31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-(New South Wales- Leader of the Government in the Senate)- It is with deep regret that I inform the Senate of the death yesterday of Earl Mountbatten of Burma. I seek leave to move that an address be sent to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
All honourable senators will know that Admiral of the Fleet, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, was one of Britain’s most distinguished sons and that he was killed yesterday by terrorists. Also killed were Lord Mountbatten ‘s grandson, Nicholas, and a local boatman, Paul Maxwell. His son-in-law and daughter, Lord and Lady Brabourne, were injured. Lord Mountbatten gave a lifetime of service. He was born in 1900. Thirteen years later he joined the Royal Navy as a cadet. In 1965, as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, he ended a remarkable military career spanning half a century. His military achievements were varied. Early in his naval career he attracted the attention of senior officers with inventions in the radio, visual signalling and shiphandling fields. He wrote manuals, pamphlets and books, including the first technical book on naval wireless telegraphy. He produced dictionaries of French and German naval terms which became standard works.
In 1937 he became the youngest captain in the senior service. Shortly before the War he was appointed to command the 5th Destroyer Flotilla. He subsequently served as Chief of Combined Operations. In 1943 he was appointed Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command. He showed strong and decisive leadership and played a key role in turning the tide in the Pacific. On 12 September 1945 he officially received the Japanese Army surrender in Singapore. This in itself would have been sufficient achievement for most men, but Lord Mountbatten went further. He gave distinguished service in peace to the modern Commonwealth. He knew and understood the yearning of people for independence. He shouldered the task of bringing India to independence. On his installation as Viceroy he said to Pandit Nehru:
I want you to regard me not as the last Viceroy winding up the British Raj, but as the first to lead the way to a new independence.
He achieved this by calling on great reserves of diplomacy, powers of command and a great sensitivity. He was greatly aided by his talented wife, whom I had the privilege to know. There will be an enormous number of tributes paid to this man. As one tribute, he was asked by the Indian Constituent Assembly to become India’s first Governor-General. It is no less a tribute to Mountbatten that from the pinnacle of power in India he resumed his naval career. His superior officer, the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, wrote in Lord Mountbatten ‘s confidential report:
Ordinary men may climb up with distinction; only extraordinary men can climb down without some loss of distinction; he achieved the latter.
At the early age of 54 he became the First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff. Eighteen months later he was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet. Because he understood the futility and destruction of war he sought to build a more secure world. Until recently, he was President of the United World Colleges. I was privileged to have a number of discussions with him as to his vision in that regard. The objective was to bring young men and women together to create understanding between people, to avoid fear, hatred, suspicion and war. It is doubtful whether any man in the twentieth century could have given greater service to his country and to the Commonwealth. That his end should be so tragic is a horrible fate.
I say quietly that I was privileged in very short compass, in a very minor fashion at the end of the war, to serve on his staff. Subsequently, I was privileged to meet him and to talk with him on a number of occasions, the latest of which was last year in Australia. I have not met a more immense man, if one measures immensity by the drive, the leadership, the sheer courage, the all-round talent and- to use an over-used word- the charisma of the man. He was a man’s man, with an immense spirit of service. Into 79 crowded years he packed the lifetimes of many men. We have all lost a very great world figure, a great leader and a man who in dignity, courage and other qualities has shown leadership to us all. I commend the motion to the Senate.
– The Opposition supports the motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). I am sure all honourable senators learned with very great regret of the death of Lord Mountbatten as a result of an accident which is claimed to have been the work of some terrorist element in Ireland. Honourable senators should condemn not only the manner in which this terrible deed has been carried out but also the fact that many other people have died in similar circumstances as a result of this violence and these crimes which deserve the utmost condemnation of us all. Senator Carrick has outlined the quite remarkable career of Lord Mountbatten, as well as his personal contact with the man. In reading the history of Lord Mountbatten it is remarkable that any one man could experience so much in one lifetime. His record is a very long and very famous one. His achievements were considerable.
Most of the achievements for which he will be remembered involve his service during the last war and particularly, insofar as we in this part of the world are concerned, his period as Supreme Allied Commander in South East Asia and subsequently as Viceroy of India. Like Senator Carrick, many people in Australia- possibly in this Parliament- would have served with Lord Mountbatten during those campaigns and they would have understood the strength of his leadership as well as the humanity of the man. He was a great commander in the most difficult circumstances, but he was still able to show that he had the capacity to talk to and to work with people of much lower rank than his. His period in India also saw the prelude to independence, something for which he had great sympathy. In fact the former Indian Prime Minister, Nehru, spoke very highly of him and always regarded him as having considerable sympathy for the Indian cause. We in the Opposition wish to express our support for the motion which has been moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– I should like to associate the Australian Democrats and those people who voted for us with this motion about this remarkable man, Earl Mountbatten. He was held in deep affection, respect and admiration by hundreds of thousands of Australian servicemen. More than that, Earl Mountbatten was an inspiration to hundreds of millions of people of all nations because of his decency, his integrity and his compassion. The final irony is that a man of such courage should be brought down by such a revolting act of an anonymous coward.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable senators standing in their places.
– I present two petitions similar in wording from 53 and 97 citizens of Australia, respectively:
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 on 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 poisoning chemicals seeping into surface and underground water supplies as a result of uranium ore mining and refining of uranium ore could pose serious health hazards for persons living in the Townsville region.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should take all possible steps to abandon or postpone indefinitely the mining of uranium in the Herveys Range area, and the construction of an enrichment plant in the Townsville region.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petitions received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 87 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 residing in the Electorate of Wannon respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners pray:
That the Government adhere to its commitment to take politics out of pension increases by giving automatic increases in line with price rises twice a year.
That the Government immediately grant free medical, hospital and pharmaceutical benefits to any person receiving a portion of the aged pension.
That the Government take steps to grant free medical, hospital and pharmaceutical benefits to all female citizens on reaching age sixty and all male citizens on reaching age sixty-five years.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 140 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1 978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
That reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
Restore twice-yearly pension adjustments in the Autumn session.
Raise pensions and unemployed benefits above the poverty level to 30 per cent of average weekly earnings.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 6 1 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Northern Territory of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the natural resources of Australia and in particular the uranium deposits of the Northern Territory should be exploited by companies which have substantial Australian interests so that the benefits accrue to all Australians.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable Members should:
In the event of a decision to sell the interest of the Australian Government in the Ranger Uranium Mining project, ensure that the sale of such interest be only to Australian buyers.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 123 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That in order to: facilitate the development of the North of Australia provide an all-weather rapid land transport system from north to south and vice versa facilitate better defence of Northern Australia provide improved transport for primary and mining products to southern markets boost tourism
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled should:
Urge that the Federal Government give favourable consideration to proceeding forthwith with the completion of the construction of the North/South railway from Alice Springs to Darwin as a matter of priority.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– 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 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 as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senators Carrick, Guilfoyle, Mulvihill, O’Byrne, Primmer, Teague, Thomas, Walsh and Watson.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia residing in the Electorate of Wannon respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Primmer.
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That further cutbacks in Commonwealth funding to State Schools and transferral of funds to wealthy independent schools as required under the guidelines to the Schools Commission announced by the Minister for Education in early June are of vital concern in that they mitigate against the interests of the great majority of Australian Children in State Schools.
That Queensland State Schools have not reached the Resource Usage Targets set by the Schools Commission, and even at those financial levels will fall well short of actual provision standards envisaged by the Commission.
That Queensland’s effort in respect of Capital works is particularly of concern being less than half the per capita effort of other States.
Your petitioners therefore call on their legislators to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senators Colston and Georges.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move that the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce:
The need for legislation, without delay, to resolve distribution and marketing problems in the oil industry and to maintain effective competition and the continuing operation of a viable small business sector in the industry, by the implementation of the four proposals outlined by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, Mr Fife, on 30 October 1978, namely:
the prohibition of unfair discrimination by oil companies between their lessee or licensed dealers;
that such a prohibition would not infringe upon the freedom of oil companies to price their sales to other independent buyers as they wish, subject to the existing law;
that oil companies would be prohibited from themselves retailing petroleum through direct sales sites; and
that lessee or licensed dealers would be given the right to obtain compensation from oil companies for an unjust termination of their lease or licence or a refusal by the oil company to renew a lease or licence.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move that the following matter be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce:
The withdrawal from circulation and use in Australia of one cent coins, two cent coins, or both one and two cent coins.
-I refer the Minister representing the Treasurer to the question I asked him last Thursday concerning the table prepared by Mr Eric Risstrom of the Australian Taxpayers Association. The Minister indicated that he had not seen it but would refer it to the Treasurer. Has he received an answer from the Treasurer which would indicate where Mr Risstrom ‘s calculations are incorrect? If so, will he explain exactly where Mr Risstrom is wrong, and will he table the document prepared by the Treasurer?
– I have not as yet received a reply from the Treasurer, but I will seek one. I think I did hear, if I am correct, that Mr Risstrom admits that the effect of the Budget would be to produce tax reductions.
- I didn ‘t hear that. When was that?
– Because Labor senators have not heard it whilst Government senators obviously have, I will seek out that information and let them have the answer. The simple situation that has remained undisturbed throughout the whole of this attempted argument is this: When, on 1 December, the standard tax rate is lowered, all taxpayers will pay fewer cents in the dollar from that moment than they paid the day before. Therefore there will be tax cuts. If any taxpayer earns more money than he or she did in the past, he or she will pay on each of those extra dollars the standard tax rates. Of course, the Labor Party has discovered a phenomenon; that is, when people earn more money, they pay more tax. The only difference is that they paid much more under the Labor Party than they have done and will do under the Fraser Government.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Minister. If he is able to make such an assertion as he has just made, is it not reasonable that the Australian people should know precisely where they now stand in respect of taxation? Is it not a fact that not only Mr Risstrom but also every financial observer of any note in this country has said that taxation will increase this year? Is it not a fact that the people who actually drew up the Budget Papers- the Treasury officials- are unable to give us a detailed statement showing that those accusations are not correct? Is it not admitted that Mr Risstrom ‘s claims are correct and that yet another scheme which was an attempt to deceive the Australian people has been exposed?
– That was not a question. That was an exercise in empty rhetoric. Senator Wriedt asks himself hypothetical questions and then tends to fit to them answers that suit himself. There is no confusion about what has happened. The fact is that the standard rate of tax will be lowered from I December and every dollar that the taxpayer earns will attract less tax than before- much less tax than under the Whitlam Labor Government, when the basic standard rate of tax was 46c in the dollar. Let nobody be confused about this. After 1 December the tax scales will show a standard rate lower than before in cents in the dollar. In anybody’s language, except the distorted language of the Australian Labor Party, that is a real tax cut.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I draw his attention to a recent Press statement attributed to the Hon. Charles Porter, Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs in Queensland, which states that some 120 Aboriginal people from Lake Nash in the Northern Territory had crossed the Queensland border and were camped in appalling conditions on the outskirts of Camooweal. I ask the Minister whether this report is correct. I also refer the Minister to a further statement alleged to have been made by Mr Porter in the same release wherein certain allegations were made about the resources of his Department to provide adequate housing for Aborigines in Queensland being diminished due to the Federal Government diverting funds away from his Department. Will the Minister clarify the present position with regard to the funding of Aboriginal affairs in Queensland?
– I did see the report of the statement to which the honourable senator has referred. My reaction to it was to endeavour to check the facts mentioned in it. As Senator Bonner said, the claim was that about 120 Aboriginals from Lake Nash had moved from there and camped in the bush at Camooweal. I have made inquiries since that report appeared late last week, and my advice is that in fact there are no more than 10 or 11 Aboriginals at Camooweal at the moment and that the population of Lake Nash is stable at the normal 60 to 80 people. It is a fact that within the last few weeks there have been up to 80 Aboriginals camped at Camooweal as part of the normal movement of Aboriginals from various stations on both sides of the Queensland-Northern Territory border at this time of the year. Some have gone on to Mount Isa for a rodeo and others have remained at Camooweal for their traditional get-together.
I think a number of honourable senators will be aware that there is a fairly constant movement of Aboriginal people along the western Queensland border, as there is along the Western Australian, Northern Territory and South Australian borders. One gets different concentrations of people at different times. I am sorry that the Aborigines were referred to by Mr Porter as refugees. I think that is a very exaggerated term to adopt. In fact there has been movement across these areas for a very considerable period. I would have to agree that the conditions right along the border for these fairly itinerent people are less than satisfactory. I visited Camooweal and places such as Mount Isa in western Queensland, and there is no doubt that those Aboriginals moving around do not have adequate facilities at the different places at which they stop. That is a matter that I suggest requires Commonwealth-State co-operation to tackle rather than statements of accusation or complaint.
As far as the other matter raised by Senator Bonner is concerned, there have been some difficulties with respect to the funding of housing in Queensland, in part related to the failure of the Queensland Department to expend all the funds provided. Over the last couple of years there has been an under-expenditure of funds for programs which were being funded at the request of the Queensland Government with respect to replacement of cyclone-damaged housing at Mornington Island. However, the position in Queensland is not unique. It has a housing shortage for Aborigines as do, I think, each of the States of Australia. I am very pleased to draw the attention of the Senate, including Senator Bonner, and if necessary of the Queensland Government to the fact that for the first time we have earmarked part of the general welfare housing funds for Aboriginal purposes. I am sure that Queensland will be delighted to know- of course, the State has been so advised- that $6m of the general welfare housing funds are to be used specifically to alleviate the housing situation of Aboriginal people. I think the fact that welfare funds have been so earmarked is a notable first for this Government. I hope that this will be a continuing practice and that over the next couple of years we will see a considerable improvement in Aboriginal housing around Australia.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. He is no doubt aware that the Prime Minister in an interview published in the Age on Saturday said:
Obviously, as people’s income rises, they expect to pay tax on the additional dollars they earn.
Other Ministers, including Senator Carrick himself, have attempted to excuse the higher tax rates applying this year in similar terms. Does the Minister know whether the Prime Minister had in mind an increase in money income or real income? If the latter is the case, does the Government expect real incomes to increase this year? If the former is the case, does the Government believe that people with higher money incomes only should pay a higher proportion of that income in tax? Is it not a fact that everyone who receives the money income increases forecast in the Budget but who has the same real income will pay a higher proportion in tax this year than was paid last year?
– I did not have the opportunity to see the reported speech of the Prime Minister in the Age. The fact of the matter is that what Senator Walsh has indicated was reported is precisely what I have said twice this afternoon- that is, that there will be a lower tax rate for each of the three standard rates of taxation and that, therefore, in each of those classifications the taxpayer will pay less money in the dollar after 1 December than he did before that date.
– But more in total.
-Senator Wriedt said: But more in total’. The fact of the matter is that Senator Wriedt ‘s Prime Minister, when asked how he would finance the programs that were burgeoning in money terms, said that he would finance them out of inflation. He was going to harvest inflation to finance the programs. That interjection falls rather flat. The question related to whether we are talking about nominal rates or real rates of taxation. The purchasing power of the wages of the Australian people depends entirely upon our ability, first of all, to get inflation down in this country and, therefore, to get purchasing power up.
– You are not getting it down.
– Again, I am grateful to Senator Georges because I want to tell the Senate now what is happening to purchasing power, including the purchasing power of wages and the purchasing power afforded by the reduction in taxation. I have before me a table produced by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. In Australia, for the six months to June 1979, inflation ran at 9 per cent. The inflation rate for all of the OECD countries averaged 1 1.8 per cent. In the United States of America, the inflation rate was 14 per cent, in France it was 1 1.3 per cent, the United Kingdom 15.7 per cent, Canada 10.5 per cent, Italy 15.8 per cent and New Zealand 14.3 per cent. Only two countries were doing better than Australia but they were facing very real troublesGermany with an inflation rate now running at 7.5 per cent and Japan with an inflation rate of 6.3 per cent. We have in fact increased purchasing power by taking over a country and halving the inflation rate which was running at 18 per cent to 20 per cent. That, in itself, is the vital statistic in terms of taxation and purchasing power.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate answer the questions instead of lecturing us about the Australian Labor Party and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development? The questions are: Does the Government expect real incomes to rise this year? Is it the Government’s belief that it is fit and proper that people with the same real income ought to pay higher proportion of that real income in tax? This year will everyone with the same real income, according to the estimates in the Budget, pay a higher proportion of income in tax?
– I can naturally understand the sensitivity of Senator Walsh to lectures- accurate ones at that- showing the disastrous effects of the Whitlam Government by contrast with the success of the Fraser Government. The Australian people as a whole will not reject those lectures. The Budget Speech points out that, owing in particular to increases in two fields- the rise in oil prices by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the rise in food prices- inflation has risen this year and it is not competent to forecast an increase in real incomes. In fact the people of Australia, less so than people in other countries, will have to bear the brunt.
– What increases did your revenue forecast incorporate?
-Senator Walsh is interjecting. One of the reasons that the people of Australia will pay higher prices for petrol is the complete lack of initiative in petroleum research during the years of the Whitlam Government. They were the years that the locusts have eaten. They are the years for which the people of Australia are now paying because we now have to import a certain percentage of our petrol. Of course there will be an impact on real incomes.
The scale of taxation that the Fraser Government set up two years ago comprised, from memory, three standard rates of 32 per cent, 46 per cent and 60 per cent. My memory is that people on incomes of $10,000 and $16,000, under Labor, would have been paying 46c and 55c in the dollar respectively.
– Marginal rates.
-Senator Walsh interjects again. The Adelaide conference of the Australian Labor Party made it clear that the Labor Party would increase tax rates in future to get more money to pay for its policies. In a quiet and objective situation, this means that the 60c scale of the Fraser Government would be changed to about 75c or more.
– I raise a point of order. I put it to you, Mr President: Is anyone in this chamber allowed to make statements, such as Senator Carrick has made- which are not the truthwithout putting substantiating evidence before the chamber?
– I cannot sustain the point of order.
-I will be very happy tomorrow or the next day to provide the evidence which indicates that the policies as announced by Mr Hayden, the leader of the Labor Party, are such as to support what I have said. The evidence indicates that the Labor Party will upgrade the higher rates of taxation to a point to gain more income. That, in my calculation, would mean that the basic rate would move from 60c in the dollar to 75c or 80c.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. What are the implications for future Australian funding of the United Nations following reports that it has excess cash of $1.4 billion and that the United Nations and its affiliates have had yearly surpluses of up to $350m? Is the Government aware that the
United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund is reported to have accumulated reserves of between $ 1 00m and $ 1 40m?
-I take it that these reports come from an article which appeared in, I believe, the Washington Post. That article alleged that the United Nations system maintains cash surpluses of the order of $US1.4 billion in special accounts and at the same time claims that it is in financial difficulties. I am advised that these allegations have been comprehensively rebutted, in terms that have been supported by the Australian Government, by spokesmen for both the United States State Department and the United Nations Secretariat in New York.
The most important points of the rebuttal include the fact that the criticism makes a fundamental error in totalling the accounts of the United Nations and the autonomous specialised agencies. Funds are not transferable between these organisations. The author of the article in question neglected to make use of information supplied in advance by the United Nations and, in particular, ignored entirely the current substantial liabilities of the organisations. The figure presented as surplus funds included voluntary contributions of member states, the flow of which the United Nations cannot control, as well as trust and endowment funds to which the United Nations has no access. In addition, United Nations organisations generally have no authority to borrow on the market and thus must maintain larger cash reserves than would otherwise be the case. In the case of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, the figure of $ 1 3 1 m quoted in the article is similarly inflated by the inclusion of trust fund moneys and the exclusion of outstanding obligations. The true figure for cash holdings at the date cited, 3 1 December 1977, is of the order of $92.3m.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he is aware of a letter, which appears in the Australian today, from the Central Ashgrove Branch of the Liberal Party in Queensland in which reference is made to the disillusionment and disgust of that branch of the Liberal Party and to the cynical hypocrisy of the Federal Treasurer in respect of the Budget? Can the Minister explain to the Senate why a branch of the Liberal Party -
– I rise on a point of order. I understand that, under the Standing Orders, newspapers may be quoted only if the would-be quoter can vouch for the authenticity of the matter contained therein. I ask whether Senator Wriedt can vouch for the authenticity of the letter that he is purporting to quote?
– I can only quote from a photostat copy of part of the Australian newspaper, which I have in my hand, so I assume that I can proceed to ask the question, Mr President.
– Can you vouch for it?
-I do not print newspapers. I do photostat sections of them.
– It is necessary at all times, of course, to ensure that language used in this place conforms with parliamentary procedure.
– May I vouch for it? As I understand it, it is from Mr John A. Comerford of Brisbane, Queensland who writes as chairman of the Central Ashgrove Branch of the Liberal Party, and says:
Today, disillusioned and disgusted, we are considering adopting a motion to ‘advise the State Liberal Party Headquarters that this branch, having regard for the cynical hypocrisy of the Federal Treasurer in the area of ‘supposed taxation reform’, will no longer lend support, financial or otherwise, to the incumbent of the Federal seat in Brisbane . . .’
Can the Minister explain to the Senate why that branch of the Liberal Party is disillusioned and disgusted and regards the policy of the Federal Treasurer as cynically hypocritical?
– I have not seen the letter but, if an explanation is necessary, it is clear that the members of the branch have not had an adequate explanation of the Government’s fiscal policies and have a wrong understanding of them. Lest one should attempt to score in these little matters, one should not overlook the civil war that arose out of the Adelaide conference of the Australian Labor Party and the enormous outpouring of criticism of its leader, Mr Hayden, because of his alliance with the extreme left wing of the Party and his condemnation of his colleague, Mr Hawke, and what he stood for. One does not have to go to branch members of the Liberal Party to find condemnation of policies. Mr Hawke, the former Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, spoke in round condemnation of Mr Hayden ‘s policies.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for National Development aware that fishing vessels at Innisfail and Cooktown are tied up because of a lack of distillate? Additional supplies have been sent to the Cairns area to overcome shortages in the sugar industry. Could some of the additional stocks be diverted to enable the fishing industry in outlying places such as Cooktown to continue operations?
– Last week Senator Maunsell asked me a question on the general problem of the availability of distillate in Queensland, particularly north Queensland. His question today, of course, is in relation to more specific areas, namely, Cooktown and Innisfail. As I said last week, the difficulties that have been encountered in north Queensland with the supply of distillate relate to an abnormally high demand in the first half of 1979. As far as north Queensland is concerned, a shipment of 8,000 tonnes is due to arrive in Cairns this evening. In total, about 25,000 tonnes have been shipped into the area during August. In addition, the Royal Australian Navy has released approximately 2,300 tonnes into the market place to cope with the high demand. These shipments should enable the region’s demands to be met. In relation to the specific matters that Senator Maunsell has raised, I will refer them as a matter of urgency to the Minister for National Development with a view to ascertaining whether these problems can be met from the shipments to northern Queensland to which I have referred.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I preface it by reminding him that, by way of questions and correspondence, I have sought from him details of when award wages will be paid to Aborigines employed in the various Queensland communities. Can the Minister now inform the Parliament whether the award wage payments will be made retrospective? When will the award wage payments commence? Has the Australian Government made any additional funds available to the Queensland Government to cover some or all of the increased wages bill? If the Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement refuses to pay the award wage, will the Minister or his Government apply pressure to the Queensland Government to force payment of the new wage rates?
– It is true that the honourable senator has raised this matter both in correspondence and in questions. The facts remain as they have been for some time. The honourable senator- indeed most honourable senators- will be aware that an action was brought on behalf of, I think, an employee at Yarrabah asserting that he was entitled to be paid award wages. It was thought that the case raised issues under the Commonwealth legislation known as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act, but in fact the tribunal before which the case was brought- the Queensland Industrial Courtbrought down a decision which said that the person bringing the application was entitled to be paid award wages under Queensland law and made no reference to the Commonwealth law. The present position in Queensland, as I understand the decision which has been given, is that such employees are entitled to receive award wages for the work that they do. The enforcement of that decision and action to ensure that award wages are paid are matters which lie in the hands of those people and the bodies which are in Queensland to assist them, including the Aboriginal Legal Service, which was, I think, originally associated with the Cook case being brought to court.
I suppose it might also be said that the trade union movement has an active interest in the matter, since I understand the decision given provides that award wages are payable to persons who are parties to the awards, namely, members of trade unions. I am not quite sure what the trade union movement is doing in Queensland at the moment with respect to that. The Government is concerned at the suggestion that it might be necessary to retrench a large number of workers. The Government has before it a request from the Queensland Government that suggests that it is the Commonwealth’s responsibility to make up the difference between what is paid now and what would be paid under award wages. That is a matter which the Government has under consideration. I emphasise to the Senate that the present position is that under Queensland law these workers are entitled to be paid full award rates. Whether or not money will be made available is a matter for decision by the Government. That decision has not yet been taken. I do not think there is anything further that I can usefully add.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. In the last paragraph of my question I asked: If the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement refuses to pay the award wage, will the Minister and/or his Government apply the necessary pressure to the Queensland Government to insist that the award wage be paid? It is relevant to point out that this case was put before the Australian Government as early as May of this year. So, after a period of almost three months, still no decision has been made. I ask: Why not?
– The honourable senator asks whether the Commonwealth Government will apply pressure to the Queensland Government. I tried to make it clear that the court has made a finding on Queensland law. That law is available for the use of all Queensland citizens, including the Aboriginal population. The Commonwealth funds the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service in Queensland to the extent of- I will not guess at the figure- a very large sum each year. That service is available to assist Aboriginal people who want to obtain the protection of the law of Queensland and the law of the Commonwealth.
-Is the Minister for Social Security aware of news media allegations attributed to the South Australian Minister of Health, Mr Duncan, that staff retrenchments at the Regency Park crippled children’s complex were due to the Commonwealth Government measures which resulted in a reduction of funding to that organisation? Can the Minister say whether there is any substance to that statement?
– The statements that have been made with regard to Regency Park are not accurate. I am not aware of the statements made by Mr Duncan and referred to by Senator Jessop. Regency Park receives funding through several government sources, both Commonwealth and State. My Department ‘s involvement is confined to the provision of subsidies under the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act. The organisation has received substantial funding under this legislation on a $4 for $1 basis towards the cost of equipment and capital works, plus subsidies on a dollar for dollar basis towards meeting the cost of appropriate staff salaries. In fact, support from my Department is somewhere in the region of $650,000 a year. The organisation is also funded under the deficit funding arrangements of the Commonwealth Department of Health under the Nursing Homes Assistance Act. I understand that an issue has arisen with regard to the level of the deficit that has been incurred. The Commonwealth Department of Health has called for a review of the arrangements within the organisation to see that the principles of the deficit funding arrangements are being adhered to.
I understand that the State Government is also interested in the review with regard to the Commonwealth Government’s deficit funding arrangements. My Department is conferring with the Department of Health and other relevant funding departments to see whether the matter can be resolved. It is not a matter- Senator Jessop attributed this statement to Mr Duncan -of staff retrenchments resulting from the withdrawal of Commonwealth assistance, but rather a matter of the situation being reviewed to see that the deficit funding arrangements are being adhered to and that funding from my own Department is continuing on the normal basis.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether it is a fact that the Government is considering the introduction of legislation this week to reduce the excise on brandy. If the answer is yes, can the Minister say why this measure was not included in the Budget documents brought down last Tuesday.
– 1 think Senator McLaren is at a loss for questions. He really is trying hard. He should have prefaced that question by saying that, in case the electors of Murray Bridge do not know it, there is to be a State election in South Australia. Against that background, of course, that kind of hare does not run at all and the honourable senator should not try that. The people of South Australia are a little more intelligent than he might think.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health by saying that in spite of the fact that Press coverage would indicate otherwise, no doubt the Minister realises that of all Australia’s drug problems alchohol is by far the most serious one. Therefore, I ask: Will the Minister recommend to the Minister for Health that the States be requested to see that the percentage of alcohol in beers is printed on the labels of the containers, as is done already in such countries as Canada? I also ask the Minister to suggest to the Government that, in the interests of health, there be a reduction in the excise on low alcoholic beers so that companies will be encouraged to produce and promote those beers.
– I will need to refer those matters to the Ministers concerned. I will see that the Minister for Health has his attention drawn to the suggestion made by Senator Townley with regard to the percentage of alcohol being stated on the labels of bottles containing alcoholic drinks. I will forward to the Treasurer that part of the question concerning a reduction in excise.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I refer to my questions during the proceedings of Estimates Committee C when I sought some indication of the security rating of the interpreters who are used in South East Asian refugee screenings. In view of the episode in Thailand where we had a rather peculiar type of interpreter, I now ask the Minister: Who evaluated that interpreter’s credentials to operate for the Australian Government? Was he foisted on us by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or by the United States Government, or was he a selection of one of our own people?
– I understand that the interpreter in question was employed by the Australian Government representatives in Bangkok under the normal conditions which apply to the recruitment overseas of locally employed staff. With regard to the second part of Senator Mulvihills question as to whether he was foisted upon us by either the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or by the United States Government, I am advised that the answer is no, he was not. He was appointed in the normal way under the usual arrangements for locally engaged interpreters.
- Mr President, I have a supplementary question. I do not want to get into trouble with Senator Button because this is more his field, but in an embassy in a country such as Thailand do we not have somebody from one of our security agencies to do just that job and to check on somebody’s record before we employ him- say, an Australian Security Intelligence Organisation operative?
– I am not aware of Senator Button’s special interest in this matter, but no doubt he also can refer to the answer I gave earlier, that is, that the normal provisions applied with regard to the recruitment of locally engaged staff. I am not aware in detail of what precautions are taken, but the normal recruitment procedures were adopted.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister and I refer to the Prime Minister’s statement of 27 June on energy policy. Does the Minister recall the statement that the Government would upgrade the Bureau of Mineral Resources into a geoscientific research organisation with a substantial capacity to conduct the sophisticated scientific studies required to support the development of Australia ‘s resources and that the Bureau would have an enhanced role in the exploration for and assessment of Australian energy resources? What has been done to implement this decision? In particular, how will the BMR’s role in the exploration for and assessment of our energy resources be enhanced? Will additional staff and finance be available to meet the Bureau’s new and proper role?
– It is correct, as Senator Knight suggests, that the Prime Minister’s statement of 27 June on energy policy announced a new and upgraded role for the Bureau of Mineral Resources. This role was recommended to the Government by the Australian Science and Technology Council which in October 1978 reported on the future role and level of activity of the Bureau. I commend this ASTEC report to all honourable senators. It represents a valuable input into the Government’s decision-making in this important area.
I turn now to the implementation of that announcement. On several occasions the Government has given detailed consideration to the ASTEC report, but has not yet made final decisions in relation to it. I am advised that the Minister for National Development, whose portfolio includes the Bureau of Mineral Resources, has been discussing the details relating to the implementation of the ASTEC recommendations with his colleague the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister. When those processes have been concluded I expect that a statement detailing the Government’s decision will be made. On the matter of the financial commitment to that organisation, I point out that the papers attached to last week’s Budget Speech indicate that the Government will provide $13m to finance the Bureau’s operations in 1979-80. That represents an increase of nearly 5 per cent on the previous year’s expenditure and certainly is generous in view of the very tight budgetary situation.
– I direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question which arises from material broadcast on the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio program Broadband last night. Is the Minister aware of allegations arising from that program that the recently suspended president of the New South Wales Liberal Ethnic Council, Lyenko Urbanchich, is a former Nazi collaborator, is on the Yugoslav list of wanted war criminals and currently argues in favour of a White Australia policy? Can the Minister say whether Mr Urbanchich has been a member of any Federal government committee or has participated in any way in the formulation of government immigration policy?
-I did not hear the Broadband broadcast last night but I have a copy of the transcript. I have a tape and, indeed, I have- and I sought to have- documents which allegedly are supporting documents, including alleged articles from newspapers and alleged translations. Serious allegations have been made against a particular person and, as in all such cases, one should wait to see how the evidence emerges. The Liberal Party in New South Wales, through its State Executive, has suspended Mr Urbanchich from his offices in the party for a period and has invited him to bring forward evidence refuting what has been submitted. That process will be carried out. Of course, it is competent for Mr Urbanchich to seek his own remedies in law. I am unable to say what he may do in that regard. The evidence was part of the Broadband program.
A series of allegations was made. I understand from the tape, which I have not fully heard, that some segments of alleged documents were read out. It may well be that a selective approach was adopted, or it may be that by segmentation the factual position might not appear. At the end of Question Time, after I have submitted for the perusal of honourable senators what purport to be the Yugoslav documents and their translations and not just segments of them, I shall seek leave to incorporate those documents in Hansard. That, Mr President, will need some sorting out in a few minutes time. Perhaps I may do that at the end of Question Time. I am asked whether the gentleman concerned was at any time a member of any Federal government committee. I can only say from recollection that I believe that he never was a member of any such committee. He was a member of the Ethnic Council in New South Wales.
One must not attempt in any way to say anything against a person’s reputation without the fullest possible support in that regard and I shall not do so. The ordinary processes are available to the people concerned. I simply say this: As I understand the Broadband program, it was alleged that a particular person expressed and practised pro-Nazi views and violent anti-Semitic and racial tendencies. There is no room in my party or in either of the government parties, or I believe, in any political party which is represented in this House, for the expression of those views and tendencies. I say that without in any way suggesting that that has been done. It is a series of incidents which happened in wartime. It needs to be judged as such, and tests of veracity and authenticity will have to be made. With your approval, Mr President, I will shortly hand to you a series of documents that purport to be original newspaper documents and their translations, and with your concurrence and that of honourable senators I will seek their incorporation in Hansard.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. I thank the Minister for his detailed answer, but in reference to the last part of my question at a later stage I would seek a confirmation of what the Minister said to be his recollection; that is, that this person has not served on any Federal government policy committee.
-I will seek out that information and let the honourable senator have it. I have a firm conviction that what I have said is right, but it is just possible that that may not be so.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Is he aware that in the book recently published by Mr Renouf, the former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, a proposal is advanced that Australia should abandon its claim to much of the Antarctic continent? Secondly, I ask the Minister whether he has seen the editorial which appeared in the Canberra Times of 2 1 August 1979, which suggested that Mr Renoufs advice should be accepted to the extent that Australia should proclaim its intention, when the time is ripe, to transfer its claimed sovereignty to an agreed international regime. I ask the Minister whether the Australian Government has any proposals in mind to abandon, now or in the foreseeable future, any of its claims to sovereignty over any part of the Antarctic continent?
– Australia’s role and Australia’s territorial position in the Antarctic are of enormous significance to Australia, and indeed to its neighbours. Our own understanding of Antarctica and its resources and its ecology is of vital importance. I have not read Mr Renoufs book, but I accept the statement that Senator Puplick has made. Nor have I read the editorial in the Canberra Times. Equally, I am totally unaware of any suggestion that the Government in any way is contemplating a change in its Antarctic policies. I will refer the question to the Minister concerned.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security, and refers to the policy announced by the Minister relating to twice-yearly indexation of pension benefits. I notice the word ‘index’ is used in the Minister’s speeches, but my concern is about special beneficiaries. Is the Minister able to say whether the category of special beneficiaries, which comprises I think some 30,000 pensioners, will be treated as being entitled to the new system when the increases apply? Also, has consideration been given to treating these special beneficiaries in the same way as other pensioners in respect of supplementary assistance where it might otherwise be applicable?
– I recall that Senator Grimes made a comment in regard to this when he spoke on Budget night. The reason that no comment was made about special benefits in the Budget Speech is that under the Act the rate of special benefit payable to any person shall be such rate as the Director-General in his discretion determines, but not exceeding the rate of unemployment benefit or sickness benefit which could be paid to that person if he were qualified to receive either of those benefits. Therefore a special benefit which applied to those rates of unemployment benefit which are indexed would be at that rate. If it were a special benefit paid for another rate of unemployment benefit, that would be the maximum rate that could be paid. There has been no change to the way in which we deal with special benefits and therefore the indexation applies to them in the way that it does to any comparable benefit but not to one in any other category. I do not want any confusion about this. There has been no change to the way in which special benefit is paid. The omission was not one that indicated any change but rather the application of the Act as it exists.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. What about special beneficiaries who are entitled to a supplementary allowance where the amount is a regular amount and applies on a long term basis? I refer to the rent allowance, for example, where a special benefit is paid consistent with the pension.
– I think special benefit would be applied at the rate of unemployment benefit or sickness benefit and no rent allowance is applicable in that way. Under section 12S of the Act it is related to unemployment benefit or to sickness benefit, which may not be eligible. So really there are no supplementary allowances that would be applied.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. To alleviate misconception and public discontent about alleged profitability, including the reserves of the public health funds, will the Minister give consideration to a requirement that these funds submit to their contributors or policy holders an annual statement of profit and loss together with a balance sheet?
– I will draw that question to the attention of the Minister for Health and seek an answer for Senator Watson.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the passage in Budget Paper No. 1 which states:
The projected increase of some 1 8 per cent in collections of income tax from individuals, reflecting the effects of measures, includes an estimated increase in net PA YE collections of 15 per cent and an estimated increase of 32 per cent in receipts . . .
I ask: Is it a fact that under the Government’s announced wages policy average weekly earnings are expected to rise by approximately 9 per cent in the coming year? Does he reconcile these figures in relation to taxation and wages with his statement that people will be better off or does he reconcile them only with the Prime Minister’s statement of a week ago that people will not be better off?
– The Budget Papers give an explanation of the ingredients of the increases of 18 per cent and 15 per cent to which Senator Button has referred. Under the Budget there will be the normal increase in take that comes from the inflation rate and the wage rates that flow from it, and from the absence of wage indexation. Throughout the taxation situation there will be one other happy increase. Because rural incomes have risen significantly, the total tax take will be increased. However, the fact is that the explanation is given in the Budget Papers.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware that the tourist industry has reacted very favourably to the 2V4 per cent depreciation allowance on new accommodation granted in last week’s successful Budget? In the light of this enthusiastic response, will the Minister convey to the Minister for Transport the desirability of allowing TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia to operate between north Queensland and South East Asian and Pacific regions so that direct international flights can be made to the Great Barrier Reef airfields of Cairns, Townsville, Mackay and Proserpine, thereby generating fresh income for Australia and deferring the huge cost of upgrading one of the northern airfields to take Boeing 747s?
– I am aware of the very good reception which the 2Vi per cent depreciation allowance has received from the tourist industry. My earliest knowledge of this, in fact, came from my colleague, Senator Rae, who has been assiduously pursuing this valuable step for some years. He was the first person to pass on that very good news to me. I am very pleased to hear it again from the honourable senator from Queensland. I note the suggestion made by the honourable senator from Queensland that we should capitalise on this valuable reform by freeing the airline system. I will refer that suggestion to the Minister for Transport for his consideration.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows the question asked by Senator Ryan relating to Mr Lyenko Urbanchich. It is perhaps superfluous for me to reiterate the general attitude of Australians towards those who were collaborators, traitors and war criminals and who have been pursued and brought to justice. However, this search must continue for the sake of humanity. Will the Minister, in conjunction with his colleague, Senator Durack, initiate a full national inquiry into the activities during and after the war of Mr Lyenko Urbanchich and his colleagues of the Croatian fraternity, including the arrogant and contumelious secretary, Sidic, of the so-called Croatian Embassy in Canberra, who is flouting the expressed intention of the court, the Government and the Parliament?
– I am sorry that Senator O ‘Byrne has asked the question in that way. It brings back the most unhappy memories of the pursuit and persecution by a former AttorneyGeneral of the Australian Labor Party in this place in the unhappy years of the previous Government. Indeed, all sorts of allegations were made against a race of people. Let me make it clear that my Government will not pursue any kind of witch hunting in a broad sense. Let me make it clear also that whatever may be the particular circumstances concerning an individual, we in the Government parties fully understand the extreme difficulties that occurred within those elements of what is now Yugoslavia in those war years. We will not go on a wide witch hunt. It will not be good if we start this kind of thing because there is no doubt that within the various political parties in this country there are a few people who have come here in the past and who, if one turned the spotlight on them, would find themselves in some embarrassment.
At this moment we are concerning ourselves with an allegation made publicly on the national radio station through the program Broadband about one person. We are not going to have a Moscow type trial. We are going to have the most sober parading of facts, and the most sober opportunities will be presented for that gentleman and others to provide information. Then we will find out the position. It would be a terrible thing if it were thought that honourable senators took a general view that a substantial proportion of the Croatian people were to be condemned for their past activities. That is not our intention.
-Can the Minister representing the Treasurer say whether aids used by the handicapped that are not yet exempt from sales tax will from now on be exempt from this tax in line with the Budget announcement on aids used by the blind and deaf?
– That is an important and technical question. It is one about which I do not have the precise particularities at my fingertips. I will refer it to the Treasurer and seek an answer.
-Can the Minister for Social Security give an official explanation of how some hundred confidential documents of the Department of Social Security were dumped on the rubbish dump at Wingfield outside Adelaide in South Australia?
– I had a report on this matter. My understanding was not that some 100 documents were found. I understood that two or three documents were found.
– There were bundles of them.
– The report that I had contained some detail. As far as I can recall it stated that a small number of documents had been found. I have asked for an investigation of this matter and of the circumstances which led to the dumping of these papers. From the preliminary information that has been made available it would appear to be an isolated incident. I am advised that some papers which would normally be destroyed under close supervision were apparently left in a wastepaper basket at the Woodville regional office of my Department and appear to have been dumped by the cleaning contractors. I understand, as I said, that very few papers were involved. A subsequent check of the rubbish dump failed to locate any more documents. The confidentiality of social security records is most important, and officers of my Department have been instructed to ensure that the relevant procedures are followed to prevent such occurrences in the future. I have asked for information to be given to me with regard to the officers who were in control of the documents prior to their being placed in the wastepaper basket, or wherever they were placed, so that we can get some response from the officers who were concerned with the security of these documents. As I said earlier, my information is that a small number of documents was found. I am still awaiting advice from the officers who had these documents in their custody and control at the time they were disposed of in this way.
– by leave- Mr President, may I elaborate upon my request regarding the documents I mentioned earlier? I want to make it perfectly clear that in no way is it my intention to put these documents into Hansard with any suggestion that they are authentic. The very fact is that, as I understand it, a national radio station has purported to quote from the documents. Those documents unsegmentally or otherwise are important for a judgmental value on, first of all, whether the onginal in its original language is authentic and, secondly, whether the translation is authentic, neither of which I can substantiate at all, nor is it my purpose to do so. As I understand it, a major criticism was made of an individual in Australia largely based upon such documents and such translations. In order for a judgment to be made, I seek the incorporation of the documents both in the original language and in the purported English translation.
– by leave- Let me briefly comment before the documents are incorporated. I have had time to look at them very quickly. They appear to be documents making the sort of observation which we have read so much of in this area of dispute over the years. I am still a little concerned that the actual source of the documents is not known with certainty. I appreciate the position of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). He is not vouching for the authenticity of them or for the translation which is naturally just as important. The Opposition does not object to their incorporation provided it is understood that the Government is in no way suggesting- this is recognised by what the Leader of the Government has already saidthat there is any authenticity for which this Government can vouch, either in the original document or in the translation.
Senator CARRICK (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate)- by leave- Honourable senators will recall that the reason I responded was that a question had been asked by an Australian Labor Party senator, Senator Ryan, who referred to a particular program and to its contents. That having become a public matter in the Senate, it seemed to me as Government Leader to be my public duty to give honourable senators the opportunity to study the documents. I have made it abundantly clear that neither I nor the Government are verifying these documents in any way; fundamental to their incorporation is an understanding that they are there to be tested. Broadband itself has read from them and purported to say that they are accurate. We have now a chance for the Senate and the people of Australia to test their accuracy, whether by way of translation or otherwise, and to decide whether in fact the original, purported newspaper article is defective or not. It could have been doctored. I repeat, Senator Ryan asked a question that focussed upon the Broadband program and therefore upon these documents. It is in order to lend justice to a consideration of the matter, and injustice to the individual concerned, that I seek their incorporation.
-by leave- I would like, for the record, to introduce a note of caution. We would now appear to be lending to these papers a certain authenticity, or currency, that they did not have before.
– We are permitting them to be printed.
-Well, we are giving them a currency that they did not possess before. I would have liked to consider the matter a little further. Since we have had the assurance of the Leader of the Government that he has presented these documents in the best interests of the person concerned, I do not want to hamper his action in any way. Nevertheless, before papers of this nature are given the privilege of being tabled in this place, for further use or misuse, the matter should be given considerable thought.
– by leave- I would like to pursue what Senator Georges has just said. I thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, for his generous handling of the matter in offering to have the documents incorporated in Hansard. However, notwithstanding the Minister’s wish to be helpful, I would be very concerned if the Senate were to agree to that course. I have been given by the Government Whip the privilege of looking briefly at the papers.
– I asked the Government Whip for them, and I believe that the Opposition also has been furnished with a copy. They consist of a photostat copy of a newspaper, which could come from anywhere, and of a translation. The copy of the translation is not signed. It does contain some pretty heavy stuff. I am considering the matter as a precedent. Suppose that something similar, on an issue that was not quite as emotive as this, occurred in the future. An allegation could be made, be repeated on a national radio program and an honourable senator could then ask a question, further repeating the allegation in the Senate. Presumably, on such a basis the Senate could admit all sorts of garbage- written by the gutter Press or anybody else- in the context of clearing the matter up. Even though one puts it, as Senator Carrick has done with crystal clarity, that this is not to be taken as lending credibility to the documents, the fact that they will appear in Hansard in toto, unadorned, gives such documents a respectability which at this point they do not deserve. I ask you, Mr President, under the powers given to you by the Senate- of approving or not approving the incorporation of these documents- to adopt the suggestion of Senator Georges that you make your decision only after careful consideration and discussion.
-by leave-I must say that it is only as this matter has unfolded that I have had any worries about it. We are being asked on the run to do something which did not strike me at first as being other than sensible in cases where things may be quoted out of context. On the other hand, as has been pointed out by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick), the person concerned, whom I have no brief for and do not know, may well wish to take proceedings and could take proceedings if the documents are inaccurate and the statements in them are defamatory. I have not looked at the question of the extent to which he may be able to do that or the way in which that right may be prejudiced by the fact that the documents to be incorporated in Hansard will be the subject of privilege once they are incorporated. To that extent they will be privileged documents.
– But they would not be privileged last night, would they?
-No. So far as the broadcast last night is concerned, that is so.
– You are talking about future defamation, are you not?
-Yes, I am talking about future defamation. I am talking about the position if the documents are inaccurate or false. They may not be. I do not know whether they are. The documents which are to be incorporated in Hansard, which are obviously more than appeared last night, may be such that they will lead to a person desiring to take action but that person might be debarred from taking action because the documents are the subject of parliamentary privilege once they are tabled or incorporated in Hansard. I am just wondering whether, as Senator Chipp has said, the matter ought not to have a little bit of -
– That is nonsense.
– I am not saying that that may be so. It may well be nonsense. I would invite the provision of further information because I am making this comment on the run. If it is nonsense, I will be happy to know why. But I have slight qualms about the matter and wonder whether it ought to be held up for a day or two so that it can be looked at a little further.
Senator CARRICK (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate)- by leave- I have no objection at all to a pause being allowed for consideration of this matter. It was in seeking justice and truth that I sought to incorporate these documents in Hansard. When considering Senator Missen ‘s suggestion, which was an interesting one, one must look at this matter post facto. The fact is that last night a 90-minute broadcast was made and made publicly. If it was defamatory, the defamation has been done. It is also possible to obtain transcripts of that broadcast. If by any chance at all there is a legal technicality to which the action that I have sought to take would do harm, I would not want to take it. I am perfectly happy to accept the judgment of this Senate. If any honourable senator feels that there should be a delay of 24 hours to obtain a legal view, I will abide by that and seek leave to incorporate the documents in 24 hours time.
Senator WRIEDT (Tasmania-Leader of the Opposition)- by leave- Senator Carrick is now offering to allow this matter to be held over for a period for consideration, particularly legal consideration. I would just say that the Opposition has no objection to the documents being tabled now.
– Or incorporated.
– Or incorporated in Hansard. If the matters raised by Senator Missen warrant further consideration, I would have thought that the opinion of the Attorney-General would be sought. As far as we are concernedSenator Chipp can make his own decision- we have no objection to the incorporation of the documents right here and now.
Senator CARRICK (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate)- by leave- I withdraw the request for the incorporation of the documents in Hansard today. During the next 24 hours I will seek information on the matter. If I find that there is no legal disability, I will bring them back for incorporation.
-On 22 August 1979, Senator Rocher asked me a question relating to a draft uniform code for earthquake resistant buildings. The Minister for Housing and Construction has suggested that I provide the following answer:
In accordance with normal Standards Association of Australia procedures of inviting public comment on all draft codes prior to their issue as an Australian standard, all State authorities have had the opportunity to comment on and contribute to the draft document ‘Australian Standard Rules for the Design of earthquake Resistant Buildings ‘.
Some State Government authorities have been represented on the SAA Committee responsible for the preparation of the draft.
The final SAA Code is expected to be published in October of this year.
The Minister for Housing and Construction has advised me that his Department will adopt the provisions of the SAA Code throughout Australia; the Code indicates a number of seismic zones and specifies the requirements to be adopted for earthquake-resistant buildings in each zone.
I am also advised the NCDC will examine the code to ascertain the extent of its application in the Canberra area.
-On Wednesday, 22 August 1979, Senator Sibraa asked me a question without notice concerning alleged interference with a letter to him from the office of the Minister for Education. In particular, Senator Sibraa said that the back of the letter was stamped ‘Examined by Australia Police’ and that the seal of the envelope had been interfered with. I said that I would try to give him a reply that day or by Thursday. In fact, the matter required careful inquiry and I have only just been able to get an answer for him.
Since 1972, measures for the protection of honourable members and senators and their staffs from explosive devices delivered by mail have been progressively instituted. Under the authority of the Presiding Officers, all mail addressed to Parliament House is passed through an electronic scanning device designed to detect explosive objects. Similar procedures operate in respect of mail delivered to the parliamentary offices in Sydney at Martin Place and at Chifley Square. For Martin Place, the scanning is, by arrangement, carried out by the Commonwealth Police post to which mail is delivered for the purpose. For Chifley Square, it is carried out by staff of the Department of Administative Services. In the event of positive indication on the scanning device, an article is isolated and subjected to specific examination by explosives experts. Neither the Commonwealth Police nor departmental officers are permitted to open or interfere with mail except in circumstances where they have reasonable grounds to believe that an offence has been committed by the inclusion of an explosive device, and only then after they have, if practicable, consulted the addressee.
The letter referred to was a letter from Senator Carrick ‘s Sydney office in the Martin Place parliamentary offices addressed to Senator Sibraa in the Chifley Square parliamentary offices. In accordance with normal procedure, it was delivered to the Commonwealth Police post in the Martin Place parliamentary offices for inclusion in the regular courier delivery service to Chifley Square. It has been established that the letter in question was inadvertently stamped at the Commonwealth Police post. Following a check with the Commonwealth Police officer who stamped the envelope, the Acting Commissioner of the Commonwealth Police advises that the envelope was simply passed through an electronic scanning device and stamped to indicate this and was not opened or interfered with by the police officer concerned. In the handling and delivery of this particular item it appears that the seal was partially torn. It has not been possible to establish whether this was due to defective sealing of the envelope or to some other accidental cause.
– It creates suspicion.
– I note the very suspicious interjection from the honourable senator. In the light of the general facts, it appears that it is simply a matter of minor error and not a matter to be regarded with suspicion.
-On Tuesday, 21 August, Senator Lewis asked me a question concerning Telecom recorded message services. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications, to whom I referred Senator Lewis’s question, has now informed me that this question relates to a trial recorded information system being operated in Melbourne under the name Telemed. The system has been set up for an initial period of six months in conjunction with the Victorian College of General Practitioners, which supplies the tape recordings. The first message commenced on 3 1 July and was a dual one, comprising advice on venereal disease followed by a segment relating to smoking, along the lines mentioned by Senator Lewis. The Tobacco Institute of Australia subsequently approached Telecom and expressed concern that the implied association between VD and smoking was offensive to people engaged in the tobacco industry. Telecom acknowledged the validity of the objection and approached the College of General Practitioners with alternative arrangements which dissociated the anti-smoking message from that of VD. Telecom has advised the College that it has no objection to including the anti-smoking message in any later messages to be used in the Telemed trials, provided it is not linked with venereal disease. The current message is a dual one covering VD and heart disease.
– I lay on the table explanatory notes of departments and authorities relating to the estimates of proposed expenditure for 1979-80. A list of departments and authorities from which notes have been received has been circulated to honourable senators.
– For the information of honourable senators I present:
The agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States of America concerning peaceful uses of nuclear energy, together with an agreed minute;
The agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning nuclear transfers between Australia and the United Kingdom, together with an agreed minute and an exchange of letters; and
The text of a statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs relating to the agreements.
-by leave- I move:
The Australian Democrats are worried about the security of uranium oxide, which Australia proposes shortly to export in larger quantities. Of course, that is the raw material of nuclear power and of the atomic bomb. I stress the atomic bomb aspect particularly because I feel that a distinction should be drawn between more sophisticated nuclear weapons such as the hydrogen bomb, which holds the so-called balance of terror, and the atomic bomb. The world has gone through what could be called a very bad scene over dirty nuclear weapons of a small size, which were in effect the type of atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I raise this point now especially since it has been proven that the technology available to many smaller powers involves the use of so-called peaceful electricity power reactors which can be adapted to the making of nuclear weapons. This has happened already in India, and there is some likelihood of it happening in other parts of the world. The section of the agreement which worries the Australian Democrats is that which states:
Recognising that any safeguard agreements between Australia and EURATOM-
The European Atomic Energy Community- will, when concluded, supersede the provisions where appropriate of any safeguards agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom.
The Australian Democrats find that to be a source of concern far beyond that of the actual export of uranium. The point of the matter is that EURATOM has a very bad record in this respect. I am referring to what is popularly known as the Plumbat affair. Honourable senators may be aware that more than a decade ago a small freighter called the Plumbat disappeared on the high seas. She was carrying a cargo of uranium oxide- yellow cake- which was theoretically to have been taken to Italy where it was to be processed for certain peaceful purposes. In fact, she did not go to Italy. The ship and its crew disappeared. The ship was renamed and sold. Her background has been thoroughly obscured. Nine years later, as a result of the findings of a security service of one of the Scandinavian countries, the Plumbat affair became public knowledge and was highly publicised. It was then revealed not only that the security precautions which EURATOM had taken over this matter had been woefully inadequate but also that EURATOM had concealed the fact that it had blundered. This was information concealed for nine years, until it was found out by somebody else.
There is some evidence that that material went to Israel. There is also some evidence- I believe that it is well enough authenticated- that it was there made into nuclear devices, in secret. There is certainly very little doubt that the Israeli secret service was involved in the Plumbat affair and that the purchaser of that uranium was the Israeli Government. I am convinced that, commodities being what they are and money being what it is, the Plumbat affair represents only one of a number of occasions on which uranium has disappeared. There is now to be considered the publicity so far concerning the construction of the so-called Islamic bomb. As a major supplier of uranium, Australia should study this matter.
I am sure honourable senators would be aware that it has been highly publicised that a nuclear weapon is being constructed in Pakistan. Again, it is an A-bomb- a dirty, fall-out prone Abomb which will be available to the Islamic world at large. It will be built, as was the Indian device, through the use of power reactors designed for so-called peaceful uses. It is regrettable that these machines, so useful as they are in some respects, have so many problems associated with them. I suggest that this is one of the worst problems, and one which must be considered by nations which sell uranium. In spite of denials by the Pakistani Prime Minister, intelligence reports from India strongly suggest that the bomb is under construction and will be tested soon. India has said publicly that it will need a bomb of its own if this happens. This has been confirmed to me in a recent conversation with a senior Indian diplomat.
There is no doubt but that we are on the road to proliferation and manufacture not of weapons which are the so-called balance of terror- the hydrogen bomb which I hope will never be used because of its dreadful impact- but of small, nasty, dirty A-bombs which, if they are used in any quantity even in a limited local war, will contaminate this planet with nuclear fall-out to an extent to which it has never been contaminated before. Those are facts that cannot be denied. I have wondered whether the Government has thought whether it should not look more carefully at EURATOM. Is EURATOM really organised to conduct this sort of safety check on the movement of uranium oxide, plutonium and all the other substances with which it will be concerned? I believe it is not. I believe the record shows that it is not.
There is the old saying: ‘Once bitten, twice shy’. That makes it necessary for Australia to consider whether or not there should be an overall agreement with EURATOM. At least if we have agreements with individual countries, those countries are responsible for what they do. Once an agreement is laundered through another organisation it will go into somebody’s ‘too hard’ drawer; there will be the shuffling off and failure to take responsibility that was evident in the Plumbat affair. All honourable senators know that that is how human nature works. It will happen again. How does the Government propose to supervise safety measures in the export of yellow cake? On a long ocean journey, do we propose that this uranium oxide merely be carried on an unarmed, unsupervised merchant ship? If that is what is proposed, possibly Australia should consider getting itself a navy big enough to do this job. I cannot see much likelihood of that.
The proposal is full of holes. This document is a pious hope, like other agreements of its kind. It has never been more than that. It does not recognise the fact that there is a tremendous amount of money in countries such as Libya and Iran. These people want nuclear weapons; they have said that they want nuclear weapons. Colonel Gaddafi has gone on record as saying that he is prepared to pay unlimited amounts of money for illicit plutonium. If we, and the Government, are so naive as not to believe that Australia is going to play its part in this dismal affair and lead the world into this endless proliferation of dirty, small atomic weapons, then I suggest that we are all a great deal more naive than we should be.
Finally, there is one other matter that I wish to mention because it has caused a great deal of comment from the public but it has had no explanation in this Parliament. I refer to the safety of reactors actually built in societies to whom Australia supplies uranium oxide. The classic example is that of the Philippines. I have made the point in three questions that I have asked in this place that the Philippines reactor is dangerous as it has been built in an earthquake zone. It is being built with poor concrete. It is being built in a place where the prevailing winds, in the case of an accident, would take the fall-out directly on to the city of Manila. It is being built in a country which is virtually a dictatorship. The people, the Filipinos, have no choice as to whether or not they have this dangerous menace visited on them. In all conscience should we go on playing the Judas? Some people say that we have no responsibility, others say that perhaps it is a responsibility or that we should try to exercise responsibility so that these countries cannot divert our uranium to make nuclear weapons. But what the Government has said is: ‘We do not give a damn whether they poison their own people with what we give them and pollute their environments forever’. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I would like to say a few words on this too.
– I move:
I regret that the honourable senator did not get an opportunity to speak, but I must observe the formalities. If there were a device to help him, I would be happy to do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the text of a statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) on defence policy.
– On behalf of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) and for the information of honourable senators I present the text of a statement by the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) in response to the Commonwealth/States Collaborative Soil Conservation Study Report.
– On behalf of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) and for the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Department of the Special Trade Representative for the year ended 30 June 1979.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the text of a statement by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) on the Crawford Report.
– by leave- I present a statement relating to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Lusaka and the final communique of the meeting. I seek leave to have the text of the statement incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
There can be no legitimate doubt in anyone’s mind that this was a critical conference in the history of the Commonwealth. The way things turned out should not cause us to forget that. Before the event responsible and reasonable people were expressing serious concern as to whether the Commonwealth would survive the conference. There was talk of a break-up. This was not altogether idle talk. Had the conference gone badly, the institution would have been seriously maimed and could have been destroyed. As it happened the conference did not go badly, it went extremely well, and far from breaking up, the Commonwealth has emerged a stronger, more vital and more cohesive body.
No one who has followed events in Lusakaand certainly no-one who was present there- can doubt that the Commonwealth is an institution which has relevance, and a distinctive function to perform, in the contemporary world.
It has sometimes been asserted and even oftener been implied that this is a romantic and exaggerated view, that the Commonwealth is merely the ghost of a vanished empire, a talkingshop, a dealer in myths and illusions. I believe it is now clear that it is those who hold this view who are the real romantics- pessimistic romantics who refuse to come to terms with a changing world and the changing forms of influence and power.
The old Commonwealth could never have achieved what was achieved at Lusaka. For at this conference, the Commonwealth took on one of the most serious and sensitive issues in international affairs today, an issue which has resisted prolonged efforts made by major powers, acting alone, to find a solution.
In a matter of days, real and substantial progress was made. It seems perverse, therefore, to persist in the defeatist and negative view that this institution does not have the potential for a continuing valuable and constructive role in world affairs.
The issue I refer to is, of course, the future of Zimbabwe. As anticipated, this issue was inevitably the central preoccupation of the conference. It was approached with a minimum of polemics, and with a determination to find a fair settlement acceptable to all parties.
In his response to President Kaunda’s opening speech the Prime Minister appealed, as he has done on previous occasions, for a spirit of principled moderation and compromise which would make it possible to bridge different positions. In the event that spirit turned out to be the distinguishing mark of the conference. It was the spirit of Lusaka.
That it was so was due, in particular, to the attitude of three of the participants: the host President Kaunda; President Nyerere of Tanzania; and the British Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my personal admiration for the courage and vision of these three leaders. In a situation where there were pressures on each to be intransigent, to ask others to yield while remaining inflexible themselves, all three rejected that path and chose the one leading to genuine accommodation. It is greatly to their credit and represented statesmanship of a high order.
The British Prime Minister, for her part, reaffirmed the unqualified commitment of her Government to the goal of genuine black majority rule in Rhodesia. Much more importantly, in her speech of 3 August, she recognised the validity of the criticisms made of the present constitution, of the blocking powers enjoyed by the white minority, and of the power vested in the various Service Commissions, which together make it impossible for the Government of Bishop Muzorewa to have adequate control over the country’s affairs.
So long as these criticisms could be made of the Constitution one could not assert that genuine black majority rule exists in Rhodesia. Such powers, which have not been included in any constitution resulting from a legal transference of power by Britain, deny Government powers which are fundamental to a democracy- or indeed to any responsible Government. A Government which cannot control appointments in key areas, or the activities of its armed forces, is not master of its own house.
Mrs Thatcher also accepted the responsibility of the British Government to bring the country to legal independence on a basis which the Commonwealth and the international community as a whole will find acceptable. She undertook to present proposals as quickly as possible to all the parties.
The leaders of the front line states showed an equally admirable willingness to approach the issue constructively. In his speech on the Zimbabwe debate, President Nyerere recognised that an advance had been made in recent months.
While rejecting the validity of existing constitutional arrangements which allow a white minority to control the levers of power, he accepted that a democratic constitution was not incompatible with special provisions for the white minority in the form of reserved seats ‘even out of proportion to the numbers involved’. He recognised that a cease-fire was a precondition for free and fair elections.
Beyond this, President Kaunda and President Nyerere showed a restraint and patience, and a confidence in the British Government which were an essential element in creating the trust necessary for agreement and progress. They were not in the business of confrontation and point-scoring.
Let me say something about the part Australia played in the negotiation of the Zimbabwe issue. In the period leading up to the conference and during it, we had extensive contacts- both directly and by letter- with the principal parties. Shortly before the conference the Prime Minister had talks with Mrs Thatcher here in Canberra, and immediately before going to Lusaka he visited Nigeria- a key African state- to talk with General Obasanio, the leader of the Federal military government.
The Foreign Minister had separate talks with the British and with representatives of the Muzorewa Government and subsequently with leaders of the Tanzanian and Kenyan Governments.
During the conference of course, we had extensive discussions with all the parties present and the Patriotic Front.
In all these talks we expressed the view that, whatever else, the April elections had broken a log-jam and created conditions for movement. We maintained that further constitutional changes in the direction of greater Africanisation were essential.
We emphasised that a precondition for a successful settlement was that it should be acceptable to a significant number of African states. We stressed the need to bring the war to an end.
The invitation to give the first response to President Kaunda ‘s opening address gave the Prime Minister the opportunity to put Australia’s views to the conference very early. He stressed the need to bear in mind the positive elements of agreement which existed among those present, the fact that they essentially agreed on ends and differed only on means.
He stressed also that recent events had created an opportunity for advance by introducing a new element of flexibility and movement. And, as I have said, he made as strong a plea as he could for moderation and compromise.
During the weekend of 4-5 August, and following the opening of the debate on the Rhodesia issue on Friday, 3 August, a small consulting group of six Heads of Government was set up to try to reach an agreement.
Australia was a member of that group. The group reached agreement and drew up a communique on Southern Africa, which was subsequently accepted by other Heads of Government. The communique made nine points: The Heads of Government: confirmed that they were wholly committed to genuine black majority rule for the people of Zimbabwe; recognised, in this context, that the internal settlement constitution is defective in certain important aspects; fully accepted that it is the Constitutional responsibility of the British Government to grant legal independence to Zimbabwe on the basis of majority rule; recognised that the search for a lasting settlement must involve all parties to the conflict; were deeply conscious of the urgent need to achieve such a settlement and bring peace to the people of Zimbabwe and their neighbours; accepted that independence on the basis of majority rule requires the adoption of a democratic constitution including appropriate safeguards for minorities; acknowledged that the government formed under such an independence constitution must be chosen through free and fair elections, properly supervised under British Government authority, and with Commonwealth observers; welcomed the British Government’s indication that an appropriate procedure for advancing towards these objectives would be for them to call a Constitutional conference to which all parties would be invited; and consequently, accepted that it must be a major objective to bring about a cessation of hostilities, and an end to sanctions as part of the process of implementation of a lasting settlement.
These nine points do not amount to a settlement of the Zimbabwe situation. Neither the Muzorewa government nor the Patriotic FrontZANU and ZAPU- were parties to the discussion, and a settlement will require their agreement.
Much hard work and delicate negotiating remains to be done. But the significance of what has been achieved is enormous. To appreciate this it is necessary to contemplate what the position would now be, had there been a failure to reach agreement. Both Southern Africa and the Commonwealth would be facing bleak prospects. The momentum for change would have been lost.
As it is, a very formidable and diverse body of opinion has been mobilised and unified, in favour of a particular process of settlement. Given its nature, that body of opinion will require a serious response both from Salisbury and from the Patriotic Front.
Before the conference, the opinion prevailed in each of these centres that time was on their side, that they could afford to wait and to resist change. It will be difficult for them to maintain that view now. It is very important that, for the first time in many years the initiative has been seized by the forces of moderation and peaceful settlement, and that has been done within the framework of the Commonwealth, that often derided institution which continues to confound its critics by proving its relevance.
The settlement process that is envisaged can bring peace and allow Zimbabwe to take its place in the community of nations. It allows for genuine majority rule, for a return to legality, for protection of the white minority, and for the ending of war and sanctions. If achieved, it will be acceptable to leading African states, it will remove a festering sore which has threatened to infect Southern Africa with both the poison of racial war and great power conflict.
There is no guarantee that these things will happen, that the process will succeed. But I believe that there are reasonable prospects for success. I believe this for two reasons, first because the terms of settlement it envisages are essentially right in themselves in that they are based on the principles that the people of Zimbabweall the people- have the right to chose who shall govern them, and that the government so elected should have real control over the affairs of the country. Secondly, I believe the chances of success are good because such a settlement is in the rational self interest of the parties concerned. It is the only way in which the suffering and bloodshed endured by the people of Zimbabwe can be ended.
If the settlement does not succeed, the prospect is for an intensification of the war, a greater resort to Communist arms, and greater turmoil for the whole of Southern Africa.
As far as the white community of that country is concerned, it can hope for a stable and peaceful existence, only as part of a genuine multiracial society. Continuing warfare will lead to its disintegration and exodus. The Patriotic Front can only hope to participate in the governing of the country on the basis of such a settlement.
The Front-line states have an interest in ending the state of war which forces them to accept sacrifices and threatens to involve them directly in other people’s conflicts. Britain has an interest in ending a situation which has perhaps caused it more international embarrassment than any other over the last decade.
The international community at large can only benefit from removing a potential source of conflagration and great power rivalry. Australia, as a member of the international community shares this concern for peace and stability in Southern Africa, and, as a member of the Commonwealth, we have a concern with preserving its integrity, and with the Commonwealth proving itself as a constructive and relevant institution.
The Lusaka conference has set a process in train. What other international body could have achieved this? It is our sincere hope that the process is continued to a successful conclusion.
If the Rhodesia issue occupied the centre of the stage at the conference, it certainly did not monopolise attention. A good deal else was done besides, and for the information of honourable senators, I table the final communique.
One of the major initiatives was in the economic field, where Australia proposed a Commonwealth group of experts to make a comprehensive study of factors restraining growth. We put the proposal forward in the context of the historic changes that have moulded the world ‘s economy over the past few decades.
In the quarter century after the Second World War the world experienced a period of unprecedented economic growth. The Great Depression, followed by the war, had created a huge pent-up demand for consumer goods. That, together with the Marshall Plan, the widespread adoption of Keynesian policies and the rapid introduction of new technology, led to a sustained upsurge in economic growth and real income in the developing countries as well as in the industrialised world.
In those years, the material conditions of the mass of people in Western societies was transformed. But the very success of that process meant that by the mid-1960s conditions were changing and by the early 1 970s the consumer boom was clearly running down.
At the same time, there emerged increasing impediments to enterprise and investment. High inflation was becoming built into the major economies; further moves to protection were building greater restraints to trade. Governments conditioned to believing that Keynesian policies were the answer to all problems stubbornly continued to pursue those policies, despite the onset of inflation, encouraged by electorates increasingly accustomed to believing that governments could provide for all needs.
The extraordinary growth of the period came to be taken for granted. Increasingly, unrealistic demands were made on world economies, particularly by trade union movements which came to exercise unprecedented power, and it became fashionable to decry growth and to place impediments in its path.
An increasingly formidable system of statutory road blocks were placed in the way of development and investment. Very demanding environmental laws, harsh trade practices legislation, prices justification regulations, and the development and investment policies pursued by many countries have acted as impediments to economic growth. Many investment opportunities which had been highly attractive twenty years ago now became uneconomic.
The result of all this is that in recent years the growth in world trade has fallen to half of what it was in previous decades, from eight per cent to four per cent. A further constraint to growth is slow rates of development in a number of developing countries.
Australia’s experience with the newly industrialising countries has shown us that as soon as they take-off economically, trade both ways grows very rapidly. During the 1970s however, instead of accepting the challenge and opportunity of greater trade with newly industrialising countries, many major developed nations became fearful and turned to greater protectionism.
We see examples of this in the $25 billion spent by Western industrial countries on wage and export subsidies, the use of voluntary restraint agreements and the contemplation of selective safeguards. This is not only selfish and wrong, but foolish and short sighted economics, for the growth of markets in developing countries could well be one of the keys to reducing the rate of unemployment being experienced by Western developed nations in the last quarter of the twentieth century.
It is clear that the conditions which generated and fuelled the great surge of growth in the last quarter century have now largely disappeared, and recent assessments by international organisations for the medium term outlook are for a continuation of slow growth or even a further deterioration in growth prospects.
At Lusaka, Heads of Government recognised that a continuation of slow growth in the global economy would further damage the prospects of increasing living standards in both developed and developing countries, and could have adverse effects in their political and social structures.
They agreed that there would be considerable advantage in a study by independent Commonwealth experts that focusses on the constraints to economic growth and structural change in developed and developing nations, and identifies specific measures necessary to reduce these constraints.
The group is to report in time to assist Commonwealth governments in their preparation for the special session of the UN General Assembly in 1980, and the Government has indicated to the Commonwealth Secretary-General that a prominent Australian academic economist is expected to be available to serve on the group.
I believe that Australia has already set an example in some areas of the way that constraints on growth can be broken down. We have reduced inflation, and we will maintain our strong anti-inflationary policy. We have increased company profitability, improved Australia’s competitive position, and strengthened the dollar. Under our foreign investment policy administered by the Foreign Investment Review Board, last year’s private foreign investment was the highest since 1971-72, and in the June quarter, $1.4 billion prospective expenditure was approved.
All these help to reduce the impediments to our national development, but there are many other barriers to growth within the global economy. I hope that the report will address itself to these constraints and recommend practical policies that can be pursued in order to promote growth of the world economy.
The discussion of the Australian economic initiative again made it clear Heads of Government realised that in confronting the problems we face, we need a fusion of realism, imagination and boldness, and a willingness to listen and understand one another.
The eyes of the world were on the Commonwealth at Lusaka. It faced a harsh test. It passed that test and in doing so proved that it has the capacity to make a major contribution in international affairs through the rest of this century.
One of the results of what happened in Lusaka is that the members of the Commonwealth will share a new confidence and assurance of what we can collectively achieve, and I am sure that Australians will warmly welcome the fact that the next Commonwealth Heads of Government conference will be held in this country.
– I move:
I wish to speak briefly on this matter. I think that this is an important matter. I do not know whether many members of this Parliament or of the Australian public think that it is an important matter when we are discussing other vexed questions such as income tax and the price of petrol, but I submit to you, Mr Deputy President, that this is a matter of greater importance than any other issue that has been brought to the attention of the Parliament during the past 12 months. I do no wish to speak for long and I do not wish to go through the statement from the Lusaka conference sentence by sentence or even paragraph by paragraph. I just wish to make some general observations on what was the most significant part of the discussions which took place in Lusaka among the Commonwealth Heads of Government and their representatives. That was the discussion which took place regarding the future of what was formerly known as Rhodesia, then as Zimbabwe-Rhodesia and now, apparently as a result of a decision by Bishop Muzorewa, as Zimbabwe.
It is a very difficult question to debate in the general climate of discussion that takes place in Australia. It is one of those issues where one usually is described as being a supporter of one extreme partisan group or another. If one tries to debate this issue in a manner sympathetic to the present situation in Zimbabwe one can find oneself described as being some sort of white supremacist, a supporter of Smith, a supporter of apartheid or a supporter of colonialism. By a corollary, if one wishes to oppose racism, colonialism, imperialism and all those other evils about which one hears so much apparently in the minds of some, one is obliged to declare oneself a supporter of the so-called Patriotic Front and the front line States and to condemn what has happened over recent months within Zimbabwe. I do not think that this is sensible or helpful or anything but a thoroughly dangerous way of examining this situation.
There cannot be any doubt that what has occurred in Zimbabwe is in many ways the natural consequence of whatever happens when a small minority of people attempt to impose their will on the great mass of the country of which they have become the occupiers. I do not think, as we look back now on the colonial expansion of the nineteenth century, that anybody could have had any doubt that in due course a conflict- very frequently a bloody conflict- would be the consequence of the colonialisation of Africa, Asia and Latin America by European powers. I do not think there is any doubt that if we could turn back the clock we would probably say that it would have been a far, far better thing if Cecil Rhodes and those people from the British colonies in southern Africa had never moved into what they constituted as Rhodesia. I would not dispute that. But the fact is that they did go there and they did establish a colony which subsequently acquired some sort of independence. Ever since they did that efforts have been made by the black majority of that country to obtain independence. This desire of the African people for independence was resisted- for the most part, foolishly- by the white settlers within that country, culminating in what happened in 1965 when the Government of Mr Smith, the Rhodesia Front Government of what was then
Southern Rhodesia, made its so-called unilateral declaration of independence and subsequently established the Republic of Rhodesia.
The course which that Government followed within that country could not be described fairly as anything other than the policies of a racist government. The practices were racist. There was discrimination against the great mass of the people of what was then Rhodesia. That was bad. That was to be deplored. In fact Mr Smith and those people who constituted his Government acted unlawfully in their unilateral declaration of independence. Most members- I suppose even those who take the least interest in what has occurred- are aware of what has happened subsequently and that there were illegal activities by various black nationalist groups. Some months ago an agreement was made between the then Government of Rhodesia and the representatives of a very substantial group of African nationalists. The Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole, who for many years had been a conspicuous leader of the African nationalist movement, and Bishop Muzorewa, who had performed a similar role, agreed with Mr Smith and his Government to establish a new constitution under which elections were held. As I said earlier, I do not intend to labour all the details of that constitution or all the details of the events which followed that constitution. But it is an incontrovertible fact that elections took place and that whatever imperfections there may have been in that electoral process and in those elections, the majority of the people of Zimbabwe voted in those elections in reasonably fair circumstances. A government was constituted which does not have a white Prime Minister but has a black Prime Minister. It has not only a black Prime Minister but also a black nationalist Prime Minister in Bishop Muzorewa, a man with a long record of advocacy and activity on behalf of equality for the black people of that country.
This has proved unacceptable to certain black nationalist organisations from Zimbabwe. It has proved unacceptable to the great majority, if not all, of the independent black African countries. Certainly, it would seem, it has been unacceptable to the majority of the member countries of the Commonwealth. The Conference has taken place and it led to the production of the report which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) presented this afternoon. If I may express my own opinion- I do not claim to be speaking on behalf of anybody else- I believe that this is one of the most shocking, deplorable actions which has been taken by Western countries in the past decades. Not only is that the case; I also believe that the steps which were taken there are going to go down into history as having the same historical significance as what happened at Munich in 1938 at the time of the agreement -
– Rubbish, John!
- Senator Evans disagrees with me. He is entitled to do so.
– So do I.
-Senator Georges disagrees with me also. So, indeed, might the enure Senate. That is too bad. I intend to express my view on this matter whether the entire Senate or any other people disagree with me. I believe that the consequences of the decisions in Lusaka will be very similar to the consequences of what happened in Munich. Over the years people have made a habit of talking about an issue being another Munich or another act of appeasement. Generally I have not agreed with them. This, 1 believe, has all the characteristics of what happened in Munich. What did happen in Munich? Allegations were made that the Government of Czechoslovakia was improperly treating its German minority. It was; not savagely, in the way in which the German Reich treated minorities or, for that matter, even its own citizens. But there cannot be any question that it was a very unsatisfactory state of affairs that many Germans, a large number of them, were incorporated, very largely against their will, within the Republic of Czechoslovakia.
Starting off with that premise, the unscrupulous, brutal leaders of Germany at that time, Hitler and the Nazis, took advantage of the situation. They took advantage of the well meaning dithering and cowardice of certain Western leaders and set out upon the destruction of Czechoslovakia. The attitude which Chamberlain and, to a lesser extent, Daladier and other Western leaders took at that time was, first of all, that there was some justice in the case; that there were imperfections within Czechoslovakia; that the Treaty of Versailles had not been correct in incorporating German inhabitants, predominantly of Sudetenland, within Czechoslovakia; and, more than that, that this was a way of obtaining peace, that sacrificing this small country- I think the words, if I may paraphrase them, of Mr Chamberlain at that time were: ‘A little country a long way away which few of us know anything about’somehow or another would mean an end of the designs of Nazi Germany. It turned out that that was not the case. In fact the concessions which were made in allowing Czechoslovakia to be dismantled and destroyed made it easier for the Nazis to extend their influence. They made it easier for the Nazis to start the Second World War, with great advantages.
– Who are your Zimbabwe Nazis? Is Nkomo one?
– I will come to them in due course. Senator Evans need not worry; if he wants me to take my time on this matter I am quite prepared to do so. Senator Evans has asked me who are my Zimbabwe Nazis. He asked whether Nkomo was one. No, I do not think Nkomo is a Nazi, but I do think- I hope that this will not provoke Senator Evans ‘ irritation- that the role which is being played by other Germans, this time from the so-called German Democratic Republic, within Africa and in other parts of the world, does have certain characteristics in common with those roles which the Nazis played in 1938. What these Germans, and Cubans, are doing with the co-operation of the Soviet Union within Africa is not fundamentally different from what the Nazis were doing. They are acting militarily to extend the influence of the Soviet Union by the brutal use of armed force, as has been clearly evidenced in, for example, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
We are finding on the part of the Western countries an abnegation of responsibility and a total silence on this issue. One can well imagine what would be the case if Western armed forces were performing the same role in Africa as the armed forces of East Germany and Cuba are performing there at present. One remembers the hullabaloo which took place only recently when a small number of French troops were used in Zaire. Only a small number was involved, but there was public debate within France and throughout the rest of the world to the extent that those troops have now been withdrawn. Almost no debate has taken place over the presence of the Cuban and East German troops in Africa. In fact, they have been given virtually a free rein there.
– That is not what the statement says.
-I know; it is what I say. If Senator Georges believes that because Mr Fraser has made a statement it must be true, that is his opinion. I beg to differ with Mr Fraser, although I admire Senator Georges’ loyalty to his Prime Minister.
– You have very substantial evidence on your side, senator.
– I have very substantial evidence on my side, I would say. I propose to deal now with a few other matters.
- Senator, are you worried by the reservation of powers to a minority in Zimbabwe?
– No, indeed. I am glad that Senator Baume raised that question. I am in favour of the reservation of powers to a minority, not because I believe that if we were starting off in 1896 and constructing a new nation in Zimbabwe we would send out 200,000 Englishmen and say that they were to have some sort of veto right, however limited, within a constitution, but because I believe that if we have a situation in which there is a substantial number of people- although it is a small number it is a substantial number of people- who have all sorts of fears about their future, it is only fair and reasonable to expect that certain powers and certain guarantees will be given to them. If those people were not given those guarantees, whatever one might think of the morality of the matter, we would never have got any agreement.
The fact is clear- I believe it should be clear to anybody- that if it had not been for the reservation of some powers to the white electors within Zimbabwe there would have been no agreement at all. Mr Smith would still be the Prime Minister of Rhodesia and I believe that he could still well have been the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe for another 10 years. The only reason that Bishop Muzorewa was able to become the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe was that there was an agreement whereby the white population of Rhodesia- a group with which I have never had any identification; nor have I expressed any great admiration for it; nor indeed have I spoken of it in the past in this place, I would have thought, in other than condemnatory terms- agreed, for the sake of peace, to enter into a constitutional arrangement whereby it forfeited majority rule to the black population but retained certain powers for the time being under a constitution which was subject to amendment.
I think it is quite immoral for Mrs Thatcher or Mr Fraser or anybody else to call now on Bishop Muzorewa to repudiate an agreement which he made. If it had not been for that agreement he would not be in his present position. They are asking him to do a dishonourable thing. I think it is quite hypocritical of the British Governmentthis so-called ‘Iron Lady’, Mrs Thatcher, who now emerges as a corrugated iron lady- to call on Muzorewa to breach a solemn undertaking which was given at the time when he and Sithole and Smith and the others entered into the internal settlement which led to the present constitution.
- Senator, do you see any possibility of a white military backlash if that agreement is revoked?
– It is possible that there could be; I do not know. But I am not concerned about a white military backlash, although if there were one it certainly would be very serious. What I am concerned about is the approach which Western countries have adopted towards what has happened in Zimbabwe. I would defy any honourable senator- that includes Senator Evans- to produce the constitution of any country in the whole of Africa which is more democratic than the constitution of Zimbabwe. I would defy any honourable senator, Mrs Thatcher, Mr Fraser, the Leader of the Government in the Senate or anybody else to tell us about any elections which have been held in the whole of Africa which were more democratic than those which were held several months ago within Zimbabwe.
– So what, senator?
-Senator Evans asks: So what?’ I suppose that that is a fair enough question. It would seem to me that if one of the purposes of what we describe as the Western system of government is to sponsor democracy, then at least one of those factors which should be considered when one is examining the future of some country is how democratic that country is. Senator Webster, I am sorry. I have confused them.
– You will have to apologise for that. You do not need to worry about the rest.
– I beg Senator Webster’s pardon. As Senator Evans is saying ‘so what?’, and indeed I suppose a number of people are saying ‘so what?’ the question is: What difference does it make whether a country is democratic or not? I presume that is the question.
– No, it is not. The question is that we are debating Rhodesia, we are not debating those other countries.
-Oh, indeed. That is precisely the point. I am very grateful to Senator Evans for introducing that point. It was because Chamberlain and Daladier were debating only Czechoslovakia in 1938, and not looking at the totality of what was happening in Europe, that they finished up in the mess that they were in in 1939. If they had been looking not only at Czechoslovakia, if they had not been looking only at the question of the Sudeten Germans and the imperfections of the Czechoslovak Constitution, but had also been looking at the whole situation of Europe and what would be the consequence of the destruction of Czechoslovakia, they would not have created for themselves the problems which subsequently followed. I believe that, contrary to what Senator Evans has said, if you are talking about what is happening in Zimbabwe, you do have to look at the whole of Africa. As I understand it, there are two objections to what has happened in Zimbabwe. First of all, there was the illegal unilateral declaration of independence by Smith. It was illegal.
– I am delighted you have got on to that, because you seem to have totally forgotten everything else that happened.
-No. I am sorry, senator, I have not forgotten it.
– Because that makes it a very special case.
– Indeed , yes, it is a very special case, and it is going to be remembered as a very special case for a long time into the future. It was illegally constituted. But the British Government forfeited all right to intervene in the affairs of Zimbabwe when no military action was taken in 1965, when an act of rebellion was entered into by the government of what was then Rhodesia. At the same time there was also a disturbance in Anguila, a small island in the West Indies, and the British Government had no hesitation then in sending armed forces into Anguila in order to take action there. But nothing was done within Rhodesia. I think it is much too late, after 14 years, to talk about the legal rights of the Crown in Rhodesia- much too late indeed. But even if one does pay some cognisance to those legal rights of the Crown, they are not the only issues involved. Surely the whole debate that has been going on throughout the world about what has happened in Rhodesia is not an argument about the rights of the Crown and the powers of the Parliament of Southern Rhodesia as constituted in 1 965.
Is that what people have been out demonstrating in the streets all around the world for? Is that what was agitating the mind of Mr Andrew Young, some act of lese-majeste against the Queen of England? Of course it was not. The accusation that was made against what was happening in Rhodesia or Zimbabwe during that period was that that was an undemocratic country. And that was right. It was an undemocratic country. That is why I was opposed to the Smith regime. That is why I believed that action ought to be taken against the Smith regime. That is why I believe all of us in this Parliament, at least officially, were in favour of the continued imposition of sanctions against Rhodesia during that period. But the situation has changed. Nowhere during the course of the matter we are now interested in- legalitiesnowhere during the course of that conference which took place in Lusaka was there any discussion of the Tanzanian invasion of Uganda. If Senator Evans is interested in legality, what does Senator Evans say about that?
– Fair comment. Fully justified. That is what I would say.
– Are we to be told that an action that was taken by the Smith Government in Rhodesia in breach, it would seem, of the law, is somehow more important than the invasion of one country by its neighbour, two members of the Commonwealth?
– But Uganda invaded Tanzania in the first place.
– Indeed. Senator Georges says Uganda invaded Tanzania in the first place, but the Ugandan invasion of Tanzania was not brought up at the Lusaka conference either. If Senator Georges wishes to argue that it was Uganda which invaded Tanzania and not Tanzania which invaded Uganda, I do not want to get into an argument with him. The fact of the matter is that neither matter was brought up at the Lusaka conference. Clearly somebody invaded somebody else. Both of them were members of the Commonwealth, and whoever did the invading, nobody thought it was of sufficient importance to discuss at the conference at Lusaka.
I was glad to see Idi Amin go. We all welcomed that. I am sure that even a Tanzanian occupation would be preferable to what was going on under Idi Amin. But the fact remains that there was an invasion of one Commonwealth country by another Commonwealth country. If anything would be illegal, I would have thought that that would have been illegal. But that was not mentioned at the Lusaka conference. Indeed, there is no mention of it in the statement. One might have thought that when you are only a few hundred miles away from Uganda and you have travelled from all around the world- you have even got Mr Eggleton there, with his expert knowledge of the Commonwealth, and in case someone had forgotten it I am sure it would have sprung into his mind- somebody during the course of the proceedings might have raised the matter and said something along these lines: Well, this is a superior law society or Bar Council that is meeting here today. We are dealing with legal problems, and I hope I will not be regarded as a quibbling or as a pettifogging probate lawyer, but how about the Tanzanian troops in Uganda?’ But no, not one word.
Why was there no word about that? It was because they were not interested in legalities. To suggest that this was some sort of legal conference, the friends of the constitution or something or other, with the greatest respect to Senator Evans, is palpable nonsense. The conference took place because the so-called Third World and the Soviet bloc have committed themselves to an extension of their influence in Africa, and the destruction of the government of Bishop Muzorewa would be one means of furthering those ends.
It is very interesting indeed to notice that one of the other front runners in the stakes of national liberation, the People’s Republic of China, has so far been studiously silent on this issue; studiously silent. Not one word has come from the foreign ministry of China about the appalling goings on of Bishop Muzorewa or about the valiant front line states and the heroic patriotic front. I would make a suggestion to you as to why the People’s Republic of China has remained silent about this, and that is because it is more clearly able to foresee the international implications of what is happening there than the Iron Lady of Downing Street, Mr Fraser and Mr Eggleton.
– They are still sending plenty of arms, though.
– Yes, of course they are sending arms. Everybody sends arms these days. That is nothing.
– But that does not say that it is right.
-As Senator O’Byrne says, that does not say it is right. What emerges from this conference is very depressing indeed. First of all, in dealing with an issue which is supposed to be related to the fundamental rights of democracy, we find that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), visits the military dictator of Nigeria, apparently in order to obtain his approval. He is the leader of the government which has been responsible for some of the most horrendous -
– He was the leaden I take it the honourable senator has not overlooked the Nigerian constitutional election?
-No, I have not. No, indeed. Senator Puplick apparently places more reliance on those elections than he would on the elections in Zimbabwe. Yes indeed, there have been elections in Nigeria. I have noticed them. I have also noticed that there is to be a stay of proceedings before the elected officials actually take office. I had noted the elections, but at the time that Mr Fraser visited them in order to obtain his advice and counsel and inspiration on democratic questions, he was still the military dictator; a man who, along with others, was responsible for some of the most horrendous genocide which has been seen on this planet. He is the man whose good offices apparently were needed in order to hold the Commonwealth together. Apparently it is a goal of ours to see that the Commonwealth sticks together like a bucketful of adhesive tape. This same military dictator of Nigeria was so keenly interested in the Commonwealth and what took place at Lusaka that he did not attend himself but sent a junior official to represent him. That is the man whose advice was needed on how the Commonwealth ought to be managed. He did not turn up himself and was represented by a relatively junior functionary.
– By his Foreign Minister.
-By his Foreign Minister. That is far from being a head of government. I think Senator Puplick would be aware that being Foreign Minister in Nigeria is at best a temporary appointment. One would not imagine for one moment that the Foreign Minister of Nigeria would be acting very much on his own behalf or giving too many off-the-cuff answers to questions that may arise. But I do not want to get involved in argument about the Foreign Minister of Nigeria or his future. There has been a substantial abandonment of principle by Australia, Great Britain and the other countries which took part in the Lusaka conference. There has been a substantial abandonment of principle on this question by the United States of America. It is indeed true that racism is evil. It is indeed true that the record of the Smith Government is a bad record. It is indeed true that majority rule ought to be introduced in all countriesthroughout Africa and elsewhere- and not just in Zimbabwe. At the same time, there are other principles for which I would have thought Western countries were supposed to stand.
– What difference does it make?
-Senator Evans has asked what difference it makes, but I would have thought that one of the principles we were supposed to be upholding was the principle of democracy. For that reason, when we do find a country in which substantial advances have been made in order to give majority rule to the people of that country, with whatever limitations there may be to protect the rights of a hitherto dominant minority, that in itself should have been a major factor in the considerations of those Western countries which were present at the Commonwealth conference. I think it is quite clear that it was not, that the last thing that was discussed was democracy. The other matter I raise, and this is to make some sort of gloomy prognostication for the future, if I may be permitted to do so–
– Just for a change.
- Senator Evans, you must do better than that.
– It stopped you for a minute.
-It stopped me momentarily, but I can assure Senator Evans I will be able to resume quite quickly.
– To stop you at all was a very substantial achievement.
– Indeed , and I think Senator Evans deserves full marks for it. What is most serious, apart from the serious questions of principle involved in calling on Muzorewa to renege on solemn agreements he entered into and the disregard for democracy within Zimbabwe, is the future that this is likely to bring to the rest of southern Africa. In South Africa the white population is much larger, both in real terms and as a proportion of the population, than the white population of Zimbabwe. The armed forces of South Africa must be amongst the most sophisticated in the world. If there were to be an armed conflagration in southern Africa there cannot be any question but that the white South Africans, in whatever appalling circumstances they may find themselves having to live, would be able to hang out for many years. They would be able to inflict immeasurable damage on their neighbours. I do not think there is any question but that they would be able to inflict substantial defeats on anybody who tackled them. Clear evidence of that was given not so long ago when the relatively small South African armed force that intervened in Angola was able virtually to sweep everything before it when it went into that country.
The only way in which justice and peace will be achieved in South Africa is if there is some sort of consensus between the white populationthe dominant, overwhelmingly powerful white population- and the non-white population. The only way in which those people, such of them as there are, who are prepared to make some concessions in the way of gradually increasing the role of the non-white population in South Africa will make the necessary concessions will be if they are given certain guarantees as to their own security in a South Africa in which there is majority rule. I prefer not to talk of black majority rule. I should have thought that majority rule means majority rule, whatever colour one happens to be. The internal settlement signed by Mr Smith, Bishop Muzorewa and the others goes far beyond what any South African opponent of apartheid with support of any significance whatever among the white South African population would be prepared to concede. It is only a few years since Mrs Helen Suzman, M.P., was in this Parliament as the official guest of the Australian Government, I think probably the only time that a back bench member of parliament has been invited to this country as a guest of the Commonwealth Government.
– She gave the Dyason lecture.
-She gave the Dyason lecture but, more importantly, she was also here as a guest of the Parliament. Many people down the years have praised Mrs Suzman as being an outstanding opponent of apartheid and an outstanding advocate of the rights of non-white people in South Africa. The policy to which she and her party, the Progressive Federal Party, subscribe goes nowhere near as far as the terms of the internal settlement. The policy of the Progressive Federal Party does not provide even for voting rights for all black adult citizens, lt provides for a restricted franchise; it provides for a situation whereby, under its plans for the proposed South African Senate, all the racial groups within South Africa- the blacks, the whites, the coloureds and the Asians- have a power of veto which is much greater than the limited powers that the white minority in Zimbabwe has preserved in the Constitution under which its is now functioning.
At the same time, some limited steps have been taken by more enlightened elements within the South African National Party. Prominent Nationalists such as Dr Koornhof and Dr Marais -one of the leading Afrikaaner capitalists; a back bencher but one of the most prominent thinkers on the Afrikaaner Nationalist side of politics in South Africa- have said that apartheid has to be ended, that racial discrimination at all levels has to be destroyed. But those people, if they see that what Smith has agreed to in Rhodesia is unacceptable not only to black
African countries but also to countries such as Australia, Great Britain and the United States, will not be able to retain the limited advances they have made. They will be at the mercy of the Dr Mulders and the Dr Treurnichts the extreme hard-line right-wing racist group within the South African National Party because people such as Treurnicht and Mulder will now be able to say: ‘It is all nonsense to say that we can move gradually, move rapidly or move at all, for that matter, peacefully in the direction of majority rule in which at least we can feel secure that we will be able to carry on as citizens, if not masters, of this country’. If they see that even what Smith and Muzorewa were able to agree to in Salisbury is unacceptable to the African countries and also to countries such as Australia, Great Britain and the United States, they will say: ‘This is the sort of world in which we live. It is a violent world. It is either everything or nothing. It is either the white man or the black man. Either the white man is exterminated or the black man is exterminated’. That is going to be the consequence. I believe that we have taken a step at Lusaka, through our Government, which will lead towards one of the most monstrous conflagrations the world has ever seen. There are faint hopes. I admit that they are only faint hopes. But there are faint glimmerings of hope that an oppressive system in South Africa could be improved, amended, changed and ultimately transformed by peaceful and democratic means. By saying what we have said at Lusaka about Zimbabwe, we have taken a step which will make this impossible. One hopes that what happens in London will be successful- that somehow or other some agreement will be reached between Bishop Muzorewa and the members of the Zimbabwe Government and the representatives of the Patriotic Front. I doubt it.
– You should do nothing to detract from it.
– I will endeavour not to. But I suggest that one way in which one could assist in not detracting from it, for example, would be to condemn the attitude of Mr Mugabe in saying that armed struggle will continue until the time when the parties go to the conference. I think that anything I might say here or that anybody else might say is nothing compared with the statement made by the leaders of the Patriotic Front, namely, that they are not going to stop fighting while the conference is going on. I cannot imagine anything more -
– What would you expect them to say?
– I would not have expected them to do anything else. That was why I thought the whole idea of having a conference was nonsense. Honourable senators might say: What would you expect them to say?’. That is precisely what I would have expected them to say. That is precisely why I believe that the conference in London is not going to be successful.I do not think that the Government of Zimbabwe will surrender its armed forces to the Patriotic Front. I do not think that we will find a situation there in which the still powerful white minority will surrender those small powers which it still retains.
Our major task in dealing with these issues is to try to avoid these absurdly simple categories to which people have subscribed down through the years; that is, that people are either in favour of the West, which means that they support Smith or Vorster, or they are in favour of liberation, which means they support any liberation movement or any movement that has the word liberation’ in its title, whether it be the Palestine Liberation Organisation or the Irish National Liberation Army. I think that we have to find out precisely what it is that we are trying to do. I would have hoped that what we were trying to do was to remove racism and to preserve and to expand democracy. I do not think that what has been done at Lusaka does either. I think that it accentuates racism by giving support to those who believe that there can be no peaceful agreement and it damages democracy by saying, as Senator Evans has said: ‘What difference does it make if Zimbabwe is more democratic than Nigeria?’ or ‘What difference does it make what happens in Tanzania or Uganda?’. I believe that we have taken a serious and tragic step at the Lusaka conference. I think that those people who feel as I do, that this is an important matter- it may well be that I am the only one who feels this way- should continue to be vigilant on this subject and to see that we are prepared to speak out in favour of democracy as strongly as those who are dedicated to the destruction of democracy are prepared to act towards that end.
- Mr President-
- Mr President-
- Mr President, I think I should receive the call.
- Mr President, the call is given alternatively to honourable senators on opposite sides of the chamber. If the call is given in that way, my instructions are that the debate should be now adjourned.
- Mr President, I put it to you and to the Minister that this is a highly important statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). A speech has been made which does not reflect the views of the Opposition and consequently -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. Surely the honourable senator must seek the leave of the Senate if he is to speak to this matter.
– I am listening to what the honourable senator has to say for the moment.
– I move:
I recognise the point that is made by the Opposition. But, in fact, an Opposition senator has just spoken and if there is to be further debate on the matter the next speaker would be from this side of the House. I have moved that the debate be now adjourned.
- Mr President, I take a point of order. Just to keep things clear, I point out that I do not know whether there are any sides in the debate that is taking place at the moment. I do not think that there are any sides on this matter.
– Order! There is no substance to the point of order.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr President,I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted?
– My statement -
– First of all, there is another motion that must be put.
Motion (by Senator Webster) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
- Mr President, I want to speak to the motion -
– Could the honourable senator indicate the area that he wants to speak upon?
– I want to speak in respect of a policy which concerns the statement and which has not been properly put to the Senate. In respect of the motion, it would seem -
- Senator Bishop, I have to ask you whether you are seeking leave to speak.
- Mr President, I am speaking to the motion. I oppose it because the
Government has put down a very important statement to which you, Mr President, would expect the Opposition to respond in a formal way. That response has not been made in a formal way. The honourable senator who spoke to the earlier motion is opposed to the statement and to the views of the Leader of the Australian Labor Party and the views of the Labor Party.
– Where is that?
-There is no doubt about it. I can easily quote to the honourable senator the speech of Mr Hayden last Thursday night. It appears on pages 580 and 581 of the House of Representatives Hansard. I did not intend to make a vigorous speech but rather to say that the Labor Party ought to be identified as supporting that part of the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) which concerns the proposals to bring all the front line states together. Zimbabwe-Rhodesia is supporting the British Prime Minister and other people in their efforts to see whether peace can be achieved across the conference table rather than by the use of the weapons of war. Last Thursday night- 23 August- our Leader, Mr Hayden, said:
The Prime Minister went to the Lusaka conference with the good wishes of the Opposition. On 7 June 1 pointed out to the House that the Lusaka conference seemed to offer an opportunity for a positive and helpful contribution to be made towards a settlement of the Zimbabwe problem. My statement added, and I quote it for the record:
Therefore, the Prime Minister goes with my good wishes. To the extent that he tries to achieve a settlement of the problem, he goes with my support and with the support of the Opposition.
Mr Hayden went on to say:
It is appropriate to say now that to the extent that the Prime Minister can claim to have -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. Is Senator Bishop speaking to a point of order? I am not quite sure what he is speaking to.
– He is speaking to the motion that the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. Of course, there are restrictions upon that which can be debated in a debate on that motion. I call Senator Bishop.
– I said earlier that I appreciate the lively speech that Senator Wheeldon, my colleague and friend, has made. But I think that the matter is important enough for this observation to be made by an honourable senator on this side of the Senate: The official party policy developed by the Leader of the Party is the one which I have mentioned. Mr Hayden said- I will be as brief as I can- as recorded at page 58 1 of Hansard:
It is appropriate to say now that to the extent that the Prime Minister can claim to have influenced the outcome of the Lusaka discussions, he deserves commendation -
I want to say briefly that in my opinion, looking at the situation practically and even having in mind the historical facts which were mentioned by Senator Wheeldon, the situation has changed so that it has been possible for the Zimbabwe Government and the front line states- the Patriotic Front- to meet collectively with the support of the Commonwealth Heads of Government, including the British Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher, who formerly had been quoted as supporting the Zimbabwe Government. However, as a result of the discussions with all the parties at the Heads of Government meeting, it was decided to call this conference. That is the change that ought to be welcomed by the Australian community. I suggest that the statement put forward by the Prime Minister needs to be discussed by the Senate. Therefore, I oppose the motion for the adjournment of the matter as proposed by the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster).
– The question is that the motion now before the Senate be agreed to.
– No, I wish to speak.
– If the honourable senator is rising to speak on a point I would rather speak before him.
– You are quite right, Senator Georges. You have the right to speak.
– I have the right to speak. The Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) has only one way out. The motion gives me the opportunity to say briefly why it is important that this debate take place. However, there is a substantial report to be presented by three honourable senators who took part in a mission to Africa. We expected that we would debate both the statement on the Lusaka Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and that report within the next fortnight. There is substantial disagreement with what has been said by Senator Wheeldon. It may seem strange that the Opposition should be divided in its attitude. I believe that Senator Wheeldon was carried away by his eloquence and took a position -
– He is on the record.
– I know that he is on the record; he is very much on the record. That is one of the dangers of a person allowing his eloquence to get away with him.
– You may well be aware of being carried away on other occasions, I take it.
– Yes, that is right. I was warned early in the piece that a closed mouth gathers no flies. I have always ignored that sort of advice from Senator Button. He should have directed that advice to Senator Wheeldon. Nevertheless, what has emerged up to this point is the urgency to debate the statement as soon as possible. I hope that the Government will bring this matter on for debate quickly so that Senator Sibraa, Senator Knight, myself and others can enter into the debate and show a considerable measure of opposition to what has been said up to this point.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following Bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment:
Northern Territory Supreme Court (Repeal) Bill 1 979. Judiciary Amendment Bill 1979. Federal Court of Australia Amendment Bill 1979. Judges’ Pensions Amendment Bill 1 979.
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 Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911 to enable certain of the Governor-General’s powers under that Act to be delegated to the Treasurer, or a delegate of the Treasurer, so that new arrangements for marketing Commonwealth securities, as agreed to by the Loan Council, may be introduced later this year. In addition, there are two proposed amendments of a machinery nature to the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911.
Honourable senators will probably be aware of these new marketing arrangements, which were the subject of a press statement issued following the Loan Council meeting on 2 April 1979, and have commonly been referred to as the tap issue of bonds and the issue of Treasury notes by tender. Essentially, these new arrangements are designed to modernise the marketing of Commonwealth securities in a way which is appropriate to the changed funds markets in this country.
Ultimately interest rates can only be determined in accordance with market forces. The increased sophistication of financial markets makes this more apparent. The arrangements introduced in this legislation facilitate the selling of Commonwealth securities at rates more in accordance with the forces of supply and demand.
In outline, the proposed new arrangements are as follows:
Treasury bonds and associated inscribed stock, which are referred to simply as ‘bonds’, are to be made available on a tap basis, that is, with one or more securities available to investors on a more or less continuous basis throughout the year, in contrast to the past practice of issuing new Commonwealth bonds through periodic cash loans. Bonds will be offered to investors by the Reserve Bank acting as agent for the Commonwealth. The Loan Council will continue to determine the maturity date and coupon rate of the securities issued in the tap and will, from time to time, establish the limits within which the yields on the approved tap stocks on issue may be varied by the Chairman of the Loan Council without further consultation with Loan Council.
Treasury notes and association inscribed stock referred to as ‘notes’ are to be sold by periodic tender, through the Reserve Bank acting on behalf of the Commonwealth. This will replace the present system whereby notes are available on continuous issue at predetermined prices.
The advantages of selling bonds through a tap rather than through the occasional cash and conversion loans of the present system include:
Having bonds on sale for longer continuous periods, with different stocks being issued from time to time and adjustments being made to prices to reflect market movements, will offer greater flexibility and scope for greater control over the quantity of securities issued and the maturity spread.
It should minimise the disadvantage of the present system of encouraging speculation associated with good and poor loan results, thus contributing to an unwelcome instability in bond rates and difficulties in marketing debt.
The issue of bonds on a more or less continuous basis should also be more satisfactory from the point of view of institutional investors. Even with the instalment facility, the take-up of securities has in the past tended to be concentrated into a very short period which, given the large size of some past cash loans, and the large borrowing programs to be financed, itself contributed to instability in money markets.
Sharp swings in liquidity, for example as are associated with tax payments, can mean that the maturity dates of existing bonds which normally coincide with new cash loans can be quite inappropriate for trying to raise large sums in cash loans, though, of course, cash loans can be and have been held at other times.
The advantages of selling treasury notes by tender include:
The fact that the amount sold can be more precisely determined by the authorities but with the price more fully reflecting market views.
The advantages of that situation will be that the authorities will be in a better position to ensure that adequate volumes of treasury notes are taken up by the private sector in accordance with policy objectives, including the need for the private sector to be adequately equipped to finance seasonal contractions in liquidity.
For the new arrangements in respect of the marketing of bonds and notes to operate effectively, it may be necessary to make changes at short notice to the prices at which the securities are issued. It may also be necessary to make changes to the maturities, interest rates and other conditions of issue at short notice.
With notes being offered by tender, the prices and hence yields at which notes will be issued will, of course, depend on the terms bid by those participating in each tender. The tap issue of bonds will also entail adjustments to price in order to change yields so as to reflect market conditions. In addition, technical adjustments to prices will be required to maintain the existing pattern of yields as the period to maturity of the tap stocks shortens.
The Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act, which I note is a very old Act, presently provides for the prices and other terms and conditions of issue of Commonwealth securities to be determined by the Governor-General. To allow for the flexibility required for dealing with these matters under the new arrangements, it is proposed that provision be made to enable the Governor-General to delegate his relevant powers, and it is the essential purpose of this bill to amend the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act accordingly.
It is to be emphasised that these amendments to existing legislation will, if passed, in no way reduce the powers of the Parliament to authorise the borrowing of money by the issue and sale of stock, bonds or other securities. Such borrowing would continue to require the authority of an Act of Parliament. The new arrangements for marketing Commonwealth securities represent essentially a modernisation of procedures in relation to the issue of Commonwealth securities in line with developments in capital markets which have become increasingly sophisticated since existing methods of marketing Treasury bonds and Treasury notes were introduced.
I mention that the new marketing schemes have been endorsed by all the State governments as well as the Commonwealth. The Bill does not in any way pre-empt further consideration of marketing techniques in the Loan Council. Rather, it provides for flexibility in adopting methods of marketing of Commonwealth securities as agreed to by the Loan Council. I turn now to the machinery amendments proposed in the Bill. Clause 3 of the Bill would amend section 4 of the Act to provide that stock can be created, issued and sold in respect of borrowings by the Commonwealth authorised by an Act or in respect of borrowings by a State under the Financial Agreement. Clause 5 of the Financial Agreement requires that any securities issued in respect of certain defined borrowings by a State be Commonwealth securities.
Clause 9 of the Bill proposes repeal of the present outdated audit section of the Actsection 53- and its replacement by a new section 53 which sets out audit provisions which are now more or less standard in Commonwealth legislation. I commend them to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Chaney) 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 the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speeches in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
Navigation Amendment Bill 1979
This Bill contains many amendments that were in the Navigation Bill 1975 which lapsed with the termination of the 29th Parliament. They were again in the Navigation Amendment Bill 1976 which lapsed also with the prorogation of Parliament on 28 February 1977. It also contains a number of other urgent important measures. The amendments fall into groups for a number of important specific purposes and there are numerous other amendments mainly of a minor nature. Because of the complexity of the subject matter explanatory notes on the clauses are being circulated to honourable senators. One particularly important aspect of the Bill is that it contains the legislation necessary for Australia to become a party to no less than 5 international maritime Conventions, 4 of which are Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation conventions. I shall deal briefly with each one.
The first is the International Convention relating to the Limitation of the Liability of Owners of Sea-going Ships, 1957. This Convention came into force internationally in 1 968, but the relevant law in Australia still consists of the Merchant Shipping Acts of 1894 and 1900 of the United Kingdom. One of the main practical effects of this group of amendments is to increase the amounts to which a shipowner will be able to limit his liability- unless he is held to be actually at fault himself- in respect of claims arising out of the specified occurrences to which the Convention applies. The existing very low limits of about $28 a ton for personal claims and $ 1 5 a ton for property claims provided for in the Merchant Shipping Acts are to be increased to the equivalent of the Convention limits- about $ 179 and $57 a ton respectively at the present time.
In giving effect to the 1957 Convention, Australia, like a number of European shipping countries, will, at the request of the States, exercise the option provided for in the Protocol of Signature to exclude the application of subparagraph ( 1 ) (c) of Article 1 of the Convention. This means that shipowners will not be able to limit their liability in respect of damage to harbour works, or for wreck removal. The Bill specifically approves ratification by Australia of the Convention, subject to a reservation making that exclusion. The new section 338, which absolves shipowners from liability in respect of certain property claims, does not introduce any new benefit for shipowners but is a re-enactment of an existing provision in Part VIII of the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Act, which is being repealed to make way for the new limitation provisions. New section 59b, however, will prevent shipowners from limiting their liability for claims by crew members serving under Commonwealth articles of agreement. This was sought by the unions, and is also a practice followed by many maritime nations.
The Bill will also enable Australia to accede to the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972, which prescribes new ‘rules of the road ‘ for ships on the high seas and in all connected waters navigable by sea-going vessels. Those international regulations came into operation on 15 July 1977, and were incorporated in Commonwealth and State regulations and so are observed in practice. However, the Convention could not be acceded to because the Commonwealth and State Acts under which the regulations are made do not enable the regulations to be applied to all the vessels covered by the Convention. The new provisions rectify this aspect.
The third Convention is the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, known as the SOLAS Convention, which consolidates and supercedes the 1960 Convention of that name and the up-dating amendments made over the intervening years. The 1974 Convention, which is the latest of several such Conventions that have been drawn up over the years since the Titanic disaster of 1912, lays down more advanced technical safety requirements. It deals with such matters as ship construction and stability, machinery and radio and other equipment, fire protection, detection and extinction, life-saving appliances and carriage of cargoes of potential danger and requires surveys and inspections to ensure compliance with the standards laid down and the issue of international safety certificates to ships that comply. The Navigation Act already gives effect to the 1960 Convention, and so the Bill makes the necessary amendments to cover the further-improved requirements of the 1974 Convention and the amending 1978 Protocol. The protocol was adopted at the Tanker Safety and Pollution Prevention Conference convened by IMCO at the request of the United States last year following a number of serious pollution incidents off the US coast. It introduces a number of additional measures into the Convention, aimed at greater tanker safety. Although neither the Convention nor the Protocol is yet in force internationally, it is the Government’s wish that Australia should become a party to these instruments as soon as possible and thus contribute to their early commencement. The Bill contains the necessary legislation to enable this to be done.
The fourth Convention being dealt with by the Bill is the International Convention for Safe Containers which was adopted in 1972 and has entered into force internationally. This Convention lays down requirements for the structure, testing, inspection, approval and maintenance of new and existing containers used in international transport, excluding air transport. Under the Bill approval is given to ratification by Australia and the necessary provisions for that purpose are inserted in the Act. Additional structural safety requirements or tests may be prescribed to the extent permitted by the Convention.
The other Convention concerned is the International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships, 1 969, which aims at providing a universally acceptable system for the tonnage measurement of ships, by volume of interior spaces, in place of a number of other systems that each have their particular adherents. The main purposes of such measurement are to facilitate the levying of dues and charges and to enable ships to be compared for size by measurement of interior volume. All the present tonnage measurement formulae have disadvantages, particularly for roll-on roll-off and container ships, and these will be eliminated under the much simpler methods of the Convention, which has received almost enough support to put in operation the procedures for bringing it into force. The Convention is expressed to apply to ships on international voyages excluding ships less than 24 metres in length. For the first 12 years the Convention provisions are mandatory only for new ships and for existing ships that undergo substantial alterations. It will become mandatory for other ships at the end of that period. Whilst, therefore, the Bill contains the necessary provisions to enable ratification by, and application in, Australia, it also leaves the existing provisions to apply as long as they continue to be required.
In the case of the first four of these Conventions the Commonwealth has agreed that it would be appropriate to include saving clauses in the Bill to permit State legislation to apply the Conventions within limits appropriate to State responsibilities. In this context I use the word State’ to include the Northern Territory. The effect of these saving clauses will be that to the extent that a State chooses to legislate on these matters within the limits laid down, the Commonwealth law contained in the Bill will not apply. The scope provided for State law on these matters varies with each Convention and, broadly speaking, is as follows: For the Limitation Convention and the SOLAS Convention State law will be permitted in the case of ‘intra state ships’, that is ships not proceeding on interstate or overseas voyages; for the Prevention of Collisions Convention State law will be permitted in the case of all ships in the territorial sea and internal waters, that is, on the landward side of the 3 mile limit; and for the Containers Convention State law will be permitted in respect of containers in the State. These arrangements reflect the Government’s policy of co-operative federalism and they are beneficial from the point of view of the Commonwealth as well as the States. From the Commonwealth viewpoint it is possible for Australia to become a party to the respective Conventions once the Commonwealth legislation is enacted and without the need to await complementary legislation by the States. From the States’ point of view the benefit of the arrangement is that their legislative powers are not eroded by an unrestricted exercise of the Commonwealth’s external affairs power.
Two important related sets of provisions that have been in the Act since its early days are being repealed and replaced under this Bill. I refer to the provisions dealing with the manning of ships and the qualifications of masters and other officers and of seamen. The new provisions have been arrived at after considerable consultation with the industry and the State marine authorities.
The old inflexible manning provisions of the Act, designed for the shipping industry of half a century ago, have long been completely inappropriate. New section 14 is being substituted in place of the excessive detail now in the Act, with its precise but’ outmoded scales of officers and seamen in Schedules I and II. These provisions will enable the Minister to specify detailed requirements as to the minimum numbers and qualifications pf officers and seamen to be carried in specified ships or classes of ships, to the extent that it appears necessary in the interests of safety or protection of the marine environment. The criteria to be applied in determining the minimum manning are to be set out in the regulations after further discussions with the industry. The new provisions have been arranged so that the changes can be implemented in 2 stages. Initially it will be possible to remove the application of the outmoded Schedules and other inflexible provisions, and then, following detailed discussions with the industry, to prescribe and bring into operation the minimum safety manning for ships when all aspects of the regulations have been satisfactorily resolved. Failure to carry officers and seamen as specified will be an offence for which the master and owner will both be liable to a fine of up to $1,000. A ship not carrying officers and seamen as required may be detained, or specified operations restricted, with a maximum penalty on both master and owner of $5,000 for non-compliance.
Turning to the related area of qualifications, which includes training and examination, here too the Bill repeals the old outmoded provisions. A new section 15 is substituted which provides broad enabling powers under which standards of competence to be attained and other conditions to be satisfied in order to be ‘qualified’ for the purposes of the Act will be specified by regulation or by order under the regulations. Amongst other things to be so prescribed will be detailed requirements in respect of instruction, training and the conduct of examinations and the issue of certificates of competency, the recognition of certificates issued by other countries, and the review by an appropriately-constituted
Administrative Appeals Tribunal of administrative decisions made under those regulations and orders. The power conferred by section 25 of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act will be used to make regulations prescribing the jurisdiction of the Tribunal in these matters. Under these provisions there will be a new structure for certificates of competency designed to meet modern shipping needs and derived from the Uniform Shipping Laws adopted by the Minister for Transport and State Marine Ministers in the Marine and Ports Council of Australia following consultation between the Department of Transport, State Marine Authorities and the maritime industry. These provisions of the Code are based on international requirements developed through IMCO, which in July 1978 were embodied in an international Convention, and will provide the basis for courses of study at the new Australian Maritime College. Certificates issued under the new provisions will be acceptable to the various Australian Marine Authorities.
The Uniform Shipping Laws Code which I have mentioned extends to a wide range of matters besides qualifications and the Act contains powers to enable legal effect to be given to those other sections of the Code. For some considerable time working groups of Commonwealth and State officials have been drawing up this Code, which contains requirements for the survey and manning of commercial vessels to be uniformly adopted in order to overcome the present serious lack of uniformity between the requirements imposed by the various States and the Commonwealth. Under the Bill, therefore, it will be possible to put the Code into practical effect.
A further important feature of the Bill, because it will make a valuable contribution to safety of life and property at sea, is that it gives legal effect to the ship movement reporting scheme, known as ‘AUSREP’, that has been operating voluntarily for some time. The scheme ensures that positive action is taken to search for a ship in the Australian search and rescue area if more than 24 hours have elapsed since the ship last indicated that all was well. Also, if a ship is in distress, it enables the Australian Coastal Surveillance Centre of the Department of Transport to know immediately what ships are in the area and which of these would be best suited to assist in the emergency. In addition to improved safety, the system achieves significant economies in the use of search and rescue resources by providing a datum on which to concentrate a search if a ship becomes overdue.
As it appears that no such legislation exists anywhere else, Australia is the world leader in this important development. Information about the system aroused considerable interest in IMCO, and Australia proposed to IMCO that a uniform ship movement reporting system should be an integral part of any internationally-agreed search and rescue plan. This led on to the recent International Conference on Maritime Search and Rescue held in Hamburg, at which the Australian delegation included two experts from the Department of Transport responsible for Australian Coastal Surveillance Centre and AUSREP operations. The Conference adopted a new Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue providing for a global search and rescue plan incorporating systems such as AUSREP.
The other subject involving a group of amendments is historic shipwrecks. The Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 empowers the Minister for Home Affairs to declare particular shipwrecks and related relics of historic significance to be historic shipwrecks’, thus bringing them under the protective provisions of the legislation. This requires some consequential amendments of the Navigation Act.
The Historic Shipwrecks Act requires the finder to give notice of his discovery and does not prohibit salvage operations until the wreck is declared historic, when strict controls come into effect. The finder may acquire salvage rights under the Navigation Act, the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Acts, or at common law, before the wreck is declared historic. The Bill therefore provides that various provisions of the Navigation Act that deal with wreck and salvage matters do not apply to a wreck from the time it is declared historic and while it remains so. As salvage rights or liabilities under the Navigation Act acquired before a wreck is declared historic are to be preserved, the Bill also makes express provision for this purpose. There is provision to ensure that, for reasons of safety of life and navigation, the provisions of the Navigation Act giving the Minister powers regarding removal will still apply to any wreck, whether declared historic or not. The Minister is not to exercise any of those powers unless it is necessary to do so for purposes of safety or environmental emergency. Another provision ensures that his powers to deal with oil pollution threats arising from damaged ships continue unrestricted. The other amendments can best be classified as ‘miscellaneous’. Many are of a purely drafting or machinery nature.
One important amendment extends the references in the Act to the owner of a ship to include a reference to the operator, except in a few special circumstances. This is to ensure that where a duty or liability is imposed by the Act on the owner, responsibility for ensuring that that duty or liability is discharged is imposed on the person who is directly concerned with the relevant operations, for example, a bareboat charterer, as well as on the owner. Conversely, a benefit conferred on the owner will also, in appropriate cases, be available to the operator. Other amendments empower the Minister to make orders in relation to detailed technical requirements to be applied under the Act, so that such requirements can be quickly implemented, or varied without delay, in the light of ship casualties, equipment failure investigations, or technical developments. There are a number of amendments relating to the engagement and discharge of seamen and certain of the conditions of their employment, mainly to cater for modern developments in the industry.
In addition to the prescribing of penalties at appropriate levels for newly-created offences, the opportunity has been taken, where sections are otherwise amended, to update some maximum monetary penalties for existing offences against provisions of the Act and regulations and to increase some general penalties and make consequential adjustments. Other penalties will need to be brought into line later. As was the case with the 1976 Bill, this Bill does not purport to effect a general revision of the Navigation Act. The need for such a revision has been recognised for some time and it is the Government’s intention to undertake such a task following the completion of discussions currently under way with the States and industry. Although not a general revision, the Bill now before honourable senators provides the framework for a significant updating of Australia’s navigation laws in accordance with the latest international standards of safety and environmental protection. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Lighthouses Amendment Bill 1979
This is a small consequential Bill arising out of the Navigation Amendment Bill 1979. Under that Bill effect will be given to the 1974 Safety of Life at Sea Convention in place of the 1 960 Convention of the same name and the definition of the Convention in the Navigation Act will be amended accordingly. Australia will become a party to the 1974 Convention. The Lighthouses Act refers to Australia’s obligations under that 1960 Convention to establish and maintain marine navigational aids, which will instead become obligations under the 1974 Convention when it enters into force for Australia. This Bill therefore amends the Lighthouses Act so that, in effect, the reference to the Convention under which those obligations exist will automatically mean the latest Safety of Life at Sea Convention to which Australia has become a party. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Pollution of the Sea by Oil (Shipping Levy Collection) Amendment Bill 1979
This is a small consequential Bill arising out of the Navigation Amendment Bill 1979. Under that Bill, references in the Navigation Act to the tonnage of ships are being amended to make the tonnage terms uniform and in line with the terminology introduced when the amendments made by the Navigation Act 1 972 were brought into force on 1 December 1 976. The new amendments are being deemed to have come into operation on the same date as the 1972 amendments. The Pollution of the Sea by Oil (Shipping Levy Collection) Amendment Act contains a reference to ship tonnage which is being similarly amended, and that amendment also is to be deemed to have come into operation on that same date. As the amendment is one of terminology only, its retrospective effect does not affect levies already paid. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Sea-Carriage of Goods Amendment Bill 1979
This is a small consequential Bill arising out of the Navigation Amendment Bill 1979. Under that Bill, provisions in respect of the limitation of shipowners’ liability are being inserted in the Navigation Act to supersede the old provisions of the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Acts in respect of that subject that still apply in Australia. This Bill therefore makes the necessary replacement of a reference in the SeaCarriage of Goods Act that in effect applies the old United Kingdom law, with a reference to the new Navigation Act provisions. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Seamen’s Compensation Amendment Bill 1979
This is a small consequential Bill arising out of the Navigation Amendment Bill 1979. Under that Bill the term ‘prescribed country’ is to be used in various places in the Navigation Act instead of the term ‘Commonwealth country’. The Seamen’s Compensation Act uses the term Commonwealth country’ and defines it as having the same meaning as in the Navigation Act, and as to be consistent the term ‘prescribed country’ should be used instead, the necessary amendments are being made. They are expressed to come into operation at the same time as the main related amendment of the Navigation Act. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23 August on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time. (Quorum formed).
-We are debating the Customs Amendment Bill which is a very important piece of legislation. It is particularly important that the Senate give it its closest attention notwithstanding that it is a Bill which already has been the subject of a very considerable debate in the other place. It represents a major escalation in the response of the Government to a problem of criminal law enforcement. This Bill and its associated Bill, the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill which was recently debated, represent for the first time in our history the giving by the Government to a law enforcement agency- in this case the Narcotics Bureau- of powers of electronic surveillance. I refer to the tapping of telephones, the installation of listening devices, together with powers over the interception of mail and telegrams and other forms of telecommunications, in respect of breaches of the criminal law. I regret that it has been all too familiar a phenomenon on our statute books for those powers to be available with respect to national security matters. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has long had powers with respect to the tapping of telephones although not, of course, with respect to the installation of other forms of listening devices. That anomaly- so regarded by the Government- has been corrected by legislation which has recently been before us. This is the first time in our history as a nation that we have legislation vesting powers in a law enforcement bureau of this extraordinarily sweeping and draconic kind. The most significant characteristic of this Bill before us is the way in which it vests these powers in relation to electronic surveillance in Customs officers in the subject matter of narcotics offences.
The second thing the Bill does and demands our close scrutiny accordingly, is establish the extraordinarily savage new scales of penalties for the offences which exist under the Customs Act in relation to the importation of various narcotics and the possession of drugs so imported. In particular, this Bill creates a new category of offence relating to what are described as commercial quantities of various drugs. I will say more about the limitations of that concept, as it appears in this Bill, in a few moments.
Thirdly, this Bill- and it is equally extraordinary, certainly equally unprecedented- creates a procedure, wholly new in our legal experience, for the civil recovery of pecuniary penalties; amounts which were expressed by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack), in introducing this Bill, as likely to be equivalent to the benefits gained by a narcotics trafficker from his illicit dealings. I refer to the provision to recover- not by way of fine for a breach of the criminal law, but through civil proceedings- very large sums indeed of what are described as pecuniary penalties, and to the associated mechanisms, which allow for the freezing of a person’s assets pending the outcome of any such civil proceeding. This is again a quite extraordinary and unprecedented measure. It may be one that is justified by the horrific nature of the trade that we are talking about, but the onus of defending that justification rests very much upon the Government, given the unprecedented character of the incursions upon what hitherto have been regarded as the rights of individuals. The threshold question that must be asked when we consider this legislation is this: Why are we dealing with it now? Why, given a significant series of events or situations which prevail elsewhere, has this legislation come before us now?
The first such matter to which I refer is, of course, the existence of the Williams Royal Commission, which was established in 1977 but is still to report. There is no immediate sign of its reporting, but presumably we may expect something from it before too long. The Commission has taken a great deal of evidence on what the powers of the Federal Narcotics Bureau and of Customs officers with respect to drug offences ought to be. We do not know the views of the Commission on these matters. We ought to have had an opportunity to study the considered view of the Commission, its response to the various arguments, pro and con, that have been put, before being forced to leap into acceptance of this legislation which the Government, I would suggest prematurely, has put before us.
I find it difficult to believe, as has been suggested by one or two ministerial spokesmen, that the Bill comes before us with the approval of the Williams Royal Commission, an approval which apparently has been communicated tacitly to the Government. I find it difficult to believe that any judge, even a Queensland judge, could adopt the wholehearted approval, the diverse range of quite extraordinarily far-reaching law enforcement measures that is included in this legislation. If indeed Mr Justice Williams and his Royal Commission are prepared to endorse these powers, these procedures, I for one would have wished to have seen a well-reasoned, argued case from that source in support thereof before having to debate legislation in the way that we are now obliged to, by the Government’s having brought it forward.
The other matter that affects the timing of this, or any other, legislation which seeks to confer additional powers on the Narcotics Bureau of the Commonwealth, a consideration that we must take into account, as I mentioned in the context of the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill, is the very large, black cloud which hovers over the Narcotics Bureau and its officers as a result of various matters that have come to light in recent months. I refer, of course, in the first instance to the most extraordinary allegations that were made by the now murdered Wilson couple about the penetration of the Narcotics Bureau by some person who made it his business to dispense to criminal interests information derived from the Bureau’s intelligence activities. That is an allegation that we now know- having been told by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife)- was made well over 12 months ago but was not communicated by the head of that organisation, Mr Harvey Bates to his minister, or indeed it seems to anyone else- a situation which resulted in the Government’s quite properly, when it found out about the allegation, appointing a multi-force investigation unit to find out what on earth was going on inside the Bureau.
That, in turn, was followed by the extraordinary resignation of Mr Bates on the ground of not having been consulted about the event, and the even more extraordinary situation of his being grovelled to by the Minister, Mr Fife, and being reinstated as the head of that agency. We still do not know the facts that lay behind those events because we have not yet been told the result of the multi-force investigation. We can only assume, in the light of that sequence of events, that something very serious indeed about the operations of that agency had to be investigated.
Reinforcing that impression of the Wilson allegation and the Bates resignation affair was the publication of the book entitled The Brown Tapes, edited by John Halpin, which is a quite extraordinary compilation of what are alleged to be- it has certainly not been denied by anyonetranscripts of exchanges between officers of the Federal Narcotics Bureau and various other criminal elements, exchanges which establish very clearly that there is, or has been, a great deal of corruption within that agency.
We had, further, the publication within the last few days of the book by Bernard Delaney, a former senior officer of the Narcotics Bureau, reinforcing the substance of all of the allegations which have emerged in recent months about corruption within the Bureau. We might be able to treat all of that with equanimity, satisfied- if we could be- that measures are in hand to investigate the allegations and to correct any misbehaviour that might be occurring there, were it not for the fact that we are now asked to vest in this agency, whose activities have been under such an extraordinary cloud in recent months, absolutely unprecendentedly diverse and extensive powers of criminal investigation which will add enormously to its capacity, in the name of law enforcement, to intrude, snoop and pry on the activities of thousands, indeed millions, of ordinary Australians.
How can we be sure that the Bureau can be trusted to exercise these powers with any kind of discretion, any kind of sensitivity, any kind of restraint, when we know what has emerged in the last few months about the kind of organisation that it is? So, again, to repeat with as much vigour as 1 can muster the point that I made in the context of the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill, it seems to me that the Government has acted insensitively and precipitantly in bringing the Bill forward while these matters remain unresolved. At the very least I would hope the Attorney-General would undertake not to have the Bill proclaimed until the situation about the activities of the personnel of the Bureau, and the character of that organisation, have been clarified.
Moving beyond the threshold objection, what is to be said about the Bill as it stands and the difficulties and problems that we have with it? In the first place a number of things can be said about the new powers which are to be conferred upon Narcotics Bureau officers and Customs Bureau officers, in particular the power to employ electronic surveillance and the listening devices to which I have referred. Let me digress for a moment to make what I think is a very important point. It ought to be appreciated that the Narcotics Bureau has hardly been without power of a very considerable kind in the past by virtue of the luxury it has enjoyed of almost total freedom from judicial or other scrutiny in its exercise of search and seizure powers. Although the vesting in it of powers with respect to electronic surveillance does represent a quantum jump, as it were, in the range and nature of its law enforcement power, it certainly is true to say that in the past Customs officers in general and narcotics officers in particular have had very wide powers in the search and seizure area. That is as a result of their possession of general warrants or open warrants. That is provided for in sections 1 98 to 20 1 of the Customs Act. The warrants are of a kind which in effect empower their holders to go anywhere at any time of the day or night and break open or ransack any building or anything within it.
The Customs warrants to which I refer are of two kinds. Firstly, there is the writ of assistance, which is obtainable only from a High Court or Supreme Court judge upon application by the Minister or Comptroller-General of Customs. Such writ remains in force so long as any person named in it remains an officer of Customs. So there we have the extraordinary phenomenon, so far as writs of assistance are concerned, of a lifetime voucher to search and seize without the necessity for any further judicial authorisation. In addition, there is the category of Customs warrants which are issued by the head of the Bureau of Customs or any State or Territory collector of customs for a period specified by the issuing officer. Either form of warrant- both the general writ of assistance and the particular Customs warrant for a lesser period- empowers the bearer of such a warrant at any time of the day or night to enter into and search any house, premises or place, to break open the same and to search any chests, trunks or packages in which goods may be or are supposed to be. In addition to those powers under the general warrants, it is to be noted that there also exists under the Customs Act a whole series of specific powers of search without warrant, particularly in what are known as behind the barrier customs situations.
I have argued for a long time in many different places- I take the opportunity to do so againthat the present provisions, without even getting on to the electronic surveillance provisions which are the subject of this new amending legislation, are themselves manifestly too wide and potentially oppressive in their scope and that they should be re-drawn so as to provide proper controls and safeguards. Indeed, I have argued that they can be re-drawn in the way that was suggested by the Australian Law Reform Commission in its criminal investigation reference without in any way inhibiting the basic effectiveness of the officers concerned. I find it a matter of regret that the piece of legislation before us today, hasty as it is to expand the powers of Customs officers and narcotics agents in all sorts of ways which may or may not be defensible, makes no attempt to clean up what has long been a running sore in Australian jurisprudence- I would put it as high as that- and that is the existence of general warrants in the Customs legislation.
I do not believe that we need general warrants, certainly of the kind that are provided for in the Customs legislation. I believe that by a combination of limited judicially authorised warrants, plus certain very specific powers of search without warrant and provisions for the obtaining of warrants in emergency situations by telephone or other means, Customs and narcotics officers can have all the powers they need to enable them effectively to enforce this legislation without the possession of powers which are in principle much too far reaching. I should have thought that the Government’s bona fides in bringing forward the present amending legislation would have been improved if it had been willing to consider, in the course of bringing forward this legislation, what have been very long-standing criticisms and objections to other powers exercised by the officers in question. I can only hope that at least the Williams Royal Commission will say something on this subject and that at that time the Government will act in that area.
– Who has principally made these criticisms?
– The Australian law Reform Commission in its second report on criminal investigation. I am not sure whether the AttorneyGeneral has read it. He has had it drawn to his attention often enough. In the chapter on search, surveillance and entrapment- chapter 7, paragraphs 1 89 onwards- there is a very lengthy and sustained discussion of the different kinds of search warrants which are available under Federal law and which are pretty sweeping. In this instance, there was a quite unanimous condemnation of search warrants and a suggestion that the law be re-written so as to avoid the necessity for general warrants, and that the law should be re-written starting with section 10 of the Crimes Act but building a system of warrant-issuing around it which would resolve the problems of principle that have been long in issue. I would hope that the Attorney-General would take this occasion once again to remind himself of the terms of that report and to promise that at some stage in the future he will do something about it, even if he is not going to do it today.
The point that I am making- it is essentially a point in passing about the general warrant powers- is that it seems that the Customs officers and the Narcotics Bureau have not been content with the very wide powers of search and seizure that they have and that they want new ones. Thus we have the electronics surveillance powers that are before us today.
The Opposition recognises, as it has to, the utility of the powers with respect to telephone tapping, the installation of listening devices and the rest that are foreshadowed. There can be no doubt but that they do represent a sophisticated and modern form of law enforcement and one which ought not, without a great deal of thought, to be denied altogether to an agency such as the Narcotics Bureau, charged as it is with the investigation of what are very serious and dangerous offences. It is also acknowledged by the Opposition that there has been an anomaly in the law to the extent that in a number of States powers for the installation of listening devices are already vested in law enforcement authorities for the purposes of the criminal law and it has been possible and is possible in practice for narcotics officers to make use of those State powers in particular law enforcement situations. To vest these powers in the Bureau federally is, from that point of view, not a major sea-change. Acknowledging both of those points as we do, the Opposition does not go so far as to resist completely and absolutely the introduction of these new powers in legislative form and the vesting of them in the agency. What we do say, however- I cannot repeat the point too often- is that the exercise of these powers is very dangerous indeed because of the essentially exploratory, unselective, indiscriminate nature of the privacy intrusions that are necessarily involved in the use of electronic surveillance procedures of the kind that we are talking about.
It is for that reason- because the scale of the eavesdropping, the intrusion on personal privacy, is exponentially greater once one starts using this kind of technology as distinct from old technology such as binoculars and listening under eaves- that one needs to hedge around the exercise of these powers with a great many safeguards. The safeguards are just lacking from the text of this legislation as it stands at the moment. That is what the Opposition ‘s objection is about. We regard it as bad that the powers in question are to be available across the full sweep of offences under section 235. That section picks up and incorporates in its terms different kinds of narcotics offences, ranging from the very trivial indeed, such as the possession of less than a gram of imported cannabis, to the very serious, such as the active importation of very large sums of heroin or opium.
It might be accepted universally that the use of modern surveillance devices is always likely to be appropriate in the latter type of case; that is, those at the top end of the scale, the very serious offences involving large amounts of hard drugs. The Opposition finds it almost impossible to believe that anyone would acknowledge seriously the legitimacy of using these kinds of law enforcement powers at the bottom end of the scale; that is, with respect to drugs like cannabis or cannabis resin. It may be that the Attorney will, as he has said so often when confronted with this kind of criticism of his legislation, say that it will not be administered in that way. If he is that sure that it will not be administered in that way, why will he not accept amendments which put the possibility beyond doubt. It is only then that he can persuade the Opposition and the Australian people that he and the people who will succeed him in his job are serious about that commitment and that these powers will not be used in a thoroughly unacceptable way.
There is a whole series of amendments which the Opposition will be moving to that effect, to reduce the scope of the Bill so as to confine these draconic powers to a narrower range of offences. The Opposition will be moving amendments, as we have in previous legislation in this apparently now endless chain of Bills, to ensure a better procedure in the actual issuing of the judicial warrants that are involved, to ensure that affidavits are sworn in support of applications for warrants and to ensure that warrants are not issued unless the judge is satisfied that other, less extreme measures have been tried and found wanting or found to be manifestly impracticable. The Opposition will be introducing amendments to try to limit the time for which warrants so issued can be executed.
So much as to powers. The second major area of Opposition concern relates to the particular offences which are now created by this Bill and the new scales of penalties which are introduced in respect of these narcotics offences. The main new innovation is the establishment of an offence involving commercial quantities of narcotic substances, as compared with trafficable quantitiesthat concept was introduced into legislation in 1977- or lesser quantities for which there are lesser penalties. To do anything that constitutes an offence with respect to commercial quantities will now involve the possibility of imprisonment for life. This represents a major new step up in the whole scale of the penalties that have been adopted with respect to drug legislation. The scale of the penalties involved can be illustrated by taking just two examples, namely, heroin and cannabis, which are at either extreme of the dangerousness of the drug in question. Anything less than a trafficable quantity of heroin, if it is imported, will involve a person in committing offences punishable by a $2,000 fine or two years gaol. A trafficable quantity of heroin is defined as two grams or more.
It may be noted in passing- this is a not unimportant point- that two grams represents no more than a person with what could be described as a heavy habit would inject himself with in the course of a single day. The amount of heroin consumed by an addict will vary, depending on the quality of the substance. I am told by those who know about these things that the heroin that circulates in Sydney is about twice as strong as that circulating in Canberra. That has implications for the quantity of the stuff that is likely to be ingested by an addict. The scale should be noted. Two grams counts as a trafficable quantity and, as such, exposes the possessor of such an amount of heroin to 25 years in gaol or a $ 100,000 finepenalties which were created in 1977.
We then have the new category of commercial quantities, which broadly speaking represents for each day the trafficable quantity multiplied by 1,000. One and a half kilos of heroin will constitute a commercial quantity for which one can receive life in prison under the penalties provided for in this Bill. On the other hand, when one looks at cannabis, the trafficable quantity is 100 grams and the commercial quantity 100 kilograms. The trafficable quantity- 100 grams represents about three and a half ounces which, I am told by those who know about these things, represents about three times what a fairly regular user of cannabis would consume in the course of a week. In the case of a trafficable quantity, the possession of about three and a half weeks’ supply of cannabis thus constitutes an offence which exposes one to 10 years in gaol or a fine of $4,000.
I note that there is- and the Opposition applauds it- at least some recognition in this legislation of the difference between cannabis and other harder drugs. There is a difference in the penalty but the concepts of trafficable and commercial quantities remain the same, the commercial quantity of cannabis being 100 kilos. The possession or the importation of that amount will expose one to life imprisonment.
A number of criticisms can be made about this penalty scale which I have very baldly summarised and in relation to which I have given a couple of examples. The basic criticism, which the Opposition will be pursuing in the Committee stage, goes to the essential crudity of the distinctions that are drawn- the criteria are set in volume or mass terms- between the various categories. This is the case, especially given the enormous variations and the scale of the sanctions which are attached to an offence in respect of these three categories, namely, commercial quantities, trafficable quantities and other lesser quantities. Because of the enormous scale of penalties for the larger categories of offences, it is particularly important that they reflect enormous variations in the moral iniquity of the particular crime that has been committed. It is an Opposition concern that there is a crudity about the way in which these lines are drawn- a crudity which can produce a great deal of injustice around the margins of the various amounts and the different categories involved.
There are further problems that arise with cannabis. It is true that the Bill as it is drawn recognises the distinction between that and other drugs, at least so far as the scale of penalties is concerned. The Opposition says that it is a distinction which ought to be carried much further in this legislation, and it will be moving amendments in the Committee stage to make that clear.
Perhaps the point about the crudity of the distinction can be made in another way. It is not only at the bottom but also at the top of the scales in question that these categories are crude. The aim of the new legislation which the Senate has before it seems clearly to provide for huge deterrent penalties for large-scale commercial traffickers of drugs, culminating in life imprisonment. It seems that the Government has taken the view that the previous maximum of 25 years- although for all practical purposes one would have thought that that was equivalent to a life sentence- is just not enough, and so this new policy has been embodied in the present legislation. I suppose there is always a difficulty which confronts any attempt to divide offences by reference to amounts of substances or the value of goods. I put the case of someone who is caught red-handed in the smuggling of 80 kilos or 90 kilos of cannabis.
- Mr Murray Riley, say?
-Exactly. I am indebted to Senator Baume for that intervention. What is the difference in terms of moral enormity between the scale of operation involving 80 or 90 kilograms and the scale that is involved when a person adds another 10 kilograms and brings himself within the commercial quantity category? What is the difference in moral enormity between the possession of 1.5 kilograms of heroin, which is the commercial amount, and the possession of 1.4 kilograms or 1.3 kilograms? I well understand that as soon as we set any kind of dividing line we find problems of potential injustice at the margin. But I suggest quite sincerely that there is an inherent crudity about these categories which is not really such as to make this a defensible piece of legislation as it presently stands.
At the other end of the scale the potential injustices that can be wreaked are much more obvious. It becomes clear, when one’ scrutinises this legislation a little more closely, that quite extraordinary injustices are capable of being perpetrated by the literal application of some of these proposed new sections. The particular point I want to make in this respect goes to that part of the Bill which punishes with life imprisonment someone who has two convictions for the possession, let us say, of a trafficable amount of a particular narcotic substance. The first conviction for possession or importation of a trafficable amount will expose one to the penalties which apply- 25 years in the case of heroin and similar drugs and 10 years in the case of drugs such as cannabis- but two such convictions Will expose one potentially to life imprisonment. It is not just a matter of two convictions, because one notices that the text of the Bill in this respect does not refer just to convictions. If we look at proposed new section 235 (c) (ii) (B) we will see that if on the previous occasion it was simply a matter of the court’s having found without recording a conviction, that the person had committed a particular offence involving a trafficable quantity, that will expose the person on the subsequent occasion to life imprisonment. We must remember that the scale of this trafficable quantity is 3V4 ounces of cannabis. Two years ago the trafficable amount of cannabis was just 25 grams, that is, one ounce. So a conviction or a finding that one had been in possession of one ounce of cannabis but had been let off with a bond two years ago when combined with a conviction for possession of Vh ounces of cannabis, after this Bill goes through, will expose one to life imprisonment. One can go to gaol for life for the possession, on two different occasions spread over three years, of a grand total of 4V4 ounces of cannabis. That is what this Bill is about. One can go to gaol for life for the possession, on two occasions spread over a couple of years, of a total of 4 grams of herointwo days’ fix for an addict. That is what is involved in the literal text of these provisions. It seems to me and to the Opposition that something has gone haywire in the drafting of these penalty provisions. The possibility of reaching results like that shocks the conscience so much that the provisions ought not to be left on the statute book in that form of just leaving the matter to the discretion of the court. They ought to be corrected before this legislation actually takes effect.
One of the proposals, among others, that we will be moving to try to rationalise these matters to some extent is to remove altogether that provision which says that two convictions or two findings of the elements of an offence being made out in relation to a trafficable amount will expose one to life imprisonment. We will be moving in the Committee stage for the deletion altogether of that proposed addition to section 23S. I hope that the Minister will have a long hard look at that before we get to the Committee stage so that he can give us a thought-through response on that issue. We will be moving also for the creation within the category of trafficable offences of a two-tier series of penalties. We will be proposing general trafficable quantities for which the penalties will be substantially less than those now set for trafficable quantities. We will propose to insert a further category of existing trafficable quantities multipled by five for which we will suggest that the present penalties set for trafficable quantities be retained. I appreciate that there is some complexity necessarily in advancing these sorts of propositions, but regrettably it is very important legislation in terms of social practice in our community. The legislation in this respect that this Parliament passes will mean an awful lot to an awful lot of people. I hope that we can think our way through these matters with some care and compassion.
In passing I make one further point about the offence and penalty provisions in this Bill, and that is to draw the Government’s attention- if it is not already aware of it- to an article by Mr John Willis in the Australian Law Journal for September 1978, volume 52, page 502, entitled: To What Extent is s. 235 of the Customs Act 1901-1975 (Cth) Invalid as Contravening s. 80 of the Constitution’, It seems to me that Mr Willis has made a very interesting argument to the effect that to the extent that section 235 vests not in the jury but in the judge the power of determining to its satisfaction that particular factual conditions have been made out, this provision may well be in breach of section 80 of the Constitution which demands on its face that there be a jury trial for all aspects of the court determination of an indictable offence.
The argument is that the language of section 235, which has not been amended in this respect by anything in the Bill presently before us, vests in the judge the power to determine whether the quantum of the drug in question is such as to bring it within the description of a trafficable quantity or a commercial quantity. The argument here is that one is talking not simply about things that go to the judge’s discretion in determining penalties, but about things which are of the very essence of the offence itself. As such, there may well be a constitutional problem. It seems to me that that is the point which is interestingly made and which deserves a fairly careful response from the Attorney-General if we are to be satisfied about it.
The final matter of real concern about this Bill, of course, is that part of it which is concerned with what are fetchingly described as pecuniary penalties. This is a remarkable euphemism that is employed in this Bill. It creates the concept really of criminal penalties without a crime having been committed, or at least without it having been proved. I must confess that this is something of a new phenomenon to emerge not just in this Bill but also in quite a bit of recent Commonwealth legislation, including not least the Trade Practices Act. The concept of pecuniary penalties is one, I think, about which we ought perhaps to be a little more cautious and sensitive than we, as a legislature, seem to be or to have been in recent years. Although I do not rule out altogether the appropriateness of these kinds of approaches to these kinds of problems, I think they deserve very close and sensitive scrutiny.
In this Bill we have a provision for Federal Court civil proceedings to be taken to enable the recovery of what is in effect intended to be the illgotten gains of the drug trafficker so that through this means the Government can recover the value of the benefit derived by the trafficker. The point being made- I think that it is a fair point- is that the financial deterrent or disincentive, as a practical law enforcement measure in this area, is likely to be at least as important as most other forms of penalty or punishment that one can think of. Nonetheless, there are a series of difficulties to which I wish briefly to advert about the operation of this pecuniary clause.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The particular objections which the Opposition has with respect to the pecuniary penalties provisions of the Bill are these: First qf all, it is apparent that under this new Division in the Bill a defendant can be ordered to pay a pecuniary penalty even if he has not been convicted of any drug offence or, indeed, even if he has not been charged with any criminal offence. It seems to us that that provision certainly justifies a degree of caution in the way in which one approaches this section of the proposed legislation. The second problem we have with the Bill relates to the burden of proof in these particular areas. It is apparent that proposed new section 243d reverses the burden of proof from that which normally would prevail. It requires that the defendant satisfy the court that the narcotics in his possession were not imported or were not imported in contravention of the Customs Act rather than this onus of proof rest on the Crown which will be pressing these particular proceedings.
The third aspect of the pecuniary penalty provisions which causes difficulty relates to the standard of proof which shall apply in such proceedings. In the first draft of this legislation it was obvious that it was intended that the relevant standard that should be applicable was proof on the balance of probabilities. Indeed, proposed new section 243E of the original Bill as introduced into the House of Representatives was explicit in those terms, but that provision was omitted during the debate in the other place as a result of concern expressed by various members of that chamber as to the standard of proof being too light for a matter of this importance.
In reality it is my view that the deletion of the explicit reference to a balance of probability standard has not advanced matters very much further. Indeed, it is really a little bit too clever by half in the sense that, in the absence of any explicit provision relating to standard of proof, since this pecuniary penalty proceeding is set up in the legislation as a civil proceeding it is apparent that any court trying such a matter would be inclined to apply a civil standard of proof, the balance of probabilities, rather than the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt. Whilst that might be appropriate in ordinary civil proceedings, we in the Opposition do not regard that lesser standard of proof as being appropriate in what are essentially quasi-criminal proceedings of a very serious and major kind, with the possibility of open-ended financial penalties having to be paid by an unsuccessful defendant. Accordingly, in the Committee stage we propose to move an amendment which will make it clear that where in such a proceeding there is in issue a question of fact as to whether a person has engaged in a particular narcotics dealing of a prohibited kind, the court in resolving such a matter of fact will have to do so by reference to the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt and that in any other matter which may arise, not going essentially to whether some criminal act has been committed, certainly the standard of proof can be balance of probabilities. It is on that basis that our proposed amendment will be drafted.
The only remaining matter which I desire to mention in relation to this Bill in explaining my and the Opposition’s objections to it relates to the absence of any serious provision relating to reporting to Parliament on how the Narcotics Bureau is performing generally, but more particularly on how it is exercising the sweeping new powers which will be conferred upon it by this legislation. I have indicated already in the course of the debate on the telecommunications legislation the attitude towards this issue of the New South Wales Privacy Committee which explicitly recommended that this new Customs narcotics legislation should be accompanied by compulsory disclosure requirements. These would not extend to disclosing the operational detail of the Bureau’s activities, requiring names, dates, places and so on to be spelt out in relation to the exercise of warrants, but nonetheless would make it possible for Parliament, and through it the community, to be informed of the scale on which those particular powers were being exercised.
As we have said repeatedly throughout this debate, the scale of phone taps and the installation of listening devices is something which worries us. The potential for abuse, the potential for very widespread invasions of personal liberty- in particular, personal privacy- is such that a whole series of safeguard mechanisms ought to be built into this legislation, not the least of which should be a requirement that the agency operate under a closer form of parliamentary scrutiny than it has operated under in the past. It is for that rather large collection of reasons that I strenuously oppose the Bill in its present form and foreshadow to the Government the amendments which the Opposition will move.
- Senator Evans in his succinct address drew attention to considerable legal argument about the processes which are involved in the Bill before the Senate, namely, the Customs Amendment Bill 1979, and made some comments about the functioning of the Narcotics Bureau. He did not say a lot about the social goals of legislation which is designed to control drug use. In my contribution I will not be covering the ground which he covered- that is an area with which I am not familiar- but will move instead to discuss some of the social problems which I think are raised by this Bill and by Bills like it. The Bill is designed to do three things: To expand the investigatory powers of Customs officers, as has been outlined by previous speakers; to increase the penalties which may be imposed for certain kinds of offences; and to introduce a new type of penalty designed to exact more severe punishment on commercial traffickers than has been the case. 1 presume that the Bill has as its broad aim a reduction in the use and availability of illegal drugs. I presume that that is the base on which it is constructed and to that end, if it broadens investigatory powers, even having listened to Senator Evans’s caveats, I think that it should be supported for the new powers that it will give to the Bureau and for the new capacity it will provide to interrupt supply chains for some of the drugs. In that it will increase penalties for those people in the business of promoting the use, or sale, or distribution of illicit drugs, some other questions arise which I think we at least have to examine tonight.
Like other speakers in this debate, I applaud the Government’s goal. I applaud any bill which has as its goal a reduction in the use of any drug. I think we have said before that substances which alter mood are all drugs and the general social goal should be a general reduction in drug use and a particular reduction in the use of those drugs which are damaging or which have damaging social effects. But I raise some questions about the assumptions, the ideological framework and the perception of the drug problem which underlie the provisions of the legislation before us. I do that in a slightly shamefaced way for reasons which my colleague, Senator Melzer, who is in the chamber, will appreciate. We are members of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare. Two years ago the Committee made specific recommendations in relation to trafficking in cannabis. At that stage the Committee did not concern itself with opiates, but no doubt had it been doing so, it would have made similar recommendations in relation to opiates. In relation to cannabis the Committee made recommendations which the proposals in this Bill do pick up. If I am now going to say some slightly questioning things about those proposals, I do it against the background that the Committee sought increased penalties for those people engaged in trafficking. I am reminded of recommendation 68 of the Senate Standing Committee, which was:
That the maximum prison penalty and fine Tor trafficking in marihuana be raised to levels more appropriate to the quantities involved in seizures.
Certainly we could not have asked for a government to do more to implement that recommendation than is being done now. The Committee made another recommendation:
That the penalties for the importation, manufacture and sale of hashish, hashish oil and all purified forms of tetrahydrocannabinol be substantially increased in accordance with the principle of introducing higher penalties adopted at the meeting on drug abuse held by Commonwealth and State Ministers on 1 October 1976.
Those recommendations were unanimously endorsed within the Senate Standing Committee. The recommendations to increase the penalties were endorsed by the Liberal Party, the National Country Party and Labor Party senators who made up that committee. I take it that none of those committee members would now disagree with the principle of endorsing action to implement those particular recommendations.
The point that we made again and again in that report was that our recommendations were part of a coherent whole, a set of recommendations that had a unity and a purpose in relation to drug use. It is not really of much use simply to bring in new penalties for one part of the activity in the drug scene while doing nothing at all about the rest of the recommendations which we saw as complementary and essential. That was October 1 977, and we hope before too long, say, before the end of 1979, that there will be some response from the Government to that particular Senate Standing Committee report.
The Committee recommended specifically that a national strategy be adopted to identify the national problem of drug use, to deal with it in a coherent way, and to set a series of goals, for the nation in relation to drug abuse, goals which it does not have, which it never had, and which it still will not have even when we pass this Bill. In this nation there are no goals which really guide people in terms of drug control policy, except goals that there should be no use of illegal drugs. There is no comprehensive understanding of the problem of drug use. For example, we have a National Standing Control Committee on drugs whose terms of reference specifically exclude the two great drugs of abuse in this country, tobacco and alcohol- things like this may at least introduce fragmentation into our attempts to deal with drug problems and to develop policies for it. The Committee’s declared strategy consisted of seven points, and they have been promoted by the members of the Senate Standing Committee. They have previously been presented in the Senate, and I have a copy of them before me. In order to save the time of the Senate, I seek leave to have them incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Australia has no declared aims in the area of drug abuse beyond well meant, but ultimately empty, calls for its eradication. The community needs a firm, agreed objective to ensure a concert of purpose. It is imperative that all governments declare a set of clearly stated goals and evaluate the success of programs aimed at achieving those goals.
The Committee urges the Commonwealth Government to declare the following seven-point strategy, developed fully in Chapter 1, as its approach to drug abuse. The Commonwealth having provided the lead, State Governments should then be encouraged to make similar declarations.
Total elimination of drug abuse is unlikely, but government action can contain the problems and limit their adverse effects. Control of drug abuse requires a long-term commitment within a publicly declared program with clearly identified goals, and with time frame, monitoring procedures, financing arrangements and standards all specifically stated.
All drugs are not equally dangerous and all drug use is not equally destructive. Control efforts should therefore concentrate on drugs having the most adverse public health effects, particularly where use puts others at risk. Programs should give priority to individuals abusing high-risk drugs and to compulsive users of any drugs.
Efforts to reduce the supply of and the demand for drugs are complementary and interdependent, and Commonwealth programs should be based on a balance between them.
Existing programs aimed at reduction of supply and demand must be broadened. In the reduction of supply, a higher priority should be given to increasing international co-operation in preventing the illicit production of drugs. In the reduction of demand, increased attention should be given to prevention, constructive early intervention and better access to rehabilitation services.
Drug abuse is primarily a social/medical, not a legal, problem, though such abuse may have important legal consequences and aspects.
Management must be improved to ensure the maximum effect from resources committed to drug programs. Better interagency co-ordination is required. More attention must be paid to the setting of priorites with Commonwealth law enforcement efforts focused on high-level traffickers and Commonwealth resources focused on habitual users of high-risk drugs.
The Federal Government has particular responsibility for giving national leadership in coping with drug abuse. The States have an equally important role, especially in the direct provision of services. No national control program will be effective unless all governments co-ordinate their activities. The Commonwealth Minister for Health should have primary responsibility for Commonwealth action relating to all forms of drug use and abuse.
-This measure has been introduced to implement in passing some of the recommendations of the Committee but without the associated recommendations which do bear upon the problem. For example, if I look again at cannabis use, which the Senate Standing Committee considered, recommendation 68 tried to set down what the objective of the policy to control the use of cannabis should be. I am unaware of any national statement on what the policy should be, and the extent to which it agrees or disagrees with what the committee recommended. The Committee recommended in another recommendation that an appropriate diversionary program be developed and instituted for both possessors of and traffickers in cannibis. We recommended, and this relates to something that Senator Evans was saying about the Narcotics Bureau:
That the functions of the Australian Narcotics Bureau and relevant State and Territory law enforcement agencies be expressed in terms of community patterns of drug use, and that failure to effect these patterns appropriately be considered prima facie evidence of inadequate performance requiring re-evaluation of the roles, structures and funding of such agencies.
Our objective, of course, was to put these agencies into a position where they could ask for more resources if those which were available to them did not allow them to achieve the effects on community usage or on availability of drugs which their goal should set as their prime target.
The fact that we are mentioning cannabis at all is partly because of the artificial tradition that cannabis is included with the narcotic drugs when it is not a narcotic. It is interesting that the Select Committee of this Senate in 1971 asked then that action be taken urgently to remove cannabis from the inappropriate classification in which it existed to a more appropriate classification, and the Senate Standing Committee in 1977 repeated and endorsed the same request. No action has been taken, at least no action in Australia, to open up at international level the kind of discussions which will be necessary before we can start to classify these drugs in what are appropriate and proper ways- not to list cannabis as a legal drug, which I do not endorse but not to list it as a narcotic drug when it is not, or to include it under the same kind of legal provisions, generally speaking, that are attracted to other kinds of drugs.
– That recommendation was made as far back as 1 96 1 , was it not, Senator?
– I am aware that it was made as far back as 1971, but I think people have been asking for that kind of action for a long time. I am just concerned that sooner or later, is spite of bureaucratic convenience or government convenience, this recommendation is taken up and acted upon, and that Australia takes a lead, because the present convention and the action we have taken under it are inappropriate and inaccurate. They are not proper.
– There are some other problems with that schedule, are there not? What is the case for having codeine in there?
– The honourable senator asks what is the case for having codeine there. Codeine is a morphine derivative. I would think that we could clear up some of those points which are awkward. The thing about codeine is that in this country all the codeine used is produced in Tasmania. Therefore, any laws relating to its importation do not apply. I do not think it involves a customs law, coming from Tasmania, though I sometimes wonder.
The assumption that large scale trafficking is the central problem in drugs is an assumption only. Demand and supply are interwoven, and which one comes first is a matter of guesswork at the present time. To see the drug problem purely as the activities of unscrupulous dealers exerting their will on innocent victims is really to misunderstand the problem. That there are unscrupulous dealers and that we should attack them is not in dispute, but demand for drugs must also exist. Without demand, the market will collapse.
Let me give the Senate an example. The use of LSD was widespread in our community, until it became known to the users of the drug and to the culture in which the drugs were used that it was a dangerous drug, that it was bad news. When that happened the demand dropped and the market had to follow. If people are to convince us that they are talking rationally about the drug problem they will have to relate demand and supply and not assume that attacking the supply side alone will solve the problem. It will not. Surely the experience of Prohibition in the United States earlier this century -
– What about your Government?
– I note that there is a new Opposition Whip. Experience in the United States in the second and third decades of this century should have taught us that to act only on the supply side is the quickest and surest way of ensuring the emergence of a criminally controlled illegal supply situation. Our concern should be with drugs that do social damage, and in saying that I draw the attention of honourable senators to the outstanding report of a committee, under the chairmanship of Professor Ronald Sackville, which appeared recently in South Australia. The report has been too little noted, too little read and too little praised.
– And too quickly dismissed.
-My colleague says that it has been too quickly dismissed. It was far too quickly dismissed for what were quite unworthy parochial political reasons. In that report Professor Sackville and his colleagues said:
In our view, then, the objective of social policy should be to minimise the harmful consequences of the non-medical use of drugs.
That should be the goal which we follow. We should be concentrating most concern on the most damaging drugs and least concern on the least damaging drugs. We can not eliminate the use of these substances, and we should acknowledge that fact. The Sackville report also points out that many people assume, quite incorrectly that government policies and actions can readily influence the extent to which drugs are used nonmedically. Whether drugs are used or not depends upon a lot of social factors as well as upon the laws that operate. Where a mass demand for drugs exists people are willing to flout the law, just as they are willing to flout the income tax laws and certain other laws where their own standards are offended. Further, increasing the penalties for some of these drug offences does not of itself have any effect whatever upon the likelihood of detection. Doubling or trebling the penalty does not mean that anyone is a whit more likely to be detected. It may mean in fact that it is worth someone ‘s while to take extra precautions, to put extra tax on the product on the way to the consumer, to take greater risks in protecting himself. It may even be that the police will be more reluctant to lay charges as the penalties increase.
I return for one moment to the second reading speech of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) in the House of Representatives, one or two sentences of which were misunderstood by the Press. Dealing with commercial trafficking the Minister stated:
The penalty for these offences is to be life imprisonment without the option of a fine. Life imprisonment without the option of a fine is also to be the required penalty for a second offence involving a traffickable quantity of drugs.
The Minister did not mean that at all. Those sentences gave rise to considerable public misunderstanding. What he meant to identify was the maximum penalty in each case, and I think I can remind the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) that I asked a question of him in this place to ascertain whether there was any mandatory requirement for life sentences for any of these offences. He was able to assure me that there was not. However, there has been quite considerable correspondence in the Press about mandatory life sentences for certain offences. I think there has been a misunderstanding of what appeared in that speech. In 1 970 a provision was inserted in the South Australian Narcotics and Psychotropic Drugs Act under which the courts in that State were required in certain circumstances, in the interest of ‘rehabilitation’, so-called, to impose a sentence of imprisonment. That requirement was repealed in that State in 1972, apparently because the judges considered it too inflexible to be useful. Of course, mandatory gaol sentences are not appropriate, here or anywhere else. As I will point out later, the courts have used their own standards in the imposition of sentences and even now they are not using the maximum sentences available. What is the purpose of the penalties which are being proposed in this Bill? In social terms, what is the purpose? Is the purpose to punish those who use the drugs? Is it to deter people from carrying out these activities? Is it to punish or to deter the traffickers? Is it to exact retribution on behalf of society? We should know what the purpose is.
– Perhaps it is for governments to raise revenue.
-The honourable senator suggests that it could be for revenue purposes. I really think that is not so. The Government believes that it may have a deterrent effect; it may wish to exact retribution for what it considers to be wrongdoing. It is quite true that the community is anxious about the use of certain illegal drugs. It is anxious and disturbed about trafficking in these drugs. There has been a widespread demand for heavier penalties for certain activities, particularly as they relate to dealers and traffickers in drugs which at the moment are illegal. As Professor Sackville points out, these demands reflect the belief that the enactment of more stringent laws involving ever more severe penalties for law breakers and the allocation of greater resources to the relevant agencies will overcome the drug problem. At the very best, as Professor Sackville says, that belief oversimplifies the position.
– lt does not succeed.
– It tends to over estimate the effectiveness of the law as a deterrent and it underestimates the difficulty of disrupting the various sources of supply of drugs, many of which are interchangeable. The Full Court of the Supreme Court of South Australia set out the factors taken into account when penalties are fixed and implemented. In explaining that the South Australian legislation had two purposes the court said:
The first is to punish wicked people who attempt to corrupt others by sale or persuasion or who by their activities increase the general supply of the drug. The second is to protect citizens in the community from commencing to use the drug or from continuing to use it.
The court went on to say:
Very severe sentences are clearly required when a degree of wickedness is comprehended in the offence, more so when an offence of this sort has been repeated. (But a) desire to rescue an addict is perfectly consistent with a desire by an appropriate sentence to warn the unaddicted offender and thereby to deter him from becoming an addict or regular user.
A fine, a bond … or a suspended sentence will often be the right sentence to carry out the legislative intention. A lumping together of all offenders as wicked people who must all go to prison will not.
Here is a group of judges saying that, as one of the purposes of the law, they wish to punish wicked people and, as a second purpose, they wish to deter users. We know that our law makers have indicated a desire to punish the commercial drug traffickers who, they feel, have been too leniently treated in the past. That is a sentiment with which I would not disagree, especially when we look at the small penalties that can be imposed by way of fines or attachment of property. But I hope–
– Who do you mean by ‘law makers’?
– I mean the Government that is making these laws.
– I thought that Parliament made the laws.
– I thank the honourable senator for the point of constitutional practice which he made clear to me. We know that most of the opiates in this country are imported except, as I think was said earlier, the codeine produced in Tasmania. Honourable senators should realise that the use of opiates has been illegal in this country only since 1905. It was quite legal until then for a person to use as much opium as he or she wanted to use. Opium and morphine have not changed since then. People could use as much of these drugs as they liked until that stage. In fact, in 1905 a large number of drugs contained opium. They included Perry Davis painkillers which contained opium. Bonnington’s Irish Moss contained opium and morphine. Powell’s balsam of aniseed contained opium alkaloids. Only in 1905 when we controlled the use of these drugs did we, in fact, set the stage for the illicit market which arose. The benefit we received was that the amount of use of these drugs also dropped at that stage.
It is fashionable to say at the present time that we have an epidemic of heroin use or an epidemic of drug use. ‘Epidemic’ is a medical word which has a particular meaning and which relates to a rapid spread of infection from an agent introduced into a community. It appears that in some American cities the spread of heroin has followed that kind of pattern, but only temporarily. The use has tended to even out. The most recent surveys from the United States of America do not indicate rising rates of use of heroin over the last year or so. I am not suggesting that I favour heroin use, that I am not alarmed by heroin use or that I want heroin use in this country. Of course, I do not. But we should make as dispassionate and as cold an examination of the facts as we possibly can. We should avoid those people who want to tell us about epidemics and imminent danger, especially those distinguished visitors to this country who often make their pronouncements before the mandatory 72 hours in Australia. They cannot be experts on our drug problems if they have been here for only 72 hours. They tell us how much we should spend and how big our problem is. They usually do it in such a way as to include the kinds of recommendations which just happen to serve some selfinterest they have in an organisation which they are promoting or with which they happen to be associated.
The Sackville Royal Commission in South Australia tried to estimate the number of heroin users. The range of estimates the Royal Commission arrived at was between 500 and 1,500. It is pretty difficult to be exact when confronted with an estimated rate of use over a two-year period of between 0.4 and 1.3 users per 1,000 of South Australian population -
– A guesstimate.
– It is the best extrapolation the Commission could make from the surveys available and it is better than just the pure kinds of guesstimates that are often promoted in the daily Press by those who want to be dramatic rather than factual. So we do have a problem but I am not sure how big it is. I am not sure how serious it is. I am not sure that it is getting worse, and I am not sure that other people know either.
I turn now to consider the question of penalties. I do not want to argue that there should not be penalties for those who are engaged in illicit drug trafficking. I would like to be clear why we are imposing them. I am perfectly happy to exact retribution in appropriate circumstances. I notice that my colleague who is going to speak next in the debate is shaking his head.
– Retribution means revenge. I am sure the honourable senator does not mean that.
-The presence of a law symbolises public disapproval and I am perfectly happy to have a punishment available further to indicate the kind of disapproval which the community has. Of course, I will mention later the opinion of Lord Devlin. He holds the view completely opposite to that of John Stuart Mill on this matter and it is a view which I find a little disturbing generally. He thinks that the protection of morality is enough reason to have these harsh laws. But if the aim is to deter the use of drugs, we should examine what the evidence is for deterrence and we should examine what the practice is in the courts. The maximum penalties already available in every State of Australia are just not being used by judges.
The maximum penalties for trafficking in opiates and cannabis are not being used at all. Table 7.4 on page 247 of the final report of the Sackville Royal Commission gives the figures on the outcome of charges involving different drugs in all courts. We find that 20 per cent of the charges involving opiates were dismissed. In 42 per cent of cases a fine was imposed, in 4 per cent there was a bond, in 13 per cent of cases the accused received suspended sentences and in only 13 per cent was a term of imprisoment imposed.
– What year was that?
-This was in 1977 in South Australia. A further 7 per cent were convicted without penalty. Let us look at the position in the New South Wales higher courts. Out of the 56 people convicted in New South Wales in 1 976 for cannabis trafficking, 18 attracted no gaol term, six attracted a gaol term of less than two years, but only seven out of the 56 people involved attracted gaol terms in excess of four years. Let us look at opiate trafficking in the same State-New South Wales. In 1976 of the 51 people who were convicted of opiate trafficking, three received no gaol term, nine received a gaol term of less than two years, eight received a sentence of between two and four years and 31 received a sentence of more than four years. In the New South Wales lower courts, only 54 per cent of those who were trafficking in opiates were imprisoned, only 25 per cent of those who were engaged in cannabis pushing were imprisoned, and so it goes on.
– What is the point you are making?
– I am making the point that the penalties available now, which can extend to prison terms of up to 20 or 25 years, are not used by the courts. Honourable senators can ask: What is the need therefore for increased gaol terms? I do not object to people going to gaol for drug trafficking. I would just like to make it quite clear that they are not having the available sentences imposed upon them now. A heroin wholesaler was given a sentence of 151A years in Perth in April this year. That is the biggest sentence ever imposed in that State for that particular offence.
– And he was a non-user.
-The honourable senator said he was a non-user of drugs. So what are the courts trying to tell us? The courts are trying to tell us that the judges, whose business it is to determine the sentencing practice, do not wish to avail themselves of the sentencing power they already have. I do not argue with that. They are the professionals. They are the people who know what sentences to impose. But it makes a pretty thin case if we say we must increase the gaol terms.
I think that the question of the extra pecuniary penalties is quite separate. It is something that has been lacking and it is something that I think we need. All that Murray Riley, a former New South Wales policeman, received was a 10-year gaol sentence with a non-parole period of five years, for his massive importation of cannabis, although the maximum penalty available in New South Wales was then 1 5 years. This makes one wonder, specially if one looks at the penalties for other kinds of offences, say in Victoria. The maximum penalty for murder in Victoria is life imprisonment. The average sentence in Victoria for that offence is life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for manslaughter is 15 years, but the courts tend to impose a sentence of four years to 10 years. For drug trafficking the courts have tended to impose fairly modest gaol sentences although they have had available to them extensive powers of imprisonment. In fact in 1977 the courts chose to impose average sentences of 3.8 years for trafficking offences.
There is no good evidence at the moment to suggest that there is a strong deterrent effect from increased punishment. In New York State in 1973 laws were enacted increasing the penalties for the possession and trafficking of drugs. The new laws proposed a sentence of from 15 years to life imprisonment for major trafficking in narcotics. In addition there were mandatory maximum life terms for all narcotic drug sales, for the possession of narcotic drugs in quantities in excess of one ounce and for a variety of possession and sale offences involving LSD, stimulants, hallucinogens and amphetamines. By mid- 1976 the State of New York had spent some $76m in administering the new law. However, a recent study has found that heroin use remains as widespread as it ever did. It differs little from the levels of use in other east coast cities in the United States. Of course one cannot assume automatically that the situation might not have been worse had the law not existed, but the evidence that the law has exerted a beneficial effect cannot be uncovered. That study in one city in the United States did not yield a promising result that deterrent follows from increasing the penalties which are imposed.
– It does increase the price of the drug, does it not?
-The honourable senator is correct in saying it increases the price of the drug. In Singapore in 1975 the law was amended to provide for a mandatory death sentence for anyone possessing more than 15 grams of pure heroin or 30 grams of morphine. At the stage I looked into the matter 1 6 arrests had been made under the law with nine convictions. A further 3 1 suspects had been charged and were awaiting trial. Singapore has now reported some success in bringing its drug problem under control. However, it is very difficult to determine whether it was the new law that produced that effect. Most of Singapore’s heroin is brought in by Malaysian guest workers who commute daily to work on the island. Each smuggler carries a very small amount across the causeway. As a result, detection has been virtually impossible and most of the heroin will continue to get in. There are indications that heroin addiction continued to increase in Singapore after 1975. Let me outline the arrest rate for heroin offences which is not, in itself, a reliable indicator of community use. In 1974 there were 110 arrests; in 1975, 2,263 arrests and in 1976, 5,700 arrests. According to some investigators no sets of legal restraints have so far been successful in reducing the heroin problem to negligible levels. I refer to heavy penalties, police action or addict treatment. The reason for this failure is thought to lie in the fact that those who become thoroughly addicted tend not to recover. The Le Dain Commission in Canada stated:
Despite massive expenditures over a period of many years on a wide variety of treatment programs, their success rates continue to be unacceptable by ordinary medical standards.
It may well be that we do not know what to do to get people off heroin if they are really addicted to it. It may be that Senator Georges is correct in saying that all we do is push the price up and increase the efforts people make to get the drugs. I am not suggesting for one minute that we do nothing about the situation. I am suggesting that we take the most hard nosed view of what we are doing and try to determine whether it is effective. If it is effective, let us say so. If it is not effective, let us also have the courage to say so. There is no real evidence that the deterrent effect of the heavy penalties is what we wanted it to be.
So what should we conclude? First of all, there is very little evidence that the imposition of tougher penalties has anywhere had a marked observable effect upon the amount of drug trafficking or the amount of drug use. Unless we can produce the outcome measures and reduce the usage, reduce the amount being imported and the amount of trafficking, all the things we do will be worthless. Perhaps I had better amend that statement. They are not worthless. Perhaps if we had none of these things, use would be greater. What I meant to say was that the measures are not effective enough.
We should say to people like our narcotic officers: ‘Your task is to prevent the entry of material into Australia’. Every year that more material gets in the Narcotics Bureau’s goal is not being achieved. We will then have to decide whether we restructure the Bureau or support it more adequately and whether we come to understand that legal sanctions, on which we depend so entirely in Australia, are themselves not enough to control the drug problem. Certainly they are not enough to control the illegal drug problem.
– Should we be looking at causes rather than effects?
-The honourable senator talks about causes, and the causes have to do with social development programs. In this Bill we are looking at effects, at drug use, at how we control it and at how we stop certain people importing drugs. All I am saying is that if we are not achieving what we set out to achieve we should acknowlege the fact and revise the methods which we have used.
I would again emphasise the need for a comprehensive strategy to attack and control drug use generally. That comprehensive strategy must acknowledge that in a nation where we glorify the use of certain legal drugs we are increasing the likelihood that people will turn to other drugs. It is impossible to concentrate only on the illegal drugs in a society where drug use is encouraged and promoted. As I may mention in a debate soon to come up, a program issued at the Country Rugby Union Carnival this year in Sydney contained a message from the President of the Country Rugby Union in New South Wales, a Mr Rowlands. He thanked the sponsors, W. D. & H. O. Wills (Aust) Pty Ltd, for the carnival. Mr Rowlands said that it was up to all those who attended to encourage, promote and exhort the use of products of their sponsors. Anyone who adopts that kind of framework has no right to come back and say how much he deplores the drug problem and drug use generally. As a drug using society we must develop a comprehensive strategy. What we do at the moment is quite irrational. We designate certain substances as illegal and impose sanctions on their use; we supply too little support, too few diversionary programs, too little rehabilitation; and we say to the narcotics officers and the police: ‘It is your problem, chum; we will have nothing more to do with it’. Therefore, we get what we deserve.
This Bill does a number of things that I believe are absolutely necessary. The investigatory powers that the Bureau needs must be made available to it. The ability to impose certain pecuniary penalties upon the big dealers will at least be a practical demonstration to them of the disapproval of society. My only concern is that, so far, such measures have had little deterrent effect upon the problem that they are intended to correct. I beg the Government to look once again at the need to adopt a comprehensive strategy in combating drug use and drug use problems. The recommendation of the Senate Standing Committee may not represent an ideal solution, but it at least represents a start in filling what is at the moment a policy vacuum.
– We have just heard from Senator Peter Baume an incredibly thoughtful and valuable speech, one that I think makes a great contribution to this debate. Therefore, I hope that he will forgive me- I feel a little guilty in making the point- if I commence my speech by referring to a slip that occurred in his. I do so not for the sake of scoring a point but for the sake of asking what is the value of my speaking here tonight, of Senator Peter Baume ‘s speaking here tonight, or of Senator Evans making an excellent 45 minute speech? We went through this last week on a similar Bill. I compliment the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) upon the incredible patience that he has displayed in sitting in this chamber for hour after hour and listening to debate, and upon the generous way in which he responds to Opposition criticism. But what in hell is the use of it all? Senator Peter Baume simply said: ‘I do not agree with this but the lawmakers have decided that these are what the penalties will be and that is the way it is going to be’. I have the oldfashioned view that the Westminster system is designed on the basis of divisions of power; that the Executive frames the laws, that the Parliament, not the Executive, makes the laws, and that the judiciary attempts to give effect to the laws. Yet tonight, Senator Peter Baume, the Government Whip, who is one of the most able, honest and sincere people in this chamber, tells us this.
– Don’t overdo it.
– I am not overdoing it; I mean it. If he were a councillor in local government he would vote for the second reading, as I will, but also most certainly would vote with the Opposition on several of the excellent amendments that will be proposed. Last week Senator Puplick make a similar speech. If he were to have a free vote he also would vote for several of the amendments proposed by the Opposition. Yet we go through this pathetic exercise in dealing with one of the most important Bills affecting humanity and civil liberties that have been brought before this chamber. There are eight senators present. When and if the division bells ring, other honourable senators will come into this chamber, look around to see where their mates are sitting and put their bums down on a seat. They will vote with their bums. After the doors have been locked they will casually turn to their mate and say, ‘What are we voting for?’ I wonder if there is any purpose in going through the excellent Committee stage debates that we have had lately in which Senator Button, Senator Evans and the Attorney-General have performed as true parliamentarians. Is it all a facade? Is it all a farce? Is the vote any different? I hope that Senator Wheeldon will not, after I say this, say ‘Oh, death, where is thy kiss’, but today he made a most courageous and fantastic speech. It was one with which I did not totally agree, but it was against the party line. Interjections were made: “This is not the party line’. He has not the right, as a democratically-elected senator, to say what he believes about Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. That is not the game in this place! He must follow the party line. I wonder what point there is in sitting till all hours of the morning, having all of this erudite debate, which no doubt Senator Button and Senator Evans will lead in the Committee stage. Will it do any good? For what it is worth, the Australian Democrats support the thrust of the Bill and will support the second reading. We are very strongly supportive of some of the comments that Senator Evans has made. I plead with the Attorney-General- if the Parliament still means a damn thing- to look at the objections that Senator Evans has made about the kind of offences that would attract life imprisonment. That sort of thing almost boggles the mind but one wonders, now that the ‘lawmakers’ have made their decision, whether we can do anything about it.
The Bill gives new powers to the Federal Narcotics Burea- powers to institute electronic surveillance and to use listening devices. It provides power to recover pecuniary penalties for dealing in narcotic goods. We support all of these proposals. But I agree with Senator Peter Baume that this Bill will do very little, if anything, to prevent the human waste that is now being caused by heroin use in this country.
Let me now say a word or two about the Federal Narcotics Bureau, and in particular the comments about it by Senator Evans, comments which I thought were unfounded, ungracious, illogical, unfair and would serve no good purpose. I am mindful of the fact that Senator Evans is a distinguished lawyer and a person who certainly does have regard for the value of true evidence.
– That is why he made the comments.
-We will have a look at that in a moment. In the years since I was Minister for Customs and Excise I may have been overfulsome in my praise of the Federal Narcotics Bureau. I have described it unashamedly as the most honest and efficient law-enforcement agency of its kind in the world. I have no reason, despite the smears that are being put about concerning it, to resile from that position tonight. I could not, and would not, say the same about the drug squads of certain State police forces. I am speaking purely of the law enforcement agency which Senator Evans attacked tonight.
I remind the Senate- and he is a distinguished lawyer- that as I heard it over the amplifier in my office, he said: ‘There is a great deal of corruption in the agency, naked and unadorned’. He held up a totally discredited book, The Brown Tapes, and other evidence. But what evidence can we really turn to? I think that is important because if we are to use this one avenue of fighting heroin use and yet have distinguished and respected senators such as Senator Evans undermining the public confidence in the Federal Narcotics Bureau we have already gone half-way towards losing the fight.
What evidence of corruption do we have? Since the Bureau’s formation in 1969 only one officer has been prosecuted. I refer to a creature named Brown who was sent to jail for 12 years. He was remorselessly followed and prosecuted, not by State police forces but by the Narcotics Bureau itself. It cleansed itself in the case of Brown. Since then, to my knowledge, only four officers have been suspected of being corrupt. Prosecutions were not levelled at or raised against them because of a lack of evidence. Because of internal pressure, the four officers have since resigned from the force. If Senator Evans, Mr Delaney or the discredited journalist who wrote The Brown Tapes has concrete evidence to produce about other Federal narcotics agents who are corrupt, let them produce it. Let them give it to Senator Evans so that he can disclose it under parliamentary privilege. If they are frightened, they can remain anonymous. For God’s sake, if there are to be accusations against the law enforcement agency, let us have them on the table in a substantiated form.
– What do you say about the Wilson allegations of penetration and the release of information?
– I was about to say something about that. The honourable senator has a knack of anticipating me. How can Senator Evans, who is a lawyer, rely on the Wilsons? The Wilsons were greatly respected people in the community! They were selling hundreds of thousands of dollars of heroin in Australia. They are great witnesses to hold up when condemning the Narcotics Bureau. Their statements have only to be seen to be scoffed at. They are on record as saying that for $25,000 one can buy a suspect alert list from a leak in the Narcotics Bureau. That is what Senator Evans was relying on when he made his allegations about the Narcotics Bureau. He was holding up as his prime witnesses two self-confessed heroin pedlars who are now dead.
Let us look at this suspect alert list. Does Senator Evans know what it is? It is simply a list of people who are suspected of dealing in drugs and who come into and out of Australia from time to time. Does Senator Evans know about the circulation of that list? Between 200 and 300 copies of that list are circulated to immigration offices throughout the Commonwealth, Commonwealth Police, Customs offices throughout the Commonwealth and State police forces which ask for the list. The only accusation against the Narcotics Bureau is that the Wilsons said that the leak came from the Narcotics Bureau. Senator Evans holds that up, as a lawyer, to smear this agency. I do not often attack the arguments of Senator Evans in this place because normally they are impeccable, but because of my emotional attachment to the Narcotics Bureau and my admiration for it, I suppose, I tend to react rather savagely when unjust accusations are made against it.
– The Minister thought them to be important enough to order a multi-force inquiry into the Bureau. What do you say about that? That the Minister is off his head, too?
-No, I do not. The honourable senator has not been in politics for very long. He is expert in law, but he is not too expert yet in politics. When the honourable senator becomes a Minister- I hope that one day that honour will eventually fall upon him- he will know that Ministers must appoint a public inquiry if there is such a charge. An old saying that he has repeated time and again is that justice not only has to be done but also has to be seen to be done. The Minister had to appoint an inquiry because that smear against the Narcotics Bureau was leaked by people who were enemies of it. The Minister had absolutely no alternative. I mention that only in passing. I believe in the principles of the Bill regarding listening devices. During my term as Minister, I had narcotics agents coming to me quite often saying that the possibility of a prosecution succeeding was virtually impossible under our laws because they could not use listening devices. I put a proposition about that to Cabinet, I think in 1972, and it was refused.
Let me turn now to the subject of penalties. 1 admired what Senator Peter Baume had to say about this matter. What is the Government trying to prove in increasing penalties? Senator Peter Baume asked several rhetorical questions about that. Are the penalties imposed as revenge, retribution or a deterrent? What is the reason? I do not believe it is any of those reasons. I believe that it is a political exercise to try to show the Australian people that we hate heroin pedlars and therefore we will increase penalties to show that we mean business. I am all for increasing penalties. Other than the ultimate penalty, no penalty is high enough to me. I am just asking what is the use of increasing penalties. What good purpose will increased penalties serve? The maximum penalty is now life imprisonment in certain cases. I agree with the remarks of Senator Evans when he attacked these penalties. He called them absurd. They are absurd. When Senator Puplick spoke last week he said that legislation must be seen to be a deterrent and that penalties are just not the answer. Senator Puplick does not seem to realise that the profits in heroin trading in Australia today are estimated to run between $125m and $200m a year. What is a $ 100,000 penalty going to mean to a person like that? The pickings are so lush that unscrupulous persons will take virtually any risk. The size of the profits is now such, as, I think, Senator Lewis mentioned in the last session of Parliament, that virtually nobody in this country is safe from an approach for a bribe. No politician, magistrate, judge, policeman or narcotics agent is safe from an approach for a bribe of almost astronomic proportions. If the syndicates and the business people running heroin are making $200m a year profit, a bribe of $500,000 to a magistrate or a policeman is petty cash. I think that we ought to get the whole thing into perspective.
Senator Peter Baume said something about the Narcotics Bureau that bothered me. He said that if the Bureau cannot stop the heroin coming into this country we should ask it why it cannot. In 1971 or1972 the Government very graciously allowed me to go round the world studying this very problem. I went to about six or seven countries. I spoke to the narcotics agencies in each of those countries. The spooky thing about that exercise was that whenever I asked them what percentage of drugs or heroin they estimated they could prevent from coming into the country the maximum figure given to me was 1 5 per cent and the average figure was 10 per cent. It does not matter whether a country has the most efficient narcotics agency in the world, whether it has tens of thousands of agents, whether it uses listening devices or electronic surveillance devices, or whether the penalty is death by a firing squad as the percentage does not vary. Between 85 per cent and 90 per cent of the heroin being smuggled into Australia has got through and will continue to get through.
– That is the very point I am trying to make. The responses we are making to the problem are ineffective. That is no reflection on the Bureau. It is just that the responses are not appropriate.
– I am not suggesting that the honourable senator was making a reflection on the Bureau. I was thinking that he was following the fond hope of some newspapers that by jazzing up the Narcotics Bureau we will cure the drug problem. If I was in a Senate in which one could filibuster for hours, I could detail something like 2,000 ways of smuggling sizable quantities of heroin into this country, make a fortune and not be detected. The mind boggles at the ingenuity of the heroin smuggler. Consider the case of canned fruit coming in from some foreign port. There could be 1,000 cases of that canned fruit. In each case there could be 100 tins. One of those tins, instead of being full of canned fruit, could by arrangement be stacked full of 95 per cent pure heroin worth God knows what on the open market. How, in the name of fortune, could any narcotics agent detect that? It would require an army to open 1,000 cases containing 100 tins each. It is one of 2,000 ways in which heroin can be smuggled in. Let us stop kidding ourselves that increased penalties, increased surveillance for the Narcotics Bureau and so on- all of which I support- will even begin to scratch at the problem.
I have heard almost all of this debate but one thing has not been mentioned. What worries me about increased penalties is that the same development might occur here as occurred in the United States: When heavy penalties are imposed, the age of the pusher becomes progressively lower. It is then profitable or expedient for the syndicates to use 13 -year-old or 14-year- old children to be couriers in this infamous business. I think that is something against which we ought to guard. Higher deterrents and penalties mean more corruption and a higher price of drugs.
I support Senator Baume in what he said about judges. I have been engaged in angry public debate with several judges. If the Parliament of the nation or the State fixes a maximum penalty of 20 years gaol for an offence in relation to which there are absolutely no extenuating circumstances, what right has a judge to say that he will impose a penalty of 12 years or less. I am not talking about user pushers. They are in a totally different category. I am talking about the creature who sees fantastic profits to be made in heroin pushing and who gets caught. For such an offence the Parliament has set a penalty 20 years gaol but a judge says: ‘All right, you are guilty and I will give you 1 2 years or 1 5 years ‘.
I know that judges are very touchy about contempt of court. I have heard of a judge putting himself into a situation where, if some poor devil of a workman is drilling the road outside his court, he will send a policeman out to tell the workman to stop the drilling because it is interfering with the processes of the court and that if the workman does not stop he will be charged with contempt of court. That is how precious judges regard themselves. I remind some of those judges that, in fact, they are in contempt of Parliament, which is an even higher offence, if they ignore the wishes of democratically elected people. Sometimes I wonder, as does Senator Baume, about the time honourable senators are wasting debating penalties when they know that some weak-gutted judge for some reason that is peculiar to himself will ignore them. The only way in which I would support increased penalties is if the maximum penalty fixed by this Parliament is increased. The the sentences proportionately can be increased by judges.
In conclusion, I, like Senator Baume, ask the Senate to look at goals. Our tackling of the problem of drug addiction in this country is ad hoc; it is full of hypocrisy. As Senator Baume often reminds honourable senators, the two killer drugs known to the human race are alcohol and tobacco. We know that the abuse of alcohol is currently responsible for filling approximately 40 per cent to 50 per cent of beds in public hospitals. From memory, the World Health Organisation now rates alcohol as the third largest killer of the human race. Honourable senators know what ravages tobacco makes on the human body. To its eternal credit, the Federal Liberal-National Country Party Government has banned electronic advertising of tobacco. That is a step in the right direction. What sort of view will be presented to young kinds who smoke pot or hashish or who sniff cocaine if we, as a Parliament, still allow alcohol to be advertised on the electronic media, and when we do worse than that by allowing the massive amounts of money spent on advertising- not on the electronic media- by tobacco and alcohol companies still to be a deductible expense against taxation. Is that a sincere approach? Is that not smacking of hypocrisy, if we are sincere about a drug problem? Of course, vested interests would be too strong -
– Assuming that we follow your argument- I do, quite clearly- what should we do as a parliament?
– Be consistent.
-I thank the honourable senator. I am supporting Senator Baume in his view that we ought to have some national goals on the drug problem. I believe that we will never come to those unless we have an all-party consensus. I believe that there ought to be a consensus of this Parliament that advertising of known killer drugs should not be a deductible expense, and that we ought to have an all-party discussion on whether cannabis in some form or other inevitably leads to heroin addiction. If we can persuade ourselves on that, we ought to come to a view that we should do something about cannabis. We ought to wonder why the taxation instrument cannot be used more ruthlessly and remorselessly than it is at the moment. Is it being used? I know that this will shock people, but it was done in the United States. That method was used during the 1920s and 1930s to catch the worst criminals in the United States, the most notorious of whom was Al Capone, who committed the most heinous crimes against society for a decade. He could not be apprehended, except on a tax charge. He was then put away. I wonder whether we are using that instrument?
On the question of bipartisanship, I will now stick out my neck for Senator Button. I believe that the Parliament ought to look at the question of legalising heroin. I know that there are political enemies of mine who will spread it around that Chipp wants to legalise heroin and who will make some cheap political points on it. I went to Holland and the United Kingdom specially to study this problem. I know that it has not worked there with great success but there have been some breakthroughs. I am not suggesting that heroin should be legalised for anyone to buy. What I am suggesting is that if there is a person who can be diagnosed by a qualified medical practitioner to be a heroin addict, why cannot that medical practitioner prescribe heroin in diminishing doses?
– You cannot have a drink but you can have heroin. That is what you are saying.
– It must be too late in the night for either me or Senator McAuliffe. I thought I made it perfectly clear that it would involve heroin being prescribed, in diminishing doses for addicts only. This was experimented with in the United Kingdom and in Holland with varying degrees of success. I am not suggesting that it would solve the problem and I am not suggesting that we should implement it. I am saying that we should look at it as an all-party group. It would diminish the amount of heroin sold to certain people on the streets. It would eliminate for certain people the dirty dose or the overdose, and it would at least give us a fighting chance of curing the addict. I know that the greater proportion of heroin addicts would not even seek medical treatment; they would prefer the bang that it gives them to buy it on the streets. At least some young Australians could go in and, under medical supervision, have their physiological addiction gradually reduced to such a stage that at least there would be a fighting chance of curing them physiologically of their habit.
– Doesn’t it also have an effect on crime rates? There is some evidence of that.
– It reduces crime rates markedly. It is a problem fraught with difficulties. If we are to leave a problem like that in the political arena where people score points ofT each other, as two or three senators did by way of muffled interjection to me then, where the hell will we get? It is a problem that is increasing massively. We ought to be spending not hundreds of thousands of dollars but millions of dollars on drug education. I want now to be critical of our educators. I think that I have read almost everything that has been written and brought to my notice in recent years about what should be the proper way to educate people about drugs. One of the things that is clear to me is that the use of fear in advertising does not work. I am not an expert in the vagaries of the human mind, but it seems that if one tries to scare people not to do something, the perversity of the human mind will urge them to do it. We had some experience of this with those bloody advertisements on road safety. The people who saw those bloody, gory and emaciated bodies on the road after a crash seemed to become more reckless.
I had an experience with this sort of thing when I was Minister for the Navy. I shall not mention the ships concerned. During the Vietnam involvement one ship in particular seemed to be coming back from Vietnam with more than a reasonable incidence of a certain social disease amongst its complement. The Americans told us that they had produced a film and that if we showed this film to the sailors there was no way they would ever again go into a bar in Saigon and that this would fix them. I saw the film- God help me- and I have never been the same since. It was the most horrific, frightening and terrifying film that I have ever seen. The sheer logic of it would impel a logical human being never to take risks in that direction. We showed that film on two or three occasions to the sailors going to Vietnam. The end result was that the ship returned from Vietnam with the highest rate of venereal disease among its complement of any ship that ever went there.
– It made them curious.
– I do not know what the reason was. Quite often amateurs involve themselves in drug and alcohol education. I do not know the proper philosophy that we ought to follow if we are going to spend millions of dollars, but I do know that we parents make an arbitrary judgment that at a certain time in their lives our children are ready to learn about sex, about alcohol, about drugs, about road safety or whatever. Then we say to them: ‘It is naughty to do this or that’. For years I have been pleading for a health education program to be introduced into the schools in the State education system to teach young children from an early age about their bodies, their minds and their souls and about these facts of life. As soon as somebody suggests that, some troglodyte such as Mr Bjelke-Petersen says: ‘You are not going to abuse the little darlings’ minds about sex at the age of four or five years of age’. The debate is taken up my maniacs from the League of Rights and from the Festival of Light and the children are kept in blissful ignorance until they reach the age of puberty when we adults say to them: ‘There is this horrible drug problem out there’. The parents tell them lies such as ‘If you smoke pot you will inevitably go on to heroin’. Once the children find us out in the first lie they never believe us again. The same happens with other health education problems. Surely children should have the respect of being taught the truth in the beginning and not at an age when they know it already. We pose as dirty old men and dirty old women telling them things that are dirty, sneaky and smutty, whereas they are facts of life.
In conclusion I say that we will support the general thrust of the Bill. We will support strongly some of the Opposition’s amendments. But all of this debate and all of this Bill will be perfectly useless unless we can get an all-party and non-political approach without point scoring for the national drug problem which is now reaching terrifying proportions.
– Having heard the debate tonight I can only shake my head in despair. Two excellent committee reports have been brought down after investigations into the drug problem in Australia and we have had several debates. We do not seem to be any clearer about what ought to be done. This proposed legislation is not the answer. I think that it is an exercise in futility. All that will develop out of this legislation is a more aggressive Narcotics Bureau supported by various drug squads in the States which will lead to an escalation and not a decrease in the problem. That has been the experience in the United States. We seem always to follow that country’s experience a generation later. With this legislation we will create the Al Capones who were created during the prohibition period in the United States. There is another answer to the problem. This legislation certainly is not the answer. It seems to me that what Senator Baume said concerning the need to reduce drug usage in the community is the answer, but this legislation certainly will not achieve that.
My purpose in speaking tonight is to move an amendment on behalf of the Opposition. The amendment to the motion ‘That this Bill be now read a second time ‘reads as follows:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘the Bill be withdrawn and not proceeded with until the current police inquiry into the Narcotics Bureau and the Williams Royal Commission have been completed ‘.
It is obvious that the Opposition has come to the conclusion that we need to know the determination of the Williams royal commission in particular. In taking its findings together with the recommendations of our two committees we may come to a conclusion which is quite different from that which is provided for by this Customs Amendment Bill. I believe that the proposition is reasonable and should be supported, lt will give us sufficient time to reconsider some of the draconian- or should I say draconic- measures in this Bill. I think we have had a debate about that before. By punishment alone we will not achieve the results that we are looking for. For that reason we will have to reconsider the position of cannabis and whether we should take the drug out of the area of criminality. We also have to consider the proposition, which Senator Chipp touched on towards the end of his speech, and that is that we ought to be taking the profit motive out of the heroin traffic and at least take away the great weapon which the pusher usesthe forced addiction of young people especially- so that the addicts have no dependency on those who push this horrific drug. The methods used in the United Kingdom and in other places may be methods which we can introduce. I have been given a wind up signal, I think. Having listened to this debate now for at least two days and having–
– We would like you to keep going for five minutes.
– Oh, I see. I will see what 1 can do about that. Getting back to the serious proposition which I am putting, if we can remove the profitability of trafficking we will see a sharp decrease in the activities of those people who now make vast profits. If I recall correctly, in the investigation which was undertaken by the Mariott committee of the Senate in 1968, 1969 and 1 970 we found it particularly difficult to discover any evidence of pronounced heroin addiction or trafficking. In fact, it was practically unknown. I do not think that we had any such evidence before the committee. Not one addict came before the committee in those hearings. Yet now, nine years later, we have a problem of great magnitude. All the attempts which have been made, all the penalties which have been imposed and the new laws which have been enacted by the States have not diminished the traffic in any way. I repeat my belief that the legislation before us will achieve nothing more than to open up a vast area of potential corruption, increase the price of the drug and force people into crime in order to support their drug addiction. It will escalate the problem to horrific levels.
I come back to the proposition which I put in moving my amendment. I am not suggesting that we should invite Senator Evans to take advantage of the opportunity afforded him by my moving that amendment and to answer Senator Chipp, but he will now have the opportunity to do so if he so desires. If Senator Baume has not completed his argument on the subject, I remind him that my moving the amendment has given him the opportunity to do so. If he wishes to extend this debate by a further five minutes, although I am not quite certain why he wishes to do so, perhaps he will take up that invitation. I repeat my amendment, which reads:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘the Bill be withdrawn and not proceeded with until the current police inquiry into the narcotics bureau and the Williams Royal Commission have been completed.’
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Collard)- Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and wish to speak briefly on it. We have had quite a lengthy debate on the motion that this Bill, the Customs Amendment Bill, be read a second time. I think that all honourable senators on both sides of the chamber would agree that a number of thoughtful contributions have been made. The results of thoughtful contributions to the debate show up, in a sense, the hollowness and thoughtlessness of the legislation which is before the Senate, lt is quite clear that a number of members of the Senate are not satisfied with the penalty provisions of this legislation; they are not satisfied with the Schedule; and they are not satisfied with a number of the definitions which appear in the legislation.
At a time when two inquiries are directing their attention to these problems, particularly to the problem of what should be done about the Narcotics Bureau and also to the general question which has been debated here tonight, it is quite clear that if the Government proceeds with the legislation now we will be proceeding with legislation which, in the minds of a number of honourable senators, whatever their party affiliations might be, is unsatisfactory legislation in terms of dealing with the problem about which we are all concerned. It might be unfair to characterise the legislation, in the light of the debate and the Government’s proceeding with the legislation, if that is its intention as nothing more than a stunt on this issue. The more stunts we have the more we get involved in the sorts of problems to which Senator Chipp averted earlier. I support the amendment which has been moved by Senator Georges. I think that it gives the Government and the Parliament a valuable opportunity to get further views on the subject from the two inquiries which are referred to in the amendment and to pause generally in relation to what might turn out to be quite a silly and counter-productive piece of legislation if it is proceeded with now.
– This has been a most interesting and thoughtful debate on proposed amendments to the Customs Act. It began in the Senate on a previous sitting day and it continued today. I think it is rather unfortunate that it should have ended on a rather sour note with the allegation by Senator Button, who has been leading for the Opposition in this debate, that this measure is a stunt on the part of the Government. I think that that allegation is not worthy of Senator Button. It certainly is not worthy of the high level of debate on this measure which has taken place. At times- in fact, probably at most times- during this debate I felt that it probably would have been more appropriate if my colleague, the Minister for Health ( Mr Hunt) were sitting in my seat in this chamber and were listening to this debate. No doubt he could have responded in a more adequate way than it is possible for me to do.
The Senate has taken the occasion of the introduction of these proposed amendments to the Customs Act as providing an opportunity to debate not so much the specific measures before the Senate but the drug problem generally, and to debate it in a very searching way indeed. Admittedly, contributions have been made which relate directly to the Bill and to the legal aspects of it, but most of the debate has been concerned with the broader issues of the drug problem.
That is not surprising, considering the contribution made by Senator Baume, with his medical knowledge and having worked as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare, which produced a notable report on the subject. Senator Chipp contributed to the debate also. He is a former Minister for Customs and Excise. In his period as Minister he was deeply involved in trying to tackle this horrific problem. Other honourable senators, such as Senator Puplick, have contributed to the debate in a very thoughtful way. Although Senator Evans spoke more on the legal issues, he contributed also to a wider discussion of the matter than just the specific amendments which are before the Senate.
Let me say on behalf of the Government that we do not see our introduction of these proposed amendments to the Customs Act as providing a panacea to the problem. We recognise that law enforcement provides only part of the answer to the drug problem. How far it goes as an answer and how important a part of the solution it is are matters for debate. I could not accept a lot of what was said in this debate. In fact, I might even say that I could not accept the general tenor of the debate, which seemed to ascribe a very low priority to the enforcement side, the deterrent side, and to consider it as making a very small contribution towards providing a solution to the problem. My major criticism of the debate- I admit that this is a criticism of speakers from the Government side as well as from the Opposition side of the Senate- is, as I said, that the whole tenor of it seemed to have been not necessarily to put the enforcement provisions of the attack on the drug problem, the penalties et cetera, in a low light, but certainly to describe them as provisions which will make a fairly small contribution to solving the problem.
Therefore, although the Government recognises that the enforcement provisions will provide by no means the only solution to the drug problem, we in the Government see effective investigation of offences, the rigorous pursuit of offenders and the penalties imposed on offenders as very important aspects of the attack on it. As I have said, it is a matter of some regret to me that the general tenor of this debate ascribes a much lower significance to those activities. Nonetheless, despite the approach of the Opposition, despite the amendment to the second reading which is proposed and on which I will speak in detail later, I am pleased to find that the Senate- or the majority of the Senate, at all events- is apparently supporting the amendments proposed here. Although Senator Chipp, on behalf of the Australian Democrats, has been critical in many respects as I understand what he said the Democrats do intend to support the Government senators in giving this Bill a second reading, even though at the Committee stage there may be some opposition to some of its provisions. I thank the Senate for the support that will be given to this measure. I trust that as a result of that support the Bill will be given a second reading and we can then proceed to consider its provisions in a more detailed way in Committee.
Before completing this second reading debate, I should like to make a few general observations in regard to some of the issues which have been raised. Let me first of all deal with the general problem of drugs and their serious effects on so many members of our community. As I have said, the Government sees education, treatment and rehabilitation as most important parts in the fight against drug abuse and drug problems. Over the past nine years the Government has allocated almost $8m for special drug education programs. Furthermore, there is a national standing control committee on drug dependence, comprising State and Federal officers concerned with the drug problem. That committee meets regularly, and at the present time it is examining a report on the effectiveness of existing forms of treatment and rehabilitation. It has a working party which is examining the possibility of establishing special treatment programs in lieu of imprisonment for drug users. I merely wanted to refer to that as an example of the fact that the Government is by no means obsessed with enforcement and penalties, as some people would suggest here. In fact, it is very conscious of these aspects of the problem which have been so emphasised in this debate and has taken, is taking and will continue to take effective steps in that direction as well.
There could be a great deal of debate and difference of opinion as to what should be done in this area, how much money should be spent, and so forth. But let me emphasise that the Government is conscious of this important aspect of attacking the problem. It will continue to take note of the views that are expressed in relation to it, as indeed I am sure my colleagues, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) and the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), who are more directly responsible for this matter than I am, will take note of what has been said in debate on this measure, both here and in another place.
The reason the Government has brought forward these amendments, which have been suggested by one senator to be draconian, is that very recently there has been a very serious increase in the commercial operations of the drug trade, a very serious increase in the quantities of drugs being imported into this country and the profits being made, and the Government believes that that in itself has had a serious effect on the demand. It is not just a matter of demand leading to this increase in supply, but the fact of exploitation of people as a result of these increased supplies. The Government believes that it should tackle this problem of supply in a firm manner. That has been its policy in the past, and the problem must be tackled by measures which may be seen to be Draconian by some senators. The Government makes no apology for the fact that it is prepared to introduce measures of a severe character both on the investigative and on the penalty side. Whether or not they are described as draconian is a matter of opinion. The Government believes that strong, firm and severe measures are called for to deal with this growing problem which I have described.
In order to demonstrate the increase which has occured in drug trafficking in recent years, I think some statistics would be of interest to the Senate. In 1978 heroin seizures increased over the previous years by 53 per cent; cannabis oil seizures increased by 162 per cent; and cannabis seizures increased by 986 per cent, which was an enormous increase in one year. I regret to say that in the current year seizures to date indicate that this trend will continue. Because of the encouragement that the Government has given to the Narcotics Bureau, stronger methods have been adopted to combat the situation and to improve the possibilities of detection. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics has been substantially upgraded. Fifty additional investigators have been employed, and officers have been placed in key areas in South East Asia such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.
The Government has been conscious for some years of the difficulty of surveillance in the vast northern and western areas of Australia, and it has been particularly concerned to increase the efforts that are made in these areas to intercept the traffickers who are trying to make use of those opportunities for importing drugs. The Government has commissioned a sophisticated communications network providing land, sea and air units with direct contact with operations centres to deal with that particular part of the problem. In some cases, all arriving passengers are subject to baggage inspection. There has been an increase in the use of detector devices, including dogs. By means of administrative and financial support the Government has already stepped up the powers of investigation which are so clearly needed as a response to the level of increase in drug trafficking which I have earlier described. As the Senate would know, penalties were increased substantially in 1977, and already the courts are significantly increasing penalties in appropriate cases in accordance with that legislation. However, the Government is very conscious of the fact that the most effective deterrent to people engaged in highly lucrative trafficking of this kind is probably an increased possibility of detection rather than simply the possibility of receiving a greater punishment. Really, the greater likelihood of being caught and of being deprived of one’s ill-gotten gains is a more effective and more likely deterrent than that of simple punishment itself, although that is obviously an important deterrent.
I have already mentioned some of the improved methods of detection which have been implemented. This Bill provides for increased legal powers further to improve methods of detection, and that is really the major purpose of the legislation. In particular, it provides for the more effective availability and use of listening devices, which of course is complementary to legislation passed last week by this Senate in relation to the obtaining of warrants for the interception of telecommunications as an aid in the investigation of narcotics offences. Those two measures are expected to bring about, and I am sure will bring about, a very considerable improvement in the powers and effectiveness of investigations of the Bureau of Narcotics. It is true that in some States powers already exist to use listening devices, but it is not satisfactory for the Narcotics Bureau, exercising on behalf of the Federal Government powers of investigation and enforcement, to have to observe the laws in different States in relation to these matters. Obviously, having a Federal law dealing with the use of listening devices will be of great benefit to the Narcotics Bureau. However, that must be seen as being coupled with the completely new power they will be given, if the legislation is agreed to, to intercept telephone conversations in the same circumstances.
There is one other very important deterrent which, if it can be made fully effective, will be the most important deterrent of all, that is, to deprive the drug traffickers, the big commercial operators who have come into this traffic, of the fruits of their illegal and heinous operations. A power of seizure of money and goods in some circumstances was given recently. I am advised that in the past year, acting within those powers, drug enforcement officers have seized moneys and goods exceeding some millions of dollars in value. However, the existing powers of seizure are very limited indeed and cannot be used to cope with the very elaborate washing devices these very sophisticated commercial operators are able to use, particularly with the expert advice they have at their disposal.
It is proposed in these amendments to create a new penalty, recoverable by proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia. What might be called a new cause of action will be created whereby, by order of the court on production to it of adequate proof, any property which has been acquired, in whatever shape or form it may be or wherever it may be, by illegal narcotic dealings can be the subject of a penalty and the judgment of the court imposing the penalty will be equal to, as far as proof will allow, the profits that have been obtained by these illegal commercial operators in this vicious trade.
There may be great difficulties in implementing that policy. There may be criticisms of some of the details of the measures, and the Government is very much prepared to consider those sorts of detailed criticisms. I find it difficult to understand a total opposition to that policy, a total opposition to the attempts the Government is making in this legislation to tackle that most serious aspect of the problem, to endeavour as much as it possibly can to deprive the commercial operators of their ill-gotten gains. I should have thought that it would be the objective of all honourable senators, of all members of parliament, to endeavour to assist the Government to obtain the most effective legal methods available to achieve the purpose it has set out in this amendment. I hope that the debate on that amendment will be one of constructive effort and not one of simply attacking it as a proposition.
The only other matter I wish to mention is the increase in penalty by the provision of a largely new penalty to deal with a new aspect of the offence. I refer to the commercial operators, the persons who are operating in this trade not just in trafficable quantities, which in many cases are relatively small, but who are conspiring to deal in vast commercial operations. For example, in one famous recent case drugs worth something like $70m were involved. The Government proposes a new penalty to cope with that type of trade. It believes that in the most serious cases this trade would warrant the highest penalty that can be imposed under the law today, namely, life imprisonment.
In most cases, the sentence for murder- life imprisonment- is mandatory except, I might say, in the Australian Capital Territory. In other serious and heinous criminal offences the sentence of life imprisonment is a maximum sentence. It is not a mandatory life sentence and it is not one which is commonly imposed by judges. The crime of manslaughter- that is, homicide which is less than murder- is commonly attended in Australia by a maximum penalty of a life sentence. That life sentence is imposed infrequently, lt is a very fundamental rule of criminal justice in Australia that, when the Parliament or the common law lays down a penalty, that is a maximum penalty and not one which the courts are obliged to impose. That is the reason why judges rarely impose the maximum penalty that is provided under the law. That penalty is chosen for application only in the rare and the most serious case against the most evil criminal. If Parliament has a different view, it ought to make that known. It does make its views known as it has done in the case of murder, for which it has made the maximum penalty mandatory.
The Government believes that in this case we have a relatively new but most heinous crime, namely, that of being a commercial operator in and purveyor of narcotics or drugs which have the most evil consequences in their use. In many cases the lives of addicts are foreshortened tremendously. In fact, in many cases the supply of such drugs is virtually equivalent to the manslaughter of that person to whom they are supplied. The Government believes that the appropriate penalty should represent an expression of the will of the community, not through the Government but through the Parliament. The view should be expressed here that this is amongst the most heinous crimes that could be committed by anybody. That is why–
– It should be murder, more like it.
-I have said that it is like murder. Certainly the crime does warrant the maximum penalty being imposed in some cases. That is why we are proposing this new penalty of life imprisonment. We are dealing with what is a new crime.
The Opposition has moved an amendment which would have the effect really of negating the Bill. It wants the Bill withdrawn until the current police inquiry into the Narcotics Bureau has been completed. That inquiry is not one into the Narcotics Bureau as such. It is a police inquiry into a complaint or an allegation that has been made against one unnamed member of the Narcotics Bureau. I believe that there are 250 officers in that Bureau. This inquiry is not one into the
Narcotics Bureau as a whole. It is nothing like that. It is an inquiry into allegations that have been made against one man in that Bureau.
The other proposal put forward by the Opposition is that the Bill should not proceed until the Williams Royal Commission has completed its inquiry. My colleague, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs in another place, has indicated that Mr Justice Williams, the Royal Commissioner, has been made aware of the Government’s intentions to proceed with this legislation. He has not expressed any opposition to that. In fact, he supported the Government when informed of what it intended to do. In the Government’s view, the amendments to the motion that the Bill be read a second time are not warranted. They will be opposed, and we trust that this Bill will receive a second reading.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Georges’ amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 7- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 8. (Interpretation).
-Clause 8 seeks to insert proposed new section 2 19a. The point of the proposed new section goes to the offences prescribed by section 235 of the principal Act. During the course of debate on the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill the other night we had some lengthy discussion on the way that these offences can be divided into three classes. At the worst end there is an offence which is created, in a sense, by the smuggling of drugs. That puts it in its simplest form. At the other end of the scale is an offence which relates to being in possession of a small quantity of drugs. For example, it could be marihuana. In the case of being in possession of that small quantity for a second time it is deemed to be a commercial quantity and certain consequences flow as a result of the penalties which are prescribed.
In the course of the debate on the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill, the Opposition made a number of points about the undesirability of penalties applying to people at the lower level of the scale, as it were. Those points were, in a sense, conceded by some people on the Government side. At page 150 of the Senate Hansard of 22 August section 235 of the principal Act was discussed. In the course of that discussion Senator Puplick referred to the Opposition amendment and said: 1 think it is likely to defeat a number of purposes that all honourable senators believe ought to be pursued and pursued with some vigour. It is because the amendment does not confine itself solely to the problem of cannabis that I will not be able to support it.
I would have thought the honourable senator’s comment carried a clear implication that if the amendment was not so worded he would support it. The amendment moved in this case is similar to the amendment moved in relation to the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill except that it concludes with the words: ‘Does not include such an offence if it involves less than a trafficable quantity of cannabis or cannabis resin’. I think a number of honourable senators in the debate on the other Bill conceded, in part at least, the comments which were made by the Opposition. As I recall it, Senator Chipp also made a number of comments along the same lines.It is because it is our task as a House of review to produce the best legislation possible and legislation which has the concurrence of as many honourable senators as possible, irrespective of party allegiance, that I move:
– A debate on this amendment, as Senator Button has said, took place in the Senate last week during the Committee stage of the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill. That Bill contained a provision for an officer of Customs to apply to a judge for a warrant to intercept telecommunications in relation to narcotics offences. The narcotics offence was defined in the same terms as in this Bill. In this Bill the same power is conferred to a Customs officer to apply to a judge for a warrant to insert a listening device for the investigation of the same type of offence. In the debate here last week I, on behalf of the Government, opposed this similar type of amendment and gave reasons for doing so. The Government takes the view, first of all, that this is a power which can be exercised only on application to, and with the approval of, a judge of the Federal Court or of a State supreme court. The purpose of this amendment is to give the investigating officers in the Narcotics Bureau a further tool or weapon in their inquiries into and investigations of the major suppliers. It is not primarily, by any means, required by them in investigating every narcotics offence that may be committed. However, there are problems in seeking to confine that investigative power simply to those who are engaged in large-scale operations. For one thing, it may be very difficult to establish to the satisfaction of the judge the quantity of a drug a particular target may have at the time the warrant is sought.
Also, as I mentioned last week, in some circumstances it may be necessary, for the purpose of gaining evidence against a supplier, to use this particular tool against one who though not the target himself, may be operating with, or obtaining supplies from, him. The Government believes that it should not hamstring such operations; that, as the power is to be used only upon a warrant issued by a Federal Court or State Supreme Court judge, one can rely upon the circumspection of those judges in such matters. It also believes that Parliament can rely upon the investigators themselves not to apply for warrants unless there be substantial and solid reason for so doing.
-The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has replied to this proposed amendment in the same general terms in which he replied to a similar amendment moved by the Opposition in respect of the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill. He does not appear to have appreciated the significance of the difference in language as between this amendment and that which was moved in respect to the other Bill. The substance of the latter was such as to exclude from the range of offences which could attract the operation of these new electronic surveillance warrant powers all that related to less than trafficable quantities of the whole group of narcotic substances, including not only cannabis but also heroin, opium and so on. The intention there was that the electronic surveillance power should be exercised only in relation to trafficable quantities, or greater, of drugs generally.
I am disappointed that Senator Puplick is leaving the chamber. I was rather hoping that he would reply on the amendment that the Opposition is now moving, lt has been moved very much with the object of meeting the criticism that Senator Puplick and one or two other Government senators had made concerning the Opposition’s proposed amendment to the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill. That criticism was that the distinction was drawn the wrong way, simply in terms of amount of trafficable quantities or above, when the distinction ought properly to be drawn between cannabis and other substances, at least in relation to small amounts thereof. We have accepted Senator Puplick ‘s suggestion exactly. He is apparently so delighted to hear that that he has now resumed his seat. We will be equally delighted to hear how he responds to the Opposition’s proposal which strictly embodies, as we understand it anyway, the suggestion which he made to the Senate in relation to the other Bill. We certainly hope that we will hear something from Senator Puplick regarding the amendment before us. I hope also that the Attorney-General will give his reaction to a distinction that is drawn on a different basis from the one to which I think he was replying.
– I propose that at this stage we adjourn the Committee proceedings. I understand that other business of the Senate must be concluded by 10.30 p.m. Such an adjournment would give us an opportunity to give the fullest consideration to the distinctions drawn by Senator Evans between the amendment that was moved last week and that which has been moved today, a distinction which seems to have escaped his colleague, Senator Button, as well as myself.
– Speak for yourself on that.
– I thought the honourable senator said that it was the same.
– No, you were probably asleep again. I said nothing of the sort.
– If so, I apologise and will confine to myself alone the failure to appreciate the subtle distinction. It would have been helpful if the Opposition had given the Government the benefit of the amendment at an earlier stage, but since the debate may be adjourned for some time we will doubtless have an adequate opportunity to consider it.
– It is with deep regret that I draw the attention of honourable senators to the death last Sunday evening of a journalist who has worked in this Parliament for some 33 years. Mr James Leslie Love, who was admired and warmly esteemed by honourable senators and members of staff, passed away at the relatively young age of 5 1 years. He had worked in the Gallery since 1 946, first for the Daily Mirror and, since 1 966, for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. For the past five years he covered the Senate exclusively. Les was widely respected, both inside and outside of the Parliamentary Press Gallery and the Parliament. He was one of the great characters of journalism in Canberra and had a fund of stories which covered the postwar years and especially the Menzies era. On behalf of honourable senators I tender deepest sympathy to the bereaved family in what is for them such a sad time.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) It was certainly with great regret that we heard of the death of Les Love. On behalf of the Government, I would wish to be associated with the remarks that you have made in respect to him and in extending sympathy to his family.
-On behalf of the Opposition I would like to join in the remarks made by yourself, Mr President, and by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). It is a sad occasion when those of us who have been associated with somebody in that other group, which is confined too often to this Parliamentbecause of that we see a lot of them- passes away at such a young age. We concur in the remarks that have been made concerning his passing.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
-Since 1972 at least, the Minister for Primary Industry, Ian Sinclair, has been a shareholder and director of Allan Walsh Pty Ltd and Allan Walsh (Hornsby) Pty Ltd. Each of these companies has an issued capital of 10,003 shares. One of those shares is held by Ian Sinclair, one by Allan Vincent Walsh, one by John Howard McGee- that was prior to his death- and 10,000 by Reliance Investments Pty Ltd. The Sinclair Pastoral Co. holds one-third of the shares in Reliance Investments. The Sinclair Pastoral Co. has 20,000 shares, 14,000 of which are held by Ian Sinclair. Until his death, 5,000 were held by George Sinclair. Three hundred shares are held by Fiona Anne Sinclair, 400 shares are held by Knox McCahon Sinclair and 300 shares are held by Jane Margaret Sinclair. Presumably, George Sinclair’s 5,000 shares have been inherited by his son, Ian, the sole beneficiary of George Sinclair’s estate. But with or without those shares, Ian Sinclair is the major individual shareholder in the two Walsh companies and has been since at least 1972.
Under sections 158 and 160 of the New South Wales Companies Act, Ian Sinclair signed, as a director, annual returns for both companies. Forms were lodged in the office of the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission for both companies on these dates: 3 1 January 1973 for 1972; 1 February 1974 for 1973; 31 January 1975 for 1974; 12 April 1976 for 1975; and 22 August 1977 for the period up to 15 July 1977. Under sections 158 and 160 of the Companies Act, amended returns for Allan Walsh Pty Ltd for 1973, 1974 and 1975 and for Allan Walsh (Hornsby) for 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1975 were lodged at the CAC office on 23 September 1977. The amended returns were signed by Ian Sinclair as a director making a certificate pursuant to section 162 ( 10) of the Companies Act and as principal accounting officer making a certificate pursuant to section 162 ( 12) of the Companies Act. The certificate issued in accordance with section 162 (12), signed by Ian Sinclair and lodged on 23 September 1977, states:
Subject to the notes attached to the financial accounts to the best or my knowledge and belief, the accompanying balance sheet and profit and loss account give a true and fair view of the matters required by section 162 of the Companies Act. Note S in each of the financial accounts under the heading ‘ Losses by Misappropriation ‘ states:
Following an examination of the company’s records for the year ended -
In each of the years the appropriate year appears in that spot- it has been ascertained that certain payments made during the year were paid without the knowledge or approval of the directors, either directly or indirectly, to or for the benefit of a person employed by the company.
These payments totalled $71,256 for Allan Walsh and $175,490 for Allan Walsh (Hornsby). On 23 September 1977, Ian Sinclair also lodged with the Corporate Affairs Commission a return for Allan Walsh (Hornsby) Pty Ltd for the 1976 year, and made up to 15 July 1 977. It revealed further losses by misappropriation for the year ending 30 June 76 of $18,285. The total misappropriation from both companies thus disclosed on 23 August 77 was $265,031. Note 3 attached to the return for Allan Walsh (Hornsby) for the 1 976 year states:
Note 3: Provision for Taxation (See Addendum Note (8)).
On the basis that losses by misappropriation are allowable as a deduction from assessable income for taxation purposes provision for taxation for the year has been assessed at $15,976.87 and an additional provision of $6,375.00 has been provided out of accumulated profits in respect of an adjustment of profits of previous years relating to losses by misappropriation made up as follows:
Addendum 8, which was referred to in brackets at the commencement of Note 3, states:
Note (B) : Taxation (Addendum to Note 3).
Since lodgment of the company’s income tax return for the year ended 30th June 1976, notification has been received from the income tax office that losses by misappropriation claimed in the return under section 5 1 of the Income Tax Assessment Act have or will be disallowed as a deduction from assessable income in that year and that assessment for primary taxation (including penalties) has or will be issued to the company in the sum of $23,236.92 for the 1976 year.
No additional assessments for primary tax including penalties as the result of the disallowance of losses by misappropriation have or will be issued in respect of prior years as follows:
However it is understood that such losses will be allowable in section 71 of the Income Tax Assessment Act for the year that such losses were ascertained i.e. the income year ended 30th June, 1977.
Note 3 of the notes attached to financial accounts of Allan Walsh (Hornsby) Pty. Ltd, for the year ended 30 June 76 and lodged with the CAC on 22 September 77, and signed and certified by Ian Sinclair as a director and financial accounting officer in accordance with the New South Wales Companies Act, states:
Note (3) Provision for Taxation (See Addendum Note (7).)
On the basis that losses by misappropriation in previous years are allowable as deduction as assessable income for taxation purposes provision for taxation for the year has been assessed at $ 1 , 006.40.
No provision has been made in the financial accounts for additional primary tax which may be payable in respect of prior years up to and including the year end 30th June, 1972.
No provision has been made in the financial accounts for the liability (if any) of the company to pay additional tax under Division 7 of the Income Tax Act for prior years up to and including the year ended 30th June, 1976.
Note 7, which is referred to in brackets, reads:
Note (7) Taxation (Addendum to Note 3)
Since lodgement of the company’s income tax for the year ended 30th June 1976 notification has been received from the income tax office that an assessment for primary tax (including penalties) has or will be issued in the sum of $4,583.82.
In addition assessment for primary tax (including penaltics) as a result of disallowance of losses by misappropriation has or will be issued in respect of prior years as follows:
All the amendments to which I have referred carry on each page a certification signed by F. J. O. Ryan which reads:
I, the Commissioner of Corporate Affairs, being a person declared by the Attorney General by notification published in the Government Gazette on the nineteenth day of June 1 970, to be an approved person for the purposes of section three of the Evidence (Reproductions) Act, 1967 do hereby certify pursuant to the section that this transparency is made as a permanent record of a document in my custody or control.
Except for two pages of the amendments for Allan Walsh Pty. Ltd for 1975, which were dated 5 October 77, all the other certifications were dated 7 October 77, that is, one day and three days after the then Leader of the Opposition raised the matter in the adjournment debate in the House of Representatives.
In reply to a question on the A.M. radio program 2 1 November 1977 regarding this matter, Mr Sinclair said:
The company is a proprietary company … the matter is entirely personal. These affairs are exclusively the business of the shareholders of the companies … not the people of Australia.
He had previously replied in Parliament in similar vein to Mr Whitlam on 4 October 1 977, and to a question on the Willesee at Seven program on 15 August 1977. None of these answers appeared to be compatible with the New South Wales Companies Act, section 5 of which does not lessen the duty of a proprietary company’s officers to comply with the Act under which the company is incorporated. On 4 October 1 977, in reply to Mr Whitlam, Mr Sinclair stated:
I am quite prepared to accept responsibility for these statements which I signed.
In his capacity as a director, Ian Sinclair signed all the original returns and the amendments to which I have referred. Section 124 of the New South Wales Companies Act requires a director at all times to: . . act honestly and use reasonable diligence in the discharge of the duties of his office.
It provides a penalty for violation of that duty. Section 1 58 of the Act provides:
Penalty: Two hundred dollars. Default penalty.
Section 1 59A of the Act requires the auditor of companies like the Allan Walsh companies to keep proper accounting records and state at an annual general meeting whether there are any irregularities in the accounts. If a company fails to comply, the Act states:
Section 162 requires directors to lay before a company truthful profit and loss accounts. Under section 375 of the Companies Act, the making of false or misleading statements is punishable on indictment by up to two years imprisonment or a $5,000 fine, or on summary conviction by six months or a $ 1,000 fine. There are statutory impediments to the granting of certain benefits to exempt proprietary companies which lay open to question the propriety of allowing Ian Sinclair to lodge documents with the CAC in a belated attempt to correct previous false and misleading statements. During the years when the misappropriations revealed in amendments lodged by Ian Sinclair on 23 September 1 977 occurred, George Sinclair was the sole auditor of the companies. Ian Sinclair became the sole beneficiary of his father’s estate for which application for probate was filed on 1 November 1978, and granted on 2 November 1978. Section 188 of the New South Wales Crimes Act states:
Whosoever received, or disposes of, or attempts to dispose of, any property, the stealing whereof amounts to felony, knowing the same to have been stolen, shall be guilty of a felony, and may be indicted, either as an accessory after the fact, or for the substantive felony, and in the latter case whether the principal felon has been previously tried or not or is amenable to justice or not, and in either case shall be liable to penal servitude for ten years.
Section 1 87 of the Crimes Act provides that for the purpose of Section 1 88:
Stealing includes the taking, extorting, obtaining, embezzling or otherwise disposing of the property in question.
Ian Sinclair, as beneficiary of George Sinclair’s estate was a receiver of money misappropriated or stolen by his father. In the House of Representatives on 6 June 1979, he admitted knowledge of his father’s misappropriation. Whether he was aware of that when probate was granted on 2 November 1978 is not, from his own statements, entirely clear. He was aware of misappropriation, because the documents lodged by him as early as 23 September 1977 reveal misappropriations in excess of $265,000. It seems unlikely that by 2 November 1978- more than a year later- he could have been unaware of his father’s misappropriations, particularly since by then his father’s estate had been prepared for probate. An exchange from the Willesee at Seven interview implies that Ian Sinclair knew the identity of the embezzler as far back as 15 August 1977. The transcript of that program reads:
Willessee: Who was the employee who was paid or benefited by the money?
Mr Sinclair: That’s none of your business or anybody else out there!
It should be noted that he did not say : ‘I do not know’. He said: ‘That’s none of your business’. The full contents of the accountant’s letter to Reliance Investments, dated 25 November 1978, to which the report from which Ian Sinclair quoted in Parliament on 6 June 1979, has not been revealed. If it identifies George Sinclair as the embezzler, there could be no doubt that Ian Sinclair received assets known to be stolen when he inherited his father’s estate on 2 November 1978. It may be argued that George Sinclair’s misappropriation was not a criminal act and therefore not within the ambit of section 188 of the NSW Crimes Act. Indeed, Ian Sinclair claimed on the Willesee interview that ‘It is not a criminal misappropriation’, and has made similar claims since. Such claims seem to disregard section 173 of the NSW Crimes Act, which states:
Whosoever being a director, officer or member of any body corporate or public company, fraudulently takes, or applies for his own use or benefit, or any use or other purpose other than the use or purpose of such body corporate or company, or fraudulently destroys any of the property of such body corporate or company . . .
The maximum penalty for violation of section 1 73 is fourteen years imprisonment. It has been asserted by Mr Sinclair on numerous occasions that the internal affairs of the company are not legitimate matters of public concern. More recently he has implicitly argued that the covenant into which he entered with the other shareholders to repay money has closed the incident. H. A. J. Ford in Butterworth ‘s Principles of Company Law contradicts that argument. On page 80 of the 1 978 second edition, he states:
Another limit on the power of the board or a majority in general meeting to condone a wrong done to the company would seem to exist where the wrong is also a crime. The board or general meeting could validly sanction a genuine compromise but could there be a gratuitous release from civil liability when this would amount to condonation of a crime?
On 14 April 1978 annual returns for the two Walsh companies for the year ending 30 June 1977 were lodged with the New South Wales
CAC, signed and certified by Ian Sinclair as director. Attached to the financial accounts for each company was a note, numbered (3), concerning provisions for taxation over a number of years. For Allan Walsh Pty Ltd note (2) was attached to the financial accounts. Headed Debtors Control Suspense Account’, it states:
The sum of $65,958.07 represents the shortfall in the balance of debtors control account in the company books at 30th June, 1972 when compared with the total listed debtors balance owing at that date, details of which are yet to be determined. The above figure purely represents the balancing amount at the date of commencement of investigations into the books of account of the company, i.e. 1st July, 1972 and docs not represent the extent of any further adjustment to be made in the books of account, when determined, in respect of the period prior to that date.
A similar note for Allan Walsh (Hornsby) Pty Ltd states:
The sum of $43,619.71 represents the shortfall in the balance of debtors control account in the company’s books at 30th June, 1971 when compared with the total listed debtors balances owing at that date, details of which are yet to be determined.
The above figure purely represents the balancing amount at the date of commencement of investigations into the books of account of the company, i.e. 1st July, 1971 and does not represent the extent of any further adjustments to be made in the books of account, when determined, in respect of the period prior to that date.
The amounts of $65,958 and $43,629 appear to be misappropriations originating in the years ending in 1972 and 1971 respectively and additional to the misappropriations revealed in amendments lodged with the CAC on 23 September 1977, signed and certified by Ian Sinclair as being true and fair under section 162 of the Companies Act. If that is so, the 1977 amendments were neither true or fair. The apparent discrepancy has not been explained. If the amounts of $43,619 and $65,958 do represent misappropriations, when added to the $265,03 1 disclosed in 1977 they amount to $374,608, which is the sum Creighton Walsh spoke of on Willesee at Seven on 15 August 1977. Is it conceivable that Creighton Walsh, who was not an officer of the companies, could be better informed than Ian Sinclair, director and principal accounting officer, was one month later?
Everything I have said tonight is derived from and can be verified by information and documents on public record. None of it has been derived, supplied or leaked from any official inquiries. Most of the facts have been published previously. There is, however, one crucial exception- the fact that Ian Sinclair, beneficiary of his father’s estate and therefore of misappropriated money, is apparently in breach of section 188 of the New South Wales Crimes Act, a conviction for which would disqualify him forever from the Federal Parliament. In addition, there is irrefutable evidence of negligence at least as a company director and principal accounting officer, numerous apparent breaches of the New South Wales Companies Act, taxation irregularities not detailed tonight and the Beavan company affairs. Yet this man, unlike Mr Garland, unlike Mr Lynch, unlike Mr Eric Robinson and unlike Senator Withers, continues to hold the fourth most senior position in the Fraser Ministry.
The answer, I suggest, can be found in the character of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and in his craven subservience to the National Country Party. The Prime Minister would have us believe that he is a tough leader. The record suggests otherwise. He displays the attributes of a playground bully grown older rather than those of a tough leader. He can be tough with the weak, but when confronted by someone able to fight on approximate terms he backs down, as he backed down from Mr BjelkePetersen on Aurukun, as he backed down from Sir Charles Court on export pricing guidelines and as he now backs down from Bill Hayden at Question Time in the House of Representatives. Likewise, he backs down from the Country Party. He simply lacks the courage to sack a Country Party Minister. Does anyone believe that a Liberal Minister in Ian Sinclair’s position would not have been suspended? Certainly the Liberal Party back bench does not. By not suspending him the Prime Minister becomes an accessory after the fact.
– I seek an opportunity on the adjournment debate to raise a few comments on the topic of the reunification of Timorese families. I want to draw particular attention to a specific instance which will highlight what seems to be a grey area in the Government’s policy. I draw attention to the situation where the wife might be the breadwinner. 1 instance the case of the Tchia family in Timor. The father is 66, the mother is 42 and there are four children in Timor of the ages of 7, 10, 16 and 22. The family was sponsored by a daughter in Darwin, an Australian resident of long standing. She put forward her application to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the reply came back, firstly, that the father was eligible because of his age and, secondly, that the mother and children were not eligible, the mother because of her age. The total request for sponsorship was denied by the Department as it believed that the father should not leave Timor and leave his family behind. I will not comment on the Department’s making a decision. My view would be that if the father were eligible, that would be a decision which the family would have to make. My comments will be directed briefly to the appropriateness of the decision to deny entry to the whole family.
We do not know what the situation is in Timor at present. Unfortunately we cannot know because we are not allowed to go and have a look. As late as today my latest request to visit Timor has been denied. I do not know what the Indonesians have to hide or what they do not want us to see, but they are certainly not going to let us in. I will speak more about that later; it is not appropriate for debate tonight. As I say, we do not know the situation in Timor, but we can assume and our suppositions can be supported by the evidence we get from information coming out, from people who come out or from letters that are sent out. We can assume that it would not be easy for a wife in Timor to take on the role of breadwinner. I am not suggesting for a moment that the father is falling down on his job, but in our eyes a man of 66 is most likely getting past the age when he is able adequately to support his family.
The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar), you, Mr President, and honourable senators would know that the interim measure adopted in these cases- what might be almost a stop-gap measure- is for Australian members of a family to send money to their families, whether it be to Timor, Malaysia or elsewhere. They see the extended family unit- certainly this family is not an extended family- as being the responsibility of those members of the family who have sufficient capital to assist. But a more long-term and, I would think, more appropriate solution has been suggested to the Department by the sponsors. To make this suggestion meaningful I should perhaps explain that the sponsor, who honourable senators will recall is the daughter who is married to an Australian, has a take-away food business specialising in Chinese and Timorese food. She has accommodation for the family and is prepared to accept responsibility for all six members of the family. There are statutory declarations to testify to this.
The proposal put forward by the sponsor, was, firstly, that the family should come to Australia to be accommodated by the daughter in her own home; secondly, that the mother and the elder child could give assistance in the home and perhaps in the business; thirdly, that the father could make whatever contribution was appropriate for his age; and, fourthly, that the younger children should attend school. It seems to me that this proposal has certain advantages. The first is that the family would be reunited, as is its wish. Secondly, the members of the family in Timor would be allowed to leave that country, which again is their wish. Thirdly, the mother and the daughter, who is 22 years old, could have the dignity of contributing to their upkeep. I do not want to dwell on this because I think that honourable senators would understand the attitude of people who would want to contribute and who would not want to be- as they might regard- parasitical on their family, although of course the family would not see this in any sense.
Another advantage would be that it would avoid the possibility of the family being stranded if the elderly father should pass away. Another advantage would be that the money that is being sent to Timor to sustain the family would stay in Australia and would be spent in Australia and build up consumer spending. The children would have the advantage of education in Australia and would eventually make their contributions, just as their fellow countrymen have made contributions in Australia which we all know are not insignificant. I do not think there is any need to dwell on the responsibility which many of us feel we should accept to assist the gallant Timorese who assisted us during World War II. The father of 66, who would have been 29 in 1942, could have been one of those who assisted us. I am not suggesting that he was because I do not have that information, but he was in the age bracket of those who could have assisted.
I do not think that there is any need to remind the Senate, as we have done on other occasions, of the way in which we in Australia deserted the Timorese in their hour of need. That has been covered before. I simply ask the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) to investigate the special case of the wife as the bread winner, as represented by the Tchia family. The Darwin office admits that that is a grey area. By following the guidelines it has to refuse permission for the mother and the children to come in. There seems to be two alternatives: The Minister either can use his discretion and allow the family in or, perhaps more appropriately, may wish to rule on this matter and to fill out the present guidelines to cover similar cases in the future.
– The issue raised by Senator Robertson will be referred to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). I will ask him to study the matter and will see whether he will comment on it. Tonight Senator Walsh, who is no longer in the chamber, read a very lengthy prepared statement regarding the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair. Senator Walsh indicated that on his own judgment the only new matter was an allegation which he made that the man might be liable under particular sections of certain Acts. The fact is that the document presented tonight contained no new matter. All the matters covered by Senator Walsh tonight, as I understand it, were contained in a letter which the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hayden, wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), a copy of which one will find in the Hansard record of the grievance debate in the House of Representatives on 1 June 1978. That was some 15 months ago. The New South Wales Government has had before it all those claims of Mr Hayden and the ones reiterated tonight and has had 1 5 months to act if it so desired.
An old fashioned rule used to apply in this place, namely, that when a legal investigation regarding any honourable senator or member of the House of Representatives was in process one would pause and wait for the evidence concerned and then make a value judgment on it. It is true that the Finnane investigation is not a royal commission or an investigation the subject of which one could argue through the Chair was sub judice, but it is equally true that a State Labor government has set up an investigation and that investigation is being undertaken by a lawyer. One would hope that the results of that investigation would be awaited. It could then form the basis of any discussion which might follow.
Senator Walsh and the Australian Labor Party are well aware that it has been indicated that within a very few weeks Mr Finnane will present his report to the State Attorney-General. Then we will be able to see what should flow from that. From my memory, I think it is fair to say that Mr Ryan, whose name appears in the document produced by Senator Walsh tonight, did not recommend that any legal action be taken from his position. My only regret in this case is that the Labor Party seeks to trot out these matters when the normal procedure is to wait for the presentation of the report of the inquiry. I commend that course to the Senate as the course which we should follow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1 1.4 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 23 November 1978:
What powers within the Minister’s jurisdiction have been transferred to the States since December 1 97S.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the answer to Question No. 1074 (Hansard, pages 48-51) provided by the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs.
Science and the Environment: Transfer of Powers to States (Question No. 1093)
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 23 November 1978:
What powers within the Minister’s jurisdiction have been transferred to the States since December 1 975.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable senator to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs’ answer to Question No. 1074.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1 979:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1979:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 28 May 1979:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 3 1 May 1 979:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I ) The estimated construction cost for the Lower Molonglo Water Quality Control Centre in May 1973 was $2 1.8m. The total expected cost in March 1974 was $26.4m and at the time of awarding the main contract in June 1 974 it had risen to $30.3 m.
chlorine- 272 tonnes.
A key factor in designing a waste water treatment plant is to consider the relationship between the quantity /quality of the effluent and the capacity/use of the receiving waters. In Canberra ‘s case, that relationship was significant in determining the nature of the plant to be considered.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 4 June 1 979:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 5 June 1979:
Were two wells drilled in the Nikenbah area of the Great Barrier Reef for exploration for oil; if so; (a) what was the result of such exploration; (b) who was the exploratory body; and (c) when were the wells drilled.
It is assumed that the question refers to the village of Nikenbah which is 25 kilometres north-west of Maryborough. The Nikenbah area is not adjacent to any marine areas included in the Great Barrier Reef Region.
Three onshore petroleum exploration wells have been drilled in the vicinity of Nikenbah:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 8 June 1979:
Has the Australian Wool Corporation made a loan of approximately $ 1 .4m to Grazcos Co-operative Limited; if so:
are the funds used for the loan part of a blend of Commonwealth and grower funds obtained pursuant to statute;
is the issued capital of Grazcos Co-operative Limited $1,763,000; (c) what form of security was obtained in respect of the loan; (d) what was the financial position of Grazcos Co-operative Limited at the time the loan was made, and what is it now; (e) did the Corporation follow normal lending principles in granting a loan in the circumstances of Grazcos’ financial position; and (f) does the fact of the loan appear in any report by the Corporation to the Parliament, and if not, why not.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian Wool Corporation has confirmed to my Department that the Corporation has not made any such loan to Grazcos Co-operative, nor indeed have any loan arrangements been contemplated. In view of this clear statement of the Corporation’s position, the various separate elements of the question do not require answers.
Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industries (Question No. 176S)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 22 August 1979:
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
That media release stressed that the Government supported the IAC’s practice of releasing drafts as this gave all parties a further opportunity to examine and comment upon the issues raised in the draft reports, at the public hearings which have been scheduled by the IAC. The Government has also stressed the importance of all interested parties participating fully in the public hearings.
I would like to reiterate the Government’s 1977 announcement that it regards the textile, clothing and footwear sectors as important and continuing parts of Australia’s manufacturing Industry, and to remind the honourable senator that the present assistance arrangements for these industries have been extended to mid-198 1.
I can assure him and this Chamber that when the Government takes its decision on the final IAC reports on these industries it will do so on the basis of the most comprehensive information available to it, and will have regard to all the available policy options.
-On 7 March 1979, (Hansard, pages 554 and 555) Senator Jessop asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Health, a question without notice concerning the South Austraiian Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee’s Report on the financial management of the Hospitals Department and allegations therein of salaried doctors under private practice rights exceeding their income entitlements.
The Minister for Health has provided the following information:
My Department contacted the South Australia hospital authorities requesting details on the matters raised by the honourable senator. The South Australian Minister of Health has provided the following reply: “In its report on the financial management of the Hospitals Department in South Australia, the Public Accounts Committee of the SA Parliament made a number of observations about arrangements controlling the exercise of the rights of private practice by salaried medical specialists in State hospitals. These comments are to be found on page l0 and pages 1 1 5-120 of their report.
A series of actions are being taken to improve controls in this area, and the question of the method of rendering accounts is prominent amongst them. The Senator’s proposal that doctors should be required to render accounts for private practice through the hospital offices, which has been proposed by others as well, is under consideration together with these issues. Industrial discussions with the South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association arc currently in progress. ‘
I might also mention that the question of control over salaried doctors’ private practice has been discussed with all States. It has been suggested to the States that they introduce systems whereby the hospital would be able to audit services provided and revenue generated under private practice rights. 1 would assure the honourable senator that the question of control over salaried doctors ‘ private practice rights is one which will continue to be pursued by the Commonwealth.
River Murray Salinity
– On 1 May, Senator Messner asked me a question without notice relating to a decision by the New South Wales Government to increase basic water allocations to irrigators along the Murray. The Minister for National Development has provided the following information:
The decision of the New South Wales Government to increase basic water allocations to irrigators along the Murray has been noted. Until reliable information is available on the effects of the increased basic allocations on overall water usage and saline dows to the river, it is not possible to assess the impact of the New South Wales. decision on salinity levels in the River Murray.
The allocation by the three States of their water entitlements under the River Murray Waters Agreement is the sole responsibility of each State.
Glen Davis Shale Deposits
– On 29 May 1979, Senator Douglas McClelland asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development the following question without notice:
Is he aware that at Glen Davis in New South Wales there are large scale deposits of shale which remain untapped so far as the extraction of oil is concerned? ls the Minister further aware that when Glen Davis was closed down by the Menzies Government it was retorting at the average rate of about 120 gallons of oil per ton of raw shale? In view of Australia’s growing energy problems, will the Government consider conducting a feasibility study on the question of reopening the Glen Davis project in order to provide Australia with an additional oil supply, and also to provide jobs for many Australians who at the moment are unemployed?
The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The production of oil from shale at Glen Davis in New South Wales was sponsored by the Federal and New South Wales Governments between 1940 and 1952. 1 am informed that the project was sustaining heavy losses at the time of the decision to close the plant and that the decision was also influenced by a shortage of mineable shale. Although the remaining reserves at Glen Davis are not known accurately, they are considered to be relatively insignificant by comparison with certain other deposits in Australia. In these circumstances they are not considered to be an attractive proposition for development at this time.
Hospital Corporation of America
– On a number of occasions over recent months Senator O ‘Byrne has asked various questions without notice concerning the involvement of the Hospital Corporation of America in Australian private hospitals. (Senate Hansard, 21 March 1979, page 801; 29 March 1979, pages 1098-9; 4 April 1979, pages 1341-2 and 10 May 1979, page 1792 refer.)
The Minister for Health has provided the following information:
It is the stated policy of the Government to welcome the investment of foreign capital into Australia. I am aware that the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) as well as a number of other American companies are investing in the private hospital industry in this country.
It is the responsibility of the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) of the Department of the Treasury to examine proposals for investment by overseas companies, under the Government’s foreign investment policy.
Certain foreign investments in private hospitals in Australia have been approved by the Government after consultation with State and Commonwealth health authorities on the basis of specific proposals involving the contribution of financial, managerial and technical skills in the operation of a number of private hospitals. These approvals were subject to conditions requiring the operation and development of the hospitals to be subject to consultation with and, as necessary, approval from State and Commonwealth health authorities. The approvals were also subject to requirements for the introduction of substantial Australian equity participation and periodic consultation with the FIRB.
I would like to clarify the role of the State health authorities in the granting of approvals for private hospitals. The primary role is played by the States; it is they who actually licence an institution to operate as a private hospital. My understanding of the procedure followed by the FIRB in its consideration of foreign investment proposals in the Australian private hospital industry is that the views of the relevant State authorities are invariably sought, recorded, and given weight in reaching decisions.
Where my Department has been involved in commenting on such investment proposals, it has been noted that in no case has the relevant State authority opposed the investment proposal. In fact, in most cases, prior approval had already been granted by the State for the proposed private hospital before consideration by the FIRB. I recollect in the case of investment proposals in South Australia, the S.A. Government had not only approved the application by a foreign corporation, but had offered to guarantee a large loan for the company and a S.A. Government body was involved in leasing land to the investors on which to build the institution. Similarly, a proposal by a foreign corporation to develop a hospital at Wollongong, New South Wales, was speedily agreed to by the N.S.W. Government, which has since been pressuring the investors to commence construction work as soon as possible.
The point of this is that the Commonwealth does not have legal authority to apply growth control in the private hospitals area in the States. We can and have of course, put our views, and we can and in fact have requested the States to cooperate in joint consideration of applications for additional private hospital accommodation. But it is the State Governments that bear final responsibility for the operation of private hospitals within their borders.
My Department has brought to the notice of the FIRB aspects connected with the entry of American firms into the Australian private hospital sector which must be kept in mind, and the need for consideration of each proposal on its own individual merits. The total hospital sector is in many areas already over supplied with beds, and additions to existing hospital bed supply could exert upward pressure on the overall costs of providing health care in Australia. This is particularly relevant at a time when the Government has made its intentions known for an inquiry to be conducted into the efficiency and administration of hospitals in Australia.
My Department will continue to consult with the FIRB on each proposal by foreign investors to participate in the private hospital industry. While the FIRB and the States have the major involvement, my Department will continue to exert influence so that, as far as possible, the decisions taken will avoid increasing hospital bed numbers in areas where existing facilities are clearly adequate.
On the honourable senator’s query concerning a possible increase in medical benefits claims, there is naturally a potential for increase in claims associated with services by doctors to patients of private hospitals, if the number of private hospital beds increase. But it will depend on where these patients come from and how they would have otherwise received their medical services. For the reasons outlined below, there does not seem to be any substantial likelihood of an increase in the magnitude of medical benefits claims.
If the patients were persons who would have been private patients in recognised hospitals and treated by private doctors of their own choice, the change is only a change in the place where they receive their medical services- i.e. no increase in medical benefits claims would otherwise bc involved. It would only be in respect of persons whose hospital treatment would have otherwise been in the standard ward of a recognised hospital with free medical treatment ( not involving medical benefits claims), or new patients, that there is any prospect of an increase of any magnitude in the number of medical benefits claims.
Attracting patients who would otherwise obtain free medical treatment in recognised hospitals, seems somewhat unlikely.
As to the possibility that more medical services than are now necessary may be initiated, the Government has taken a number of active measures to discourage provision of unnecessary medical services. With the co-operation of the Australian Medical Association, medical practitioners who fail to respond to counselling by Departmental and medical officers, are referred to Medical Services Committees of Inquiry for report and recommendation to me as to whether any unnecessary medical services are performed. Where I receive a report indicating unnecessary medical services, I am enabled to determine that the medical benefits involved be recovered. Concerning the question of possible increases in hospital fees, the State Governments have agreed to an increase in public hospital inpatient charges from I September 1979 from $40 a day to $50 a day for a shared room and from $60 a day to $75 a day for a private room. With my statement of 24 May I tabled a ‘ Report on Rationalisation of Hospitals Facilities and Services and on proposed new charges’ prepared by Commonwealth officials. This discussion paper canvassed the matter of differential charges. The Government had made no commitment to the recommendations in the Report.
As I have stated earlier, the Government has, for some time, been concerned about rapidly escalating costs in the hospitals area and has announced its intention to establish an inquiry into hospital efficiency and administration. The intended terms of reference cover the rationalisation of hospital facilities of all types including private hospitals.
With reference to the honourable senator’s comments concerning the American Securities and Exchange Commission and its law suit against the HCA, my Department has seen the article in the wall Street Journal of 27 October 1978, but 1 am not in a position to comment on the allegations made in that article.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 August 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790828_senate_31_s82/>.