them some information at the end of Question Time yesterday. 1 have been provided with further information by the DepartmentofTransport which I think I should put before honourable senators.
I am advised that it is common for one manufacturer to make parts for different aircraft manufacturers. Electronic equipment, landing gears and engines are prime examples. The bolts from the DC 10 referred to by Senator Townley are identified by a Douglas part number and are not used on any of the other aircraft types mentioned. Australian operated Boeing 727 and 747 and Douglas DC9 aircraft are subject to a continuous maintenance inspection system which thoroughly covers the engine attachment areas. The Boeing and Douglas manufactured aircraft operated by Ansett Airlines of Australia and Trans-Australia Airlines have experienced metal fatigue and corrosion damage in various airframe and engine components through their service. It is not practicable to research and retrieve the details of such defects discovered and rectified in Australian aircraft. There is a normal expectancy of such defects in modern transport aircraft and, of course, there is a stringent maintenance overhaul procedure during the life of the aircraft in order to detect and rectify such matters before they progress to a state where safety may be endangered.
The design of modern transport aircraft uses, where practicable, a fail-safe design philosophy to control the inevitable development of fatigue and corrosion damage in service. The integrity of the aircraft is maintained by means of a substantiated inspection program rather than by introducing a fixed retirement time for the aircraft. Accordingly retirement lives have not been set for Boeing 727 and Douglas DC9 aircraft. It should be emphasised again that the wing engine retention system used on the Douglas DC 10 aircraft is quite different from that used on the other jet transport types operating in Australia. Nevertheless, the airworthiness branch of the Department of Transport is closely monitoring the safety information being released as the investigation of the Chicago DC 10 accident proceeds.
As more information becomes available the Department will ensure that should any possibility arise that any other aircraft types could become involved, then any necessary action will be taken without delay.
– I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter dated 30 May 1 979 from Senator Evans:
Dear Mr President
In accordance with Standing Order 64, I give notice that tomorrow (Thursday, 3 1 May) I shall move:
That in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency:
The funding and administration of the High Court. ‘
Yours sincerely, G. J. EVANS Senator for the State of Victoria
Is the motion supported?
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– I move:
Mr President, the High Court of Australia occupies a supremely strategic place, not only in our legal system but also, by virtue of its constitutional adjudication, in our political, our social and our economic system as well. Although the High Court is usually rather less visible than the other arms of government, it is at least as important as the Executive in determining the general shape and character of Australian society, and it is probably more important than this Parliament. In those circumstances, it is important that the High Court should not only be a body in whose individual membership the community has the utmost confidence but also it should be an institution which operates with maximum effectiveness in carrying out the role which the Constitution and the law assign to it. It also should be an institution which does not, by its behaviour, forfeit the respect of the community. But both the effectiveness with which the High Court is discharging its functions, and the respect in which the court is held, are matters which have given steadily increasing ground for concern in recent times, so much so that it has now reached the point where in the opinion of the Opposition the matter justifies the attention of an urgency debate in this Parliament.
I am concerned, in this debate, not so much with the quality of the actual decisions of the court, nor with the questions relating to the appointment or performance of individual judges, although there is much to be said on these matters. I am concerned, or rather the Opposition, is concerned, with matters relating to the funding and administration of the court as a whole. There are four specific matters which have been causing particular and increasing concern in recent times. The first of these matters is the extravagance associated with the construction of the new High Court building. The second matter is the paucity and the poor quality of the information made available with respect to the operations and administration of the court. Thirdly, there is the matter of delays in the determination of cases heard by the court, even relatively straightforward cases. Fourthly, there is the poor quality of the presentation of those decisions, amounting in some cases to almost incomplete unintelligibility not only to laymen but also to lawyers.
It is undoubtedly true that the Government has some obvious responsibility in respect of most of these matters, particularly in making funds available or not available, as the case may be. But if there is any single thread linking together and explaining these various matters of concern to the Opposition, it is the personality and behaviour of the Chief Justice, Sir Garfield Barwick. Sir Garfield has dominated the High Court like a colossus since his appointment as Chief Justice fresh from the ranks ofthe coalition Ministry in 1964. However, I do not think that even Sir Garfield’s closest judicial and regal admirers would describe that dominance as an intellectual one. The Chief Justice’s opinionsvery often they have been lone, dissenting opinions- have not been such as to attract that kind of intellectual hero worship with which one associates, for better or for worse, the tenure of Sir Owen Dixon as Chief Justice. Sir Garfield Barwick ‘s dominance is more a matter of force of personality.
The Chief Justice’s crustiness, if I may use a relatively neutral word, on and off the bench is legendary. Moreover, regrettably, Sir Garfield Barwick is not a man of whom it can be said that his bark is worse than his bite. It is perfectly true that Sir Garfield Barwick had an outstanding reputation as an advocate- on all the evidence a thoroughly justified reputation. The trouble is that that particular reputation has not diminished one whit during his time on the bench. What he has not yet developed is his reputation as a judge.
It is apparent that, as befits a colossus, Sir Garfield Barwick has strong views about his place in Australian legal history. Like Sir John Kerr, Sir Garfield Barwick certainly earned a place of a kind in that history by virtue of the role he played in the constitutional crisis of 1 975. Not content with that, nor with the uncertain memorial which his contributions to the law reports will represent, it appears that Sir Garfield Barwick wants a more substantial monument to his stewardship- one of concrete and steel. In that respect, he appears not to have been content with housing the Sydney bar during his leadership of it some years ago; he now wants to go down - I hesitate, because it might be unparliamentary, to describe him as the Albert Speer of the Australian judiciary- to put it politely, as the King Cheops of the Australian judicial tradition, the man to bring to the fruition the long cherished dream -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. 1 have no wish to disturb the flow of Senator Evan’s thoughts or words, but I do draw your attention to the requirement which I think is incumbent on us all not to abuse the traditions we have in this House. In particular, in making references to the judiciary, I think we should be restrained. There is no motion before us which I think would permit Senator Evans to make remarks which might be regarded as disparaging to the Chief Justice. I draw your attention to that matter, Mr Acting Deputy President.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Robertson)-I will rule on that point of order. At page 152 of Australian Senate Practice, Senator Evans, it is indicated that there will be no criticism of the justices of the High Court. I think that if you could proceed to debate the topic which is before the Senate- namely, the funding and administration of the High Courtwithout making undue reflection upon the persons of the justices of that Court you would be in keeping with the traditions and practices of this place.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, whilst I appreciate the stature of Mr Odgers’ contribution to Senate practice, I would appreciate hearing a more specific reference to the particular Standing Order on which you rely in making that determination.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Evans, I did draw attention to the traditions of this place as recorded in Australian Senate Practice. Whilst there is no Standing Order on this, I think that we do have certain practices and traditions which are recorded in the book and we follow them.
– With respect, Mr Acting Deputy President, it is very difficult indeed to talk about the administration of the High Court without referring in some detail to the particular person who, more than anyone else, is responsible for that administration. But, in deference to your ruling, I will endeavour to modify the character of my remarks. I simply conclude the point that Sir Garfield Barwick apparently regards himself as being the appropriate person to bring to fruition the long-cherished dream of giving Australia its own national High Court building in Canberra. For a time it did appear that Sir Garfield aspired not only to the erection of a tabernacle of that kind, from which he could pronounce his and the High Court’s judgments, but also to the purchase of a $400,000 rural mansion in which he could sleep on those decisions. Thankfully, it appears that is one whim- if it might be so respectfully described- which the Government has not been prepared to indulge.
Regrettably, however, this does not seem entirely true of other matters, and I come now to the particular question of the High Court building. I do not wish it to be thought that either I or the Opposition oppose the bringing of the High Court to the national capital or housing it in an edifice of an appropriately dignified stature. Anyone who has in fact witnessed at close hand the squalid, Dickensian conditions in which the court sits and the judges work in both Sydney and Melbourne could not for a moment deny the necessity for a new building. But what is not at all clear is whether the nation or indeed anyone needs the kind of building that we are going to get. On any view it is a very grand building, a very splendid building, and it has been put together at a very splendid cost to the taxpayer- on the latest projections a cost of something over $40m as compared with the original estimate of $ 18m. No doubt that factor will escalate over time until the building’s scheduled completion in April next year. That fact, incidentally, does not include the cost of the furniture, fittings and equipment for the building.
It may be that that kind of expenditure does not seem especially extravagant when compared with the $ 1 5 1 m that is proposed to be spent on the new Parliament House, an expenditure which I for one have not been backward about publicly defending. But what I think has to be appreciated is that, leaving aside for a moment the question of tourists and visitors, whereas Parliament House already accommodates some 1,500 people and will be expected to accommodate a good many more by the end of the century, and whereas the Parliament House locates not only 188 parliamentarians, the whole apparatus of the Executive heads of government and in effect the whole of the national media, the High Court’s job basically as a building is just to accommodate seven judges, the court staff- now 50 and anticipated to rise perhaps to a maximum of 100- and a handful of litigants at any one time. It is true, of course, that the building will attract a good many visitors, but it is difficult to believe it will attract anything like the same number of visitors as either this Parliament or the new National Gallery, because of the relatively unspectacular character of what happens in the law by comparison with what happens here, and by comparison with what will be on show in the new National Gallery, a building of similar size- but $6m less project cost.
The cost of the High Court building is rather like a cheap perfume- really all in the packaging. There is a gigantic public hall with a ceiling 80 feet high. There is a main ceremonial court room with a ceiling nearly 60 feet high. There is a mass of elaborately designed circulation space in and around the building. The actual working space is by comparison very small and certainly no provision appears to be made for the kind of expansion which one could reasonably expect over the course of the next few decades both in number of judges and their supporting staffs. Perhaps it is too late to be cavilling about these basic aspects of design of the High Court building, although I regret that the Parliament did not devote more attention to these matters when they were being resolved in 1972 and 1973.
But it is not too late to cavil about the extraordinary escalation in the building’s original cost which is directly attributable, if I may say so with the utmost respect, to the personal meddling of the Chief Justice. It is not for nothing-
– I rise to order. I take it, Mr Acting Deputy President, that the words ‘the personal meddling of the Chief Justice’ are not in keeping with the ruling you gave a few moments ago that such words are in fact a reflection on a judge.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The comment is made on page 152 of Australian Senate Practice that the judiciary is not to be criticised nor are reflections to be made on judges. I would assume that the difficulty could be resolved if the indication of the involvement of the judge could perhaps be rephrased. I think it is a matter of wording.
– It is not for nothing, Mr Acting Deputy President, the building has been dubbed popularly ‘Gar’s Mahal’. By all accounts the Chief Justice not only was associated initially with the selection of the building design but also, ever since its construction began, has been playing about with it rather like an eight year old child with a mechano set, taking a bit off here, putting a bit back there, redesigning this, fiddling with that-
Seantor Chaney- Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. This is really conducting this debate as though it were some sort of law school fun moot. To talk of the Chief Justice of the High Court as an eight year old child, I think, is not upholding the dignity of this chamber. I think that the honourable senator should be called to order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I think that what Senator Evans is trying to do is to make a point about the construction of the building. Perhaps he could moderate his language to indicate what has been done without reflecting upon the Chief Justice.
– Among the things that have been done is the development of some minor but characteristic excursions into tinkering, such as the addition to the building’s fabric of a British coat of arms, I am led to understand, in a quite extraordinarily and spectacularly irrelevant manifestation of a latter-day colonial cringe. This is a matter on which I raised a question in this place. Because of the obvious sensitivity and embarrassment that the Government feels on this matter. I have not yet had the courtesy of an answer. It is less these minor and symbolic matters which are in issue. What is in issue here and what justifies the very serious attention of this place to the matters that I am raising is the implication of this interference with the design of the building in terms of its cost to the pockets of Australian taxpayers.
– I raise a point of order. Mr Acting Deputy President, I draw your attention to Standing Order 64.
Seantor O’Byrne- That’s better. You should quote the Standing Order.
– Yes. Sub-clause (5.) of that Standing Order says that in speaking to a motion such as the motion moved by Senator Evans, the speaker shall confine himself to the one subject in respect of which the motion has been made. The matter of urgency before the Senate is: ‘The funding and administration of the High Court’. With respect, Senator Evans is talking about the construction of a building and is alleging that the Chief Justice of the High Court has involved himself in some way in the construction of the building. I suggest to you, Mr Acting Deputy
President, that as a matter of fact in no way can the construction of the High Court building be said to be the funding and administration of the High Court. It is a different matter altogether.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The High Court being referred to is the new building being constructed. I think that when this is being discussed, the funding of it and its administration, including the administration of the building of the new High Court, would be appropriate under Standing Order 64.
– Without canvassing your ruling, Mr Acting Deputy President, I simply point out that if that is so- if the implication is that we are talking about the High Court as being the new building, which I could understand being the subject matter of a debate- any comments about administration also would have to relate to that building. That is obviously not Senator Evans’s intention because that building is not administered at this stage except as a building contract. I ask you, Mr Acting Deputy President, to consider the point of order because if it is to be taken that we are debating the funding of that building as the substance of this motion, we ought not to go outside that single subject.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I take your point.
– On the point of order, I made it clear in the very first sentence of my speech that I was referring to the High Court as an institution. Any institution is a combination of bricks and mortar, the people who man it and the way in which it is administered. All those things are properly within the subject matter of this motion. Although the Government is engaging with some success in a spectacular effort to reduce my speaking time, I suggest that I am perfectly in order in addressing myself to the particular matter, the costing of the High Court building being squarely within the framework of this motion.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- We are speaking about the funding of the building and I think that the administration of it will be dealt with later.
– If I get time, with your indulgence, Mr Acting Deputy President. The additional cost which has been attributable directly to the Chief Justice’s engagement in the matters relating to the detail of building design- if I may use that circumlocution- has been acknowledged by the Government, in answers to questions put in this place, to be $2. 25m. That amount is composed, first of all, of the cost of new window treatments amounting to an extra $lm. This is attributable mainly to the installation of bullet-proof glass. I understand that the kind specified by the Chief Justice was obtainable, perhaps understandably enough, only in South Africa. Apparently this glass is to ward off the platoons of snipers which are now installing themselves in dugouts on the other side of Lake Burley Griffin. The second cost factor relates to partitioning of office areas and amounts to another $600,000. The third figure, which has been referred to and acknowledged specifically by this Government is $650,000 for the refinishing of walls and ceilings in the main court rooms in timber panelling rather than, as was part of the original design, finished concrete- finished concrete apparently not being posh enough for Sir Garfield Barwick and his brother justices.
In the Press there have been further suggestions, which the Government has neither confirmed nor denied- I would be delighted to get some statement either way from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) today- that Sir Garfield Barwick ‘s excursions into architectural design on behalf of the user of the building have been much more extensive than this, amounting in true cost terms to something like $6m. Whatever the cost, it is obvious that very substantial costs have been involved. It is equally obvious, in my submission, that that extra cost has been quite indefensibly incurred.
Another aspect of the new building which has recently caused a legitimate degree of public concern is the staffing that is to be associated with it. It has been suggested in the Press- again this has been neither confirmed nor denied by the Government- that on behalf of the Court Sir Garfield has submitted an application for something like another 50 staff to be associated with the manning of the new court building- which represents an increase of something like 100 per cent on the present personal, court and registry staff associated with the Court’s operations- at a total cost to revenue of something like $600,000 per annum. If it were true that these staff are to be employed to improve the Court’s administration which is presently pitifully inadequate- as I hope to demonstrate in a few moments if I have time- and if they are to improve the library and research facilities associated with the Court, which are presently pitifully inadequate and indeed almost nonexistent, I for one would have no objection to this kind of staffing increase.
I would appreciate some response from the Minister on this. It seems that the great bulk of these staff will be required not for these purposes but to act as attendants or security guards in respect to the building itself, a function made necessary by the sprawling grandeur of the scale on which the building is being constructed. If it is true, as again has been reported, that the Public Service Board, with its new-found enthusiasm for stringency in all matters associated with staffing, has cut this proposed figure to something like an increase of 20, we will have the absurd result either that the building- which has been designed largely as a public building because the working aspects of it, as I said earlier, represent a very small proportion of the total fabric- will be unable to be open to the public either wholly or for a very substantial part of the time; or, more alarmingly, the building will be open but the new court will suffer dreadfully in terms of the staffing of its administration and, more particularly, its library and research facilities.
On the available information one fears that if it becomes a choice for the Chief Justice between library and research staff or a sea of liveried flunkies around the place, the choice would be all too enthusiastically for the latter. Either way the situation seems to demonstrate an alarming lack of appreciation of proper priorities which from the very outset have attended the construction of this building and the proposals with respect to its operations. Everything that has been associated with the building and with these priorities has reflected discredit on the Court and brought it into disrespect. I suggest that that is a matter which ought to be of parliamentary concern.
The second matter with which I propose to deal relates to the paucity and poor quality of the information which has been made available with respect to the operation and administration of the Court. Regrettably, over the years it has been almost impossible to obtain meaningful statistics about the way in which the Court operates, in terms of numbers of writs filed, the dates on which matters are heard, who hears them and the outcome of cases, other than by waiting the appearance of the published reports, which are incomplete in all of these administrative matters and in any event, do not appear officially until long after the event. Nothing on the subject appears in the Commonwealth Year Book, or in reports to the Parliament.
The only glimmer of hope in this respectsince 1 have been critical of the Chief Justice in what I have said so far let me balance it with a plaudit where it is due- has been the introduction of the biennial speech by the Chief Justice on ‘The State ofthe Australian Judicature’. This speech was inaugurated two years ago, and we are about to hear, I hope, another in Adelaide this July. That speech does incorporate some admittedly inadequate statistics, but they are better than what we had previously. However, that sort of publicly available information about the administration of the Court does not go far enough. It is depressing to record that the Court, and those responsible for its administration seem to be quite unwilling to go further. It appears that the Court, and in particular the Chief Justice, believe in giving out only that information which is regarded as ‘appropriate’. The Chief Justice seems to believe in giving out information only on his own terms.
On 24 November last year I placed a Question on the Notice Paper which sought some relatively straightforward and routine statistical information about the operation of the Court. It concerned matters to which I referred before, such as when writs are filed, when cases are heard and so on. On 27 March, fully four months later, I received from the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) a reply which said in essence that, because of administrative difficulties and the unavailability of staff, the Court and the Attorney-General were not in a position to provide the information sought. That would be depressing enough if it were true and it would illustrate the points I make about the inadequacy of the administrative arrangements which have been traditionally associated with the Court. But, regrettably, I fear that even that is not the whole answer. I have reason to suspect that the real reason I did not get this information was a desire on the part of the Chief Justice to ensure that no questions be answered which would expose to public and parliamentary scrutiny -
– Order! Senator Evans you must not reflect upon one of Her Majesty’s judges.
– I appreciate that, Mr President. I have heard that said many times during the last 25 minutes I have been making my speech. But no one has been able to point to any Standing Order to that effect. The matters to which I refer are not mere personal abuse. They are matters related to the administration of this Court -
– Order! Over a period of years a set of procedures have been evolved. One of those procedures is the one to which I have just referred.
– It seems to me that in this place far too much attention is devoted to the decencies of procedure and far too little attention is devoted to the indecencies perpetrated by people in high public office. There is nothing in the material that 1 have had before me orin anything that has been said by the Government which dissuades me from the belief that there has been direct personal intervention by the Chief Justice to stop the communication of this basic and straightforward information. If the Attorney-General is in a position to deny that I would be delighted to hear it. It worries me, and it ought to worry every Australian that there is a secrecy and an obsessive mystique about the way in which this Court operates. It is a mystique and secrecy which inevitably is very largely the product of the leadership of the Court, because that is the way in which it has always operated. It is a matter for very great regret that the Australian people, and even Australian parliamentarians, cannot get the information that is necessary to make informed judgments about the way in which this supremely important institution operates.
There are other matters which, had I but more than two minutes left to me, I would be wanting to express in more detail. For instance, I would refer to delays in the determination of cases heard by the Court. In the absence of the kind of figures that I have been endeavouring to get out of the Court administration, it is difficult to obtain anything more than an expressionistic feeling for this matter. From the expressionistic response that one gets, simply from scanning the publicly-available information, it is obvious that delays of eight, nine or 10 months, even in matters involving directly and immediately the liberty of the subject are commonplace in this Court. I am talking not about delays in the setting down of matters for hearing but in their adjudication- the time between when they are heard and the time when judgments emerge.
In one case I recall, that of Atlas Tiles v. Briers, a delay occurred between the matter being finally heard, in May 1976, and a decision coming down, in October 1978, of 2 years and 5 months. On any view, such a delay is indefensible. Of course, one can never eliminate that sort of thing entirely. There is a whole variety of reasons for it, but a number of obvious organisational improvements could be made in the Court, improvements associated both with the number and level of the research staff made available to the Court and, more particularly, in the way in which the Court does its business. Such improvements could alleviate substantially the delay situation. So far as the organisation of the Court’s business is concerned- this is one of the points that I intended to make under my final heading about the presentation of Court decisions- one of the most gruelling aspects of any attempt to get an appreciation, not only in the legal profession but also amongst members of the public at large, of what the Court is doing, is created by the unintelligible manner of presentation of Court judgments- I mean by that primarily the way in which nearly every case has a multiplicity of individual judgments. From seven judges we have often received seven individual opinions, with no attempt made by the Court to draw those opinions together and reduce to an intelligible result by intelligible reasoning, the basis of the decision in question, lt is that kind of administrative situation, taken with all the other things that I have mentioned, which justifies the very genuine concern that has been expressed by the Opposition on this occasion.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I did not want to interrupt Senator Evans, but I was very interested in your ruling about criticism of judges. As I understand it, you formed a view that Senator Evans was reflecting on the integrity of the Chief Justice, and intervened on that basis. Do I take it from your ruling that it goes further, that no member of this Senate may criticise a judge for his efficiency or inefficiency or for the quality of his judgments? Does your ruling extend that far or does it stop at that point where a senator may not attack the integrity of a judge?
– As I said before, it is not in order to reflect upon Her Majesty’s judges in person. If there is to be any reflection on judges, it must be made in a specific motion before the chamber.
– Although Senator Evans made it clear that he had strong feelings on the matters that he brought before the Senate today, it appears plain that to bring them forward in the guise of a matter of urgency somewhat stretches the meaning of the word ‘urgency’. Nothing in what has been put to the Senate by the honourable senator suggests that the position is any different today from what it was a month ago, or is any different from what it will be in one months time. I concede that the Senate will not be sitting one month from now but one wonders why on this particular Thursday there is need suddenly to debate as a matter of urgency the funding and administration of the High Court of Australia.
Of course, if one considers the events of this week and the tactic- within Standing Orders- of the Opposition of taking up time by moving a motion of urgency each day, one can imagine, in the somewhat frazzled condition of the Opposition, that it must get to the point where it says, What in the world can we talk about next?’. Presumably, Senator Evans dusts off some matters of concern- that I know he has been expressing over a period- and says, ‘Here is a good subject; we could debate it’. I suggest that that is about the depth of concern on the matter that is before us. ( Quorum formed).
Mr President, Senator Evans put before the Senate four points which he said were matters of concern to him. He spent the bulk of his time on the question of extravagance of the new High Court building. He spoke at some lengthindeed, with some heat- about what has happened. It seemed to me that he overlooked some very important matters. For example, hie stressed that most of the cost relates to packaging. He went on to refer to the large ceremonial hall which is involved and the mass of surrounding space to service the building, and so on. Of course, that particular matter of urgency is one that has been around since 1973. This building was designed in 1 973 in a competition instituted when the Whitlam Government was in power. The decision was made about the design by the Whitlam Government and the then Prime Minister made a speech on 29 September 1975 in which he expressed his very considerable enthusiasm for what was being done.
It is interesting to contrast the views which have been put by Senator Evans today with the views that were put by the man who actually had the responsibility for getting this building started in 1975. I refer to a journal which is well known to Senator Evans; namely, the Australian Law Journal. At page 559 of volume 49 speeches by Mr Whitlam and his colleague, Mr Uren, on this building will be found. In its design terms, this building has this extravagance of space about which Senator Evans is complaining. Let us hear what Mr Whitlam said about Sir Garfield Barwick in 1975. He stated:
In October 1973, he–
Sir Garfield Barwick was one of the assessors to choose the successful architect. And on 8 October, 1973. he and I announced the winners. I must say, and in this I would be supported by the National Capital Development Commission and a very great number of people in the profession as well as in the administration, that since then Sir Garfield has been unremitting in seeing that this building proceeded. I don’t really believe that the plans could have been so far advanced but for the pressure, completely proper pressure, which he has brought to bear upon mc in this way.
Compare what Mr Whitlam said and contrast with the carping speech that the Senate heard from Senator Evans today. He said:
The building will be a noble one. It may not be as noble as the Chief Justice might have aspired to have it. But it’s the best the country can produce or afford and it will bc in a splendid setting, it will be a worthy home for the Court which stands at the peak of our national judicial system. All of us, I believe, on this occasion should pay tribute to those who over the decades have sought to have this Court in Canberra, and not least to the Chief Justice and the present Justices who have spurred us to see that within not so many years- three or four- the principal seat of the High Court, a noble seat, will be at the seat of government.
That was the Labor Party view in 1 975. It reflects a little more national pride and credit than what we heard from Senator Evans today. Mr Uren, a man who is not notable for promoting palaces which are out of touch with the wishes of people, said:
Now we are engaged in building a National Gallery, and this High Court building.
I gather the National Gallery is another palace of which the Labor Party was proud in 1975-
Much care has gone into designing these two buildings, so they blend together . . . When the British town planner, Lord Holford, visited Australia a few years ago he was critical of the quality of Canberra’s public buildings. He made the valid point that the only building of international stature here was the National Library. Now the creation of these two closely linked buildings will draw much of the sting from this sort of criticism.
I ask honourable senators to contrast what Senator Evans said today with those words of 1975 when so many of the features that have been criticised by him today were determined. Senator Evans went on to detail a series of things which have been changed. He selected the change of glass. He made some reference, in a rather sneering manner, to the fact that it was bullet-proof glass. The Government received advise on that matter from the sort of people who do advise it, who are involved and concerned in matters of security. I am advised that the changes were made for that reason.
A comparison of the costs for this building with building costs generally and a study of new items which have been added will explain the rise from $ 18m to over $40m which was talked about by Senator Evans. Of course, in a sense we are fortunate that the rise was not even greater. I sought some information about the percentage increase in building costs over recent years. They tell a story of their own. Remember those wonderful days when Labor was planning this building? The increase in 1973-74 was 18.6 per cent. In 1974-75 it was 15.8 percent and in 1975-76 it was 15.2 per cent. Are they not nice sorts of annual increases in cost? There is an extraordinary change in the next two years. For the years 1976-77 and 1977-78 the rises were 7.9 per cent and 6.6 per cent. I am grateful to Senator Evans for drawing to my attention yet again the shambles that his Government, the Government he supported, managed to produce and some of the improvements the coalition parties have been able to effect since it came into government.
We have heard complaints from Senator Evans on other aspects of this building. He complained about staffing. I am advised that all staffing for this building will be subject to Public Service Board approval; it will not be a matter which is at the sole discretion of the Court. The building will be subject to staff ceilings, as are other areas of Government activity. I understand that some decisions have been taken with respect to numbers, but those decisions cannot be finalised until the Budget discussions are completed. Hence, at this stage I cannot say in any firm way what the staffing position will be in the new building.
That brings me to another point. Perhaps the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), if he were here, might have felt more able than 1 am to respond to some of the points raised by Senator Evans. Of course, this matter is of such urgency that it had to be heard today and not next Monday, when the Attorney will be here. Mr President, you would be amazed how important it is to the people of Australia that we should debate the question of the High Court this week in the absence of the Attorney rather than wait for three days. I think it is extremely important that people should understand that Senator Evans feels so deeply about this matter and is so concerned to extract information for the people of Australia that he cannot even wait until the Attorney-General is here to deal with the matter, which is within his portfolio responsibility. It again underlines the lack of sincerity with which this matter is put before the Senate as a matter of urgency. I do not challenge Senator Evans’s sincere interest in the matters of administration that he has raised. I challenge the matter being brought forward as a matter which is urgent, for the consideration of this Parliament today.
Senator Evans has raised matters which relate to the quality of information made available. I regret that I am not able to respond as fully as I would like to the matters he has raised, which I am sure are of interest to people who are interested in legal administration in this country. I will refer the matters which he raised to the Attorney. I suggest to Senator Evans that if he is genuinely concerned about those matters there are better ways of doing it than with this motion.
– I have been raising these matters for the last four months in Estimates Committees and in other ways. I have had no response.
– I do not dispute that the honourable senator has made attempts through other means but I suggest that he should use forms other than a motion of urgency as a means of extracting information of this kind. I do not wish to spend time on the remaining matters raised because, in fairness to Senator Evans, he has described his own comments about the fact that there are delays in the Court as impressionistic. I am sure we could stand here exchanging impressions to the great edification of the public and the Senate but without advancing the case very far. I understand that no real complaints about delays have been received by the Attorney-General’s Department. I have no knowledge as to whether complaints were received by the Court about the delay. When Senator Evans finished there was some uncertainty in my mind about precisely what delays he was complaining of. I thought initially that he was saying there were delays in hearings but later I gained the impression that he was concerned about the delay in delivering judgments.
– It was the latter, only the latter.
- Senator Evans confirms that it was the latter. I can say only that it is clearly outside the jurisdiction of this Parliament. We cannot influence the time that judges may take to come to their conclusions. I am sure that it is not a matter on which the Attorney-General would be able to take any action. I can make no comment on the validity of the point which was raised by the honourable senator. My impressions are not sufficiently strong for me to give a response. It seems to me that the matter of the poor quality of presentation is outside the province of the Attorney-General or of this Parliament. I think that since serious business awaits the attention of this House we should move on to that business. I assure Senator Evans that I will draw the attention of the Attorney-General to the matters of substance which he has raised which relate to the administration of justice. Therefore I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put-
That the motion (Senator Evans’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– On behalf of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) and for the information of honourable senators I present an agreement on trade and economic relations and technical co-operation between the Government of Australia and the Government of the state of Bahrain, concluded on 15 May 1979.
– Pursuant to regulation 8A(2) of the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) (Superannuation) Regulations made on 30 May 1977 under the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Act 1973 I present the report on the operations of the Papua New Guinea Superannuation Board and the
Contract Officers (Papua New Guinea) Retirement Benefits Board for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– For the information of honourable senators I present an interim report by the Superannuation Fund Investment Trust on the management of the Superannuation Fund during the year ended 30 June 1978 together with cash statements in respect of that year in the form of a receipts and payments statement and an investments statement; and an interim report by the Commissioner for Superannuation of the general administration and operation of the Superannuation Act 1976- other than Part III, which deals with the management of the Superannuation Fund- and the superseded Superannuation Act 1 922 during the year ended 30 June 1 978.
– Pursuant to section 42 of the National Gallery Act 1975 I present the annual report of the Australian National Gallery for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– Pursuant to section 38 of the Australia Council Act 1975, I present the Annual Report of the Australia Council for the year ended 30 June 1 978.
– Pursuant to section 44 of the Australian Film Commission Act 1975, I present the Annual Report of the Australian Film Commission for the year ended 30 June 1978.
-I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-At Question Time this morning, I asked some questions of Senator Webster. I would like to refer to those questions. At the commencement of Question Time -
– Do you claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented and, if Senator Davidson listens for a minute, I will tell him why. At Question Time I asked Senator Webster a question relating to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. I will read the question because it is important for the understanding of people like Senator Davidson who perhaps were not here at the time the question was asked. It reads: ls it a fact that the Capricornia section ofthe Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has not been declared because the area of permits Q/4P and Q/5P infringe on the proposed section of the Marine Park?
Senator Webster answered that question in this way: He said that the question had been asked five times before and that I was stupid to ask it again. That is an allegation to which on many occasions I would plead guilty, but no more so than any other honourable senator, if I may say so, with respect. The point of the personal explanation I seek to make is that the Senate should judge, in the light of subsequent developments, who in fact is stupid in relation to this matter and who is not. Senator Webster went on to say that the Capricornia section of the Great Barrier Reef
Marine Park had not been declared because of constitutional questions which had to be resolved in discussions with the Queensland Government. Senator Webster in that answer told me that he had answered similar questions five times before; he was again answering it this morning. That is his story and he presumably is sticking to it.
I then asked him as a supplementary question whether he was aware of the fact that in the House of Representatives today the Minister for National Development, Mr Newman, was asked an identical question and replied ‘Yes’, that it was a fact that the Capricornia section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park had not been declared because of the permits to which I referred. I thought Senator Webster gave a fairly unsatisfactory answer to my supplementary question, but that of course does not go to the point of the issue with which I am concerned here.
Subsequently I asked Senator Carrick a question in which I drew attention to the answer which I alleged the Minister for National Development had given in the House of Representatives.”! now refer the Senate to the ‘greens’ of the question which was asked and the answer given in the House of Representatives. Those senators who have not been afflicted by the wave of illiteracy and innumeracy, which is said to bedevil this nation will recognise that the question, which I now read is identical to the question which I asked Senator Webster in the Senate this morning. The question was asked by Mr Humphreys in these terms:
I ask the Minister for National Development: Is it a fact that the Capricornia section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has not been declared because the area of permits Q/4P and Q/5P infringes on the proposed section of the marine park?
He then went on to ask in his question:
Is it also a fact that the Capricornia section ofthe marine park cannot be declared until the Government knows where it is going with the report of the Royal Commission into Exploratory and Production Drilling for Petroleum in the Area ofthe Great Barrier Reef?
Mr Newman ‘s answer was:
The answers to the two questions posed by the honourable member are, yes and yes.
– Affirmative twice.
– Affirmative twice, and the first question was identical to the question that I asked Senator Webster in this place. Mr Newman went on to say:
I would like to add that the Government has not made any decision on this question. 1 now have prepared a submission which has gone to the Government for decision. I can only repeat what has been said by the Prime Minister and other of my colleagues, that this Government will not allow drilling on the reef, nor will it allow any activity that will in any way damage the reef.
Of course, that is a qualification of monumental irrelevancy to the point that 1 am seeking to make, but it is one which I ought to put before the Senate because it is important that the Senate have that information before it. So, in view of the answer by Mr Newman and the answer which I received from Senator Webster, I subsequently asked Senator Carrick a question this morning. I drew attention to the different answers which were given- one in the House of Representatives and one by Senator Webster in this place- in answer to an identical question. I asked Senator Carrick which of these Ministers was misleading the Parliament. When 1 asked that question Senator Webster with some degree of desperation rose in his place on what he said was a point of order. Senator Carrick was in the process of answering the question which I directed to him. Senator Webster interrupted the answer and rose in his place and said: ‘I have been in touch with my office and with Mr Newman, and Mr Newman said that he answered yes to two questions which were not the questions’- I emphasise those words ‘which were not the questions’- ‘which the Acting Leader ofthe Opposition is attempting to infer.’ That is what Senator Webster said this morning in this place when I directed a question to Senator Cavanagh. I then persisted to question Senator Carrick. The question I asked again was: ‘Which Minister is misleading the Parliament on this important issue?’ Senator Carrick said in an exonian cover-up of monumental proportions, which is almost impossible with a Minister like Senator Webster. To try to cover Senator Webster’s prevarications in this place is like covering Botany Bay as that trendy sculptor did a few years ago with plastic. Senator Carrick said:
It is an extraordinary allegation for a Leader ofthe Government in the Senate to make against an Opposition spokesman that he misled Parliament by a question. In terms of the English language I would have thought it is an extraordinarily convoluted exercise to say that I misled Parliament by asking a question, but that is the allegation that Senator Carrick made against me today. It is an allegation which, quite frankly, I have made against Senator Webster and which I now make against Senator Carrick because of what has happened. There has been a continual course of conduct of conspiracy and tissue of prevarications and untruths about this whole question of the Government’s attitude to oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef. Senator Webster- if I might adopt a phrase- lies at the eye ofthe storm in this matter. He will continue to lie at the eye of the storm and he will not get out of it by making these sorts of allegations against members of the Opposition. For those reasons I claim to be seriously misrepresented and I seek a retraction from the Minister who answered in that way or. if he is not prepared to do it, from the Minister who was passing him notes- notes which were clearly wrong and contrary to the facts of this matter. I thank the Senate for its indulgence.
– by leave- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Button) has made some comment relating to occurrences at Question Time today. If the pinks’ show the situation as he has indicated I will be only too happy to retract my comment to him. As I indicated, I was passed a note in Question Time today. As honourable senators know, I have a telephone line direct to my office. It was not possible to get the ‘pinks’ to see what may have been said. There was an allegation by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. 1 was passed a hand-written note which to the best of my knowledge emanated from the office ofthe Minister for National Development (Mr Newman). I will check the comments that have been made. If Senator Carrick made any comment, he made it after having read the note which I passed to him and which was the one given to me. I will look at the ‘pinks’ when they are available and if a retraction is to be made I certainly make it now for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– 1 seek leave to move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Government Leader explaining why he misled the Senate this morning.
-Is leave granted?
– He does not need leave to move that motion. If Senator Cavanagh wants to take that point, he may do so.
– He can move it now.
– If leave is not granted I would then move that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Government making an explanation to Parliament as to why he apparently misled the Parliament.
- Senator Walsh, you may move the motion right away.
Suspension of Standing Orders
– I move:
– I would like to speak to this motion. Senator Carrick is not here. As Leader of the Government in the Senate he has numerous duties. After the debate on the urgency motion and after presentation of the papers with which he was associated he left the area of the Senate and proceeded to his own office, and then to somewhere else in the building. I am sure that if the bells rang he would be here for a division. I believe he is performing his ordinary duties as Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Obviously this is a matter which Senator Carrick would like to know about at the earliest opportunity and to which he would want to respond. He will respond in his own way when he knows what is going on. We on this side of the chamber find ourselves at a disadvantage. It may not be necessary for such a motion to be moved. If there has been an error or if Senator Button can produce ‘pinks’ or ‘greens’- (Quorum formed). When the quorum was called I was speaking to the motion moved by Senator Walsh.
-Is that motion seconded?
-The motion was that certain Standing Orders be suspended. I had pointed out that one of the difficulties which face us at this moment is that several Ministers are involved in the matters which Senator Button has brought before the Senate. I regard these matters as substantial matters and quite properly brought to the Senate chamber. They are matters to which Ministers will want to respond properly and carefully, having due regard to the Senate and its customs, and to the rights of all honourable senators. Knowing Senator Carrick, if there has been an error in anything that he has said there will be no difficulty or hesitation in responding appropriately to that. Clearly my difficulty at the moment is that this has come upon us without any notice.
– Keep talking for a while. Keep talking for two minutes.
– I am grateful for the interjection. I do not know why the honourable senator suggests that I keep talking. After all, his colleagues took a quorum a moment ago.
– I am serious about it; keep talking for two minutes.
– I intend to keep talking for two minutes. I thank the honourable senator but I point out that Senator Carrick will want to know at the earliest opportunity the points Senator Button has raised and at that stage he will assess the situation and make some kind of response. The most obvious problem for members of the Government is that this motion assumes certain matters to be fact; it assumes that certain people have taken certain action; and it assumes a certain significance about them. We are not prepared to accept any of these assumptions. We simply want a chance for the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) to become aware of the facts and to have a chance to examine the material. This cannot be done at the present time. The Minister was here, he put his papers down and, after having checked that there were no problems, then proceeded off to do some business. We are looking for him and probably could find him, but we have not found him and he is not in the chamber. A motion is before the Senate to suspend Standing Orders. It is a matter of urgent necessity. I put it to the Senate that we will suspend the sitting shortly for the lunch break, that there is no urgent necessity which requires the Senate to deal with this matter before we resume the sitting. I suggest that the best course for me to take is to keep talking and for the motion to be moved at an appropriate time.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– by leave- Mr President, I understand that shortly before the suspension of the sitting for lunch when I was at a Cabinet meeting the Opposition indicated that it would move a motion. I think Senator Walsh -
– It has been moved.
– I accept that. Let me simply say that I would put no obstacle in the way of that motion. Whilst I am on my feet, I make one personal explanation. This morning I responded to a question on the basis that a question answered in another place had been answered the wrong way. I said then that perhaps it was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Button), who had misled the Senate. That was not so, as I have since discovered. I apologise to him for that. I make that clear.
There is one other small matter I should like to mention. I understand the Minister for National Development, Mr Newman, is to make a statement in another place. I would need to have that statement available, of course. It may be available in the next five or 10 minutes. But if the Opposition would like to proceed on Senator Walsh’s motion, I would be quite happy.
– You have apologised, senator, for anything which may have occurred. May I suggest -
-No, Mr President. There are two fundamental matters. While I was on my feet I took the opportunity to apologise for an inference which could have been drawn from an answer that I gave this morning. I do that unreservedly. I believed that Senator Button had been misinformed. But that does not go to the essence of the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. The motion for the suspension of Standing Orders suggests that I, as Leader of the Government, misled the Senate. What I am seeking to do is to allow the motion to be proceeded with. Perhaps the Senate might be willing, to deal with some procedural matters, say for the next quarter hour or half an hour until I have the Minister’s statement available whereupon I would be perfectly happy to go ahead.
-by leave-I am indebted to Senator Carrick for the approach that he has adopted in respect of this matter. I take it that when I sit down Senator Walsh’s motion will be proceeded with. I respect Senator Carrick ‘s wish to have some time in which to consider the matters relative to the motion before it is debated. It is a matter of urgency so far as we are concerned. I have offered to make available to Senator Carrick the ‘pinks’ of what I said this morning, which may assist him in any comments that he wishes to make.
- Senator Walsh may care to withdraw his motion, and then wait until the statement from the Minister has been received.
– Just adjourn the debate for perhaps half an hour, during which time the Senate could carry on with procedural matters.
-by leave- There is one point which I think should be considered. I think we all agree that the matter should be temporarily adjourned. We all appreciate Senator Carrick ‘s attitude and the way he has approached this matter. What I am concerned about in regard to this resolution is that it would appear that either Mr Newman or Senator Webster is doing something that we are not allowed to mention in this House. I think that is a most serious charge. I think in fairness Senator Webster should also be present during the debate as he may want to add something after he has seen Mr Newman. Arising out of this motion I anticipate some resolution. I think in fairness we should seek Senator Webster’s attendance in order to give him an opportunity to clear his name.
Senator CARRICK (New South WalesMinister for Education)- by leave- I want to be absolutely fair in this matter, and provide no obstruction at all. My only reason for seeking a delay is that I was informed by the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) that he is going to make a statement. It is clear that the substance of that statement, which I have not seen as yet, is relevant to us all. I would have no objection if the debate on the motion were to start now, but I could not respond until I see the statement. It seems to me that for a reasonable period, perhaps half an hour or a quarter of an hour, the Senate should deal with procedural matters. Then I would faciliate the discussion on the suspension of Standing Orders.
– The debate could be adjourned for the time being.
– The Government Whip has the floor at the moment. If he wishes to seek leave to continue his remarks, we could adjourn the matter for a short time.
– I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Report on Torres Strait Treaty
-Mr President, on behalf of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, I present the report on the Torres Strait Treaty.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-by leave-When the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on the Torres Strait boundary was presented in December 1976 it was stated that there would be many further developments in the area in the near future, for, at that time, Australia and Papua New Guinea were still continuing their negotiations on the question of a boundary- or border- between the two countries. The Sub-committee on Territorial Boundaries, with the approval ofthe main Committee, continue to monitor developments in the region. These activities were formalised as a reference: To monitor current developments on the issue of territorial borders between Australia and Papua New Guinea’. This report complies with that reference examining at some length the possible effects of the treaty’s provisions on the people who will be most affected by it- namely the Torres Strait Islanders. The report is really a continuation of the Committee’s earlier report. The Sub-committee on Territorial Boundaries will continue to monitor events in this region, including the long term effects of the treaty, once it is implemented. The treaty will probably not become fully effective until late in 1 979 or 1 980, since ratification cannot take place until legislation has been enacted by Australia, Papua New Guinea and Queensland. Some of the treaty’s provisions, including arrangements for the sharing of the area’s natural resources, will be the subject of continuing negotiations and cooperation between Australia and Papua New Guinea.
In the course of this inquiry, the Subcommittee heard evidence from a number of departments, in particular, the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Primary Industry and Health. In addition, the Sub-committee visited the area in July 1978 to gauge the reaction of the people living in the area to the proposed changes in the existing boundary- or border. The full text of the treaty is attached as Appendix I to the report. The Committee feels, however, that the more important matters covered by the treaty are:
Retention of Australian sovereignty over all the islands with the exception of Kawa, Mata Kawa and Kussa- three uninhabited islands lying close to the coast of Papua New Guinea. The Government resolved the question of sovereignty over these islands- a matter which was discussed at length in the Committee’s previous report on the Torres Strait Boundary- by concluding that the islands were never actually annexed by Queensland. A statement summarising the research which led to the Australian Government’s conclusion in this matter is attached as Appendix II to the report.
Delimitation of the seabed resources between Australia and Papua New Guinea.
Establishment of a swimming fisheries resources boundary.
Creation of a protected zone for the preservation of the unique environment of the Strait area.
Confirmation of fishing rights in territorial waters for local inhabitants of the islands of Aubusi, Boigu, Dauan, Kaumag, Moimi and Saibai, which have been retained by Australia under the treaty.
Guarantee of freedom of movement by Papua New Guineans and Torres Strait Islanders within the protected zone to engage in their traditional activities.
When the Sub-committee visited the Torres Strait Islands in July 1978, the Islanders’ representatives voiced vociferous objections to the terms of the then proposed treaty; they demanded ‘border no change’. The Committee is satisfied that these objections have largely been overcome, mainly because, prior to the initialling of the treaty, the Government made a concerted effort to explain its terms, provisions and implications to the Islanders. The Committee’s first recommendation is that the Government should also make every attempt to inform the Australian public of the treaty’s terms and provisions.
The Committee believes that the provisions of the treaty as finally negotiated are equitable to both countries, have regard to the interests of the parties most affected and are apparently supported by all interested parties. I would like to emphasise that the provisions of the treaty to a very large extent incorporate recommendations made by the Committee in its earlier report on the Torres Strait boundary, namely: That the Torres Strait Islands should remain part of Australia; that freedom of passage for Australians and Papua New Guineans should be guaranteed in the protected zone; that mining and drilling in the seabed should be prohibited until agreement is reached between all interested parties; and that new commercial ventures should not be permitted in the area unless they are compatible with the environment. The Committee cannot at this stage assess the long term effects of the treaty on the Torres Strait community. However, the Committee feels that the treaty, when ratified, will have a considerable positive effect on the life style ofthe Torres Strait
Islanders. In particular, the concept and implementation of the protected zone, which encompasses all the reserve islands of the Torres Strait, will provide an opportunity for the indigenous culture of the Torres Strait Islanders to be preserved.
In recent years rapid changes have been made to the Torres Strait culture, due to a massive population shift from the outer islands to Thursday Island. Large numbers of adult males have left the area on a semi-permanent basis to seek employment in Australia as a result of the lack of economic opportunities in the Torres Strait Islands. To a very large extent, the Islanders depend on fishing for their economic future. Fish stocks in the Torres Strait are not abundant and the main commercial fisheries- crayfish, prawns and the various swimming fisheries- already are fully exploited. The Committee therefore feels that commercial fishing is an activity which, when the treaty becomes fully effective, will require considerable attention to ensure that overexploitation of the limited resources does not occur. At the same time, the Committee recommends that, where possible, the Government should aid the Islanders to establish themselves commercially in one or more of the fisheriesmackerel is one- that has room to accommodate them.
Again, should exploitation of hydrocarbon deposits discovered in the area become viable in the future, the Committee is concerned that the interests, both social and economic, of the Torres Strait community should be considered in any such development. These concerns have led the Committee to recommend that in implementing the treaty the Government should ensure that the spirit as well as the terms of the treaty are observed, with particular attention being paid to the application of the protected zone provisions and the preservation of the Torres Strait Islanders’ culture. To this end, the Committee recommends, further, that the Torres Stait Joint Advisory Council provided for in Article 19 of the treaty should be appointed as soon as possible and that the nomination of the Torres Strait Islanders to serve on this body should be made a matter of priority so that the people of the area can see a tangible expression of the results of the treaty.
Two of the Committee’s recommendations are not related specifically to matters covered by the treaty, but to two quite serious problems which are beginning to affect the Torres Strait area and its community, namely, exotic animal and plant diseases and illegal immigration from Papua New Guinea. The problem of animal and plant diseases passing to Australia through the Torres Strait from Papua New Guinea is at present only potential, but in view of the prevalence of certain very serious animal pests in Papua New Guinea such as the screw worm fly, the Committee recommends that quarantine procedures in the area should be strengthened considerably. The Committee is pleased to report that already plans are being implemented by the Department of Health to increase animal quarantine activity in the Torres Strait area. In addition, the Committee would like to see the appointment of quarantine staff to the Islands and the initiation of a program to train indigenous people for surveillance purposes.
Illegal immigration from Papua New Guinea to the Torres Strait Islands and eventually to mainland Australia is a well-known practice and one which poses a major risk of disease entering Australia through animals brought into Australian territory by Papua New Guineans. Since the Committee heard evidence from the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on this question last August, the Department has taken measures to identify Papua New Guineans living in Australia. As a result, almost 200 returned voluntarily to Papua New Guinea, and five were deported. Another 243 were granted permanent resident status after investigation of their cases. Whilst the Committee was pleased to hear recently that the Department is now confident that the situation is under control, it believes that this control must be continued and strengthened through expanding the number of immigration officers permanently stationed in the area. If practicable, local inhabitants should be employed for the purpose. Finally, as the Committee agrees that the treaty as signed is a satisfactory document and is in the best interests of all parties concerned, it expresses the hope that ratification will proceed as soon as possible.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- I table additional information received by Senate Estimates Committee A and seek leave to have the information incorporated in the Hansard record of the Committee ‘s proceedings.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969, 1 present the report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work: Defence Force Academy, Australian Capital Territory. I present also a copy of the transcript of evidence related to the Committee’s inquiry. Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement relating to the report.
– The investigation into the proposed work has taken over 12 months. Fifty witnesses were examined by the Committee during eight public hearings and two private hearings. In view of the complexity of the proposal and the length of the inquiry, the Committee decided that both Houses should be given the opportunity of examining in detail all the evidence placed before the Committee. We have arranged, therefore, for copies of the minutes of evidence of the whole inquiry to be made available to honourable senators at the same time as the report is presented. Copies of the evidence, which comprises four volumes, are available in the Table Office for those honourable senators who require them. The basic concept of the Defence Force Academy was to replace the degree stream component of the Royal Military College, the Royal Australian Air Force Academy, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the Darling Downs Institute and the Royal Australian Navy College with a single academy which would provide a balanced and liberal university education in a military environment for officer cadets of the three Australian Services, concurrently with a program of professional military training. The institution so created would be both a university and a military academy.
The Committee agreed that there is a need for a greater proportion of tertiary educated officers in the Defence Force and that cadets should be involved in a military environment as much as possible during their tertiary studies. There was no clear evidence, however, that the training of cadets of all Services in a common establishment would of itself provide any improvement in the quality of officers. The Committee rejects the view that association at cadet level will significantly foster inter-Service co-operation and understanding and believes that this objective can be fostered more effectively at a more senior level. Each Service has differing requirements and tri-Service arrangements can lead to unsatisfactory compromises. The Committee believes that each Service should be free to determine its own method of educating officers and there should not be an enforced uniformity of education.
The Committee concluded that consolidation of the officer production facilities of each Service is more desirable and justified that the consolidation on a tri-Service basis of the tertiary training of the three Services. The Committee received conclusive evidence that there is insufficient use of tertiary education institutes and recommends that full use should be made of these institutes. Based on these conclusions, the Committee recommends that it is not expedient to proceed with the construction of the proposed work. The recommendation of the Committee is unanimous.
The Committee has put forward a number of suggested arrangements for the three Services which should be examined as a means of providing cost-effective tertiary education towards the training of highly skilled professional officers of the Defence Force. The Committee is firmly of the opinion that the suggested arrangements can be provided at a lesser capital cost than for the proposed academy, and that recurrent costs can at best be kept as low as those currently obtaining, probably very close to those estimated for the Academy. Mr President, I commend the report to honourable senators.
-by leave-I wish to congratulate the Parliamentary Joint Commitee on Public Works on the care with which it has dealt with this matter. The Committee carried out a very difficult and thorough going investigation. In so doing I want to retrace briefly the history of the Casey University, the Australian Defence Force Academy. I say at the outset that Casey University appears to have been a pet project of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for a long time. The proposal was first taken to Cabinet by him in 1970. There is perhaps little doubt that this issue was part of the so-called Fraser-Gorton affair, which honourable senators will recall as one of the chapters in the life of the present Prime Minister.
In 1974 Mr Barnard, as Minister for Defence in the Labor Government, indicated that in his view further planning on this issue was necessary. He said there was a need for more tertiary educated officers and that the sense of a single service should be fostered. Both of these propositions are endorsed by the Committee in the report presented by Senator Melzer.
The proposal for Casey University has been criticised from a great variety of quarters. It has been criticised by a number of academics. It has been criticised by this Committee, among other groups, on cost grounds. It has been criticised by officers of the armed Services. The Committee records in its report that one officer named Greville, as I recall it, indicated in his evidence to the Committee that in discussions among serving officers he could find no real support for the Casey University proposal. I would invite those honourable senators who are interested in this issue to look at the journal of the Naval Acadamy of Australia. I cannot at this stage provide a reference to the particular issue of the journal I have in mind. However, it contained a very lengthy and well reasoned article in which the Naval Academy made very stringent criticisms of the whole concept of the Casey University.
Quite frankly I suspect from answers the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, has given in this place that he also is not greatly enamoured of the idea of Casey University. Indeed, I appreciate that in his case there is a problem of competing bailiwicks, as it were, because the Casey University proposal comes within the province of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). This is perhaps another example of the defence lobby pushing a pet project of its creation at the expense of other areas of government endeavour and administration.
In answer to questions asked by Senator Douglas McClelland on 1 June 1978 Senator Withers, the then Leader of the Government in the Senate, gave the cost of the proposed Casey University project as being $49m in December 1977 prices. Given the course of inflation which has continued since, it is estimated that the cost will now closely approximate $100m when the establishment is finally completed. I mention those figures because by comparison with the now estimated cost of $ 100m for the Casey University the total capital allocation for all universities and colleges in 1979 was $52m- $52m as against $100m for this pet project of the Prime Minister.
The point I want to make to the Senate is that this matter relates to the allocation of priorities, a matter about which this Government is continually confused. The priorities are bizarre when we consider that we are allocating $52m to capital expenditure on all the universities and colleges in Australia whilst we indulge in this sort of expenditure for a project which has been criticised by defence personnel and educational personnel and on cost benefit grounds.
– There is still a five-year pay-back period.
– I am not interested whether there is a five-year pay-back period or not.
– You should be.
– The question is whether, with the current economic stringencies being imposed by this Government on the education sector, the project justifies this sort of expenditure at all in view of the criticisms which have been made. That is the point I seek to make.
We on the Opposition side hope that the Government will use this report of the joint committee as an opportunity to get off the hook over Casey University, as an opportunity to get its expenditure priorities straight, as an opportunity to spend perhaps some of the money which might have been spent on this project on youth unemployment projects and the educational aspects of the youth unemployment question, which must take precedence over expenditure of this kind.
– Where is the report?
– I do not know where the honourable senator’s copy is, but Senator Melzer has mine. If the honourable member does not have a copy perhaps he would like to borrow my copy from her.
– It has not been distributed. We are talking about a report which has not been distributed.
-I should indicate in answer to Senator Harradine ‘s interjection that I have had the advantage of seeing the report. I am not talking about a report which has not been distributed to me. I have the summary of recommendations and conclusions of the report before me. I was making the point that this is a golden opportunity for this Government, for once, to get its priorities in order and to decide what the priorities are in terms of education expenditure in particular.
I would draw the Senate’s attention to the fact that the Committee agreed that there was a need for tertiary education of military officers in each of the Services. That would be undenied. Indeed, perhaps the need is not fully appreciated in this country as it ought to be. This point is quite obvious if one looks at the level of sophistication of education of United States naval officers, for example, compared with that currently available to their Australian counterparts. Whilst the report admits the benefit of cadets being involved in the military environment, as it is called, as much as possible during their tertiary studies, it also says that there were advantages in the additional use of tertiary institutions, in which there are increasingly additional places available. The report acknowledged that there appears to be capacity in existing educational institutions to take additional students.
The report in essence concluded that ‘it was not expedient to proceed with the proposals for Casey University’. If I may say so to the Committee, that is a phrase that will appeal very much to Government senators. What is expedient and what is not expedient runs very high in the allocation of priorities by this Government. The words of the Committee are that it would not be expedient to proceed with Casey University. The Committee is right on the wavelength of the present Government in making that sort of observation. We hope that if for no other reason such as the question of principle this project will not be proceeded with; that the pet idea of the Prime Minister will not be proceeded with. Hopefully Senator Carrick will have an extra $ I m to play with in respect of educational institutions when he makes a statement on education guidelines next week. He nods his head. I cannot over-emphasise how much I am on Senator Carrick ‘s side in commenting on this report. We would hope that he would have available more money for expenditure on legitimate tertiary education institutions; that money will no longer be wasted by this Government on this absurd Dr Strangelove academy which the Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister have been pursuing; that the money will be allocated more appropriately in the course of the education budget to enable Senator Carrick to fulfill some of the promises he has made in the past about education; and that the country will not suffer in any sense by the abandonment of this pet project.
-by leave -My remarks are directed to you, Mr President. The only notice that I had of the subject matter of this report was the unofficial document showing the order of business in which it was stated:
Senator Melzer to present a Report from the Joint Committee on Public Works and to seek leave to make a statement relating to the Report.
In this document there is no mention of what the report is about, or that it is about the important proposal for Casey University. As Senator Button knows, there are viewpoints contrary to the one that he has just expressed. I certainly cannot comment on the report until I have seen it. Mr President, you may have noticed that I left my place in the chamber to go to my room to see whether the report had been distributed to honourable senators’ rooms. It had not. How can the Senate even move to take note of the report if we have not got it? I think that it is just not good enough for this type of procedure to be adopted without honourable senators having had the report distributed to them so that they are in a position, as Senator Button was, to study the report and to come to some conclusions which may not be the conclusions to which Senator Button came.
– It is not the responsibility of the Chair to ensure distribution of reports.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I seek leave to make a statement relating to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment on ‘Woodchips and the Environment ‘.
-Is leave granted?
– Is this a ministerial statement?
– This is a ministerial statement.
– Is leave necessary?
– Yes, leave must be granted.
– I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
The statement read as follows-
Mr President, I wish to report to the Senate on the implementation of recommendations of both the initial report on ‘Woodchips and the Environment’ presented by the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment in May 1977 and the Committee’s supplementary report on November 1978. The main report was tabled in the Senate on 24 May 1977. It contained a number of recommendations concerning the Commonwealth Government, particularly those on export licences and research. Three
Commonwealth portfolios were involvedPrimary Industry, Science, and the former Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development.
At the beginning of the 1978 Autumn sittings, the Committee sought comment on action taken on its recommendations from Ministers to whom recommendations in its report were addressed. Based on comments it received, the Committee then prepared a supplementary report which the Chairman, Senator Jessop, tabled in the Senate on 21 November 1978. The Supplementary Report contained further recommendations to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), the former Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, and to myself as Minister for Science and the Environment.
Many of the recommendations in these reports, including those on royalties and land use planning, involve matters which are predominantly State responsibilities. While the Committee did not believe curtailment of the existing woodchip industry program is warranted on environmental grounds at the present time, a number of major recommendations were made on conditions under which woodchips should be exported. The Committee urged that no licences should be issued to new woodchip export projects, other than those based on sawmill waste, until environmental problems outlined in the report are resolved.
The Government, however, believes there could be a case for the development of new projects, with safeguards which take account of current research and which are accompanied by monitoring of environmetal quality. In its supplementary report, the Committee recommended that in establishing criteria for these safeguards and monitoring, the environmental problems outlined in the report should be satisfactorily resolved. As honourable senators will appreciate, when governments are considering proposals to export woodchips, many factors must be taken into account. These include social, environmental and economic matters.
Assessments of environmental impact have been carried out under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act where applications have been made to review licences and to increase export quantity, as in the case of the Harris Daishowa (Aust.) Pty Ltd application in 1977. The Committee also recommended that export licences should only be renewed where regeneration, especially on private land, was assured. In this case, the Commonwealth considers that regeneration of native forests is a State matter, and that the Government has little control on the future use of private land.
The Committee was concerned at the possible depletion of soil nutrients resulting from clearfelling. Because of this, it recommended that, for short rotation projects, export approval for chips from a second rotation should be withheld, unless it can be demonstrated that progressive depletion of essential soil nutrients will not result. While the Government shares the Committee’s concern in this respect, it considers that the depletion of soil nutrients can be prevented by the use of artificial fertilisers. Research into this issue has been increased, but it unlikely that there will be any significant export of second rotation woodchips from native forests during this century.
The report emphasised the importance of research. It urged the establishment of a working group to determine the details of research needs. This issue will be addressed when the Government’s consideration of the Australian Science and Technology Council Review of Science and Technology in Australia 1977-78 is completed. This ASTEC report includes a chapter on research needs in forestry. The Committee also recommended research into the nutrient balance of Australian soils, with emphasis on the effect of intensive forest operations, and into the effect of compaction of soils. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is conducting research in these areas and has increased resources devoted to the nutrient balance investigation. In accord with recommendations from this and other reports, the CSIRO is making a substantial effort to encourage relevant people to adopt ideas arising from the result of its research projects. Where appropriate, both the Australian Environment Council and the Australian Forestry Council have been involved in discussion of the reports ‘ recommendations.
In common with a number of other inquiries, the Committee has stressed the importance of land use planning in environmental management. It recommended that a mechanism to allow the integrated consideration of national land use issues should be examined and that a framework for the establishment of a national land use policy should be set up. The Government appreciates the concern behind these recommendations. However, many land use interests, such as nature conservation, soils, forestry and environment, are covered by existing ministerial councils. There appears to be little scope for the introduction of an additional mechanism at this time given the existing ministerial councils, the Commonwealth’s limited role and the Government’s federalism policy.
With regard to a national land use policy, there is a diversity of views at the State level on the desirability of a greater Commonwealth involvement in land use matters. While it would be prepared to consider new initiatives, the Government feels that the first approach must come from the States.
In the field of nature conservation, the Commonwealth and States have recognised certain priorities as having national significance. The Commonwealth supports the need to develop an adequate and representative system of national parks and conservation reserves. It will continue to press for an ordered approach to the needs of nature conservation on a co-operative basis with State Ministers through the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers. I have outlined the major recommendations of the reports which involve the Commonwealth, and mentioned the Government’s response to them. I can assure the Senate that the Government has found the documents very valuable and I hope this summary has been informative to honourable senators.
-by leave -I move:
It is gratifying to the Senate to receive from the Government a comment in response to the request some time ago from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that Ministers make known their views on recommendations made by Senate standing committee reports. I am grateful for that. 1 believe that the statement can be criticised because it ignores some of the more important aspects of the recommendations that were gathered as a result of intensive inquiry by the committee of which I am the chairman and by its predecessor which was chaired by Senator Keeffe. It seems to me that the Government has ignored some important aspects of this matter. I will refer to one or two of them during these remarks. The statement which has just been incorporated by the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) states, in part:
The Government, however, believes that there could be a case for the development of new projects, with safeguards which take account of current research and which are accompanied by monitoring of environmental quality.
I am not quite sure on what basis that statement was made, because the Committee, after extensive inquiry, went to great pains to set out recommendations in this area which were based on informed comment and which should be adopted.
I draw attention to one or two matters in the report itself. We are dealing with two reports, the major one and a supplementary one which was presented in November 1978. On page 12 of the main report under the heading ‘Research’ clause 69 states:
The extreme lack of knowledge in the biological sphere in Australia is cause for serious national concern. It is hampering responsible decision making in areas of considerable social importance. The Committee believes this provides overwhelming grounds for urgent Government action.
Clause 75 states:
Taxonomic studies on Australian fauna and flora, the invertebrates in particular, appear to be absolutely basic to research progress in many biological fields of importance to forestry.
Clause 76 states:
The CSIRO has pointed out that industry often displays a reluctance to accept new ideas and that it is necessary to press hard for their adoption. Forestry Authorities also have a responsibility in this matter, particularly where innovations demand revision of environmental protection prescriptions.
Those points draw attention to some of the concern that has been expressed by the Committee. We go on to say, at page 245.
In the invertebrates the situation is chaotic, with probably at least half the species unidentified. Among the insects alone it is said that something like SO 000 species just cannot be mentioned in any account of the environmental ecosystem because they have no accepted names. Yet, insects, just because of the large number of species and the ease with which they can be sampled are particularly sensitive indicators of environmental differences. Collecting on a massive scale is part of the answer but the main requirement is a major taxonomic effort, using both existing collections which are still largely unstudied and the new material to be brought in.
That is an area in which I believe more work ought to be done. How can safeguards be applied in this area when there is no base line against which to carry out proper, environmental-quality monitoring
- Senator, the Australian Biological Resources Survey is attempting to do that. As you know, the Commonwealth is contributing to it annually. You have taken a great deal of interest in it.
– I am glad that the Minister has made that comment. Nevertheless, more work in this direction is required.
The Minister’s statement evades the issue so far as other aspects are concerned. In response to the Committee ‘s recommendation that export licences be renewed only when regeneration, on private land especially, was assured, he said:
In this case, the Commonwealth considers that regeneration of native forests is a State matter, and that the Government has little control on the future use of private land. The Government might well re-examine that statement.
It is clear to the Committee that the Department of Primary Industry has a responsibility to specify conditions under which export licences can be issued. Therefore, the comment is not valid and ought to be reconsidered.
The third point to which I draw attention concerns research into the depletion of soil nutrients. I find it difficult to agree with the statements of the Minister:
While the Government shares the Committee’s concern in this respect, it considers that the depletion of soil nutrients can bc prevented by the use of artificial fertilisers.
I find that difficult to reconcile in terms of forestry economics.
– Are the two aspects synonymous?
-I believe so. The application of artificial fertilisers is one of considerable economic concern to people managing forestry areas. I would like to read from the report concerning it. The Minister may not have studied that particular aspect of it.
– I assure the honourable senator that I have.
-The Minister will recall that at page 63 the report reads:
Deficiencies in soil nutrients could bc made good by the application of fertiliser. Phosphorus in particular could be supplied by superphosphate. However, forestry economics usually prohibit the general use of fertilisers. World supplies of superphosphate are also declining. Its use in agriculture would normally be expected to take priority.
That draws attention to the economic aspect. I suggest that more work ought to be done to examine perhaps the effects of certain invertebrates upon the replacement of soil nutrient. It is important to recognise that we do not really know enough about this subject and I suggest that we ought to be doing much more in regard to it.
I shall not occupy the time of the Senate for very much longer but I believe it important also to emphasise what the Government has said with respect to land use planning. At page 3 of his statement, the Minister said:
While the Government shares the Committee’s concern . . .
With respect to nutrient losses:
This again highlights our concern because from the evidence before the Committee it is clear that it takes at least 100 years to replenish soil nutrients that have been removed by clear-felling. That is another matter that warrants further examination. Until we can be confident that crop rotation for less than that period will not cause permanent damage, it would be advisable to note the Committee’s suggestion that the industry should be expanded only with respect to the use of offcuts and the thinning of forests in the woodchip areas.
Finally, I refer to the question of a national land use policy, to which reference is made on page 4 of the Minister’s statement, as follows:
With regard to a national land use policy, there is a diversity of views at the State level on the desirability of a greater Commonwealth involvement in land use matters. While it would be prepared to consider new initiatives, the Government feels that the first approach must come from the States.
I am afraid that I must disagree, because I believe that this is an area of great national concern, in which clearly the initiative could come from the Federal Government for discussion upon it at the appropriate Commonwealth/State forum. I believe that what the Committee says at page 376 of the report is in the true spirit of Federalism. It states:
Whilst the Federal Government has no direct responsibility in State land use matters, the evidence leaves the Committee in little doubt that Federal involvement is not only necessary to provide a national perspective to land use planning, but would be beneficial in assisting State Governments to establish a suitable standard of land use planning within designated regions. The Committee accepts that the regional level is the appropriate level for detailed planning and that broad policy matters only should be considered at Federal and State levels. The Committee advocates agreement being sought by Federal and State Governments on a national land use policy. At the same time the Committee wishes to emphasise the folly of confusing national policies with uniform controls and regulations which by their nature are unable to take into account the great variety of physical properties and social needs existing between and within States. State governments must remain free to formulate their own policies and priorities within the general framework of an agreed national policy.
That presents a challenge to the Federal Government. If it has a regard for the importance of that suggestion the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) might also consider issuing a clearlydefined land use policy on Australia. There are other matters to which I would like to refer but I will seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-by leave- I support to the hilt the comments that have been made by Senator Jessop. When the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment commenced operation there was a tremendous interest in the woodchip industry. The Committee tried to steer a course midway between those who favoured unlimited conservation measures and those who wanted open slather development. That was the reason the Committee sought a guarded policy. If the Committee had taken different attitudes in one or two areas it might have caused a lot more controversy that might not have helped either cause. The fact of the matter is that it is a case of giving a person an inch, and he takes a yard. Like the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Jessop, I felt that the people who were making a profit out of the industry- those who are working in forest products- should put something back into the industry.
Rural senators would know that, to its credit, the wool industry took steps within itself, with levies, independent of what the government did or should have done, when it felt there was a danger from synthetics. A response of that kind was not forthcoming to any fair degree from the people in the woodchip industry. It is true that some of them have engaged naturalists to look at some aspects of wildlife. People talk about the future. However, no one has come up with an effective method to nullify the spread of dieback, which is going gradually from forest to forest. It does not recognise State boundaries. The Committee concedes that the mistakes made in the 1960s at Eden are not being repeated. Ridges over 14 degrees are not being logged. On the other hand, although those concerned point to regenerated forests, nobody has yet been able to provide statistics to indicate that the same number of gum varieties are present. That would lead to the question of retention of habitat for certain wildlife.
In essence, the Committee suggested the levy principle. The Federal Government has the lever of export licences to insist that something be done. People under the control of Senator Webster’s Department- such as Dr Harry Frith, an outstanding Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation research man- appeared before the Committee. He said that if he could have $ 1 50,000 a year he would be able to provide a complete inventory of all the various diseases that affect wildlife. Like Senator Jessop, I could go on further. There was an obligation given- virtually a promise- that efforts would be made to utilise repellants on new crops rather than other methods of deterring wildlife from chewing on new leaves. I have seen no indication that the people in that field are prepared to do anything like that.
Again, I emphasise that the question of dieback is one of paramount importance. 1 believe the industry, itself, should do something. Irrespective of the complexion of State governments, they all have their minuses and pluses. In New South Wales the Premier increased the Nadgee reserve. He has not gone as far as I want. In Western Australia the Government has made similar gestures in some areas. Since the Committee was in Tasmania the South West National Park has been established. They are the pluses. However, the Committee visited the Gippsland region in Victoria and was assured by forestry officers that forest enclaves which provided for animals such as the leadbetter possum would be kept. The Committee has received information to the contrary. The Committee wrote to the Victorian authorities at least six or eight weeks ago but has received no response. The moral of that story is that many States are quite contrite when they testify before a Senate committee, but when they get away from us they have second thoughts.
I conclude by saying that the Committe is strongly concerned about the matter. Senator Webster, in his portfolio as Minister for Science and the Environment, should give maximum thrust to every echelon of the CSIRO to see that this industry maximises its contributions on research. It is not a question of the wildlife aspect at all; it is a matter of the very forests, themselves. The Committee heard evidence that even if there were dieback and the jarrah perished there would be the maun gum. Now difficulties are being found with that. It is a national question; it can only be grappled with at a national level.
The Chairman and every other member of the Committee was extremely disappointed because the only recourse available in the future is to come up with a hardline policy, as a result of which there will be more controversy. Nobody in his right senses would deny that mill waste and forest floor debris should be used. To advance upon that, there may not be the same problems as at Eden but there will be others because there is no data bank to find out about the problems that were virtually only touched on by the Committee. I repeat: I regard the report as a very bleak document.
– by leave- In view of the very close association between the statement that has been put down and the matters that have been raised by Senators Jessop and Mulvihill, I believe it would be desirable in the interests of conservation and protection of forestry if the Senate could bring forward item 1 7 on the Notice Paper, dealing with the Tasmanian Native Forest Agreement Bill, which I believe raises a lot of the matters that have been discussed. Could that be brought forward so the Senate can concentrate its attention and discussion on this important matter rather than have item 17 left over to the Budget session?
-! seek leave to make a statement in relation to Notices of Motion Nos. 1 and 2 listed as Business of the Senate in today’s Business Paper and to move a motion to postpone them to a later hour this day.
– These two notices of motion were given by Senator Missen as a result of inquiries by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. Today is the last day for resolving the Notices of Motion; if the notices are not disposed of today the ordinance and the regulations concerned will be deemed to be disallowed. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee has received certain undertakings from the responsible Ministers in relation to the ordinance and the regulations, and the Committee has decided that in view of these undertakings, the notices of motion ought to be withdrawn.
The Committee has decided that I should give an indication now of the intention to withdraw the notices of motion, and then postpone the matter until a later hour of the day. This is in accordance with a recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee that when a notice of motion for disallowance is withdrawn, particularly on the last available day for disposal of the notice of motion, senators ought to be given some warning of the intention to withdraw the notice of motion in case any senator wishes to so move. Although the new standing order containing this procedure has not yet been adopted by the Senate, the Committee considered that it ought to follow the procedure on this occasion so as to preserve the rights of all senators.
At a later hour I will seek leave to withdraw the notices of motion and make a full statement on the undertakings given by the responsible Ministers and the reasons why the Committee has decided that those undertakings should be accepted and the notices of motion withdrawn. To give other members time to consider whether they want to take over the notices of motion, I would suggest that they be brought on early this evening. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Reference to Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts
Motion (by Senator Davidson) agreed to:
That the following matter be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts:
Effectiveness of Austraiian schools in preparing young people for the work force, with particular emphasis on literacy and numeracy.
– by leave- For the information of honourable senators, I have had circulated a proposed schedule of the times of meeting of the Senate for next week. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Bills being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill 1979
The purpose of this Bill is to adjust grants to the States for government and non-government schools in respect of cost increases which have occurred since this legislation was last before the Parliament. The amendment to the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1977 will be the final adjustment as it makes provision for increases in the salary and wage content of 1978 recurrent programs to December 1978. The States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1978 will be amended again in the Budget sittings of the Parliament to take account of further cost increases, in accordance with the Government’s announced policy. This Bill does not increase any of the nongovernment schools general recurrent and migrant education grants as the necessary adjustments to these grants have been effected previously. To finalise 1978 grants, an additional appropriation of $ 1.6m will be necessary making a total allocation for that year of $639.6m. The adjustment of 1979 grants involves a further appropriation of $1 1.0m which increases the commitment of the Commonwealth for this year to $673. 6m. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment B il 1979
This Bill amends the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Act 1977 and the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Act 1978. The Bill adjusts the approved programs of grants to the States for tertiary education for the years 1978 and 1979 by providing additional amounts in the light of variations in costs between June and December 1978. In addition to supplementing the grants for 1979 in respect of approved advanced education level courses in technical and further education institutions, the Bill provides a further $485,000 for these courses. It also modifies the conditions relating to the provision of funds for special initiatives in the training of TAFE teachers in order that State instrumentalities as well as colleges of advanced education may become eligible to receive grants.
In my statement to the Senate on 19 October 1 978 I noted that a shortfall in expenditure of the 1978 tertiary education capital programs would enable additional university and college of advanced education capital projects to commence in the second half of 1979. This Bill makes provision for expenditure of up to $4. 1 m on the additional projects in respect of 1979, including $ 1. 288m for commencement of the Australian
Graduate School of Management building. With the additional amounts that the Bill provides in respect of 1978 and 1979, the total programs of grants to the States for each sector are as follows:
In accordance with the Government’s decision to restore fixed triennial funding for recurrent expenditure the Bill also provides recurrent grants for colleges of advanced education in respect of the years 1 980 and 1981 at the same real level as for 1 979, and supplements the recurrent grants to universities, for these years, which were provided previously in the Principal Act. The total provisions for recurrent expenditure- other than for equipment- for universities and colleges of advanced education are $6 15.8m and $422. 2m respectively for each of the years 1 980 and 1 98 1 . It is expected that arrangements for recurrent grants for technical and further education in respect of 1980 and 1981 will be announced during the Budget sittings after the Government has considered the Report of the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training. In accordance with the new arrangements for funding non-government business colleges, which I announced on 6 December 1 978, the Bill makes provisions for grants to the States for assistance to non-government business colleges in the 1 979-8 1 triennium. The proposed level of assistance, $55 per student per month at December quarter 1978 cost levels up to a maximum of $550 per student per annum, is the rate which was recommended by the Tertiary Education Commission in its Report on Nongovernment Business Colleges. It will be adjusted to take account of cost increases.
Assistance in 1 979 is being provided in respect of courses which were in existence in 1978 and met the guidelines recommended by the Tertiary Education Commission. Colleges will be required to achieve non-profit status by the end of 1979. In approving courses beyond 1979, the Minister for Education will be advised by a small Standing Committee. Assistance in general is to be restricted to courses involving more than 20 hours of teacher-class contact a week; and of more than 20 but no more than 44 weeks duration. This would not include courses leading to registrable academic awards. Assistance will not be provided for courses in colleges which have not been recognised by a relevant State regulatory authority. The provisions will provide assistance on an equitable basis in an important area of training. However, the Government is opposed to the proliferation of small business colleges, and to any development of business colleges annexes by non-government secondary schools. The approval of individual courses is to be reviewed after three years and the overall scheme of assistance is to be reviewed after it has been in operation for five years. I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill bc now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to put into effect three of the decisions affecting income tax that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) announced and explained at some length in a statement on 24 May 1979.
Trading stock valuation adjustment
A major feature of the Bill is a provision to terminate the trading stock valuation adjustment with effect from the commencement of the 1979-80 income year. Reasons for this action were given in the Treasurer’s statement. As firms entitled to the (TSVA) deduction will pay tax in 1979-80 on the basis of 1978-79 incomes, the continued availability of the deduction for the 1978- 79 income year will benefit them in 1979- 80.
Pay as you earn deductions from salaries and wages
Reflecting our present decisions, the Bill contains legislation which will specifically authorize the continued application of existing rates of PA YE deductions from salaries and wages until 30 November 1979, or such earlier date by which decisions arising out of the 1979-80 Budget might be implemented. It would not be profitable to go over all the ground covered in the earlier statement, but I do wish to stress certain matters. The major point is that the most appropriate time to make a responsible and informed decision about income tax rates for 1979-80 is at the traditional time when the coming Budget is being finalised. At that stage, the outcome of revenue and expenditures for 1978- 79 will be known, and the outlook for 1 979- 80 can be more accurately gauged. Yet it is already clear that it would be imprudent to allow the substantial drop in income tax revenue that would occur from 1 July 1979 if things were allowed to take their course from the present law.
The Government has accordingly decided to continue the present level of PA YE deductions from salaries and wages beyond 30 June 1979 until the decision about personal tax rates for 1979-80 as a whole, to be announced in the Budget speech, can be implemented- but no later than 30 November 1979. It is not necessary that there be any corresponding holding action in relation to 1 979-80 provisional tax. That tax is not payable before 3 1 March 1 980.
Tax indexation factor
The Bill will also amend the provisions of the income tax law that fix the factor by which the income ranges in the personal income tax rate scale, and concessional rebates, are indexed. Under the present law, in determining the indexation factor for a year, the increase in the average level of the consumer price index for the 12 months ended the previous 31 March over its average level in the preceding year is taken as a basis. This may then be adjusted to exclude the effects on the consumer price index of certain matters, the main one of which is indirect taxes.
The Government has decided that the indexation factor should be adjusted to take account of the first two steps which were taken on 17 August 1977 and 1 July 1978 to phase-in the adoption of import parity pricing for locally produced crude oil. These steps represented a policy aimed at improving the allocation of resources in relation to crude oil exploration, production and consumption, and it would therefore be quite inappropriate to take action, through the tax indexation mechanism, to offset their effects on consumption. The Bill proposes to amend the law to permit this adjustment. An explanatory memorandum explaining the technical features of the Bill is being made available to honourable senators. Finally, I note that the matter of denying the carry-forward of paper losses arising from involvement in tax avoidance schemes which the Treasurer referred to in his statement, is not included in the Bill, but will be brought before the Parliament in legislative form in the Budget sittings. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Ryan) adjourned.
– by leave- Mr President, as I was absent from the chamber during the early part of these proceedings it would be helpful to me if the Opposition were to have the opportunity of stating the reasons for its moving for the suspension of Standing Orders. 1 would be grateful if that could be done.
-by leave-Mr President, for the benefit of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick), I shall recount what happened. I take it that that is what he wishes me to do. Shortly before the suspension of the sitting for lunch, Senator Walsh moved, in essence, that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Government in the Senate from making a statement explaining why he had misled the Senate in Question Time this morning. I take it that I have been invited to indicate the background to the matter. I do so in these terms: At Question Time this morning I asked the Minister for Science and the Environment, Senator Webster, some questions relating to the reasons for the failure to proclaim the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The first question I asked Senator Webster this morning was:
Is it a Tact that the Capricornia section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has not been declared because the area covered by permits Q/4P and Q/5P infringe on the proposed section ofthe Marine Park?
Senator Webster answered that question by saying, firstly-, that it had been asked five times before and that I was stupid to ask it again. As I indicated this morning, that is an allegation to which at times I plead guilty. As I think every honourable senator ought to do. I went on to say that in respect of this particular issue I did not regard the question as a stupid one and that, as it was a proper question, it required a proper answer from the Minister. Senator Webster told the Senate that the Capricornia section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park had not been declared because of constitutional questions which had to be resolved in discussions with the
Queensland Government. I then asked a supplementary question of Senator Webster. I asked whether he was aware of the fact that in the House of Representatives today the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) had given a completely different answer to the same question, saying yes, it was a fact that the Capricornia section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park had not been declared because of the permits to which I referred in my question this morning.
In answer to the supplementary question which I directed to Senator Webster as to whether he was aware of the answer which Mr Newman gave in the House of Representatives, he gave an answer which I am not able to quote in detail, because in spite of inquiries to his office as to whether the ‘ pinks ‘ of that answer would be available to me, I have not been able to obtain the answer in detail. However, perhaps it is not terribly important to the substance of the issue that is now before the Senate. The substance of Senator Webster’s answer was that the question asked in the House of Representatives was a different question altogether. I then drew the Senate’s attention, in a question addressed to Senator Carrick, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, to the precise question which had been asked in the House of Representatives and the precise answer which had been given in the House of Representatives, which precise answer was quite contrary to the precise answer given to the same question asked of Senator Webster in the Senate. I drew attention to the fact that the questions were identical. I drew attention to Mr Newman’s answers and I then sought to ask the Leader of the Government, Senator Carrick, which of the two Ministers was misleading the Parliament: Mr Newman in the House of Representatives or Senator Webster in the Senate.
In the course of the exercise of addressing that question to Senator Carrick, a note was passed by Senator Webster to Senator Carrick and Senator Webster rose on what he said was a point of order while Senator Carrick was starting to answer my question. Senator Webster interrupted the answer which was being given by Senator Carrick and said:
I have been in touch with my office and with Mr Newman, and Mr Newman said that he answered yes to two questions which were not the questions which the Acting Leader of the Opposition is attempting to infer.
Armed with that interjection or point or order from Senator Webster, Senator Carrick then proceeded to answer my question. I had asked which of the two Ministers was misleading the
Parliament. In answering that question Senator Carrick said:
As I gather from Senator Webster, no Minister is misleading the Parliament- only the Deputy Leader of the Opposition . . .
Firstly in respect of the allegation which Senator Webster made in answer to my earlier question this morning, namely, that it was a stupid question, and secondly in respect of Senator Carrick ‘s statement that 1 was misleading the Parliament, if you please, Mr President, in a question, I sought to make and did make a personal explanation to the Senate before the luncheon adjournment. I did so on the basis of a perusal of the exact answers to the questions taken by Hansard in each place and my interpretation of them. 1 think there is nothing that has happened since that has led me to change my interpretation of what the questions and the answers mean. In those circumstances, I claim to have been misrepresented. I appreciate that the Minister has in the course of proceedings in the Senate this afternoon, indicated an apology to me. I respect him for the manner in which he has dealt with this matter to date. Those are the matters on which the alleged misrepresentation is based.
– I am grateful to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Button) for putting before me the circumstances. I apologise that I was not present at the time. As I said, I was at a Cabinet meeting. The matter now rests upon whether, in replying today, yesterday or at any time to a question on the Capricornia section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park I reiterated certain matters that misled the Senate. I did misrepresent the Deputy Leader of the Opposition this morning and have indicated that in terms of a misunderstanding. Incidentally, I make it clear that the note that was passed to me by Senator Webster was, in fact, a copy of the letter from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to Senator Webster in which the Prime Minister indicated that the only barrier standing in the way of the marine park being declared was a constitutional one. That was the content of the note, lest anyone feels that it had any surreptitious matters in it.
In responding to Senator Button, I assumed- of course, I regret it- that there had been some misunderstanding of Mr Newman’s question. I am bound to say that 1 have looked at his question and answer and what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said is correct. Mr Newman did reply ‘yes’ to both questions. Before I advert to what Mr Newman has now said, I want to say that never at any time, wittingly or otherwise, have I misled the Senate on this matter. I make that perfectly clear. What I have said has been said as my best and my sincere understanding- indeed, my full understanding after a great deal of searching as to what is the policy of the Government and what are the essential core policies of the Government.
After this incident today and at lunch time I rechecked that matter, and nothing that I have discovered has in any way made me change from the situation that what I have said to this Senate is my clear understanding of what is the policy of the Government. That policy includes the fact that the Capricornia section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is near to declaration as a national park and that fundamentally the discussions between the two governments relate to the constitutional matters. That is my complete understanding. Let me say that I would be perfectly willing if I had felt that I had inadvertently misled the Senate, to say so. I do not believe that to be the case. So that we can put this matter in perspective, Mr Newman in another place has made a statement.
– It was a personal explanation. He would not make a statement because it would have given the Leader of the Opposition a chance to reply.
– I will read the statement of what happened in another place and, of course, invite debate on the matter. Let us have no doubt that I hope we will agree upon a reasonable time for debate on this matter. My understanding is that the text of the statement of Mr Newman is as follows:
On reading the draft Ilansard of a question asked this morning by the honourable member for Griffith I find I misheard the question and my answer is inaccurate. The reason why the Capricornia Park has not been declared is that the Government wishes to finalise the question or agreement on extending the powers of the States and the territorial sea with the Queensland Government. This question is now moving towards resolution, lt will be resolved in a way that will absolutely maintain our commitments to the protection of the reef. It is absolutely true that in correspondence with various colleagues I pressed fora resolution of the royal commission issues concerning research, exploration and production of petroleum in the Great Barrier Reef region, but this has not been the reason for the Government to delay on the declaration of the Park. That purely represents my portfolio responsibilities. The reasons given in the Senate are of course entirely accurate. As I said in my answer this morning, 1 now have a submission in front of the Government and I hope it will resolve the question of the royal commission’s findings. That submission is totally in line with the Prime Minister’s assurance that the Commonwealth will permit no harm to the reef and no activity to take place which could possibly cause harm to the reef.
I am also informed that the Leader of the Opposition in my absence this morning, made some attack on what I said. Any imputation that I was putting a view different to the
Prime Minister is totally inaccurate . . . Certainly, in giving my answer this morning, I had no intention of misleading the House.
I have referred to Mr Newman’s statement in another place. Let me simply say this to the Senate: When I come here, representing the Prime Minister in this place, I seek from him and from other relevant people what is the policy. The Prime Minister has made it very clear, as he has in Cabinet, that he will give an unqualified assurance that there will be no drilling on the reef and that no action will be taken that will in any way damage it. That is the stated policy. Honourable senators will recall that yesterday I pointed out that the Government’s key policy would be the pursuit of long term research from which we would learn the nature of the ecosystem and something of its management. Only then would we be able to know what could be done in areas from tourism to fishing in terms of the long term management of the reef.
I repeat what is in my mind at this moment. Yes, permits were in existence but they were inactive and not being activated. Those permits were not matters of a critical nature which related to our decisions. The decisions were ones for discussion between the two governments. We recognised our pre-eminent constitutional responsibility and powers and said that we would act accordingly. On the information available to me I was able to say that great progress appeared to have been made on the Capricornia section and that that ought to emerge as a declared section of the national park. Upon rechecking with the Government I am advised that what I said is the policy of the Government.
- Mr President, I take it that we are debating the motion that Standing Orders be suspended.
– I ask the Leader of the Government whether he has moved that the Senate take note of his statement.
– May I make it clear. As I understand it, the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders was carried to enable me to make an explanation.
– It was not carried formally.
– Then I am wrongly advised.
– We are engaged in the quaint procedure of debating a matter before we have suspended Standing Orders to allow us to do so. Mr President, I wonder whether we can get back to some order.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. I think it is generally accepted that we suspended Standing Orders to allow the Minister to make a statement. During his statement he said that he would expect and was prepared to allow discussion on his statement for a limited period. So he has issued an invitation. Standing Orders were suspended for that purpose. I take it that it is open to someone to move that the Senate take note of the statement. Any discussion that followed such a motion would still be in keeping with the reason for the suspension of Standing Orders. If that is not not so I would seek to move again that Standing Orders be suspended to allow further debate to take place.
– We have not put the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders, have we?
– Instead of worrying about the suspension of Standing Orders, would it help, Mr President, if I simply moved that the Senate take note of my statement? A discussion would then be allowed.
– It would help. There would then be a motion before the Chair to which honourable senators could speak. The motion for the suspension of Standing Orders was not proceeded with. If the Minister moves the motion he has suggested we will have a motion to which to speak.
– I raise a point of order. As I recall it, my motion to suspend Standing Orders to allow Senator Carrick to speak was put on the Notice Paper to be debated at a later hour this day.
– That is so.
– As far as I know, it is still there.
– It may remain dormant.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) proposed:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
-As I said earlier, I appreciate Senator Carrick ‘s personal approach to the issues involved in this matter. With the greatest respect, insofar as the substance of the issues are concerned, it is not good enough. At Question Time today Senator Carrick behaved, as I imagine he thought he behaved, with great deftness in answering the question that was put to him. This is what one might expect of a Minister dealing with a question. This afternoon in his explanation of the discrepancy between the two answers he pleaded, on behalf of Mr Newman, great deafness. That is why Mr Newman was not able to answer the question in the House of Representatives in the same way as Senator Webster answered in this chamber. I find it an extraordinary statement that a Minister with the responsibility of Mr Newman answered in the way that he did a question which he had not heard.
This matter is relevant to a long standing issue in the Senate regarding standards which honourable senators opposite are entitled to expect in answers to questions which they direct to Ministers. This is not the first day that questions relating to the Capricornia section of the Great Barrier Reef have been raised in this chamber. This matter has been raised day after day at Question Time. I think it has been raised on three occasions by way of a censure motion against the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) for giving conflicting answers, for giving answers which are nonanswers and for fudging the issue. We had that bizarre Question Time a week ago when the Minister for Science and the Environment just refused to answer any questions on this issue at all. Today when he was asked a question on this issue he was, of course, quite clear in the answer which he gave. Later in Question Time both he and Senator Carrick indulged in a course of conduct which was a confident one. In a point of order Senator Webster said that the position was quite clear. He told us what it was. He misled Senator Carrick by saying that. Senator Carrick, who relied on Senator Webster’s answer, as he relies on the advice of other advisers, then proceeded to mislead the Senate on the basis of that answer. He made an accusation against me in particular.
The problem for an Opposition is to use Question Time to elicit accurate answers from Ministers and to raise matters which are of concern to the Australian community such as the particular issue that we have been discussing. For a very long time we have been trying to get answers on this particular question of what the Government’s attitude to the proclamation of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is. We have never been given satisfactory answers. Today we get the final answer- the final solution, as it were- of the Webster-Carrick duo, which is that we do not even know what is happening in the House of Representatives in the Opposition. We are even misled to that extent.
A lot has been said by this Government about the standards which one can expect from Ministers of this Government. On 8 August the Prime
Minister, who is the great layer-down of standards of propriety, when discussing the dismissal of Senator Withers said:
We had no doubt that our first and foremost responsibility was the maintenance of the high standards of propriety set and maintained by this Government.
The community rightly demand a high standard from the Ministers of the Government. The judgments on Ministers are more exacting and sometimes more harsh than the judgments which might be passed on those outside the sphere of public life. If these high standards were not upheld, the people’s confidence in government- a confidence which is fundamental to Australian democracy- would be undermined.
The Government has an obligation to uphold them even though the cost can be and is in this instance, a high one.
It was a high one indeed for Senator Withers. But we on the Opposition side do not object if a Minister says at Question Time: ‘I do not know the answer to that question. I will get it for you ‘. That is an appropriate answer at Question Time- 1 do not know the answer. But Senator Webster has all the answers. He gives them to us ad infinitum- every Question Time all the answers to all the questions. The answer to the question today, which was directed by me, the information which he gave to Senator Carrick, was in each case completely false. It was wrong, and he did not maintain the high standards of which the Prime Minister of this country continually and so glibly talks. Of course there are plenty of other examples of that situation, and there is no better example than in the statement of Senator Webster himself. In 1975 he said:
A leader with any respect for his own image would declare immediately in this Parliament that he had misled the Parliament, although perhaps unintentionally.
It was not unintentionally this morning, it was ignorantly. Surely those who have followed the disgrace and discharge of the various Ministers during these past few months must endorse my comments, that any leader with any respect for his own image would resign immediately. I repeat that I respect the manner in which Senator Carrick personally dealt with the matter after the incident which took place at Question Time. But the complaint that we have is that the Ministers of this Government are not using Question Time properly, as it ought to be used, and that this morning Senator Carrick went so far as to rely on the advice of a totally discredited Minister on the particular issue which was the subject of questions and discussion in the Senate.
I wish to take the matter no further. But I am grateful to Senator Carrick for making the time available for the matter to be discussed. It is important from the point of view of this Parliament that the Opposition’s view is quite clear on matters of this kind. We are not interested in potting
Senator Webster on issues of this kind. We are interested in getting clear answers to questions. We have not done that. We have got answers today which are not only unclear but also are untrue or misrepresentative of the true situation, and they were used in the course of Question Time not only to fuzz the issue but also to misrepresent the position of the Opposition in the course of this debate.
– I am grateful that at the end of his comments Senator Button made it clear why he thought this was a matter which should be debated by the Senate. I think I quote him reasonably exactly when I say that he said that it was important that the Opposition’s view be understood, and that what it wanted was clear answers to questions which were put by its members. I think that is a very reasonable request on the part of the Opposition, that it should get clear answers. I do want to put to the Senate, though, that the matter which has been raised, and the way it has been explained by Senator Carrick- indeed the basic facts of this matter- are before all senators, because it all happened out in the open and we saw the reason for what happened. The oddity about this matter is that this morning Senator Webster, who is the senator who has been under criticism in previous matters, gave a very short and clear answer to a question which was put to him. That answer has already been cited by Senator Button. I would have thought that the answer was a model of brevity and clarity.
What has brought this matter back before the Senate now is that subsequent to that quite clear and brief answer by Senator Webster, a question was asked of Senator Carrick in circumstances which have been explained. There was an exchange, which again has been described by Senator Button, before the motion was moved here this afternoon, which gave rise to a comment by Senator Carrick which he has explained, in a way which Senator Button has acknowledged was appreciated by the Opposition.
– It was an explanation by Senator Carrick of how he came to understand that the view put in Senator Button’s question was inaccurate and why, as it has transpired, the view put by Senator Button has been found to be accurate. The full explanation is before us because the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) has explained in the House of Representatives his answer which was not in accord with the brief and clear answer, given by .
Senator Webster in the Senate, which was in accordance with government policy.
– Perhaps you might read it again, so that we know what it is.
-What, the full statement of Mr Newman?
– Incorporate it in Hansard.
– I am quite happy either to table the document or incorporate it in Hansard. It is the same statement as was read.
– It is in Hansard now.
– I think it should be tabled. We do not have access to it. I think it should be tabled.
– I am quite happy to make a copy of it available to the Opposition. I table the document. But the point is that an answer not in accord with Government policy was apparently given in the House of Representatives this morning. I have not seen the Hansard record of that, but it is clear from the statement which has been read to the Senate by Senator Carrick that the Minister has indicated that he misheard the question and he therefore answered it incorrectly. That is the sole area of misunderstanding.
As far as what happened in this Senate is concerned, there is no going back on the answer which was given briefly and clearly by Senator Webster with respect to what government policy is, or what the Government’s intentions are. Senator Carrick has explained in a way which I think is totally satisfactory how he came to suggest that Senator Button had not been accurate in his question. I do not believe, therefore, that the great issues of principle which we have been debating on other days, motions of no confidence, et cetera, which have again been cited by Senator Button, arise. I very respectfully suggest to the Senate and the Opposition that these issues do not really arise with respect to what has happened here in the Senate today. I really do think that that is drawing a very long bow, because what happened here in the Senate today is quite overt and easy to understand. It has been fully explained and the statement of Mr Newman can be debated, as Senator Button began to do in a very minor way. But that, of course, is not something which happened in this chamber. It is something which affected the view which was adopted in this chamber.
I would like to emulate Senator Carrick in the approach that he has adopted in this matter. It is a matter of regret for Government senators and Ministers that there should be any misunderstanding about a matter raised in this chamber. I simply suggest that this is not a matter in which there could be any suggestion that any Minister in this Senate has breached any of the principles which were referred to by Senator Button.
– 1 desire to join in this debate because I am not quite sure that we are getting the full story or that everything is as it should be. I appreciate the attitude adopted by Senator Carrick in making his explanation. I can understand how he made the reply to the question today, relying on information from Senator Webster. I think, if there was any misinforming of the House, this was by Senator Webster. That is why I felt he should be here when we were discussing this matter, and if he had any reservation about the suspension of Standing Orders, he could have been given an equal opportunity to make an explanation.
The case put by Senator Button, and the statement made by the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman), showed distinctly that either Senator Webster or Mr Newman was telling an untruth. I did not jump to the conclusion that it was Senator Webster. I thought there was a possibility that it could have been Mr Newman. Therefore I thought that Senator Webster should have been given the opportunity to make an explanation and try to exonerate himself. This afternoon Mr Newman has made a statement which I think indicates that Senator Webster was not completely untruthful in his answer. Perhaps it was Mr Newman who misled the House or did not properly inform the House in his answers. If that is so, I want to know why action has been taken against Senator Webster. Senator Webster came into this chamber at a time when I thought that he should have come in. He went to Senator Maunsell and the words I heard him say were: ‘I have been kicked out of the Ministry’.
– Absolute nonsense!
-That is why I raised a question concerning his making a ministerial statement.
– That is why Sinclair came across.
– That is not true either. He came to tell me that they could not put the statement down until a quarter past three. In fact, I then sent that message to Senator Georges. Nobody knows better than Senator Georges why the Leader of the House came here.
– I will have to make a personal explanation soon.
– Rightly so.
-Mr President, I distinctly heard words to that effect. That is why, subsequent to that and after the document had been served on the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) this afternoon, when the Minister was making his statement to the Senate I asked whether he was making a ministerial statement. I used the excuse of asking whether the Minister had to obtain leave to make his statement- I knew that he did have to do so- to place it on record that he made a ministerial statement when, I thought, he was no longer a Minister. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) said that that is nonsense. We shall see what emerges in the next day or so. I will be interested to note the time of Senator Webster’s dismissal. If what I have outlined is so, Mr Newman has some explaining to do. One questions the validity or the truthfulness of his second statement to the House this afternoon. I put all those possibilities before the Senate because I do not think that the matter has been cleared up. It will not be cleared up until the Government is clear and clean about what it is prepared to do with the Great Barrier Reef, particularly the area under dispute.
– Firstly, I think it is necessary for me to answer the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). He said that I was aware that the Leader of the House in the other place, Mr Sinclair, had come across. I was aware of the need to postpone the Senate’s program until such time as the Minister for National Development, Mr Newman, had made an explanation, which is what it turned out to be. But what cannot be taken from us is the feeling- perhaps I could use the word ‘suspicion’- that Mr Newman was required, in fact forced, to alter his position on this matter in order to protect the Minister for Science and the Environment, Senator Webster. If there is suspicion, let us bring the matter out into the open.
– That is not a personal explanation.
– No. He is speaking to the motion.
– No. I am speaking to the motion at the moment. I have the call from the Chair. 1 am just explaining that I was not told by the Leader of the Government in the Senate that Mr Sinclair had come across. I have it from another source that Mr Sinclair did come across. What happens in situations such as this is that rumours begin to move about the place.
– Of course. You are making them. You are extending them.
– Perhaps I am extending them. We need to find out the truth of the matter. Let us debate the issue to see whether the Opposition was potting, as Senator Button suggested earlier, and instead of hitting Senator Webster we now seem to have hit Mr Newman. Mr Newman now seems to have been required to make an explanation which denies the policy of his Department. The policy of his Department is consistent with the answers that he gave in the House of Representatives. He said that the reason for the non-declaration of the zone was the permits involved in the area. 1 have raised question after question in this place asking why it is that the Department of National Development, Mr Newman’s Department, through its membership of the Great Barrier Reef Conservative Committee, has been pressing for drilling in that region of the Great Barrier Reef. Representatives of Mr Newman’s Department have been pressing for that time and time again. The policy of Newman’s Department is that drilling should take place. The policy of his Department is that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park should not be declared until such time as the matter of the permits is resolved. It is not a constitutional matter, as Senator Webster said time and time again. However, as far as Mr Newman is concerned that is not the case. He gave an answer according to the policy of his Department. He was clear and straightforward in his reply. We in this place have had evasion from Senator Webster and from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser).
What happened today was that, in defence of Senator Webster, who was caught out in a conflict with the responsible Minister, pressure was brought to bear on Mr Newman for him to accept full responsibility. That is what Mr Newman’s explanation means. He accepted full responsibility in order to allow Senator Webster to escape the charges that we were laying against him, namely, that he was misleading the House and that he had been misleading the House consistently on the matter. In this situation Mr Newman is the fall guy. I suggest that the reason it was Mr Sinclair who came across to see the Leader of the Government in the Senate was that Mr Sinclair came to protect his fellow member of the National Country Party. That is the situation, no more, no less. The National Country Party brought pressure to bear to protect Senator Webster in this place. There is no doubt that Senator Webster has been on the run. He has been discredited. Even today he was discredited.
Mr Newman was forced to accept responsibility, just as Senator Withers was.
What is revealed by this whole matter is a conflict between Mr Newman’s Department and the Department of Science and the Environment. On a factual basis I find it more acceptable to accept the reality of Mr Newman’s position. What we have been complaining about is that Mr Newman’s Department is committed to oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef. Senator Webster is committed to making apologies. But Senator Webster has been caught out in a conflict. He has been caught out in misleading this House. This whole exercise this afternoon has been to protect Senator Webster. Clearly, Mr Newman is the fall guy in this situation. As Senator Cavanagh said, it remains to be seen what will develop over the next two or three days. One thing is certain: Senator Webster is in a powerful position because he is protected by the National Country Party minority in the Government. It has called the tune before and it is calling it again. Senator Webster will escape the penalty that he ought to accept.
– Do you believe Senator Cavanagh or not?
– He has been peddling those rumours.
– I made my own assessment from the incidents which have occurred. The Leader of the Government in the Senate has acknowledged that it was Sinclair who acted as the message boy and came across to tell us that we could not proceed as planned because Mr Newman had not made a statement- Mr Sinclair knew exactly what the statement contained. He knew that Mr Newman was going to make a statement, accepting full responsibility in the matter, in order to allow Senator Webster to escape. That has been the whole exercise in the other place and this place. Although I do not agree with Mr Newman’s policies, in the circumstances I feel sorry for him. All this has a sort of Withers aspect. I hope that it is not Mr Newman who suffers. The person who ought to suffer is Senator Webster.
– The proposition being put ‘ up by the Government is that this place is a sheltered workshop. We have a government of the handicapped. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) does not remember and Mr Newman cannot hear. We have a government of amnesiacs and the deaf. That is the proposition which the Senate is being asked to accept this afternoon. At 2.45 this afternoon the fourth ranking Minister in this Government- I might add a very grave looking fourth ranking Ministercame into the Senate, stood in the alcove and beckoned Senator Carrick. Senator Carrick went out and had consultations with him for several minutes. Senator Carrick is asking us to believe that Mr Sinclair came into the Senate to tell him that Mr Newman’s statement would not be coming into the House until 3.15 p.m. Since when has the fourth ranking Minister in this Government been a messenger boy to carry such simple messages as that? Since when has the fourth ranking Minister in this Government run around Parliament House conveying simple messages to other Ministers. It is my belief that at that meeting which took place in the alcove between Senator Carrick and Mr Sinclair the Government’s alibi on this matter was concocted. Senator Webster is certainly not off the hook.
Let us look at what is on the record. Senator Button has been through the question that he asked. He asked Senator Webster an identical question to that which was asked of Mr Newman in the House of Representatives. Contradictory answers came forward. The reason we are now asked to believe these contradictory answers was that Mr Newman did not hear the question. The proof of today’s Hansard shows that when Senator Button pointed out to Senator Carrick that an identical question had been asked in the House of Representatives and a contradictory answer had been given Senator Webster interjected with these words:
I raise a point of order, Mr President. I have been in touch with my office and have been informed that Mr Newman has advised that he answered yes to two questions, which they were not (he questions which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is attempting to infer.
That has now been refined into: ‘Mr Newman did not hear the question’. Perhaps Mr Newman is as deaf as the Prime Minister last August was amnesiac. But what about Mr Newman’s staff? Are they also deaf? I would have expected that the staff of every Minister in this place would listen to the questions asked and the answers that their Minister gives during Question Time. Yet Mr Newman was subsequently able to advise Senator Webster’s office, so Senator Webster tells us, that the question which was put to Mr Newman in the House of Representatives was not the same question as the one which was put by Sentor Button in the Senate. So we are not only being asked to believe that Mr Newman is deaf, and as far as I know there is no previous evidence of that, but also, implicitly, we are being asked to believe that Mr Newman’s staff do not listen to the questions that he is asked in the House of Representatives or the answers that are given to them, or that before Mr Newman answers a request- and I do not expect Senator Webster’s office would have spoken to Mr Newman himself; Senator Webster’s office would have spoken to Mr Newman’s office- Mr Newman’s staff do not talk to Mr Newman, that they do not talk to each other, that they do not listen or that they are also deaf. I suggest, with the greatest respect, that that chain of improbabilities is just more than any reasonable person can swallow. The Government has concocted an alibi to get Senator Webster off the hook. I at least- and I am sure this goes for the great majority of members of the Opposition- am not satisfied with the Government’s alibi.
– It seems to me that two matters arise from what has occurred today: First, the incident involving the answers given by Ministers in this place and the comment made by Senator Carrick about whether Ministers were misleading, or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Button) was misleading; and secondly, the issue about government policy as far as the Great Barrier Reef is concerned. I would have thought on the first matter that both Senator Webster before lunch in his apology to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Senator Carrick after lunch in making quite clear his apology and withdrawing his remarks about Senator Button having misled the Senate, had quite clearly indicated that the misunderstanding or the misinformation upon which they had acted had been taken into account by them. They had both personally withdrawn and apologised for any imputations made about Senator Button misleading the Senate. I do not think Senator McLaren could deny that both of those Ministers have made an unqualified withdrawal of any imputation made against Senator Button today.
The second point involves a matter of policy. I was intrigued to hear one of the accusations made by honourable senators opposite- that Ministers in this chamber are unaware of the events or the answers that are given at the other end of the building. I would have thoughtalthough I was not here at the time, at least I know a little about it- that the events of 1 1 November 1975 would have demonstrated that it is perfectly possible for something to be occurring at one end of the building and for honourable senators at the other end of the building not to have the faintest idea about what is going on. I would have thought that the accusation that
Ministers in the Senate are not instantly aware of the answers that are being given in the House of Representatives comes ill from a group of senators or members of a political party who sit on the other side ofthe chamber largely because they themselves were not aware on a certain date of what was happening just across Kings Hall.
The question that arises in terms of policy is a simple one. An explanation has been given by a Minister in another place that because he misheard or misunderstood a question that was put to him he gave an answer that was not correct. He has corrected that. What in fact his statement reveals is that the answer given by Senator Webster about the position in respect of the proclamation of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the constitutional problems which have led to that not yet being proclaimed was a perfectly correct answer. It was perfectly in line with the assurances that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) have given on repeated occasions for the benefit of any honourable senator or any honourable member who is interested in establishing what happens to be government policy on the matter.
Comments have been made that Mr Newman is expressing the view of his Department regarding the status of permits Q/4P and Q/5P or that problems are going to arise in terms of the proclamation of the Marine Park. It may well be that any department has a particular view on the issue of the Barrier Reef. But the view of a particular department as to how to approach a problem is not the central issue when there is a superior view and that is the view put by the Cabinet collectively or by the Government. Anybody who believes that every department has the same view on every matter obviously displays no understanding of the processes by which government policy comes into operation. Mr Newman’s department may have a view or a policy which may not necessarily be exactly in the terms of the Government’s policy. It may well be. But that is not central to the question. What is central to the question is not what Mr Newman’s department thinks about the matter. It is what the Cabinet, what the Government and what the Prime Minister has expressed time and again as the policy of this Government.
In answer to numerous questions, and particularly in a full answer to a question asked by Mr Simon in the House of Representatives on 22 May, the Prime Minister made the policy clear. That policy has been repeated time and again in this place, lt has been repeated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It has been repeated by the Attorney-General who has gone through the detailed constitutional problems that arise- whether the matter relates to arrangements under the Federal-State agreement, whether it relates to decisions in respect of the seas and submerged lands legislation and so on. Senator Webster has repeated the policy time and again. He did so again today in an answer that was absolutely true and absolutely accurate. No member of this chamber could say that it was not a proper expression of government policy about the proclamation of the park, the constitutional position ofthe Federal Government and the policy of the Government. We have heard all this humbug and cant in an attempt to build a case based on one word here and one word there or on the explanation that honourable senators opposite do not accept that Mr Newman did not hear or did not understand the question. On that shaky and slim foundation, honourable senators opposite have attempted to build a great edifice of accusations when they know, because they have been told repeatedly, the policy of the Government on this matter. That shows just how little honourable senators opposite have to contribute towards a constructive debate or to any debate that has taken place in this chamber in the last couple of days.
The issue as to whether Senator Carrick was correct in making an accusation or a suggestion that Sentor Button had given misleading information, has been dealt with by a full apology from both Ministers concerned. The question of what is the Government’s policy on the reef has been spelt out again today, firstly, by Mr Newman in terms of retracting an answer because the answer was not in accordance with the facts because he misheard -
– Why did he give it if it was not in accordance with the facts?
– I thought that even Senator McLaren was capable of understanding the proposition that if he had misheard something and given an incorrect answer, he would be a fool not to correct it at a later stage without any imputation that on either occasion the truth was not being stated. Quite simply, the explanation that Mr Newman now gives, that he misheard or misunderstood, is one that I would have thought even honourable senators opposite would have been able to understand. However, they do not wish to understand, they are not prepared to understand and they are not prepared to comprehend that the Prime Minister and his Ministers have stated repeatedly the policy of the Government on the Great Barrier Reef, from which none of them has resiled one inch. The nonsense that has been put. up about who knows what in terms of what is going on at the other end of the building in an attempt to say that the policy of the Government has altered in any way from the unequivocal statements that the Prime Minister has given time and time again that no drilling or development will be permitted that does any damage to the Barrier Reef, simply indicates the extent to which the Australian Labor Party in this place and elsewhere is attempting deliberately to mislead the people of Australia and is choosing deliberately to ignore what stands as incontrovertible evidence about the policy of this Government.
– The Opposition is not satisfied with the Government’s explanation on this matter, although we appreciate that there has been some attempt by Senator Carrick to rectify a grievous mistake that was made at Question Time this morning. If we were concerned about the truth it would not matter what the questions and answers were in any part of this building. They should be identical. But the answers today were not identical. No amount of posturing, vehemence or throwing around of arms by Senator Puplick can get away from the fact that different answers were given to the same question at two different points in time in two different parts of the building. The Government is in crisis about this issue, and has been so for a considerable time. In fact, it was Senator Puplick, concerned about his own Government’s attitude to drilling on the Great Barrier Reef, who helped to spark the fire that has been burning in this chamber for several weeks.
The Government is in trouble and it ought to recognise that it is in trouble. It is in trouble because the oil companies, through the Queensland Government, have been putting pressure on the Federal Government. If Senator Puplick expects us to accept the statements that are made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on this issue when he has been proven time and time again to have mislead not only the Parliament but also the Australian people about interest rates, unemployment, inflation and pensions, he is outside the world of reality. A simple statement by the Prime Minister will not satisfy the concern of the Opposition about the Government’s intentions in respect of the Great Barrier Reef. We know that this Government is afraid of the Queensland Government. It has shown itself to be so in respect of its attitude to Aborigines in that State. It is afraid of the dog in the manger attitude of the Queensland Government and the way in which it operates in respect of its State development.
Have we not shown over the last six or seven weeks that we have been involved in an attempt to establish the truth or otherwise of the Government ‘s intentions with regard to oil drilling on the Barrier Reef? True, Senator Wriedt has waged a relentless pressure campaign in this place seeking information about the Government’s intention. Throughout this country there has been a concern that the Government was using some of its usual doubletalk in respect of the Great Barrier Reef. That concern has been reflected right through the political spectrum, including questions asked in this place by Senator Puplick and Senator Martin. It has been reflected even in the editorial comments of many newspapers in this country and in the comments of those concerned with conservation. We make no apology for having put the Government on guard with respect to its attitude on oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef.
What has been the attitude of the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster)? We have heard Dorothy Dix questions on a whole range of matters so that Senator Webster could give long and detailed answers. Obviously the questions asked by Government senators were prepared by his department. But every time questions on this subject were asked from this side of the chamber, rude and insulting replies were given to Senator Wriedt, Senator Button and Senator Georges. We have been accused of stealing documents. We have been subjected to personal abuse. When finally the question of all questions was asked, almost simultaneously in this place and in the other place, we received two separate answers. Senator Button’s question was identical to the second half of the question that was asked by Mr Humphreys of Mr Newman in the House of Representatives.
It is all right for Senator Puplick to try to yell and to push down our throats that we ought to know what is going on in both Houses of Parliament. If the Government has nothing to hide and is telling the truth, the answers that are given in the other place ought to be identical with the answers that are given in this place. But they are not. They are different answers. Let us look as what Senator Webster said in his explanation subsequent to what he had said in the earlier part of his reply to Senator Button’s question. He said:
I raise a point of order, Mr President. I have been in touch with my office and have been informed that Mr Newman has advised that he answered yes to two questions, which were not the questions which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is attempting to infer.
Yet Government senators have the gall to say that Senator Webster is blameless and is not involved in a cover-up and in misleading the Senate. Of course he has been involved in a cover-up. Of course, as Senator Wriedt has shown from time to time, he has been involved in conflicts. Yet this is the senator whom Senator Puplick would have us believe is expressing government policy in this place in the same vein as did the Minister for National Development, Mr Newman, in the other place.
One sees the way in which other Government Ministers answer questions in this place. In front of Senator Webster we see a pile of papers that one could not jump over. He has before him all the detailed answers, but when we exercise our rights and obligations to question the Government about its policies- reflecting concern felt throughout Australia about its intentions, because in so many other areas of policy its statements have been blown high- we are subjected to a number of personal abuses, and the implication that the intentions of the Government are pure but those ofthe Opposition are impure.
Without question, the propriety of this Government’s conduct is on the line. Time will tell what actually happened. In this place the truth invariably comes to the fore. Whether, as alleged, Mr Sinclair took the running in this in order to protect his Minister here; whether Mr Newman is the fall guy; whether Mr Newman is in fact telling the truth in the House of Representatives; or whether Senator Webster misled Senator Carrick, the fact is that we have three separate answers to what is substantially and fundamentally the same question. So someone is culpable and no amount of the use of numbers, yelling, or prevarication will get us away from the basic fact that somewhere in this matter of drilling on the Great Barrier Reef something has yet to be brought to the light of day.
I would hazard a guess that the Department of National Development is indeed a development department; that it is concerned about going along with the statements of the Queensland Government, and those of Mr Camm, who is on the public record as wanting to drill the Great Barrier Reef. We know what is the intention of the Queensland Government in this matter. We know that when it exerts pressure this Federal Government goes to water. So there can be no suggestion that we will accept the assurances, glib as they are, that Senator Webster was somehow misinformed; that somehow he created a wrong impression in the mind of Senator Carrick. I can understand Senator Carrick ‘s attempt to rectify a very unsavoury and unsatisfactory position. But it is incredible that three Ministers who, according to Senator Puplick and Senator Chaney, have noble motivations, and express Government policy, should be placed in this position. They are there because in one way or another they have committed a misdemeanour, the misleading of both Houses of Parliament over what would be a simple issue if the Government ‘s motivations were beyond question. Certainly on this issue, in the light of its general electoral record, they leave very much to be desired.
I am not so sure that we should be demanding the resignation of Senator Webster or Mr Newman. I suppose that we may be fairly confident that we will not be demanding the resignation of Senator Carrick. But let us examine the point made by Senator Walsh- that when Mr Newman replied to the questions which sparked the fire here, it took him several hours to rectify the position. Had he misheard the question one would have thought that the Prime Minister himself, if not involved in some sort of a double fix or double talk, would have stood up in the House of Representatives and said: ‘That is not the real position at all’. These are surely matters that have been discussed at some length in the Cabinet room. Surely the fact that the Opposition has moved two censure motions in the last month against Senator Webster and that he has adopted the dog-in-the-manger attitude that he has would have indicated to the Government that the Opposition had some concern. Surely Senator Carrick and Senator Chaney- the only two Ministers in the Chamber who seem to be interested in the issue- would accept from us the view that we have a general concern about this; that we are, in fact, reflecting our general concern about what is to happen to the Barrier Reef. When Senator Carrick joins the fray he falls, as it were, into a pit of scalding water and quite some time elapses before he is able to extricate himself from the circumstances that subsequently develop. We have repeatedly asked simple questions about a particular area of the reef. For instance: ls it a fact that the Capricornia section ofthe Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has not been declared because the area covered by permits Q 4P and Q 5P infringe on the proposed section of the Marine Park?
How does that constitute a question that cannot be answered simply? In the House of Representatives it was answered by the one word, ‘yes’. Several hours later that was changed. In the Senate we had insulting remarks and rudeness, personal attacks and finally we saw Senator Carrick entering the ball game. I will guarantee that now he wishes he had not opened his sweet little mouth about it, because we are in a situation which must be regarded by the Government, and is in fact, a crisis for the Government. There is no point in Government supporters suggesting otherwise. The issue will have to come to the surface. The light of day will shine on the way in which these three Ministers have not only misled the Senate but also cast serious reflections upon the acting Leader of the Opposition, Senator Button, today.
To their credit, the Ministers concerned have withdrawn their imputations, but Senator Webster, even though prepared to do that, went on to say that these were not the questions that the acting Leader of the Opposition was attempting to imply that they were. Therefore, even if one were to wipe clean the slate in regard to the guilt that obviously rests in Senator Webster’s corner, he has still to explain the answer that he gave to the Senate in respect to the questions asked of him today by Senator Button. The Government is in an incredible mess because it has something to hide, because it is being screwed by the oil companies. Those companies know that there are great areas in the Barrier Reef region which have oil deposits. There are people in this country who do not give a damn about conservation or protecting our natural environment. They are substantially to be found in the Queensland National Country Party Government. It is not without some significance that it is a National Party Minister in this place who has been put on the stock by members of his own Government parties as well as members of the Opposition. It is because he has endeavoured to cover up, has been rude and has something to hide, and it is because the Government is involved in some underhand dealings with the Queensland Government that this Government is in the sort of trouble that it is in today.
-I wish to speak very briefly in support of Mr Kevin Newman. It was unfortunate that earlier this afternoon there was some play made on the deafness of Mr Newman, in regard to the mishearing of a question raised in the other chamber. Those who know Kevin Newman closely know that he is partially deaf in areas where there is a loud background noise. This is due to his military involvement and service overseas. 1 believe that if members of the Opposition are aware of this partial impediment it does not do them a lot of good to make play of that fact. I wish to draw the matter to the attention of this chamber.
-Mr Deputy President, why the fury on the part of the Opposition? Why the storm? What is the tremendous row about? It is obvious that it is all a matter of sheer deflation. What happened this morning? Senator Button got a message from Senator Wriedt ‘s assistant and then asked a deliberate question. He received the right and proper answer from Senator Webster. He then stood up and proclaimed loudly to one and all that that was a different answer to the answer which had been given 15 minutes earlier in the House of Representatives. Let us look at the fact that Senator Button was able to produce this answer while Question Time was still continuing in the House of Representatives. It was obvious that the Opposition had got the answer it had been striving to get for weeks and weeks. It had got an answer which it believed to be correct. If members of the Opposition had thought about it for a few minutes they would have realised that it could not possibly be correct because if that answer was correct then everything that Senator Webster had been saying to them for weeks and weeks must have been untrue. However, it was not only everything that Senator Webster had been saying for weeks and weeks but also everything that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) and the Leader of the Government (Senator Carrick) had told them on this subject. It must all have been untrue. The Opposition senators believed that Mr Newman ‘s answer was the correct answer.
That was the answer that they had be,en asking for; that is the answer that they wanted. They finally got that answer. We then saw in the Press gallery Senator Wriedt ‘s assistant literally bouncing around handing out copies of Mr Newman’s answer and proclaiming to one and all: ‘We have got him; we have got Senator Webster’. They had been after Senator Webster for months; and here they were, they had him. They were so keen to get Senator Webster that they refused to apply their minds to the possibility that there must be something wrong with Mr Newman’s answer. They never thought for a moment that there possibly could be something wrong with his answer, because that was the answer that they had been seeking for so long. They were full of glee, and bounced around back up to the Press Gallery, again with the ‘pinks’ of Senator Button’s question and with Senator Webster’s answer. We saw Senator Wriedt ‘s assistant up there, with a big beam across his face as he bounced around among these journalists, telling them the story that they could publish, that at long last, the Opposition senators had got Senator Webster.
Opposition senators were so full of glee that at last they had got Senator Webster that there was no thought in their minds of anything else. Surely someone on the Opposition benches should have had enough common sense to think to himself: There must be something funny about that answer; otherwise, all of these people are telling lies’. What has happened now? Now, deflation has occurred. Suddenly the matter has been made clear- even clearer thanks to Senator Watson who has explained to us the facts about Mr Newman’s hearing defect. It has been made clear by Mr Newman, Senator Webster was correct and the Opposition deflation has occurred.
– Why did it take Mr Newman two or three hours to wake up?
– It turned out to be a storm in a teacup. I want to answer the interjection by Senator Gietzelt. Senator Gietzelt should knowbecause apparently Opposition senators know all of the things that are happening in the House of Representatives, contrary to their statements on the events in October 1975- that there was a matter of public importance being debated in that chamber and that matter of public importance could not be interrupted until 3.15 p.m. There is a fairly simple explanation. It was a matter of public importance brought on by Opposition members of the House of Representatives. That frustrated the making of a statement until 3. 1 5 p.m. The Opposition knew it was to be made at that time. What is it all about? There is storm, fury and all the rest of it, and suddenly Senator Webster is off the hook. The Opposition say What has gone wrong? What has happened? We had Senator Webster on the hook and he has escaped. Well, there must be a conspiracy’. Of course, the Opposition is always thinking of conspiracies. ‘There must be something wrong. What has happened is that there has been a National Party- Liberal Party fight, this and that was happening and Mr Newman has been sacrificed for the sake of Senator Webster.’ Now that is all a lot of nonsense. There is a very simple explanation. Mr Newman misunderstood the question. It is not simply a storm in a teacup; it is more like a passing wind in the park. ‘Senator Webster has escaped ‘.
All sorts of explanations have been dreamed up, but one can tell by the fury of Opposition senators that it has been a terrible thing. They had him and Senator Webster got off the hook. They were saying: ‘Maybe we got the earlier
Press this afternoon. Maybe the early editions of the afternoon paper do not have the corrections in them. Maybe we have got onto PM this evening. Maybe all sorts of things have happened and maybe we have done very well ‘. The simple truth hurts. Let us look at the simple truth. As stated by Mr Newman, it is:
That is the answer which Senator Webster, Senator Carrick and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) have given and which has been the subject of debate in this chamber on, I think, four occasions. It has been the subject of question after question. Opposition senators cannot get it into their thick heads that that is the truth. Now that Senator Webster is not in trouble, they are most unsatisfied. Senator Cavanagh stands up in this chamber and tells the media in the Gallery that there is a rumour that Senator Webster has been sacked. Opposition senators will not listen to the denial of that fact by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). No; they want to tell the rumour to the media. They do not care whether it is the truth; they are interested only in getting it into the newspapers in order to denigrate Senator Webster. That is what all this fury, all this fight, all this nonsense is about- pure and simple deflation because what was supposed to happen went wrong.
- Mr President, at the outset I would like to say that I would hate to be in a court of law with Senator Lewis as my defence lawyer. He could not even get me out of a charge of riding a bike without a light, judging by the defence that he has put up today. We find Senator Lewis using the argument that the Minister for National Development, Mr Newman, was prevented from putting down his statement in the other House because the debate on a matter of public importance could not be interrupted. But who brought on the debate on the matter of public importance? The Government did. It was a Government matter of public importance. Senator Lewis has also overlooked the fact that the Government had the lunch break in which to decide to make the statement. But, as Senator Gietzelt has pointed out, we had to wait until mid-afternoon, when Mr Sinclair came over. We all saw Mr Sinclair in the lobbies. We all saw him beckon Senator Carrick out of the chamber in order to give him the message. Are we now to be led to believe that all of Mr Sinclair’s staff were away at lunch, that they had a long and late lunch, and that he had nobody to run his message over here and had to come over himelf? As Senator Gietzelt has pointed out, the fourth senior member of the Cabinet had to come over with the message and call Senator Carrick out of the chamber. Of course, we will not believe that.
The other intriguing thing is that we find Senator Lewis speaking here in a spirited defence of Senator Webster. Of course, we all know of the wrangle that is going on in Victoria between Senator Lewis and Senator Webster as to who is to be No. 2 on the ticket if there is to be a joint Liberal-National Country Party ticket for the next Senate election: We all know of the reason why honourable senators opposite are trying to say: ‘No, Senator Webster’s job is not on the line’. We are all aware of the fact that, if Senator Webster were to get the chop, members of the National Country Party in this Parliament would say to Mr Fraser: ‘You can no longer rely on our support in the Senate’. The Government might find itself in a similar situation to that in which the Labor Party found itself in 1975. But the matter goes further into the depths of politics so far as the Liberal and National Country parties are concerned. We know that Mr Hamer in Victoria is depending on National Party support to keep him in government.
Government senators- Ha, ha!
– lt is all very well to laugh. We know that, if Senator Webster is given the axe because of the difference between the answers he has given here and those Mr Newman has given in the other place, the Hamer Government in Victoria might be brought down because the National Party threatened–
Government senators- Ha, ha!
- Mr President, I heard the people opposite in October 1975, when they were sitting on this side of the chamber, give the same guffaws when I told a story in the Senate as to what was going to happen. They said that I was telling lies and that I did not have my facts correct: But when we look at the record we see that everything I said on that occasion came true. I will go so far as to predict that we will find that what I am saying now represents the real crux of the reason why Senator Webster did not get the chop. As Senator Cavanagh pointed out in this chamber earlier today, he overheard Senator Webster saying to Senator Maunsell: ‘I am being sacked from the Cabinet’. I would sooner believe Senator Cavanagh than believe the reasons that have been given by honourable senators opposite.
– It was a very smart move to put that around.
– Yes, it was a very smart move. It was a very smart move on Mr Fraser’s part to make himself aware that he will not be able to trust the National Country Party if he removes Senator Webster from his portfolio. The people opposite abuse and excuse. The honourable senator from Tasmania said- 1 am not going to dispute what he said- that Mr Newman, because of war injuries, has impaired hearing. Well, I agree with that; but the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was in the chamber when Mr Newman gave his answer. As Senator Gietzelt pointed out, if Mr Newman did not hear the question properly, at least the Prime Minister and the other front benchers would have. They should have moved immediately to correct Mr Newman’s answer. But, of course, we had to wait for some 4!6 hours before that answer was corrected. We have not seen Senator Webster in his place in this chamber defending what he said. I do not need to put the argument again because I think it was put very thoroughly, firstly by Senator Button and then by Senator Walsh, Senator Cavanagh and Senator Gietzelt. All the facts have been put before the Senate. I do not think anyone will be misled by the spurious arguments we have heard from the other side.
Of course, the Government has to make a defence; but, as I said earlier, the last person whom I would want to defend me in the courts in relation to any misdemeanour would be Senator Lewis. When the remarks made today by Senator Puplick are drawn to the attention of Mr Newman, as I said by way of interjection, Mr Newman will not thank him for his exhibition here today. I think he has dragged Mr Newman further into the problem. The Government has not heard the end of the matter. We in this Parliament have long memories. We know of the events that occurred in 1974. We know of the actions taken in both 1974 and 1975 by the people who sit opposite. They cannot blame us if we have been good learners, if we have learnt well from the tactics that they adopted.
– You have taken a long time today.
– I do not think we have taken a long time. Honourable senators opposite are very critical of the fact that we have been so quick on the uptake. Senator Puplick said that we were basing our argument today on very slim evidence- a couple of words. As I said by way of interjection: ‘Tall oaks from little acorns grow’. Senator Puplick might live to regret the words that he uttered in this place today. I agree with Senator Gietzelt that the Government is facing a crisis not only in the electorate but also in its own back benches. It is facing a grave crisis. We witnessed that in this chamber last night. We saw that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) had to sit in this chamber from 8 o’clock last night until 23 minutes past 2 this morning. She was not able to leave, because the Government was talking about its crisis. A lady Minister had to sit in here from 8 o’clock in the evening until 23 minutes past 2 in the morning, and not one other Minister came in to relieve her. What were the other Ministers doing? They were talking about the crisis in the Government. Of course, they are now very excited and very unhappy that the crisis has blown up further in this chamber today because two different answers were given to identical questions- one by a Minister in the other place and the other by Senator Webster here.
We have now seen something which I did not think I would ever see. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick), after accusing the acting Leader of the Opposition, Senator Button, of being the one who was misleading the Senate and after our discussing the whole matter for about 4 1/2 hours, had to come in here and apologise and say that Senator Button in fact was correct and that he, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, was incorrect. There we have it on the record. I do not need to say any more, except that if the people who sit opposite were genuine in the remarks they made in 1975-1 think Senator Button quoted Senator Webster’s remarks verbatim- they ought to resign arid face the people as soon as possible.
– Perhaps I can throw some light on this situation. Perhaps we can look at the performance in the ranks of the Opposition compared with the performance in the ranks of the Government. This may throw some light on the reason why the Opposition believes that there should be so much intrigue on this side of the chamber. From a distance, we have watched the intrigue going on between the Right and the Left in the ranks of the Opposition. The intrigue is evidenced when honourable senators opposite come into this place. We watch them bowing and scraping to the Left- walking that tightrope. One day they are fairly moderate and the next day they are bowing to the Left in their questions and speeches in this place.
– Remind us of what was done to Vince Martin last weekend.
-On this side of the chamber we do not have a right wing and a left wing on our Party. We have unity. It is something that Opposition senators do not understand at all. They do not understand the meaning of the word ‘unity’. They do not understand the meaning of the word ‘loyal ‘. They cannot imagine how the National Country Party senators can sit on this side of the chamber with Liberal Party senators. They cannot understand the meaning of the word ‘loyalty ‘ whatsoever.
On this side of the chamber we have two parties. We have the National Country Party and the Liberal Party. We are content to sit on this side of the Chamber in complete unity and with complete loyalty. It is quite beyond the imagination of Opposition senators that Liberal Party senators will stand up in this place and talk on behalf of National Country Party Ministers. It is beyond their imagination. They could not presume to think that they could live in peace with the Left and the Right. When the Honourable Frank Steward died we had a most extraordinary occurrence in this Senate. I met that man very briefly. He was an incredibly nice man. I knew him briefly when we were both on the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act. I believe that he was one of the nicest people I had met in this Parliament. We had the extraordinary position of honourable senators opposite saying: We disagreed with his politics, but all the same he was a very nice person’. You will never hear those sorts of statements from this side of the chamber.
On this side of the chamber there is unity and loyalty which could never be found on the other side. No wonder Opposition senators think that this matter is one of intrigue. That is all that they have been born and bred on. They do not know anything else. This perhaps throws some light on the reason why they think that one Minister is being sacrificed and the other is not. I am quite sure that people reading today’s Hansard, if they bother to read further than the commencement of this debate, would not imagine that the Opposition is so divided within its ranks that it believes that the natural thing in politics is that there must be intrigue behind every statement. The fact that a Minister stands up here and apologises for a mistake and a Minister in another place has said: I am sorry. Because of a slight hearing difficulty, I misheard the question, ‘ is quite completely beyond the imagination of the Opposition. Honourable senators opposite cannot believe that it could be a simple mistake. They believe there must be intrigue, because that is what they live and breath, and are bred on. I am ashamed that we have in this chamber the sort of debate we have just seen in this place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
(Nos Ito 5) 1979
Debate resumed from 8 May, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bills be now read a first time.
– Now that we have settled that little dispute, let me introduce another one which may bear upon the credibility and unity of the Liberal Party in this Parliament. I refer to the matter which I discussed with you, Mr President, privately last evening. I commence by saying that I was impressed this week when Senator McLaren was excluded from the Senate that some members thought that perhaps there was an injustice and decided to refer the case to the Standing Committee on Privileges. When there is a belief of injustice or that something is wrong, politicians have that Committee and machinery for the purpose of protection to see that they are not treated unfairly. I thought: What a wonderful institution Parliament is. Whilst politicians have all the protection in the world, I wonder what protection the staff of this Parliament have. If we have a drunken, brutal and ruthless politician in this Parliament we do not know to what extent he may do some damage to someone and what may be the consequences. What is the redress for an injured workman or workwoman in this place?
I refer to the story which I think is well known about Parliament House and which the staff have been threatened not to disclose. One day last week, Mr Bill Burns, the honourable member for Isaacs, went out into the rose garden and started a fire for the purpose of a barbeque. One could burn many people in the rose garden if a fire got out of hand. But he started a fire for the purpose of a barbeque.
– A couple of Ministers go there, do they not?
– I do not know. I have not been fortunate enough to be invited there. Looking after the rose garden is an important person in the machinery of this Parliament, one Ted Pretty- the Housekeeper. Amongst his jobs is the responsibility to look after the rose garden. He informed Mr Burns that lighting a fire was not permitted even for the essential purpose of having a barbeque in the rose garden. The fire lighter, the offender, immediately punched Mr Pretty and felled him to the ground, knocking off his glasses.-
– What was his name?
Sentor CAVANAGH- I will repeat his name sufficiently to have it in Hansard. You will read it in the morning. The Housekeeper rose from the ground, struggled up, and was immediately felled again by another blow from Bill Burnsthe honourable Bill Burns. Being a small, elderly man, Ted Pretty immediately got up again and did what any man in his position would do. He ran for his life with Bill Burns after him. Bill Burns again thumped Mr Pretty. Mr Pretty was rescued by a female employee of Parliament House and taken into this building. He was doctored with bandaids, et cetera, in the first aid room. He was then called before the administration of the Joint House Department and threatened that if he said a word about the incident his job would be in jeopardy.
He does not have the protection of the law when such a threat is made against him. I believe that even now he is inclined to say that it did not happen. Bill Burns told him that nothing could be done to a politician within the precincts of Parliament 40 days before a sitting or 40 days after a sitting. Whether that is law or not is not the important question I raise. Other members of the staff who saw the injuries inflicted in the precincts of the Parliament were warned that if they disclosed what happened they could face charges before the Privileges Committee for making a report against a politician. Where is the protection of the worker in this House against a ruthless individual who acts in such a manner? I do not know whether the barbecue was held but I know that a workman was injured. He could not claim compensation because the incident is not to be mentioned. In all sincerity, we owe people who work here protection. This person is frightened to take the matter before the law courts to obtain justice because of the threat that has been made. He has to be told that there will be no repercussions. If the facts I have set out are proved we should support any claim this man makes.
Mr President, as you have some responsibility for the conduct and management of this House, I ask you to make inquiries into the question to see what foundation there is to this allegation and to see what redress there should be by this House or the other House taking action against a member of the Parliament who behaves in such a fashion and physically assaults someone carrying out his duty. I ask you to make a declaration so that we all know whether it is permissible to light fires and to have barbecues in the parliamentary rose garden if we so desire. Was the housekeeper within his rights in protesting against the lighting of a fire in the rose garden? The circumstances in which a member of parliament can commit contempt are set out in Sir Erskine May’s nineteenth edition of Parliamentary Practice. It reads: lt would be in vain to attempt an enumeration or every act which might bc construed into a contempt, the power to punish Tor contempt being in its nature discretionary. Certain principles may. however, be collected from the Journals which will serve as general declarations ofthe law of Parliament. It may be stated generally that any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as a contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence.
If Sir Erskine May is right- Ted Pretty being an officer in the employment of this Parliamentand if the facts as related did happen, a charge of contempt in relation to this matter could be dealt with by Parliament. In May’s book, and I think also in Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, it is stated that whilst one House cannot deal with a breach of privilege by a member of another House we can do one of two things. In this case we can request the other House either to make Mr Bill Burns attend before the Bar of this House to answer the allegations which have been made or we can make an application to the other House to deal with the member for his actions on that occasion. If, after examination, what I have said is found to be correct are we going to say that no penalty should be imposed on a man who is supposed to be an honourable and responsible elected member of Her Majesty’s Parliament and who has behaved in that way against someone doing a service for politicians? I leave the matter with you, Mr President, in full confidence that you will do all possible to see that justice is done.
– The charges against a member ofthe Parliament raised in this chamber by Senator Cavanagh concern a member of another place. The appropriate place for the allegations to be dealt with is the other chamber. As to the request for clarification of what may or may not be done in certain parts of the parliamentary area, that is within my responsibility for the Joint House Department.
– I take the opportunity of speaking to the first reading of these money Bills to focus some attention on a matter of concern to a large number of my electors of New South Wales. I refer to certain pieces of legislation and the way in which they have been passed through the New South Wales Parliament. In the period of the forty-fifth Parliament of New South Wales, from May 1976 until September 1978, the Parliament of that State sat for 131 days. That represents an average of roughly one day per week. In the course of those 131 sitting days 290 pieces of legislation were passed. The legislation tended to be of a fairly routine and non-controversial character. For instance, the notorious New South Wales Summary Offences Act was in no way discussed in the forty-fifth Parliament. During this period the Government of Premier Neville Wran built itself a reputation, which was sustained by comments in the media, as being a government of moderation and fairness with middleoftheroad policies. That led the Wran Government to a successful election last year.
Last year the forty-sixth Parliament of New South Wales sat on 7 November following the election and rose a matter of weeks ago having sat for a total of 4 1 days. In the course of those 41 days 206 Bills were passed by the New South Wales Parliament. That compares with 290 in the previous Parliament which lasted almost three years. However, of those 206 pieces of legislation fully 53 were guillotined through. I understand that the role and function of parliament to scrutinise legislation is of exceptional importance. During a speech by Senator Chaney today, Senator O ‘Byrne at one stage interjected to comment that Parliament is becoming a farce. He meant that in terms of what I believe he saw as the inability of the Parliament adequately to scrutinise and to discuss major pieces of legislation. The Australian Labor Party, in its own platform, constitution and rules as approved at the Perth 1977 conference, under the heading: Machinery of Government’ stated at item 37, that it is the Labor Party’s policy to:
Strengthen the capacity of the Parliament to scrutinise the activities of the ad ministration.
In speaking on the first reading of these Bills I wish to scrutinise the activities of the executive Government of New South Wales by the Parliament. As I said, of the 206 Bills passed in the 4 1 days the guillotine was applied to 53. In the last 1 1 days of sitting the gag was applied to 1 7 members who rose to speak. I will discuss certain pieces of legislation in respect of which this treatment was meted out. We know that the New South Wales Parliament and its forms have been used in a way that I believe honourable senators would not countenance in this place. Question
Time in the Parliament of New South Wales occasionally sees Ministers taking 25 minutes to answer questions and there have been occasions on which, in the 45 minutes allowed for Question Time, only two questions have been permitted. Some time ago the Minister for Consumer Affairs in New South Wales used Question Time to launch a scurrilous attack on the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales, Mr Bruce McDonald, the member for Kirribilli, over certain false allegations which, of course, he would not have dared to make outside the Parliament.
The forms of the Parliament are important. Honourable senators know the value of the urgency debate and the debate on matters of public importance. They play a vital role in having issues discussed. They are important weapons in the parliamentary armoury. The Opposition should be able to bring forward matters of public importance, to lay them before the Parliament and before some form of scrutiny. The Opposition in New South Wales has not been permitted to introduce a single matter into the Parliament for debate as a matter of public importance. For instance, it has proposed that corruption in the Department of Motor Transport, which is now the subject of a magisterial investigation, funding of community health services, the question of organised crime in New South Wales, the question of the Port Kembla coal loader and the very important issue of the escape of notorious criminals such as Cribb and Munday, should be discussed as matters of public importance in the Parliament of New South Wales. At no stage have any matters of public importance been permitted by the Government of New South Wales to be discussed in the Parliament of New South Wales.
I turn now to five pieces of considerably sensitive and vital legislation and indicate the way in which the Government of New South Wales has treated them in the Parliament. I refer firstly to the Summary Offences Act. The Summary Offences Act is an important piece of legislation in New South Wales which controls criminal sanction on issues such as vagrancy, drunkenness and prostitution. In terms of the Acts total repeal, the amendments were passed in a period of less than 24 hours. No public debate was permitted on this Bill. No legislation was enacted to replace any of the provisions of the Summary Offences Act. The Opposition was not given the opportunity to discuss it in any detail. The third reading and the entire committee stage procedures of the Bill were put to the Parliament in one motion and without debate, despite the fact that it is an extremely large and complex piece of legislation involving a number of critical social issues which deserve to have full public discussion.
I have no personal objection to the repeal of some sections of the Summary Offences Act. It has been a bad Act in many ways for a long time. But to treat an important piece of legislation in that fashion, I believe, is not a proper thing for a Parliament to countenance. The shadow Attorney-General in New South Wales, the member for Ku-ring-gai, Mr John Maddison, called for a three month delay in the proclamation of the Act in order to do two things; to permit public discussion of what had occurred and to look at what might be introduced as alternative methods of controlling public nuisances, which the Summary Offences Act was designed to cover. That was rejected out of hand. The Bill was rushed through the Parliament without debate and proclaimed as law almost immediately.
The Crimes (Amendment) Bill attempted to remove one of the most sacred rights that people in democratic systems have, that is, the right of trial by jury. The latest edition of the platform, constitution and rules of the Australian Labor Party under the heading of ‘law reform and civil rights’ says that the Australian Labor Party is committed to:
Trial by jury to be preserved and extended as Tar as practicable in all serious and criminal cases and responsibility for jury service to be the same for both sexes.
Nobody could disagree with that and I believe that any government that attempted to abrogate the principle of trial by jury would have a great deal to answer for. But in New South Wales, in a debate that lasted three hours and 43 minutes, an attempt was made by the Attorney-General to abolish trial by jury in the face of opposition from groups such as the Council for Civil Liberties and the Labor lawyers organisation. Again, no facility was provided for adequate debate of that legislation by the Opposition. Three hours and 43 minutes later the Crimes (Amendment) Bill, with some changes forced by public opinion, was on the statute book.
The Public Service Bill received three hours and 14 minutes of attention in the Parliament. At the time that it was read for a second time in the Parliament of New South Wales, no member of the Parliament of New South Wales, other than the Premier possessed a copy of the Bill. It was introduced, and only after it was read for a second time was a copy given to the Leader of the Opposition Mr John Mason. It was a draft copy with hand-written changes and annotations on it. It was in that form that the Bill was pushed through the Parliament of New South Wales.
This Bill is very contentious. It says, for instance, that the head of any public service department shall be appointed solely by the Minister responsible for that Department. No other authority, Public Service board or committee has any role in the appointment of a permanent head. He is appointed solely at the discretion of the Minister. The Bill abolishes entirely the inspectorial system in the New South Wales Public Service. It is a subversion of the recommendations put forward to the Government of New South Wales by the Wilenski committee which investigated the New South Wales Public Service. During the course of the three hours and 14 minutes permitted for this Bill, with no copy of it being made available to any member of the Opposition, save the Leader of the Opposition who was given a hand corrected draft copy, this Bill was steam-rollered through the Parliament of New South Wales. There can be no better indication than that of the lack of parliamentary scrutiny.
The Redistribution Bill is another fundamental Bill in New South Wales. It places into the State Constitution certain provisions in an Electoral Act providing for the redistribution of electorates and for enshrining in the State Constitution the discredited principle of optional preferential voting. Such a system now can be changed only by a referendum of the people of New South Wales. But the Premier and the Government determined that no referendum would be held to put the legislation into the Constitution, because they knew the nature of the Bill. That Bill was rushed through, again with no debate except for the contributions of the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Party. Members such as the member for Lane Cove, Mr John Dowd, the member for Mosman, Mr David Arblaster, the member for Northcott, Mr Jim Cameron- people who have particular expertise in electoral matters- were not allowed to speak. When introducing the Bill on 10 April, and insisting that it go through all stages on 12 April, the Premier said that the Bill was an urgent Bill which required urgent attention. The legislation itself states that a redistribution ‘shall be made forthwith’. It was said to be a matter of urgency. To date, nothing has happened.
The prize in this saga goes to the Evidence Bill which I shall discuss at length. It was introduced into the Parliament of New South Wales and the Opposition was given only 14 minutes to speak during the whole of that debate. Let me tell honourable senators what the Evidence Bill says.
It is a Bill that regulates the release of government information to the courts. The amendment to clause 6 1 of the principal Act reads:
When the Attorney General certifies in writing that in his opinion:
any communication described in the certificate, or any communication relating to a matter so described, is a government communication and is confidential: and
the disclosure of the communication in any legal proceedings described in the certificate is not in the public interest, the communication shall not be disclosed in or in relation to those legal proceedings or be admissible in evidence in those legal proceedings.
A certificate issued under subsection ( 1 ) shall, without any court having examined, or heard a record of, the communications so certified or having inquired into the power of the Attorney General to give the certificate, be accepted in the legal proceedings described in the certificate as conclusive that the communication is a government communication and is confidential and that the disclosure of the communication in those legal proceedings is not in the public interest.
It goes on to state that the person presiding in court has a responsibility. Proposed new section 62 provides that, if ‘it appears to the person presiding in the court before which the legal proceedings are held or taken that the communication is a government communication’, that person has the responsibility to stop the proceedings and to ask the Attorney-General whether the Attorney-General wishes to issue a certificate to prevent him in the court from examining the document further. What is a government communication? A government communication is defined in the Bill as follows: government communication’ means a written or oral communication relating to the business of government at senior level, including, but without limiting the generality of the foregoing, a written or oral communication relating to
That will preclude any court in New South Wales from examining, inquiring into, or in any other way looking at that communication. In debating this matter, a debate which took a whole 42 minutes from the beginning to the final vote on the motion that the Bill be read a third timejust 42 minutes- the Opposition was given 14 minutes to speak. Its principal speaker, its only speaker, was gagged after he had been on his feet for 14 minutes. This is a very serious piece of legislation. The Sydney Morning Herald editorial of 8 May 1979 had this to say about the Bill:
This goes against the trend towards open Government and greater governmental accountability. The legislation is dangerous and should be taken off the Statute books.
An article appeared, again in the Sydney Morning Herald, on 3 May 1979, written by a very prominent Sydney solicitor, Mr Frank Hoffey which concluded with these words about the Attorney-General:
He appears to view himself as able to be the Crown’s senior law officer as well as the judge of what is just and equitable for members of the community.
Mr John Maddison, the shadow Minister responsible for debate by the Opposition on the Bill said on the program Nationwide on 26 April 1 979 that his view was as follows:
Well I believe a judge should determine the question of crown privilege as to whether or not government information, government communication relating to the affairs of government at a senior level, and that those people, the judges, are in the best position to determine whether the public interest is in having that information before a court, and where talking about information before a court maybe straight information or information which is admissible in evidence, and 1 don’t believe nor does the opposition party believe that the Attorney-General should be able to sign a certificate which cannot be tested as to its validity one way or the other.
It is not that the courts themselves have not pronounced on this matter. In the judgment in Sankey v. Whitlam a number of comments were made about ministerial certificates and free information. Mr Justice Mason stated:
Perhaps affidavits in this form–
That is, a form essentially similar to that proposed in the New South Wales Bill- were acceptable in the days when it was thought that the court should uphold an objection once made by the Crown through its appropriate representative. But they are plainly unacceptable now that the court is to resolve the issue for itself, after an inspection of the documents when that is thought to be appropriate.
Other judges spoke similarly on that matter. The Acting Chief Justice, Mr Justice Gibbs, said: lt is in all cases the duty of the court, and not the privilege of the executive government, to decide whether a document will bc produced or may be withheld. The court must decide which aspect of the public interest predominates, or in other words whether the public interest which requires that the document should not bc produced outweighs the public interest that a court of justice in performing its functions should not bc denied access to relevant evidence.
The judiciary in New South Wales has remarked on the matter. In the Sydney Morning Herald of 1 May 1979, the following report on the comments Mr Justice Samuels, an appeal judge of the New South Wales Supreme Court, appeared:
The reasons given by the State Attorney-General. Mr Walker, for introducing controversial legislation on evidence is not valid, a prominent judge said yesterday.
The article goes on. to quote Mr Justice Samuels as saying about Mr Walker: he had, it would seem, been misled by incorrect advice from his departmental advisers.
Mr Justice Samuels was reported to have said that in relation to the effect of the Sankey decision. He was reported to have said further:
The rule was that no claim for Crown privilege is absolute . . .
People with an interest in freedom of information- a large number of honourable senators have worked very hard on the proposed Freedom of Information Bill of this Government, which in many ways is deficient and needs to strengthen the right of the public to examine documents- will also be surprised at that attitude being adopted in New South Wales. Mr Michael Evans, Lecturer in Law at the New South Wales Institute of Technology, writing in the Australian of 24 May 1979, stated:
The courts have been making decisions on what constitutes the ‘public interest’ for centuries. In that time their lack of bias in making such decisions has never been seriously questioned. On the other hand decisions by politicians on what constitutes the ‘public interest’ have always been regarded with some suspicion.
Acquiescence on an issue of this nature could see someone like Mr Walker in five years’ time as Minister for Truth.
Professor Harry Whitmore, of the University of New South Wales, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald of 78 April 1979, stated:
It is a fact that, in public law- that part of our law which protects ordinary citizens against the misdeeds of politicians and public servants- NSW lags sadly behind the law established in the Commonwealth and Victoria. This disgraceful legislation makes the situation much worse.
Indeed, it is potentially more destructive of civil rights, justice and democracy than many other laws and activities that the Attorney-General is so ready to attack.
Writing later in the Sydney Morning Herald of 9 May 1979, he stated:
And it certainly is not ‘academic posturing’ to state that the decision in Sankey v Whitlam does not have the extreme effect claimed by the Attorney-General.
Finally, I instance that Mr Brian Donovan, the Secretary of the Criminal Law Committee of the Law Graduates Association, made exactly the same point in a letter headed ‘Evidence Bill is intolerable’ which appeared in the National Times for the week ended 19 May 1979. But what was the answer of the New South Wales AttorneyGeneral to the vital question of public interest? He said in his speech on the Bill:
The answer is, by indicating how only the executive on most occasions will be in the best position to determine what is best in the public interest.
In other words, the Executive Government of the day is the body or best institution, if not the only body or institution, able to establish what is the public interest of the day. As I said, that vital legislation denies any form of government communication to the courts, let alone to the Press, the public, interested groups or the judiciary.
That vital information is now withheld. It is withheld by an Attorney-General on his say so alone. It is an unreviewable say so. It is withheld on the basis of a piece of legislation which was debated for 42 minutes. The New South Wales Opposition was given 14 minutes to state its position, before being gagged.
The reason many of these things have not been discussed is that misleading statements have been made by the Government about what the legislation says. In order to avoid exposure of the fact that the legislation does not say what the Government claims it says, the debates have been truncated. The Premier said of the Public Service Bill that there would be real efficiency audits in the New South Wales Public Service. But if one looks at the Bill one will see that efficiency audits are to be permitted only with the express and direct permission of the Premier himself. In other words, the Auditor-General or anybody who has any financial responsibility has no power to initiate an efficiency audit of a department. It can be initiated only by the Premier and only with the consent of the Premier.
In the electoral Bill the Premier said that there would be a full open public inquiry prior to a redistribution. The Bill does not provide any public inquiry as part of the redistribution process. One asks a number of questions about what it is that the Government of New South Wales is seeking to withhold from the public. When challenged in the Parliament by Mr Dowd about a matter concerning allegations made in a report by the Crime Intelligence Unit of the New South Wales Police Department the Premier of New South Wales said: ‘I don’t know anything of such a report, I don’t think such a report exists, but if it did exist I would make it public’. What happened? Mr Dowd produced a copy of the Crime Intelligence Unit report. Responsibly he did not make it public, he did not give it to the Press, he did not even table it in the Parliament of New South Wales. He put it personally and publicly into the hands of the Premier. Despite the Premier’s assurance that if such a document existed he would make it public, it is still not public. The Premier will not make it public.
It behoves citizens of New South Wales to ask why a major report of the Crime Intelligence Unit dealing with issues such as the allegations that a group of well known Sydney criminals have said that once casino licences were available they would be able to buy politicians who would ensure that they- that is, the criminals concerned- got the casino licences. Thai document has not been made public. The document is a government communication and as such under the Evidence Bill it cannot be produced in court and cannot be produced in public without the certificate of the Attorney-General. The purpose of introducing the Evidence (Amendment) Bill is quite clear. Proceedings are under way in New South Wales in which it was quite clearly indicated by Mr Edward St John Q.C. that documents in possession of the Crown would be called for in order to secure a fair trial for his clients. The Bill prohibits him from calling for those documents in the possession of the Crown. It prevents the court from even examining those documents in camera to see whether they are relevant to the case that is being tried before it. It will protect certain prominent individuals in New South Wales who are close associates of the persons to whom I have already alluded, in terms of the Government of New South Wales, from being exposed in court. This has been said clearly by one of Sydney’s leading Queen’s Counsel in his statements in the court. We know that the Premier has close personal contact with a number of these people involved. He, they, the AttorneyGeneral and the documents passing perhaps between them- certainly between them as Ministers- are now entirely excluded from the scrutiny of the courts of New South Wales.
I repeat the figures in respect of the important legislation- 3 hours 53 minutes for the Summary Offences Bill, with no real opportunity for the Opposition to speak; 3 hours 43 minutes for the Crimes Amendment Bill which attempted to weaken trial by jury; 3 hours 14 minutes for the Public Service Bill with no copies of the Bill provided to members of parliament for discussion prior to its introduction. As I said, this Bill seeks to put the control of the Public Service in the hands of the political Ministers. There was one day’s debate for the Redistribution Bill; and 42 minutes debate for the Evidence (Amendment) Bill. I say to the Senate those are serious matters. The Executive has jackbooted legislation through the Parliament of New South Wales without adequate public debate, without adequate parliamentary debate and without any attempt to provide the Opposition with the time to debate significant matters of public interest. The way in which Mr Walker as the Leader of the House in New South Wales has ruthlessly applied the gag to debate is a scandal. The Wran Labor Government is engaged in a systematic pack rape of parliamentary democracy in New South Wales and is not to be allowed in the public domain to get away with it.
I have never at any stage made any apology for any other government in Australia whose behaviour in the parliamentary domain is such as to prevent adequate debate and scrutiny of legislation by parliament. I have never at any stage defended the activities of any government in Australia in which the termination of parliamentary debate is a regular practice. But as a senator for New South Wales I assert again that the attitude of the Premier and the attitude of the Attorney-General as his parliamentary hatchet man has been to pack rape parliamentary democracy. This is a matter that should be brought to the attention of all citizens in New South Wales and, indeed, Australia.
-I wish to raise two matters in this first reading debate. I am raising them somewhat later than I had expected. The first matter is the inability or refusal of Senator Webster as the Minister representing Mr Sinclair in this place to comment on a study of the ultimate taxation consequences of income equalisation deposits. The second matter is a promise, which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) gave in India earlier this year, to export 20 merino ewes. On Wednesday of last week I asked Senator Webster, as the Minister representing Mr Sinclair a question. ( Quorum formed).
On Wednesday last week, I asked Senator Webster, as the Minister representing Mr Sinclair, whether Mr Sinclair was aware of a study by Queensland Department of Primary Industries economists which showed that the use of income equalisation deposits by farmers could increase the total tax liability over a period. Not surprisingly, Senator Webster was not able to say whether Mr Sinclair was aware of the study. He expressed surprise and doubts about its accuracy, but asked to be supplied with the articles in question. On Friday of last week, Sentator Webster’s office was supplied with the references to the articles in question, which are available from the Parliamentary Library.
Yesterday I asked again whether Senator Webster knew whether Mr Sinclair was aware of the study and, if so, why Mr Sinclair continued to exhort farmers to deposit money in income equalisation deposits. Senator Webster yesterday dodged the issue by saying that he did not know what Mr Sinclair knows, which may well be true, but after seven days- and it was a full week since the matter was first raised- he should have made it his business to find out whether Mr Sinclair was aware of this study and to tell me and the Senate what Mr Sinclair’s views on it were and whether he concurred with its findings. So at best both Senator Webster and Mr Sinclair are negligent. I think that it is more likely that they are afraid to let the cat out of the bag. It is a fact that income equalisation deposits for the first four months of this year are significantly lower than they were for the same four months of the previous year and that there is no sign of the balance in the trust account increasing over that period in spite of the very high farm incomes.
– You would accept that tax averaging is another issue that would reduce the amount of income that farmers would put into IEDs.
– There is a very close link between the two and I will incorporate the study afterwards, subject to agreement. The reason for this anomaly is linked very closely to the changes to tax averaging which were made hastily in a panic move by the Government in 1 977. There is also a link between income equalisation deposits and the Primary Industry Bank of Australia because $30m has been provided already by the IED trust account at an interest rate of 5 per cent to the PBA. The PBA is broke. It went broke a month ago. I suggest that the Government has ambitions of bailing the PBA out of bankruptcy by transferring to it more money at this 5 percent interest rate from the income equalisation deposits. But it cannot do that unless the amount deposited in the IEDs increases. The study to which I refer and which was conducted by the Queensland DPI shows that a medium-income farmer who makes a deposit in a high income year and withdraws in a low income year, which is the normal way in which IEDs would be used, actually pays more tax. At this stage I seek to incorporate in Hansard one of the examples which was shown in that study which demonstrates the point that I have made. It is the analysis by Moorehouse and Thompson of the Economic Services Branch of the Queensland Department of Primary Industry in March 1979. It was supplied to the Government about half an hour ago.
The document read as follows
Tax saving in year of deposit.
A primary producer has a taxable income of $20,000, less than $5,000 of which comes from non-primary production sources. His average income is $15,000. How much tax will he save by depositing $4,000 in IED ‘s?
Tax payable on $20,000 at average rate for $15,000 = $4,961 (See ‘farm note’ The Averaging System ( 1 ) for calculating tax payable ).
Taxable income after deposit is $20,000-$4,000 = $ 1 6,000.
Tax payable on $16,000 at average rate for $14,200 = $3,89 1.
Thus the investment of $4,000 inIED’s would bring a saving in tax of $4,96 1 -$3,89 1 = $ 1 , 070.
Extra tax in year of withdrawal.
The taxpayer will withdraw theIED’s in a subsequent year. What happens to the tax payable? Two situations are illustrated one when there is a low taxable income and the other when a loss has been made.
Example1 b ( Low income ).
Assume that in the year of withdrawal taxable income is $11,000 of which less than $5,000 is non-farm income, and average income is $ 1 6,000.
As taxable income is less than average, tax is calculated at normal rates.
Tax on $ 1 1, 000 = $2,38 1.
Taxable income after the IED is withdrawn is $11, 000 + $4,000 = $15,000.
Note. This calculation applies provided the deposit and withdrawal are more than live years apart. If the withdrawal is made within five years the withdrawal and deposit balance each other and there is no change in the average income. In the example taxable income is less than average income in both cases so there is no effect on tax payable. However it does highlight the need for careful analysis.
Again taxable income is less than average and tax is calculated without reference averaging.
Thus the withdrawal of the $4,000 deposit would increase tax by $3.72 1 -$2.38 1 = $ 1,340.
In this situation the extra tax of $1,340 exceeds the initial saving in tax of $ 1 , 070 by $270. That is, the use ofIED’s has resulted in $270 more tax being paid.
– Not all the ramifications are considered in the analysis which I have just incorporated, but it demonstrates the inherent contradiction between the income equalisation deposit principle and the primary producers’ averaging system after the Government’s illconsidered adjustments to that averaging system in 1977. It demonstrates that the IEDs, which Mr Sinclair has been trying to flog all around Australia for months with all the zeal of an encyclopedia salesman, have no tax advantages for the great majority of farmers and a distinct possibility of tax penalties for some. An encyclopedia salesman who was attempting to sell merchandise whilst withholding such important information as the Government not only withholds but also refuses to acknowledge would soon be in trouble with the Trade Practices Commission. It is time that these matters were brought out in a more public way. It is time that the responsible Minister of this Government were flushed out and forced to come clean on their attitude to the study and whether they concur with its findings.
The second matter concerns a promise given by the Prime Minister in India last January during his mid-summer tourist jaunt. When in India he received a request, both in writing and orally, from Raymond Woollen Mills Ltd of Bombay to guarantee the delivery of 20 merino ewes- not rams. This was subsequently reported in some of the agricultural weeklies- and I have spoken directly to some of the journalists who were present- that that was stated quite clearly. The Prime Minister’s response to that written and oral request was to guarantee that the sheep sought- 20 merino ewes- would be delivered, saying as he did so that no unions would be allowed to interfere with exports as the Government would not tolerate it. Be that as it may, the export of ewes is forbidden by the Government’s own policy. So compelling apparently was Mr Fraser’s penchant for grandstanding when abroad that either he contradicted his own Government’s policy or he did not know what the Government’s policy was and is.
On 27 February, I asked Senator Carrick, without notice, whether Government policy had been changed or whether Mr Fraser had contradicted it. Senator Carrick told me that he would refer the query to the Prime Minister for an answer. On Tuesday I received that answer and it is in Tuesday’s Hansard on page 2299. The answer repeats the Government’s policy and gives the background to the Government’s adopting it. The section in that policy which is relevant in this instance is:
The prohibition to be continued on the export of merino ewes ova and semen-
Mr Fraser, speaking through Senator Carrick, went on to say:
My remarks at Raymond Woollen Mills Ltd. India referred specifically to impediments to the export of breeding sheep attributable to trade union policy which may deter purchases by export customers. They were not intended to define the type of merino breeding sheep permitted for export by the Government:
It was not necessary for the Prime Minister to define that because the sex of the sheep for which a guarantee of availability was sought was specified quite clearly in the request that the
Prime Minister received. The request to the Prime Minister was for a guarantee that 20 merino ewes would be made available to this firm. The Prime Minister guaranteed that they would be available. It was not necessary for him to specify the age, sex, colour or breed of the sheep, because the sex of the sheep was specified in the request which the Prime Minister not only acceded to but also guaranteed. In saying that those remarks were not intended to define the type of merinos, he is trying to dodge the issue. His answer did not explicitly specify the sex, but the question did and he answered yes to the question. The request was for ewes and the Prime Minister guaranteed delivery. I repeat: Either his penchant for grandstanding when abroad is so great that he does not care what he says, or he did not know what Government policy was and is, and he is trying to evade the issue now. Or perhaps one could say that his promises in India have the same value as his promises in Australia. In that regard he appears to be incorrigible, but before he again makes a fool of himself grandstanding abroad, I suggest that he ought to find out what the policy of his own Government is.
-As a relative newcomer to this Senate I wish to seek a degree of clarification as to the manner and extent to which senators can scrutinise the role, criticise the operation and evaluate the outcome of the operations of the High Court. I for one had a certain degree of sympathy with some of the predicaments in which our colleague Senator Evans found himself this morning in facing successive points of order. In both the executive and legislative branches of government there appear to be not unreasonable elements of checks and balances, but so far as the role of the High Court is concerned, its deliberations and actions appear to be somewhat sacrosanct.
Seldom is it necessary for the Parliament or the community to view with concern some of the unfettered dictates of this High Court. Since it is the ultimate authority in matters of the interpretation of our Constitution, and its appellate jursidiction so far as the courts are concerned, it is a matter of real concern when we find it moving in one area, namely that of tax avoidance, to adopt a philosophy which appears to be contrary to that which is put forward by the executive and legislative branches, in other words, this Parliament, and also one that I believe is contrary to the general philosophy which prevails throughout the Australian community.
When that happens, not only is injustice done to the community at large but also a fundamental danger exists in giving a High Court such power that it can move in a direction which, philosophically, is contrary to that which is in the best interests of the nation. At lunchtime I spoke with the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and was assured that a parliamentary draftsman has prepared a first draft of a new section 260. It is indeed important to get that new section onto the legislative books. At the moment we have a High Court that is throwing out virtually all appeals by the Commissioner of Taxation so far as tax avoidance is concerned.
I wish to draw attention to a change in the philosophy adopted by the High Court. Honourable senators may recall the handing down of the famous Newton decision, which upheld the fundamental principles of section 260- that any scheme or arrangement, whether oral or written, was absolutely null and void so far as the Commissioner was concerned if it had the purpose or intent of avoiding or evading income tax. If I recall correctly, the present Chief Justice of the High Court was a losing advocate in that particular decision. However, with the passage of years, we have a situation in which the current High Court Chief Justice seems to be the leader in a situation in which it is almost impossible for the Commissioner of Taxation to win a case before the court in matters of tax avoidance. This, despite the fact that these tax avoidance schemes could not really be called tax minimisation schemes, despite the fact that I believe most people in the community feel that they are not commercially viable.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Mr President, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Withdrawal of Notices of Motion
– I ask leave to make a statement relating to the two Notices of Motion standing under General Business in the name of Senator Missen.
-The two noticesBusiness of the Senate, Notices of Motion Nos 1 and 2- were given as a result of the deliberations of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. Both notices were given when the time for giving notice was about to expire, so as to allow the Committee time to conclude its inquiries. The first Notice of Motion relates to the Australian
Capital Territory Poisons and Narcotic Drugs Ordinance 1978. The concern of the Committee in relation to this Ordinance had two aspects. First, the Committee wished to consider whether the matter contained in this Ordinance was important enough to warrant an Act of Parliament rather than subordinate legislation made by the Executive. The Ordinance is a comprehensive piece of legislation designed to deal with the problem of the trafficking and abuse of drugs in the Capital Territory. The Committee noted that the Ordinance contained penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment and up to $ 100,000 in fines.
Secondly, the Committee was concerned with certain provisions in the Ordinance which have the effect of placing the burden of proof upon the accused in a criminal prosecution. There were a number of other matters put to the Committee in a submission on the Ordinance. The Committee has now received a letter from the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) in which the Minister gives the following undertaking:
I undertake that if the Ordinance cannot be amended to the satisfaction of your Committee, a Commonwealth Bill will bc introduced to repeal PANDO (that is to say, the Ordinance) and to provide for the substantive law contained therein as an Act of Parliament.’
The Committee has agreed to accept this undertaking by the Minister, and has resolved that the Notice of Motion ought to be withdrawn on the basis of the undertaking. The Committee has agreed that the question of whether the Ordinance ought to be contained in an Act of Parliament will not be pursued at this stage pending the consideration by the Minister of matters put to him by the Committee in relation to particular provisions in the Ordinance, and pending the further consideration by the Committee of the criteria which it will adopt in determining whether Territory legislation should be made by Act of Parliament. In relation to the reversal of the onus of proof, this is a very complex matter and the Committee will shortly be reporting to the Senate on the subject. The tentative conclusion of the Committee is that the erosion by statute law of the common law principle that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused in a criminal case, and the general confusion surrounding the subject ought to be cleared up by an Act of Parliament. The Committee will be asking the Minister for Health to consider amendments of the Ordinance in the light of the other matters which the Committee has raised.
The second Notice of Motion relates to certain amendments of the student assistance regulations. In relation to applications for certain benefits, the regulations contained a very proper and desirable provision for the acceptance of late applications where the applicant has taken reasonable steps to ensure that his application is received within the time limit or where the application is not received because of circumstances beyond the applicant’s control. The concern of the Committee was that the amendments of the regulations which are the subject of the Notice of Motion did not contain this provision in relation to applications for certain other benefits. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Education (Senator Chaney) has now given an undertaking that the regulations will be amended so as to allow for the acceptance of late applications for the benefits concerned. The Committee has accepted this undertaking and has agreed that the Notice of Motion should be withdrawn on the basis of the undertaking. In accordance with the decisions of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, I now ask leave to withdraw the two Notices of Motion standing in the name of Senator Missen.
Notices of motion- by leave- withdrawn.
(Nos 1 to 5) 1979
-Before the suspension of sitting for dinner 1 was referring to the Newton decision in 1957- a decision that was supposed at that time to sound the death knell for all tax avoiding and tax evading schemes. I drew the attention of the Senate to how the attitude of interpretation and the philosophy of the Court has changed so dramatically since that time. I think that I made reference to the fact that the losing counsel in that case unfortunately failed to be persuaded by the wisdom of his superiors. I was also referring to the difficulty in which we find ourselves when the High Court of Australia which is directed by a strong and intransigent personality, leads the country and the Court into a philosophy in tax avoiding matters that runs counter to the prevailing community philosophy.
At the moment, the intent of the legislation in section 260 of the Income Tax Assessment Act appears to be rather meaningless. No one could say that Curran-type schemes are simple, commercial or mere tax minimisation schemes. On the other hand, they are highly artificial, contrived and anti-social. It will be unfortunate, though it may be necessary, if the Commissioner of Taxation has to be given additional discretionary power simply to overcome a provision in the Income Tax Assessment Act in relation to tax avoidance. I believe that these tax avoidance provisions are being protected by an elitist group. Unfortunately, all the detailed legislation which has been introduced to plug the loopholes by amending and adding substantially to particular provisions appears to be quite inadequate against a foe of highly paid lawyers and accountants who profit greatly for themselves and their clients in this arena. We are battling against overwhelming odds, especially when the umpire appears to be giving such decisions.
I believe that this Parliament has a problem when the intention of the legislative branch of government is being thwarted by a so-called higher superior who is accountable to no one. On the other hand, all the forces of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and the Treasury cannot prevail against such a situation. Therefore, we find a great reduction of incoming dollars to the Treasury, resulting in situations which benefit the rich and make a mockery of the principle of taxation equity and having a progressive tax rate structure within the Act. This Act, because it is becoming very much a patchwork Act and a plugging up of loopholes, is now artificially complicated. Unfortunately, it is becoming less and less understood by those who practise tax accounting, other than these highly paid and, what I might term, artificial tax accountants.
I mentioned earlier that the words of section 260, to the ordinary layman and I suppose to members of the Parliament, are relatively simple. But unfortunately, in their simplicity, the High Court sees ways to assist those who appear to be avoiding their obligations with respect to taxation. Section 260 provides:
Every contract, agreement, or arrangement made or entered into, orally or in writing, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, shall so far as it has or purports to have the purpose or effect of . . .
altering the incidence of any income tax;
relieving any person from liability to pay any income tax or make any return:
defeating, evading or avoiding any duty or liability imposed on any person by this Act: or
d ) preventing the operation of this Act in any respect, be absolutely void, as against the Commissioner–
They are simple words, I contend- or in regard to any proceeding under this Act, but without prejudice to such validity as it may have in any other respect or for any other purpose.
Unfortunately, the meaning of this section has changed dramatically in the short space of 22 years. I regret the necessity for raising this matter about the High Court, but I believe that this is the only place in the Commonwealth of Australia where one can safely raise such matters without fear of severe penalty. I trust that when the replacement for section 260 is introduced in the autumn session it will be more than adequate to deal with what I must say is a most untenable and unsatisfactory position at present.
– I take the opportunity, in the first reading debate on this money bill, to speak about a matter which has concerned me greatly.
– Why not get it over with?
– I am sorry. I cannot quite catch what the honourable senator is saying. If he would like to repeat it–
– I was a bit anxious to know why we cannot get the Bill over with if we have no particular point to make.
– We have a certain responsibility to those who have their names on the list. It is my responsibility to see that they have the opportunity to speak in this first reading debate. Many of these people have waited for quite some time to speak. Besides, there are one or two matters about which I wish to speak. I would have preferred to have done so while the President was in the chair. That is no reflection upon you, Mr Deputy President.
The matters concern what happens at Question Time. I have levelled a certain amount of criticism by way of points of order which sometimes have not been properly based but which were well intentioned. The points of order were based upon the desire to prevent the misuse of Question Time. When I entered this Parliament I found, to my cost, that if I varied from the question it was promptly put on notice or I was asked to sit down and reframe it. It was a matter of asking a question directly and as briefly as possible. I was also advised that the shorter the question the better chance one had of getting an answer. What developed over a period of time- I must admit that it accelerated during the period of the Labor Government when Ministers endeavoured–
– What is all this nonsense?
– I am sorry. If the honourable senator were to listen for a while and if he would appreciate the reason why I suddenly had to get to my feet to start–
– We are here now.
-Well, I cannot just get up suddenly and start talking and then finish in the middle of my speech. The next speaker from the Government side was the one who was missing, incidentally.
– That is not so. Senator Keeffe was missing.
– I do not know who was missing. Honourable senators opposite know what I have done. I have forfeited my right to speak in the first reading debate on this money Bill because my material is not here. I am on my feet because I want the debate to continue in order to allow other people to take their places–
– A way out of this situation is to draw attention to the state of the House.
-That is a rather good idea. Someone has said that another way out of the situation is to call for a quorum. Yes, I want a quorum. (Quorum formed). I could seek leave to continue my remarks later; but I realise that there is to be another first reading debate on a money Bill at a later stage. I think I will give the opportunity to someone who is better prepared than 1 happen to be at the moment to contribute to the program of the Senate.
- Mr Deputy President, in the first reading debate on this Bill I take the opportunity to make some observations to the Senate relating to the role of local government. The role of local government- the third tier of government- has been an important section of administration for a very long time. During those years its areas of activity and responsibility have extended quite considerably. Similarly, demands for its services and its community involvement have grown and diversified. This means that local government has moved into a different era and that very much is expected of it. In Australia today there is the Australian Council of Local Government Associations. The membership of the Council consists of the various State local government associations throughout the Commonwealth, each of which regards its authority as being a significant area of responsibility. I think it is important to say that a good relationship between the Federal Government and local government covers several areas, not all of which are devoted to and relate to Commonwealth funding. In today’s community a large number of services and facilities are provided by public authorities. In addition to funding, their administration is part of the relationship between the three tiers of government. Therefore, the matters of liaison, co-operation and research into needs and results are part of the various working partnerships.
In recent years Federal governments of this country have extended a greater role to the place and responsibility of local government. In the three Budgets since the Fraser Government took office the Commonwealth has allocated $920m for local government. Additionally, well over $300m has been allocated for road grants, which are of necessity what we call tied grants. In addition, the Commonwealth provides other financial assistance through local government bodies to other programs which, as I think we all know, are generally of a social welfare nature. Funding of local government enterprises is a part of the policy of total government funding operations. The Treasurer’s statement the other evening has focused attention on this matter of the efficient economic management, which is one of the most important funding operations that the community faces today. To exercise the necessary continued restraint over expenditure, which is an important point of present Government policy, is indeed a government’s most difficult task. The present Government has found this matter of continued restraint over expenditure a very difficult operation. The Fraser Government has pursued this expenditure restraint policy with determination and consistent success. The measures which were announced on 24 May this year are crucial if the present Government is to maintain its reputation for economic responsibility and success.
The economic reality is that unless the Government is prepared to live with a high deficit- I think everybody knows that it is not prepared to accept this- it has no alternative but to announce measures that are designed to raise substantial amounts of additional revenue, which is not easy to obtain. Looking at the other side of the coin, we recognise that a high deficit would have seriously jeopardised the Government’s battle against inflation. It would have had serious effects on the economic recovery which is now under way. Living with a high deficit would have meant new inflationary pressures. It would have damaged business confidence and diverted investment. More importantly, it would have resulted in further unemployment. Therefore the Government of the day has had no alternative but to take the revenue raising decisions which it has announced. I was interested to read in the Australian Financial Review the day after the Treasurer’s announcement this observation:
The heartening aspect of last night’s mini-Budget is that it faced up to the realities of the deficit target in both revenue and expenditure terms.
So, it is quite apparent from what has been said and from what we know that the financial year of 1 979-80 will continue to be a year of considerable budgetary restraint. In spite of all this I put the point of view that there is a strong case for increasing the share of personal income tax for the benefit of local government. Under the Federal financial tax-sharing arrangements, the share taken by the States from the Commonwealth as part of their tax entitlement will increase by 1 4 per cent this year. The expenditure restraint burden will therefore probably fall on other areas and in particular on other specific purpose grants to the States. An interesting comment in the Sydney Morning Herald of last Monday following the Federal Treasurer’s announcement reads:
Since it caine to office, the Fraser Government has placed greater emphasis on the untied money at the expense of tied grants . . . This untied money will increase by about 14 percent next financial year, to $5,445 million.
This is $277 million more than it would pay were the increase restrained to account only Tor inflation, now running at just over eight percent.
In his speech last Thursday, Mr Howard warned that, while the States would get an extra 14 percent in tax-sharing entitlements, ‘it must bc expected that much of the burden of overall restraint will necessarily fall on other specific purposes grants to the States. ‘
In short, the Treasurer has warned the States and local government that the Government’s attitude to expenditure restraint will be seen in its approach to the forthcoming Premiers Conference and Loan Council meeting. The Treasurer has furthermore stated that revenue from tax collections will fall in real terms this financial year. That will affect local governments. It will, affect local government’s personal income tax base, but not necessarily the States because of the guarantees that we all know are written into the system going above and beyond the 39 per cent share of personal income tax. So, it would seem that there are two factors emerging in this situation. The first, is a probability that the Commonwealth ‘s cutbacks to State specific purpose grants would affect the flow-on to local government specific purpose grants, Secondly, it should be pointed out that local government does not share in the growth tax- that is, personal income tax does not grow as fast as inflation.
The Commonwealth Government has said that it is committed to increasing the local government share of taxation revenue to two per cent by the end of this Parliament. This has been put forward from time to time by people in this place and by interested people in the community. Even if the goal of two per cent cannot be achieved in 1979, I believe that it has been demonstrated that there is a good case for asking that the Commonwealth Government increase the share from 1.52 per cent to at least 1.75 per cent, or something in that vicinity, when it is announcing the details of the August Budget.
While we are talking about matters of increased government funding, I think we should remember that there is a technical argument and we should emphasise the practical side of things. I make my observations as a result of studying some decisions and deliberations at the recent meeting of the Mid-North Local Government Association in South Australia. It represents a wide range of local government, corporations and district councils in such areas as Elizabeth, the Barossa, Angaston, Truro and Port Wakefield, just to mention a few. The Association made a very strong case for these areas. It is pointed out that it is the policy of both State and Federal governments to require local government authorities to accept a much higher level of responsibility for locally based programs such as community programs, health programs and welfare programs. In short these authorities are having to face up to the difficulty of providing increased services from restricted funds and limited resources. As a result this inadequate funding prevents improvement in such things as welfare services. These two matters have a very serious element about them. There is a feeling in Australia at the moment that our communication systems, in particular our roads, are not of a sufficiently high standard. Money for maintenance of roads is really only one aspect of the problem. For example, in this month’s newsletter of the Australian Automobile Association it was pointed out that in our cities ‘99 per cent of all commodity movement is by road and over 80 per cent of all Australian freight tonnage is by road ‘. The Association also makes this point:
Motorists cannot be called upon to provide more money for roads but they have a just and reasonable claim for adequate grants to be made for expenditure upon roads out of the money they contribute.
This money is contributed through fuel tax, sales tax, import duty and so on. So there is a very strong case for additional funding to be provided and additional recognition to be given to the role of local government within the total scheme of things in the community. Commonwealth road grants in 1979-80 are expected to be held to the same real level as in the current year. This means that the $508m allocated to the national roads program for the States and local government will be adjusted for inflation in this forthcoming Budget. The figure allocated in 1979-80 should work out to be about $550m. I suggest that an appropriate share of those funds should be allocated to road categories that are of immediate concern to local government. Local government needs a greater share of the 1979-80 road grants.
I hope that when the Government is examining Budget proposals, in spite of the restraints that we recognise are necessary, it will take these claims into account. Local government, through its various associations- the Australian Council of Local Government Associations- and those of us who are interested in and have a concern for local government, submit that the allocation be increased to 1 .75 per cent, if not 2 per cent of revenue. In the short term this would assist local government to stem the decline in the value of community services and the deterioration in the quality of the road network. It would also give local government the opportunity to provide a higher level of welfare services and the things which a modern community expects local government to provide.
– I commence this speech where I unfortunately had to leave off on Tuesday when I was speaking on Appropriation Bill (No. 3). I had not completed my speech when a series of events overtook the Senate and I was given an enforced holiday. However, what I was–
– You got headline news.
– I did get headline news. I am pleased that the newspaper from which I was quoting now has been featured on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald and in a cartoon in today’s Australian Financial Review. It depicts the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) looking over the shoulder of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and using those words which I was removed from the Senate for using. Three of the most important newspapers in the country have used those words. I think the average taxpayer in the community has the message and knows that the Government has broken all the election promises it made in 1975 and 1977. Most of the people I talk to are hoping that they will get an early chance to go again to the ballot box to put this Government where it deserves to be.
Senator Puplick spoke earlier tonight on the first reading of these Bills. His speech is the type of speech of which we will hear many in this Senate until the pre-selection ballot is held in New South Wales. To try to enhance his preselection chances he had to launch a real diatribe of nonsense against the New South Wales Labor Government. 1 will not delve into that tonight because I am sure my colleagues will answer Senator Puplick next week. When we look at the task in front of Senator Puplick we find that three Liberal Party senators from New South Wales will come up for election at the next half Senate election. They are the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, Senator Scott and Senator Puplick. When we look at the last State election results in New South Wales we realise that one of those senators has to miss out. Whoever is unlucky enough to be No. 3 on the ticket can look to other fields to occupy his time after 30 June 1981. Without a shadow of doubt three Australian Labor Party senators from New South Wales will be returned at the next half Senate election.
Let us look at the position in my State. The three senators from the Government side who will face re-election in South Australia are the President of the Senate, the previous speaker, Senator Davidson, and Senator Jessop. Of course the President is prohibited from making any preselection speeches in this place but we can expect to hear a few from Senator Davidson and Senator Jessop. While the proceedings of the Senate were being broadcast last night Senator Jessop launched his campaign for pre-selection by trying to convince any of the people who might have been listening to him- I understand there were quite a few because I have received a few messages today to which I will refer- about funding for the Stuart Highway in the mid-north of South Australia. Some of these messages I have received today were not complimentary to Senator Jessop so I do not think he did his preselection campaign any good by the way he behaved here last night.
I can see Senator Davidson nodding his head. I suppose he is very pleased with the way Senator Jessop performed last night. At the present stage I think Senator Davidson would be at short odds to finish in front of Senator Jessop on the Senate ticket. But of course the Government parties cannot win three of the positions. They will be able to get only two up, if they get that many. Senator Chipp is claiming that the Australian Democrats perhaps will win the fourth seat in South Australia. Labor will win three seats, the Democrats will win the fourth and the Liberal Party will win the other one. We will see a big gap on the benches opposite after the next half Senate election is held. Honourable senators presently sitting opposite will be sitting on this side because we will be back in government.
– It is all very well for Senator Martin to say: ‘Ah! ‘ She knows full well that the Government’s prestige in the electorate today is at rock bottom.
– Are you talking about Queensland?
– Queensland is another story. There is every chance that we will win three seats in Queensland. When Queensland senators speak next week in this place in answer to Senator Puplick who accused the New South Wales Labor Party and tell the story of how the Premier of Queensland conducts his Parliament, the stocks to Government senators will go down again unless they dissociate themselves from the way the Queensland Parliament is run. Of course wc know the battle that is going on here at present with the Victorian senators. Victorian Labor senators next week will remind the Senate that the Victorian Parliament reopened just the other day after being closed for six months. Again the spectacle of the old land deals is coming forward. The Victorian Premier assured the electors of Victoria prior to the last election that the land deal matters were cleaned up. No sooner did the Victorian Parliament open, on the very first day, than the skeletons in regard to crooked land deals started falling out of the cupboard again. The police have been called in. I have mentioned only three States where the Government is in real trouble. Today, in the debate on the statement by Senator Carrick which tried to get Senator Webster off the hook, we had the spectacle of Senator Walters making all sorts of claims against the Labor Party. She tried to hoodwink the people into believing that the Liberal Party is a united body. I want to refer to a speech on the divisions in the Liberal Party made by Mr Fred Daly just prior to the Liberal Government under Mr McMahon being annihilated in 1972. In a speech on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) on 16 September 1971, as recorded at page 1462 of the House of Representatives Hansard, Mr Daly said in part:
Let us have a look at the ministerial circus that has brought the Budget before us. In less than four years Australia has had three Prime Ministers, four Ministers for Defence, five Ministers for Foreign Affairs and three Treasurers. Even since March- six months ago- we have had two Prime Ministers and another one is coming up.
Since March we have had three Ministers for Foreign Affairs, three Ministers for Defence, three Ministers for Health, three Ministers for Education and Science, three Attorneys-General, two Treasurers, two Ministers for Labour and National Service, two Ministers for Immigration, two Ministers for the Navy, two Ministers for Housing, two Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs and two Ministers for Supply. This makes 3 1 changes at more than one a week. If that is not a razzle-dazzle and a musical chairs proposition then I am a Dutchman. This has all happened without an election. It is no longer true to say in the Liberal Party that it is easier to get into Cabinet than to get out of it. Members and Ministers are giddy and uncertain. This is a record of instability without precedent in Australian history and intolerable in this democracy of ours. There has been purge after purge.
– It was like the Packer cricket circus.
– That is right, Senator Mulvihill, but all of this took place in 1971, just prior to the defeat of the Liberal Government. Now we see that the wheel has turned full circle. All of these things are happening again in this Federal Government. In the space of eight years we find that the Liberal Party is again in a crisis situation. As I said in my remarks this afternoon, we witnessed the spectacle last night of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) having to sit in this chamber from eight o’clock until twenty-three minutes past two, without having the opportunity to leave the chamber. She was deserted by her Cabinet colleagues. They must all have been away swarming, trying to avert the crisis that they were facing. They have all of the back benchers snapping at their heels.
– What crisis were your guys trying to avert? They were not here.
– The newspapers are not far wrong when they refer to this matter. I would like a comment from Senator Martin on whether she is one of the back benchers who are prevailing upon the present Treasurer (Mr Howard) to make more massive cuts in all government expenditure?
– If the honourable senator really wants to know, I will tell him in a speech.
- Senator Guilfoyle is the only person in the Cabinet who can hold her head up high and say she is fighting the Government to the death-knock to prevent it from making further inroads into pensions, into unemployment benefits and into all those other matters that the needy people are depending upon.
– We have a solid Liberal Government in Victoria.
-Solid? The honourable senator was in the chamber when I told Government senators chapter and verse what was really worrying them. We saw the Minister for Primary Industry and Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) come into this chamber and really demand from Senator Carrick that he go out into the Government lobby and withdraw the demands that were being made that Senator Webster be sacked.
– Is that what it was?
– Of course it was. We know that is what it was. The dogs are barking it. Senator Webster himself is reported as saying that he had been removed from the Cabinet.
– Would you explain that convoluted argument to me?
– I do not need to explain it.
– You cannot.
– I have already done it once today, and it is recorded in Hansard.
– That is right. You will have to read it tomorrow morning to find out what it was.
– If he was in the chamber I might then incur the displeasure of Senator Jessop, as I did last night, when he accused me of tedious repetition. I am already on record, and it is there for people to read. We know that Senator Lewis who is trying to interject is one of the people in Victoria who is in trouble trying to get number 2 on the Senate ticket. I could not understand the honourable senator getting up here today and defending Senator Webster, who is his arch rival. The Hamer Government is already in trouble. The honourable senator does not want to say that there is a united Liberal Party.
– Before you go any further, can you explain the analogy between Senator Davidson and Senator Jessop?
– If the honourabe senator had been watching Senator Davidson when I referred to Senator Jessop ‘s speech last night and saw the real smile that came over his face, he would understand. Senator Davidson knows that Senator Jessop went right to the bottom of the barrel. I will say that Senator Davidson will win by a mile.
I refer now to a remark which was made last night in this chamber by Senator Jessop. My speech might be somewhat distorted because I have been waiting for Senator Jessop to enter the chamber so that I may repudiate a statement that he made last night in this chamber about Government members. I quote what Senator Jessop said.
– I think you are paranoic.
– I am not paranoic. I will put the record straight, because the honourable senator is a great one for distortion. When the Committee of the Whole was debating the transport appropriations last night Senator Jessop said:
Members of the Labor Party stand up in this chamber and make references to Government senators and Ministers, yet I cannot recall a Minister for Transport in the Labor Party Government going to Coober Pedy. I cannot recall the Labor Party when in Government taking any more interest in the Stuart Highway than the Labor Party in South Australia does at the present time.
I remind Senator Jessop that in September 1975 the then Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, saw fit to go to Coober Pedy. We have not yet had a visit by Mr Fraser to Coober Pedy. Gough Whitlam went to Coober Pedy in September 1 975 for discussions with the residents of Coober Pedy. People came from hundreds of miles around to have discussions on the very matter about which the honourable senator is complaining, that is, the upgrading of the Stuart Highway. Now he is accused of making false promises to the effect that a dual highway would be constructed. As my colleague Senator Elstob has conveniently pointed out- apparently our friends on the opposite side did not like it- we were not allowed to stay in government long enough to honour that promise. That is one aspect.
Through you, Mr Deputy President, I remind Senator Jessop also that, since we have been in Opposition, the shadow Minister for Transport, Mr Morris, visited Coober Pedy in December 1977 to discuss with the residents the problems that they were having, particularly in regard to the Stuart Highway. In December last year, he again visited Coober Pedy. I also was there, and so too was Senator Elstob, the honourable member for Grey in the other place, Mr Wallis and Mr Duncan, the South Australian AttorneyGeneral. Yet Senator Jessop says in this chamber that nobody in the Australian Labor Party, State or Federal, is interested in the problems of the people at Coober Pedy. I throw it all back at Senator Jessop. I hope that he will get up and admit that he was completely wrong when he made that statement. Our members do go there, quite regularly.
– Every election.
– No, not every election. The other matter I raise concerns a question that I have had on the Notice Paper since 22 February of this year. I raised the matter in the Committee of the Whole last night when we were discussing the estimates in relation to the Department of Administrative Services. On 22 November, I asked Senator Carrick whether the immediate past Governor-General of this country had a free telephone service in England, and, if so, what was the cost of calls made to Australia during the writing of this book. Senator Carrick requested that I put that question on notice, which I did. I quote that question again. I sought to get some information last night from the Department of Administrative Services which, I thought, would be responsible for overseas posts. I was told that it was not a matter for the Department of Administrative Services, and I accept that. I raise the question again tonight in this chamber and I hope that before the night is out I will have an answer. Senator Guilfoyle was in the chamber and she knows what I wanted. The question is on notice. I will read it:
Senator McLaren: To ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister- ls the immediate former Governor-General of Australia Mr Kerr provided with a free telephone service between his now country of residence, England, and Australia? If so: (a) what was the cost to the Australian taxpayer of the telephone calls made to Australia by Mr Kerr during the writing and compilation of his book Matters for Judgment; or (b) if these particular costs cannot be separated, what is the total cost of all telephone calls to Australian by Mr Kerr since he took up residence in England.
On the very same day I put another question on the Notice Paper seeking information as to what telephone accounts had been submitted by Harry M. Miller and where the connections were. I have an answer to that. As I reminded the Senate last night, for a period of about 12 months two of his telephone connections cost the Australian taxpayer about $30,000. That is a person who, I was told repeatedly, was serving the Government in an honorary capacity. The amount for that gentleman’s telephone account, I repeat, was $30,000. In our consideration of the 1 979-80 Budget appropriations, I will be seeking information on how much in fact Mr Harry Miller actually cost the Australian taxpayer. As I pointed out, he was an appointment made by Mr Sinclair, the man who is now on record as being very famous, for the way that he came into this chamber today and ordered the Leader of the Government out of the chamber in order to instruct him that he was not to persevere with the sacking of Senator Webster.
The question on the Notice Paper is a simple one. The point is that if Mr Kerr, our exGovernorGeneral, has not a free telephone, the Government has had plenty of time to say to me: No, he has not one’. So, I am led to believe that he does have one, and that difficulties are being experienced in ascertaining how much his calls cost. I have it on good authority that the telephone line ran hot between England and Mr Miller and other people during the writing of that book, and honourable senators will know that it was Mr Miller who launched the book in Australia and was responsible for its sales. So, there is the combination of associations in relation to these people. We have the costs of some of the telephone calls, but we have not yet been able to ascertain whether Mr Kerr has a free telephone. As I said, I have pretty conclusive proof that the telephone ran hot. I am assured that the taxpayers paid for those telephone calls, not the person who wrote the book. So it appears that the Government is refusing to answer that question. I hope that now that I have raised the matter again I will receive an answer. I have sat here week in week out hoping to get an answer so that I would not have to raise the matter in the Senate. But I have had to do so tonight because next week probably will be the last week that this Parliament will sit until after the winter recess.
– It depends on how long you keep talking. You might keep us here for three months.
– I am prepared to sit on here. There is plenty of legislation before the Parliament. It is all very well for Senator Jessop to say that I might keep him here, but if he looks at the Hansard record he will see that every Opposition senator who spoke in this House this week was matched with a Government senator. Last night it got to the stage where the Government received the call three times in a row and we could not get the call. Three Government senators got the call, one after the other, yet we were standing waiting for the call. So it will be no good honourable senators opposite coming into this chamber next week and saying that the Opposition held up the business of the Parliament. We have heard plenty of long speeches from honourable senators opposite.
Getting back to the matter of the information I am trying to obtain, the Government owes it to the taxpayers of this country either to deny that Mr Kerr has a free telephone or to own up that he has a free telephone and then to tell us what it costs. We all know that honourable senators who sit opposite have to pay their debts, the same as they have to pay their debts to the oil companies. We have had that out in our debates on the Great Barrier Reef. Everyone has to pay his debts. There has to be a settling of accounts. It would appear that the settling of accounts is becoming a very burning question with honourable senators opposite and a very hot political potato as far as drilling on the Great Barrier Reef is concerned.
But there is also the settling of accounts for the way in which Fraser was able to twist the previous Governor-General around his finger. I have spoken about that on many occasions in this House. Honourable senators opposite owe the previous Governor-General something too. Questions have been asked in the other place about what it cost the taxpayer to freight all of his furniture to Paris, where he remained in his job for about as long as Senator Sheil remained in the Ministry. Within less than 24 hours Mr Kerr was dumped from his job in Paris and had to go to England. The Australian taxpayer had to pay all those costs. Those are questions which we want the Government to answer. When we were in government we were accused of being spendthrifts. This Government has done everything possible to cover up what it is spending.
Another matter came out of the Estimates committee hearings. I asked about the method of charging costs of the various departmental officers who travel overseas with the Prime Minister. We all know that when Whitlam went overseas he chartered a plane from the Australian flag carrier. The costs of all the officers he took with him were charged against the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. We were able to see what those costs were. Of course, honourable senators opposite used those figures. But under the present system of accounting- it is on record in Hansard that this Government has adopted a different method of accounting- the costs of all the departmental officers who accompany the present Prime Minister overseas are charged to the various departments. It is impossible to add up the costs. But we well know that, with all the trips that the present Prime Minister is making overseas, he is costing the Australian taxpayer much more than the previous Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, cost the taxpayer.
– He is costing a quarter of what your Prime Minister cost.
- Senator Messner can waffle on; what I am saying is hurting him. Every time I speak it hurts honourable senators opposite.
– How about listening to the facts?
-They are the facts. If Senator Messner is so concerned about facts, the next time general business is being discussed in his party room he should ask his leader whether he will make a statement in the Parliament listing the complete costs of the Prime Minister’s trips overseas since he took office so that we can analyse those costs and compare them with the complete costs, which we know already, of Prime Minister Whitlam ‘s trips. Then we might have a basis for argument. But Senator Messner has no basis for argument now because the costs are spread all over the place like a dog’s breakfast. We have to look everywhere to pick out the costs.
That is the way in which this Government operates. It came into office by devious means. It is operating now by devious means by misleading the electors. One only has to read this week’s issue of the National Times to see that. I think the sales of the National Times went up about 200 per cent this week. Everyone wants to buy this week’s issue to refresh his memory on all the promises the Government made and broke. It broke them one after another. It does not have one vestige of credibility left- not one. Yet we find that honourable senators who sit opposite-
– Tell us about what you told South Australia last Christmas.
– I know that honourable senators opposite are embarrassed.
- Mr President, I draw you attention to the State of the House.
– It’s a good idea to stop him talking for a while. You should run around and ask who wants bacon and eggs for breakfast because that is what you will get, or bangers and mash. ( Quorum formed).
– I am pleased that we have a few Government senators in the chamber now. In view of the interjection by Senator Jessop, in which he made a threat and told us that because Senator Keeffe called a quorum we would have to suffer-
– I suggested that you should take orders for breakfast.
– I suggest to Senator Jessop that he ought to recall the behaviour of his Government in the House of Representatives between 1972 and 1975 when its members did everything possible under the Standing Orders to call quorums every day in order to frustrate the Government. They did the same in here. But when we treat honourable senators opposite in the same way they do not like it. As the old saying goes, when you throw a boomerang you should expect it to come back and clout you behind the ear if you do not duck. Honourable senators opposite will be ducking a lot between now and when they go to the people next year. There is no question about that. They have a lot to answer for. After all that the Government has done, if I were a member of the Government at the present time I would be ashamed to show my face back in my electorate. Honourable senators opposite have no credibility. They have made a lot of promises. The person who is laughing the loudest is Senator Davidson. In the years that I have known him, I have thought him to be a man with a lot of credibility and a man who would not suffer anybody who made a promise to people, not only once but two or three times, not keeping that promise. I thought he would have been the first person to come to his feet in this chamber to disown the leader he sits behind now. His leader has broken promises and, as I said, the people of Australia know it.
– I want to speak on an entirely different subject- in fact, on a very serious subject. I refer the Senate to a petition which is being circulated and which will gather many thousands of signatures over the next few weeks. It has been circulated in various parts of Queensland, but particularly in the north of Queensland, where predictions have been made regarding the construction of a uranium enrichment plant, the mining of a uranium deposit in the Herveys Range area, the possible mining of the Westmoreland and Georgetown deposits and one or two other deposits. The wording of the petition is as follows:
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 or uranium ore could pose serious health hazards for persons living in the Townsville region.
The request to the Government incorporated in these petitions is as follows:
It is possibly not known by many honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber that the unilateral activity of the Queensland Parliament- in particular of certain members of the Queensland Government- will lead to the development of this project in the immediate future.
Many people have had their attitudes reshaped as a result of world events. Mr Deputy President, I regret that again members of the National Country Party are discussing the price of beef. You might ask them to keep quiet.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I ask that Senator Keeffe be heard in silence.
-The Three Mile Island nuclear disaster had a very serious effect on the thinking of people not only in Australia but throughout the world generally.
- Senator Mulvihill ‘s coffee machine has killed more people than Three Mile Island.
– I do not mind intelligent interjections but idiotic ones leave me totally cold. If this sort of undertaking is to be established, it must be established somewhere in the Townsville region. Quite obviously, the Premier of Queensland has made it clear even to his Japanese supporters that he does not want it anywhere in the nut growing area of Kingaroy but he is prepared to have it either in the Northern Territory, the Kimberley area or the far north of Queensland. (Quorum formed). I am very pleased that the call for a quorum came from the other side of the Senate. Incidentally, perhaps the attention of the Joint House Department could be drawn to the fact that the bleepers are now broadcasting calls by the Liberal Party for a quorum on the bleepers of Labor Party members. I think that a technical adjustment needs to be made. It does not really matter; we get the same message.
The nature of this general development is very serious. I will refer to a different story which has also been published in that investigative paper, the National Times. An article written by Denis Reinhardt makes reference to a number of features associated with the possible development of an enrichment plant in the Townsville region and the certain development of mining operations associated with the Herveys Range deposit. I understand that this deposit is fairly rich although not fairly extensive. However, because of its easy accessibility, obviously it will be a profitable development. The article in the National Times stated:
A Townsville ratepayers’ action group appears likely to organise Australia’s first local government referendum aimed at blocking uranium mining and processing in their area.
The Thuringowa Ratepayers Association, an active electoral lobby in a 4,100 sq km shire overlapping the urban sprawl of Townsville, Queensland ‘s third largest city -
That is the only point I will correct; Townsville is actually the second largest city in Queensland- meets next week to discuss the form of a petition for circulation to the shires ‘ 6,000 voters.
The move is in response to plans by the Queensland Government to allow a uranium mining lease at least SO km from Townsville and encourage the siting of a uranium enrichment plant in the region.
Under Queensland’s Local Government Act, of course, if one can obtain signatures on a petition from 10 per cent of electors and present that petition to a local government authority, a referendum should be held. But typical of Queensland’s general attitudes to democracy, the Minister for Local Government still may overrule the electors’ petition. The article continued:
Electors will be asked whether they favour a five-year moratorium on nuclear-associated industries in the shire.
This, of course, is directed to both the establishment of the enrichment plant and also the mining of uranium at the Ben Lomond area. There is the misconception that the mining of uranium brings vast employment opportunities to an area and many service industries. In fact, it does not do that at all. Although in the initial stages mining will provide some employment, in the more developed stages employment will not be provided for local people because, as I have said in this chamber before, it will be the experts who come from the southern capitals and particularly people from overseas who will obtain the plum jobs. The article continued:
Queensland’s Mines and Energy Minister, Ron Camm -
Incidentally, he is also the Minister for Police- confirmed last week that Minatome Australia Pty Ltd, which has been investigating a uranium deposit at Ben Lomond in Herveys Range north-west of Townsville, will be granted authority to mine the deposit next month.
I interpose here to say that there is some confusion about who owns this deposit. Minatome Australia Pty Ltd is jointly owned 50 per cent by Total Oil and 50 per cent by Pechiney Ugine Kuhlmann. There is a 34 per cent equity allegedly held by Mount Isa Mines Ltd and Ocean Resources. Whether that gives Australian content to the company is a very dubious sort of argument. It may or it may not. I have sought and obtained permission to have the details of the major company incorporated in Hansard. I will seek leave to incorporate the information at a later stage. The article continues:
Queensland Government spokesmen gave no indication that the Federal Government- which has overall responsibility for uranium development- was aware of these moves. Minatome Australia is a wholly-owned subsidiary -
The article then quoted the actual shareholdings as far as we know them. I asked questions in this place some months ago about what was happening in the area. I was advised by the Federal Minister concerned that no application for export of the uranium had been made and that no application had been made in relation to foreign capital. In other words, the guidelines that the Federal Government should be exercising, as far as I know to date, apparently have not been exercised. The Minister and his advisers might consider that point closely when they are looking at the background of some of the things I am saying this evening. The article goes on to state:
Camm also confirmed that a site near the Yabulu nickel treatment plant on the coastal plain north of Townsville was the most likely location for a uranium enrichment plant.
There are other uranium deposits at Georgetown, at Mary Kathleen . . . and the products from the Northern Territory could go there too’, he said.
Yabulu is within Thuringowa Shire while Ben Lomond is in the adjoining Dalrymple Shire.
This shire surrounds the city council area of Charters Towers. The article also stated:
However proponents of the Thuringowa poll claim much of the mine’s support work will be carried out in their shire. They also fear pollution of the Burdekin River.
I have examined from the air the work that has been carried out at Ben Lomond. Most of us know that it as a keel bottom or bog hole creek. The mining is done on the major hill in the area. Small establishments have been set up to carry out the work.
The Senate will recall that some months ago Mr Petersen, the Premier of Queensland, after having refused to do anything for the last 15 years about construction of the Burdekin Dam, suddenly became totally enthusiastic. I do not know whether this project has been included on the list of Queensland water conservation priorities because that is a secret document. But we may be told when the Budget is presented whether that application has been made. The Premier had no enthusiasm for the construction of the Burdekin Dam until he found out that there was a possibility, because of Japanese intervention, that an enrichment plant may be constructed in the area. One of the requirements, of course, for the construction of an enrichment plant is the availability of an infrastructure and the availability of fairly large amounts of water. Of the three areas which have been surveyedthe Northern Territory, Western Australia and North Queensland- North Queensland and the Townsville region, of course, are able to provide these sorts of facilities. One of the interesting sidelights of this matter is that the State Liberal member of parliament for the Townsville area, Dr Norman Scott- Young, who 10 or 12 years ago said that the explosion of French bombs in the Pacific would have no effect on the local people, changed his mind in quite recent years when he realised that there were a number of mutations and other unexplained mutilations in newborn children in the Townsville region. Very strangely he has come out on this matter with these words:
A lot of people just don’t understand the nature of nuclear energy and its success in numerous other pans of the world. Over there they don’t seem to bc having any trouble, bar Harrisville. 1 understand that members of his family have dissociated themselves from the Liberal Party because of its dedication to the mining of uranium. The article continued:
Unsigned advertisements in the Townsville Daily Bulletin warned that trespass on the holding is ‘ Prohibited to motor bikes and motor vehicles’. Fishing, pig hunting, shooting, traversing on any part of the lease … is prohibited and anyone found thereon will be prosecuted.
I am told that somebody who actually walked on the lease was threatened with being shot if he persisted on going any further forward. The article continued:
Aircraft traffic in the mine area is restricted by a 2 sq km 500m minimum height because of surface blasting . . .
A spokesman at Minatome s Sydney headquarters would not comment when contacted by the National Times. The spokesman refused to say whether mining was under way.
If mining is under way- and it appears from an aerial survey that limited mining might be under way at the moment- it is being done illegally, unless there is an intention to stockpile without asking for an export licence. I would doubt whether this Government would even know where Ben Lomond is. It certainly would not know the technicalities of it, despite the fact that we have asked questions previously in this chamber. Environmental groups in the area are very disturbed about what may happen. An application by the Townsville Regional Conservation Council to the Minister for Mines, Energy and Police, Mr Camm, to be involved in the impact study assessment elicited a reply from Mr Camm. I quote it in part:
However I do not consider the facts that some organisations, including environmentalist bodies, have particular views on uranium mining, processing and utilisation, as being in themselves sufficient reasons for their being called upon to provide environmental assessment. Accordingly it is most unlikely that I shall require the services of the Townsville Regional Conservation Council in this matter.
The Council is funded partly by the Federal Government and is made up of people of many disciplines and from many areas of expertise. It would be able to make a contribution to the assessment of the social, physical and environmental problems associated with the mining of uranium, but obviously the State Minister has no desire to seek or even to accept its assistance in any way. Later I will quote from the new guidelines which have been laid down for impact assessment procedures. It is very significant that environmental bodies, whether they be wildlife organisations, littoral societies or ordinary environmental groups, are not going to be prevailed upon to assist in any way. The ActingDirector of the Townsville Environment Centre wrote to Mr Camm on 2 1 May in these gentle terms:
I refer to your letter of 14 May 1979, in which you state that it is most unlikely that the comment of the Townsville Regional Conservation Council will be sought on the environmental impact on the proposed uranium mine development at Ben Lomond, near Townsville ( Mining Lease Application No. 827).
That No. 827 will become a very famous set of figures in North Queensland. She continued:
I would point out that the Townsville Regional Conservation Council is comprised of a number of private organisations, two local government authorities, and a large number of individuals. A great deal of local environmental experience and expertise is available to us.
Those were the points I made a couple of moments ago. A new document has been produced by the Queensland Government. Honourable senators will laugh when I show them the original one which had been in operation until a few days ago. The document is known as ‘Impact Assessment of Development Projects in Queensland ‘. First of all it sets out some rather vague guidelines about how to prepare an environmental impact study. In fact it is merely an elaboration of the primitive one which your predecessor in the Chair, Mr Acting Deputy President, and the Minister have agreed that I may incorporate in Hansard. On page 3 of the new document it is stated:
If an impact assessment study report is formally released to the public at any stage, the developer should submit a copy to the State Library.
So always big brother in the Queensland Government keeps an eye on the development, even if he does not actually see the document. Under the heading ‘Impact Assessment Procedures ‘section 1 ‘general’ says:
The following procedures should not be regarded as inflexible: no two development proposals will cause identical effects, and the range of development proposals and possible combinations of conditions likely to be encountered preclude the formulation of rigid guidelines-
I emphasise the words ‘rigid guidelines’-
This is precisely what has happened with the Queensland company known as Metalex which is now processing the nickel from Greenvale at Yabula. It is difficult to see the ponding system from the ground, but one can see it from the air. It is a remarkable ponding system which would not stand up to even a very minor cyclone with 50 or 60 kilometre winds. Leakage from the ponds has gone to the local forest area and is actually killing off an area of the forest. A pipeline was built some distance out into the ocean to dispose of chemicals. One reason that the Austraiian Institute of Marine Science marine research group was not allowed to build at Cape Pallarenda was the likely pollution of the water by the mining company. We are supposed to have clean air and clean water regulations, but the mining companies that extract the alluvial ore in the Mount Garnet area pollute the water flowing into the Herbert River. By the time it gets to the Ingham region neither fish nor anything else can live in it. That is totally overlooked by the Queensland State Government. Smoke emission from the Yabula plant is something like 3 per cent above the level allowable under World Health Organisation regulations. The company exceeds this level with the special permission of the State Government.
The new set of guidelines indicates in detail the advisory bodies, as they are called, which may be called on to help in an evaluation. They include the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement. The only reason for the inclusion of that Department is that any proposal which may directly or indirectly affect Aboriginal relics and which may in any way affect land upon which Aboriginal relics may exist through alteration of present land use in any area of land which has not undergone major alterations from its natural condition has to be considered. That is all that the Queensland Government is interested in with regard to Aboriginals because the six paragraphs in this document on the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement cover only Aboriginal relics. Nothing is said about rights to the ownership of the land or about the areas in which people live. Whilst Aboriginal relics are extremely important, I think that there are other important things which should have been included.
The document goes on to cover a number of other departments, including the Department of Commercial and Industrial Development and the Department of Education. Nearly all departments are mentioned. Only towards the end are outside bodies mentioned. Under the heading Other Bodies ‘ it states:
Local authorities are to bc considered as advisory bodies (in situations where the Local Authority is not the responsible authority).
Of course this situation can be overcome by the implementation of a franchise agreement. Almost certainly this will happen in the Ben Lomond area. So the Dalrymple shire should be warned in advance. It may happen in the Thuringowa shire, which may also need to be warned in advance. It has happened already in the Livingstone and Mount Larcom areas. The document goes on to say: . . and the Local Authority within whose Area a proposed development is situated should always bc consulted, along with any other Local Authorities whose areas may be affected by a proposed development.
The Calliope shire and especially the Livingstone shire were most unhappy. They never saw a copy of the mining warden’s assessment of the Mount Larcom area and they did not have an opportunity to do anything about it because they were overriden by the establishment of a franchise agreement.
I want to make a brief reference to the likely pollution of the water in the area. The mine is within a stone’s throw of Townsville, a city of 102,000 people. If we include the people of Thuringa Shire, the population would be 120,000. Basically, the Thuringa area is extending in the direction of the mine. Some time ago the city’s commission described the head of Keelbottom Creek as a possible site for a dam to serve the potential population in the local area. If there are seepages from the area in question they will almost certainly seep into the Burdekin basin and destroy any possibility of establishing in Keelbottom Creek a dam to service the local area. Those are two important points that I think we should keep in mind.
Recently, when the National Party held its conference in Townsville, the invitees included representatives of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. At the time I issued a Press statement. An expert from the Commission had made a public statement. He had been given the opportunity to talk to school groups, local interest groups and what-have-you. He did so. It was on the theme: ‘You must go ahead with this enrichment plant; it will provide massive employment; it will provide this and it will provide that’. A lot of this, of course, was poppycock. One of the things that the people in the Three Mile Island plant area, the Harrisburg disaster area, have discovered is that the value of real estate has dropped massively. I have a friend who has a small business interest in the area. He is now virtually bankrupt. He cannot sell out because one never knows when the core might start burning again, and nobody comes to buy any more. So the establishment of an enrichment plant in this area of Australia will have a very serious effect on real estate values. I am not quite sure that anyone has yet realised that that is about to happen.
– You are not quite sure of the difference between a uranium enrichment plant and a nuclear generator for power, are you?
– If the honourable senator wants to do something about it he can establish one in the Toowong area. It would be an ideal place to put up a reactor.
– I would like to see a uranium enrichment plant established-
– Tell the people of Kenmore and Toowong that you would like to see a reactor established in the area.
– It would bring jobs and also some stability to the area.
-The only thing that would happen would be a violent reaction from the people.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Jessop)- Order! I suggest that the honourable senator address his remarks to the Chair.
– I am addressing them through you, sir, to the man on my left who has had extreme difficulty, since he has come into this place, in understanding a lot of things.
– It would be impossible to be on your left.
– Very good; what will the honourable senator be like at 3 o’clock in the morning? Some of the guidelines that have been laid down for environmental impact studies represent only a shadow of the 1974 legislation which this Parliament passed. I want to quote from one or two of them. Firstly, as to the mine itself, the statement must include information on the type of mining to be used, the appropriate rate of mining and the times at which various degrees of extraction will be achieved; estimates of the volume and quality of mine water to be pumped from the mine, if any, and the disposal method. Mary Kathleen has had great trouble with its ponding system. The operators have imported an expensive type of clay which it was thought might overcome the problem. I do not know whether it has or not because these days Mary Kathleen is very much a closed area. As I said yesterday in this chamber, over the years it will cost us a lot of money to impose safety precautions on that mine long after it has been closed.
I have here the Townsville Regional Conservation Council’s Press release of 18 November 1 977, which has a bearing on the project that I have mentioned; a copy of the application for mining lease by Minatome Australia Pty Ltd; a further copy of Ben Lomond lease area No. 1 which, incidentally, covers 328 acres or 128 hectares. Unfortunately, Senator Bonner, it contains many Aboriginal sacred sites and, so far as I know, nothing is being done to preserve them. I understand that some of them have already been destroyed. I have also a copy describing the activities of Pechiney and its related organisations; also, the preliminary environmental advice which must accompany mining lease applications, to be lodged in duplicate. Brief details only are required. This is a farce. That is all I have to say. It is written on two sides of a sheet of roneo paper. It includes such questions as: Method of mining- open-cut, underground, dredging, hydraulicing, sluicing and other machinery. Approximately 1-1/8 lines are provided for the reply.
Another question concerns the method of treatment and machinery involved. Again that huge’ space is provided. A further question relates to the number of men to be employed on the surface and underground, and the services required- water and electricity. It is a lot of hocus pocus and quite consistent with the attitude of the National Party to mining in Queensland. I seek the incorporation of that and the names of the advisory bodies when impact studies are being compiled.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Have these documents been reviewed?
– Yes, by your predecessor half an hour ago and by the Minister. Both agreed to the incorporation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTSenator Keeffe, previously you mentioned other documents which you have not sought to have incorporated and which you claim have been viewed by the Minister. I suggest that you nominate the particular documents to which you refer.
– I did.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I suggest that you do so again. You did not seek leave at the appropriate time. If you do that now I will see that that is done.
– I would need a quorum to see that carried out. I showed these documents, which I nominated -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- You have not sought leave to have these documents incorporated.
– I did.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- No, you did not.
- Mr Acting Deputy President-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I suggest that you resume your seat.
– I am endeavouring to call your attention to the state of the House.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I am making a statement. I will deal with that in a moment. Senator Keeffe, earlier in your speech you mentioned certain documents that you wanted incorporated in Hansard. You did not seek leave at that stage for those documents to be incorporated.
– I did.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- You have done so now and I am prepared to proceed on that basis, but I suggest that you nominate the other documents that you wish to have incorporated and then seek leave. I will deal with the matter then. (Quorum formed).
-Mr Acting Deputy President, this has never happened to me before. As a matter of courtesy, when you took the chair, 1 said that I had spoken to the person who occupied it before you relieved him. I said that I spoke to the Minister and that both had approved certain documents that I said at that time I would have incorporated at a later hour. There were certain things that I wanted to quote from them to emphasise some of the stories I have told. The only difference has been in regard to the naming of about a dozen organisations. Therefore, I now do not seek leave to incorporate anything. I shall proceed to read it and will cope with it over the next half hour. You have refused to allow me to have it incorporated even though I complied with the Standing Orders and all of the rules and regulations.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- You should know the forms of the Senate.
-Unfortunately, I do.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- In all fairness to you, I am afraid you did not observe them.
– I did.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I suggested to you, in all deference and respect, that you seek leave to have those documents incorporated. That is a simple request and need not absorb the time of the House. I invite you now to seek leave that they be incorporated. That is a very simple request. I am quite sure it will meet with the approval of the Senate.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, with great respect to the position that you occupy, I again draw your attention to the fact that very early in my discussion, in order to save the time of the Senate, I said that later in the debate I would seek to have certain documents incorporated. The only document that was not included then and which I seek to have incorporated is a list of names. I shall read the list of names into Hansard. Page 6 of the new guidelines states that the following bodies may act as advisory bodies: Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, Department of Commercial and Industrial Development, Department of Education, Department of Forestry, Department of Harbours and Marine, Department of Health, Irrigation and Water Supply Commission, Land Administration Commission, Local Government Department, Main Roads Department, Department of Mapping and Surveying and Office of the Surveyor-General, Department of Mines, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Police, Department of Primary Industries, Queensland Fisheries Service- that does not necessarily make it a fishy statement- Queensland Water Resources Department, Railway Department, State Electricity Commission, Department of Tourism, Department of Transport and Department of Works. Earlier, I cited other bodies. I shall now read those into Hansard so that there is no confusion. The passage states:
Local Authorities are to be considered as advisory bodies (in situations where the Local Authority is not the responsible authority), and the Local Authority within whose Area a proposed development is situated should always be consulted, along with any other Local Authorities whose Areas may be affected by a proposed development.
The Port of Brisbane Authority should be consulted on any proposal involving development within the gazetted Port of Brisbane with regard to harbour facilities or likely to require or affect harbour or port facilities. Similarly, Harbour Boards should be consulted in relation to proposals in their respective areas.
The Rural Fires Board should be consulted in relation to any proposal involving a major change in land usage that might significantly alter the potential fire danger situation.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority should be consulted in relation to any proposal within the Authority’s Declared Region from Noosa to Ipswich and Coolangatta including the Brisbane metropolitan area, which is likely to affect existing or generate new patronage on the public transport system, or likely to affect any existing or proposed public transport facilities.
Queensland Museum should be consulted on proposed developments likely to affect any rare species of animal or existing faunal habitats, or involving historic sites, objects or buildings.
That does not include the Belle Vue Hotel, which is now gone. I quote further:
It is possible that the Queensland Museum may hold information on such matters not available elsewhere.
Non-government organisations such as professional or trade associations, academic institutions, special interest groups,et cetera, arc often able to supply useful information of assistance to responsible authorities in the assessment of impact of development proposals, and should be consulted as appropriate.
That is the point at which I said that environmental groups, wildlife organisations, littoral societies and related bodies were not asked for assistance. I pointed out earlier that in his letter the Minister for Mines, Energy and Police, Mr Camm, said that their advice was not needed anyway. It will be necessary for me to go through all these documents again. I am prepared to read them into the record if it is inconsistent with Standing Orders to have them incorporated.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Jessop)- I am prepared to accept the incorporation of those documents if the honourable senator seeks leave to incorporate them.
– Is that in order, because that is precisely what I did before. It was ruled out of order by you.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I am sorry. There may have been a misunderstanding. You may proceed.
-The first document I wish to incorporate is a Press release of 1 8 November 1977 for the Townsville Regional Conservation Council. There is then an application for mining lease No. 827, lodged in the mining district of Charters Towers, which covers 128 hectares. It involves the sum of $548.34, being deposits plus the survey fees of $335. Schedule Part I states particulars of land within the boundaries of the land applied for, giving the parish known as St James, County of Wilkie Gray, the tenure known as Dotswood Holding and the name and address of the owner-occupier, which is Queensland Stations, Dotswood Stations, via Charters Towers. The name of the lease is ‘Ben Lomond East No. 1’.
The other document sets out the organisation of Pechiney and associated companies. It is a little outdated but it is still quite relevant. The only unfortunate thing is that it is in four point print. the roneoed sheet is the preliminary environmental advice to accompany mining lease applications, to be lodged in duplicate. I do not have a duplicate copy.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Jessop)- Senator Keeffe, I thought you said you wanted to have these documents incorporated.
– I now seek to have those documents incorporated in Hansard.
The documents read as follows-
Phone 7 1-6226
Townsville Environment Centre
The director of the Townsville Environment Centre, Mr Grahame Wells, said today that he had discovered that dangerous levels of radiation were being emitted from a warehouse a few minutes walk from the Townsville general post office.
Mr Wells said he had discovered radiation counts in an unmarked warehouse in Anthony Street, South Townsville.
He said the cause of the radiation was uranium ore samples from prospect areas north-west of Townsville in the Georgetown, and Ben Lomond (Hervey’s Range) district about 60 km west of Townsville.
After checking with relevant authorities and experts, since the discovery yesterday, present indications are that the level is greater than those allowed under the Regulations.
Workers in the adjoining warehouse could be exposed to levels about four times the allowable dose of radiation.
Mr Wells said any amount of radiation (including natural background levels) would produce cancers and genetic defects in human beings.
Mr Wells said it was important that officers of the State Health Department be sent from Brisbane with sophisticated equipment to make an accurate assessment of the danger if any, to workers in the adjoining warehouse being used by Suzanne Shoes.
One expert with whom I spoke this morning stressed that radon gas should be monitored.
Mr Wells was highly critical of the fact that the warehouse being used by French multi-national, Minatome, was not a licensed premises. There is absolutely no warning of any kind that a highly hazardous and insidious substance is being stored in the modest warehouse.
The fact that uranium ore could present such a hazard before it was used in the nuclear fuel cycle, made a damning indictment of the Fraser Government’s so-called Safeguards Policy . . . it’s evident that there are no safeguards, and the Government and industry is prepared to put people ‘s lives at risk.
Townsville Environment Centre
Charters Towers Mining District
MINING ACT 1968-1974
( Regulation 3 1 )
APPLICATION FOR A MINING LEASE
PURSUANT to the provisions of the Mining Act 1968-1974 and the Regulations made thereunder I/We, Minatome Australia Pty Limited of G.P.O. Box 4472, SYDNEY being not less than eighteen (18) years of age do hereby apply for a Mining Lease of (area) 128 ha of land situated at Ben Lomond East (and more particularly described in the annexed Schedule and the Plan and Description herewith), which land was marked out on the 26th day of August, 1976 at the hour of1 p.m., for the purpose of winning of Uranium, molybdenum, copper, lead, zinc, silver and I/We hereby tender the sum of $548.34 being deposit $213.34 and survey fee $335.00 in accordance with the existing Regulations.
Given under my/our hand(s) this 27th day of August, 1 976
Signature(s) of Applicant(s)
The Common Seal of PECHINEY (AUSTRALIA) EXPLORATION PTY LIMITED was hereunto affixed by authority of the Directors in the presence of:-
Share or Interest
WHOLE SECRETARY DIRECTOR
To the Warden for the Mining District of CHARTERS TOWERS at CHARTERS TOWERS Received at the Wardens Office CHARTERS TOWERS, on the 27th day of August, 1976, at 12 noon.
Application originally lodged by Pechiney. Name was changed later (approved 10. 1.1977) to Minatome.
Name of lease and situation and description of the land applied for
Name of Lease (refer to Reg. 34)- ‘Ben Lomond East No.1 ‘.
Area (refer to Sec. 24)- 128 hectares (320 acres) 1600 mx 800 m.
Situation and description (refer to Reg. 34) The datum post marked with the initials P.A.E. is situated 5 metres and on a bearing of 140 degrees from the north west corner and within the boundaries of the land applied for.
The datum post is situated 126 degrees (306 degrees) for 800 m from the top of a small hill standing exactly at 500 m of altitude or alternatively 246 degrees (66 degrees) for 480 m from the intersection of the Ben Lomond road track with a boundary fence bearing 145 degrees (see annexed portion of 1:50,000 map).
Commencing at the north west corner post thence by a line bearing 90 degrees for 1600 m (80 ch); thence by a line bearing 180 degrees for 800 m (40 ch); thence by a line bearing 270 degrees for 1600 m; thence by a line bearing 360 degrees for 800 m to the point of commencement. (If bearings are other than magnetic bearings taken with a compass, specify means of determining bearings.)
The term for which the Mining Lease is required- 2 1 years.
Description of access into, upon, over and out of Crown Land for the purpose of gaining access to and from the tenement. ( Diagram or sketch shall be furnished- See Reg. I37A)
PECHINEY UGINE KUHLMANN
23 Rue Balzac, 75 Paris 8e, France
Telephone: 227.64. 10 Telex: 29.503
Honorary Chairman: Pierre Grezel.
Directors: Pierre Jouven (Chairman and Chief Executive ), Wilfred Baumgartner; Ennemond Bizot; Francois BlochLaine; Pierre David Weill; Georges Desbriere; Joseph Desbordes; Rene Fillon; Jacques de Fouchier; Jean Gall; Andre Goldet; Paul Huvelin; Henri Jolivet; Pierre Keller; Emmanuel Lamy: Robert Mathieu; Jacques Merlin: Joseph Roos; Ambroise Roux; Jean Roux de Bezieux; Philippe Thomas.
Management: Phillippe Thomas (General Manager); Jacques Desazars de Montgailhard (Deputy General Manager); Jacques Marchandise and Andre Jacomet (Assistant General Managers); Philippe Duval (Secretary).
Constitution: A Group resulting from the merger of Pechiney (established 1855) and Ugine Kuhlmann (established 1 889 ). This was effected by the pooling of interests by both members into appropriate groupings within a holding company Metaux et Alliages, to become Pechiney Ugine Kuhlmann. The merger and its implementation was sanctioned by shareholders at the end of 1 97 1 , to be retroactive from the beginning of the year. The consideration to shareholders of the two component companies for pooled contributions was: Pechiney shareholders 14,827,051 shares of Fr. 100 each, one Pechiney Ugine Kuhlmann share for one Pechiney share; Ugine Kuhlmann shareholders 10,276,074 shares of Fr. 100 each, nine Pechiney Ugine Kuhlmann shares for eight Ugine Kuhlmann shares.
Principal Subsidiaries and Participations (Wholly owned unless otherwise stated): Aluminium: Aluminium Pechiney: Societe de Vente de l’Aluminium Pechiney; Cegedur Pechiney; Forges de Crans; Seal: Cebal; Fonderie de Precision (56 per cent); Tournus (57 per cent by Seichime): Forgeal (19 per cent and 75 per cent by Seichime); Affimet (60 per cent); Pechiney Ugine Kuhlmann Corp. (60 per cent and 40 per cent by Seichime) and its subsidiary Howmet; Intsel; SFDAG (80 per cent and 15 per cent by Seichime): Aluminium de Grece (34 per cent and 45 per cent by SFDAG); Alucam (58 per cent); SOcatral (53 per cent); Fria (28 per cent); Pechiney Nederland (38 per cent and 10 per cent by Sofi melec); Alumino de Galicia (6 per cent and 42 percent by Seichime, 20 percent by Cifakas); Qal (20 per cent); Camea (65 per cent by Sofimelec); Kaye (by Sofimelec); Koralu (50 per cent). Chemicals: Produits Chimiques Ugine Kuhlmann, Progil Electrochimic (50 per cent): Oxysynthese (50 per cent); Rhodanienne d’Engrais (70 per cent); Dauphinoise de Produits Chimiques (25 per cent): Ethylox (66 per cent); Ugilor (50 per cent); Europeenne de Polyurethane (50 per cent); OctelKuhlmann (50 per cent): Dispersions Plastiques (50 per cent): Lorileux-Lefrane (62 percent); Laboratoire Fournier (30 percent); Industrie Biologique Francaise (52 percent); Spret (52 per cent): Pointet Girard (52 per cent); Plastimer (50 per cent): Generale des Engrais (50 per cent); Fosfanil (63 per cent); Steel: Ugine Aciers; Forges de Gueugnon ( 15 per cent); Ugine Geugnon (50 per cent); Danoiset Fils (93 per cent): Fruchard (86 per cent): Titanium (80 per cent); Mining and Electrometallurgy: Francaise d’ Electrometallurgic; Compagnie Universelle d ‘Acetylene (29 per cent); Establissenments Keller et Leleux (53 percent); Hidro Nitro Espanola (40 per cent): Compagnic Generale d ‘Electrolyse du Palais (55 per cent); Ugine Carbone (55 per cent); Metafram (69 per cent); Allevard Ugine (57 per cent); Ugine Infra; Aimants Ugimag. Nuclear and new technologies: Societe Miniere Pechiney Mokta SMPM (50 per cent): Francaise des Minerais d’Uranium CFMU (15 per cent); Industrielle des Minerais de I’Ouest SIMO (50 per cent): Usines Chimiques de Pierrelatte SUCP (73 per cent); Industrielle de Combustible Nucleaire SICN (25 per cent); Etudeet Realisations des Combustibles Atomiques CERCA (26 percent);Societe Eurofuel (51 percent); Franco-Beige de Fabrication de Combustible FBFC (60 percent); Societe Air (51 percent); Special products: Electrodes et Refractairs Savoie (SERS); Showa Savoie (50 per cent by SERS); Genosa (39 per cent and 16 per cent Alumino de Galicia); Electrographite de la Meuse CEGRAM (50 percent); Carbone Lorraine (34 per cent): Cefilac (61 per cent); Copper Fabrication: Trafilerie e Laminatoi di Metalli (25.5 per cent and 39 per cent by Soli melec); Trefimelaux (58.4 per cent and 33.8 per cent by Seichime) and its subsidiary interest Cuivreset Alliages (55.9 per cent); Etablissements Gorse (35 per cent); Industrielle Metallurgique d’Huart (99.9 per cent); Trefileries Port a Binson (99.8 per cent); Lignes Telegraphiqueset Telephoniques (30 per cent); Euro.-Fac (79.5 per cent): La Cablerie Francaise (76 per cent); Cableric St.-Etienne et Phoceenne (35 per cent); Generale d ‘Electrolyse du Palais(55 percent).
Other interests: Societe d ‘Exploitations et d’lnterets Chimiqueset Metallurgiques, Seichime (70.5 per cent); Societe pour I’lnformatique; Societe d’lnterets Immobiliers; S.I. Balzac St.-Honore: Windsor Etoile.
Activities: Mining; the treatment of metals; chemicals. The Group structure comprises the following divisions: Steel and titanium; Aluminium: Chemicals; Mining and electrometallurgy: Nuclear and new technologies: Special products; Copper fabrication; operating in U.S., Greece and Africa.
Recent Developments: An agreement was concluded with Rhone Progil for the pooling and expansion of manufacture of fertilisers within a new company Societe Generale des Engrais GESA: participation is on a fifty/fifty basis.
In 1973 the nuclear division in an agreement with Westinghouse. Creusol-Loire and Framatone formed a new company. Eurofuel, to produce complete fuel systems for light-water reactors.
In 1973 the Group acquired Lorilleux Lefrane, prominent in Europe in the manufacture of printing inks.
In 1 974 the Company signed an agreement with the USSR for the construction of an anode plant in Russia. The agreement also calls for technical assistance in the project to be supplied by the Company.
Production of Main Categories of Products (1973 in metric tons): special steels 491,000 ( 490,000); ferro-alloys 520,000 (430,000); alumina 2.33 million (2.27 million); aluminium 867,000(891,000): chlorine 260,000 (255,000): sulphuric acid 1.17 million (1.05 million): phosphoric acid 199,000 ( 188,000); carbon products 130,000 ( 1 16,000); deliveries by copper fabrication division 367,000 ( 306, 100).
Turnover: Financial Year 1973; Total Group Fr. 16,027.0 million ( 1 3,425.2 million) excluding tax; Sources of turnover in Fr. million: steel and titanium 1,183 ( 1,138); aluminium 5,663 (5,076); chemicals 3,123 (2,446); copper 3,535 (2,593); mining and metals 1,270 (749); special products 1,253 (1,423); Analysis by geographical area per cent: France, domestic sales 56.7 per cent (54.9 per cent): exports 20.6 per cent (21.1 per cent); sales by companies outside France 22.7 percent (24 per cent).
Investment Income: Financial Year 1973; Total Group Fr. 66.4 million (60.8 million).
Number of Employees (December 31, 1973). Group 103,000(97,000).
Ordinary Capital Issues: Total Fr. 2.516,150,900; Number of shares 25,161 , 509; Nominal Value per share Fr. 1 00.
Group Loan Capital (December 31, 1973): Long-term loans Fr. 5,293.5 million (5,180.9 million). Long-term loans are proportionately in the following currencies: French francs 68.8 per cent (65.3 per cent); US dollars and Eurodollars 17.1 percent (20.1 percent); other currencies 14.1 per cent ( 1 4.6 per cent ).
Capital investment: Financial Year 1973; Total Group Fr. 1,656 million ( 1,364 million).
Depreciation of Fixed Assets: Financial Year 1973; Total Group Fr. 777.2 million (696.9 million).
Prospects: The merger of Pechiney and Ugine Kuhlmann created a powerful and widely diversified industrial group. Ugine Kuhlmann had few industrial footholds outside France; it exported nearly 30 per cent of its production but could no longer expect to expand abroad merely via its exports. Its merger with Pechiney provided it with a wide international base.
Company Calendar: Financial Year ends December 31; Report and Accounts published June; Annual Meeting June; Dividends Paid June.
Consolidated Results: December 31, 1973. Fr.000,000 Net profit before tax 576.3 (431.6); Profit after tax and minorities 365.3 (273.4); Per share Fr. 14.5 (Fr. 10.9); Dividends: Total 205.0 ( 20 1 . 0 ); Per share Fr.8.40 ( Fr. 8.00 ).
Share Prices (High-low, calendar years); Pechiney: Fr. 1965 208-175; 1966 225-180; 1967 219-173; 1968 219-158, 1969 228-182; 1970 206-170: 1971 184-131. Ugine Kuhlmann: 1966 294-165; 1967 198-146; 1968 178-119; 1969 215-145; 1970 230-188; 1971 206-146. Pechiney Ugine Kuhlmann: 1972 172-130. 10; 1973 167-130.50; 1974 143.50-1 16.70 to June 30.
PRELIMINARY ENVIRONMENTAL ADVICE TO ACCOMPANY MINING LEASE APPLICATIONS (TO BE LODGED IN DUPLICATE) N.B. BRIEF DETAILS ONLY ARE REQUIRED
Proposed mining development:
Signature/s of Applicant/s.
– I thank the Senate. I now make a final appeal. I hope all Government senators will take some cognisance of the fact that people in North Queensland are very deeply disturbed about the prospect of additional uranium mining developments taking place, particularly in the Ben Lomond area, which is within 50 kilometres of the second biggest city in Queensland. We are very deeply disturbed about the development or the possible establishment of a uranium enrichment plant anywhere in the region. We are further disturbed by the resumption of French tests in the Pacific area and we do not propose to have the area of North Queensland become the experimental ground for every uranium or nuclear experiment that is to go on. If someone else wants it in his backyard, that is his business. We do not want it in north Queensland. I believe that I speak for the great majority of people north of the Kingaroy line.
– I take the opportunity on this first reading of a money Bill to discuss the situation at Lake Nash station and the problems faced by the Aboriginals in that area, and who have belonged to that area and have moved away. In doing so, I will put some questions to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) on the issue. I will give a little background. Lake Nash station is situated about 500 miles north east of Alice Springs, a few miles from the QueenslandNorthern Territory border. It is the eleventh largest station in the Northern Territory, occupying 8,547 square kilometres. It is owned, through its subsidiaries, by King Ranch of Texas, United States of America. There are two Australian subsidiaries, and they own the Lake Nash station. The population is approximately 25 Europeans- it varies- and 120 to 200 Aboriginals. The representative of King Ranch is a Mr Bassingthwaite, who is the chairman of Swift Australia Pty Ltd.
I wish to give some indication of the attitude of Swift-King Ranch to the Aboriginals. I am afraid it is not a sympathetic one, as honourable senators will find as I proceed. In 1974, Mr Bassingthwaite ‘s comments and policies provoked a good deal of criticism. Some of this criticism came from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, through the director of the southern region, a Mr Creed Lovegrove. He was highly critical of the attitude of the people at Lake Nash and he accused the Swift company of wanting to remove ‘all Aborigines not actually working on the property, or their immediate families’. He went on to say that this son of behaviour was not in line with the covenants of the lease. He also accused the company of blocking progress towards a sub-lease. The sub-lease which had been sought was for a small area of land on the station which could be used by the Aboriginals as their headquarters, as their home land. This is quite a common practice. A piece of land is either leased or excised, if that is possible under the laws of the country. Senator Cavanagh, who was the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs at the time, saw the conditions at Lake Nash. He described them as appalling and degrading.
A reporter from the Sunday Mail, a Mr Kim Lockwood- who is well known to Territorians because of his famous father, Douglas Lockwood- saw the living conditions and he said that they were akin to drought-ravaged Ethiopia or cyclone-battered Bangladesh. In reply, Mr Bassingthwaite glossed over the complaints and claimed that he was ‘paying over award wages, making a substantial contribution to the costs of a nurse, clinic and school and providing a well stock non-profit store’. This claim was reported in the Sunday Mail of 1 1 August 1 974.I think I ought to explain that this largesse needs some sort of qualification, as most of the services to which he referred are paid for by the Government. The management was paid a substantial subsidy to do the sort of work to which Mr Bassingthwaite referred. Many honourable senators would know that subsidies were paid to stations for education, if education was not provided by the Department, for health care and for messing.
– They did not always get it. It was not always passed on to the Aborigines.
– I am just explaining the situation. It is a fact, of course, that in some cases this was not done. The point should be made that in many cases it was done. Many of the station owners did a very good job for the Aboriginal people and spent their subsidies wisely. Of course, as Senator Coleman suggests, there were a number who did not do that. Apparently, that was the case at Lake Nash. Mr Bassingthwaite did not grant the sub-lease that was required by the covenant and referred to by Mr Lovegrove of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. He did not allow a water supply to be installed for the Aboriginal people. Perhaps, rather than use the word ‘allow’, I should use the word permit’, because it was to cost the station nothing. The work was to be done by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, but it required the permission of the management of Lake Nash station before the water supply could be put in. For some extraordinary reason, Mr Bassingthwaite denied this permission.
At the beginning of this year he appointed a new manager, a Mr Perce Crumblin. Mr Crumblin had worked in the Northern Territory for some time and he took up his duties at Lake Nash station earlier this year. Shortly after he took up his duties he sacked the sister who was providing the health care. She was the subsidisd sister to whom 1 referred earlier. He also sacked her husband, who was the storekeeper. Naturally, because of this action, there were rumours that the store was to close. The District Medical Officer and the officer from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, who heard of this rumour, went out to Lake Nash and had some discussions with the management. In the course of those discussions the manager said that he had certain reservations about the Aboriginal people. He said, firstly, that he did want to employ Aboriginal people; secondly, that, he wanted nothing to do with health care; and thirdly, that he was considering closing down the store to force them to move.
That point obviously needs some explanation. I gave a little information earlier when I said that the station is 500 miles north-east of Alice Springs and that it is close to the Northern Territory-Queensland border. It is fairly obvious that, with a station the size of this one- about the size of Cyprus- if the store were somewhere in the middle there would be an awfully long way to travel to get to the next store. So the prospect of closing down the store was highly relevant. The manager gave reasons for his attitude towards the Aboriginal people. He said that they leave the gates open. Anyone who has worked with Aboriginal people or who was raised on stations knows that this would be highly unlikely. Those of us who were raised on stations or on farms know that we develop certain attitudes towards leaving gates open. I think it is highly unlikely that they would do that. Nevertheless, that was the first reason that he gave. The second reason that he gave for having these problems with the Aboriginal people was that they are unreliable employees. Again, people who know the Northern Territory know that this is not the case. Aboriginal people have a justified, well earned reputation as stockmen. The point has to be made also that other stations around Lake Nash which employed Aboriginal people found them to be as I have just said, excellent stockmen and reliable workers.
The third reason he gave was that the Aboriginals have too many dogs, which kill the station animals. That could be a fact. It could be a fact that there were ‘too many dogs’. There are some reservations about whether they would attack the station animals. Most places in that area of the Northern Territory have too many dogs. It has to be understood that the Aboriginal people who work in that area have an affinity with the dog totem. As some honourable senators would know and certainly as Senator Bonner has said on other occasions, it would not be possible for them to shoot a dog or to see a dog shot. But, certainly, if there had been some discussion on the matter, they could have said: ‘If you can take the dogs from our sight, shoot them and then dispose of them, it will not worry us. But we cannot do it ourselves’. I will return a little later to the matter of this lack of communication.
The fourth point that Mr Crumblin made was that the Aboriginals caused a disturbance when drunk. I will answer these criticisms later.
– Who doesn’t?
-Yes. As Senator Coleman interjects, who does not create a disturbance when drunk? On 29 March- I want to list these events in chronological order- the manager posted a notice to say that the store was closed and that it would not be available to the Aboriginal people living in the area. What was the result of that action? Firstly, there was no food or other supplies. I have already made the point that obviously there was not another store just around the corner. There would be nothing there, except the natural food that could be caught by the Aboriginal people. Obviously, they are a group of people who, having been brought up on stations, would be dependent upon that sort of food for their living. There was no petrol to be bought. The nearest place where one could get petrol is some kilometres away. Obviously, it was incredible that the man should cut off their one contact with Camooweal, with Ammaroo or with any other spot.
The next thing was that no mail was to be delivered. In other words, no social security cheques could be collected. That relates to the petrol situation. If the Aboriginals could get their social security cheques but could not cash them at the station they could not get the petrol to go to Camooweal or somewhere else to cash them. So, the fact that no cheques were to be cashed was the end result. An officer from the DAA went out to Lake Nash to find out not whether the people wanted to move, but where the people wanted to move to. The question put to them was: ‘Do you want to move to Ammaroo or do you want to move to Camooweal?’
It is not my practice to criticise the officers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I have never done that and 1 want to avoid it whenever I can. But it seems to me that in this case the officer, for some reason or other, was not looking after the interests of the Aboriginal people, but rather accepted the fact that the management had said: ‘I want these people moved’. So the officer from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was going to say: ‘All right; you have to go. Where do you want to go to?’ Fortunately, the Aboriginal people have friends who were able to help them. In this case the two friends who were able to help were the Reverend Jim Downing from the Intitute for Aboriginal Development at Alice Springs and Professor Colin Tatz. They encouraged the people of Lake Nash to approach the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress to give them assistance in seeking an injunction to restrain the manager from closing the store. This move was successful. I have before me the court document; but, obviously, it is too long to read. Perhaps I could read a summary which was printed in the Australian and which will explain the situation. It reads:
They are restrained from preventing the Aboriginals exercising their legal rights under the Crown Land Ordinance, namely that within 2 kilometres of the homestead they have a right to bc on the land, to use natural water, to take or kill natural animals and vegetation, and to use educational, medical and similar facilities.
I read that into the record because it has some relevance to what I will say later. An appeal was made by the Lake Nash people- I have referred to it previously in this place- to the United States President. An appeal was also made to the roving Ambassador, Andrew Young.
At about this time a group visited Lake Nash and spoke to the Aboriginal people. That was on 25 April. The group comprised Irwin Chlanda and David Richards from the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Centralian Advocate, Professor Colin Tatz, Margaret Mary Turner and the Reverend Jim Downing. I wish to read some of the questions that were asked and answers that were given in that meeting. In relation to the matter of communication between the manager and the Aboriginal people, the question was;
Has he talked to you about those troubles?
The answers were, from Frank Toby:
No, this man never talked to us.
From Tommy Turner:
Why does he do that? Why does he tell those lies? He just talks behind people’s backs.
In relation to the dogs, the following question was put:
He complains that the dogs chase the cattle away from water and worry them all the time. He said he can’t break in horses in the yard because of the dogs. What do you say about that?
I used to break in horses all the time in that yard and the dogs never worried them. He’s just telling lies.
The bullocks water around that way, not near the camp at all. The dogs go to water close to here. They don’t chase those bullocks away. He just made up that story when he came here. Why did he do that? When we worked for Alan Peters we never saw that Percy Crumblin. How did he get all those stories? He might be dreaming.
Only once the dogs ran at the bullocks when they drove them right past our camp. Any dogs will do that if they arc driven right past. They never drove cattle near dogs before.
On the matter of the gates and fences the document states:
Q.- ‘Mr Crumblin says you leave gates open and cut fences. Is that true?’ Frank Toby said with disgust. ‘No. We’ve never cut fences, and we shut the gates. We know cattle work from a long time ago, before that bloke. We think about cattle. We understand all that. We’re not stupid’.
In regard to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs the document states:
Q.- Does the D.A.A. man from Tennant Creek help you? The people said that he didn’t help them and he probably listened too hard to the manager.
Frank Toby, ‘He took away our engine for the water. He didn’t tell us he was going to do that. He didn’t ask. He just said, “You fellows had better shift away from here”. He just listens too much to the manager’.
Q.- ‘When he comes, does he sit down and have meetings with you ‘.
Frank, ‘He has only come 2 times. When we had a big meeting with Alice Springs, Utopia health people, D.A.A., and Mt Isa Legal Aid, he just sat down and didn’t say anything. That Congress bloke -
Referring to the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress-
In answer to a question on 9 May this year the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs expressed concern. In part of his answer when talking about the situation at Lake Nash he said: lt is obviously a matter of great concern that the Aboriginal community is having the difficulties that it is experiencing on that station.
Mr Ian Tuxworth, the Northern Territory Minister for Health and Community Development, has convened a conference at Lake Nash on 19 May to discuss the situation.
I would like to read a newspaper report of that meeting which comes from the Australian on 22 May 1979, which reads:
There was, said Mr Tuxworth, a communication problem between the management and the Aborigines, especially as Mr Crumblin had never visited the camp since his appointment in January, and since neither Mr Crumblin nor Mr Bassingthwaighte had seen fit to attend this ‘all-party’ conference.
The management, said Mr Tuxworth, was upset at adverse publicity, but had many allegations about the Aborigines’ behaviour, their work attitudes and their dogs.
Through a translator and the legal advisers, the Aborigines repudiated all these allegations. As Mr Crumblin had never employed them, they said, how could he comment on the quality of their labour?
The short-term but vital question concerned access to the store and food. The Northern Territory Government promised to provide the cash tomorrow so cheques could be cashed and food bought.
The meeting ended on that small but important note of understanding.
I want to go through a number of questions which I think we have to ask in the short term. I refer to the meeting and ask questions about the meeting. Question 1: Were the Aboriginal people officially informed about it and if so by whom? It is not good enough to arrive at a station and simply hope that people will be there. There must be sufficient warning so that the people can be there and take part in the meeting. Question 2: Was there anyone present to report to the Federal Parliament? If so, who? It is quite obvious that we cannot abdicate our responsibility here. We have a problem and we ought to know what is going on. Question 3: Who arranged for the interpreter mentioned and was he or she experienced at interpreting? I make the point strongly that it is not sufficient simply to have somebody who speaks the language and speaks some English as well. We need someone who is experienced in interpreting. Question 4: Is it correct as reported on 22 May this year that the management will allow Aboriginal people to purchase food with Social Security cheques and also, of course to cash those cheques? Question 5: Is petrol available at the store at present? I do not think it is necessary to emphasise the need for this. Question 6: What legal, financial and welfare responsibilities does the Northern Territory Government have in the administration of Aboriginal affairs in the Northern Territory? It is most important that we know that. It is most important that the Aboriginal people know that, and I think it is also just as important that the Northern Territory Government know. Question 7: What role will the Federal Government have in the matter of Aboriginal affairs in the Northern Territory? Question 8: What liaison is there between the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Territory Minister who has responsibility for Aboriginal affairs? I am not referring to the clashes that they might have had in the past over roads, the Kakadu National Park, uranium and several other matters. I am talking about the general overall relationship they have. Question 9: What is the role of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs officers in the Northern Territory? Finally, question 10: What are the qualifications of these officers? What special training do they have for this important, difficult and sensitive job?
In the few minutes left I want to look at the long term situation. I think we have to make these points very strongly. Firstly, the Aboriginal people have been forced off their land by a foreign company. What are we doing about it? What is this Government doing about it? We have a situation where people who were born in this area, grew up in this area, believe they belong to this area and are recognised as belonging to this area, are being forced off their land by a foreign company which sees them as a nuisance. The Aboriginal people have been denied a small area for a village. The Gibb Committee did not contribute a great deal, but certainly it brought down a statement and said that there should be a small area on every station set aside for a village. What is the Government doing about it? What has the Government done about it in the last 15 years since the Gibb report? The Aboriginal people are being treated as third, even fourth class citizens by foreign companies. What is the Government doing about it? The company is virtually thumbing its nose at lease covenants, the laws of our land. What are we doing about it? I have already quoted what the laws of the covenants are and what the lease laws are. What are we doing about this?
Aboriginal people have been forced to go outside Australia to seek satisfaction for themselves. I related how people had sent a letter to the United States President and to the United Nations. What an indictment of this Government and of us as a people that people in Australia where we are supposed to have an enlightened attitude towards Aboriginal people, are forced to go outside Australia to try to achieve some satisfaction. I think there is a clear need to clarify the role of both the Northern Territory and Federal Governments- especially the Federal Government- and a need to clarify the relationship between the two Governments. A need exists to make clear guidelines on what responsibilities there are in both areas. It is quite clear that the 1967 referendum gave us some very clear responsibilities. I put the questions: Are we accepting these responsibilities? Are we doing the right thing? One has to say that Lake Nash is just one example. I wonder whether there are any others.
I call on the Minister to make a firm stand in this matter, to accept fully the responsibilities which the Federal Government had and has been given. I ask him to investigate the role played by his Department in this particular case and to clarify the role to be played by his Department in the future, should we have a situation such as this develop again. Surely our original settlers have more rights than to be kicked off their land by foreign companies. If foreign owned companies are to operate in Australia I maintain that they should do so under our conditions. One of these conditions would be that they show full respect for our citizens, particularly our indigenous people, the Aboriginal citizens.
– I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Earlier in the sitting Senator James Cavanagh raised a matter concerning an alleged assault within the rose garden of Parliament involving a member of the House of Representatives and the Housekeeper. With the concurrence of the Acting Speaker I have inquired into this matter. I have now received a signed statement from Mr W. G. Burns, Member of the House of Representatives for Isaacs, and advice from Mr Donnelly, Secretary of the Joint House Department. Mr Burns ‘s statement reads:
I have been told that a speech was made in the Senate this afternoon accusing mc of assaulting the Housekeeper of the Parliament. That allegation is completely untrue.
I did not hear the speech and I have not been able to get a copy of it from Hansard.
I will deal with any other allegations which might have been made in the speech when it is available to me but I repeat, any allegation that I have at any time assaulted the housekeeper is completely untrue.
Mr Donnelly has advised as follows:
The statement of events made by Senator Cavanagh has been read to and discussed with Mr Pretty by the Secretary,
Joint House Department, Mr Pretty has denied knowledge of all the alleged events.
The Secretary, Joint House Department has denied that Mr Pretty was called before the administration of the Department or threatened.
Because of the serious nature of the allegations, I have responded as quickly as possible. For the moment I cannot take the matter any further. However should I receive any further information, I shall, of course, immediately acquaint the Senate.
– by leave- This afternoon Senator Cavanagh made a statement which involved very serious allegations against a member of another place. Subsequently, three persons vitally associated with this matter have provided statements through you, Mr President, to the Senate. The person who was alleged to have committed the offence, Mr Burns, has made a categorical denial in terms of the signed statement. The person who is the alleged victim has made a statement to Mr Donnelly. Mr Donnelly, the Secretary of the Joint House Department, has denied that Mr Pretty was called before the administration of the Department or threatened. That latter point, of course, is primary evidence since the allegation this afternoon, as I understand it, was that Mr Pretty had been called before the administration of the Joint House Department and threatened. Clearly three people have provided evidence which amounts to a strong rebuttal of the charges made. I believe that at this point Senator Cavanagh should be invited, in the face of this information, to withdraw his statement made this afternoon and to apologise to the Senate. I invite him to do so.
-by leave- I have no desire to injure any man with false or untruthful statements. The Hansard record will show that when I made my statement today I commenced by referring to the story as one which I thought was well known about the Parliament. It is a story that has been repeated by stewards and staff in Parliament House. I was informed by a person who I thought was a reliable informant and, having told the story, I expressed my desire to protect the workers of this building. Mr President, I asked you to inquire into this incident and the question of what protection the workers in this place have. I also mentioned in my speech that, on the information given to me today by my informant, at that stage Mr Pretty was prepared to say that the incident did not happen. That was stated this morning. I accepted my informant as reliable. I will have to go back to him to see whether the allegations can be supported. If he is willing to do so, I will have to raise the matter on another occasion. Because there is no proof to substantiate the allegations at this stage, 1 apologise to anyone I have injured and to the Senate.
– Can I move that this matter be now adjourned?
Senator CARRICK (New Wales-Minister for Education)- by leave- I thank Senator Cavanagh for his apology. I think it is in the interests of this Senate that this matter should be handled in this way.
(Nos 1 to 5) 1979
– I want to acknowledge briefly the remarks of Senator Robertson on Lake Nash but I do not intend to respond to them in detail this evening. As Senator Robertson indicated, I answered a question earlier this month which indicated in part my own attitude to the matter. I regard very seriously the facts which he brought forward. I say to him and to the Senate that my direction to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs on one of the many notes which were sent to me on this matter stated that we must be positive in our support of these people. I acknowledge that that is certainly the role of the Department. I will take up the various matters Senator Robertson has raised and endeavour to ensure that he receives adequate information with respect to all the points. 1 hope that a number of the criticisms he felt he had to make of my Department and of officers of my Department will prove to be unfounded. I am sure that is also Senator Robertson’s wish. I repeat what I said earlier in the month; all of us can take some heart from the fact that the organisations which have been funded to perform on behalf of Aboriginals have performed in this case. To that extent, it has been a valuable exercise in showing that Aboriginals in Australia are not defenceless to attack.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
Wool Industry Amendment Bill 1979
The object of this Bill is to amend the Wool Industry Act 1 972 so as to extend the statutory accounting provisions in respect of the floor price scheme for wool to include the 1979-80 season. When the floor price arrangement was introduced in September 1974, it was designed to operate for the 1974-75 season only. Accordingly, the financing and accounting provisions provided for in legislation at the time were restricted to operations in that season.
These provisions consisted of two measures. First, the Wool Tax Acts were amended to impose a special 5 per cent levy on sales of wool by growers in 1974-75. The levy was intended to provide a reserve for meeting any losses that might arise out of the floor price arrangement. Secondly, the Wool Industry Act was amended to provide for the establishment of the Market Support Fund as a repository for the proceeds of the 5 per cent levy and also to lay down special accounting provisions for the reserve price operations. Since then the continuation of the floor price scheme has involved successive annual amendments to continue the arrangements described.
Consequent upon the Government’s decision to extend the scheme to include the 1979-80 season, it is now necessary similarly to extend the coverage of the accounting provisions in the Wool Industry Act as well as to continue the special 5 per cent levy on wool sales for another year. The first of these steps is the purpose of this Bill, and involves merely an alteration of a specified termination date so as to include in the existing arrangements wool purchased by the Australian Wool Corporation under the floor price scheme up to 30 June 1 980. The other legislative step required is amendment of the Wool Tax Acts to continue collection of the 5 per cent levy on wool sales during 1979-80. Bills to effect this amendment will be introduced immediately after the measure which is the subject of my speech.
In moving to extend the floor price scheme and the associated accounting arrangements and the 5 per cent levy on wool sales, the Government is acting with the concurrence of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The rapid rise in wool prices we have witnessed in recent weeks and the concurrent reduction in the wool stocks held by the Australian Wool Corporation do not diminish the need to preserve the safeguard of a floor price mechanism. As in the past, the wool market could change very rapidly and in such circumstances a floor price is an effective barrier to over-reaction. It is also necessary to bear in mind that notwithstanding the reduction in stocks held by the Wool Corporation, there remains a substantial volume of wool in the stockpile, which will have to be carried over into 1979-80. Whilst the actual level of the floor price for next season will not be determined and announced until the current season ends, the Government has already decided that the floor price for 1 979-80 will not be less than the present level of 298 cents per kg clean for the market indicator, which represents the clip average price on a clean basis. 1 commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Wool Tax Amendment Bills (Nos 1 to 5) 1979
These five Bills will amend the Wool Tax Acts (Nos 1 to 5) 1964 so as to continue in force for another year the special levy of 5 per cent on the sale value of shorn wool which is collected in connection with the floor price scheme for wool. The levy was introduced at the inception of the scheme on 2 September 1974 to provide a fund for meeting any operating losses on the floor price scheme. Originally, both the scheme and the levy were to operate for one season only. Their operation was extended successively to each of the subsequent four seasons and the present statutory provisions for the payment of the levy expire on 30 June 1979.
As already announced, it is now proposed that the floor price scheme for wool be extended further to operate during the 1 979-80 season and that the levy of 5 per cent be continued similarly. If there is to be no interruption in the collection of the levy, the statutory provisions under which the levy is imposed must be amended before 30 June. Revenue from this levy is credited to the Market Support Fund established by the Australian Wool Corporation. For administrative convenience the special levy of 5 per cent is collected in conjunction with the 3 per cent levy that represents woolgrower contributions towards the financing of programs of wool research and promotion and the administration of the marketing functions of the Australian Wool Corporation.
The present total levy of 8 per cent has been in force since August 1975.
All the five Wool Tax Bills are similar in their text, which simply extends the operation of the special 5 per cent levy until 30 June 1980. The Acts which they amend are also similar but each covers a different wool marketing channel. The need for five separate Acts arises from a constitutional requirement that laws imposing taxes should deal with one subject of taxation only. Opportunity has been taken to include in the Bills some minor formal amendments to bring the wording of the Wool Tax Acts into line with modern drafting practice. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
-The purpose of the six Bills before the House essentially is to continue the 5 per cent levy on gross wool sales for the Market Support Fund and to establish the trust fund and collection arrangements that are necessary for that Market Support Fund which is expected to stand at something over $200m by the end of this season. It continues the floor price arrangements initiated in 1974 when Senator Wriedt was Minister for Agriculture at a time when the wool market was seriously depressed. Indeed, it was so seriously depressed that it was necessary for. the government of the day to appropriate some $350m for the maintenance of the reserve price which had been set in the 1974-75 season at 250c per kilogram for 2 1 micron clean wool. In the depressed period the stockpile peaked just under 2 million bales. The wool market at the moment is much more favourable. The stockpile has fallen to a figure in the vicinity of 400,000. It changes on a daily basis, so one cannot be precise about it. But it is in the region of 400,000. The present market price for most grades, and for the indicator, is some 20 per cent above the present floor price. This situation, however, should be seen in perspective.
I want to say something about what I see as being undue and unwarranted, if not irresponsible, optimism by some people as to the true nature of the wool market and the immediate prospects. This optimism, I think, can be partly attributed to the Government and its desire to promote the idea that there is a rural-led economic recovery in the pipeline. Whilst it is certainly correct that the very large increase in farm incomes this year will be a major, if not the major, component of such economic growth that does take place in this financial year, this increase in incomes has been caused almost entirely by three factors. The first is the very large wheat crop. That is not likely to recur next year or perhaps for another decade. The second is the big increase in beef prices over the last 12 months, which probably will be sustained for three or four years. The third, a causative factor which is not often mentioned, is the continuing devaluation of the Australian dollar, which has increased, in terms of Australian dollars, the price received for agricultural exports. This is particularly relevant to the wool market.
One could say, justifiably, that there is little evidence that the Government really believes its own propaganda. If the Government really believed that the wool market and the prospects for the future were as sound as the euphoric statements of some of its spokesmen from time to time would suggest, it would be less coy about giving some assurance that the reserve price will be substantially increased in the coming season. Far from giving any assurance that a substantial increase in the reserve price is likely, which would be the logical thing for a government which believed its own propaganda to do, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has been pointing out, to the woolgrower groups in a calculated way, I believe, that it is not really necessary to increase the firm floor price because the pot holding operation, the variable daytoday market indicator, can be moved up independently of the floor price, which of course is true. But if the Government really believed that the market was going to be as buoyant in the next 12 months as it sometimes suggests, it would not flinch from a substantial increase in the floor price, and the indications are that it has no intention of doing that.
While on that point, I would like to make my own view quite clear. There is a widespread belief among wool growers that the floor price for wool ought to be tied to some cost index. One such index is what is called the cost of producing wool. I do not know how that could be determined; in fact I am not sure that I know what it is. On the other hand, a floor price having been established, that price could be automatically indexed to the consumer price index. That idea has a good deal of popular appeal, because it seems to be just. But it is not a sensible basis on which to determine the level of the floor price. The level of the floor price, by any rational assessment of the matter, has to be tied to what is expected to be the long term demand for wool, and not to any movement in so-called production costs or any other index of prices.
The popularity of the idea, of course, guarantees that it receives tacit support, and in some instances overt support, from a number of politicians representing rural electorates who can see some electoral advantage for themselves in going along with what is popular instead of what is true. As I have said before, the actions of such people are not in the long term interests of agriculture, and these people are not friends of the farmers. They put their own short term political welfare before the long term welfare of the people for whom they purport to speak.
There has been considerable debate over the last few months about the benefits or otherwise of the floor price scheme, which has operated for almost five years. In particular, a study whose results were released by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics at the AGRO ‘79 conference in Perth in March, whilst concluding quite unequivocally- and I do not think there will be any dispute about this-that the operation of the floor price has stabilised wool prices, cast serious doubts upon its effect on the total income of the wool industry over the whole five-year period. The study suggested that because of the operation of the floor price, the total industry income is some $46m less than it would otherwise have been. It is highly technical work. I freely confess that it is too technical econometrically for me to understand, but people who do understand these matters tell me that the methodology employed by the BAE in coming to that conclusion was at least open to question.
The critical factor, and one that cannot ever be fixed with precision in determining whether the operations of a buffer stock scheme, such as the floor price is, either increase long term industry revenue or decrease long term industry revenue, is the elasticity of demand, both in times of boom and in times of slump. I had previously believed that the elasticities in the wool market were favourable for profitable operation of buffer schemes. Of course that assumption is the very one upon which the BAE study has cast doubts. In fact, the BAE has argued that the elasticities are opposite to those which would favour profitable operation of such a scheme. So there is considerable doubt, and I think there always will be because of the very nature of the problem, in assessing the final consequences for industry income of a scheme of this nature.
It is argued, independently of the critical price elasticity of demand, both in boom and slump, that the price stability to wool users, which the operation of a buffer stock scheme provides, in fact increases the total demand for wool above that which would otherwise exist. It increases the whole demand for wool. It lifts the whole demand curve for wool higher than it would be in the absence of such a price stabilisation operation. Again 1 have at least one reservation about uncritical acceptance of that proposition, because if price stability were as important to users and potential users as that argument assumes, one might ask why the users do not take advantage of futures trading, which ‘can give the individual producer effective insurance, at any time for a period of 18 months into the future, against wild fluctuations in prices.
The belief that price stability permanently lifts the demand curve for wool is one of the major reasons cited for acquisition or for total control of the clip by a single marketing authority. Another reason cited for what is somewhat loosely called acquisition but which in contemporary terms could be described more accurately as the wool marketing proposals put forward by the Australian Wool Marketing Corporation in 1973, or the slight variation of them put forward more recently, is that the sort of single seller authority proposed could affect very significant economies in the handling and processing of wool. It is argued that there is scope for such economies and that they could be achieved more effectively if a centralised marketing authority were established. In support of the Wool Corporation’s proposition and of other acquisition schemes, it is argued also that the operations of private wool buyers, who are currently buying close to 20 per cent of the total clip, undermine the effectiveness ofthe Corporation’s reserve price, which applies only with the option system.
To a limited extent that hypothesis has been tested by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in a study of prices received in New South Wales. The Bureau was unable to confirm that on average people who sold wool privately on the farm were receiving less than market prices for those sales. There were considerable variations around that average for individual clips, as there probably would be at auction sales, but there was no evidence that overall less than market value was being received for those private sales on the farms. In support of the private selling of wool I think it can reasonably be argued that, insofar as progress has been made and more efficiency has been effected in terms of cost, methods of handling and processing wool through the auction system and the wool selling brokers associated with it, the impetus for that increased efficiency probably has come from the very real competition provided in the past by the private buyers. So it seems to me that the case on this issue is not really proven one way or the other.
I repeat a statement I have made before on this matter. At this stage it is only a personal view. If it could be demonstrated that the majority of Australian wool growers want such a marketing proposal, given the fact that the overwhelming majority- well over 90 per cent of the clip either in raw form or in semi-processed form- is exported from Australia and therefore the local market is relatively insignificant, it is my belief that a government ought to provide the legislative framework within which such a marketing scheme can be established. Coming back to deal directly with the purpose of this Bill, I feel that after the amount held by the market support fund reaches an amount of, say, $300m- the figure is arbitrary, it might be $350m- it ought to rotate; that is, the growers who contributed in the first year of the fund, 1974-75, ought to receive their contributions back. Of course, there would be some difficulties in that. Some of the people concerned would have died in the meantime. But revolving funds are operated for other purposes associated with agriculture, so there is no administrative reason for it not being done in that area.
The question which that prompts is this: If there is not a revolving fund, what will happen to the money? If the fund does not revolve in that way it will continue to accumulate indefinitely. At the end of 25 year, probably even at the end of 20 years, a billion dollars would be sitting in the fund. At the end of 40 years two billion dollars would be sitting in the fund. I think it is essential that the fund revolve in that way. The legislation currently before the Senate does not provide for the additional three per cent levy on wool sales to finance the research and promotional activities of the Australian Wool Corporation and the International Wool Secretariat. I noted with some satisfaction a couple of months ago that the Minister for Primary Industry had authorised an inquiry by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics into the effectiveness of the IWS’s promotion program. Again, that is something which is very difficult to assess with any precision. Equally difficult to assess with any precision is the value or otherwise of a buffer stock scheme. But the record of some of the people associated with the International Wool Secretariat certainly leads one to doubt their competence.
I take honourable senators back to 1963 when Sir William Gunn made efforts to sell to the wool industry the IWS’s then greatly expanded promotional program. The evidence which he used in selling that to the wool growers, successful though his campaign was, was quite specious. He displayed graphs showing that wool’s percentage share of the textile market had fallen from, I think, 28 per cent in the early 1950s to 14 per cent in 1963. The gullible wool growers who were shown that graph were supposed to believe that unless something was done about the situation wool would disappear through the base line of the graph into a black hole in history. All that that proved was that wool production was increasing at a slower rate than total textile consumption. It was a totally specious argument, albeit a successful one. It does the wool industry establishment no credit whatsoever that it promoted such a specious argument, which it has never repudiated. Incidentally, since that time, wool ‘s percentage share of the total textile market has declined to 7 per cent. There is no reason to be concerned about that.
Associated with that sort of specious argument was the proposition, again originating from the International Wool Secretariat, that increased supplies of wool would push wool prices up. That, of course, was pure economic quackery. Again, it does the wool industry establishment no credit that it not only failed to repudiate that nonsense at the time it was first propounded but also has not repudiated it even now. Indeed, that fallacy is still the basis of the present Government’s merino ram export policy. As recently as only last month, the Minister for Primary Industry, when he was holding discussions with the Australian Council of Trade Unions on the matter, was reported as having said that unless Australian merinos were made available to wool producers and potential wool producers in other countries, wool was in danger of becoming a minor fibre, which would have horrendous implications for the wool industry and so on. That is pure nonsense. There is no economic danger in wool becoming a minor fibre. All that matters is the price that is received for it.
Mr Sinclair was still mouthing a variation, a modification, of the increased supply equals higher price fallacy, lt is very disappointing to find that he still docs that. It is even more disappointing to find that the agricultural Press, which ought to be a bit more alert in these matters, still either does not realise that that Minister is mouthing nonsense or does not feel inclined to expose what he is mouthing as nonsense. Last year Senator Young mouthed the same sort of nonsense. We probably will hear some of it as this debate continues. In conclusion, for those various reasons, I welcome the study on the IWS promotion program by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics authorised by the Minister.
-As Senator Walsh well knows, the wool market today is indeed strong. Current prices for both wool and livestock are indicative of a continuation of that confidence, at least in the short run. Those of us who have experienced the vagaries of the wool market either from the point of view of being a producer or being a manufacturer know just how fickle this market can be.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., under the sessional order, relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
(Nos 1 to 5) 1979
-The big problem that producers face is that of having very little control over the market which they serve. In other words, they have very little control over the amount to be taken up principally by the overseas manufacturers. To a manufacturer using wool, price stability is of the utmost importance. Therefore the price support scheme is not only important to the producers of the wool here in Australia but also important to the manufacturers who take up a proportion of the Australian clip and produce it here in Australia.
I believe that the compulsory acquisition of the Australian wool clip, despite certain stated economies in handling, is becoming increasingly under criticism not only from farmers, private wool growers and brokers but also from manufacturers. I believe that we must become increasingly cautious about recommendations which come from bureaucrats because these respected bodies, including the Australian Wool Corporation, often have vested positions and their recommendations often lead to aggrandisement of their positions which are essentially monopolistic ones.
Since the 1950s the world production of wool has remained relatively static while the output of synthetics has expanded dramatically. Now we have an over supply situation in man-made fibres. It is a matter for some regret that wool’s share of the total fibre market in the calendar year ended 1977 decreased by 1.5 percent from the previous year to be approximately one-third of the total market. Therefore it is of the utmost importance not only to growers but also to Australian governments to combine to arrest this trend, especially as Australian sheep produce 30 per cent of the world’s wool and provide $1,183,129,816 in export earnings during the year ended 30 June 1978.
The price support scheme debate this evening is part of an overall plan to assist the wool industry. Honourable senators with a knowledge of the industry will know that producers pay a wool tax at the rate of 8 per cent on the gross value at the point of sale. This tax is made up of two components- first, a 5 per cent charge which is the subject of the legislation we are discussing and, secondly, a 3 per cent component. Because of the constitutional requirement that laws imposing taxation shall deal with one subject of tax at a time, it is necessary to have a number of rating and assessment Acts. Therefore the levy of tax on shorn wool produced in Australia and sold by a broker requires an Act separate from one which covers shorn wool which is produced in Australia and subjected by a manufacturer to a process of manufacturing which requires a second Act. For example, wool that is exported requires a third Act to meet the constitutional requirement.
Honourable senators with a knowledge of the industry will know that the first wool tax came into being on 1 July 1936. However, it was not until 1945 that the first funds were directed to research and the initial program came about as a result of profits made from the sale of sheep skins during the war. It was not until 2 September 1974 that a fund was created for meeting losses on the floor price scheme. As with so many taxes, this levy was designed to last for one season only. But it has continued on. With accumulated funds now in credit to the tune of $ 1 35.3m at the end of the 1977-78 financial year, some growers are beginning to query whether this levy- this 5 per cent component- should be reduced. These growers argue that now there should be adequate financial leverage and that an element of stringency brings about better economic management and less waste. On the other hand, perhaps the majority of growers would argue that this money should become a revolving fund, as Senator Walsh mentioned, when the accumulations have reached in the vicinity of $300m.
Wool tax collections have jumped quite dramatically over the years. For example, they have risen 550 per cent from $ 13.7m to 389. 1 m in the 10-year period ended 30 June 1978. I believe that honourable senators should be made aware of the fact that, for the first time last year, interest received from the investments exceeded the net cost of the reserve price scheme and this effectively meant that all of the growers’ 5 per cent contribution was added to accumulated credit funds. In other words, none of the 5 per cent grower contribution was needed for price support.
Although wool has a great advantage as a natural fibre for attributes of quality, feel and warmth, in the harsh economic realities of today demand can be sustained only by adequate promotion and this grower plus government support falls far short of the encouragement which is given by the international synthetics industry to its own products. The Australian Government has previously indicated that it will continue to share with growers in the funding of wool promotion. For example, expenditure on wool research, promotion and market administration for 1978-79 is expected to be $72m. I believe that all honourable senators would agree on the need for research and promotion. The total Australian expenditure on research and promotion in 1977-78 was $46. 2m for promotion and $ 15.8m for research. The 5 per cent and 3 per cent levies are concurrently collected from growers on the basis of returns from wool brokers, dealers and manufacturers who must lodge a return together with their remittance within 21 days after the purchase of wool. Exporters, on the other hand, usually lodge a return after each shipment.
For nearly 100 years, Australia has experienced difficulties in getting its raw wool into the United States of America because of the high levels of protection which have been set up in that country. But due to continuing efforts climaxing in the negotiating skills of Ministers Sinclair, Anthony, Garland and latterly our Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the United States has now agreed to a 60 per cent reduction in duty over a three-year period. This is a most significant development for the wool industry in Australia and for the marketing skills of our Ministers. I think it indicates to honourable senators that when our Ministers go overseas, they do so for a purpose and ultimately achieve their intended results.
I want to comment also on the International Wool Secretariat. The object of wool promotion by the International Wool Secretariat and by the Australian Wool Corporation is to increase or at least to maintain demand for wool; in other words, to build on consumer preference and confidence in woollen products.
– That is the only way, Senator.
-That is right. The role of the International Wool Secretariat, which was set up by producers in 1937 as a reaction to the grower problems which arose from the depression in the 1930s, has changed dramatically in the intervening years. As honourable senators will be aware, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has been asked to evaluate the impact of this body’s work on wool promotion. This was a matter to which my colleague, Senator Walsh, drew attention. It is acknowledged that the International Wool Secretariat is facing a financial dilemma in maintaining its work in encouraging the use of wool, especially in the face of inflation and the appreciation of currencies in the major user countries. The International Wool Secretariat maintains a close working relationship with the textile and clothing industries. It is involved not only in advertising but also in applied research, in product and process development, in technical services- to ensure that the new technology is disseminated amongst the various user bodies involved- in commercial evaluation, in trials, in fashion prediction and in fabric design. Due to International Wool Secretariat promotion the wool mark and wool blend symbols have become household words throughout the world.
One matter deserves a degree of condemnation, that is, the high degree of secrecy that surrounds the International Wool Secretariat’s financial affairs. 1 believe that many people in our community are losing sight of wool’s intrinsic qualities. Far too many parents today neglect purchasing woollen clothing, not realising that wool is more flame resistant than most other fibres. This resistance to flame has been improved as a result of the International Wool Secretariat’s scientists’ finding a cheap and flexible means of improving wool ‘s natural flame resistance by adding titonium or zirconium salts to the dye bath. This development has spread from carpets to upholstery, to protective clothing and to children’s nightwear. Other improvements have occurred in permanent creasing, artificial crimping, computerised colour matching and a colour prediction service for wool dyeing. These are but a few of the valuable contributions from the Secretariat.
But one of the areas of neglect by the Australian Wool Corporation has been the inadequate promotion of Australian manufactured woollen products from Australian-produced wool. I believe that not only the Australian Wool Corporation but also the majority of wool manufacturers have not helped sufficiently in this direction. It is to be hoped that with the introduction of the Australian wool symbol, both groups will combine to rectify this problem and thus increase the consumption of Australian wool and Australian woollen products. This will not only assist our export industry but also improve the employment prospects of thousands of Australians who are engaged in the wool and clothing textile industries. I commend the Bills to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or requests.
Debate resumed from 30 May, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– In view of the late hour I shall not speak to these Bills for as long as I had intended originally to speak. I would like to make a protest again. It has been futile in the past but hope springs eternal that the Government will discontinue its long-standing practice of either rushing through all the agricultural Bills in the last two days of a session or bringing them on for debate at this time of night. The Bills which have just been passed were first introduced in the House of Representatives on 22 March. They sat around on the Notice Paper for two months and nothing was done about them. Now at the end of the session we have this deluge of agricultural Bills, some of which were introduced into the House of Representatives only last Monday. It is no wonder that the country is in a mess because the Government cannot even manage efficiently the business of the Parliament.
The purpose of the Bills is to take up the interest rate differential- the higher interest rate- which the Australian Wheat Board, through having been leaned on to transfer some $445m of its previous overdraft to the Reserve Bank, will be obliged to pay to the private sector via the sale of bills through the trading banks. The reason that the Government has leaned on the Board to do this is that the wheat crop has been much larger than was anticipated at the time the first advance was announced in November. The Opposition is not opposing the Bills on the grounds that it is not the Wheat Board’s fault that the Government has lost control ofthe money supply and has shown itself incompetent in managing the money supply and the economy. The reason for that coercion ofthe Board to take the action which finally produced these Bills is the Government’s attempt to try to regain control of the money supply, which the latest figures clearly show it has not achieved. It lost control of the money supply because the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) persisted with that stubborn belief that interest rates could bc set by political pronouncement instead of by market forces, a belief to which he still was committed as recently as last November. However, we are justifiably highly critical of the Government for its tardiness in taking action in this area.
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics Trends publication of December last year forecast a wheat harvest of 17.5 million tonnes, which was less than 1.5 million tonnes away from the final result. That was a fairly accurate forecast made in December by the Bureau. Yet it was not until 3 May, almost five months later, that the Government finally had a firm policy to deal with the monetary situation which had been caused by the very large wheat harvest. I state for the benefit of those who may read this record that the Opposition’s arguments on this matter have been put most comprehensively by my colleague, John Kerin, in the House of Representatives on 24 May. commencing on page 2408 of Ilansard and also by Mr Brown, Mr Fitzpatrick and Mr Wallis. 1 commend to the serious student of the subject a study ofthe comments of those Labor members in the House of Representatives.
In no area has the incompetence of this Government been more apparent than in its failure, its procrastination and its cowardice in dealing with this question. As early as March it earned this rebuke from the heavyweight economic newsletter Syntec, under the headings ‘mistakes’ and ‘poor management’:
The Government must have known several months ago that the new wheat crop had been vastly under-estimated.
It did. In fact, the BAE had told it that, three months before. I quote further:
It proceeeded with a first advance payment to growers of $75 per tonne, thus creating some $500 million in unscheduled new money. Once this was done, the Government should have acted quickly to counter the new money creation. The Wheat Board should have been instructed months ago to draw commerical bills for part of the first advance money. If it becomes apparent abroad that the Fraser Government is much less competent in internal monetary management than its boasts in the United States would imply, then there is danger that run-out on private sector capital account will offset the significant improvement now occurring on trade account.
Government backing and filling on this wheat credit problem has allowed it now to descend to the more economically illiterate levels of rural politics.
I am not sure that that last comment is completely justified, because it could not descend very much further into economic illiteracy than it had descended by the time it reached the Cabinet. From that stage it was surrounded by economic illiteracy. 1 have quoted what Syntec said in March. It was, of course, two months later before the Government actually got control of the situation. Fiscal control regressed in the meantime to the level that one would expect to find in a banana republic. Even on 3 May, when it was finally announced that the second tranche of $300m would be transferred to the private sector from the Reserve Bank of Australia that was done in a reprehensible way.
On 27 April the Wheat Board had announced that it would not comply with the Government’s request, adding that the Minister would have to instruct it under section 18 ( 1 ) of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act to take that action. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) should have taken that action immediately. Instead, he dithered for a week. He punted on his hunch that his influence with the Wheat Board Chairman, Sir Leslie Price, would enable the Government to achieve its objectives without having to issue a formal directive, which would have been politically damaging to the Australian National Country Party. The welfare of his party was put before the welfare of the country. Indeed, Mr Sinclair’s hunch proved to be correct. Sir Leslie Price was involved in discussions with members of the Reserve Bank staff and, I understand, telephoned various members of the Board, in that way securing their grudging agreement to go along with the proposition. No formal meeting of the Board was held to change the decision that it had made at a properly constituted meeting only one week earlier. The wheat growers of Australia ought to be aware of that fact and that the loyalty of the Chairman of the
Wheat Board to the National Country Party, or his personal loyalty to the Minister, was seen by him to be more important than his obligations to the Board’s decision, arrived at during a properly constituted meeting of the Board and subsequently breached without any such meeting subsequently being held.
As a result of the dilatoriness and negligence of the Government on this issue, payments on growers’ warrants were suspended either from 13 January to 2 February, or from 23 January to 2 February. The reason for the uncertainty in those dates is that, if we believe the answer that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) gave to a Question on Notice yesterday, it was 1 3 January. If we believe the answer to a Question on Notice which the Minister for Primary Industry had given earlier, it was 23 January. I do not know which of those dates is correct. I think it is 23 January, but it just demonstrates again that one does not get consistent answers from the Ministers of this Government. The Treasurer said that it was 13 January. The Minister for Primary Industry said that it was 23 January. I observe in passing that that sort of sloth has regrettably become a feature of the answers which the Treasurer gives in this place to Questions on Notice. It is the second time this year on which he has given me incorrect answers to Questions on Notice.
The fact that payment had been suspended was denied on or about the end of February by the general manager of the Wheat Board to a financial journalist and at least one agricultural journalist of my acquaintance. The general manager lied to the financial and agricultural Press about what had happened. That he had lied was, of course, finally revealed by the answers that the Ministers were ultimately forced to give in the Parliament. As for the Ministers themselves, they declined for a very long period to make any comment in reply to Questions on Notice. To gouge the truth out of them we had to put questions on the Notice Paper and leave them there for a few weeks before the Government would come clean.
I wish to mention one or two other matters. At the beginning of March of this year I visited Shepparton and made three statements. One was that the Wheat Board had suspended payments in January because of the run-out of money. Another was that the Primary Industry Bank of Australia was going to run out of money at about the end of April and a third was that Mr Anthony had been primarily responsible for the imposition of a resources tax. They were published in the Shepparton News and a few days later, on 16
March, drew a stinging rebuke from the honourable member for Murray, Mr Lloyd, who said that:
The visit -
That is my visit- must be counter-productivefor the Labor Party following the statements Senator Walsh had made on the Primary Industry Bank, fuel prices and wheat. In addition to giving misleading and incorrect information, Senator Walsh had acted as a prophet of doom -
The final comment by Mr Lloyd, as reported in the newspaper was:
Mr Lloyd suggested the Labor Party must do its homework better than was obviously done by Senator Walsh if it really wanted to make progress in country areas.
I mention that because all of the things I said on that occasion have since happened. The Government has since admitted that the Wheat Board suspended payments to growers. Mr Anthony, in response to a question a couple of days later in the House of Representatives on his role in regard to the resources tax said, ‘I have been strongly opposed to a resources tax, as has the Government’. There is an old Country Party tactic of which the few Liberal Party members still present in the chamber ought to be made aware. It is a long standing tactic of the National Country Party in its electorates, when confronted by decisions of coalition governments which are unpopular in the electorate, to blame the Liberals. It blames the Liberals for everything that is unpopular and says that, of course, Country Party members opposed it but they could not do anything with the Liberal Party. That is exactly what Mr Lloyd did in this case. 1 quote from the Shepparton News:
Senator Walsh also accused Mr Anthony of being primarily responsible for dropping the Planned Resources Tax and. because of this, for the introduction of the crude oil levy.
The following is a direct quote from Mr Lloyd:
This is the opposite of the truth. Mr Anthony pushed for a Resources Tax if super profits were made fromeither uranium or Bass Strait oil.
His attempt to introduce such a tax was thwarted in the Joint Party room by the overwhelming majority of Liberal Party opposition to it.
That is what Mr Lloyd tells people in the heart of his electorate. The Liberal Party, which has been the victim of this sort of dishonesty for a very long time, ought to be made aware of it. It ought to be very angry about it. Of course, Mr Lloyd punted on the Shepparton News not being seen by anyone in the Federal Parliament except himself. He thought he would get away with it. He did not get away with it. The question was put to Mr Anthony and Mr Anthony confirmed what I had said and disowned his own colleague, which prompted the following comment from Dr Klugman by way of a point of order:
Does all this mean that the honourable member for Murray has been lying, as reported in the Shepparton News!
The electors of Murray deserve something better than Mr Lloyd as their representative. The third issue on which he claimed that I was wrong was that I said that the Primary Industry Bank would run out of money at about the end of April. It has since gone broke, so he was wrong on all three of those matters.
The other point I wish to raise has more relevance to the future than to the past. It concerns the Wheat Industry Stabilization Amendment Bill, which needs to be passed by the end of September this year to replace the present Act. In a recently published article entitled ‘Constitutional Obstacles to Organised Marketing in Australia’, Michael Cooper quotes comments from various justices of the High Court of Australia in the Clark King case. He quotes Justices Mason, Jacobs and Stephen and Chief Justice Barwick. I shall read two passages. Justices Mason and Jacobs said:
The efficacy of the scheme -
That is, the wheat stabilisation scheme-
They found in favour of the Board. Chief Justice Barwick said: . . it is not established that the Government’s monopoly in trading in wheat is the only possible and reasonable manner of regulating trade and commerce in the commodity … the material does not even establish that the prohibition of interstate trade in wheat is indispensable to the stabilising effectiveness of the legislation.
In commenting on those extracts from the judgment, the author of the article stated:
That the above views are diametrically opposed is unsurprising. What is surprising is that they should be expressed not by some commission of enquiry with special expertise in wheat marketing, or by a legislative body representing the various interests at stake, but by the High Court of Australia.
The article then drew attention to what has been a very long standing problem in this country- the propensity of the judiciary to usurp the political legislative powers of the Parliament. There is nothing new about this. Significantly, the Privy Council assertion in 1949 that it would sit in judgment over the Parliament on political matters- politics disguised as law- was used as the starting point for the judgments of all but one of the five justices who sat on the Clark King case. The Privy Council doublespeak arising from the bank nationalisation case of 1945 was described by the author in these words:
He went on to quote the critical passage of the Privy Council’s 1949judgment, which said:
Yet, about this, as about every other proposition in this field, a reservation must be made. For their Lordships do not intend to lay it down that in no circumstances could the exclusion of competition so as to create a monopoly either in a State or Commonwealth agency or in some other body be justified. Every case must be judged on its own facts and in its own setting of time and circumstance.
That last passage is the critical one. What the Privy Council is saying in that passage is that the judiciary will sit in judgment on top of the Parliament in making political decisions. That passage was used as the starting point for 4 of the 5 justices who sat on the High Court case, then the Clark King Case. The Privy Council continued:
Listen to this for a piece of doublespeak- . . thus prohibited and thus monopolised remained absolutely free.
Listen to this again:
Apart from the doublespeak in the statement the really objectionable principle is that the courts are asserting that they have the right to make political judgments and to decide whether the political judgments of the elected parliament will stand in law. That is a highly obnoxious principle. It is very disturbing that four out of five justices who sat on that case used that as their starting point and likewise asserted their right to sit in judgment over the Parliament.
Last Thursday in Brisbane the Chief Justice of Australia, who is, of course, notorious for attempting to refer back to the court all previous judgments that have gone against him, in a different case, the Uebergang case, ruled against the Wheat Board and decided that the Full Court would hear Uebergang ‘s appeal. Sir Garfield’s political motives are, of course, quite clear. He has always been a highly political judge. In this instance he is referring the case to the Full Court knowing that there has been another appointment since then, that Justice Wilson could be expected to support him and that one of the other justices who did not sit on the earlier Clark King Case will also support him. There is little doubt, reprehensible though the fact may be, that Sir Garfield will successfully overturn the earlier decision that went against him. The Full Court almost certainly will find in favour of Uebergang and the wheat stabilisation legislation, which the Government is obliged to pass by the end of September, will be emasculated either before or after it passes the Parliament.
In summary, and with direct relevance to the Bill, I state again the Opposition’s judgment on it. Because it is not the Boards’ fault that the Government lost control of the money supply in the economy, the Opposition is not opposing the legislation. The first Bill will provide a subsidy of about $6m probably to pick up the difference in the interest charges which the Board would have paid to the Reserve Bank and those which it will have to pay to the private market.
– I thank the Opposition for its contribution to the debate on the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Amendment Bill 1979 and the Wheat Industry Stabilisation (Reimbursement of Borrowing Costs) Bill 1979. One finds it very difficult indeed to follow the remarks of the honourable senator who has just spoken. One would think that Senator Walsh, coming from Western Australia and being basically the shadow Minister for Primary Industry, would bring to this place some real knowledge of the various industries. I imagine that that is very difficult for him to do. His experience as a producer in Western Australia is well known but I do not know that that adds anything to elevate the view which people may have of him as a Shadow Minister. He made critical comments about my very esteemed colleague from Shepparton in Victoria, Bruce Lloyd. The type of comment that Senator Walsh would make is amazing. Bruce Lloyd is one of the most outstanding men in the field of primary industry that we have in the Parliament. The comments that he made in the Shepparton News about Senator Walsh were undoubtedly correct.
Senator Walsh engaged in some political comment and denigration about the Chief Justice, Sir Garfield Barwick. I suppose that is hardly worthy of comment when one compares the status of the shadow Minister for Primary Industry with the most elevated status of the Chief Justice. I suppose if we were to speak of justice as having some political taint we would not need to go very far-
– You should speak to the Bill before the Senate.
-Mr President, I was replying to the comments that were made by Senator Walsh. He made denigrating reference to the Chief Justice. Indeed, when there has been some promotion within his own ranks, one feels quite ashamed of the results of that particular operation. However, it is high time that these Bills were put through.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment.
Senate adjourned at 11.13 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1979: .
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Departmental Approaches by Lobbyists (Question No. 1219)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
What procedures exist within the Minister’s Department to record approaches made to stall by lobbyists.
– The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Approaches to staff of my Department by lobbyists are not treated differently from approaches by any member of the community. Where appropriate, correspondence or details of discussions arc recorded on file.
-On 20 February 1979, Senator Button asked me a question, upon notice, concerning university enrolments. Answers to parts (1) and (2) of the question were provided on 27 March 1979 (Hansard, page 1013), but insufficient information had been collected at that time to enable me to provide an answer to part (3) concerning the percentage of students who complete their degrees in the minimum time allowed. I am now able to supply the following information in response to the unanswered part of the honourable senator’s question:
The University Student Progress Study, outlined in Volume 2, Appendix D of the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training, found that 57 per cent of the 16,141 full-time students commencing a bachelor course in 1971 and continuing their studies on a full-time basis, completed their course in minimum time. Ofthe 3,524 part-time students commencing a bachelor course in 1971 and continuing their studies on a part-time basis, 12 percent completed their course in minimum time.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 27 February 1979:
– The Minister for Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 27 February 1979:
– The Minister for Foreign 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 (Hansard of 2 May 1979, page 1608).
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 28 February 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 20 March 1979:
– The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Aboriginal Land Claims in the Northern Territory (Question No. 1478)
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 27 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Kulaluk (Darwin)- Interim Land Commissioner’s report submitted 23 June 1 975 recommending that a Special Purposes Lease bc granted; action was proceeding on the acquisition of private interests in part of the land in question.
Railway Dam (Darwin)- Interim Land Commissioner’s report submitted 21 July 1975 recommending that a Special Purposes Lease be granted; action was awaiting consideration by the Darwin Reconstruction Commission.
Adelaide River- Interim Land Commissioner’s report submitted 7 October 1975 recommending that a Special Purposes Lease be granted; endorsed in principle by Ministers.
Knuckey ‘s Lagoon (Darwin)- Hearings completed; report not prepared.
Tree Point (Koolpinyah)- As above.
Lake Nash- Hearings adjourned by the Commissioner sine die because the lessee was prepared to negotiate with the Aboriginals for a sub-lease of part ofthe property.
Elliott Village- Hearing not commenced.
Dalgety’s Paddock- Hearings almost complete: some further evidence required.
Charles River- As above.
Alec Simpson’s Camp- As above.
Hume Site (Ootnarungatcha) - As above.
Heavitree Gap (Larapinta )- As above.
Sadadeen (East Side)- As above.
Dick Palmer’s Camp- As above.
Mount Nancy- As above.
Ilparpa- As above.
Artists’ Camp- As above.
Alec Simpson’s Camp
Hume Site (Ootnarungatcha
Dick Palmer’s Camp
Kulaluk- Action is proceeding and I expect that the Northern Territory Government will issue a Special Purposes Lease withing the next few months.
Adelaide River- The Northern Territory Government has advised that a lease will be issued within a month.
Knuckey’s Lagoon- The Northern Territory Government has agreed to issue a Special Purposes Lease over a 22 hectare area and a request for an additional area is under consideration.
Tree Point (Koolpinyah)- Negotiations with the lessee of the property for excising of the area in question are proceeding.
Lake Nash- Before a sub-lease could be granted it was necessary to amend the Northern Territory Crown Lands Ordinance: the amendment was passed in 1978 and proclaimed in February 1979, but in the meantime the lessee decided against a sub-lease. It is likely that further negotiations will now take place.
Elliott Village- Application for a Special Purposes Lease is under consideration by the Northern Territory Government.
Heavitree Gap (Larapinta)- Negotiations with the Northern Territory Government are continuing.
Sadadeen (East Side)- The Northern Territory Government has agreed in principle to the issue of a Special Purposes Lease.
Artists’ Camp- Application has been abandoned. Now being treated as part of the Heavitree Gap application.
Aboriginal Land Claims in the Northern Territory (Question No. 1479)
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 27 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 10 May 1979:
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I ) and (2) Discussions are being held with the relevant Commonwealth Departments. Implementation is under consideration by the Minister for Science and the Environment who has the responsibility for environmental policy advice and the co-ordination of Government policy on the matter.
– On 22 November 1978 (Hansard, page 2352) Senator Townley asked me a question, without notice, concerning which, if any, of the Heads of Government who were in Australia for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional meeting in Sydney in February last year arrived or departed in a VIP type jet, and whether the Government has considered hiring a suitable aircraft, when needed, rather than buying two aircraft for VIP use. The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
An assessment by officials of aircraft safety on international visits, based on a security assessment indicates that the security risk for a Prime Minister travelling on foreign owned commercially scheduled aircraft or by privately owned charter aircraft is unacceptably high. The assessment was tabled in the House of Representatives on 4 May 1978. The risk envelops other passengers. Inconvenience is also caused to other passengers on commercial aircraft because of additional security checks and security in respect of aircraft fuelling, loading and servicing. Travel on R.A.A.F aircraft would eliminate or reduce such inconvenience and risks.
Similar advice was given to Prime Minister Whitlam and led to the use of R.A.A.F. aircraft and Qantas charter aircraft on overseas visits.
Qantas commercial services in limited circumstances and chartering of Qantas aircraft for VIP travel were assessed by officials as involving acceptable risks. The fact is that, whereas Qantas B707 aircraft had been used for charter by the previous Government, Qantas has now replaced its B707s with B747-I00 jumbo jets. The option of chartering B707s for overseas travel is therefore no longer open to the Government.
Officials discussed with Qantas various options for hiring suitable aircraft and the option- which proved to be unacceptable- of Qantas continuing to operate the 707s. Purchase of the 707s by the R.A.A.F. was the most practicable option to retain these aircraft in Australia and have them available for official tasks.
Although the decision to purchase B707 aircraft primarily satisfies the need for security on inter-continental VIP flights, the actual usage of the aircraft in the VIP role will be small and the main usage will bc on normal R.A.A.F. work.
The B707 aircraft are to be based at Richmond- the home of the R.A.A.F. transport force. Present plans are based on the two aircraft together flying about 1,400 hours each year. Of this total, it is expected that about 20 percent will be used for VIP tasks, 20 per cent for crew conversion and combination training and the remaining 60 per cent for Defence tasks, lt is expected at this stage that the only VIP overseas task this year requiring use of a B707 will be in respect of the Prime Minister’s visit to Nigeria and Zambia at the time of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
Present plans envisage four general categories of Defence tasks: changeover of personnel and dependents at Butterworth (as many as 40 return flights each year conveying 2,500 passengers); movement of Defence personnel (mainly Army) on overseas exercises; movement of Defence personnel within Australia; and other personnel or cargo tasks.
For many years the R.A.A.F. has chartered Qantas aircraft on a regular basis to repatriate R.A.A.F. and Army personnel and their families from Butterworth. The acquisition of B707 aircraft will now allow the R.A.A.F. to undertake, from within its own resources, the task of conveying changeover personnel to and from Butterworth and, on the same flights, to other destinations such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok. The cost of chartering aircraft to convey personnel to Butterworth and those other destinations was $870,300 in 1976, $1,201,500 in 1977 and $1,043,180 in 1978. The first B707 uplift of personnel took place on 22 April 1979.
The Defence tasks so far planned for the B707s in the financial year 1979-80 include the movement of Army personnel on international exercises. The exercises involve personnel ofthe defence forces of the United Kingdom. New Zealand and the United States.
Some of the movements planned were previously undertaken by R.A.A.F. Hercules (e.g. Exercises Longlook, Tasmanex and Reindeer). Others were undertaken by transport aircraft of the R.A.F. or U.S.A.F., or by commercial aircraft. For example, Exercise Northern Star/Southern Cross involves the exchange of U.K. and Australian Army sub-units for one month. In the past, the R.A.F. has provided air transport for the 120 personnel of each nation. With the introduction ofthe R.A.A.F. B707s, Australia can now bear a more equitable share of the transport commitment. A similar opportunity applies in the case of Exercise Pacific Bond, which is an exchange of about 170 personnel between Australian-based and Hawaiian-based units: previously these moves were undertaken by U.S.A.F. aircraft. In the case of U.S. Army 25th Division command post exercise, Australian Army personnel deploy to Hawaii; previously similar deployments to Canada and the U.S. have been undertaken by charter of commercial flights.
There arc other international exercises with the defence forces of the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and others in which the R.A.A.F. B707s could be used for personnel movement. However, considerations of sharing the transport commitment equitably between the nations involved, together with practical considerations of limited aircraft and crew availability in the R.A.A.F. B707 case, determine the actual number of deployments to which the R.A.A.F. can commit itself.
For the financial year 1979-80, tasks already planned include about 20 Butterworth flights, about 12 flights in support of overseas exercises ( to Singapore, Hong Kong, Hawaii and New Zealand), and about 10 flights in support of the Military Tattoo being staged by the Defence Force for the Western Australian Sesquicentennial Anniversary. The total hours involved in those Defence tasks already planned amount to about three-quarters of the annual authorisation.
I also refer the honourable senator to the statement by the Minister for Defence on 13 December 1978, in which mention is made of the many other factors taken into consideration by the Government in deciding to purchase the aircraft.
In relation to travel by Heads of Government to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sydney in February 1978, Prime Minister Desai of India travelled on an Air India exclusive use jet aircraft. At the Heads of
Government meeting in Jamaica in December 1978, only the national leaders of Australia and Norway did not travel by special purpose aircraft, lt is very usual now for leaders of governments overseas to use Air Force or specially chartered aircraft from their national carriers.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 May 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790531_senate_31_s81/>.