31st Parliament · 1st Session
The Senate met at 2.30 p.m.
– Honourable senators, I have to announce that the President, Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke, is overseas on parliamentary business and is unable to attend the sitting of the Senate. In accordance with Standing Order 29 the Chairman of Committees, Senator Scott, will take the Chair as Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator D. B. Scott) thereupon took the chair, and read prayers.
Motion (by Senator Carrick)- by leaveagreed to:
That, during the absence of the President, the Chairman of Committees shall, on each sitting day, take the chair of the Senate as Deputy President and may, during such absence, perform the duties and exercise the authority of the President in relation to all proceedings of the Senate and to standing and joint statutory committees to which the President is appointed.
– I inform the Senate that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) left Australia on 22 September on a visit to Europe for a Commonwealth Finance Ministers meeting and for the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund. The Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) will act as Treasurer until Mr Howard’s return on 14 October.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) left Australia on Sunday to attend a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York and will be away until 9 October. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) is acting as Minister for Foreign Affairs during Mr Peacock’s absence.
The Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) plans to leave Australia today on a visit to Singapore, Malaysia and Iraq for trade talks. The Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) will act as Minister for Special Trade Representations until Mr Garland ‘s return on 5 October.
– I present the following petition from 20 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country does not have the support of the people;
That the change is causing and will continue to cause, widespread, serious and costly problems;
That the compulsory tactics being used to force the change are a violation of all democratic principles.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed to ensure that the people are free to utilize whichever system they prefer and so enable the return to imperial weights and measures wherever the people so desire;
That weather reporting be as it was prior to the passing of the Metric Conversion Act;
That the Australian Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional mile units to be restored to our highways;
That the Australian Government request the State Governments to procure that the imperial and metric systems be taught together in schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country does not have the support of the people;
That the change is causing and will continue to cause, widespread, serious and costly problems;
That the compulsory tactics being used to force the change are a violation of all democratic principles.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed to ensure that the people are free to utilise whichever system they prefer and so enable the return to imperial weights and measures wherever the people so desire;
That weather reporting be as it was prior to the passing of the Metric Conversion Act;
That the Australian Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional mile units to be restored to our highways;
That the Australian Government request the State Governments to procure that the imperial and metric systems be taught together in schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senators Melzer and Teague.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the
Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Rae.
-Mr Deputy President, in accordance with the sessional order relating to the withdrawal of notices of motion for the disallowance of statutory instruments, I give notice that it is my intention, on behalf of Senator Cavanagh and at his request, to withdraw Business of the Senate notice of motion No. 1 when the notice of motion is called on.
-Mr Deputy President, I give notice that on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs:
The proper and desirable extent of the use of regulations for the purpose of law-making.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer the Minister to the announcement by the Prime Minister on 1 5 February 1 978 establishing the Bowen Inquiry concerning public duty and private interest of members of parliament. I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that Cabinet has now considered the report of the Bowen Inquiry? When will this much-delayed report be tabled in the Parliament?
– I will refer that question to the Prime Minister and seek information.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. It relates to a story in yesterday ‘s Australian that showed that Telecom is apparently determined to price telegrams out of existence. Have operators been told to take customers’ money for messenger delivery of a telegram but not to have that telegram delivered by hand except as a last resort? Will the Minister agree that on occasions people, for all sorts of reasons, want telegrams delivered? Is it not unethical, if not downright dishonest, to take the action that Telecom has told its operators to take?
– I have some advice which has been sent to me by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications on the matter of telegram charges. It may be of some assistance to the honourable senator who is concerned about the report in the Australian. I am advised that in 1977-78, after allowing for tariff increases and cost reductions, the public telegram service recovered from telegram users only 50 per cent of the cost of providing the service. In effect, telephone subscribers are paying about $9 a telephone service to meet the telegraph service’s losses. Had the charges remained at the 1 974-75 levels, telephone subscribers would be subsidising the telegram service by more than $12 a telephone service. That is, obviously, a matter of concern to all Australians who have telephones.
The new system, which has a fixed charge related to the method of delivery, ensures that the telegram will be delivered by the fastest means possible. This will usually be by telephone or telex. In the case where a messenger service would provide the fastest means of delivery, this would be used. Alternatively, if Telecom judges that the use of a messenger would be a more appropriate means for delivery of such messages involving death, greetings or congratulations, it would use this means. The aim of Telecom is to provide for the fast delivery of a message. Under some circumstances this can best be achieved by telephone or telex delivery in preference to messenger delivery. However, either the sender or the addressee has the option to specify messenger delivery, where provided, if full rates are paid.
The policy that Telecom follows is to encourage its customers to adopt the least-cost method of delivery by reducing the fixed charges where the telegram is to be delivered by telephone, telex or mail. It seems to me that that is a very reasonable approach for Telecom to adopt. The problem that Telecom faces is shared by many areas of service where traditionally there has been a very high labour content. Of course, the cost of labour is a very big element in the cost of any organisation. The measures taken simply acknowledge that fact.
-Given the critical need for humanitarian aid to alleviate the desperate position in Kampuchea, I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Why is the Government restricting its aid to one ship load of rice- which will not even arrive in Thailand, let alone Kampuchea, until the end of October- and one plane load of supplies, when a United Nations official has stated that approaches are available through the United Nations World Food Program for Australia to make immediate cash grants to purchase readily available supplies through Bangkok to get aid to Kampuchea now? Given the clear evidence that it has been possible for international agencies to get aid to Kampuchea under the control of both the Pol Pot forces and the Heng Samrin regime despite the restrictions imposed on the aid personnel by the Heng Samrin regime, why is the Government not taking a lead in getting large scale aid to Kampuchea?
– In fact, the Government acted very quickly in terms of making known its intention to supply a substantial quantity of foodstuff to relieve the severe conditions in Kampuchea. The Government has acted swiftly in having discussions with the various agencies. As to any specifics arising out of the remainder of the question of Senator Mcintosh, I will refer the question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in another place and seek his comments.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and which is in two parts, also refers to Kampuchea. Upon whose advice or on what basis of logic or morality did the Government act in instructing its representative in the United Nations to continue to recognise the most murderous regime of modern times- the Pol Pot regime?
– That is debatable.
– I would like to know who said that. Will the Leader of the Government give an undertaking that this incredible attitude over Kampuchea will not in any way delay the airlifting of substantial quantities of aid, of the magnitude of 700 tonnes of food a week which was flown into Cambodia by the United States at the height of the Vietnam war?
– I suggest that the first part of the question be put on notice. As to the second part of the question, the Government is proceeding without delay to provide relief to the people of Kampuchea.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. I am afraid I must press the first part of the question. Senator Carrick is a member of Cabinet, and one would hope that he would know why the Government took this extraordinary action of continuing to recognise the Pol Pot regime. I now simply ask him: What was the logic or the basis of morality behind that decision of Cabinet?
-I have indicated for good and proper reasons that since I am purely the representative of the Minister, such a question needs to be answered in detail by the Minister himself. I therefore repeat my invitation to the honourable senator to place his question upon notice.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that petitions have now been lodged with the Registry of the Supreme Court of Tasmania challenging the right of all those members of the House of Assembly declared elected following the recent State elections to take their seats? Is he also aware that, according to respected Tasmanian legal authorities, the election of most members of the House of Assembly will probably be declared null and void and, therefore, the constitutional right of the present Government to occupy the treasury benches is in serious doubt? Has the Commonwealth Government–
– I raise a point of order. I believe this question is now before the Tasmanian Court of Disputed Returns. The honourable senator is asking for an opinion as to guilt and the probability of the court’s finding. Surely this is judicial interference.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. I have been listening very carefully. I would not want to infringe the sub judice rule. All that I have understood from the first two parts of the question is that I have been asked whether I am aware of certain situations in Tasmania. Those questions, I think, are quite proper. In my judgment, they do not infringe the sub judice rule.
– The question as I heard it- I am sure most other honourable senators heard it- related in its second part to the likely decision of the court as based on some legal opinion which Senator Archer referred to.
– That is not so. You did not listen.
– I am sure that Hansard will reveal that that is so. However, whether that be so or not, my point of order is that matters before the Tasmanian court relate to the determination of rights of persons. Those rights have not been adjudicated upon at this stage. The question clearly falls within the sub judice rule. I would remind you, Mr Deputy President, that the sub judice rule as interpreted by the President of this Senate is probably the widest in its scope in the whole world. It was used to great effect, if I might say so, in proceedings relating to the former Leader of the Government in the Senate. To allow this question in the terms in which it is couched is clearly in breach of that rule.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I suggest that Senator Archer continue his question and give the least possible information. The Minister may answer the question as he sees fit.
– Has the Commonwealth Government given any consideration to its relationship with the Government of Tasmania in the light of this extraordinary development? What protection is there for the Commonwealth if it pays over taxpayers funds to an unconstitutional government, or enters into government legislative or other agreements or arrangements -
- Mr Deputy President, I repeat my point of order. The question is purely anticipating a court’s decision, and it is an attempt to influence a court’s decision.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! There is no substance in the point of order. Senator Archer may complete his question.
– I raise a further point of order. Senator Archer is seeking a legal opinion about the legal position of the Commonwealth Government if it is found that in some way the Tasmanian Parliament has been improperly elected. I suggest that it is a legal opinion which is being sought by Senator Archer.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I understand that Senator Archer is seeking the answer from the Minister involved. The Minister may answer this question as he sees fit.
– If it has not already done so, will the Commonwealth as a matter of urgency examine the present constitutional crisis in Tasmania and its possible ramifications for the Commonwealth Government?
– I am aware that certain petitions are before the judicial authorities in Tasmania challenging the right of certain individuals to take their places within the Tasmanian Parliament. As to that matter, I concur with both sides of this chamber that it should be regarded as sub judice and that it should not be canvassed in any way until the decision of the court is reached. Senator Archer has asked me a series of questions concerning the relationship between the Commonwealth and a State in certain circumstances. I will draw the attention of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to those questions and seek their comments.
– My question to the Attorney-General refers to an answer he gave at a meeting of an Estimates committee on 18 September when questioned about the amount of public money which had been paid to Mr Rofe, Q.C., in relation to certain court cases in Sydney. The Minister said that he would not give details of the amount of money paid to Mr Rofe on the basis that it was confidential and that moneys paid to counsel on an individual basis should be confidential. I ask the Minister: Does this mean that questions to him on the Notice Paper about this matter will not be answered? Does this mean that barristers, of all people in the community, are immune from having payments to them from the public purse subject to scrutiny by this Parliament? If that is so why should payments to barristers and similar payments be beyond the scrutiny of this Parliament?
– In relation to the discussion at the meeting of the Estimates committee on 18 September which was referred to by Senator Grimes, it is true that I indicated there that on the ground of privacy of the individual the practice has been not to disclose the actual amount which has been paid. This is a matter which arises at meetings of Estimates committees from time to time. It arose at an Estimates committee meeting a year or so ago. In general the Estimates committee accepted the view as expressed by me then and reiterated by me on 18 September. On the previous occasion I supplied answers which satisfied the committee as to what were the sort of fees that the Commonwealth was paying to counsel. When the matter arose again on 18 September I raised the same problem. As I understood it the Estimates committee was satisfied with the way in which this matter had been handled in the past and with the way in which I propose to handle it on this occasion. The Estimates committee has in fact considered whether there should be some change in Standing Orders whereby matters can be received in confidence by Estimates committees. I understand that this matter is still being considered. I have not ruled out absolutely the provision of information about these matters. I will consider the questions which are on notice in regard to the discussions that have been had in the Estimates committee and, indeed, the question now asked by Senator Grimes.
– I ask a supplementary question. I ask the Minister: In considering his answer will he not take into account the fact that every member of this Parliament has his payments from the public purse disclosed? Every person under contract to this Government has his payments publicly disclosed, and in fact at other Estimates committee meetings visiting professors who have given lectures and received some $500 a day have had their payments publicly disclosed. Will the Attorney therefore not consider that it would be quite unfair that barristers should be excepted from the rule of public disclosure in relation to the expenditure of public funds in this community? I know you owe him a favour.
– I object to the remark that Senator Grimes has just made- that I owe a favour. I think that is a most improper remark. It should be withdrawn. I do not propose to say anything further until it is.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Grimes, I believe that was an unnecessary remark and I ask you to withdraw that reflection.
– I withdraw. I respect the sensitivities of the Attorney-General in this matter.
– I will take into consideration the matters that Senator Grimes has raised. In answer to his previous question and in discussions at Estimates committee hearings I have expressed the traditional view which has been taken. I am not saying that that is an absolutely hard and fast rule. I will certainly take into account the considerations that Senator Grimes has raised.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I believe that the Auditor-General has not yet audited the 1977-78 annual report of the Medibank Private health insurance fund. This is the only health insurance fund with an outstanding unaudited annual report for 1977-78.
– What about the others?
– It is the only outstanding unaudited annual report for 1977-78 which has not been made public. Can the Minister say why this is so and why the Auditor-General appears to be so reticent about this particular audit?
-Under the terms of its legislation the Health Insurance Commission is required as soon as possible after 30 June to submit to the Minister for Health a report on its operations during that year, including the financial statements of the hospital and medical benefits funds conducted by the Commission. The legislation also requires that the Commission provide the financial statements to the Auditor-General for his report before they are forwarded to the Minister. Further, the Minister is required by the legislation to lay copies of the Commission ‘s report and financial statements, together with the Auditor-General’s report, before Parliament within 15 sitting days after their receipt by the Minister. The Auditor-General’s Office advises that the financial statements for Medibank Private for 1977-78 were received in their final form by that Office on 24 August of this year. The audited report was forwarded to the Minister for Health on 5 September. Under the Health insurance Commission Act he has 15 sitting days in which to table the report. I understand that the report will be tabled during the current session.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer to a report that the Australian High Commissioner in Singapore, Mr Geoffrey Price, has criticised the Western Mining Corporation for failing to accept responsibility for radioactive waste being stored at a Singapore steelworks. I ask the Minister: Is it an unusual occurrence for an Australian ambassador to recommend in a cable to the Department of Foreign Affairs during peace time that pressure be exerted on the Australian Broadcasting Commission via the General Manager, Mr Duckmanton, to suppress valid news coverage of matters embarrassing to private industry? Is the Minister aware that this matter refers to the neglect of the Western Mining Corporation to accept responsibility for contaminated waste in a Singapore steel plant caused by a measuring gauge containing a radioactive isotope which was lost by the Western Mining Corporation at its nickel mill in Western Australia and for which it was fined in Western Australia?
– The matters raised by the honourable senator in his question are not known to me and I have no information about them. With respect to his question as to whether something is an unusual occurrence, I am quite sure that it would be an unusual occurrence. In saying that I have no wish to be taken as adopting what has been put forward by the honourable senator as being the fact. I will refer the matters to the Minister whom I represent in this place and seek a reply in detail for the honourable senator.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development: Is consideration still being given to the establishment of a uranium enrichment plant in Australia? If so, has consideration been given to its establishment in any particular State? Is it not a fact that South Australia was the leading Australian State on research into uranium enrichment, having had a specialist committee working for some four years on activities including holding discussions with URENCO/CENTEC, a British-Dutch- West German consortium and a world leader in the centrifuge system of enrichment? Will the Minister have discussions with the new Government in South Australia on the possibility of establishing an enrichment plant in South Australia, where so much research has been done and where there is now full support for the establishment of an enrichment plant and the mining of uranium?
– The Government is pressing ahead with conducting feasibility studies with foreign governments and organisations which have expressed interest in the establishment of a uranium enrichment industry in Australia. The Government has been consulting State governments and private industry on arrangements for conducting those studies, as it is intended to involve the States and private industry as fully as possible in them. Any decision to locate an enrichment plant in Australia requires the consideration of many and complex factors, as all honourable senators would be aware. The Government has an open mind as to the location of any such plant. It is intended that, in the course of undertaking a proposed feasibility study, there will be ample opportunity for South Australia and other interested States and the Northern Territory to discuss fully with industry and the Government the feasibility of establishing a uranium enrichment industry in Australia. Senator Young’s observation concerning the establishment of a specialist committee is correct. The South Australian Government has a committee, known as the Uranium Enrichment Committee. I note from Press reports that the new South Australian Government intends to make public a report of that Committee. As a result of the change of government in South Australia, the substantial effort which that Committee has made will be of practical significance.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs aware that this week is National Library Week? Is he aware also that, as a result of the Labor Government’s commissioning a report on libraries in Australia more than three years ago, the present Government received the report of the Horton committee, which set out the serious run-down state of libraries and which urged the Government to take immediate action then, in April 1976, when the report was prepared, to enable Australians to have libraries that were on a par with those of comparable countries? Is it a fact that, notwithstanding the large public acceptance of the recommendations in the Horton report, the Government has done nothing about those recommendations? Will the Minister ask the Minister for Home Affairs to lift the report from its dusty pigeon hole to review it and to make a submission to Cabinet, to enable something to be done, I hope, about improving libraries throughout Australia?
– I am aware that National Library Week is held at this time. I am aware also of the report that the honourable senator noted. I do not think that it can be said that nothing has been done in relation to the promotion and development of libraries over the last few years. I will put to the Minister the honourable senator’s proposal that he lift out the Horton committee report and review it. My understanding gained from discussions that I have had relating to various aspects of library development is that there are substantial movements in the very large problems that beset libraries at the present time and in their desire, basically, to distribute information on the latest techniques that are developing. This is adding to the complexities of distributing information. I will put the honourable senator’s proposal to the Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Was the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations reported accurately as having given legal and technical- rather than political- considerations as reasons for supporting the United Nations Credentials Committee ‘s recommendations in favour of continuing recognition of the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea? Are legal and technical reasons consistently applied when deciding Australian recognition of other regimes which come to power by other than democratic process?
– I understand that the reports read out by Senator Rocher are substantially accurate. However, I should note that they refer to the Australian attitude that the task of the Credentials Committee is one which is strictly legal and technical. It is a task which, according to rules 27 and 28 of the General Assembly’s Rules of Procedure, is discharged by deciding whether credentials submitted by the delegation of a member state are in proper form. In this case, Australia voted to support the report of the Credentials Committee because the credentials of the delegation of democratic Kampuchea, which is a member state of the United Nations, had been found by the Committee to be in proper form. The process of voting on the acceptability of credentials in the United Nations necessarily involves legal and technical considerations arising from the United Nations Charter and the Rules of Procedure. These considerations do not apply to the more general question of recognition.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is the Minister aware of the widespread breakdown of the federal bankruptcy jurisdiction throughout Australia? I refer particularly to the payment of dividends to creditors. For example, is it a fact that with an unprecedented increase in the number of bankruptcies in Tasmania this calendar year- estimated to increase from an average of 160 to 280- no dividends to creditors have been paid since the beginning of this calendar year? Will the Government give urgent priority to relieving the distress of many thousands of creditors by appointing sufficient staff to overcome this critical situation?
– I am personally not aware of the matters Senator Tate has raised. They are properly within the jurisdiction of my colleague the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, and I will refer the question to him for an early reply.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to recent reports of a major human disaster in Kampuchea. Is the Minister aware of claims by Dr Jean- Yves
Follezou in Paris that ‘for four months the International Red Cross knew what was happening in Kampuchea and what was needed, and did nothing’? I ask the Minister what pressure is being brought by the Australian Government on the International Red Cross to ensure that, within its abilities, immediate relief is made available to this famine stricken nation? Will the Minister also assure the Senate that every effort will be made by Australia to supply as much additional direct aid as possible to the Kampuchean authorities for immediate distribution to those in need?
– I am not aware of the accuracy or otherwise of the reports to which Senator Missen has referred. Therefore I cannot comment on them in any way. I cannot respond as to what pressures have been directed to the International Red Cross. I can say, however, that the Commonwealth Government has acted with expedition to get its own aid through and to see that more can flow. Some 1,000 tonnes of rice already have been delivered across the Thai border by the World Food Program to meet the needs of Khmer civilians. This rice, which was obtained in Bangkok, will be replaced from Australia’s 3,500 tonne contribution to the WFP that is to leave Australia next week. Officials are currently attempting to organise a plane load of relief supplies to the area. Space will be made available on such a flight for supplies obtained from the public appeal launched last week by the Australian Council for Overseas Aid.
Officials have been in constant touch with the international agencies concerned. I would caution that problems with the necessary logistic arrangements are so far proving extremely difficult to overcome. However, it is hoped that, despite these logistic and other problems, the Kampuchean authorities will permit further supplies to reach those in dire need. I will draw the specific matter regarding the International Red Cross to the attention of the responsible Minister and seek a response from him.
– I also direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs on Kampuchea. Whilst I recognise that the Government may have acted properly in considering the report of the Credentials Committee to the General Assembly of the United Nations on legal and technical grounds, does the Government have any policy on what ought to be the future of Kampuchea and on whether the government supported by the Vietnamese or the remnants of the government of
Pol Pot should continue to administer that country? Does the Minister not remember that it is only a few years ago that his Government took a very keen interest in Indo China to the extent of sending Australian conscripts to fight there? Has the Government now lost interest in the matter? If it has not, when will we learn what the Government’s policy is on this question?
– The keen interest of the Government in the area is demonstrated by the speed with which it has acted to provide humanitarian relief. That is a demonstrable fact. Earlier I was asked a question regarding the grounds for recognition of the new government. I asked that that question be placed on the Notice Paper so that the position could be spelt out. Senator Wheeldon asks me as a follow-up question what is the policy of the Government as to the future of Kampuchea? I suggest that since the question involves a policy matter I should refer it to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and get a definitive statement. I will do so.
– I address a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer to comments made on the radio program AM yesterday by the Premier of Queensland to the effect, as I understand it, that Senator Bonner is promoting land rights for militant black people rather than good black people and that such action is dividing Australia into a black man’s country and a white man’s country. Can the Minister say whether such statements are correct, particularly as they relate to the Federal Government’s Aboriginal land rights legislation?
– I did hear the radio program referred to by the honourable senator in his question. A couple of things said certainly raised questions in my mind. I would like to make it quite clear to the Senate that in Queensland the Federal Government has been pursuing a Federal Government policy which -
– Not very successfully.
-We will come to that matter later. The Federal Government has been pursuing a policy in Queensland with a very clear view as to what it wants to achieve. The policy which we have with respect to Aboriginal affairs is, I think, well known. Within all of the States of Australia we have been trying to promote the ability of Aboriginal people to live their lives independently of government and other agencies. We have also been trying to ensure that Aboriginals have greater security than they have had historically with respect to the land on which they have traditionally lived. We have pursued that policy in all parts of Australia. It is a policy which has to be pursued delicately and with care, bearing in mind the Federal structure of this country. On that matter, I must say that Senator Bonner has always been a very valuable source of advice to the Government because of his background. He has lived with the difficulties -
Opposition senators interjecting-
– Some honourable senators may have taken the trouble to read Senator Bonner’s recently published biography, which sets out very graphically the difficulties that Senator Bonner faced in his early life in common with many other Aboriginal people. I commend the biography to those honourable senators who have not read it. I emphasise that the Commonwealth Government is pursuing policies which have been carefully considered. It may be of interest to honourable senators to know what point we are at with respect to the promotion of those policies. Many honourable senators would know that during the whole of this year we have been pursuing courses which are aimed at finding solutions to the problems which exist- solutions which will be accepted as being proper ones by the three groups that are clearly involved. They are, firstly, the Aboriginal people themselves; secondly, the Government of Queensland; and thirdly, the Commonwealth Government.
I was very well served by the people of Yarrabah who last January wrote to the Commonwealth Government and requested that it enter into discussions with the Queensland Government aimed at establishing land rights or secure tenure over their land. Those talks in fact have been pursued. As recently as a week or two ago Dr Edwards, the Deputy Premier of Queensland, and I met with the Council at Yarrabah. We had a most useful and helpful discussion from which will flow further discussions between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government during October, after which there will be a further meeting at Yarrabah between the people of Yarrabah and State and Federal Ministers. These lines of inquiry are being pursued in the belief that if we are to help the Aboriginal people of Queensland properly we need to ensure that all of the agencies concerned are pushing in the same direction. That is certainly the objective I am pursuing. I believe that the events of the last few weeks and, I hope, the events of the next two months will demonstrate that that is a positive course to be following. I hope that I will continue to have the assistance and advice of Senator Bonner; but it will be Government policy that is being pursued.
-Does the Leader of the National Country Party in the Senate agree with the answer just given by Senator Chaney?
– I did not hear the answer given by Senator Chaney. I was reading a document.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware that the South Australian Liberal Government has indicated that it is anxious to complete the construction of the Stuart Highway within five years as part of the program to revive the economy of the State? Has his attention been drawn to the fact that currently South Australia is losing about $90m a year to Queensland due to the extremely poor state of the north-south road? Has he also noted that the Prime Minister is reported to have stated in Adelaide yesterday that the Federal Government would give this project a national priority and that the Stuart Highway situation could cause the Federal Government to question the present national highways policy? In view of these points, will the Minister ask his colleague to press the Government to adopt the suggestion I have made on previous occasions, that is, to provide the Federal Minister with funds over and above the current allocation to the States for national highways so that the Federal Government is able to make a special grant to enable the Stuart Highway to be completed within five years?
– There has been a long series of questions from Opposition and Government senators in this chamber about the Stuart Highway. I will miss Mr Virgo, the previous South Australian Minister of Transport, whom I used to blame for his lack of effort in this matter. In more recent answers I have given in this place I have been able to indicate that in fact there has been an increase in the allocation of funds for the Stuart Highway in the current year. I am not surprised that the South Australian Liberal Government is anxious to complete the highway; that is in line with the energetic attitude that it has shown in its brief period in office. I was not aware of the magnitude of the losses that South Australia apparently suffers to Queensland. I assume that occurs because trade goes to
Queensland rather than to South Australia. I am also not aware of the statement which the honourable senator claimed was made by the Prime Minister. I will refer the matters which have been raised by the honourable senator to Mr Nixon for his consideration. I will see what can be done along the lines requested.
– My question is again to the Leader of the National Country Party in the Senate. In view of the fact that he does not listen to the answers given by his colleagues at Question Time, I ask: Did he hear the comments by Mr Bjelke-Petersen on AM yesterday morning? If he did not, let me tell him what Mr Petersen said. He said:
And it’s not the good aboriginals, and I have many friends of them . . . but it’s the militant ones who are generating this and the Liberals have fostered and perverted and so has Senator Bonner and others and these are the reasons why I say they will need very many friends before the time is over if they are to survive as the Government.
Does he agree with that statement?
– I heard the question by the honourable senator and the comments that were made on the radio program. It is surprising that the Leader of the Opposition should ask such a question at a time when he has himself decided that the heat in this place has become so great that he is going to leave it and contest the leadership in another place. He is dissatisfied with Mr Hayden. At the same time, within that organisation, I think I heard something over the weekend on the radio or read in the Press about another aspirant from Victoria being dissatisfied with Mr Hayden ‘s leadership. Yet Senator Wriedt asks me whether there is any dissatisfaction between certain sides of State government and Federal government here. I really would like to address a question to Senator Wriedt. I do not suppose that there would be time for me to do that but one day he may be able to put on record the loyalties that are showing within the Australian Labor Party at this particular time.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister tell us whether he agrees with the sentiments expressed yesterday by Mr Bjelke-Petersen on AM?
– It is not appropriate for me at Question Time, representing the portfolios that I do, or in my responsibility as Minister for Science and the Environment, to answer such a question.
– My question -
– Is it on the same subject?
– It is not on the same subject. In fact, it is on one that is far more interesting and rewarding, I trust, from the point of view of the answer. I ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications whether it is a fact that the Government has announced an increase in licence fees for marine band radios to $37 per annum? Is it also a fact that land-based CB radios are licensed for only $25? Since marine radios play a vital role in relation to safety, including weather information and warnings, position reporting, distress calls and the like, and can greatly enhance safety at sea and reduce the cost of searches, will the Minister review the decision and reduce the marine radio licence fee to that which applies to land-based CB radios?
– I was not aware of the two licence fees to which the honourable senator has referred, but I agree that marine radios do have a very important role to play in reducing the problems which occur at sea and the likelihood of having to undertake expensive searches. I am not able to comment on the extent to which the difference in licence fees reflects a difference in servicing costs or something of that nature. The honourable senator has raised a serious matter, which I will refer to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications for consideration and reply.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security, who may recall that, on 2 1 August, I asked her a question in connection with the removal of the allowance paid to certain parents of handicapped children in South Australia who had placed their children temporarily- for less than a month- in a holiday rest home, the parents having been denied the payment for the full month. The Minister undertook to review the matter. I now ask whether she is in a position to state what change might be possible in respect of those cases?
– I have had investigated the matter that was raised by Senator Bishop, and I believe also by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. It needed some unravelling in the Department and action is being taken to overcome difficulties experienced by mothers of handicapped children who enter institutions. The payment of family allowance and handicapped child’s allowance did create some difficulties, as the honourable senator has mentioned. My Department has investigated it. It is certainly not the intention of the Government to remove that benefit in the way that has been described.
It may need an amendment to the Act to have the matter put beyond doubt. I assure the honourable senator that action is being taken to see that this is satisfactorily dealt with and that the payment is made to the mother or to the institution for the portion of the month during which the child is in that care.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a scheme operating at Flinders University in South Australia known as the bridging employment training scheme which aims to assist graduates, who cannot immediately find other employment, with work as part time research assistants? Is the scheme funded from gifts by members of staff and friends of the university, which are tax deductible, so that a small number of graduates can be employed for about 20 hours a week, up to a 12-week period? Are such schemes widespread in other tertiary institutions around Australia? If not, will the Government consider promoting the scheme in other relevant institutions? Finally, will the government consider an examination of the scheme with regard to assisting its expansion, perhaps through matching grants?
– The attention of the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs has been drawn to the scheme operating at Flinders University among staff to assist graduates to obtain some casual work in various research projects at the university. This work may involve periods of up to 20 hours a week for a period of 12 weeks. I understand three graduates at least have been employed under the scheme and received approximately $ 120 a week. There is no indication of how the scheme will be further developed. The Minister has indicated to me that he finds the scheme an interesting one. Those who have taken the initiative to establish it and to assist it deserve encouragement and congratulations.
I am not aware of any schemes at other universities. The Government has no plans to promote such a scheme in any other universities, to take over the scheme or contribute to the scheme. It would require a major policy decision for the
Government to participate in schemes of this nature. It could be that there would be little difference between that scheme and other types of job creation schemes which have proved ineffective, when previously tried, particularly the Regional Employment Development Scheme by the previous Government. I will refer to the Minister the question Senator Messner asked about providing some assistance to this scheme. I am sure he will be interested to give it further consideration.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Prime Minister. It relates to an article in the latest issue of the publication Inside Canberra. As stated in that article, at a meeting between the Prime Minister and the United States Ambassador, Mr Philip Alston junior, on 7 February 1979 at Parliament House, Canberra, did the Prime Minister make a threat that if Australia did not receive Washington’s support on agriculture in the multilateral trade negotiations the future of the United States defence facilities in Australia could be jeopardised?
-I ask that the honourable senator place the question on notice.
– I refer the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to the fact that it has been reported that a legal opinion has thrown into doubt the ability of officers of the Federal Government entrusted with surveillance duties in the north, such as those involving quarantine matters, to enter onto Aboriginal land, particularly in an emergency. If this is so, what action is being taken to ensure that the security of the coastline in the Northern Territory is not jeopardised by legislation relating to Aboriginal affairs?
-Many honourable senators will recall that when the land rights legislation was passed in 1976, it provided that the law governing permits to enter Aboriginal land would be dealt with under Northern Territory law and not under the land rights legislation direct. The passage of that legislation here was followed by the passage of legislation in the Northern Territory which, in general, was in accord with the views of a parliamentary committee on which various honourable senators served. It appears that there was a defect in that legislation- I am sure an unwitting one- in that the permits that were provided to be issued to officials did not cover officials of the Commonwealth. In fact, since that defect was discovered the Northern Territory Government has moved to amend its legislation to ensure that Commonwealth officers can have permits issued under the Northern Territory legislation. The matter rests there for the time being.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs whether he is aware of the grave situation that has arisen in the western areas of Queensland as a result of a sweetheart agreement between oil companies to market to the west at their convenience only. Is he also aware that the sinister plan is that where a town has three outlets, the idea is to starve out two and flood the third? Is the Minister aware that responsible and experienced commercial people in the west are claiming that shortages of supplies of distillate and avgas are also being artificially induced? Finally, will the Minister use his good offices to have the matter urgently and thoroughly investigated so as to inform the people in the west of Queensland just what is going on and put a stop to the near panic situation that exists in the area at the moment?
– As requested, I will certainly refer that question to the Minister for National Development, and perhaps also to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs in an endeavour to provide an early answer for the purpose and reasons that Senator McAuliffe has indicated.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services whether it is a fact that certain threats from the Leader of the Australian Democrats were reported to the effect that following the next elections the Democrats will challenge honourable senators taking their place in this chamber on the matter of electoral expenses if his personal requests on public funding are not met. Further, does the Government intend amending the Commonwealth Electoral Act to overcome the present shortcomings following the constitutional crisis in Tasmania? Finally, is this approach by the Australian Democrats the most appropriate way of exercising a party’s voice in this chamber on the matter of public funding of political parties?
– I have not read of any threats of the sort which have been alleged, and I very much doubt that they would be made as they would smack of misprision of felony. I will put the question to the Minister responsible and see that a reply is provided to the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Fire Board has advised the Department of Administrative Services that the Ford LTD vehicles proposed to be purchased for ministerial use could constitute a fire danger? Has the Government therefore in the interests of ministerial safety abandoned the proposal to buy LTD cars? What action has the Government taken to discuss the fire danger with the Ford company with a view to protecting the public from vehicles that may have technical defects that could cause death or injury?
– I can assure honourable senators that I regard the welfare of Ministers as very important. I will refer the question to the Minister for Administrative Services and seek a reply.
– My question is directed to Senator Durack in his capacities as Attorney-General and Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations. When will we receive an indication from this Government that it will match the zeal of the Hon. P. D. Hills, the New South Wales Minister for Industrial Relations, in seeking to overcome the impasse of the dual award coverage of the oil refinery operators at Kurnell? Mr Hills took the trouble to come to Canberra to confer with Mr Street. All we have is the punitive legislation which was introduced last week.
-The two matters that Senator Mulvihill refers to are, of course, quite different considerations. The legislation that was introduced by my colleague in another place last week arises out of other problems which have arisen in the conciliation and arbitration area and under the Act. The specific problem at Kurnell is unique, and it is very delicate. I understand that proceedings are taking place this week for the purpose of extending the cooling off period which has been in existence for the last few months during which it had been hoped that some solution would be found to the problem. There has been a great deal of discussion between the Ministers concerned. The New South Wales Minister for Industrial Relations and the
New South Wales Government have undertaken the responsibility for getting all the bans lifted. I understand that there is some question as to whether all bans have been lifted. Generally, there is still a lack of permanent solution. It is a situation for which neither government is to blame. It is a matter of finding a solution to a very difficult problem.
– It will need legislation.
– We may need legislation to give effect to it, depending on the nature of the solution. I can assure the Senate that both Ministers and both governments are earnestly seeking a solution. I believe that they have had profitable discussions aimed at seeking a solution.
-On Wednesday, 19 September, Senator Wheeldon asked a question concerning the development of the Australian Broadcasting Commission FM facilities throughout Australia. Mr Staley has now informed me that the Government is committed to providing a national FM radio service throughout Australia as soon as possible. The existing service is being extended to all States in an orderly progression as funds permit. Stations have been established in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. Programming for the service originates in Adelaide and is relayed via the existing Telecom telecommunications network to those cities. Factors which favoured the early establishment of FM stations in these cities included the availability of suitable transmitting towers and a means of relaying programs. Construction of FM stations in the remaining capital cities and some regional centres is continuing in the current financial year, 1979-80, and a service at Perth is expected to commence in June 1 980. This station was expected to commence as early as February 1980; however, contractural and engineering problems experienced by Telecom Australia as the construction authority have resulted in delaying the opening until June.
-Last Tuesday, 18 September, Senator Townley asked a question concerning public telephones. Mr Staley has informed me that the main criteria used by Telecom Australia for determining the location of public telephones include the service needs of local residents and the travelling public; the availability of other coin telephone facilities and subscribers’ services in the area; and the need to ensure a reasonable revenue return in order to offset to some extent the capital and annual costs involved. As to whether Telecom is considering the introduction of a smaller, less expensive public telephone, I understand that although continuous efforts are made to reduce public telephone installation costs, Telecom does not intend to review the design of the current multipurpose telephone which is currently being installed throughout Australia to replace the older units. The current unit provides users with the kinds of facilities normally available on private telephone services and affords the maximum practicable protection from acts of vandalism. The Australian unit compares favourably in terms of cost and size with overseas units providing similar facilities and protective safeguards. Of the 32,000 public telephones in service, 14,000 have been equipped with the multipurpose unit. A modified version of the unit is being tested for use as a leased coin instrument for those who desire additional facilities to those provided by the leased local call ‘ Red Phone ‘.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Tasmanian Native Forestry Agreement Bill 1 979.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- In accordance with section 121(3) of the Commonwealth Banks Act 1959, 1 lay on the table the annual report and financial statements of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia, together with the Auditor-General’s report thereon, for the year ended 30 June 1979.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on fixed resistors.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present a review by myself and the Attorney-General for Western Australia on laws in relation to public assemblies.
-by leave- I move:
I would have thought that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) might explain to the Senate, at this stage when all our memories need refreshing, the relevance of this particular exercise to the Australian Parliament. I do recall it, but I would have thought we would have some explanation of what considerations, in the view of the Attorney, arise from this review. If I might say so, I was intrigued by the Attorney’s comment that it was a review conducted by himself and the Attorney-General of Western Australia because, with the greatest respect, I found it a rather superficial document on a reading of the report which was brought down. I am a little concerned also about the fact that there are no comments in the document about the application of the laws which apply in various States. Perhaps that was not the intention of the original review, but it seems a very sterile document without some reference to the applications.
– Does it deal with the Commonwealth law at all?
– In the Territories, yes, it does. What intrigues me is what happens now as a result of this particular exercise. I wonder, for example, whether the Attorney has considered referring the question of the law relating to public assemblies to the Law Reform Commission with a view to trying to get some uniformity on, as it turns out, this very important question in the context in which this whole matter arose. The other matter to which I wish to refer is the reference to the South Australian law, and to make a suggestion that it might have been desirable if the Attorney-General had expressed a view on what law should apply in relation to this matter, and whether the South Australian law was perhaps not the most appropriate law to apply.
In conclusion, might I draw the attention of the Senate to the summary which is provided at the end of the document and, in answer to Senator Missen ‘s question particularly to the law which applies in relation to the two territories. May I also draw to the attention of the Senate not only the very restrictive application of the law but also the very restrictive law which exists in Western Australia and, of course, the knowledge that we have of its application in that particular State. I regard it as an important statement because it has turned out to be important in terms of the public interest of this country. I would have hoped that some recommendations or some comment would have flowed from the
Attorney-General as to what might be done in relation to this whole matter and particularly what might have been done in relation to some degree of uniformity in the law through a Commonwealth agency. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I point out that the document has not been circulated, so other honourable senators do not know what Senator Button and the Attorney-General have been talking about.
– If I can add to those comments, I have a particular interest in this matter and I would have thought we could have had the document before us.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The question referable to leave for Senator Button has been put and passed. Leave has been granted. Any further reference to the matter must be by leave. Senator Missen, do you seek leave to add some remarks?
– Yes, I seek leave.
– I merely repeat what I have said. This statement is a matter in which I am very much interested and in which I am sure other honourable senators are interested. Surely the statement might be circulated this time so that at least we can see what lt is all about.
– I have tabled the statement for the information of honourable senators. Senator Button has moved a motion. The effect of the step that he has taken is that the statement will be or can be debated at an appropriate time. If there is great interest in a debate on the subject, I am sure that that can be arranged. But, at this point, I move:
– I am pleased that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has given the assurance that this matter will be debated at an appropriate time. I wonder whether he could accept also that it ought to be debated at an early time. This matter is of considerable importance to those of us who reside in Queensland. We are rapidly getting to the point of accepting that no progress has been made in Queensland in spite of the repression that many of us have suffered and that there needs to be some national legislation in this regard. I would have thought that this paper might lead to a debate which may lead to a reference to a committee which may in turn lead to national legislation. At this point I am just putting forward that it be debated very soon. My remarks would be irrelevant if I sought to take the debate much further. It is important that we consider this matter at an early date. I think that it will become an order of the day, and we have a very lengthy list of orders of the day. If we could have moved a motion in this regard tomorrow we could have placed it for debate in General Business where there are not too many items for debate. I do not know whether we can bring it on by arrangement for debate on General Business night instead of waiting for many months. I think it ought to be debated this session instead of next year.
– In taking the opportunity to speak to this motion, I ask the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) whether he would take cognisance of the request that the paper be circulated to all honourable senators so that we will be informed to debate the matter when it comes on for debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– On behalf of Senator Webster and for the information of honourable senators, I present the Department of the Capital Territory annual report 1 978-79.
– On behalf of the Minister for Science and the Environment, Senator Webster, and pursuant to section 3 (7) of the Australian Dried Fruits Corporation Act 1978, 1 present the report for the final period of the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board, 1978 together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report thereon.
– by leave- Once again, we have a situation in which a longdelayed report has been presented to the Senate without an explanation being given of the reason for the delay. It may be that the report contains an explanation of the delay. But I indicate to the Senate that when I do have a chance to look at the report, if it does not contain an explanation I will seek leave to move that the matter be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on
Finance and Government Operations for investigation of the reasons for the delay.
200 NAUTICAL MILE AUSTRALIAN FISHING ZONE
– On behalf of the Minister for Science and the Environment, Senator Webster, I seek leave to make a statement relating to the commencement of the 200 nautical mile Australian fishing zone and to move a motion that the Senate take note of the statement.
– I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
The statement read as follows-
I am pleased to inform the House that the Governor-General has approved the proclamation of 1 November 1979 as the date on which the provisions of the Fisheries Amendment Act 1978 not yet in force are to come into operation. From that date Australia will have a 200 nautical mile fishing zone in accordance with international law. Australia will thus join with the other Pacific Forum countries which have extablished similar zones in accordance with the Port Moresby Declaration of September 1977. Within the 200 nautical mile Australian fishing zone- AFZ- foreign fishermen will be in breach of the Act unless they have the necessary Australian licences and they will be required to comply with terms and conditions of access determined by Australia.
It will be recalled that when the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) introduced the Fisheries Amendment Bill 1978 in the Parliament last year, he pointed out that when the zone commences, we will have international obligations with respect to management of the fisheries resources to ensure their proper conservation and optimum utilisation. These objectives are set out in what will become section 5b of the Fisheries Act. To give effect to its obligations, Australia will, as appropriate, determine total allowable catches, the amount of the allowable catch that will be taken by Australians and the allocation to foreign countries of any available surplus. Foreigners will not be allowed access to fisheries fully exploited by Australians or likely to be so in the near future. In time, as Australians develop the necessary capacity to operate in those fisheries where they do not now operate, the allocation to foreigners will be reduced accordingly. The Government hopes that ultimately, Australians will harvest the whole of the allowable catch but in some fisheries, this may take some time because of economic and productivity factors.
Foreign boats allowed to fish in the AFZ will fall into three categories: Foreign fishing under bilateral arrangements, feasibility fishing and commercial joint ventures. The most numerous initially will be those licensed for purely foreign operations, normally in accordance with government-to-government fisheries agreements. In concluding such arrangements in pursuance of Australia’s jurisdiction over the resources of the zone we will be acting to ensure maximum benefits for Australia and the protection of the interests of Australian fishermen.
Last year the Minister for Primary Industry sought applications from Australian companies in conjunction with foreign interests wishing to carry out feasibility fishing projects. The Government has approved a number of ventures involving interests from Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United States of America and Poland to carry out these projects. They are intended to assess the extent and commercial viability of harvesting unknown or little known resources in the AFZ. They provide a relatively low cost means for Australia to evaluate off-shore fisheries resources. They are limited to a maximum of two years and will not entitle either foreign or Australian participants in them to any exclusive or preferential rights in any fishery that may develop. Information gained from these projects will be made available to the Australian fishing industry to assist assessment of whether commercial development by Australians, solely or with foreigners in commercial joint ventures, is feasible. At all times, the Government will give preference to purely Australian operations in the AFZ.
I now turn to the details of bringing the relevant provisions of the Fisheries Amendment Act 1 978 into operation and thus establishing the AFZ. Under the definition of ‘Australian Fishing Zone’ the AFZ includes only waters that are proclaimed waters’ under section 7 of the Fisheries Act, and does not include any waters that are proclaimed to be ‘excepted waters’ under section 7a of the Fisheries Act. Also, it will not include any waters that are specifically excluded from the AFZ by appropriate terms in an international agreement with another country.
It is therefore important to understand the specific steps that will be involved. As the first step, the Governor-General has approved a new proclamation of ‘proclaimed waters’ which will replace the proclamations presently in force, and will govern the application of the Fisheries Act to Australian fishermen and, pending the establishment of the AFZ, foreign boats within the existing 12-mile ‘declared fishing zone’. This proclamation will be published in the Gazette of 26 September 1 979 and will come into force on that date. The ‘proclaimed waters’ will include all waters beyond the territorial limits of Australia or of another country and that are within 200 nautical miles of Australia. Australia for this purpose includes all islands that are part of a State, including Macquarie Island, Lord Howe Island, and all islands that are part of the Northern Territory. The States and the Northern Territory will continue to administer fisheries inside the threemile territorial sea, in accordance with and subject to the arrangements that have been agreed under the off-shore constitutional settlement successfully concluded with the States at the recent Premiers Conference. ‘Proclaimed waters’ are now also to include all waters within 200 nautical miles of each Australian Territory, other than waters within the territorial limits of other countries. I wish expressly to refer in this regard to the fact that the waters up to 200 miles off the Australian Antarctic Territory are to be covered by the new proclamation.
The next step after the proclamation of proclaimed waters’ will be the coming into force, on 1 November next, of the provisions of the Fisheries Amendment Act 1978, relating to the AFZ. The AFZ, in which Australia controls the operations of foreign fishermen as well as of Australians, also extends 200 nautical miles from the baselines. However, the AFZ would overlap with the existing or prospective 200 mile zones adjacent to Australia’s neighbours. Except in the case of Papua New Guinea, to which I shall refer separately, the Government has decided that, pending conclusion of delimitation negotiations with these countries, median lines in accord with Australia’s maximum legal entitlement should be used for the interim delimitation of the AFZ in areas between Australia and its neighbours. By agreement with Papua New Guinea pending the entry into force of the Torres Strait Treaty, in the area between Australia and Papua New Guinea the Australian fishing zone will extend to the fisheries jurisdiction line described in the Treaty, except in the protected zone where existing areas of jurisdiction south of the line will be maintained. Fisheries jurisdiction will also be exercised within the three-mile territorial seas around Australian islands north of the fisheries jurisdiction line. Negotiations on permanent maritime boundaries with Indonesia began in February. Two rounds of negotiations have been held and these will be continued. Discussions also have been held with the Solomon Islands. It will be necessary to enter into similar negotiations with New Zealand and France.
The Proclamation approved by the GovernorGeneral apply to the waters within 200 miles of the Australian Antarctic Territory. The application of the Fisheries Act to waters adjacent to the Australian Antarctic Territory is based on Australia’s sovereignty over the Australian Antarctic Territory. The Government proposes to recommend an additional step under the Act with regard to those waters. As already mentioned, the amendments to the Act last year enable the Governor-General, by Proclamation, to declare any proclaimed waters to be ‘excepted waters’. When introducing the amending legislation I pointed out that the concept of ‘excepted waters’ provides the Government with flexibility to delay or exclude the application of the Australian fishing zone in certain areas. Against the background of the Antarctic Treaty and Australia’s current involvement with other Antarctic Treaty countries in negotiations for the conclusion of a Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the Government proposes to recommend to the Governor-General that, in all circumstances, the appropriate course at this time is to take the further step of excepting AAT waters from the AFZ. The exception will not affect the application of the Fisheries Act to any Australian fishing activities off the AAT.
In view of our close relations with Japan and the long-established presence of Japanese fishing vessels in waters off Australia, we commenced negotiations on access to the AFZ first with the Japanese Government. The negotiations have concerned a head fisheries co-operation agreement, a subsidiary agreement covering access for tuna long-line vessels, and related matters. Negotiations by officials have now concluded and the resulting agreement is under consideration by the Government prior to the formal signing of the documents. While the Head Fisheries Co-operation Agreement will remain in force for a minimum period of two years and will provide the basis for our future fisheries relations with Japan in the context of Australia ‘s extended maritime jurisdiction, the Subsidiary Agreement covering the access of tuna longline vessels is for one year. In line with international practice,
Australia reserves the right to review the terms of foreign access to the AFZ on an annual basis to enable responsible management of the resources in the AFZ and to protect the interests of the Australian fishing industry. Under this Subsidiary Agreement, the Japanese side has agreed to the payment of an access fee of $ 1.4m which will include their vessels ‘ statutory licence fees and to the continuation of technical assistance for the benefit of the Australian fishing industry. The technical assistance program has been in operation since early 1976. In addition, the Japanese Government. has provided certain assurances on access to the Japanese market for Australian fish and fish products. Details of the Agreement will be made available following its acceptance by both Governments.
Talks have also been held with Taiwanese commercial interests concerning access, albeit on a smaller scale than current operations, for trawlers and gillnetters to waters off the north and north-west of Australia. The Taiwanese represent the only other substantial foreign fishing presence within 200 miles of Australia. As we do not recognise Taiwan, we have held discussions with Taiwanese fishing interests and their Australian agents. The results of the talks are now under consideration by the Commonwealth and the relevant States with a view to finalising arrangements to enable licences to be issued prior to the commencement of the AFZ. The arrangements will provide for severe penalties for illegal fishing activities, and in discussions with Taiwanese fishing industry leaders it has been made clear that access to the AFZ is dependent on cessation of illegal activities, in particular, the clam boats in the Great Barrier Reef. Negotiations have also been held with the Republic of Korea concerning a head fisheries co-operation agreement and arrangements for access to fisheries not exploited by Australians. These negotiations will be resumed shortly. No timetable has yet been set for negotiations with other countries.
The Commonwealth appreciates the importance which the States attach to fisheries matters. Throughout the period of preparation for the AFZ, the Commonwealth has maintained continuous consultations with the States and has kept them informed of the progress in negotiations. Among the matters under discussion with the States are the role of State officers in enforcement of the rules applicable to the AFZ and in gathering information on foreign fishing operations there. Commonwealth officials are presently studying the basis on which the States are reimbursed for enforcement activities carried out on behalf of the Commonwealth, to see whether that basis will continue to be suitable “or work in the AFZ. The Government has provided funds for observer activities undertaken by the States for the Commonwealth. While the Commonwealth, in co-operation with the States, will determine the systems for gathering information and will undertake its collection, processing and distribution, the finished data will be published and made available to the fishing industry as well as to government agencies, State and Commonwealth.
The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) announced in July of last year details of the Government’s upgraded civil coastal surveillance program which, among other matters, was designed to take account of the need to enforce Australian fishery laws after commencement of the AFZ. The legislative systems that have been devised for the AFZ will supplement the physical surveillance that the Government will need to provide. For example, licensed boats will be under a legal obligation to report their positions in the AFZ every two days, to obtain advance approval to enter the AFZ, to leave it, to enter an Australian port, or to travel in the AFZ outside their authorised fishing area. Within the next two years the Government will be reviewing surveillance arrangements as foreshadowed by the Minister for Transport in his statement. Apart from certain direct financial benefits, such as access fees, which will flow to the community from the AFZ, the Government anticipates that other benefits will flow, for example, to the Australian fishing industry as it increases its share of the total allowable catch; to the fish processing industry, which may handle a portion of the foreign catch as well as the expected increase in domestic production; and to traders and local authorities in ports to which licensed foreign boats are granted entry rights. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Division of Fisheries and Oceanography and the Department of Primary Industry have been strengthened to meet the need for fishery research and management of the AFZ. The charter by CSIRO of the 50 metre fishing research vessel Soela will further strengthen Australia’s fisheries research capacity. Fishery research and management in the AFZ will continue to be co-ordinated through the Australian Fisheries Council.
I have spoken at some length and in some detail on the Australian fishing zone. The Government regards it as a significant event in Australia’s maritime history, bringing the living resources in an area of sea nearly equal to that of the Australian land mass under Australian management, together with the associated benefits and responsibilities. The AFZ is not a gold mine. We need to accumulate a great deal more knowledge of the physical characteristics of the zone itself and of its fish resources. The Government is cautiously optimistic that as our knowledge increases, the AFZ will prove to be a valuable asset, capable of yielding continuing economic benefits. It is our intention to manage the AFZ with that objective always in view.
– I move:
– I do not wish to speak on this matter at any length, but I wish to place a few comments on record. Although this is a legal issue, its relevance, at least in the short term, is mostly to the Australian fishing industry. I want to comment on several matters pertaining to the licensing of foreign fishing vessels for the conduct of joint feasibility fishing studies and joint commercial studies and for licensed operation by foreign vessels within the about-to-be-proclaimed 200-mile zone.
Firstly, there are serious doubts as to whether the conditions under which joint feasibility fishing or commercial licensed operations are adequately supervised. For example, recently my attention was drawn to the fact that a licence has been granted to two Polish trawlers to operate off the southern coast for mid-water trawling. There are at least grave doubts as to whether the Commonwealth has taken adequate steps to ensure that the trawling is restricted to the mid-water depth, for which the licence has been granted. Whilst in the areas in which it is proposed that those two vessels shall operate mid-water drilling will not, I understand, interfere significantly with fishing activities by Australian vessels, if the vessels trawl at greater depth it certainly will upset the existing fishing activities being carried on by Australian vessels.
I am informed also- I cannot guarantee the veracity of this report- that those vessels are greater than 80 metres in length and that currently no Australian State will license vessels in excess of 45 metres in length and, indeed, the States will license only about six vessels in excess of 32 metres in length. If that is correct, it is apparent that something should be done about the conditions under which State fishing authorities grant licences to vessels, in order to remove what appears to be discrimination against Australian fishing. Squid fishing is now taking place off the coast of Victoria and, I understand, western Tasmania. Australian fishermen have not fished for squid to a significant extent until now. A major reason for this is that the highly attractive prices available on the Japanese market are not available to Australian fishermen. A number of tariff and other measures designed to impose high costs on and barriers against the entry of Australian squid to the Japanese market are enforced.
It seems to me, and to other people in the Labor Party with whom I have discussed this matter, that it would be a reasonable proposition for the Australian Government to put to Japan that in return for granting access to Australian waters for squid fishing by Japanese vessels, the Japanese market ought to be opened up to Australian fishermen. Australian fishermen ought to be given real access to the Japanese market for squid caught by Australian vessels. At present, they do not have such access. There is no evidence that such a scheme has been considered by the Government, let alone that such a proposition has been put to the Japanese. Indeed, there is a widespread belief that any trade-off the Australian Government has suggested to Japan has been concerned with a trade-off for beef rather than for fish caught by Australian fishermen. If that is correct. I guess that it is a consequence of the fact that there are a half a dozen farmers in the Cabinet, most of whom produce beef, and no fishermen.
– Are you advocating more fishermen and fewer cattlemen in the Cabinet?
– If there was a fisherman in the Cabinet the fisherman might have an effective voice. They certainly have not got one now. We should bear in mind that these vessels will operate off Australian waters in much greater numbers in the coming season than they have in the past. However the question of distillate supplies to the vessels is another matter that has not been explained satisfactorily. The Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) has admitted in the last 24 hours that there are shortages of distillate in Australia. He has not told us where those shortages are because he does not want to start a panic. He said that he would not identify the regional areas, as that would be a signal for general panic. For all the information the Minister has given us, shortages could be developing all round the country. Notwithstanding the Minister’s assurance as recently as 1 August that to talk of rationing distillate was to talk nonsense, it has now been admitted by the Government that distillate is in short supply. Given that admission, have these vessels, some of which have the capacity to take on very large quantities of distillate, been guaranteed supplies of distillate from Australian ports?
I return to the squid fishing venture. It is alleged in documents I have read that there is a squid season in Australia, as there is in many parts of the northern hemisphere and certainly around Japan, where squid can be caught satisfactorily for only a limited period of the year. The joint feasibility fishing operation which was conducted last year operated for only four months and was supposed to supply valuable technical information to Australia. However, it begs the question as to how it can be asserted that there is a seasonality in squid fishing in Australia when no attempt has been made to fish throughout the year. There may be a satisfactory answer to that question but it has not yet been given.
The final comment I wish to make, at this stage at least, is that in the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry for this financial year it is estimated that revenue of more than $3m will be derived in various ways by the Commonwealth from foreign fishing vessels. Conceptually, one could regard that revenue as royalty payments by foreign fishing vessels for operating within Australian waters. It is at least worthy of consideration that the Government should allocate this money to a fund, the purpose of which would be to supply credit for the purchase, although not necessarily the construction, of larger fishing vessels for the Australian fishing fleet- vessels which would have the capacity to operate further off-shore and probably in deeper waters than the vessels currently used. The fishing industry has long been discriminated against, vis-a-vis other forms of primary industry, in that the financial arrangements that are available for other primary producers are not always available to fishermen or, at least, they are not as effective for fishermen. For example, the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia will grant loans of up to $100,000 for the purchase of fishing vessels. However, fishing vessels of any size are very much more expensive that that. They can cost up to half a million dollars. After that $100,000 limit has been passed, the interest rate on the money lent is 13.5 per cent which is an extremely high rate of interest. Fishermen are also being discriminated against in that those who use four-wheel drive vehicles in their business operations do not receive the exemption from sales tax that other primary producers receive.
The proposition I am putting as being at least worthy of consideration by the Government is that these royalty payments, if I may use that term, which will now accrue to Government revenue ought to be paid into a fund which would be used to finance on reasonable terms- not at 13.5 per cent interest- the purchase of vessels by Australian fishermen in order to comply with what is stated in the Minister’s statement to be the longer term objective of the Government within the 200-mile economic zone, that is, that as the Australian industry develops the capacity to exploit the resources in that area, foreign fishing operations will be progressively replaced by those of Australian fishermen. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-by leave-I want briefly to support some of the remarks made by my colleague, Senator Walsh, in relation to this matter. I do so because it relates to an industry which the Opposition sees as having great importance and significance. The proclamation of a 200 nautical mile limit for any purpose has very wide-ranging implications. I refer briefly to some of those implications which were indicated by the judgment of the High Court of Australia in relation to the Seas and Submerged Lands Act which came into force on 3 December 1973. In dealing with the Act, Sir Garfield Barwick, Chief Justice of the High Court, stated:
Upon the enactment of the Constitution, any rights or powers which the former colonies might have had in the territorial sca, sea bed and air space or in the Continental Shelf and incline became vested in the Commonwealth. The emergence of Australia as an independent State confirmed this situation.
The importance of the matter in economic terms was stressed by His Honour, Mr Justice Murphy, when he said:
The area of the Territorial Sea is tens of thousands of square kilometres. The area of the disputed Submarine Lands and sub-soils is millions of square kilometres. Their resources are probably worth thousands of billions of dollars. They belong to the Nation, not the States. The rights over them are vested in and exercisable by the Government of Australia on behalf of all the people of Australia.
This is the first proclamation of a 200 nautical mile limit for any purpose and it relates to fishing. I shall deal with the importance of the question of resources by referring briefly to one or two documents which relate to those resources. First of all, I refer the Senate to a statement by Dr Garth Murphy who is head of the fish biology section of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Division of Fisheries and Oceanography. In that statement, which appeared in the Australian of 15 August, he stated:
There are significant fish stocks there, as distinct from prawns, and they are comparable with North Sea resources.
We’re still not certain what’s there, but they’re big’, he says. ‘Soon we’ll be surveying the Timor Sea area. No one knows what’s there’.
He went on to say:
We found a very productive area on the North West Shelf, he says. ‘We weren’t the first, of course- it supports 125 Taiwanese pair trawlers. They’ve had good catches, though some of the stocks are being fished pretty low as a result’.
Later in the same article there is a reference to this fact:
Last year the industry caught 60,000 tonnes of fish- less than thai taken by Taiwanese trawlers off our northern coast.
And incredibly Australia still imports half the fish it eatsmainly in the shape of frozen fish fingers.
I refer the Senate briefly to the importance of those sorts of comments as I would urge the Senate to see them, lt is stated that we import half our fish mostly in the form of frozen fish fingers which, as any senator of any discernment will agree, are pretty awful. We have enormous potential fishing resources around the Australian coast. That was acknowledged, I think, by the report of November 1977 on the 200-mile Australian fishing zone by a working group established by the Australian Fisheries Council. I refer any honourable senator who is interested to the summary of the findings of that working group and more especially to the things which the working group claims. I particularly refer to paragraph 10 which reads:
The Working Group agrees with industry that governments should undertake more resource evaluation work to provide a better data base on which industry can base commercial decisions. It notes that in some instances feasibility fishing, particularly with observers on board, is the least expensive way to generate hard data. It feels that access to cheaper vessels would provide a positive incentive to the Australian industry to undertake development work and will recommend that existing shipbuilding policy be modified.
Following that report on 13 April 1978 the Fisheries Amendment Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives and subsequently passed. It is as a result of that legislation that the present document tabled by the Minister now comes into the Senate. The Fisheries Amendment Bill provided penalties of quite a high order for foreign boats fishing in the 200-mile limit. I find amazing the inadequacy of the response by the Government to the sorts of comments which were made by Dr Murphy of the CSIRO, by the working party on the 200-mile fishing zone and in association with the passing of the Fisheries Amendment Bill. The response is really totally ridiculous. All the time we are talking about the possibility of establishing new and viable industries in Australia. When we ask people what new and viable industries should be established, the first one that most people who have thought about it think of is fishing.
By the accretion of the 200 nautical mile economic zone around Australia’s coast, we take on board- if that is the appropriate nautical expression- an enormous area of resources as Mr Justice Murphy and others pointed out in the course of the High Court judgment on the Seas and Submerged Lands Act. One is prompted to ask questions as a result of the accretion of this enormous extra economic zone. How will we possibly engage in any sensible resource management of this area which is clearly much more familiar to Taiwanese, Japanese and other fishermen than it is to Australians? The response in the 1979 Budget was the granting of an extra $ 1 m to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for fisheries resource work.
The only other response to date has been the bringing down of this document, with some of its pathetic suggestions about acquiring greater knowledge of the 200 nautical miles limit. It has been quite within the province of the Government for three or four years past to determine when it would bring down the statement and what sort of response it would make to the declaration of the 200 nautical miles zone. As I say, its response has been quite inadequate. How on earth, for example, is Australia, which is not able at this stage to determine when refugees and others land on the Australian coast, to police a policy in relation to fishing throughout this enormous 200 nautical miles zone?
Only last week we heard that for defence surveillance off the north coast of Western Australia the Australian Department of Transport has chartered an aircraft owned by a Hong Kong firm. As I understand Senator Chaney ‘s answer to a question on the matter, the contract with the firm remains in force for another three years. That is what is being done in relation to surveillance of that kind. How can we possibly pretend that we can, in any sense, police fishing within the 200-mile zone? How, in any sense, can we possibly conduct adequate surveys of the resources available in that zone, on the basis of the response which is now, being made by the Government? These are matters of grave concern, which I would have thought required a much better government response, certainly one as requested by the working party on the fisheries zone, which sought government action in relation to these matters.
I should also point out that at page 6 of the statement in relation to the Australian fishing zone reference is made to discussions with the States about enforcement of the rules applicable within the fishing zone. There is a suggestion that discussions on that matter are still in progress and that somehow perhaps the States will be able to provide parking attendants, or someone of that kind, to inspect what is going on within the 200-mile zone. It is, of course, known to the Opposition that the Government is seeking arrangements with the States in relation to the resources, and the allocation of profits from the exploitation of resources, in the 200-mile zone. Presumably they will be announced in greater detail at a later stage. My purpose is to emphasise that, as far as the Opposition is concerned, and as the High Court pointed out in no uncertain terms, the matter is one which is appropriately the responsibility of the Commonwealth. Attempts to subvert that Commonwealth responsibility represent an abdication of the proper role of the Commonwealth Government, just as this Government has abdicated its role in a variety of other areas, such as Aboriginal affairs. We are concerned to draw to the attention of the Senate the importance of this issue and hope that we will have a further opportunity to debate it in greater detail. I seek leave to continue my remarks -
– It is not really appropriate. Senator Walsh has already sought leave to continue his remarks.
– I seek leave to make a statement relating to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations on the hire of pot plants.
– Although the statement is very short, in view of the wish of the Estimates committees to meet, I seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
In August 1978 the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations reported on expenditure by Commonwealth departments on the hire of pot plants.
The Committee accepted that the hire of pot plants could be justified on the grounds of economy, flexibility in the use of open plan office space and to provide an aesthetically pleasing work environment. The Committee noted the comment that the concept is a management tool and should not be chosen simply for prestige reasons or used without understanding.
The Department of Administrative Services, in consultation with the Departments of Productivity and Housing and Construction, is continuing to develop guidelines for the use of Commonwealth office space and to this end will study how pot plants can be used effectively and economically.
The Committee’s report has been noted by the Government.
-On behalf of Senator Rae and others who have been fussed about this issue for about three years, I seek leave to move a motion.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- I wish to make a very brief personal explanation. Senator Button said that I had fussed for years about the hire of pot plants by Government departments. The history of the matter is simply this: It was referred by a Senate Estimates Committee to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations to investigate and report on, which the Committee did.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to human rights.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Bills being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Bills presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
The purpose of this Bill is to establish a Commonwealth Human Rights Commission. The Commission will protect and promote the observance of human rights throughout Australia within the limits of Commonwealth power. It will work in co-operation with the States on matters of human rights; will increase the community’s awareness of human rights; and will assist us to discharge our international obligations in the cause of human rights here and abroad.
The United Nations adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1966, and it came into force in 1976. To date, 59 countries have become parties to the Covenant, including the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Canada and, in the Pacific area, Japan and New Zealand. Australia is a signatory to the Covenant and will, the Government hopes, ratify it later this year. This legislation and the Human Rights Commission established under it will help Australia to discharge the obligations it will assume under the Covenant. It will also be a step towards protecting the rights of individuals, a matter of the utmost concern to the Government. In establishing special machinery to protect human rights, Australia is in good company. Other enlightened countries, such as the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Japan have all established their own special forms of machinery to protect human rights.
His Excellency the Governor-General foreshadowed introduction of the legislation when opening this Parliament on 21 February 1978. During the past year the Government has been conducting active discussions with the States and the Northern Territory with the object of developing agreed and complementary arrangements for the protection and promotion of human rights throughout the Commonwealth as a whole. There has been full consultation about the proposals now embodied in the Bill and discussions in progress are designed to lead to ratification by Australia of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Further than that, the States have agreed that there should be a recognised forum at ministerial level for the discussion of human rights issues- the Ministerial Meeting on Human Rights. It will meet as occasion requires.
In a relatively uncharted area, the Human Rights Commission will provide machinery to protect and promote the observance of human rights. The starting point for the definition of human rights will be the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. That Covenant defines a wide range of rights in 26 of its 53 Articles. The rights cover equality before the law; freedom of opinion, conscience and expression; freedom of assembly and association; the right to participate in public affairs; the right to privacy and the rights of the family and children; basic civil rights such as the right to life, to liberty and security of the person and to freedom of movement; the rights of accused persons and of prisoners; and the rights of ethnic minorities and of aliens. In many of these areas common law, or the statute law of the States or the Commonwealth, already applies. Where this is the case, a person’s first recourse will properly be to the ordinary processes of law. In other cases, some other resort may be available, such as bringing the matter to an ombudsman or to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Commission can be expected to exercise its discretion so as to ensure that all reasonably available remedies of this kind- often termed ‘local remedies’ by analogy with the rules in international laware exhausted before it will take a matter up.
The primary task of the Commission as defined in the Bill is to promote an awareness of human rights throughout the community, and the observance of those rights. To achieve these objectives, the Commission will work in two ways. It will inquire into and, where practicable, effect a settlement of issues that have come to its notice. It will also work to promote understanding and acceptance of human rights in Australia, and to this end will undertake research and educational programs. Its activities under the Bill are limited to acts done or practices engaged in by the Commonwealth or under legislation of the Commonwealth, but it will operate in close association with the related State or Territory machinery.
First is the settlement function. Where an act or practice is the subject of a complaint, or comes to the notice of the Commission in some other way, the Commission’s charter will be to investigate it and to assist the parties to reach an agreed outcome which is consistent with the rights as defined in the International Covenant. Where such a settlement is not achievable, it will be the duty of the Commission to report to the Attorney-General on its inquiries, with recommendations for the way in which the matter should be resolved. For this essentially creative and developing process, the Commission will need wisdom, perception and the power to obtain the necessary background information and to bring people before it. But, it will not need enforcement powers of the kind vested in courts. Accordingly, the Bill confers on the Commission adequate powers to obtain evidence and to call people before it, but does not equip it with legal sanctions.
The Commission will achieve its objectives in the complaint-handling process in two ways. Firstly, although it will have no court-like remedies, its settlement procedures will, in themselves, promote increasing recognition and observance of rights. Secondly, where a satisfactory settlement is not achieved, the Commission will be required to report to Ministers and Parliament. These reports, and the attendant publicity, will be its sanctions as with the Ombudsman. Furthermore, the Commission’s reports will ensure that governments and parliaments are aware of situations in which there needs to be a redefinition of the rights of different individuals and will stimulate them to take appropriate action.
The Commission’s second broad function is to promote understanding and acceptance of human rights. For the Commission to be effective in this, it will need a capacity for research. It is proposed that the Commission be given a small research staff with which to investigate emerging human rights issues that can only be effectively considered if wider material can be gathered than would be available simply by following up particular complaints. In this way, the Commission will become a centre for pioneering work in the understanding of human rights and of their implications for the Australian community. Its research efforts, significantly guided by the origin and nature of complaints, can be expected in the longer term to assist governments to tackle the causes, thus broadening and extending the observance of human rights in Australia.
The promotion function will also be carried forward by empowering the Commission to conduct, or assist in the conduct of, educational programs. All the evidence available from those already in the field, both in Australia and overseas, is that it is in the longer term more cost effective to develop educational programs than it is to hear individual complaints. It can be expected that the Commission’s research facilities will be used to assist the preparation, in consultation with the appropriate authorities, of programs designed to promote awareness and discussion of human rights. Experience is that in most cases, people are willing to alter their pattern of behaviour when confronted with the fact that the way they are exercising their rights is unreasonably infringing the rights of someone else. Sanctions of a legal kind are often not necessary, and indeed may even provide antagonism rather than the spirit of co-operation which is so central in matters of reciprocal rights and obligations.
The Commission will function as I have just described when it is operating under its own Act and by reference to the International Covenant. Where the Parliament has enacted particular legislation, then that legislation, including provisions for bringing issues to the courts for enforcement, would be the effective vehicle for advancing human rights in that area and would be administered by the Commission. The Commission would naturally use the most effective means available to it. Where the Parliament has enacted specific legislation and this has been infringed, the next step is not to report to Ministers and Parliament but rather to ensure that the law, whether Commonwealth or State, is observed. It could be expected that, as the Commission develops its work, it will begin to identify for the Parliament areas where new legislation is required to reinforce the provisions of the Covenant, or where existing legislation is for some reason proving inadequate.
One of the Government’s primary objectives in establishing the Human Rights Commission is to achieve some rationalisation of activities in a field where there is at present a tendency towards rapid proliferation. Instead of contemplating the establishment of separate agencies concerned with particular aspects of the human rights field, it is our intention to use the Human Rights Commission as a focus. This will have three important advantages. First, it will provide the public with simplicity of access- and individuals whose rights have been infringed are often not well placed to discriminate between different specialised agencies involving like services. Second, the problem of cases involving more than one agency, or falling between two agencies, will as far as possible be avoided. Problems of handling matters satisfactorily will be internalised to the Commission rather than imposed upon the individual. Finally, there would be administrative economies.
The advantages of rationalisation will be enhanced to the extent that co-operative arrangements can be made with the States. Active discussions are proceeding to this end. Clause 1 1 provides for a range of co-operative arrangements to be entered into between governments, and I am hopeful that it will be fully used. The object will be to give the citizen as far as possible a single agency to approach, whether his or her complaint relates to a ‘Commonwealth’ or State’ matter, and whether it relates to race or sex or religion and to access to public places, to employment or to rights as a citizen. The Ministerial Meeting on Human Rights, which I hope will become a fully fledged Ministerial Council on Human Rights, will be available where the human rights machinery throws up problems requiring collective ministerial consideration and action. The Commonwealth has already offered, and the States have accepted, that it provide servicing support for the Ministerial Meeting.
Associated with this measure is the Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill 1979. 1 propose to introduce it immediately following this Bill. It will be a first step in the process of rationalising Commonwealth arrangements by providing that the Human Rights Commission will be charged with the overall responsibility for activities under the Racial Discrimination Act. A development of this kind was foreseen by the then AttorneyGeneral, Senator Murphy, in 1973 when introducing the Racial Discrimination Bill. The Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill will vest in the Human Rights Commission the functions currently vested in the Commissioner for Community Relations but will provide at the same time that the Commissioner will continue to work under the Racial Discrimination Act and that his functions will be concentrated on the investigation and settlement of complaints. Overall, this will result in an improvement in the protection of rights in the area of racial discrimination.
There have been suggestions that a Bill of Rights which is enforceable in the courts should be developed for Australia. There are a number of objections to such a course. First, it would have serious implications for our federal system of government. Second, it would be contrary to our long established constitutional traditions, according to which authority for our basic human rights is primarily derived from the Parliamentary and elective processes. Third, the fact is that the Australian system of law, grounded in the common law and supplemented by significant statutory provisions, is not suited to general declaratory provisions of the kind included in Bills of Rights. Where a Bill of Rights exists, the courts are called upon to interpret its provisions in a way which is contrary to our traditions. Where a deficiency in the protection of human rights has been shown to exist, it is I believe the responsibility of the elected representatives of the people to consider legislative and administrative measures to remedy that deficiency. This would not of course exclude the important role the courts have in the interpretation and enforcement of remedies that the Parliament has provided in legislation. The role of the Human Rights Commission will be to assist the Government and Parliament by drawing attention to areas where legislative or administrative action appears desirable.
I mention also that the full text of the International Covenant is annexed as a schedule to the Bill. This means that we are asking the Parliament to endorse that Covenant as the standard to be used by the Human Rights Commission. This is a valuable way of declaring, both in Australia and overseas, that the general standards of the International Covenant are taken seriously and are to be implemented. In the course of recent discussions between the Attorneys-General of the various States on human rights matters, interest has been expressed in the possibility of developing an Australian declaration- not a Bill- of rights based on the Covenant. That is an issue which can at a suitable time be taken forward in the Ministerial Meeting on Human Rights.
The Bill contains in clause 3 a significant provision for the potential development of the work of the Human Rights Commission. Under that clause, the Minister may declare an international instrument relating to human rights and freedoms to be a ‘relevant international instrument’ for the purposes of the Act. By this means the Commission will be required, in discharging its functions, to draw on the standards laid down in the declared instrument and thus to extend the areas of human rights for the promotion and protection of which it has responsibilities. Here again, an important objective is to avoid duplication of agencies to achieve the essential objective of protecting human rights. The Bill requires that, in accordance with our federalism policy, a declaration would only be made after full and careful consultation with the States. Any declaration will be tabled in the Parliament and be subject to disallowance.
The question has been raised whether there is a need for Australia to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The main argument against ratification is that
Australia’s record in the human rights field is as good as any in the world and that there is no need to import foreign standards which may in some cases be not altogether appropriate to Australian conditions. Against that, Australia is a country in good standing internationally for its role in human rights- indeed we were last year elected to the membership of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. It is right that we play a positive and constructive role in the community of nations. We have no cause to hide anything in the area of human rights, and should be willing to ratify the central human rights covenant of the United Nations. Countries in our region have for the most part not yet ratified the Covenant, and we believe they should be encouraged to do so. However, unless we ratify the Covenant ourselves, and agree to be bound by it, we are hardly in a position to exercise influence on them. The International Covenant represents a significant achievement of the international community. Our support for it will mean that internationally we are of good standing in the field of human rights and can exercise a voice in support of steadily improving practice. The ministerial meeting on human rights has now met twice- in May and July of this year- to consider what is required before Australia is ready to ratify the Covenant. The next meeting is planned for October. When these discussions are completed, the Parliament will be advised of the basis on which Australia proposes to ratify the Covenant, if possible later in the current sittings.
There are a number of provisions in the Bill which I have not already covered but to which I invite particular attention. First, the Bill represents a constructive expression of the Government’s federalism policy. While the Bill will not apply to State or Northern Territory law or practice, clause 1 1 specifically recognises that in a federation the several governments have their own rights and responsibilities and that in the field of human rights the most effective and enduring way forward is through co-operative action. Accordingly, clause 1 1 provides for the making of co-operative arrangements with the States. Already there are prospects of achieving such arrangements in some States and the Northern Territory, and I am hopeful that it will prove possible before long to develop along similar lines throughout the rest of the Commonwealth. There has been some confusion over the way the Commission will operate throughout the Commonwealth. In the States and the Northern Territory its responsibilities will relate to Commonwealth laws and to practices under them. Complaints will be made either to the relevant office of the Commission in the State, or to the Joint Commonwealth-State machinery, where that operates. Suitable investigating and conciliating procedures will be instituted with the object of resolving the matter or bringing it to the attention of the Commission and, ultimately, the Minister and Parliament. In the Australian Capital Territory similar procedures will be followed, and it will be possible to make complaints to the Commission about any matters, because all the relevant law is Commonwealth law.
The functions of the Commission are set out in clause 9 of the Bill. It will be noted that, if the Minister so requests, the Commission will examine proposed enactments for the purpose of ascertaining whether they might be inconsistent with or contrary to any human rights. It is not expected that this will be a large part of the functioning of the Commission, but it has seemed desirable to authorise it to work in this way where the Minister so decides.
Clause 1 7 envisages that the Commission will develop relationships with the community and community organisations. This important provision will enable the Commission, with the approval of the Minister, to establish consultative committees. The consultative committees will be composed of representatives of non-government organisations and such other persons as the Commission considers appropriate. The Commission will be an important agent in the process of accepted social change, and it is obviously desirable that it have an opportunity to consult with a wide range of persons in the community who have concerns in the human rights field. The Commission is unlikely ever to have a large staff, and much of its work will need to be achieved with the willing co-operation of concerned people in the community. The consultative committees will provide a vital channel of communication for this purpose.
I have already mentioned that the Commission is required to report to the Minister and, through him, to Parliament. Sub-clause (2) of clause 10 provides that the Commission may at any time report to the Minister. I expect this power to be used where issues arise in the course of conciliation that the Commission believes should be brought quickly to the attention of the Minister and Parliament, rather than await its annual report. By clause 30 the Minister will be required to table the annual report and any report furnished to him under Part II of the Act within 15 sitting days after the report is received.
Human rights are about the protection of individuals. I believe, and the Government believes, that in an area of social change in which governments exercise wide powers and corporations and large institutions greatly influence the lives of individuals, it is important to have an agency that is active in the protection and promotion of the rights of individuals. We see in the world around us too many occasions where the rights of individuals are cruelly violated. The purpose of the Human Rights Commission, and of the machinery associated with it, is to help Australia maintain its excellent record in the protection of human rights, and progressively to develop a better and more comprehensive recognition and observance of the rights of every individual in our community, regardless of financial standing and whatever his or her race, age, sex, religion or status. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
This Bill is complementary to the Human Rights Commission Bill 1979 which I have just introduced. It is designed, as envisaged in 1973 when the Racial Discrimination Bill was first introduced, to merge the administrative machinery of the Commissioner for Community Relations with the machinery of the Human Rights Commission while retaining the important statutory office of Commissioner for Community Relations.
Since 1975 the Commissioner for Community Relations has played an important role in making the Australian community aware of the existence of racial discrimination and in following up complaints lodged with him alleging infringements of the provisions of the Act.
Until the Human Rights Commission commences operation, the Commissioner for Community Relations will continue to operate as at present. When the Commission commences operations, which is expected to be during the first half of next year, it will assume overall responsibility for implementing the provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act. However, the Commissioner for Community Relations will have the responsibility, subject to any direction the Commission may issue, to investigate and resolve complaints under the Racial Discrimination Act. The Commissioner will concentrate on this important area of his work, while the Commission assumes responsibilities for promotion, research and education as part of its broader functions in these areas, and having in mind the responsibilities of other bodies.
The Government fully recognises the importance of the objectives of the Racial Discrimination Act, which implements Australia’s obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. I assure honourable senators that the Racial Discrimination Act will continue to be implemented with as much vigour and determination as before. The objective of the present amendments is to achieve a measure of useful administrative rationalisation, while preserving the thrust of the legislation. Indeed, with the greater resources which will be available to the Human Rights Commission, and the hoped for co-operation with State agencies, it should be possible to give the public quicker, more accessible and more effective service.
Although the provisions of the Bill are somewhat complex, the objective is simple- to retain the essential provisions of the existing legislation while adjusting the associated administrative arrangements. The key clauses are clauses 4 and 5. By these, the functions of the Commissioner are vested in the Human Rights Commission, but it is made clear that the Commissioner continues to exercise investigating and conciliating functions in the same way as before, except that they will now formally be done on behalf of the Human Rights Commission. Members of the public can be assured that, from their point of view, business will continue to be as usual. Indeed, the new arrangements will make the machinery more accessible. Where the Commission establishes cooperative machinery with a State, or its own offices in a State, these will provide agencies for access to the Commissioner and the remedies provided by the Act which are additional to those already available, contrary to what has been suggested in some quarters.
Most of the other clauses are technical in nature, and are designed to achieve within the framework of the existing legislation the objectives I have just mentioned. Clause 9 will preserve in the new arrangements the right of a person aggrieved by an act he or she considers to have been discriminatory on grounds of race to institute a proceeding in a court. That right is given by section 24 of the Racial Discrimination Act, and the effect of clause 9 is to authorise a member of the Human Rights Commission, as well as the Commissioner, to sign a certificate which would allow suitable proceedings to be brought. Clauses 15 and 16, together with clause 29 of the Human Rights Commission Bill, will have the effect of requiring the Human Rights Commission to report to Parliament on its functions under the Racial Discrimination Act.
Clauses 10 and 14 ensure that persons who bring matters before the Commissioner are given legal protection from intimidation or legal actions solely on grounds that the complaint has been made.
I believe this Bill represents a significant and practical step towards a co-operative and coordinated approach to the implementation of human rights policy. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) I take this opportunity to inform the Senate of the proposed order of proceedings today. After business of the Senate is disposed of I propose to move that the sitting of the Senate be suspended until 1 0. 1 5 p.m., or such earlier time as the Deputy President takes the chair, to enable two Estimates committees which have not finished their deliberations- namely, Estimates Committee B and Estimates Committee D- to meet.
-by leave- Business of the Senate Notice of Motion No. 1 relates to an amendment of the Immigration Ordinance of the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The notice of motion was given as a result of inquiries by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, and was given by the Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Senator Cavanagh, on the last available day for giving notice, to allow the Committee time to conclude its correspondence with the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott). The matter which was of concern to the Committee was the power of the Minister to determine whether any person, including an Australian citizen and an inhabitant of the Territory, would be allowed to enter or reenter the Territory. Entry and re-entry are controlled by permits, and the only appeal against the refusal of the Administration to issue a permit is to the Minister. The Committee appreciates that this situation applies to the other external Territories, and applied to Cocos (Keeling) Islands before this amendment of the Ordinance. The amendment provided the Committee with an opportunity to consider the important question of principle involved, especially in the light of the establishment since 1975 of the system of administrative review.
The Committee considers that the power of the Minister to refuse entry to the Territory is potentially a power which could seriously inhibit the rights of the citizen and of the Parliament. Apart from the position of an inhabitant of the Territory who may be refused re-entry, there is the situation of an Australian citizen, or a member of the Parliament, or even a parliamentary committee, who may wish to go to the Territory to gain information on its administration or perhaps to investigate grievances of the inhabitants. In these cases it is wrong in principle that the final decision on whether entry to the Territory will be granted should be left to the Minister. Obviously the Government must have some control over immigration into the Territory, as indeed it has complete control over the influx of aliens into Australia, but the cases I have mentioned indicate that the final say should not be left to the Executive. The Committee considers that there ought to be an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal against a refusal to issue a permit, and there ought to be objective criteria on which the Tribunal can determine an appeal in accordance with the interests of the inhabitants of the Territory. This is not so important in relation to Norfolk Island, which now has self-government and has regular and frequent contact with the mainland, including a welldeveloped tourist traffic. The principles I have mentioned are of much greater importance in relation to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island, which are much more isolated from Australia.
The Committee has had correspondence with the Minister for Home Affairs and on behalf of the Committee I have had discussions with the Minister. The Minister has now indicated that he will consider any amendments of the Ordinance which the Committee proposes, and if agreement cannot be reached in relation to such amendments, he will repeal the Ordinance pending review of the matter, and may replace the Ordinance as a temporary measure. He has also indicated that he has ascertained that the Administrative Review Council is giving priority to its consideration of entry into the external Territories. In view of the undertakings given by the Minister, the Committee has determined that this Notice of Motion should be withdrawn. On behalf of Senator Cavanagh, and at his request, I withdraw Business of the Senate Notice of Motion No. 1 standing in his name. On behalf of the Committee, I thank the Minister for Home Affairs for the co-operation he has extended in this matter.
This is the first opportunity for the Senate to consider the policy and the machinery implications of the amendments to the Audit Act which were made earlier this year despite Opposition objections. These amendments made it possible for certain departments and agencies to become completely immune from any independent scrutiny of their accounts, immune not only from scrutiny of their accounts by this Parliament but also from scrutiny by the Auditor-General. The effect of the regulations before us today is to declare as prescribed organisations the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, known as ASIO, and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, known as ASIS. It is also to declare as a prescribed department the whole of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs.
The result of this prescription in the regulations is that the whole or any part of the accounts of ASIO, ASIS or the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, under section 70 D of the Audit Act, can be declared by the Minister for Finance to be exempt accounts and, as such, immune from the scrutiny of the Auditor-General. I understand that such a ministerial declaration either has been made or is about to be made in respect of the whole of the accounts of ASIS and ASIO. I know that in respect of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs there has been a ministerial declaration in relation to that part of the departmental accounts known as the Australian Customs Advance Account, which is part of the accounts used to finance various covert activities by the Narcotics Bureau of that Department. As the regulations stand, it is possible for the Minister to go further than that within the Customs Bureau and, at his discretion, if the mood so strikes him at any time during the currency of this regulation, declare the whole or any part of the regulations of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs equally exempt.
There are two questions for this Parliament. The first is whether it is tolerable that significant and sensitive areas of government expenditure should be removed entirely from the accountability process in this way, no matter how sensitive from a security or other perspective those accounts might be. The second question is whether it is tolerable that there should be within the discretion of the Minister a power to exempt the accounts of whole departments or whole agencies from independent scrutiny simply because there are some small parts of the accounts of those departments or agencies which, on balance, may justify some special security procedures being associated with them.
I want to deal with each of those questions in turn. The first is- whether these sensitive areas should be removed entirely from the accountability process. I am well aware that a number of these matters were canvassed earlier this year in the context both of the debate on the Audit Bill and, more particularly, the debate on the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation Bill. I therefore do not want to prolong unnecessarily the argument on this occasion, particularly as Estimates committees are waiting to sit. Nonetheless, I do feel that it is important to make a number of points to the Senate in support of my contention that regulations of this kind are quite intolerable. The first point relates to the size of the budgets, the amounts we are talking about in relation to these agencies. In the case of ASIS, we now at least have the benefit, which we did not have for a number of years, of a single line appropriation appearing in the estimates of the Department of Foreign Affairs. For the current financial year 1979-80, that figure is $8,271,000, which is an increase over last year’s allocation of $7,343,000. I am unable to state any other figures relating to this agency because it was only two years ago that for the first time there was any public acknowledgement of its existence or any public acknowledgement in the Budget Papers of the funding associated with it. The huge scale and the rapidly increasing nature of the expenditure on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation could perhaps best be appreciated were I to incorporate in Hansard a table setting out the financing of that Organisation over the last 10 years. I seek leave to do so.
The table read as follows-
-The table shows that there has been an increase in raw dollars terms in the initial appropriations each year from $3.4m in 1970-71 to $ 14.2m today, on any view wildly ahead of what might have been expected with expenditure simply keeping pace with inflation. Should anyone be in any doubt about the way in which that expenditure has kept ahead of inflation, the table also reveals that, in fact, in every year over the last 10 years, with the exception of the two Labor Budgets in 1 973 and 1 974, the appropriations for ASIO very substantially exceeded the increase in the consumer price index indicating that there has been rapidly accelerating growth in the actual size of the Organisation, quite apart from its funding keeping pace with inflation. The table also shows that over the last four years this acceleration has got what some people might term as completely out of hand.
In 1976-77, the CPI increase ran at 13.8 per cent but the ASIO appropriation increased by 23.8 per cent. In 1 977-78, inflation increased by 9.5 per cent compared with an increase in the ASIO appropriation of 27.6 per cent. Cumulative upon those early increases, in 1978-79, with inflation running at 8.2 per cent, the ASIO budget increased by 26.2 per cent.
– With no staff ceiling.
– Indeed, as Senator Cavanagh says, clearly there is no staff ceiling in respect of the Organisation. Finally, the current appropriation is up 13.4 per cent with an estimated inflation rate, we are told in the Budget Papers, of 10 per cent this year. The appropriation for ASIO is way ahead of the inflation rate all the way through. It is legitimate for this Parliament and the Australian people to be asking where that money is going. It may be that the money is spent too sensitively on security to justify openly and in complete detail before the public and this Parliament, although I doubt that. But even if we accept that, what on earth is the justification for keeping the expenditure secret from the Auditor-General?
I make the further point about the size of the amounts involved. There is absolutely no guarantee that those figures that I have mentioned for both ASIS and ASIO represent the ceiling on the money that is actually being spent on these two intelligence agencies. I leave out of account for those purposes all the rest of the spy organisations such as the Joint Intelligence Organisation, the Defence Signals Directorate, the Office of National Assessments and so on in respect of which different considerations apply. I point out that in the United States of America, as has been made apparent in the report of the Pike Committee, which is the House of Representatives Select Committee on Intelligence, the secret vote associated with security activities in the United States very substantially exceedsindeed, by a factor of five said the Pike Committee- what had been acknowledged publicly to be the size of the actual expenditure. When one takes into account all the different personnel, equipment and property costs that are hidden away under other departmental appropriations and under different items of a more innocent looking character, the Office of Management and Budget in the United States found that the real cost was of an order of five times greater than the officially acknowledged cost for intelligence activities. We do not know in Australia to what extent, if at all, there is any such secret vote. We do not know the extent to which, if at all, elsewhere in the Department of Defence, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet or goodness knows where else other moneys are being used to finance covert intelligence gathering and processing operations of one kind or another.
We know that there is such a thing as a secret vote because Mr Justice Hope let it slip that there was. I refer not to the fourth report of the Royal
Commission on Intelligence and Security- the Hope report of 1977 -where there is a discussion of a very attenuated kind about the level of financial accountability that ASIO should have, a discussion which incidentally opts wholly for the desirability of there being an independent auditing of these accounts by the Auditor-General, a position from which the Government has retreated and which is part of the Opposition’s complaint. In addition to that there is discussion which squarely focuses on the financing issue. I refer the Senate to the third and much smaller report of Mr Justice Hope in which at paragraph 86 he recommends:
That consideration be given to the establishment of a special ministerial committee … to deal with the following mutters:
To approve the annual estimates for the intelligence community, including the secret vote, and to endorse forward financial plans in a form to be agreed on.
One is left by that reference simply to guess, because we have not been told and we never are told by any Minister or any Government, what moneys are being appropriated for this purpose and how the money is being spent. The point I simply make is that the sums of money we are talking about here may well be substantially greater than even those acknowledged to exist in the one line appropriations to which we are presently treated.
The other aspect of this question is not simply the size of the funds involved but the possibility of their misuse. Here one must quote the United States experience. It is the case that the United States revelations about the operations and activities of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have amounted to a devastating indictment of the kind of lack of accountability that is here involved in the Audit Act and in these regulations made under the Audit Act, the disallowance of which I am now moving. In referring to the United States record I draw attention to the report of the Church committee, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence which reported in 1975, the Pike committee, which I have already referred to and which reported in 1 976, and the Inouye committee, which is the name of the committee which took over the subsequent sessions or the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and which has conducted more recently hearings on whether the disclosure of funds authorised for intelligence action is in the public interest. In referring to these United States committees, I am not referring to the information which has emerged about assassination plots, about mail openings, about FBI break-ins or about the kind of scurrilous disinformation campaigns which have been associated with Martin Luther King and in much more recent days with actress Jean Seberg. I am not talking about these things because they do not necessarily cost much money; I am talking about the revelations of misuse of funds by the FBI and the CIA, often on a very grand scale and sometimes on a rather more petty scale, but a misuse notwithstanding.
Let me list some of the illustrations to have emerged from these United States reports. First of all there is the revelation of the expenditure by the CIA in the early 1 970s- this was revealed in 1971- of something like $300m annually in supporting a 26,000 man army in Laos without any public knowledge or accountability of the expenditure. Secondly, I refer to the revelation by the Church committee as to the precise dollar-worth of the support given by the United States Government to the overthrow of the Allende regime in Chile after 1970, namely $8m. I refer also to the Pike committee revelation, which is at the other end of the scale and which, I suppose, demonstrates equally the kind of misuse of funds that can take place. The fact is that a small CIA station in a small country spent a total of $4 1 ,000 on its liquor bill in one year. I do not think that even Mr Gyngell could reach those heights.
Again from the Pike committee we have a revelation of heads of state being given expensive female companions at the American taxpayers’ expense. We have other revelations in that report about people with questionable reputations being paid to make pornographic movies for blackmail purposes; revelations about covert procurement operations in relation to equipment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, involving unwarranted mark-ups amounting to some millions of dollars by commercial middlemen who were closely acquainted with senior FBI officials. They were able to get away with it because of the total lack of effective accounting auditing scrutiny by the Government Accounting Office in the United States or anywhere else.
Finally among this fairly random list of examples from the 1975 ‘Report to the President by the Commission on CIA Activities within the United States’, there is a fascinating illustration of funds under the CIA vote being used not for intelligence but for political purposes. That is an example of the shuffling or manipulation of funds between categories that can take place because of the opportunity to hide expenditures afforded by lack of accountability. The story here is as follows:
In the spring of 1970, the CIA was requested by members of the White House staff to contribute funds for payment of stationery and postage for replies to persons who wrote President Nixon after he initiated the invasion of Cambodia. Although CIA officials at first expressed reluctance to use CIA funds for this purpose, the Agency eventually forwarded two checks totaling $33,655.68 to the White House to reimburse its costs. Because of the unique CIA budgetary scheme, no one other than the CIA’s internal Audit Staff ever reviewed this unusual expenditure.
This use of CIA funds for a purpose unrelated to intelligence is improper.
It was manifestly so. They are a diverse set of examples of varying magnitude and of financial significance but equal degrees of significance in terms of the lessons for Australia about what can happen if we do not have proper accountability mechanisms of an independent kind- of the kind that have been universally urged by all of those United States congressional committee reports to which I have referred. There is just no guarantee that this kind of misuse of expenditure will not happen here. We have it on Sir William McMahon’s own evidence, given in the other place last week, that when Prime Minister, with nominal responsibility for these areas, he just could not get a sensible report out of anyone. I refer those interested to pages 1226 and 1227 of the House of Representatives Hansard for 18 September, in which we find that lengthy statement of woe from Sir William McMahon about how the Director-General of Security, along with everyone else, was just refusing to take him seriously when he was Prime Minister, and give him the basic information that he needed to know what was happening in ASIO.
If the point that I am making about the necessity for accountability, if not public then at least to an independent officer such as the AuditorGeneral, is true in relation to national security matters, how much more true is it when we come down to matters of ordinary law enforcement, such as are involved in the accounts of the Narcotics Bureau under the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, accounts which also are in issue under these regulations. For better or for worse- I say that it is for worse- there has been a long tradition of secrecy about national security; but there has been no such tradition of close secrecy- at least that we have been made aware of- in relation to law enforcement activities. It is a quite unwarranted extension of that principle of secrecy and, in particular, that principle of total unaccountability, for any accounts of any part of an ordinary government department to be made exempt such as is allowed for by these regulations. It is true that particular accounts of the Customs Bureau- for example, the Australian Customs Advance Account which is to be specifically made exempt under these regulations, relate to sensitive matters, to covert operations undertaken by the Narcotics Bureau.
It is true that the moneys involved in these accounts are related to such things as payment of rewards to informers; the purchase of drugs and other smuggled goods during the course of investigations; so-called show money to be used by undercover agents to prove their ability to buy large parcels of drugs or smuggled goods, and to a variety of other incidental and operational expenses associated with the course of narcotics investigations and which, because of considerations of urgency or security, cannot be funded from normal channels.
All those reasons make it desirable that full details of those accounts should not be made clear to the public at large, or even perhaps to this Parliament. I accept that. At the same time, I see absolutely no reason why they should not be subject to independent scrutiny by the AuditorGeneral. I find it a matter of regret that the Regulations and Ordinances Committee in considering this question, and charged as it is with the task of defending the liberties of the subject when they are put in issue by regulations, reached the view that this was an inappropriate matter on which the Committee, as such, should make a recommendation to this Parliament. The view taken was that what was involved here was really a larger question of policy which ought not to come up through this particular channel. It is for that reason that I have moved the disallowance of the regulations so far as they relate to this large question of the secrecy and unaccountability of Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Security Intelligence Service and the Narcotics Bureau accounts. I believe that it is such a crucially important issue of policy that this Parliament, even if it is not moved to do so by its own Regulations and Ordinances Committee, should take the opportunity of striking a firm position on it and rejecting this kind of legislation.
The remaining aspect of this regulation is a very important one. It raises this question of machinery. The question is, and I repeat what I said earlier: Is it tolerable that it should be within the discretion of a minister to exempt the accounts of a whole department or agency from independent scrutiny simply because there is some small part of the accounts of that department or agency which might or might not be thought to justify special insulation? The Audit Act at the moment makes this possible. It enables the prescription, by regulation, of a whole department or a whole agency, as has been accomplished by the regulations before us today. It provides that once that prescription is made it is open for the Minister to declare any or all parts of the accounts in question exempt if he is satisfied that it is, in effect, in the national interest for him to make them so exempt. This particular problem has been the subject of close scrutiny by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, and I understand that Senator Missen, the Chairman of that Committee, will indicate this to the Senate in a moment. Some action is certainly taking place to secure changes in the Act to avoid this kind of situation recurring. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee took the view that there was a problem with the overkill of this whole arrangement but that it was a matter for correction in the Act itself rather than any particular regulations made under it. So it was primarily for that reason in this case that the Committee chose not to proceed with the disallowance route. I took the view, as an individual senator, that the problem lay with both the Act and the regulations and that the regulations, if they were passed, made it possible for the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs at any time to exempt all the accounts in his Department, not just the particular sensitive Narcotics Bureau Covert Operations account which he has so far declared. Even if the Minister makes an undertaking, as I understand he has been prepared to do, not to exempt any further part of the departmental accounts pursuant to his power under these regulations, I still take the view that it is intolerable in principle that the situation of formal legal entitlement to make such a declaration should continue.
I also took, and take, the view that, if one is serious about getting obnoxious legislation changed in this Parliament, in getting the Government to move so to change it, the least likely way of ensuring that end will be to succumb cheerfully to any use the Government proposes to make of that legislation until such time as it gets around to making the amendment in question. 1 take the view that, if legislation is bad, everything that happens under it by definition is equally bad and ought to be resisted by this Parliament, with pressure accordingly thus placed on the Government to act not at its usual lugubrious pace in these matters but to act swiftly to correct a manifest problem. I hope the Government will move on this problem but I am not particularly encouraged by its response so far.
I wish to summarise fairly baldly the nature of the exchanges which have so far taken place. In the first place, as a Committee we asked why it was necessary to prescribe whole departments if the Government wanted to exempt only a part of the department’s actual activity, to which the answer was: ‘You cannot refer in an Act or regulation to any part of a department unless that part is given some formal legal status as a statutory authority in its own right with its own identity’. Stage two of the exchange was that the Committee then wrote back and asked the Government why it could not refer to a particular part of a department by some appropriate descriptive statement; why did it insist on this particular view, to which the answer was: ‘Well, maybe you could refer to a particular part of a department but that is not the real problem; the real.problem relates not to identifying a particular part of a department but to the kinds of accounts which are not necessarily co-extensive in their scope with particular physical parts of departments or organisations ‘.
In stage three of the exchange, the Committee replied: ‘Okay, why can’t you then refer in your regulations if not to particular parts of departments at all then at least to particular accounts; if it is possible in a declaration to refer, for example, to the Australian Customs Advance Account, it ought to be equally possible to refer specifically by name to that account in a regulation’. So far we have been greeted with fairly bemused silence and promises to review this situation as soon as possible. Regrettably, that reply could not be managed by today- today being the last day in which any such disallowance motion can be moved. That is why I am pursuing it now.
Finally, I do suggest that a thoroughly unsatisfactory state of affairs prevails with respect to this regulation. Honourable senators have had promulgated a regulation which is bad in principle and which is much too sweeping in its scope even if to some people in this chamber its basic principles were acceptable. I urge the’ Senate to exercise for once its role as a watchdog, as a house of review- a role which it is always proudly proclaiming for itself- and send back the Government to the drawing board to produce new legislation in this area and new regulations which are more acceptable than the ones with which honourable senators have been greeted so far.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Is the motion seconded?
– Yes, I second the motion.
– I speak briefly to the motion raised by Senator Evans. The regulations which are the subject of Senator Evans ‘disallowance motion were also of concern to the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, but the Committee has not recommended disallowance of the regulations. I note what Senator Evans has said and I will comment on some of the matters he has raised. I think that basically what he is saying is correct, but perhaps he has made a somewhat colourful interpretation of some of the results. As Senator Evans has said, the regulations prescribe three organisations which, by virtue of being prescribed under the regulations, may be the subject of a ministerial declaration to exempt all or part of their accounts from audit by the Auditor-General. The Committee was not concerned with and did not consider the prescription of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service in the regulations.
The question of whether these organisations ought to be exempt from audit has been discussed at length in the Senate. The Committee did not wish to express any view upon it, as a committee, although of course some individual members of the Committee have strong views on the matter. I was not present- I was out of the country- when the Committee discussed this matter. I certainly share with Senator Evans some of his reservations- he put it much higher than that; his objections- about the situation so far as ASIO and ASIS and their accountability are concerned. It is a matter which I and other senators raised in this chamber when the ASIO Bill was being discussed. Likewise there were discussions on this matter when the Audit Bill was before the Senate. One cannot feel very happy at the fact that the provisions which Mr Justice Hope put forward have not met with any arrangement by the Government to subject these organisations to accountability. I doubt that the way to deal with this is to deal with it, as it were, at the end with the regulation. We have passed the legislation. The regulations, disallowance of which the Committee considers it is not prepared to recommend, are such that they are the result of the Acts which have been passed.
I certainly would not vote for this motion, as an individual senator, on the basis that it would not achieve the results in accountability which I think ought to be achieved. However, as I say, I do sympathise with the view which is held. I do not think the situation is satisfactory so far as those organisations are concerned. Of course in that regard the House of Representatives still has the ASIO Bill before it. One would hope that it would give some consideration to the whole question of financial accountability before the consideration of the matter is completed.
The Regulations and Ordinances Committee was concerned with the prescription of the whole of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs in the regulations. The Committee considered that it was its duty to ensure that accounts of this Department were not exempted from audit except for the most cogent of reasons. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) has given the Committee a firm undertaking in writing that the only part of the accounts of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs which will be exempted from audit will be the Australian Customs Advance Account which is used by the Bureau of Customs for the investigation of narcotics smuggling. On the basis of this unequivocal undertaking, the Committee agreed to accept the regulations. The Committee will continue to scrutinise closely regulations made under the Audit Act to ensure that other departments and organisations are not exempt from audit except where it is clearly in the public interest that they should be so exempt.
The Committee, as has been mentioned previously by Senator Evans, has had some correspondence with the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) about whether section 70d of the Audit Act might be amended so that it will not be necessary for the regulations to prescribe whole departments and organisations when it is intended to exempt from audit only part of the accounts of those departments and organisations. The Minister is still considering the matter. It has not been finalised. For the information of the Senate, I think that I should refer to a statement which the Committee made in its last letter to the Minister for Finance on 30 August 1979. Regarding this problem, the Committee said:
The Committee has examined the opinion from the Second Parliamentary Counsel attached to your letter and is still of the opinion that it would be possible to amend the Audit Act so as to overcome the difficulty seen by the Committee.
It went on to say:
The difficulty seen by the Committee is that the Act allows the prescription of the whole of a department or authority, and once a department or authority is prescribed, the Minister is empowered to exempt all or any of the accounts of such department or authority from audit. The Parliament then has no control over what is exempted from audit unless it is known in advance how the Minister intends to use the power conferred upon him by the regulations, and the regulations may be accepted or disallowed by the Parliament on the basis of that knowledge. This places the Parliament in a somewhat awkward situation in deciding whether to accept the regulations.
That is the situation as we see it. The last reply I received from the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) was a letter dated 1 1 September 1979 in which he said:
I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 30 August 1979 concerning the Audit (Exempt Accounts) Regulations and to let you know that I am examining the practicability of your suggestion and the implications that may flow from it.
I note that the Committee would like to have the benefit of my further consideration of the matter before the time for disposing of Senator G. Evans’ motion for disallowance of the regulations has elapsed. I shall endeavour to let you know my views before then; however the number of sitting days which remain may make that difficult.
Nevertheless I shall write to you again as soon as I can.
That is where this uncompleted correspondence remains at the present time. As I have indicated, although the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances has not recommended the disallowance of the recommendations on the basis of the undertaking which has been given by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife), it is still concerned to press for this suggested amendment. It is not satisfactory for the Parliament to have to deal with regulations in this convoluted fashion, and to accept them knowing that it will only be dealing, it hopes, with a small part of the accounts. The Committee will certainly keep this under review. I do not accept that the Committee has done other than its duty in this regard. It has made its determination that, as a committee, it should not make the recommendation. That does not stop any member of the Committee or any member of this Senate from supporting Senator Evans’ motion if he thinks fit. I do not think the circumstances do justify the disallowance.
– I should like to add my concern in relation to this matter. I have been present at meetings of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances when this matter has been discussed. I think an accurate description of what transpired at those meetings has been given by both the previous speakers. Both seek to attain the same ends, that is, restrictions on the secrecy of expenditure. There seems to be a difference of opinion as to what is the best method of achieving this result.
The purpose for which I rise is to emphasise what I think is the responsibility of the Parliament in relation to accountability for expenditure of public moneys. I think these moneys have to be recognised as public moneys. We must remember that we are only the custodians of that money on behalf of the taxpayers of Australia. Full knowledge and approval of the Parliament is necessary for every expenditure of public money. The only justification for secrecy in this respect is if there is a danger to security. If a danger to security arose, then I think perhaps the
Parliament should not be informed of details of the expenditure of these public moneys. Under the true Westminster system, we are responsible for every expenditure of public moneys- not the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and not the Department of Customs. We are the ones who are responsible and accountable to the public for these expenditures. Only when a disclosure of the money spent poses a danger to the security of the nation is there any justification for secrecy.
I should think that the Auditor-General is as much under an oath of office which would commit him to secrecy as anyone in ASIO or Customs. I do not think some danger to security should prohibit the Auditor-General from auditing all accounts. If the opinion is that there should not be this auditing of expenditure, let me say that this freedom from accountability is growing to such an extent in this Parliament that the Parliament should be taking a good look at itself. It should ask itself whether it is using regulations of this kind for the purpose of concealing the actions of various organisations.
I have become concerned with the fact that Senator McLaren could not get a reply to his question concerning the telephone bill of the former Governor-General. Why that information is not forthcoming I do not know. It is not traditional that there should be no reply to a question of that kind. Today Senator Grimes could not get an answer to a question relating to what was paid from public moneys to a Queen’s Counsel who worked for the Government. Why is this so? This is the extension of what Senator Evans is complaining about. I think it is time we called a halt to permitting public moneys to be spent for purposes about which the Parliament is prevented from receiving information.
– We have heard from a number of honourable senators with respect to the Audit (Exempt Accounts) Regulations and Senator Evans has moved for disallowance of the regulations as contained in Statutory Rules 1 979 No. 67. Senator Missen, as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, has advised us that the Committee does not recommend disallowance, and he made some other comments to which I will refer later. I have advice from the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) with regard to this matter and I will briefly put some of it before the Senate. It is understood that these regulations are made under section 70D of the Audit Act. This section was inserted into the principal Act by the Audit
Amendment Act 1979 and it arose from a decision of the Government to give legal cover to the procedures that had been in force for many years in respect to the arrangements for the audit of the security organisations. I want to stress that this is validating a procedure that has been in force for many years in respect of the security organisations.
The arrangements in relation to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation were made known to the Senate some years ago. I refer to page 2551 of Senate Hansard of 8 December 1971. It will be noted that under those arrangements the Auditor-General accepts, in completion of his audits, certificates of the DirectorGeneral of Security and the responsible Minister certifying that a portion of the expenditure was properly made in the interest of the Public Service. That arrangement was of long standing and goes back to the creation of ASIO and to an approval given by the then Prime Minister, Mr Chifley, for the accounting and auditing arrangements for the Organisation. Under the Audit, as it stood prior to the enactment of the Audit Amendment Act 1979, there was no formal means by which the Auditor-General could be relieved of his responsibility for examining accounts, although he had a discretionary power to dispense with all or any part of the detailed audit of accounts. The Government decided that the situation was not one of the Auditor-General exercising his discretion and that a procedure to relieve him of his duty to examine specified accounts should be authorised by legislation.
The purpose of the exemption is to enable the Minister to take responsibility for exempting a minor portion of the accounts of the declared organisations and Department from audit scrutiny. The bulk of the accounts will be audited in the normal way. The minor portions of the accounts which are to be exempt are those which contain payments of such a confidential nature that the disclosure of them, even to the Auditor-General and his officers, would be contrary to the national interest. The Government has accepted that there is a real and impelling need for absolute confidentiality in respect of certain operational expenditures. The process envisaged by section 70d is simply a formal expression of the long-standing arrangements. As a result of the application of the process nothing which was previously subject to audit scrutiny will not now be audited. Section 70d places the responsibility with the relevant Minister to be satisfied that the disclosure of certain accounts would be contrary to the national interest. Because of this the regulations prescribed two organisations, namely,
ASIO and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, and the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs. In explanation of this approach the Second Parliamentary Counsel has said:
So far as I am aware, the Audit Act does not make any provision for a part of a department to maintain its separate accounts. Accordingly, the prescription of a part of a department would not, of itself in my view, overcome the objection raised by the Committee. The reason for this is that, under the existing financial arrangements for departments, there are no accounts that could properly be described as the accounts of a pan of a department.
I have noted Senator Missen ‘s comments with regard to the undertakings given to the Committee by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife). I will draw the attention of the Minister for Finance to the comments of Senator Missen and the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, although the Minister for Finance has already advised me of some of the submissions that have been made to him by the Committee.
I turn to the consequence of the disallowance that has been moved by Senator Evans. Disallowance of the regulations will not affect the audit of the 1978-79 accounts, which has been carried out under the processes set out in section 70d of the Audit Act. That is because the regulations are valid until they are disallowed. If they were disallowed, there would be a return to the unsatisfactory situation which existed previously with respect to the audit of those accounts. That would not solve the problem. Disallowance could be interpreted as a direction by the Parliament that no part of the accounts, even for the most pressing of reasons, should be exempt from the Auditor-General’s scrutiny. If that were the case, there would be conflict between the Government and the Parliament on that point of principle.
The form of the regulations is not completely satisfactory in that to exempt part of the accounts of an organisation within a department, the department must be prescribed. That means that the Minister could exempt areas of the prescribed department’s accounts which did not fall within the intention of section 70d of the Act. However, under that section the Minister must satisfy himself that:
. disclosure of the accounts, or of a particular part of the accounts . . .
I think it ought to be stated that the Minister is highly unlikely to approach that kind of obligation in an irresponsible manner. The Australian practice is patterned on long-standing British practice, whereby the British Comptroller and Auditor-General certifies that the expenditure is supported by certificates from the responsible Ministers of the Crown. I have a copy of such a certificate, which I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
– The Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, albeit with some reluctance because of the problem mentioned in some of the statements I made earlier, has raised no objection to the regulations. But I again refer to the remarks of Senator Missen and I advise that, as both Senator Evans and Senator Missen mentioned, the Chairman is considering a suggestion recently put to him by the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, which would involve the adoption of a different approach in section 70d. The Minister has not been able to reach a conclusion on the practicability or the acceptability of the suggestion in time for this debate. It would be understood that a number of departments are involved in the discussions with the Minister for Finance and not all departments have yet responded to him to enable me to make a conclusive statement in this debate today. However, I am sure that the Minister for Finance will be interested in the comments of the honourable senators who have spoken in this debate. Mr Deputy President, as the position is as I have now stated, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Evans’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator D. B. Scott)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle) agreed to:
That the sitting or the Senate be suspended until 10.15 p.m. or such other time as the Deputy President takes the chair to enable Estimates Committees B and D to meet.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The sitting of the Senate is suspended until 10.15 p.m. or such other time as the Deputy President takes the chair. At 8 p.m. Estimates Committee B will meet in the Senate chamber and Estimates Committee D will meet in Senate Committee Room No. 1.
Sitting suspended from 5.41 to 10.20 p.m.
Motion ( by Senator Carrick) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– The existence of the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation is well known. It has been mentioned in this Parliament on a number of occasions. I should like this evening to recall a few of those occasions on which it was mentioned. On 28 May this year my colleague Senator Elstob asked a question about the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation. I quote the text of his question, which reads thus:
Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen an article on page 7 of the Australian Financial Review of 25 May in which it was stated that Australian taxpayers will help to underwrite a corporate fund raising campaign by the ruling National Party in Queensland to the tune of $ 1. 2m? The article further claims that a letter sent by the President of the National Party in Queensland, Sir Robert Sparkes, stated that the tax dodge in this scheme is legal if donations pay for advertisements placed in the National Outlook. Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate confer with the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to see whether the scheme is one of the kinds of scheme the Treasurer intends to stop, as he mentioned in the mini-Budget last Thursday? Will the Minister inform the Senate of the outcome of the discussions in the near future?
In his reply Senator Carrick said:
I will direct the attention of the Treasurer to the matter and to Senator Elstob ‘s request for a response.
I believe that my colleague has not yet had a response to that question which was asked on 28 May. On the same day Mr Humphreys, the member for Griffith in the House of Representatives, asked a question on the same topic. The question which appears in Hansard and is headed ‘Donations to Political Parties’ reads:
Is the Treasurer aware that the President of the Queensland Branch of the National Party of Australia has written to business corporations informing them that donations to the National Party in the form of advertising in the Party’s magazine National Outlook are tax deductible and that donations, such as the $100,000 donation from the former Gold Coast Mayor, Sir Bruce Small, will be deductible at 46c in the dollar? Given the Treasurer’s firm commitment last Thursday night to crack down on tax avoidance, will he consider amending the Income Tax Assessment Act effectively to prohibit or discourage excessive advertising expenditure which might be abused in this way? Finally, as donors of more than $ 10,000 receive dinner invitations from the Premier, and since the Federal Treasury is subsidising almost 50 per cent of all donations, does the Treasurer intend to take up the Premier’s invitation on behalf of the Australian taxpayer?
In the reply which Mr Humphreys received was this sentence:
As far as the Government and I are concerned the National Party of Queensland or any other branch of a political party in Australia will not be given any privilege under the tax law.
On the same evening I spoke in the Senate on this particular matter in the adjournment debate. Amongst the matters that 1 raised was the fact that in my opinion the Senate should be aware of what was going on because it seemed at that stage- this was on 28 May- that a major tax fiddle was being master-minded in Queensland. I outlined that evening how donations to the Party were being put to advertising funds and used in a way in which they might be able to be claimed as a tax deduction. The situation which I raised went something like this: A party might buy for $5,000 an advertisement in National Outlook. That advertisement may be worth, say, $5, $50 or perhaps even $500, but the company would claim as a taxation deduction the $5,000 which it had paid. Basically that was the scheme which I outlined in May.
I illustrated the fact that this type of advertising was being used as a means to obtain tax deductions by quoting a letter which the BjelkePetersen Foundation had sent to a member who had given financial support. Tonight, for the purposes of the argument that I am developing, I think it worth while quoting this letter once again. It read as follows:
The Bjelke-Petersen Foundation gratefully acknowledges your financial support, and on behalf of everyone involved wc offer our sincere thanks.
Incredible though it may seem, despite the fact that our Party is battling to protect the free enterprise system in which individuals and companies have thousands of millions of dollars at stake, our capacity to combat the Socialists and Communists is impaired by a chronic shortage of funds.
Therefore, your financial. assistance will not only serve to honour a great Queenslander who has dedicated his life to the preservation of our free enterprise democracy, but it will also help to ensure the continued strength and effectiveness of a political organisation committed to.’ the same great cause.
The following are the details of your intended gift. Please check and advise us if there is any variation.
Five headings were listed underneath the letter. The headings were used as a check list. The first one indicated the amount and the fifth one stated: ‘Advertising to be negotiated’. Whilst some people might not agree with some of the sentiments expressed in that letter, I give it as an illustration of how advertising was being canvassed in relation to the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation. I said on 28 May that one could question the legal basis for a suggestion that donations to a political party made in this way could be tax deductible. I also suggested that it was morally indefensible because a person who is on a wage or a salary and who makes a donation to a political party of his choice cannot claim that donation as a tax deduction. If he cannot claim it as a tax deduction, others who are using this method should not be allowed to do so either. On 22 August this year 1 asked a further question in relation to this matter. The question I asked was as follows:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer the Minister to that part of last night’s Budget Speech which mentioned revenue lost due to tax avoidance schemes. I also refer the Minister to reports relating to the manner in which the National Party in Queensland is raising funds for the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation, and in particular to statements by the Queensland President of the Party, Sir Robert Sparkes, that donations to the Foundation can be made tax deductible by placing advertisements in the Party’s magazine National Outlook at uncommercial rates. Will the Minister assure the Parliament and the Australian people that the Taxation Office will undertake a full investigation of these reports that the National Party is obtaining its donations for the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation by encouraging tax avoidance on the pan of potential donors? Will the Minister also give an assurance that every effort will be made to ensure that donors to the fund make their donations in a way that does not relieve them of their responsibility to the Australian people to pay their rightful share of tax?
Senator Carrick ‘s reply started with a number of buzz words and concluded with this sentence:
I will refer the substance of this question to the Treasurer and see whether he wishes to comment further.
As it transpired, the Treasurer (Mr Howard) did wish to comment further. Today I received a letter from the Treasurer in relation to that question which I asked on 22 August. The last paragraph of the letter is the key paragraph, but I believe that the whole letter is worth reporting to the Senate. After all, it is a reply to a question that I asked in this place. The letter reads as follows:
The Minister for Education, Senator the Hon. J. L. Carrick, has drawn my attention to a matter you raised during question time on 22 August 1 979. You were concerned with a possible loss of revenue as a result of reports that the State President of the Queensland branch of the National Party of Australia has been making statements that donations to the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation can be made deductible for income tax purposes by placing advertisements in the party’s paper ‘National Outlook’.
You asked Senator Carrick to give assurances that a full investigation of those reports will be undertaken and that every effort will be made to ensure that donors to the Foundation make their donations in a way that does not relieve them of their responsibility to the Australian people to pay their rightful share of tax.
The fund raising activities do not constitute a tax avoidance scheme of the kind to which I referred to in the Budget Speech. This is not to say, however, that the suggestion made by the State President is correct.
The Commissioner of Taxation has advised me that the Foundation is not one of the bodies encompassed by the gift provisions of the income tax law. From what he has ascertained regarding the Foundation’s aims and objects, the Commissioner is of the view that the only avenue available for the allowance of donations as tax deductions would be by way of the general provisions of section SI ( 1 ) of the Income Tax Assessment Act. That section authorises the allowance of deductions for outgoings to the extent that they are incurred in gaining or producing a taxpayer’s assessable income or are necessarily incurred by a taxpayer in carrying on a business for that purpose, except to the extent that the outgoings are of a capital, private or domestic nature.
The Commissioner is of the view that, to the extent that payments to the Foundation do not represent genuine advertising expenditure, deductions are not allowable in the assessments of donors and proposes to take action accordingly.
As I mentioned earlier, the key paragraph to the letter is probably the last one in which the Treasurer said that the Commissioner was of the view that to the extent that payments to the Foundation were not genuine advertising expenditure, deductions would not be allowable and the Commissioner of Taxation proposed to take action accordingly. Donors to this Foundation should be aware that if they make donations and expect them to be tax deductible because they are placing advertisements with National Outlook, they are unlikely to attract much of a tax deduction. Those people who make donations to the Foundation and do not take advertising in National Outlook probably will not receive any tax deduction at all.
– Might I interrupt you? Who made the misrepresentation about the deductibility of donations?
-As I outlined earlier, the person who was reported to have made the statement that tax deductibility would occur was Sir Robert Sparks, President of the Queensland branch of the National Party.
– What is his job? What does he do? President of what?
-He is President of the Queensland branch of the National Party. If people are aware of the fact that their donations might not be tax deductible, that might be sufficient for them to make up their minds whether they want to give a donation and not claim a tax deduction or whether they do not want to give a donation. However, perhaps something more important is involved. I believe that if a person or company now makes a donation to the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation, that person or company could become involved in a web of intrigue which seems to be unfolding -
– Another Watergate- is that what you are saying?
– My colleague, Senator Mulvihill, understood what I was leading up to. I will mention the Watergate aspect very shortly. I believe that it is important for the Senate and the people of Australia to be aware of the contents of part of a Willesee at Seven program which was telecast tonight. I have a copy of the transcript of that program, part of which I shall read because I think it should go into the Hansard record and honourable senators should be aware of the contents of the program. On the Willesee at Seven program tonight, Paul Makin began speaking about the matter thus:
A Melbourne millionaire has been accused in the Queensland Parliament of trying to buy $100,000 worth of favours from the Government of Premier Joh BjelkePetersen. Until today the people of Melbourne weren’t able to read about the allegations in their daily papers. The millionaire is Mr Ian Rice. The accusations concern the rezoning of land near Queensland’s Gold Coast to benefit his company. Though the rest of Australia heard about the story last Wednesday, Mr Rice took out injunctions stopping the publication of the story in Victoria. In other words, the proceedings of the Queensland Parliament could not be reported to the people of Melbourne. They know Mr Rice very well. The injunctions were lifted late yesterday and not unnaturally the story about the alleged buying of favours is now front-page news in Victoria. After all, Mr Rice is not only rich, he’s also one of Melbourne’s leading citizens and a former city counsellor. Ian Gillespie has been investigating.
Ian Gillespie said this on the program tonight: . . official and business world. He’s good looking, has a very dapper image, and lives in this imposing house in Toorak, Melbourne’s millionaire’s row. He is also a selfmade millionaire. He operates the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain in Victoria, has leased race horses in partnership with Andrew Peacock, the Foreign Minister, and is married to the daughter of a former Lord Mayor. But for all that Ian Rice has kept a pretty low profile. He doesn’t seek publicity. His name first popped up in Queensland Parliament last week-
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy President. I think it is worth putting on the record that Senator Colston laughs as he takes to task a very respectable citizen of Victoria. I think it is totally unacceptable that the name of a private individual should be lowered in the way that Senator Colston is lowering it in this political debate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There is no point of order.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I should place on record the fact that not only was I not laughing when I was reading from the transcript but also immediately the Minister for Science and the Environment, Senator Webster, sat down he burst into laughter. The transcript continues:
His name first popped up in Queensland Parliament last week when the Liberal Member for Southport Peter White referred to land at Labrador on the Gold Coast which had been rezoned by the Queensland Government after an application by Bexley Corporation. Ian Rice is Chairman of Bexley Corporation. The same application to build a shopping centre had already been rejected by the Gold Coast City Council. Mr White told Parliament and I quote, ‘lt seems to be common knowledge on the Gold Coast that Mr Rice has expressed the view that he would be quite prepared to donate $100,000 to obtain a favourable decision. On the same day, that’s last Wednesday, Ian Rice took out a Supreme Court Injuction prohibiting that Parliamentary Debate from being published in Victoria. That move is almost unheard of because Parliaments in Australia have traditionally been subject to privilege, which means that debate is immune from the laws of libel and defamation. It was only yesterday that the Supreme Court lifted its bans. Meanwhile a Brisbane school teacher Colin Colston has signed a statutory declaration alleging that Bexley Corporation offered $20,000 to his local progress association if it collected a thousand signatures in favour of another shopping centre planned by Mr Rice’s company. Mr Rice’s staff have told me he is not available for an interview for legal reasons. His only reply so far has been this telegram stating ‘I’ve had read to me what was said by the member for Southport in the Queensland Parliament this morning. Each allegation is false. I deny every allegation of improper conduct on my part contained in that statement. Please do not publish these false allegations’. The telegram is signed by Ian Rice. The allegations have set off a hornet’s nest in the Parliament of Queensland. Queensland’s Minister for Local Government Russ Hinze is flying back from overseas to answer allegations that political favours can be bought from the
Government, lt has been revealed that Ian Rice is on the Committee of the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation which raises money to fight election campaigns. It’s also been confirmed by the National Party that Mr Rice has donated money to the Foundation. Mr White, the man who made the allegations in Parliament also hit the headlines in another story today. His electorate district of McPherson-
That is not correct, but that is what appears in the transcript: includes two other M.P.’s the Federal Finance Minister Mr Robinson and Queensland Liberal M.P. Bruce Bishop. On Sunday night the electorate office was broken into and files showing the names of people who have made Party donations was stolen. Police believe the break-in, which has been compared by Liberal Party organisers to a Watergate burglary, was politically motivated. And last Tuesday a file was removed from another house connected with Mr White. This time his office in Parliament House. Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen has described the allegations as an attempt to undermine his Government and denies that any subterfuge took place over land rezoning. But despite that denial and the denial by Ian Rice it’s clear that the whole matter is going to build up into a major issue in the weeks ahead.
I mention the following matter because, if I do not mention it, some honourable senators might well raise questions about it. One of the persons named in the transcript, Colin Colston, is a cousin of mine. I suppose I have not seen him for about five or six years, even though he lives in Brisbane. It is necessary that I indicate that last night I was aware that Colin Colston had signed a statutory declaration to the effect outlined in the transcript because he rang me and told me what had happened. That was the first time I was aware that his progress association had been approached by Mr Rice’s company. I do not think that the fact that he is my cousin has anything to do with this story. The fact that he has signed a statutory declaration should be sufficient for members of this Senate to accept the facts as he has outlined them.
I believe that at this stage if any person or company decides that he, she or it is a potential donor to the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation, he, she or it should look at what is happening in relation to some of the donors. Such people or companies should look at the intrigue that is occurring in Queensland at the moment. They may sit back in the future and rue the fact that they became involved in the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation. They will certainly find that, contrary to what the President of the Queensland National Party said earlier this year, there is very little possibility that they can claim tax deductibility for donations to the fund. If they go through the scheme that was evolved of making donations to the fund but taking advertising in the party’s paper, National Outlook, they will find that very little of that will be regarded as tax deductible. Even so, to use the comment made by my colleague Senator
Mulvihill, this whole web of intrigue is developing into an Australian Watergate scandal. It seems to me that it may become the biggest scandal ever involving the Queensland Government. When I say that, it is really saying something, because a number of scandals have occurred there year after year. It is important that this matter be reported to senators in this place. It is important that it becomes known to the people of Australia. Those companies in Queensland which are thinking of becoming involved might have second thoughts when they look at all the facts.
– I raise a matter tonight which has an element of importance only insofar as it concerns the relationship between the people who belong to and live within the institution of Parliament and of Parliament House. In detail, it refers to the unlikely subject- so far as I am concerned, the most unlikely subject- of bicycles. On 18 September at Senate Estimates Committee A, I raised with the President of the Senate, Sir Condor Laucke, the matter of the courtyards within Parliament House. The details of this brief encounter are set out on page 1 1 of the Hansard report of the meeting of Senate Estimates Committee A. They refer to assurances given by the President about the development of the second courtyard and further explain the position in relation to the depositing of certain material within the vicinity.
A couple of days later I received a telephone call from a person on the staff of a member of Parliament complaining that an order had been made preventing staff members from bringing bicycles into the parliamentary area. I gather that such entry had been allowed until then. The extraordinary situation is this, and it was put to me as such: My question had led to the order preventing the entry of bicycles. Of course, any decision made was not mine; nor am I in a position to make such a decision. It came as a complete surprise to learn, firstly, directly from my telephone caller and, secondly, from other sources, that I am regarded as being to blamethat word was used- for the prohibition of bicycles in the parliamentary area.
– If you ride a horse, can you bring him in?
-I was brought up to ride a horse and I probably know as much about riding a horse as anybody in this Senate. It should be pointed out that in no way did my question refer to bicycles nor was there any remote inference which might include bicycles. My Estimates Committee question did not even raise the thought of bicycles. Indeed, the President’s reply to my question dealt adequately with my inquiry and I am at a loss to know why I should be held ‘to blame’, so I was told, for this matter of bicycles.
The matter of senators asking questions at Senate Estimates committee meetings and the answers being translated into other areas is quite serious. It is very unfortunate if a senator’s question is related to decisions with which he is totally unconnected. It is equally unfortunate that senators should be charged as being ‘to blame’ for some decision, firstly of which they have no knowledge, and, secondly, on a matter they have not even raised. Our system of delegation here is such that there are people in authority in this parliamentary establishment who make decisions, issue orders and are responsible to someone at superior levels. I have every understanding of the needs of people who live and work and belong here, as indeed we all do. I think 1 have an appreciation of the people who ride bicycles. I also have an understanding of the people who make decisions. Like everyone else, I am very grateful for all that is done for us. I am sure we all appreciate that changed circumstances give us new opportunities but at the same time impose upon us new and previously unknown disciplines. As far as bicycles are concerned, I am certain that the decision-makers here will take all the appropriate factors into account and indicate accordingly. I hope that any decisions they make will not be translated to one who knows little about bicycles and, indeed, to one who cannot even ride a bicycle.
– I do not want to enter into the lofty debate in which Senator Davidson has just indulged, but I do want to say that I, as other senators, have been approached by the bicycle lobby in Parliament House about accommodation for bicycles and particularly about the adequacy of the accommodation that has been provided under the arches to which Senator Davidson referred. I would like to express the concern of that lobby and my own concern that appropriate accommodation should be provided for people in Parliament House who ride bicycles. This could well be developed as an arm of the Government’s energy policy, probably the strongest arm, if it were developed in terms of accommodation for bicycles.
– And health policy.
– Health and energy, thank you. I think it is important for the staff who are concerned and I hope that action will be taken by the appropriate authorities to see that the silly decision is reversed and that accommodation is provided.
– My question was not responsible for the decision.
-I understand that, Senator.
– And I am not being facetious.
– I understand that Senator Davidson is concerned to dissociate himself from a silly policy decision. I appreciate that and I am in accord with him in his dissociation. I urge the appropriate Minister to take quick action to see that that decision is rectified.
– I had not intended to speak this evening on this matter of the use and parking of bicycles in the vicinicy of Parliament House, but since it has been raised I would like to say one thing. I share most of the sentiments expressed by Senator Button as to the fact that many people here who use bicycles now face a problem because they do not have any sheltered area in which to leave them.
Because these people are my constituents I have a special concern. I understand that the bicycle lobby, as Senator Button called it, has taken up the matter with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and that he is examining the case that has been put to him. I hope that once he has examined the case the decision will be reversed or perhaps some facilities will be provided in a sheltered area so that these people might be able to ride their bicycles to work at Parliament House, which is something that perhaps all of us and particularly those in charge of the Parliament ought to encourage.
– I note the comments of Senator Davidson and the other honourable senators who spoke about parking bicycles in Parliament House. I think it rests within your hands, Mr Deputy President. Undoubtedly the views of honourable senators will be taken into account by you. However, the matter raised by Senator Colston requires a response. I am pleased to say that I consider his comments to be probably on the level of perhaps the fun in which Senator Davidson brought forward the matter concerning bicycles. There was not any great strength to what Senator Colston said. His main theme, I suppose, was directed towards the possibility of tax avoidance in any scheme that may be put forward for fund raising. Undoubtedly the letter that he has received from the Treasurer (Mr Howard) alerts him to some facts about which I thought he, as a well educated man, would know. The penultimate paragraph of the Treasurer’s letter would be understood by every simple person. A person cannot get a tax deduction for a donation unless it conforms to the Income Tax Assessment Act.
The honourable senator raised a number of points relating to this matter. As a member of this Parliament, I hold the Premier of Queensland in the very highest regard.
– You are one of the few who do.
-He is one of the unique parliamentarians of this country, and the honourable senator who interrupts could not hold a candle to him. The performance of the honourable senator and his colleagues over the years has been way down on the bottom rung compared with the performance of the Premier of Queensland. He is a man of outstanding quality and a man who, I think, has no peer in the way he conducts his office in Australia. It is with some pride that I enter into this debate if, indeed, Senator Colston’s comments could in any way be construed as a criticism of the Premier.
Senator Colston raised a question about the most honourable man in Victoria. Councillor Ian Rice has been a member of the Melbourne City Council, the prime council in Victoria for many years. He is a most respectable businessman. I know of no occasion when anyone in my State of Victoria has raised any question as to the integrity of Ian Rice or the manner in which he conducts his affairs. I know him personally. I have respected him for the public attitude that he has taken on many occasions. Of course that sort of thing does not mean anything to Senator Cavanagh and it means very little to Senator Colston. We on the Government side of the House recognise that. Honourable senators opposite act on a different level in their own affairs. At times they judge other people according to what they would do themselves.
It always seems peculiar to me that weak men raise these matters in the forum of Parliament. I do not know Senator Colston so well but I would be prepared to take a bet that he does not have the courage to go outside the Parliament and say the things that he says inside Parliament. Senator Colston, perhaps I misread you. Perhaps you are a man of strength. When you take the good name of somebody and attempt to damage it perhaps you do not seek to hide behind the facade that will protect you. I think perhaps you are likely to be a man who within the next day or so will go outside the Parliament and make your allegations against Ian Rice and prove yourself to be a man of quality.
– I take a point of order. The honourable senator should be addressing the Chair and not engaging in a tirade against another honourable senator across the chamber. I wonder whether you, Mr Deputy President, could direct his attention to the rules and the fact that he ought to be addressing you.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I am sure the Minister is addressing the Chair.
– I certainly do address you, Mr Deputy President. I was only looking at the honourable senator to see whether he was racing out of the chamber to do what I was suggesting. He probably is a man with the character to do so. I hope that members of the Queensland Parliament will do likewise. Comment has been made in the media that members of parliament seem to be taking it to themselves to damage the character of others and hide in their cowards castles. I think it ill befits any member of the Australian Labor Party to do so.
Senator Colston referred to workers who cannot claim the tax deductions that some other individuals do. One would think that Senator Colston would consider his position as a member of parliament. I wonder whether the fellow workers of Senator Colston, the unionists whom he is supposed to support and who support him, know that Senator Colston may claim his complete expenses for travel to and from his place of work as a tax deduction. I do not doubt that Senator Colston feels awkward about that. His fellow unionists have to take a train or drive their car to work to earn their taxable income and they have to pay for that transport. Do those unionists know that members of the Labor Party travel by aircraft and have cars made available to them at airports to get them home? In general, unless there is a declaration to the contrary, they do not include such things in their assessable income. Senator Colston should bring himself into line with the workers if he wants to make comparisons.
That is not the end of the matter. Over a number of years Labor radio stations have operated. We know about the tax deductibility that comes about by supposed advertising on the programs of those stations. I certainly think that that should be brought to the attention of the Treasurer so that those bodies that contribute by way of -
– It is a donation.
-Perhaps it is a donation; I would have thought that it was basic advertising. Perhaps radio stations or some interests in the advertising media owned by the Labor Party should not have certain tax deductible items either.
- Mr Deputy President, in view of the remarks that the Minister is making I draw your attention to the state of the House. (Quorum formed).
– I was drawing attention to Senator Colston’s remarks in regard to donations to funds of political parties. He raised a question about one in Queensland. I think that political parties should look to their own performance, lam not aware of one political party on the Australian scene which has not from time to time, either by writing or by direct request, asked for donations from business houses to support their political activity. I recall that on many occasions over the years I have been in this Parliament I have seen letters produced which sought donations. I remember on one occasion of a former Labor Prime Minister signing a letter that sought donations for a structure in Canberra. It has not been an unusual procedure. We know that union fees are tax deductible. That is part of the tax law of the country. It is generally understood that funding for the Labor Party mainly comes from a particular source where tax deductibility is applicable.
There are two points to be made. Firstly, I have the greatest respect for the Premier of Queensland. I have great respect for the private individual who was named by Senator Colston. If the honourable senator is alleging that something unworthy has been done by that gentleman, he should be. fair and make the allegation outside the House so that it can be challenged. Secondly, donations to political parties must be within the area of the responsibility outlined by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in his letter of 24 September 1979. That is a well known fact. Anybody who goes beyond that cannot achieve tax deductibility. It is worth while noting that perhaps the Treasurer should look at donations from all sources to political parties and. bring more accurately into line the advertising which supposedly has occurred over some years. I discharge Senator Colston’s allegations against those honourable gentlemen as being of no value.
-The reply by Senator Webster, the Minister for Science and the Environment, was an attempt to denigrate a member of this Parliament for carrying out a function which he thought was honourable and justified. The attention of honourable senators should be drawn to the vile and scurrilous reply given by a Minister who is not above, at least, suspicion of having pecuniary interests.
– I raise a point of order. I ask that the honourable senator withdraw that remark. If I happen to take to honourable senators who face me and divulge some of the things that perhaps should have been divulged at the time the honourable senator refers to I will ruin the characters of many members of the Labor Party.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Cavanagh, it is not necessary to make those sorts of accusations.
– I withdraw the remark. He is above suspicion, but it is not known how far above it he is at present. As we know, there was some doubt as to the decision of a Court of Disputed Returns. Senator Colston’s purpose in raising this matter was not to denigrate anyone outside this Parliament; it was to show that some sort of racket was being carried out by the man who Senator Webster called the most honest man in Australia, again a man who is not above suspicion in regard to his honesty. The purpose for which Senator Colston–
– I raise a point of order. I believe that the honourable senator said, in relation to a Premier of a State, that there were some doubts as to his honesty. Under Standing Order 418, I do not think that such a remark is permitted.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Cavanagh, you must not make those sorts of reflections.
– I did not mention the Premier of Queensland but Senator Baume knew who is the suspected person in regard to honesty. I did not say that; his own supporter made the connection. When suspicion is expressed about the honesty of someone, apparently it is natural for Government supporters to think that it concerns a National Country Party member. It may not have been my intention to mention that. All I am saying is that Senator Colston’s remarks were for the sole purpose of warning those who may be contributors to the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation in Queensland that although in a circular they were promised some taxation benefit, that benefit may not be there or, if it is, may be very little. They may be conned into giving a donation to a cause that members of the National Country
Party think is worthy, but whose worthiness everyone else may be suspicious of. They may give a donation in the hope of courting favours in some quarters and being relieved of some of the burden of taxation. Senator Colston’s attitude was that they should be well warned about it.
On the subject of the honesty of individuals, it has been said that Ian Rice of Victoria is honest. I know nothing to his detriment, but at least he was not going to permit suspicion of his honesty to be spread around Victoria. He went to the trouble of taking court action so that a parliamentary statement could not be reported in Victoria. At the least, it makes the matter very suspicious. He has admitted giving a donation to the Foundation. The Foundation has admitted that it has received the donation. It is known that after the Gold Coast council had refused a rezoning of land, which he greatly desired for the purpose of a business transaction involving the erection of a store, and at the time of or subsequent to the donation being made, the Minister or the Queensland Government rezoned that land, an action which was in his favour. Those are facts which cannot be disputed. At least let us say that there is some ground for suspicion. It should all be cleared up next week when Mr Hinze returns from his overseas trip for that purpose. If he is as honest as it was claimed he was when he was involved in a land scandal on the Gold Coast we will be given full information on the whole question.
We have here accusation and suspicion of corruption but rather than have an investigation it is hoped to exonerate someone to suit the purposes of the party that he supports. To compare the advertising in question with radio and television advertisements, which are at a commercial, competitive rate, is ridiculous. There is something in this whole matter of the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation that smells. If we were honest we would seek the cause and to remedy what is occurring, rather than trying to hush it up because some of our friends may be involved.
– I rise to take objection to the remarks that the Minister for Science and the Environment, Senator Webster, made in regard to the use of cars by members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. This evening Senator Webster, during the course of his reply to my colleague, Senator Colston, referred to members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party using cars to get to and from Parliament House and between airports and their homes. He suggested that they not mention in their taxation returns the benefit to be derived from this facility. I merely mention to the Minister that the inference to be drawn from his remarks was that all members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party received some preferential treatment over and above that enjoyed by any other members of the Parliament or, indeed, of the Australian community.
– And that is misrepresentation.
-As my colleague Senator Bishop has said, it is complete and utter misrepresentation because the matter that Senator Webster referred to relates to all members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, to all members of the National Country Party of Australia, and to all members of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. It relates also to all members of the Australian Democrats who are members of the Australian Parliament. We are all entitled to those considerations and to those entitlements by way of a determination of a remuneration tribunal. Senator Webster knows that the matters that he referred to as relating to the Parliamentary Labor Party relate to all members of the Australian Parliament. I mention to the Minister for Science and the Environment that in raising these matters he should remember that Ministers of the Crown are entitled to the use of ministerial cars, and much more so than ordinary members of the Australian Parliament. They are entitled to greater use of cars than private members of the Parliament. Senator Webster suggested that members of the Parliamentary Labor Party are not declaring the benefits of the facilities of the use of cars under a determination of a remuneration tribunal. If Senator Webster and his ministerial colleagues are not declaring in their taxation returns the benefits of those facilities that they are entitled to by way of ministerial usage of cars, then it is quite improper and unfair for Senator Webster to state that members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party are getting an unfair advantage. If tomorrow I put a question on the Notice Paper asking how much Ministers use their cars, what is the cost of them to the Australian community and what is the value of the use of those cars to the Ministers and if they do not declare that in their taxation returns, then it is for Senator Webster to face his ministerial colleagues in that regard.
– Just before we close I wish to advise -
– I raise a point of order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Webster will need to seek the leave of the Senate if he wishes to speak again.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 7 June 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The information sought by the honourable senator appears in the Schedule which is set out below. In that Schedule:
. The individual, or group of individuals as the case may be, to whom financial assistance was authorised have been listed chronologically (from 1 to 36) according to the time when financial assistance was authorised.
When, in respect of a particular proceeding or group of proceedings, there were a number of applicants or respondents to whom financial assistance was authorised rather than a single applicant or respondent, then all those persons have been listed (Nos 1, 12, 16, 18, 21, 27 and 30). In those instances the ‘amount paid ‘ represents the total amount paid to the solicitors acting on behalf of the applicants or respondents in respect of the relevant proceeding or group of proceedings.
In Nos 23 and 29 no amount has been specified as financial assistance has not, as yet, been assessed and paid.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 7 June 1 979:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question, based on information supplied by his Department:
Rates notices are being compiled for the remainder of properties in the area and moneys due will be collected. Some ratepayers have already paid rates and where necessary their accounts will be adjusted.
Pending determination of notional unimproved values it would not have been just and equitable for rates notices to have been issued.
Private Hospitals: Investment by Foreign Companies (Question No. 1726)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 7 June 1 979:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The information sought was not available within my Department. However, the following has been obtained from other sources:
1 ) Since the establishment of the Foreign Investment Review Board in April 1976. Hospital Corporation of America, American Medical International Inc. and Hospital Affiliates International Inc., or their Australian holding company subsidiaries, have received approval from the Government under foreign investment policy to acquire or to establish a number of private hospitals in Australia. One other company. Commonwealth Industrial Gases Ltd (CIG), has received approval to acquire a 25 per cent interest in one Australian private hospital. It has no other interest in any private hospital here or overseas.
Except for the UK-owned CIG, the parent company of each of the other three companies mentioned in ( 1 ) is based in the United States of America.
Based on information supplied by the three US companies, the number of hospitals owned and managed by each company, by country, as at July 1 979 is set out in the following table:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 2 1 August 1979:
I ) Has an offset contract been let to the electronic systems division of Plessey (Australia) Limited for the manufacture of inertial navigation equipment currently being, and to be, installed in Australia ‘s C- 1 30H Hercules aircraft. - (2) What is the value of the contract, and when will it be completed.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 27 August 1 979:
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 22 August 1979:
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The 332 persons approved for resident status were nationals of:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 23 August 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Statistics identifying the number of such persons whose unemployment benefits were terminated during 1 978-79 are not available. Some of these people would, of course, be entitled to other forms of assistance, such as sickness benefit, but statistics identifying the number of transfers of such people to pensions or other benefits are also not available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 28 August 1979:
Has the majority of shares in the Outback Airline, Connair, been sold; if so:
who has acquired the shares; and
what effect will any resultant changes in Connair ‘s role have on outback travellers.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice, on 29 August 1 979:
– The Minister for Housing and Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Most of the Department of Housing and Construction’s design work is carried out in its regional offices and consistent with this practice design of the Australian National Animal Health Laboratory is being handled in the Department’s Victorian Regional Office. Consultants have been engaged to assist with some of this work.
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 30 August 1979.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 30 August, 1979:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The expenditure is made up of: payments to the States under the Minor Improvements for Traffic Engineering and Road Safety (MITERS) Category of the States Grants (Roads) Act 1977 and its predecessor, the Roads Grants Act 1974 payments to the States for road safety related projects under the Transport Planning and Research (Financial Assistance) Act payments to the States and Territories for the promotion of road safety practices expenditure under the Road Safety Promotion and Research appropriation.
asked asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 30 August 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I ) and (2) The Adelaide to Crystal Brook Rail Standardisation Agreement of 1 974 with South Australia provided for the construction of a standard gauge rail link between Adelaide and Crystal Brook. That Agreement provided for South Australia to construct and own the standard gauge line on the Commonwealth’s normal 70 per cent grant- 30 per cent loan standardisation terms. Since then the South Australian non-metropolitan railways have been transferred to the Commonwealth. So far no decision has been taken by the Government to commit further funds to this project, and there is accordingly no timetable. I understand however that there is currently under examination a proposal by the Australian National Railways Commission for standardisation of the line by 1 984, by conversion of the existing track, and by the construction of approximately 40 km of new line.
Commonwealth Committee on Cyprus (Question No. 1881)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 1 1 September 1979:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 1 1 September 1979:
How many small businesses have closed in Canberra in each year from 1975-76 to 1978-79 inclusive.
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am informed by my Department as follows:
The Department of the Capital Territory does not collect statistics on the number of small business closures. The requested information is not available from other Government departments or instrumentalities.
Donations to Registered Charities
-On 29 August 1979 (Hansard, page 345) Senator Sibraa asked me, as Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice concerning the allowance of income tax deductions in respect of gifts to approved organisations active in the area of overseas aid. I undertook to refer the question to the Treasurer, who has provided the following reply:
Consideration has been given on a number of occasions to the possibility of extending the income tax gift provisions to organisations active in the area of overseas aid. On each occasion however it has been decided that the provisions should not be so extended.
In this context, it is relevant that the amount of revenue forgone through the allowance of gifts is outside the Government’s determination; it would depend on the generosity of donors and their individual marginal rates of tax. It could occur, therefore, that in cases where a modest direct contribution from public funds might be considered appropriate, a substantially larger amount of revenue was forgone through the allowance of gifts. As it is, the Commonwealth Government already makes substantial direct budgetary provisions on behalf of the Australian taxpayer in the area referred to by the honourable senator.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 September 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790925_senate_31_s82/>.