31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) left Australia on 15 September to visit New Zealand for talks on trade matters. The Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) will act as Minister for Special Trade Representations until Mr Garland ‘s return on 2 1 September.
– I present the following petition from 140 citizens of Australia:
To trie-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.
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 humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we have heard the expressed intentions of one entrepreneur to bring the Red Army Choir to Australia, and declare, that regardless of its artistic merits or demerits, the Red Army Choir is as much a unit of the Red Army as a division of tanks or artillery, lt is but a propaganda unit to glorify the Soviet regime in song and music.
Your petitioners humbly pray that just as entry into Australian ports is denied to Soviet warships, so too will entry be denied to the Red Army Choir.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senators Carrick, Chaney and Scott.
To the President and Members of the Senate assembled, we the undersigned citizens of Australia request that; A suitable youth shelter be provided for the homeless youth of Launceston.
We have found that there is no crisis accommodation in Launceston for homeless boys.
We consider that this shelter should be established within the city of Launceston boundaries.
We your humble petitioners therefore pray that this need be attended to as a priority need.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Watson.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate requests the Government to re-examine the requirement, contained in Public Service Board General Order 3/D/4, that an officer or employee of the Public Service who wishes to nominate for election to a House of Parliament must resign ‘before nomination’, on the ground that the wording and effect of that provision may be contrary to the provision of section 44 (iv) of the Constitution, which provides that any such person, holding an office of profit under the Crown, shall be incapable of being ‘chosen or of sitting’ as a senator or member of the House of Representatives, in relation to which a conditional resignation, contingent upon being chosen, might be regarded as sufficient.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate take note of the first report of the Uranium Advisory Council for the period ended 30 June 1979 and the statement relating thereto by the Minister for Trade and Resources tabled in the Senate on 13 September 1979.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that the Minister for Special Trade Representations said in New Zealand recently that Australia was seeking oil from half a dozen countries, that it would buy it anywhere it could and that availability rather than price was the overriding consideration? Did he say that Australia wanted oil now and not in five years time?
I ask whether this rather disparate statement expresses the correct situation with respect to our supply position or was the Minister for National Development, Mr Newman, correct when he said in his Press statement of 14 September this year that apart from avgas and distillate distribution problems the ‘oil supply situation is satisfactory’? Did Mr Newman also say that there has been a tendency for difficulties in the oil supply position to be exaggerated? Was he referring to Mr Garland when he accused people of exaggerating the oil supply situation?
– I have heard some news reports of a statement made by Mr Garland in relation to the purchasing of crude oil, which I presume is the subject under discussion. I understand that that statement was made quite recently. Senator Button referred to earlier statements made by Mr Newman on this matter. From the account I heard of Mr Garland’s statement I do not think that there is any reason to believe that there is any conflict in the way in which Senator Button says that there may be or is. However, I have not seen the exact statement. I will endeavour to obtain information regarding the exact statement Mr Garland has made. I will refer the general question to the Minister for National Development.
Senator Missen having addressed a question to the Leader of the Government-
– The question is out of order.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications been drawn to the prize winning design for the cover of the 1 980 Brisbane telephone directory? Is the Minister aware that the design, symbolising the development of communications over the years, features modern man speaking over the telephone with a cigarette or a cigar drooping from one corner of his mouth? In view of the Government’s ban on cigarette advertising in the media, does the Minister consider that it is suitable to feature a smoker on the cover of a government publication?
– The question asks for a opinion, but if the Minister wishes to reply he may do so.
-This item of detail in the portfolio of Post and Telecommunications has slipped by me. I apologise to the honourable senator for that. I understand his concern about the cover featuring a man with a cigarette drooping from his mouth. I can only say that whether or not that is good or bad depends on the apparent condition of the man from whose mouth the cigarette is hanging. If the man appears miserable, depressed and obviously wracked by paroxysms of coughing the cover may have a useful, educative effect. If, on the other hand, he is bright-eyed, shining and a general picture of good health, I am sure it will be extremely damaging to the people of Queensland. I will refer the matter to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, so that he can nip it in the bud- or, perhaps, in the butt.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware that the rates of retirement of Public Service officers due to invalidity differ markedly between the Australian States? Is he aware of any reason why there should be any real difference in health status of officers in one State as opposed to officers in another State? Is there any reasonable way of explaining why five out of six officers who retired in Victoria during January to December 1977 did so on the basis of invalidity, while only half of the officers who retired in New South Wales did so for the same reason? Will the Prime Minister undertake to have administrative procedures carefully examined to see whether management in some States or those assessing people for invalidity should review existing administrative procedures, especially as it is argued that there is greater gain to an officer who retires on the ground of invalidity than there is to one who retires on the ground of age?
– The general terms of the question were brought to my attention, so I have some details. I am advised that there have been differences between States in invalidity retirement rates in the Australian Public Service. A study undertaken by the Public Service Board in 1978 indicated that differences in invalidity retirement rates can be attributed to a number of factors, including age structure, the proportion of ex-servicemen represented, educational qualifications, occupational group, divisional status and sex. The Board cannot pinpoint the reason for the past difference between New South Wales and Victoria, or for that matter between any two States, although statistics do show that the number of invalidity retirees in Victoria from January to August 1979 has declined significantly from the number for the same period in 1978.
Common procedures are adopted in relation to retirement decisions in each State. Retirement decisions are taken by the Board’s regional director following receipt of a report from the relevant officer’s department and a medical examination being conducted by the Commonwealth medical officer. The Board, in conjunction with the Department of Health, the Department of Finance and the Australian Government Retirement Benefits Office, has completed an examination of procedures for reviewing an officer’s fitness for duty. As a result of that review, it is proposed to introduce some changes to current procedures to provide departments, examining Commonwealth medical officers and the Board with additional information to assist in determining an officer’s fitness for duty and whether invalidity retirement or other action, such as redeployment, is appropriate. Consultations about the new procedures will be held with peak councils of staff organisations on Thursday of this week, that is, 20 September 1979. Details of the new procedures are contained on page 50 of the Public Service Board’s annual report for 1979, which was tabled on 12 September.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware that a Queensland girl, Mary Ellen Eather, has been in a prison at Tihar, India, for three years? I ask the Minister whether he has received a letter from a relation of Miss Eather, containing an extract from a letter from her- incidentally, the letter was written on 18 August 1979 and did not arrive until 4 September- in which the following passage is included:
The Australian Government has not shown any particular interest in helping me- when they could not afford mc the money to buy soap, toothpaste, toiletries so much needed by me as a woman, etc. etc. How could 1 expect to depend on them. When first brought to jail I stood in the same clothes for over two months, with not a brush for my teeth, nor a comb for my hair- let alone the soap to wash myself, only after repeated requests to the jail authorities to contact my Australian Embassy did my visit finally come- they did of course know I had been arrested, they, to my disappointment, turned up empty handed.
– Order! Ask your question.
-The question is: Will the Government take action to have Miss Eather released from goal and returned to Australia as soon as possible?
-I do not have at hand any direct information on the matter. I suggest that Senator Keeffe should provide me with the details as he knows them concerning this woman. I will then refer those details to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and seek his comment on them and the taking of any action which may be justified.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and refers to a Nationwide program emanating from Melbourne on 30 July in which it was stated that the South Australian Government had released a report concerning death by cancer of former mine workers at Radium Hill. Both Senator Cavanagh and Senator Coleman alluded to that report in a debate in this chamber on 29 August. I ask: Is there such a report? If so, has the report been released to the public? Has the Federal Minister for Health seen the report? If so, does the report have any application to present day uranium mining?
– I am advised by the Minister for Health that, following reports in the media, the Minister for Health wrote to his then South Australian counterpart requesting, on a confidential basis, a copy of the report of the study group. On 1 August, the South Australian Minister replied by letter giving some details of the study. So far as the Minister for Health is aware, no report of the study has been released by the South Australian Government. To honour an undertaking given to the South Australian Minister, the Minister for Health is restricting his comments to aspects of the study already mentioned in the Press report. There are a number of well-established cases of lung cancer amongst miners and it would be important to exclude these before it could be inferred that the excess mortality has been due to radiation. It is very doubtful whether the study would have any application to present day uranium mining.
In 1975 the Department of Health developed standards of radiation health. These are specified in the Code of Practice on Radiation Protection in the Mining and Milling of Radioactive Ores 1975 which is administered by the Department of Science and the Environment. The Code has already been incorporated in legislation in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. I understand that it is currently being adapted for
Commonwealth legislation by an interdepartmental committee, taking into account advances in knowledge since it was prepared. The monitoring of mines in the Northern Territory has indicated clearly that radiation exposures there are well within the standards laid down in the code.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for National Development aware that the biggest crop spraying organisation in Tasmania- Benders Spreading Services Pty Ltd- has announced that it will have to retrench members of its staff and other employees because of the lack of avgas available to fly its aircraft and that this will have the effect of reducing the amount of spraying and fertilising of crops on properties in Tasmania? In view of this statement, does the Minister have any remarks to make in addition to those made in the last few weeks by him and by the Minister whom he represents about the alleged availability of avgas in this country?
– I am not aware of the particular problem to which Senator Grimes refers. I suggest that the details of the problem be submitted and I will draw them to the attention of the Minister for National Development.
– He knows about them. He should have briefed you.
– If he knows about them, I will get an answer from him.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: Is it a fact that in the 1979-80 Budget estimates of revenue are conservative and that no allowance was made for increases in the price of crude oil and thus the increased revenue generated by the crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas levies? Does the Minister agree that, bearing in mind the fact that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries increased its prices by 35 per cent in the first half of 1979, we could expect rises in OPEC prices in 1 979-80? Does the Minister agree that the likely increase would result in a tax revenue of about $300m and decrease the domestic deficit to $600m, a reduction of some 30 per cent? What would be the economic consequences of a lower deficit, particularly on interest rates?
-It is a fact that the 1979-80 Budget estimates make no allowance for increases in the price of crude oil which may occur during the course of the year. The magnitude of the price increases which occurred during the first half of 1979 is not necessarily any guide to price increases which may occur later this year or in the first half of 1980. At this stage the Government does not have any reliable estimate of the magnitude of possible price increases, if any, which may occur. Consequently, any assessment of revenue impact would be extremely uncertain. Clearly, if any additional revenue were to accrue to the Government there would be a reduction in the size of its Budget deficit, other things being unchanged.
The claims which the Government will need to make on the financial markets to fund its deficit would be correspondingly less and consequently the pressure on domestic interest rates would also be reduced. Whether interest rates would rise or fall would depend on a number of other factors and would be determined ultimately by the market. Clearly it is the view of the Government that continued large deficits are undesirable. It is for this reason that the Government has pursued its objective of reducing the size of its Budget deficit during the last 3Vi years to reduce the pressure on interest rates and to dampen the inflationary expectations.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to my question to the Minister on 30 August regarding an Australian Broadcasting Commission program Broadband which asserted pro-Nazi wartime activities by Mr Lyenko Urbanchich. I ask the Minister now: What steps have been taken by him to authenticate the documents on which the program was based? Does the Minister intend to report to the Senate the findings of the inquiry into Mr Urbanchich by the New South Wales State executive of the Liberal Party?
- Mr President, as to the third part of the question, no doubt you would rule Senator Ryan out of order, as I think you did Senator Missen. I think the honourable senator knows that her question is out of order. The question of the authenticity or otherwise of the documents is primarily a matter for the man himself and he must have time to decide whether to take legal action.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. Do I understand that the Minister is replying to a question which he claims is out of order?
– No. The latter part of the question is rightly referred to by the Minister in the way that he has replied. He is replying to other parts of the question.
- Senator Ryan knows that a 90 minute broadcast in the Australian Broadcasting Commission program Broadband made, certain very severe allegations against an Australian citizen. IF they are untrue, they are a gross defamation. What is necessary, of course, is to allow that citizen ample time to take any remedies that he may desire to take. That is a matter for that citizen. It is not for the Government of the day to authenticate or otherwise documents in this matter. This is a matter which concerns the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the individual concerned as to the truth or falsity of the information and is a matter which at this moment awaits the consideration of the individual himself.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to the Budget announcement of an allocation of $2.4m over the next three years for the training of interpreters and translators to work in the health services for migrants and Aboriginals. Can the Minister give details of these proposed training schemes? Are these schemes to be a Federal or State responsibility?
– I understand that the announcement in the Budget by the Minister for Health referred to the provision of health interpreter and translator services and that this may involve the training of some personnel. I am advised that the Minister for Health has written to the health authorities in each of the States and the Northern Territory advising them of the terms of the Commonwealth’s offer and inviting each State and the Northern Territory to submit proposals for the employment of additional health interpreters and translators. The Ministers have also been advised that Commonwealth funds for this purpose would be made available to the States and the Northern Territory by way of a specific block grant allocation within the community health program. In the year 1979-80, $940,000 will be made available at a 100 per cent level of funding, and for two years thereafter at a 75 per cent level. This will equal the $2.4m mentioned by the honourable senator. As with all other projects approved for funding through the States under the community health program, the States and the Northern Territory health authorities will have responsibility for detailed administration and supervision of the additional health interpreters and translators, and the Commonwealth and State health authorities will have a joint responsibility in relation to ongoing project appraisal and program effectiveness.
-I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: Has the Minister read the report in the National Times of the week ending 22 September in which Mr David Block, a director of CSR Ltd, is said to have stated:
The so-called ‘underground economy’- the people who evade taxes, engage in barter and avoid being included in government statistics- now accounts for between 25 and 30 percent of the national income.
If these percentages are correct, will the Minister not agree that in Australia tax avoidance is out of control, despite the assurances of the Government? Will the Minister further explain to the Senate how inflation can be controlled when nearly a third of the national income is not disclosed because of tax avoidance schemes?
– I do not recall the article in the National Times. Therefore I cannot authenticate, or otherwise, the figures that the honourable senator has mentioned. The Government has indicated that it takes seriously various, fairly widespread, attempts in the community to avoid taxation. Such tax avoidance comes not only from traditional areas. One of the widest fields of tax avoidance comes from people who receive cash payments. Today the magnitude of that field is unidentifiable.
Senator Elstob will know that it was because of the difficulties of legislating against tax avoidance that so many European countries moved towards a value-added tax as one of the few taxes that they believed could ensure a blanket responsibility for taxation of the citizen. I am bound to say that in this matter the Government is taking all of the steps that it can devise, and is getting the best possible advice from experts. We will continue to pursue tax avoidance wherever we can legislatively do so. I remind the honourable senator that the former Labor Government was a little slower in acting in the matter and that in the light of that performance its supporters have nothing to complain of now.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Because of the excellent response by citizens of mainland China to an invitation issued by Radio Australia, will special help be given to Radio Australia staff in Peking to process requests for free program guides? Can the Minister confirm reports that in this connection 1 6,000 letters have been received, and that they continue to be delivered at the rate of 5,000 a day? Has our embassy in Peking asked the station to stop broadcasting the postbox number until the present influx can be cleared?
– I do not have any official advice on the report to which the honourable senator has referred, but I have seen in the West Australian of today’s date a report which sets out broadly the facts which have been raised by the honourable senator today. 1 must say that it is consistent with the knowledge I have of Radio Australia that it should be so well received in China. In every country where it is heard it seems to have an enthusiastic listening audience and provides a service of which Australia is entitled to be proud. Our exporters will no doubt take note of the fact that if one gets one’s product into a country that has a decent size market, an obvious result flows therefrom.
If the report is true, and this sort of response has been received from the Chinese people, it is a matter which will no doubt be of great encouragement to our broadcasters. I would have thought that the unbiased and newsworthy information which is provided by Radio Australia would on occasion be very welcome in many of the countries to which it is beamed. I will refer the detailed matters to Mr Staley and seek information. I do not know whether additional staff will be provided, but I am sure Mr Staley will be anxious that this sort of impact should be continued.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, follows that asked by Senator Hamer, in which both the honourable senator and the Leader of the Government highlighted the fact that the accrued revenue which would flow from the petrol tax would allow the deficit to be considerably reduced and would place Government finances in a very healthy position. Is the Minister aware that for a single income family the first $3,893 only is tax-free, whereas the first $7,786 is tax-free where husband and wife work? Does the Leader of the Government agree with the Treasurer’s recent admission in Brisbane that single income families were disadvantaged in the Budget? If so, will he urge the Government to take immediate steps to correct this injustice by increasing the tax rebate for a dependent spouse?
-Senator McAuliffe will know that one of the main actions of the Fraser Government has been to relieve upwards of 500,000 people on the lowest incomes from the need to pay tax at all, so the Government has been acutely aware of the need to provide relief in that regard. It is true that the traditional tax scales, tax deductions and tax rebate systems which have evolved over the years and which both the Whitlam and Fraser governments have adopted in various modifications, tend to disadvantage single income families. That cannot be gainsaid.
Many people are arguing that there ought to be quite major changes in the whole approach to taxation and tax deductibility so that that disadvantage is overcome and help is given to the family. That is a major policy issue. I know that the Government is taking a keen interest in it. I cannot say whether the Government would look to apply additional income, if it received it, to that point of policy. That is a policy matter, but I will draw the attention of the Treasurer to it.
-Does the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications recall that he informed me during Question Time on 30 August that his colleague, Mr Staley, undertook to provide me ‘next week’ with details concerning the program for the extension of television services on Eyre Peninsula in South Australia? Did the Minister mean the next calendar week or the next sitting week? As both weeks have now passed, will the Minister as a matter of urgency provide me with these details by the end of this sitting week as the matter is of great concern to people on Eyre Peninsula?
– Having not honoured the last undertaking I gave to the honourable senator I am a little reluctant to give him any further undertakings. I recall providing the answer to which he referred in his question. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has informed that the receipt of this material from his Department has been delayed pending finalisation of some engineering aspects. He, like me, extends his sincere apologies for this further delay. He has advised me that he expects to be in a position to write to the honourable senator about the details of the project before the end of this week. I make that statement with all care but no responsibility.
-I refer the Minister representing the Treasurer to the recent High Court of Australia decision in Raimondo v. The
State of South Australia, in which the court noted that one Australian is killed every working day in industrial accidents, and that the annual cost of such accidents amounts to $2 billion. The Minister will be aware that the Treasurer, in answer to a question that I put on notice, recently advised that a $ 1 50,000 Australian Bureau of Statistics program to identify and analyse the causes of these massive costs to industry and Australia’s productivity has been shelved because of staff ceilings. Can the Minister explain how such a small cut in the Government’s spending is cost effective, given the high cost that industrial accidents impose on Australian productivity?
-! am personally aware, and I am sure all other honourable senators are, of the quite terrible incidence of industrial accidents which result not only in fatalities but also in serious as well as minor injuries. I think that in the first place one should look at their impact in terms of the family and the community before looking at the effect on productivity. It is true that industrial accidents are a major cost to industry. I have to accept that. At both the State and Federal levels there have been enormous efforts made over the years- through the various departments of labour, safety factors and all sorts of codes- to mitigate these circumstances. As to the item of money, this is one of the many factors involved in the whole situation. I am not aware of the basis for the Treasurer’s thinking in this regard. I will refer that part of the question to the Treasurer and seek a response.
– I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for National Development to an article appearing in this morning’s Australian relating to the first conference on the jojoba plant to be held in Australia, at Bathurst this week. I ask whether the Minister is aware of the remarkable claims which have been attributed to this plant in terms of its being one of the viable answers to the world energy crisis, as well as being a substitute for whale oil? If that is so, can the Minister indicate what research on this plant has been carried out by the Australian Government and whether the Government will consider making special grants to firms interested in developing such projects under current energy development programs or, alternatively, to progressive State governments such as that in South Australia for such purposes?
– I have not seen the articles to which Senator Messner refers, nor has my attention been drawn to them before now, so
I am not able to make any comment on claims about any assistance this plant may give in regard to the energy problem. However, it is obviously a matter of considerable interest and I will refer the matter to the Minister for National Development and ask him to give an early answer to the question.
– I refer the Minister for Education to the proposed introduction of fees for overseas students, which I am sure the Minister will be disconcerted to hear is now becoming known in certain sections of the community rather unsympathetically as the ‘blacks tax’. I ask the Minister what information his Department has on the average family income of those students whom it is proposed to make pay fees of $1,500 to $2,500 a year? Can the Minister confirm or deny the accuracy of the reported survey of the Overseas Students Service that the average family income in question is of the order of only $A8,000 to $A9,000, and will he agree that if this is the case- or if he cannot deny it- the proposed fees represent an unjustifiable order of magnitude? Finally, how much further delay can be expected before the full details of this scheme are announced to this Parliament and, indeed, to those thousands of students whose careers are very substantially hanging on those details?
-I take it that Senator Evans deprecates the invidious title ‘blacks tax’. Of course, his own deputy leader said that the Labor Party would not be opposed at all to taxing foreign students who could afford it. So, I take it that the Labor Party would not be opposed to imposing a ‘blacks tax’ if the blacks were affluent. I do not think it does anybody any good to use those invidious kinds of words in this chamber. In fact, every Western country that I know of charges fees. I take it that Senator Evans, by inference, feels that there is some kind of racism in what they are doing. If he does not, then why did he put the first part of his question? Was it to get a quick trick? If so, it has rebounded because his own Party has made it clear that it has no objection in principle to the idea of charging fees to foreign students. That fact ought to be understood by people. I cannot say whether the alleged survey is reliable. I have not seen it but I doubt whether it could be reliable. Anyone who undertakes these surveys of family incomes will know the difficulties involved. As I said in reply to Senator Button on, I think, Thursday evening, it is the ordinary practice adopted by all governments in Budget sessions to announce a policy in principle and in due course during the Budget session to make known in particular what the policy is. That approach will be taken to the question of foreign private students as will be the case in all other matters.
– I wish to ask the Minister a supplementary question. I asked the Minister when we could expect those details, given their importance. An awful lot is hanging on them. Can he give more precise information than he has given?
– I think that the Leader of the Government in the Senate answered the question.
– I did answer that question. I said that this would be done in the course of this Budget session.
– I refer the Minister representing the Prime Minister to the report in the Australian dated 13 September 1979 headed Mining Shares Rocket to Record’. Firstly, is the Minister aware that the Sydney share market key indicator has reached an all-time record of 663.58 points and tops the record mining boom of January 1970? Secondly, is the Minister aware that this record is reported as having been influenced by the Government’s 1979-80 Budget which has brought about an influx of overseas capital enabling development of Australian industry and providing increased employment? Thirdly, is he aware of the prediction by Wall Street and the financial world that Australia will weather the energy crisis better than most countries? In view of these developments, does the Minister agree that these factors should give confidence to Australian industry and to the individual and bring about a realisation that the Opposition’s criticisms of the 1979-80 Budget lack perception?
– Before I call on the Leader of the Government in the Senate to answer that question, I must say that a number of questions have been asked which commence with the words ‘Does the Minister agree’. Such questions seek opinions from Ministers. I like questions to commence with the words ‘Is it a fact that’ or ‘Is it so’. I like the questions to be specific and definite. I call the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– Why doesn’t he admit that the mining industry writes his question for him? He is too illiterate.
-No one would admit that he wrote Senator Grimes’s question for him, judging the level of literacy in that interjection. It is a fact that the Sydney -
– Get out. You’re a real nit. Why don’t you go back to being a bag man.
- Senator Grimes, I must ask you to desist from interjecting. It is becoming an undesirable habit with you.
-lt is a fact that the Sydney share market key indicator reached an alltime record and that the mining shares in particular have reached high levels on the indicator. It is also a fact that the business, industrial and commercial indicators have reacted most favourably to the Australian Budget handed down in August. It is equally a fact that Wall Street, pointing to the very favourable position in terms of low inflation and interest rates in Australia in contrast with countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, has indicated a very great future for investment, development and employment in this country. It is equally a fact that Wall Street has commented that Australia has the capacity to survive the energy crisis as well as or better than most countries. When all these matters are taken into consideration, plus last Saturday’s very wise decision of the electors, they indicate that the opportunities for Australia in development and for increasing real incomes and living standards for the people are unprecedented provided we keep on the course that this Government has set.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, mindful of the obvious lack of maintenance observed by the owners of the Liberian flag tanker World Encouragement which culminated in the major oil spill in Botany Bay. Does the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, intend emulating the example set by the Government of the United States of America and utilise the provisions of our Navigation Act in order to ban Liberian flag tankers which have a shocking record of maintenance, bad navigation and poor crewing?
– I do not think there is any thought in the mind of the Government to ban all Liberian tankers, which I understand is what the honourable senator suggested in his question. I am advised by the Minister for Transport that an inspection of the tanker World Encouragement by officers of the Department of Transport revealed no reason why any action should be taken against even that vessel. In that case the spillage was caused by the vessel being holed during an operational mishap while berthing and not by any continuing defect which might have given rise to criticism. I am further told that an investigation currently is under way by the Department of Transport and the New South Wales Maritime Services Board which will indicate whether any special steps are necessary to avoid such mishaps in the future.
– I ask a supplementary question. If nothing was wrong in regard to maintenance, the Minister has not answered the question. Was bad navigation involved when the ship went aground? Somebody must have made a mistake. Surely it was not an act of God.
– I am afraid that the extent of the information I have is that it was a mishap. I am not able to answer that question.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is the Minister able to say what the criteria are for the establishment in any area of public telephones? If not, at some stage will he advise the Senate of those criteria? Is a smaller, less expensive public telephone under design to cut the cost of installations? If not, will the Minister ask Telecom Australia to carry out such an investigation so that Australia may be better served with public telephones, as are most other countries?
-I understand that there are standard criteria for establishing when a public telephone should be installed. I do not have the detail, but I will ensure that it is provided to the honourable senator. I am also not aware whether a smaller, less expensive telephone is being designed. I do know that there are difficulties in designing telephones which are too small and too inexpensive because of the constant problem of vandalism. It is necessary for them to be of a robust design which will withstand ill-treatment, which unfortunately they get on occasions. Once again, this is a matter on which I will see that the honourable senator receives more detailed information.
– I ask a question of either the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services or the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Were tenders called early in 1978 for the purchase of two Royal Australian Air Force Hercules aircraft? Were tenders received and not accepted? Were tenders re-opened on 14 January this year? On this occasion, were the successful tenderers
Parmax Inc. and Global Jet Sales Inc.? Were the tender prices of those two firms not the highest in 1 978 but the highest in 1 979?
– I can confirm that tenders were called last year, that the tenders received were not regarded as satisfactory, and that tenders were subsequently called again, I think in January of this year. It was either late last year or early this year. I am not able to give the honourable senator the detailed information he has requested. I will obtain it from Mr McLeay and let the honourable senator have a reply as soon as possible.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. With the newly elected Government in South Australia in agreement with the mining of uranium in the State, can the Minister give any indication as to what federal conditions would have to be met, including environmental conditions? Would these have any effect on the beginning of the mining of uranium in South Australia, particularly the Honeymoon deposit, where reports by mining engineers have stated that it could be mined and in production within 12 months?
– Of course the change of government in South Australia will have a most dramatic effect on the encouragement of minerals exploration and development in that State. From time to time we have discussed in the Senate the position with the Roxby Downs deposit, and there are others, one of which Senator Young has mentioned. The position is that as a result of the change of government and the very fundamental change in policy and attitude to mining uranium, planning for the development of these projects will be able to go ahead with some confidence.
Of course, many aspects of government policy will have to be considered and met. Environmental considerations and requirements will have to be satisfied. In some cases foreign investment guidelines may have to be considered. Matters may have to be referred to the Foreign Investment Review Board. The Government’s uranium export policy will also have to be met. The important thing is that people now will be able to go ahead with their planning, which includes, of course, the means of satisfying those requirements. Things are now very different from the blanket policy under which there was no sense in people making any planning for development because they knew that they would not be allowed to proceed. They now know that provided these requirements which I have mentioned are complied with the development will be able to proceed. Therefore, they will be able to plan with confidence for the future.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Is it true that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has been advised that the security at its Lucas Heights reactor is inadequate? Has the Atomic Energy Commission also been advised that at least one of the important buildings at Lucas Heights will not withstand a natural disaster such as an earthquake? In view of the answer the Minister has just given to the previous question, can he assure the Senate that any developments that may take place in other parts of Australia will be of such a standard as not to require future advice of the nature given to the Atomic Energy Commission?
– I have just referred to the Government’s attitude on uranium mining and to the requirements and safeguards which are laid down and which people will be required to meet in all future developments. Senator Wriedt has asked a specific question in relation to a safety standard in the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Questions have been asked and answers given on these matters at previous Estimates committee meetings. I have no doubt that any concern in relation to matters raised by Senator Wriedt will be raised at future Estimates committee hearings and that full details will be supplied by members of the Commission who will be present.
– I ask the Leader of the Government a question similar to the one raised by Senator Young. It follows the landslide swing to the Liberal Party’s policies in South Australia and the clear and positive change of direction that this means especially towards policies to develop the State. In the light of the Prime Minister’s meeting with Mr David Tonkin in Adelaide, will the Commonwealth Government give every assistance to the South Australian Government in its determination to proceed immediately with the development of mining at Roxby Downs?
– One thing is clear: An overwhelming mandate was given to the new Government in South Australia to proceed with the development of industry in general and with mining in particular, including uranium mining.
– I am aware that the Commonwealth Government has given an undertaking to the incoming Premier, Mr Tonkin, to assist the State Government in every way. I think he can take it that that is so. Nevertheless, I will bring the matter to the attention of the Minister concerned. Earlier I heard an interjection to the effect: ‘Would the assistance be financial?’ That ought to be academic to a party which lost government because it would give no assistance at all to industry in South Australia.
– My question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health follows my question last week requesting an investigation into the rate of use of the drug Valium. Is it a fact that 9, 1 1 8 prescriptions were written last year under the national health program for Valium in the form of a paediatric syrup for use by young children? Will it extend any inquiry it is making to include an urgent survey of the rate of prescription of Valium to children, the reasons for such prescription and their justification?
– I undertake to refer to the Minister for Health the further question from Senator Mason regarding the incidence of the use of Valium. I will see that any advice the Minister gives me is referred back to Senator Mason.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I understand that Dr Peter Clyne, a tax avoidance advocate, has finally made certain arrangements with the Australian Taxation Office. Does that mean that Dr Clyne is now lodging full and complete returns, as required under the Income Tax Assessment Act, for the period to 30 June 1 979? Further, what steps has the Government taken to close the loopholes which Dr Clyne had advocated be used?
-I think that Senator Watson is giving Mr Peter Clyne a title which he might not have earned academically, although indeed he may have shown some forms of witchcraft and other skills in the field of tax avoidance. I am unable to say what stage the Commissioner of Taxation has reached with Mr Clyne in ensuring that Mr Clyne conforms fully with the tax laws. Anyone who associates with the Commissioner of Taxation will know that, correctly, in terms of his statutory requirements, he has a persistence of a bulldog type and no doubt he will pursue the matter with Mr Clyne. As to any loopholes which are disclosed, Senator Watson can rely on the Treasury and the Government acting within their powers to close them.
– Has the Minister for Social Security received a submission from the ManlyWarringah Children’s Refuge Association requesting Federal Government assistance for the staffing of a children’s refuge in the ManlyWarringah district? Does the Government support in principle the Federal funding of such worthy community projects, especially when the New South Wales Government has contributed the land for the project and a voluntary committee has raised $41,000 in just 18 months? In view of the importance of such facilities in this Year of the Child, will the Government give funding assistance to this particular project.
– I suggest that the honourable senator place his question on notice. It raises a matter in which there may be some public interest. If there are facts which I can place on record I will be happy to do so. I am unaware of the status of any application from the organisation to which the honourable senator referred, but there is a program under which the Federal Government and the State Government jointly are supporting the establishment of some refuges or emergency care centres for children. It could be that the application to which the honourable senator referred is one of those made under that project. If the question is placed on notice I will see that an answer is given shortly.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport: Is it a fact that very great concern is being expressed by fishermen, other small boat operators, conservationists, search and rescue operators and many other people about the proposed conversion of the Maatsuyker Island lighthouse in the south-west of Tasmania to automatic and the withdrawal of the existing staff? Does one of the stated reasons for that proposal relate to cost? Is it a fact that the fortnightly mail and supplies transport by helicopter is operated at a cost of $60,000 per annum? Were tenders called for the provision of that service? If not, why not? Is it a fact that the servicing could be provided by a suitable large fishing boat for less than half that amount- that is, for less than $30,000 per annum? Will tenders be called next time? Will the decision to withdraw manning of the lighthouse be reviewed in the light of any lowered cost and also in the light of the unique importance of that lighthouse as a manned meteorological observation station and a warning relay station in an area of heavy fishing, poor radio reception and extraordinarily bad weather?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Transport and seek a detailed reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Perhaps, as a preliminary, I should say that the bandage on my forehead was there before the South Australian election on Saturday. Has the Minister seen in a newspaper this morning a statement concerning Roxby Downs by Mr Clark, director of corporate affairs of the Western Mining Corporation? The article stated, in part:
But Mr Clark added that the company still had a great deal of work to do on the project before it could proceed to the development phase.
We announced a little while ago that we were starting an accelerated investigation of the prospect at a cost of $50 million,’ he said.
But that could take all of two years, and what the end of it will be nobody knows. ‘
In the light of what he replied to Senator Young and as this statement is substantially the same as a statement which was made by Mr Hudson, the then responsible Minister in South Australia, does the Minister contest that estimate of development by the company?
– I have not seen the statement to which Senator Bishop referred, but it is well known that further exploration work is required to be done in the Roxby Downs area. It is a vast deposit; that has been established. Its size and the full development of it have not yet been fully determined. I agree with that. I imagine that that is one of the points made by the officer of the Western Mining Corporation. However, the fact remains that under the policy which was adopted by the previous Labor Government in South Australia in relation to the development of uranium, which policy is the same for the Labor Party generally, there would have been a halt to the development of this resource. Nothing that has been drawn to my attention by Senator Bishop would affect the answer which I gave previously to Senator Young.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs aware that Australia’s largest recorded blue topaz, which 1 understand was found in northern Queensland, was recently on display in Canberra and is owned by a resident of Canberra? Is the Minister also aware that its owner has stated that he will give the Commonwealth Government the first option to buy the 262 carat gem for display in the proposed national museum? Does the Minister agree that this would be an appropriate item to display in the national museum? Will the Government consider this purchase?
– I understand that no formal offer has been made to the Commonwealth Government of what is believed to be one of Australia’s larger blue topaz gemstones. I think that the only information that the Government has is the newspaper report of about 17 August. If an offer materialises, I understand that my colleague in another place will consider the matter at an appropriate time.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Whilst recognising and indeed supporting the Government’s decision to provide 3,500 tonnes of rice to alleviate immediate starvation problems in Kampuchea, is the Government aware that there is an equally urgent need for milk powder and antibiotics in that country? Will the Government take immediate steps, if need be by direct contact with the Kampuchean authorities, to get to Kampuchea supplies of milk powder and antibiotics which in particular will prevent the deaths of many tens of thousands of children in that country?
– The Government is acutely aware of the very great suffering and starvation of the people of Kampuchea and, as Senator Wriedt indicated, has acted to make a significant contribution of food. The Government is also having discussions with other agencies and other countries with the aim of ensuring that whatever we give goes to the people most in need. Without knowing precisely, I would expect that in conditions such as those in Kampuchea there would be a shortage of both antibiotics and milk powder and that milk powder would be an essential need because of its content of protein and other minerals. I am not aware whether the Commonwealth Government has given thought to the provision of these items or whether other agencies and other countries have undertaken to do so. Because the matter is of concern to all Australians I will refer the specific question to the Minister and seek a reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction. I refer the Minister to reports that the country’s two largest private mortgage insurers, namely the Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation of Australia and the Australian Mortgage Insurance Corporation Ltd, have lobbied the Government to have the Government-owned Housing Liabilities Insurance Co. compete in the market place on the same footing as these private insurers. If this were all that its competitors considered necessary, on what grounds has the Government decided to sell the Housing Liabilities Insurance Co. instead of following the course of action that its competitors would have recommended?
– I think 1 understand the general thrust of the question. Perhaps the honourable senator should amend some of the names that he used. He referred to the Housing Liabilities Insurance Co., but I think that should be the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. I am unaware of the proposal that the honourable senator has mentioned. I know of no Government lobbying on this matter. If the senator wishes an answer to the question and puts it on notice, I will see that it comes to him.
-Senator Keeffe asked me a question regarding Mary Ellen Eather and her detention in India. I am advised that Miss Mary Ellen Eather, an Australian citizen, was arrested in India on 9 July 1976 with a group of people in connection with the alleged robbery and murder of several people in India. On 9 August 1976 Miss Eather was granted approver status, that is, a state witness in several criminal cases involving Charles Shobrai. Her trial commenced on 4 July 1977 and since that time Miss Eather has appeared in court on numerous occasions. Hearings have been postponed on occasions, when a new judge was appointed, and one of the cases resumed on 1 1 April 1 979. Further hearings were scheduled during April and May, and officers of the High Commission in India attended most of them. A charge concerning the use of a false name was brought against Miss Eather in February, although this information was not made known to the Australian High Commission in New Delhi until May. Further postponements have occurred due to nonavailability of witnesses, illness of the judge and absence of defence lawyers. The Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been told of our concern at the delay in finalising the trial of Miss Eather, and the matter has also been brought to the notice of the Indian High Commission in Canberra. Senator Keeffe mentioned certain matters relating to essential conditions and amenities with regard to the holding of Miss Eather. I am not aware of those. I will bring them to the attention of the Minister concerned.
-by leave- During Question Time Senator Collard asked a question in relation to a report on the health of miners at Radium Hill in South Australia which he had noticed in a newspaper. The honourable senator stated that Senator Cavanagh and Senator Coleman had alluded to this report in speeches in the Senate, and that the purpose of the question was to get from the Minister an assurance that no such report existed. One can only infer from that remark that Senator Coleman or Senator Cavanagh manufactured a report that does not exist for the purpose of misleading the Senate, in order to give some information that was not contained in a report.
– That would be typical of the mining industry, would it not?
– I am not one to spoil a good speech just to insist on facts. On this occasion I did not claim that the report existed, and Hansard will show what I said. I quote from page 378 of the Senate Hansard of 29 August 1979:
The Minister for Health in South Australia has established an inquiry by his Department as a result of the effects on those who worked at Radium Hill in South Australia. Although the report is not yet finalised and has not been released it has definitely proved that since I960- a matter of only 19 years- 59 per cent of those who worked underground at Radium Hill over a period of at least two years died of cancer, lt is not a complete report, but it shows that deaths as a result of cancer were four and a half times the Australian average. They are figures from South Australia where 19 years has elapsed since we mined uranium.
In addition, I have made known the fact that an inquiry was made and that a report should be available. With the change of government it may be that the report will never be released. These deaths have to be assessed in comparison with deaths of other miners from cancer. We can give no value to figures for cancer-caused deaths of uranium miners unless the figures are greatly in excess of those for other miners, such as asbestos miners. I do not think we have a satisfactory basis for evaluation.
-Last week Senator Maunsell asked me a question relating to the availability of distillate in north Queensland. He asked whether the Minister for National Development, as a matter of urgency, would request the oil companies to secure immediately for Cairns an additional shipment of distillate from overseas. The following answer has been provided by the Minister:
In recognition of the problems of availability of distillate being encountered in Cairns the Government, in conjunction with the oil industry, arranged an additional shipment of 3,800 tonnes of distillate to arrive in Cairns on 15 September. This volume was chosen on the basis of advice received at a public meeting in Cairns on 4 September, which was attended by officers of the Department of National Development. This, together with the other scheduled shipments, should ensure that all distillate users in the area have access to product. I am advised that one oil company has recently acquired a cargo of approximately 30,000 tonnes of distillate from the Mediterranean which should arrive in Australia in mid-October, lt will be available to supply any areas which are experiencing supply shortfalls at the time, wherever they may be occurring, including Cairns. If at the time it arrives there are more serious problems in other parts of the country then these will receive a higher priority.
-On 30 August Senator Lewis, speaking of the tragic death of a member of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition near Casey in the Australian Antarctic Territory asked me questions relating to the training of expeditioners in low temperature survival techniques. In my answer I indicated that I would seek further details on the matter raised. I seek leave of the Senate to have my answer incorporated in Hansard.
Leave granted. 77ie- answer read as follows-
My Department has examined the matters raised by the honourable senator and I should like to amplify my earlier answer.
Training in low temperature survival for expeditioners is given by the Antarctic Division of my Department in several ways.
Expeditioners who are to winter in the Antarctic and members of summer field parties who arc to operate away from the Antarctic stations are expected to attend a 4-5 day field training camp conducted by the Division at Rocky Valley in the Victorian Highlands. The camps are conducted by a member of the Antarctic Division trained in survival techniques and the use of survival equipment.
Activities at these camps include orienteering, use of ice axe, crevasse rescue techniques, use of motor toboggans, camp making, tent pitching, snow cave and. as Tar as possible, igloo building, skiing and general familiarisation with activity in snow and cold. The expeditioner who lost his life near Casey attended the 1 978 camp at Rocky Valley.
Both wintering and summer personnel arc required to attend an orientation week which is held before departure. The program consists of formal lectures with slides and films. All aspects of Antarctic operations including survival techniques, health, first aid and management of cold injuries, are covered.
All expeditioners are issued with manuals which detail safety procedures and precautions to be taken in Antarctic conditions. First aid and management of cold injuries are also covered. These manuals are under constant revision and new field and first aid manuals are presently being prepared.
A large proportion of expeditioners are also instructed in the resuscitation procedures of external cardiac massage and mouth to mouth respiration by an instructress from the National Heart Foundation.
Selected expeditioners carry out a three day course in first aid supplied by the St John’s Ambulance Brigade. Certificates of proficiency are issued.
When in Antarctica ad hoc instruction in safety, survival and first aid procedures is given by those men with previous experience in these areas.
Before any field journey a formal briefing is given to the leader and his party and strict search and rescue procedures are detailed. Regular schedules of radio communication are laid down between the party and the station.
The matter of improving the training and techniques for survival in future has been referred to the Safety Committee of the Antarctic Division for consideration. Already a series of one day pre-embarkation lectures has been planned to ensure that any expeditioners such as round trip personnel who do not attend the training outlined above, also receive basic instructions in survival.
-Last Wednesday, 12 September, Senator Harradine asked a question without notice concerning aids to assist deaf persons to view television news broadcasts. I indicated that I would ask Mr Staley to provide, direct to Senator Harradine, information on two points on which 1 was unable to provide an answer. The Minister has now informed me that the nature of the current Teletext trials is such that a decision on the possible use of this system to assist deaf persons will not be possible before the commencement of Deafness Awareness Week, the first week in October. As to whether the Minister would take up this matter with the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, Mr Staley feels that this step would be premature until a decision on Teletext or any other type of system was taken.
-Last Thursday Senator Ryan asked a question without notice concerning media ownership. In reply I indicated that I would refer her question to Mr Staley, seeking his intentions with respect to a special inquiry under the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942. This issue was, of course, discussed at some length by Senator Ryan and other senators during the urgency debate on 30 August 1979. Mr Staley has informed me that, as always, he is happy to consider any matters raised by the Tribunal and in the light of its decision in the Channel 10 inquiry and remarks made by honourable senators opposite during the debate on this question, he is giving this matter his close attention. Any decision concerning a possible inquiry will be announced at the appropriate time.
– Pursuant to the provisions of the Audit Act 1 90 1 , 1 present the report of the Auditor-General upon financial statements prepared by the Minister for Finance for the year ended 30 June 1979 and upon other accounts, together with the financial statements, and certificates of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Attorney-General and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs relating to exempt accounts.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- The copy of the report which the Auditor-General has transmitted to the Senate in respect of the 1978-79 financial year is, as required by section 53 (3) (a) of the Audit Act, accompanied by a copy of the annual financial statements prepared by the Minister for Finance pursuant to section 50 (4) of the Audit Act. The form of the statements differs from that presented in previous years as a direct result of one of a number of important amendments made by the Audit Amendment Act 1979, which was assented to on 7 March 1979. The amendments affect the statements in two basic ways, both of which reflect the greater emphasis now given by the Audit Act to the responsibility of permanent heads for the financial management of their departments. First, the information on receipts and expenditure has been rearranged so that the basic classification is by department rather than by fund. All relevant transactions of a department whether from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the Trust Fund or the Loan Fund, are shown under the departmental heading. In accordance with the definition now contained in the Audit Act, ‘Department ‘ in this context includes a branch or part of the Australian Public Service in relation to which a person has the powers of a permanent head. Honourable senators will, I am sure, find this form of presentation much more useful than the format followed for very’ many years in the previous statement of receipts and expenditure which accompanied the Auditor-General’s report. Summaries of total receipts and expenditure from the various funds, however, continue to be shown in tables similar to those used in previous years.
The second basic change results from the requirement of section 50 (3) of the Audit Act for certain information to be furnished by permanent heads. Prior to the recent amendments, the Auditor-General was obliged to explain in full the statement prepared by the Minister for Finance. That requirement has been removed; instead, it is now the responsibility of each permanent head to provide explanatory material in respect of his own department. In particular, the Act requires that the explanations include the following details not previously reported to the Parliament: The total number and aggregate value of act of grace payments made during the year under the Minister’s authority; the number and aggregate value of payments due to the Commonwealth, recovery of which has been waived during the year under the Minister’s authority; and particulars, in summary form, of amounts written off during the year in respect of losses or deficiencies of moneys or stores, irrecoverable revenue, irrecoverable debts and overpayments.
In redesigning the statements to incorporate these basic changes, a number of improvements have also been made to the format. Some of the summary tables have been changed to give more information. Honourable senators will note that additional detail is given on the transactions of individual trust accounts within the Trust Fund. On the other hand, we have omitted some of the tables previously included in the AuditorGeneral ‘s explanations where that information is available in other Budget papers. I should also add that, earlier this year, there was an exchange of correspondence on the form of these statements between the department of finance and the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. As a result of that, an undertaking was given to the Chairman that these statements would be discussed with the Committee following their presentation and, if necessary, revised in the light of the Committee’s views.
– by leave- I move:
I would just take the opportunity to point out that the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations has a reference, which it received last year from the Senate, in relation to the use of the Advance to the Minister for Finance. 1 can indicate to the Senate that the Committee has completed its consideration of that and the report is with the printer. It is hoped that it will be out later this week. If not, it will be out next week, depending on when it is able to be produced.
It does seem to me that there are a number of matters of considerable importance to the Senate which have been referred to in the statement of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle). It is unfortunate that in the past the Senate has not tended to debate the AuditorGeneral’s report regarding the use of the advance to the Minister for Finance. It has awaited the consideration of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts report, which usually does not come out for quite some time, and the matter just has not found its way back into the Senate for debate.
I hope that consideration can be given to discussing at an early stage the statement just made by the Minister, together with the AuditorGeneral’s report and the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations in relation to the use of the Advance to the Minister for Finance. These are matters of very considerable importance to the Senate in its role as a house of review and in relation to the activities of its Estimates committees. I do not want the fact that some important developments have taken place, and are taking place, to pass unnoticed. I ask that the debate be resumed at an early opportunity. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I lay on the table explanatory notes relating to departmental expenditure under the Advance to the Minister for Finance 1978-79, together with explanatory notes of the Joint House Department relating to particulars of certain proposed expenditure for the year ended 30 June 1980. A list of departments and authorities, from which explanatory notes relating to the Advance to the Minister for Finance have been received, has been circulated to honourable senators.
– Pursuant to section 25 of the Australia-Japan Foundation Act 1976, I present the second annual report of the Australia-Japan Foundation 1978.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report on the Committee on Australia’s Relations with the Third World, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) relating to the report.
– by leave- The report of the Committee on Australia’s Relations with the Third World is a lengthy document which I have certainly not had time to digest in detail. It is a longawaited report and it is one which would need considerable study. From what chance I have had to look at it, it gives the impression of being a mixed bag. The statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) points out that the Committee was set a formidable task because of the very broad terms of reference it was given. To its credit, it has attempted to grapple with some of the terms of reference and it has produced a document which contains about 400 pages. It will be a very valuable reference document for the future. Certainly I would not be doing it an injustice if I indicated that the comments that I make are not necessarily the conclusive views of the Opposition. As is usual in these situations, we need to study these reports in some detail.
There are some matters which I wish to place on record. Firstly, I want to refer to the lecture given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs last evening, some of which was reported in the media this morning. He delivered a lecture entitled ‘Australia’s Future: A Premium on Enterprise’. In that speech he expressed views on issues touching on trade, protection and restructuring which seem to diverge very considerably from those of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and other members of the Government. This was most noticeable to anyone who read the Press reports this morning. Since it has been in office, the Government has steadily increased the level of protection against imports even in the face of some very severe criticism that has emanated in particular from the member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations. This has led to a gradual deterioration in Australia ‘s relationship with those countries.
Only recently the International Monetary Fund cited more than 20 examples of how Australia has acted against foreign imports in the last year. It went on to point out that, of the 134 member countries, only the United States of
America, India, Pakistan and Columbia had more adjustments to and instituted more rules on trade than Australia in the past 12 months. Although the Prime Minister has advocated lower protection in some of the world’s forums, such as at the recent United Nations Conference on Trade and Development held in Manila, Australia ‘s domestic policies have been directed at an increasing level of protection to the extent that the Government has now adopted a 2 per cent import duty on goods previously imported duty free. This duty was actually criticised in this report. Obviously, the duty has not gone unnoticed in the countries which constitute the Third World and, in particular, the Association of South East Asian Nations.
It is true that the Prime Minister has attempted to buy his way out of this problem with special bilateral deals such as the one we recently saw in the agreement with the Philippines on uranium. But he has been unable to stem the tide of criticism from other nations or to prevent the deterioration of our relations with those countries. No doubt, in an attempt to redress the imbalance, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has come out strongly in support of much greater liberalisation of trade and substantial restructuring of the Australian economy. In doing so, he has put himself completely at odds with the Prime Minister. This must create considerable uncertainty as to the Government’s intentions at home and abroad. This issue is one of the central factors in our relations with the Third World. One can only imagine that almost certainly the Government’s response to the Committee’s report will be terribly confusing. Although essentially a conservative document, the report is critical, both impliedly and directly, of both present and past government foreign policies, particularly those which affect the Third World.
In bringing down the report, the Minister has been quite direct in pointing to the criticisms of the Government’s policies. He has made no attempt to hide those criticisms, no doubt because he is in substantial agreement with the criticisms made by the Committee. The report attacks the paternalistic and short-sighted attitude of Liberal governments, particularly during the 1 960s, and suggests that those policies which are inappropriate at the time should be abandoned altogether. More importantly, it criticises very strongly some of the Government’s actions in relation to foreign affairs. It is quite scathing in its criticism of the Government’s inability to coordinate its actions pointing out that its ad hockery or case by case approach confuses these issues.
In making that point the Committee is particularly concerned with the deterioriation of our relationships with South East Asian nations which have borne the brunt of these ad hoc arrangements, particularly in such disputes as we have seen recently regarding air fares and certain trading matters. The report is also critical of the Australian Government in taking one approach internationally yet adopting another front domestically. This can be taken only as a direct reference to the policies of the Prime Minister whose double standards are increasingly bringing us into disrepute with the nations of South East Asia. It is critical of our attitudes to trade with developing countries and with the level of aid provided to those countries. As such the report represents a substantial criticism of the major features of government policy in this area, despite the fact that the Minister is obviously taking a markedly different view from those which have been expressed by the Prime Minister over the last two or three years. This point should not be lost. The Committee is making its own criticism, quite substantially in parts, of the policies which have been pursued in the past two or three years and with which the Minister for Foreign Affairs obviously disagrees.
These criticisms must be given considerable credibility because the document is extremely important to us and, as I have said, will be a work of reference to which we will need to refer for quite some time in the future. If one could make a major criticism of the report, and I point out that this criticism is made after I have had only a brief opportunity to look at the document, having received a copy from the Minister before Question Time, it is that the report will give the Government and the public a very biased opinion of our attitudes towards the Third World. It is based on a narrow perception of the way in which Australia “s interests are affected by the Third World. The Committee points out that the World Bank has calculated that some 800 million people- approximately 40 per cent of the Third World- live in conditions of absolute poverty, which has been defined as lacking the basic requirements for a decent life. Yet the whole tenor of the report seems to ignore many of the expressed interests of the Third World countries or it is critical of them. In this respect, the report may do the Government a disservice as it fails to pay adequate attention to the views of the Third World countries, particularly those with which we are now and in the future will be having very close relations.
We saw the failure of UNCTAD V, which virtually signals a major decline in the notion of a new international economic order and a marked change in the economic debate. At that conference, Western industralised states continued to argue that the general economic condition was quite satisfactory and denied that the world economy was undergoing any crisis. The Eastern bloc, that is, the communist bloc, -argued that the economic position was fraught with crises and that the blame could rest on the transnational corporations, private capital, and so on. But the Third World countries took quite a different view. They argued that the world economy was in a state of crisis as a result of profound structural changes affecting development and international relations. They also claimed that the present international economic position was incapable of effectively resolving the most acute questions, which they saw as the problems of development caused by the widening gap between developing and developed countries.
It is true that there is an enormous difference between the nations generally of the Third World and other countries, but it does seem that the Committee has taken insufficient account of the problems of the poorer of the developing countries. For example, many people in the world obviously are facing starvation. In 1970 the World Food Conference announced that the fight against hunger and underdevelopment could be won, but at that time the cereal shortfall in the Third World countries was about 16 million tonnes. By 1978 the shortfall had gone to 7 1 million tonnes, and that in itself is an indication that the problems of the poorer developing countries are not only great but also are growing. Because of this highly suspicious perception of the Third World, the Committee focuses on Australian interests in the narrowest sense of the word. It argues that the most important of our strategic interests in relation to the Third World is that instability and conflict in that area should not be allowed to endanger Australia’s security. Starting from this premise, the Committee expresses concern about the impact of superpower conflicts on the Third World, and in particular in key areas such as the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean and the general Korean area. In some respects it appears to be overly concerned with the possible impact in these immediate regions of what might be generally termed revolutionary movements, et cetera.
Although critical of past Liberal-National Country Party governments for their short term ideological responses and somewhat praiseworthy of previous Labor governments because of their more outward-looking approach towards the United Nations and the Third World, the
Committee can still maintain a short term approach to many strategic interests. On the question of trade with the Third World countries, the findings will give rise to considerable debate in the community. The Committee quite rightly points out that the balance of trade has not been favourable to the Third World and comes down very firmly in favour of a much more liberal trading pattern. It goes on to argue that Australia’s industrial structure must be much more outward looking and, in this, it should be rememberd that it is supported by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the ambivalent response to the Crawford report on the part of the Government and its maintenance of the 2 per cent import duty, it is unlikely that the Government will come to grips with the Committee’s recommendations on this issue. But if the Government fails to deal with the problem it can expect a deterioration in its relations with Third World countries and in particular the five members of the Association of South East Asian Nations, which will be able to point to this report whenever the Prime Minister adopts special pleading to avoid having to live up to his stated views on the level of protection.
The Committee’s report on our relations with ASEAN countries must not be ignored by the Government. To some degree these relationships will be strongly affected by the trading patterns in the future; but the Committee’s timely criticism of the Government’s ad hoc approach to issues which affect foreign policy must be responded to. The running down of the Department of Foreign Affairs must not be allowed to continue and the Government must be prepared to think more seriously about the implications of its actions before embarking on courses such as the air fares issue which brought Australia into some notable degree of conflict with the ASEAN countries.
Many matters which the Committee has raised are important and must be dealt with at length. I will deal with three other brief matters in respect of this report. As has been recognised by the Government, Australia’s aid to underdeveloped countries has been declining steadily since the Fraser Government took office. This Government has a commitment to increase aid to Third World countries. We have had a commitment, I think, nationally- certainly the Opposition has for some years- to increase our aid to 0.7 per cent of our gross national product. In the current Budget the estimated aid level will be 0.42 per cent of GNP. In 1978 it was 0.45 percent and in 1975 0.6 per cent. Under the present Government the level of aid has been cut back quite substantially from that maximum level of 0.6 per cent to 0.42 per cent. Under those conditions Australia will not be believed in Third World countries when it postures about the new international economic order and the Common Fund when its contribution to the welfare of those nations declines year after year, as it has done. The Committee rightly points out that the amount of aid is inadequate and the Government should set a target date by which time aid should reach the suggested United Nations level.
The Committee seems to take a critical view of the role played by the Third World in the United Nations. Its report carries an implication that the usefulness of the United Nations is declining because of the increasing political power of the Third World in that body. This criticism could mean only that the Committee has found most of the changes forced on the United Nations by the Third World countries as unacceptable and, if that is so, its response to Third World values and ideals will be inadequate.
One last point I wish to mention is the reference of the Committee to Antarctica. The report raises very seriously the question of internationalisation of Australia’s Antarctic territories and highlights the two approaches open to the Government. In this respect, the Committee poses the dilemma for the Government. This may lead to an improved level of debate on this question. This matter has been raised in the Senate on many occasions. I believe it to be to the advantage of the Parliament and certainly to the people of Australia that the Committee has seen fit to raise what, in fact, is one of the most important issues that will face Australia and its attitude towards Antarctica in the immediate years ahead.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Department of Trade and Resources for 1978-79.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 171 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 I present the fifth annual report of the Trade Practices Commission for the year ended 30 June 1 979.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present an interim statement on the activities of the Department of Social Security for 1978-79.
– by leave- I move:
I wish to make some brief remarks about the tabling of the statement. As I have had a copy of the statement for only half an hour and it consists of 100 pages plus 50-odd pages of tables, I have not been in a position to read it. But I wish to congratulate the Department of Social Security on producing this year at least an interim annual report in September, before the consideration of the Estimates. Last time the Department’s report did not arrive until 24 November. I wish also to congratulate the Department on the improved quality of the printing of the report this year. The copy of the report I received last year was printed back to front and upside down and it has now become a collector’s item in my collection of reports.
The third matter on which I remark is that I was informed that the reason for producing an interim statement such as this was that an annual report could not be produced until the AuditorGeneral’s certificate on the Department’s report had been received. One assumes, therefore, that the Auditor-General’s certificate has not been received. One wonders why the AuditorGeneral’s certificate on the report of the Department of Social Security this year has been delayed. I am told that the reason for tabling an interim statement was to assist us in our consideration of the Department’s estimates. I suggest that it is very difficult to use a statement of this size in the consideration of the Department’s estimates when one receives a copy of it only about one hour before our consideration of those estimates. I dare say that we will try to get answers to those sorts of questions during the hearings of the Estimates committees. But being, as always, thankful for small mercies, I am grateful for the receipt of even an interim statement so early in the year. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 42(d) of the Australian Citizenship Act 1948, I present the annual return of persons granted Australian citizenship for the year ended June 1 979.
– by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note or the paper.
At this stage I will content myself with moving that motion because I find myself in a position similar to that of Senator Grimes, in that we are on the verge of considering the estimates for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. But looking beyond that, I am hoping that if this matter appears on the Notice Paper we will have an opportunity to discuss it. That might occur at a time when we have completed our consideration of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation legislation and a small backlog of deferred citizenship applications have been dealt with. At that stage I will outline my views on the matter. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 72 of the Health Commission Ordinance 1975, I present the annual report of the Capital Territory Health Commission for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– On behalf of the Minister for Science and the Environment, Senator Webster, and pursuant to section 16(1) of the Dairying Research Act 1972, 1 present the seventh annual report of the Dairying Research Committee for the year ended June 1979.
– On behalf of the Minister for Science and the Environment and for the information of honourable senators, I present two agreements, one between the Commonwealth of Australia and New South Wales and the other between the Commonwealth of Australia and Western Australia, in relation to the provision of financial assistance for projects related to the environment for 1978-79 made under the provisions of the Act.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– On behalf of the Minister for Science and the Environment, Senator Webster, and for the information of honourable senators, I present an interim statement of the activities of the Australian Egg Board for the year 1978-79.
– On behalf of the Minister for Science and the Environment, Senator Webster, and for the information of honourable senators, I present the interim annual report of the Australian Dairy Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1 979.
– On behalf of Senator Webster and for the information of honourable senators, I present a review of the Australian National Gallery’s activities for the year 30 June 1979.
– by leave- I move:
At this stage I can remark only that the Opposition welcomes the appearance of this review because in recent years there have been delays in receiving annual reports from the National Gallery. I can make no further comment because, although the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has just tabled the report on behalf of his colleague the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) and despite various efforts, I have not been able to secure a copy of the report. So, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the interim annual report of the Australian Electoral Office 1 978-79. This is the final report but it is not in a final form. It is to be reprinted with photographs and is made available for the reasons already outlined.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my.remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– With regard to the interim statement of the Australian Egg Board ‘s activities for 1978-79 and the interim report of the Australian Dairy Corporation 1979, I seek leave to make a statement.
– As yet I have not been able to obtain an explanation why these are an interim statement in one case and an interim report in the other case. It may be that the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations in relation to the presentation of interim reports where final reports could not be made available within a reasonable time are being followed. If so, those responsible are to be commended. However, if interim statements are presented because there is some difficulty in presenting final statementsfor instance, because the Auditor-General is not satisfied with the statements which have been prepared or for some other reason- I believe that it would be desirable that the Minister presenting them should make to the Senate a statement giving the reason why they are interim reports and not final reports. Senator Chaney made it clear that the report from the Australian Electoral Office is a final report, except for the fact that it is not in final form because it will take several months to print. That seems to me to be a commendable case of making information available to the Senate before it deals with the Estimates so that the information can be taken into account.
As opposed to that, if it is a similar sort of report to that which we had last week relating to the Australian Wheat Board report in which there was a situation where an interim report was presented, without any explanation and without financial statements, but at the same time there was published an annual report not stated to be interim, and in a completely different and glossy form made available apparently to others but not to the Senate, and again still without explanation, then I believe there are matters which require some further investigation. What I wanted to say was that these interim reports are a matter for either commendation or investigation. Until I have the opportunity to see them and discuss them with the committee, I am not sure which it is. I wanted to make the point that they have not been overlooked. We would like to have the opportunity either to commend or to investigate.
– by leave- This statement was put down in the House of Representatives last week because it was responding to a House of Representatives Committee report, but I think it should be available to the Senate. I seek leave to incorporate the statement in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
On 14 April 1976, my predecessor the Hon. Ian Viner requested the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs to report on the alcohol problems of Aboriginals. I wish now to report to Parliament on the findings of that Committee, and on action taken by my Department in relation to the report. The terms of reference suggested by Mr Viner for the report were:
To examine the impact of alcohol on Aboriginal communities.
To examine the social and other causes of the excessive use of alcohol in some Aboriginal communities.
To examine the advantages which might be gained by Aboriginal communities which face problems associated with alcohol from the experience which other communities have gained in successfully dealing with similar problems.
To examine the operation of laws including liquor laws in Australia in relation to the impact of alcohol on Aboriginal communities.
To consider the adequacy of Australian law in tradition-oriented Aboriginal communities, and possible ways to assist them to develop approaches to alcohol created behavioural problems based on traditional strengths and methods of control.
To recommend ways of assisting Aboriginal communities to overcome problems associated with the excessive use of alcohol, and of reinforcing Aboriginal initiatives in this regard.
The Standing Committee lodged an interim report on Northern Territory aspects of the Aboriginal alcohol situation in September 1976, and on 1 November 1977 tabled its final report in the House of Representatives.
In relation to the first term of reference, that is, the impact of alcohol on Aboriginal communities, the Committee concluded that Aboriginal people with low socio-economic status in metropolitan areas and on reserves near or on the fringes of country towns often have serious alcohol problems. The Committee noted that a large proportion of these people are very poor, and that their drinking patterns often reflect those of non-Aboriginals in similar circumstances. Different situations occur in traditional Aboriginal communities. For example, outstation communities, or small kinship groups which have moved back to their traditional lands, were found generally to have fewer alcohol problems than large multi-tribal communities.
Passing to the second term of reference, the Standing Committee considered that a number of psycho-social and environmental factors cause alcohol problems in various Aboriginal communities. These factors include, and I quote, ‘low socio-economic status’, ‘a lack of motivation and purpose’, ‘stress and frustration resulting from cultural conflict’, ‘expression of group solidarity’, and the ‘expression of equality resulting from racial prejudice and discrimination’.
In its examination of possible initiatives to deal with alcohol problems based on the experience of other communities, the Committee received little evidence of punishments inflicted under traditional law on persons affected by alcohol. The Committee therefore decided to widen this third term of reference to encompass alcohol prevention and treatment programs which concern Aboriginals. These programs, which include Aboriginal-run alcohol rehabilitation centres, drop-in centres, sobriety groups, Aboriginal Alcoholics Anonymous groups and community-based alcohol counsellors, were supported by the Standing Committee. Most of these activities are funded through my Department.
The Committee’s conclusions are varied on the operation of liquor and other laws as a means of controlling the sale of alcohol and alcohol abuse. The Committee found that a number of communities have experienced considerable difficulty in successfully opposing liquor licences affecting them in deleterious ways. Other communities have not found licensing legislation to be sufficiently flexible to enable community control over such factors as hours of opening, and types of alcohol to be sold.
As the question of possible recognition of Aboriginal customary law was referred to the Australian Law Reform Commission in February 1977, the Committee did not report on its fifth term of reference, the adequacy of Australian law in traditional communities. The Commission’s report should be invaluable in providing examples of the operation of traditional authority systems and dispute solving mechanisms, and ways in which these systems can be reinforced by non-Aboriginal legal authority.
In making its recommendations on ways to assist Aboriginals to overcome problems associated with alcohol abuse, and to reinforce Aboriginal initiatives in these matters, the Committee divided its comments into four areas. These were prevention, treatment, co-ordination and other measures. The Committee recommended that emphasis in the development of Aboriginal alcohol programs be given to preventive measures and suggested a range of measures to counteract the psycho-social and environmental causes of alcohol misuse it perceived. These measures include continued improvement of environmental conditions, support for outstations, increased support through Commonwealth and State law for Aboriginal communities wishing to limit their alcohol consumption, support for alcohol education programs, and alternative methods for the payment of social security benefits. In addition, the Committee recommended that laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol to intoxicated or under age persons be more rigidly enforced.
As regards treatment programs, the Committee recommended continuing support for Aboriginal-managed alcohol rehabilitation, counselling and related support services, subject to governmental evaluation of their effectiveness. As regards co-ordination, the Committee recommended that there be adequate consultations with Aboriginals and that they participate fully in all matters affecting them. It also recommended that the Aboriginal alcohol situation be overseen by Aboriginal-controlled co-ordinating committees which should be established in all States and in the Northern Territory.
Other measures recommended by the Committee were .that the effectiveness of decriminalising drunkenness in the Northern Territory be assessed, and that initiatives be taken by the Commonwealth in relation to the collection of statistics on Aboriginals.
The Committee’s recommendations have been the subject of detailed examination by my Department and other Commonwealth Departments in a series of inter-departmental meetings in 1 977, and subsequently in relation to the preparation of a submission to Cabinet on the Final Report.
I now turn to action which has been taken on the recommendations of the Report.
Sixteen of the 28 recommendations made by the Committee relate to policies or programs being carried out by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in conjunction with other Departments. (Recommendations 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 27, 28.) In relation to prevention, my Department has been providing substantial financial assistance for some time to State and local government authorities and Aboriginal communities and organisations to improve the environmental conditions of Aboriginal people. Assistance is also given by my Department and others to improve non-material aspects of the environment- employment, education and recreation facilities for example. Support is also given to Aboriginal communities wishing to simplify their lifestyle by moving to outstation communities away from large settlements or missions.
My Department in conjunction with the Australian Foundation on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the National Committee for the Prevention of Alcoholism also promotes the attendance of Aboriginal people at seminars on the prevention of alcoholism in Aboriginal communities and in the wider society. Finance for this purpose is provided by my Department and the Department of Education.
Emphasis in my Department’s alcohol program has so far been given to the establishment of Aboriginal-run alcohol rehabilitation centres, follow-up programs and to the development of Aboriginal-controlled alcohol coordinating committees. In December 1977, an additional $750,000 was provided by my Department to establish alcohol projects in each of the States. These projects include treatment centres, community support services aimed at prevention aspects, and sponsorship of postrehabilitation support groups such as Aboriginal groups following the Alcoholics Anonymous philosophy. Funding was also provided to Aboriginal alcohol co-ordinating committees in South Australia and Western Australia. In 1978-79 my Department provided $I.8m to a total of thirtyfour Aboriginal alcohol projects.
Recommendations 2 (concerning cultural sensitisation programs for Government officers) and 6, 10 and 1 1 (concerning the use of law to support decisions of Aboriginal communities to prohibit or limit alcohol consumption) require both Commonwealth and State examination. In respect of Commonwealth consideration recommendation 2 will be referred to the IDC on
Co-ordination in Aboriginal Affairs and I have raised recommendations 6, 10 and 1 1 with the Minister for Transport and the AttorneyGeneral. In respect of State consideration these recommendations together with 9, 22, and 23 (concerning licensing provisions) and 28 (concerning statistics about Aboriginals) were referred to the May meeting of the Australian Aboriginal Affairs Council (AAAC). In addition it is proposed that the Government should draw to the attention of State Governments these eight recommendations, while inviting them to have regard to the general content and spirit of the Report.
Some of the issues involved in the Committee’s recommendations concern the manner of payment of Social Security benefits. There is a scheme in operation which provides for bulk payment of unemployment benefits in some communities. In some other communities Community Development Employment Programs administered by my Department have displaced the need for unemployment benefits. I am discussing with the Minister for Social Security options in relation to the wider application of these schemes.
Recommendation 26 on the effectiveness of decriminalisation of drunkenness in the Northern Territory has not been implemented as support services which were to have accompanied the legislation have not yet been provided. Since 1 July 1978 the Northern Territory Government has assumed responsibility for these matters in the Territory.
In concluding I would like to make some general comments in relation to the Aboriginal alcohol situation.
Firstly, I wish to point out that alcohol abuse is not unique to Aboriginal society. It is, as the members of this Chamber are aware, increasingly being recognised as a problem of substantial proportions in our so-called advanced society. The Report of the Standing Committee on Social Welfare entitled ‘Drug Problems in Australia- An Intoxicated Society’ has made this point clearly enough. It is only in recent times that any concerted effort has been made at Government level to approach the problem in the general community.
Alcohol problems among Aboriginals obviously include complexities not encountered in the non-Aboriginal situation- I have already referred to the conclusions of the Committee in this respect. Because of these complexities the involvement of Aboriginal people and communities would seem to be necessary in all aspects of
Aboriginal alcohol programs: in defining the exact nature of the problems, in developing suitable policies, and in planning and implementing effective programs.
I have indicated that until now, the main concern of my Department has been to provide rehabilitation facilities of a kind acceptable to Aboriginal people with alcohol problems, and that expenditure through my Department for these projects in 1 978-79 was approximately $ 1 .8m.
While these figures reflect substantial effort by those involved it must be acknowledged that the approaches adopted are still quite experimental. In addition, the effects are not always clearly evident and in some cases organisations have encountered various operational difficulties. Thus it is difficult to fully evaluate the effectiveness of Government expenditure on Aboriginal alcohol programs.
A final aspect which adds to difficulties in administering programs in this area concerns the institutional arrangements that have arisen in recent years. These arrangements have resulted in a complex and in some respects confusing framework of responsibilities. There is therefore a need to examine and improve organisations. Areas in which greater co-ordination is seen to be needed are consultation, the development of preventive and treatment projects, the formulation of policy, and the administration and financing of programs. My Department is examining these issues.
I make no claim that we have found adequate solutions to the problem of alcohol which besets many communities. A number of relatively recent initiatives will take time to evaluate, e.g. the Northern Territory legislation which anticipates special licensing conditions being imposed in particular areas in response to community demand, and the legislative initiative in Western Australia which will permit a couple of isolated communities to make by-laws including laws relating to alcohol. Many of the Aboriginal organisations working in the alcohol field are comparatively new and I anticipate that their skills will improve over the next few years and they will achieve greater results with the support of my Department and other agencies. We cannot ignore, however, that some communities are being decimated by alcohol to an extent which makes it difficult to remedy the problems which might be seen as the cause for drinking. Accordingly, I have asked the Council for Aboriginal Development and the National Aboriginal Conference through its State branches to give this problem early consideration in the context of the
House of Representatives Committee report but not to feel limited by the recommendations contained in that report. I also welcome further views and suggestions from members of this Parliament, many of whom have taken a close interest in Aboriginal affairs generally and in this aspect in particular.
I have prepared a statement which lists each of the Standing Committee’s recommendations and the current position concerning those recommendations. Copies of this statement were distributed to honourable senators when it was tabled by my colleague in the House of Representatives. Further copies are available in the Senate Records Office.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– On this question of the resumption of the debate being made an order of the day for the next day of sitting, I am very much in the dark on that point. This is one of those instances where apparently the House of Representatives has set up a committee which has tabled a report with several recommendations. On every other occasion when a Minister has indicated what he intends to do with recommendations from a committee, at least they have been read to the Parliament. If there is anything of importance in the report or the recommendations which necessitates some immediate action or consideration, someone can get up straight away. In this case we could refuse Senator Chaney leave to continue his remarks and the matter would have to be debated. No one knows what the Government is doing. I am only a backbencher, but I can only assume that someone with responsibility on the Opposition side knows the Minister’s intention in relation to this question and has decided on this procedure. I do not want to interfere, but in view of the procedure that has been adopted I would ask that the resumption of the debate be after a very short period, when we have had a look at the document. Some consideration should be given to the Opposition as to the time of bringing it on as it may be essential for it to be brought on in the next day or so.
– I think it is important to respond to Senator Cavanagh. My understanding is that the report was made available to the Opposition in the normal way. I think Senator Cavanagh ‘s point is a very reasonable one, that that should have taken place. However, the difficulty facing Ministers is a real one. In the case of the committee of which I am chairman, if a report is brought down which relates to the Minister for Health, we would expect that the response from the Government would come down to this chamber, since the Senate committee made the report. But obviously the Minister for Health in another place would want it to be presented there because it related to his portfolio. I think the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has taken the course of action which is most appropriate for the Senate. The report has been put down in another place in response to a committee of that place, and it has been put down here to make sure that this chamber has the information. It was made available to the Opposition in the usual way.
-Further to Senator Cavanagh ‘s expression of concern, could I draw his attention to the last paragraph of the statement which has been incorporated in Hansard by Senator Chaney. The statement reads: 1 have prepared a statement which lists each of the Standing Committee’s recommendations and the current position concerning those recommendations. Copies of this statement were distributed to honourable senators when it was tabled by my colleague in the House of Representatives. Further copies are available in the Senate records office.
This statement was tabled last week in the House of Representatives, and to the best of my knowledge everybody received last week an opportunity to read the statement in the Hansard if they did not hear it, and had circulated to their office a copy of the steps being taken. It does seem to me that whilst I would perhaps in other circumstances agree with what Senator Cavanagh has said, what Senator Chaney has done is perfectly reasonable.
– I never read Hansard and, if I did get it, I cannot recall it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) agreed to:
That the sitting of the Senate be suspended until 10.15 p.m. to enable Estimates Committees A, B and C to meet.
THE PRESIDENT- The sitting of the Senate is suspended until fifteen minutes past 10 p.m. Estimates Committee A will meet in the Senate chamber. Estimates Committee B will meet in Senate Committee Room No. 1 and Estimates Committee C will meet in Senate Committee
Room No. 6. The bells will be rung for two minutes prior to the meeting of the committees.
Sitting suspended from 4.25 to 10.15 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Webster) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I speak very briefly at the behest of the New South Wales Branch of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association of Australasia. I simply ask that there be conveyed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) a request for a stay of proceedings on a deportation order against a Bolivian citizen, Roger Guttierrez, until the union and I can prepare a case to submit to the
Minister next week. I have already alerted the detention centre and the Minister’s office. The union is very concerned. Mr Guttierrez has been here for more than three years. He is employed by the State Electricity Commission, I think, at the moment as an acting auxiliary plant operator. I simply make this submission now for it to be transmitted to the Minister.
– In reply- I appreciate what the honourable senator has said and that he has informed the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). I will see that his words are put to the Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.16 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 23 November 1978:
What powers within the Minister’s jurisdiction have been transferred to the States since December 1975.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs’ answer to Question No. 1074 (Senate Hansard21 August 1979, pages 48 to 5 1 ).
Capital Territory: Transfer of Power to the States (Question No. 1099)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 23 November 1978:
What powers within the Minister’s jurisdiction have been transferred to the States since December 1 975.
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs’ answer to Question No. 1074, Senate Hansardof21 August 1979, page 48.
asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 23 November 1978:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Tribunal is at present discussing with the Federation of Australian Radio Broadcasters and others interested an increase in the quota from the existing level of 20 per cent to an ultimate level of at least 30 per cent.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 28 February 1979:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the Prime Minister’s answer to Question No. 1335 as reported in Senate Hansard of 2 May 1979.
Television Reception in Sydney (Question No. 1364)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 27 February 1 979:
What plans are being made, and when is it expected that they will be implemented, to remedy inadequate television reception in the City of Sydney and its adjacent suburbs, particularly the eastern suburbs.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Many of the more hilly areas of Sydney and the surrounding metropolitan area have had television reception problems since services first began. There is no simple solution to these problems but following extensive engineering investigations, a broad plan has now been developed to improve reception by establishing a number of translator stations in the UHF band.
Initially translators arc scheduled for construction at North Head and Kings Cross to serve areas of eastern and central Sydney, and northern Sydney where television reception at the moment is unsatisfactory. The commercial translators, which will bc operational ahead of the national translators, are expected to commence within the next twelve months. The provision of translators in further areas is under investigation and will be established as soon as resources permit.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 2 1 August 1979:
the date of supply: and
the estimated date of replacement, of cars at each Australian Overseas Mission in countries with righthand* drive motorcars.
- Right-hand drive motor cars has been interpreted to mean vehicles which arc driven on the left hand side of the road as is the case in Australia.
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Cocos (Keeling) Islands (Question No. 179S)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs on 22 August 1979:
What progress has been made in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands towards providing the inhabitants with the rights and responsibilities of Australian citizenship, in particular as regards wage rates, health, education and welfare.
– The Minister for Home Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The purchase of Mr Clunies-Ross’ interests in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (with the exception of his family home and an associated dwelling) was effected on I September 1978.
The Cocos Islands Co-operative Society Limited, was registered on 16 January 1979. Its membership of 134 consists of its Cocos Malay employees who are all those members of the community aged between 16 and 65 years who are willing and able to bc employed. On 30 January 1979 a lease of the copra plantation and some other land was grunted by the Government to the Society at nominal rental.
The Government now contracts with the Co-operative for the provision of certain services it requires. The contract payments are based on Australian prices and rates. The Cooperative sets its own wage scale for its members, who are also eligible to receive dividend payments. Wage rates have been increased since the Co-operative commenced operation.
The citizenship provisions of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act were amended to extend Australian citizenship to any person (not already an Australian citizen) who was ordinarily resident in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands immediately before their transfer to Australia and who is now resident in Australia or an external Territory and who wishes to take up Australian citizenship. The amending Act came into force on 2 1 March 1979. With few exceptions, all Cocos Malays residents in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands are now Australian citizens.
The Local Government Ordinance 1979 which came into force on 25 July 1979, provides for an elected Cocos (Keeling) Islands Council to have responsibility for a wide range of functions in the Home Island village area and to advise the Administrator on any matter affecting the Territory. The Council is also given the right to comment to the Administrator on all proposed legislation for the Territory.
The Home Island village area was transferred to the ownership of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Council at its first meeting on 29 July 1979 by Deed of Grant, upon trust for the benefit advancement and well-being of the Cocos Malay community. The Council has responsibility for welfare payments to members of the Cocos Malay community.
A separate Cocos Postal Service came into operation on 3 September 1979. Revenue from this source is to be used for the benefit of the community at large in consultation with the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Council.
Health cure of the Islands’ inhabitants has been improved by the employment from I February 1979 of a doublecertificated Malay-speaking nursing sister to conduct public health and hygiene programs on Home Island. At present she travels daily from West Island for this purpose. A dwelling for heron Home Island is under construction.
A two year construction program for the provision of sewerage facilities and water reticulation on Home Island will commence this financial year.
Substantial improvements including the installation of increased generating capacity were made to the Home Island electricity supply during 1978-79.
A second teacher for the Home Island school was seconded from the Western Australian Education Department and commenced duty on 28 December 1978.
The Government arranged special training in Western Australia for a number of young Cocos Malays. A Cocos Malay youth went to Perth in January 1979, to undertake training for about 6 months on diesel engines with a Perth firm. Seven Cocos Malay students, who had assisted with teaching at the Home Island school, together with one who had worked as an office assistant, left for Perth on 1 February 1979 to undertake 6 months training to improve their general education and vocational skills including bookkeeping and typing.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 22 August 1 979:
– The Minister for Home Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am informed by the Australian Film Commission as follows:
(a) Peat, Marwick, Mitchell Services (Management Consultants);
Peal, Marwick, Mitchell and Company (Chartered Accountants): and
John P. Young and Associates (NSW) Pty Limited.
(a) Peat, Marwick, Mitchell Services (Management Consultants) were engaged to prepare a report overviewing the Australian Film Commission’s operations, defining the part played by the Commission in assisting the development of the Australian film industry and exploring the various competing options for the future development of the industry.
Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Company (Chartered Accountants) were engaged to undertake the internal audit function within the Commission.
John P. Young and Associates were engaged to stocktake and review progress in the implementation of the full cost recovery program in the Film Australia branch.
(a) Payments made to Peat, Marwick, Mitchell Services ( Management Consultants) totalled $ 1 9,625.64.
No payment has yet been made to Peat, Marwick. Mitchell (Chartered Accountants) for the internal audit.
Payments totalling $11,715 were made to John P. Young and Associates.
Total costs will bc:
Management consultancy- $34,925.
Stocktake and costing study-$22,965.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 September 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790918_senate_31_s82/>.