31st Parliament · 1st Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator D. B. Scott) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
-I present the following petition from 58 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members or the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we have heard the expressed intentions of one entrepreneur lo bring the Red Army Choir to Australia, and declare, that regardless of its artistic merits or demerits, the Red Army Choir is as much a unit of the Red Army as a division of tanks or artillery. It is but a propaganda unit to glorify the Soviet regime in song and music.
Your petitioners humbly pray that just as entry into Australian ports is denied to Soviet warships, so too will entry be denied to the Red Army Choir.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 355 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned electors respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act 1977 should immediately be repealed because: lt provides unfettered power to Ministers to suspend, stand-down and dismiss Commonwealth Government employees and places them in a markedly disadvantageous position as compared with all other Australian workers.
Its use places Commonwealth Government employees in direct conflict with the Government as it circumvents the arbitration tribunals and denies appeal rights.
Its use will exacerbate industrial disputes and inflame industrial relations in the Commonwealth area of employment.
The International Labour Organisation has condemned the Provisions of the Act as being incompatible with the rights of organised labour in a free society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 46 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:
Objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 7 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.
– I present the following petition from 32 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That although artistically the Red Army Choir may be a great choir, it is nonetheless a propaganda unit of the Red Army, the army which is the instrument of the Communist dictatorship, bent on world domination along with the destruction of the Christian faith.
Your petitioners humbly pray that entry into Australia shall be denied to the Red Army Choir.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 66 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable, the President and Members of the Senate of the Australian Parliament assembled. The petition of certain citizens of N.S.W. respectfully showeth:
Dismay at the reduction of the total expenditure on education proposed for 1980 and in particular to Government Schools.
Government Schools bear the burden of these cuts, 1 1 . 2 per cent while non-Government schools will receive an increase of 3.4 percent.
We call on the Government to again examine the proposals as set out in the guidelines for Education expenditure 1980 and to immediately restore and increase substantially in real terms the allocation of funds for education expenditure in 1980 to Government schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-On behalf of Senator Ryan, 1 present the following petition from 147 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 we the undersigned, believe in and support the idea that Australia should join in with the current American, Russian, and Canadian efforts for SETI- Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence- using existing facilities and personnel.
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 humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Red Army Choir is a military propaganda unit glorifying the Soviet regime which is still hostile to the democratic way of life. The Red Army is the main instrument in keeping formally free people under subjugation, and its presence enables blatant violations of Human Rights to be perpetrated. The support, therefore, of such instruments of a totalitarian regime can only harm the development of free and liberal thought under it.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the Australian Government assert its support for the aspirations of subjugated people by denying entry into this country to the Red Army Choir.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Button.
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 arc 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 Senator Carrick.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That although artistically the Red Army Choir may be a great choir, it is nonetheless a propaganda unit of the Red Army, the army which is the instrument of the Communist dictatorship, bent on world domination along with the destruction of the Christian faith.
Your petitioners humbly pray that entry into Australia shall be denied to the Red Army Choir.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Sibraa.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. A week or so ago I asked the Minister for Science and the Environment what monitoring of dangerous chemicals was done in Australia. I follow it up now with a question in relation to an article in the National Times of the week ending 29 September about Alpha Chemicals Pty Ltd. I ask the Minister whether there are any Federal laws which set out the employer’s legal responsibility to inform and train his workers in handling dangerous chemicals and other materials that may be injurious to health. Is there any Federal body which inspects premises where dangerous chemicals are manufactured or used and overviews legal compliance in the handling of health hazardous materials? If there are no Federal laws to cover health standards, will the Minister, in association with the States, consider setting up laws to ensure health standards in industry and to train and inform workers in the safe handling of dangerous materials?
– I do not think the question is appropriately addressed to me because the responsibility for the development of any laws in this area, so far as they may be within the competence and power of the Commonwealth Parliament, would he with other Ministers. I will take note of the question and have it directed to the appropriate Minister, or alternatively Senator Elstob may wish to place it on notice.
-I ask the Minister for Science and the Environment whether he has seen two recent articles, one by Gerald B. Goeden entitled ‘Is the Great Barrier Reef being Overfished’ which appeared in Australian Fisheries in September 1979, and the second by Dick Coates entitled ‘Taiwan’s Poachers may destroy the Barrier Reef which appears in the current issue of the Bulletin? Do both these articles suggest that the Great Barrier Reef is, in fact, not being adequately protected and is being endangered by the improper exploitation of its living natural resources? What steps is the Government either currently undertaking or contemplating to ensure that adequate protection is given to this unique part of Australia’s national heritage?
-The answer to the first question that the honourable senator raises is no. The answer to the second question is that I have seen the article which I believe is headed Taiwan’s Poachers may destroy the Barrier Reef. Dr Endean ‘s photograph is associated with it. The article comments that perhaps the increase in the incidence of some predators on the Great Barrier Reef is due to the exploitation of clams by overseas fishing vessels. I have some information that would be of interest to the honourable senator. About 30 vessels have been apprehended since 1970. Surveillance of the Great Barrier Reef is a part of the task of the national coastal surveillance network which is co-ordinated by the Department of Transport. The apprehension of Taiwanese fishermen is undertaken by Department of Defence officers or Department of Primary Industry officers. Of course Queensland fisheries legislation applies to living natural resources in the territorial sea adjacent to the mainland and its off-shore islands.
The honourable senator asks- I imagine he means in the Federal context- what action is being taken. Senator Puplick will be well aware of the action that has been taken by the Federal Government to bring about extra supervision of that particularly delicate area. He will be aware perhaps that the first meeting of the Great Barrier Reef Council is to be held early in October and that plans not only for certain sections of the reef to be declared but also for further protection of the reef will be considered at that meeting. The steps that could be laid down are that the adjacent State has prime responsibility and that the Federal Government will assist the State, and will act jointly with it, for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef.
-I ask the Minister for Education: Is it a fact that the Australian ViceChancellors Committee in a recent statement expressed concern at the reduction in Federal Government support for post-graduate students through the decline in the number and value of awards? Has it also expressed concern at the level of the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowance? In view of the Government’s expressed concern for the development of Australian industry and technology and the need for an adequate supply of skilled research workers, is any increase in assistance to post-graduate research being contemplated? If not, will the situation for the remainder of this year remain as it was enunciated in the Budget?
-I read in the Press certain reports from the Australian ViceChancellors Committee on the matters that Senator Button has raised. No doubt I will receive supporting correspondence from the AVCC on this matter. It is a fact that the Williams Committee has drawn attention to the need to upgrade research throughout Australia, particularly in universities, and has made some recommendations regarding the development of certain research centres, again particularly in universities. At present the Government, which set up the Williams Committee, has the individual recommendations under study. Those will become matters for Cabinet and for the Government in the months immediately ahead. I cannot foreshadow what policies the Government may contemplate, but certainly the question of research as it applies to universities is one of the key factors in the Williams Committee report. The Government has had the question of student allowances under study and is continuing to look into it. I am not competent to make any comments other than those that were made in the Budget as being the policy of the Government.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, relates to the persistent and numerous complaints which I and no doubt all other senators receive from constituents about the practice of Ansett Airlines of Australia and
Trans-Australia Airlines of running so many of their services in parallel- that is, departing at virtually the same time. I ask the Minister: In view of the many times that this issue has been raised in the Parliament over the years, why has the Government not taken some effective action to end the dangerous, wasteful and inconvenient nuisance to the public which is involved in parallel timetabling? Can the Minister inform the Senate what basic reason the airline companies advance to defend parallel timetabling? Would the Minister agree with our reading of the Airlines Agreement Act 1952-73 that if timetables are operated ‘at such times, having regard to the relative closeness in scheduling of flights of the two airlines, as to give rise to substantial grounds for complaint that the services are not operated at intervals that adequately serve the public interest’- I stress those words- the Minister, under clause 5 of schedule 3, may use a discretion to refer the whole matter to the Rationalisation Committee established under the Act to deal with matters of dispute between the airlines? Will the Government now ask the Minister to exercise such a discretion immediately so that this whole matter can be aired and, I hope, resolved once and for all?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Transport for a reply.
– I have a supplementary question. It seems to me quite incredible that the Minister representing the Minister for Transport should not be able to answer at least this point: Can the Minister inform the Senate what basic reason the airline companies advance to defend parallel time-tabling, as this matter has been raised so many times? I press that particular point.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The Minister has answered the question.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. I draw attention to figures in the Press today which are presented by the Commonwealth Employment Service and which show that the unemployment figure fell by 13,000 in August. How does this figure respond to Government steps taken to meet the unemployment problem? Does the Government expect this trend to continue? Is it a fact that the Department has a paper which claims that women and older workers are dropping out of the work force? If so, what studies are being undertaken to examine this development and what plans are being made to meet it?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Can the Minister inform the Parliament whether about 50 military aircraft involved in the forthcoming Kangaroo III defence exercise will be using avgas? Can he also advise the Parliament of the total amount of avgas that will be used during that exercise? Is the Minister aware that statements by Government Ministers, particularly Mr Newman, that there is enough avgas in Australia to cover the next six months and that distillate supplies are satisfactory, are not true? Is the Minister also aware that the secretary of the United Graziers Association, Mr A. Stephenson, has recently described the avgas situation in north Australia as ‘b . . . awful’ and said that supplies are almost non-existent? If large quantities of avgas are to be used in the peacetime exercise Kangaroo III, will the Minister take the necessary action to cancel the aerial segment of the exercise in order to conserve the diminishing supplies of avgas? If the Minister is not prepared to take this action or does not have the power to take such action, will he request the Prime Minister to make a public statement telling the Australian people, particularly those Australians living in remote areas who rely on avgas and distillate for transport and on-going farm activities, the true story regarding supplies of both types of fuel?
– The question, especially the first part of it, seeks specific information in relation to quantities of avgas and similar information that could not possibly be available to me. I ask that the honourable senator place the question on notice.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health: Has a disaster plan been adopted by hospitals under Commonwealth control, such as repatriation hospitals or Australian Capital Territory hospitals, to cope with emergencies such as bombing or other major civil disasters? Does the plan cover all the matters mentioned, for example, in the article which appeared in the British Medical Journal in February this year? Is the plan regularly practised and updated? Can the Minister indicate the means by which its appropriateness is regularly reassessed?
– I have some information on this matter, although I doubt whether it covers all of the questions that were asked. I understand that a symposium on the management of mass burns casualties was sponsored jointly by the Departments of Defence and Health and was held at the Australian Counter Disaster College, Mt Macedon in Victoria, in June of this year. Included in the conclusions of the symposium was a recommendation that hospitals must have a workable disaster plan which is widely disseminated, regularly tested and revised as necessary, and fully understood by all staff. Appropriate criteria should be included in accreditation requirements for hospitals, and failure to meet those criteria would lead to the application of sanctions. I am advised that such plans would cover the principles discussed in the article in the British Medical Journal mentioned by the honourable senator. The matter is being discussed with State and Territory health authorities, along with other aspects of the treatment and handling of mass casualties.
In the States, each State health authority is responsible for the control of health counterdisaster measures. The repatriation hospitals have disaster plans which provide for the treatment of mass casualties in any disaster situation should the Department of Veterans’ Affairs be asked to assist the State authorities. The State branches of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs are active members of the various State civil disaster organisations and regularly participate in their exercises. The Central Office of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is a member of the Natural Disasters Organisation and, similarly, actively participates in that Organisation’s exercises. The experience gained from those involvements is reflected in the periodic reviews of the various levels of disaster plans in repatriation hospitals. I understand that in the Australian Capital Territory each hospital has a disaster plan designed to cope with emergency situations. Regular exercises with subsequent de briefings are carried out to ensure the plans are updated.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security: Is it a fact that there is a six months delay in handling family allowance files in the Darwin Office of her Department? Are family allowance files for the Alice Springs area handled by the Darwin office? Are staff ceilings preventing the recruitment of adequate staff for both the Darwin and the Alice Springs offices? What action is being planned to ensure that those people who are entitled to receive the family allowance receive it on the due date?
– It has not been brought to my attention that there is such a delay in the handling of family allowance claims. I will need to refer the matter to the Director-General of my Department. I will obtain an early reply for Senator Robertson.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce. All honourable senators would be aware of the great pioneering work on the commercial development of penicillin which has been done in Australia. In view of some doubts which have been expressed about the continued production of penicillin at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, when can the Australian community expect a government response as to whether the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories or the foreign owned Abbotts Laboratories will be the sole producer of penicillin in Australia?
– I will seek a reply to that question from the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Does the statement favouring placing a greater reliance on indirect taxation than on income taxes in revenue raising, which was made yesterday by the Minister for Finance, Mr Eric Robinson, to a House of Representatives Estimates committee, represent the present view of the Government as a whole, or does it represent a possible view which the Government is considering and which Mr Eric Robinson is flying as a trial balloon? In either event, what is the status now of the Treasurer’s announcement of eight months ago that the Government would not introduce, under any circumstances, a broad-based indirect tax, such as a value added tax?
– The Treasurer’s statement of some months ago regarding a value added tax remains unchanged. The Government does not intend to introduce such a tax. I am not aware of the nature of the statement made by the Minister for Finance yesterday; therefore, I cannot comment on what he said. There has been no change in the policies of the Government regarding the framework of taxation as set out in the Budget Papers. When there are changes in the policies for either direct taxation or indirect taxation, they will be announced as policy changes.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware that the Australian Postal Commission has managed to produce a Christmas stamp for 1 979 showing the Yugoslavian flag prominently in the centre, notwithstanding that the present Yugoslav Government abolished Christmas festivities in 1945? Is the Minister aware that the Association of Apex Clubs of the World are the only world-wide service clubs which were established in Australia, having been established in Geelong in 1932. Is it a fact that Australia Post has refused a request to produce a stamp for 1982 commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of Apex in Geelong, notwithstanding requests made by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to produce such a stamp. When will the Government consider revoking the Act which established Australia Post so that that authority once again can be made responsible to the people of Australia?
– I have been made aware that Australia Post is proposing to produce a Christmas stamp carrying the Yugoslav flag. I was made aware of that by objections I received from constituents, which I referred to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I am also aware that Apex is the only world-wide service club founded in Australia, and I declare a past interest in that organisation. I was not aware, however, that there had been a refusal to issue a commemorative stamp. In the light of the facts which have been put before the Senate by Senator Lewis, I will discuss the matter with the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and get a response to the substantial part of the question.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it true that this week the Public Service Board has spent $7,000 to employ an American computer security expert to give a two-day talk to public servants? At $3,500 a day for lectures, would it not be cheaper for public servants to read this expert’s book? As we are supposed to be interested in policies of economic restraint, how can the Minister justify this expenditure?
– I am not aware of the assertions made by Senator Gietzelt. I will refer them to the appropriate Minister and seek his comment.
-The Minister for Social Security will appreciate that many organisations are anxious to learn of the next Federal Government program for the funding of aged persons’ homes. Is the Minister aware that I have had many representations from bodies in South Australia which have raised funds in the community for this purpose and which require the Minister’s assurance to enable them to obtain bridging finance so that the projects can be commenced? When will the Minister be in a position to announce which projects are included in the approved list for the next phase of the program?
– I am aware that Senator Jessop and many other parliamentarians have had representations with regard to aged persons’ accommodation projects. I have over 1,000 applications in the Department, and at present we are working on those to arrange priorities for the 1980-81 year so that an announcement of approvals can be made within a short time. As far as future years of the program are concerned, I am not in a position to make a statement about that at this stage. However, I do give an assurance that the Government regards this as a continuing program and one to which it will be directing its attention in the very near future.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and refers to the Australian produced Nomad aircraft. The Minister will recall questions asked in this Senate some months ago when the Government first announced that the Nomad aircraft would have no part in the proposed coastal surveillance services, although that statement was later modified. I now ask the Minister: Is it a fact that most of the contracts to cover this surveillance have been let and in no case does it appear that the Nomad aircraft has been incorporated in the proposed services by various organisations? Can the Minister indicate whether the promise that nine Nomad aircraft would be modified to fit the service is to be carried out? Can he advise when those nine Nomad aircraft will be brought into service? On what duties will they be occupied?
– It is my understanding that arrangements are being made to enable the Nomad to be used, or at least tested, in the system of surveillance which is being established by the Government. I will seek the information which has been sought by the honourable senator on those points and let him have a reply as early as possible. I might say that since the earlier questions on the Nomad were raised by Senator Bishop and other honourable senators, I have had the opportunity to use the Nomad in both the northern and southern parts of Australia. I must say that I was most impressed. I am sure that it has a very useful role to play in Australian aviation.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and concerns the Government’s recent decision to order off the market a range of commonly used drugs which in tests on rats were shown to contain the cancer-causing substance methapyrilene. Will the Minister inform the Senate why it took the Australian health authorities until early September to make this decision, given that in mid-June these drugs were withdrawn from the American market following intensive tests? Does the Minister agree that, in cases where a previously tested and approved substance suddenly comes under a cloud, all preparations containing that substance should be removed from sale immediately while evidence is examined and new tests are carried out? Does the Minister also agree that the onus for such action lies with governments? If so, will the Minister assure the Senate that in future efforts will be made to take immediate protective action when there is suspicion that a particular drug may be injurious to the public’s health?
– The Minister for Health advises that, despite immediate requests to the United States authorities following Australian Press reports of the proposed withdrawal of methapyrilene in that country, it was many weeks before the detailed scientific data on the animal studies conducted in the United States was made available for consideration by the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee.
The answer to Senator Missen ‘s second question is no. I add the comment that it would not be responsible for the Australian health authorities to take precipitate action often on the basis of unverified Press reports of adverse effects of drugs particularly where the effects are noted in animals. If, however, as a result of drug surveillance programs serious adverse effects are noted in humans subsequent to a drug’s being made generally available, immediate action may well be taken to have the drug withdrawn pending further study. Appropriate action may well depend on an assessment of the benefit-to-risk ratio that takes into account the therapeutic importance of the drug and the nature of the adverse effect. This assessment would be made by the independent expert advisory committee, the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee. The Minister for Health agrees that immediate protective action should be taken but only after the most expert advice that is available in Australia and overseas indicates that a drug may be injurious to the public’s health.
-Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware that the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs, Mr Charles Porter, will visit Europe next month to present what he calls the real facts about Queensland conditions for Aborigines? Does the Minister agree that the real facts of the Queensland Government’s treatment of its Aboriginal people are likely to present a highly unfavourable, even racist, picture of Australia’s treatment of its Aboriginal people? If so, will the Minister use his influence to see that Mr Porter stays in Queensland and -
– He could not stay overseas.
– We could send him to Alaska or perhaps Siberia. Will the Minister use his influence to see that Mr Porter stays in Queensland and spends time allocating the millions of dollars of Commonwealth funds for Aboriginal programs which are still unspent by the Queensland Government?
– I have seen reports that Mr Porter proposes to visit Europe in the near future to present another side of a case which is currently being presented in Europe. As most honourable senators would be aware, a number of Aboriginal people have visited Europe and have put across a highly unfavourable picture of Australia and its treatment of Aboriginal people. Notwithstanding the very serious problems which continue to exist in Australia with respect to the lives of many Aboriginal people, I think that very often those people to whom I have referred present a distorted and exaggerated picture and do Australia a great disservice. I regret some of the things said about Australia overseas by Australians.
I hope that if Mr Porter goes overseas, as I have read in the papers that he will, he will fairly present the position as it exists, warts and all. I hope that he will agree with those who will put it to him that there are continuing difficulties in Australia but will state that the Australian Government and the State governments have many programs which are aimed at removing the difficulties which exist. As for using my influence with Mr Porter, I simply repeat what 1 said before. 1 have an objective to achieve better working relationships with the Queensland Government and to ensure that in those areas where there are policy differences between the Commonwealth and the State those differences are reduced to a minimum so that the efforts of both governments are devoted to improving the lot of people and not to disputing amongst themselves as to what ought to be done.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to reported threats of trade retaliation from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for Australia’s failure to provide adequate opportunity for that country’s access to the Australian fishing zone? Can the Minister advise how many applications have been made from Russian interests, whether decisions have been made and whether such applications are compatible with existing developments and other commitments?
-There have been a number of news articles following the announcement by the Minister for Primary Industry in relation to fishing participation in the Australian fishing zone, which is to be declared shortly. My understanding is that a number of proposals involving the participation of Soviet vessels in the 200-mile Australian fishing zone have been received but that to date no approvals have been granted. I point out for the information of honourable senators that two feasibility fishing proposals are under active consideration by the Commonwealth and the relevant States. They are, firstly, a proposition by Craig Mostyn and Co. Pty Ltd- I think the honourable senator raised this matter in this place some months age- in partnership with Samico Pty Ltd, and Marissco Pty Ltd of Singapore, and undoubtedly involving two Soviet companies. So far as I am aware, the proposal involves the use of three Soviet trawlers for test fishing in deep waters off the north west of Western Australia. The second proposition is one which has been developed by Henry Jones (IXL) Ltd and the Commercial Bureau of Australia in conjunction with V/O Sovrybflot. The proposal involves trawling off southern Tasmania- that is, the Tasman Rise and the Cascade Plateau- and off Macquarie Island and McDonald Island.
The USSR has also sought to negotiate a fisheries agreement and access to fisheries off the Australian coast. Whilst negotiations have been held with Japan and talks are continuing with the Republic of Korea, no timetable has yet been set for negotiations with other countries. The timetable is dependent to an extent on the outcome of test feasibility fishing operations which should enable a better definition of our underdeveloped fisheries resources.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, refers to the recently exposed taxation fraud involving doctors and other people in Perth. Can the Minister guarantee that these taxation frauds will be properly investigated and rectified? Has he seen a statement by Mr Christo Moll that a former high official of a political party was involved? Is the person concerned Mr Noel Crichton-Browne, president until last year of the Western Australian branch of the Liberal Party?
– The Treasurer has made it very clear that in every case where there is evidence or real suspicion of tax avoidance the Taxation Commissioner will pursue the investigations fully. I have not seen any such statements as those to which Senator Walsh refers, so I cannot comment.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to an innovative scheme proposed by the Master Builders ‘ Association of Victoria which envisages the indenture of building trades apprentices to the industry association rather than to the individual contractor? Would such a system reduce the risk of apprentices not completing their training in the event of an employer going bankrupt? In the interests of keeping these people in the building industry work force, will the Government investigate such a proposal with a view perhaps to encouraging its extension to other industries?
– I am not aware of the scheme to which Senator Messner refers, but it is certainly a proposition in which I am sure the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs will be most interested. I will ask him to investigate the proposal and give an early reply concerning it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs: In view of the active role played by the Australian
Government on the United Nations Preparatory Committee and in the Special Session on Disarmament in 1978, does the Government have any plans to mark United Nations Disarmament Week, beginning 24 October, with special activities or the distribution through public bodies of materials informing the Australian people of the importance of disarmament? Also, does the Government intend to establish, and assist in the funding of, a committee representative of interested groups in the Australian community to undertake research and to publicise the second Special Session on Disarmament in 1980, along lines similar to those of committees established for the International Women’s Year and the International Year of the Child?
– As I recall, a similar question was asked of me some weeks ago. I replied then that I would seek a response from the Foreign Minister. I will draw the Minister’s attention to Senator Sibraa ‘s question also and will seek a similar response.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer the Minister to a statement made this week by an officer of the Department of Health that the Department had made health checks on several hundred miners working in the uranium areas of Rum Jungle and Moline some 25 years ago; that there appeared to be no illeffects from uranium mining at that time; that the checks had continued until the late 1960s; and that the results had been deposited in the archives. I ask: In view of the importance of these records, will the Minister request the Minister for Health to prepare a report on the contents of these documents for the information of the Parliament? Also, will the Government carry out further health checks on the many miners who can still be contacted in order to measure their present state of health?
– I recall the statement on the subject that was made to an Estimates committee of the Senate by an officer of the Department of Health. The Department undertook to obtain details of the records for honourable senators from the archives. Until these are obtained and examined, and the names and original addresses are verified, it will not be possible to determine whether the further health checks which are sought by the honourable senator would be possible. It must be remembered that the mining in question occurred many years ago and that probably these miners are now scattered throughout Australia and elsewhere. However, I will ask the Minister for Health to advise the honourable senator as soon as the information is obtained. It may then be appropriate, if there is information of interest to the Senate, that further notice of it be given to honourable senators.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I ask: Does he recall that on 12 April 1978, during the debate on the Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt, asked for certain information to ensure that the Australian Government’s guarantee of $5m to Barclays Bank was adequately secured and that the Government had obtained information which would ensure that the co-operative would be able to repay loans? Is it a fact that Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd is in serious financial difficulties and urgently requires the provision of an additional $4m in order to remain solvent? Does the Australian Government propose to subscribe additional funds or will it allow this company to go to the wall?
– I have no immediate information on those matters. I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Treasurer and seek a reply.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. I ask: Is the Minister aware that in 1977-78 sales of avgas represented only 0.3 per cent of total gasolene sales in Australia? Is the Minister also aware that for a considerable period, up to May of this year, avgas was the same price as motor spirit? In view of the fact that avgas is a necessity, not a luxury in rural Australia, will the Government give immediate consideration to including the cost of avgas in the motor spirit pricing structure, thus ending up with the same price for each product?
– I will refer the question to the Minister for National Development.
– I direct a question to Senator Durack as Attorney-General and as Minister representing the Minister for Industrial
Relations.’ It is a flow-on from my earlier question on the iron curtain that seems to be on the Government’s intentions to overcome the duplication of awards in the Kurnell refinery dispute. Does the Minister think it is a slight on every New South Wales senator that, in view of the 72-hour limitation on this breathing space, in effect, on Friday his legal officers will go into court and indicate the Government’s intentions when information is denied to elected senators from New South Wales on how the Government is going to overcome the impasse?
– I really do not have anything to add to the answer I gave to Senator Mulvihill yesterday in relation to this question. It is a very delicate industrial relations issue, as I am sure he would agree. Many discussions have taken place between the Minister for Industrial Relations and interested parties including, of course, the New South Wales Minister. When the matter came before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, I think it was yesterday, the Commission only extended this cooling off period for 72 hours because it apparently wants further argument before it.
It has always been a tradition that the Government, when appearing before the Industrial Commission, makes its views known to the Commission in the first place. It does not make public statements about what it is going to be saying to the Commission. It is not a slight on the Parliament or any member of Parliament. The Government has regard to the proprieties of the proceedings before the Commission. That would be the reason for not stating our views. As I have said, the Government has been seeking, in cooperation with the New South Wales Government, a solution to the problem. Hopefully, one will be found.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. In view of the urgency to get a settlement, if terms were announced in the court on Friday, would the Government bring the Parliament back the following week to bring the enabling legislation in, or would the Government live for a further week with possible bans?
-That is a very hypothetical question. We do not know whether the settlement would require legislation. Presumably if the matter could be settled and needed legislation, it would take time to prepare. I do not really think the position that Senator Mulvihill has suggested is realistically likely to arise.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Has he seen reports that the Japanese Government is spending $6. 7m on a project to extract uranium from seawater? Does not this undertaking by Japan clearly support statements made by many realistic people throughout the world that if countries are really concerned about the future supply of uranium they could obtain it from the sea at a price? Would not this later seawater project by Japan rather dampen the spirits of the anti-uranium mining group in Australia and make some of the more radical look rather wet behind the ears or all at sea?
– Although I am not fully aware of the technicalities of the process of obtaining uranium from seawater, I understand in general terms that that can be done. It is a matter of technology and, of course, a major question of price. I am not aware that a large research project is on the way in Japan as suggested by Senator Young. I will refer that question to the Minister for Trade and Resources to see whether he can enlighten us further as to what is occurring in this regard. Certainly I agree with Senator Young that it does emphasise the importance of Australia ‘s developing its uranium resources because of the likelihood that, in the long run, there may well be alternative supplies.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Science and the Environment. I refer to an answer the Minister gave to Senator Puplick earlier today regarding consultations with the Queensland Government relating to the proclamation of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. In view of answers to questions given earlier this year when this matter was being discussed, are these anticipated as being the last round of consultations with the Queensland Government regarding what were previously referred to as the constitutional issues and is a result likely to flow quickly from these consultations early in October?
-The question the honourable senator raises has very little to do with that which was raised by Senator Puplick. He was asking about another matter in relation to protection of the Great Barrier Reef. The position is that the first meeting of the ministerial council associated with the Great Barrier Reef is to be held on 4 October, and that has nothing to do with the constitutional arrangements which, on my understanding, have been basically put aside as a matter that is basically firmed up between the Federal Government and Queensland. So, the projected ministerial council meeting that I mentioned is one which will put in progress some of those things that were discussed earlier this year and a number of vital matters relating to the protection of the reef will flow from it.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory by saying that the Minister will be no doubt aware that daylight saving in recent times was originally introduced into Tasmania for six months during a period of extreme water shortage and consequent power shortage in that State. The aim of daylight saving was to save power. Will the Minister ask the Minister for the Capital Territory to examine the possibility of extending the date at which the Australian Capital Territory returns from daylight saving time to standard time with a view both to saving power, and consquently fuel, and to setting an example to the other daylight saving States, to extend the period of daylight saving, which obviously from a scientific point of view we should be enjoying at this time?
-The answer to the honourable senator’s question is that I will be delighted to convey his suggestion to the Minister for the Capital Territory.
– I refer the Minister for Social Security to the fact that the Chairman of the Federal Government’s Homeless Persons Advisory Committee, Mr Doug Schwede. has stated that Brisbane now has about 1,200 park dwellers, almost half of them being under 30 years ofage, and that the number has doubled in less than two years. Given that Mr Schwede puts the situation down to the fact that people cannot survive on the present level of unemployment benefits, can the Minister advise when the Government intends to increase the benefits for unemployed homeless persons to a humane level?
– As a result of the Budget announcements, the Senate would be aware of proposed legislation to increase unemployment benefits for those with dependants. I have not seen the statement of the chairman of the homeless persons organisation that was mentioned by Senator Georges, but I am able to say that a big project in Queensland which is being undertaken as part of the homeless persons program is expected to be completed this year. Senator Georges referred to a statement that an increase in homelessness was related to the level of unemployment benefits. I think if he were to make a close study of the homelessness of people throughout Australia he would find that there are many factors which relate to it. It is not only social security beneficiaries- pensioners- who are homeless in the terms of the homeless persons program. I will look at the statement that the honourable senator has mentioned to see whether there are further comments that I wish to make.
– My question, which’ is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, refers to this year’s Premiers’ Conference. If Premier Wran was not one of the Premiers who cried ‘robbery’ the loudest following the conference, did he not paint the blackest possible picture for his State, New South Wales? Is it- a fact that Premier Wran complained that State taxes would rise, that unemployment would rise as a result of State taxes, that work programs would be slashed and that the hospitals and community health programs would suffer? I ask the Minister whether, in view of the miraculous figures produced by Premier Wran and his Treasurer last night, figures which have been so praised by the Sydney daily Press, boasting of no tax increases for the fourth year and a big Budget welfare boost -
– I raise a point of order. I would like Senator Lewis to go on and give the excellent record that the New South Wales Government presented yesterday in its Budget, but he is giving far too much information.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I am sure that Senator Lewis will be closing his question now.
-Will the Minister ask the Treasurer to seek from this magic man information on how he is able to produce these figures, or is there some doubt about the credibility of this Premier?
-It is a matter of wellknown public record that from the moment of the last Premiers’ Conference up to the disclosure by the State Public Accounts Committee, Mr Wran pursued a crying wolf attitude, predicting that all those disasters that Senator Lewis described would occur. Unfortunately for Mr Wran, his Public Accounts Committee disclosed that his Government had deliberately concealed huge surpluses of money in order to pretend that it did not have enough money.
Opposition senators interjecting-
– Let the Australian Labor Party senators interject. A parliamentary public accounts committee is on record as showing that there was a secret hiding of funds in order to pretend that there was a deficit in funds. Having said that, the fact is that the Budget that was brought down last night, instead of showing all the disasters, showed that under the arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States the Wran Government had adequate funds and was able to increase programs rather than having to reduce them. Therefore, the whole of the crying wolf attitude has proven to be utterly wrong, and propagandist nonsense.
– My question is addressed to Senator Carrick in his capacities as Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to an answer which was given in the House of Representatives on 30 August 1979 by the Prime Minister in relation to a question dealing with the situation of the Minister for Primary Industry. The Prime Minister said:
The Minister for Primary Industry has broadly kept me and the Leader of the National Country Party informed of the process he had put in train to correct a situation that he discovered when he became executor of his father’s estate.
Is it a fact that in New South Wales today prosecutions have been recommended against the Minister for Primary Industry on at least three groups of charges? Has the Prime Minister been informed in detail and is the Minister satisfied that the Prime Minister has been informed in detail as to the allegations which make up the substance of those charges?
– I was informed on the media today that it was the intention of the State Government to present what I think is known as the Finnane Report in the New South Wales Parliament. My understanding was that that report was to be presented this afternoon, presumably concurrently with the present sitting of the Senate. I am not aware whether the report has been presented. I am not aware of the nature of the report. No doubt when the report has been put down and is received by the Government, the Prime Minister will give it appropriate study.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, relates to the reply he gave to me at the end of Question Time yesterday about public telephones. In that reply,
Senator Chaney gave information that he had received from Mr Staley regarding the criteria that Telecom Australia uses when deciding to install a coin telephone in an area and indicated that there was a need to ensure a reasonable revenue return to offset the capital and annual costs involved. Can the Minister expound on that reply, because it really does not give us much information, and indicate how much Telecom regards as a reasonable return and whether any telephones are installed as a service in an area even if they run at a loss?
– I cannot give the precise figures that the honourable senator requests in his question. My experience of this situation has been related to areas where constituents have made representations about particular public telephones. From that I am aware that many public telephones which are installed do not carry the actual cost of installation. I think that some run at a loss. I will seek further detail from the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.
– The Minister representing the Minister for National Development would be aware from comments made in this chamber, including comments made today by Senator Keeffe and Senator MacGibbon, that some station owners in north Queensland are unable to obtain sufficient supplies of avgas to carry out essential station duties. Can the Minister advise whether investigations have been made to see whether restrictive practices are being used by oil companies in north Queensland in relation to the distribution of avgas? Will the Minister assure the Senate that the Government will ensure that existing supplies of avgas are allocated on an equitable basis?
– Earlier I was asked a question in similar terms in relation to station owners in Queensland, although I do not know whether they were the same ones. Senator Colston has now raised the same general problem that was referred to in the other question. I indicated that I would refer that question to the Minister for National Development and I will refer this further question to him as well.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, concerns the new fare structures that have been agreed between Australia and other countries. I ask the Minister:
Would infringements of the agreed fare structures by any of the airlines involved be contrary to the interests of the travelling public, of ethical travel agents and of best airline operations? What arrangements has the Federal Government set in train with other countries to ensure that international airlines observe the new fare schedules? Will these new arrangements involve amendments of the Air Navigation Regulations? Will the Government undertake to seek the views of the air travel industry with a view to producing a better system of compulsory selfpolicing than that which was operated in Australia for many years by the International Air Transport Association?
– I am advised by the Minister for Transport that infringements of agreed international air fares by airlines would be contrary to the interests of the travelling public and of the airline and travel agent industries. Arrangements with other countries on the new fares are consistent with Australia’s Air Navigation Regulations which, in common with those of most other countries, require that international airlines should not charge less than the approved tariff. It is not anticipated that arrangements with other countries about new fares would necessitate any change to the Air Navigation Regulations. The administration of the Air Navigation Regulations is the responsibility of the Department of Tra nsport. Any system of self-regulation among the airlines such as that operated by the International Air Transport Association would properly be a question for the airlines themselves.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs seen newspaper reports that there are at present 20 companies of Soviet combat troops in Afghanistan which have allegedly been sent into that country by the Soviet Union in order to defend the Government of Afghanistan against the present insurgency? Does the Minister know whether these reports are correct? Does the Minister know whether there are any Soviet combat troops in Afghanistan? If there are Soviet combat troops in Afghanistan, does the Government have any views on this matter?
– I do not appear to have first hand information on the matter. It is a matter of some considerable importance. I will seek out the information and let the honourable senator have it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter, dated 26 September 1979, from the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt:
Dear Mr Deputy President,
Pursuant to Sessional Order, I give notice that today I shall move:
That in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency :
The failure of the Australian Government to adopt an even-handed approach to the Kampuchean problem by its continued support for the Pol Pot regime and its failure to respond with sufficient promptness and generosity to the urgent need for relief and aid.
Yours sincerely, K. S. WRIEDT
Is the motion supported?
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– I move:
Last Saturday the Australian Government gave its support in the United Nations General Assembly to the continued representation of Kampuchea in the Assembly by the Pol Pot regime. In doing so, it gave its approval to one of the most infamous governments in modern times. The Pol Pot Government took over in Kampuchea in early April 1975, following the collapse of the previous Lon Nol Government which had been propped by United States support for the previous five years. One of the first acts of the new Government was to seal off Kampuchea from the rest of the world by expelling foreign correspondents and refusing admission to diplomatic missions. For that reason, information about the events in Kampuchea under the Pol Pot regime was scanty, and most of it has come from refugees. But some facts are clear.
That regime, even in its heyday, was representative of only a small minority of the Kampuchean population. It implemented its policies with calculated and savage violence. It forced the depopulation of Kampuchean urban areas, the eradication of all Western influences and the rigid organisation of the country’s rural communities. I read this description of it from an article in the Asian Research Bulletin of April 1976:
Ultra nationalistic and so far to the left of anything known as Communism in China or the USSR that it is difficult to find any political appellation to describe the system succinctly, lt comprises total self-sufficiency and self-reliance, total severance from the bourgeois habits of the past, no private ownership, and barter economy rather than any dependence on foreign aid. There is no money in circulation, no telephone or telegraphic communication. Traditional musical instruments, festivals, records, books and Bhuddist manuscripts have been abolished.
Such actions could only be carried out by the most extreme methods, and it is clear that that regime imposed its policies with great brutality. One of its first acts was to conduct a campaign of assassination of government officials and army officers. It then forced the evacuation of the urban areas, causing great suffering and involving thousands of casualties.
According to recent statements by the Australian journalist John Pilger the Pol Pot forces entered Phnom Penh at 7.30 a.m. on 17 April and at 1 p.m. they ordered the city to be abandoned. This is how he described the position:
There were no exceptions. The hospitals were to be emptied at gunpoint. Doctors were forced to stop in midoperation. Dying patients were wheeled into the streets in their beds.
He went on to quote the experiences of a school teacher, who had this to say:
They put their guns on us and told us to march north into the countryside. The children were crying- I asked if we could first go home and join our families. They said no. So we just walked away and most of the little ones died of exhaustion or hunger. I never saw my family again.
Subsequently the regime launched a brutal attack on every facet of Kampuchean life. Mr Pilger reports that anyone with education or a modern skill was killed, and that included doctors, teachers, technicians and skilled workers. People who owned modern appliances or lived in cities or towns were also likely to be killed. One could go on quoting the excesses of the regime, but it would merely be a case of piling horror upon horror. The terrible statistics may never really be known. At the end of the 1 960s over seven million people lived in Kampuchea in comparative peace. On top of the half a million people who were killed in the bombing and fighting in the early part of the 1 970s, it is now estimated that between a further one million and three million people were slaughtered during the reign of the Pol Pot regime. In view of the total collapse of the infrastructure within Kampuchea, the full story may never be known. Those people who were fortunate enough were able to flee to Thailand or Vietnam; those people who remain now face imminent starvation.
Not only was the Pol Pot regime busily slaughtering its own people; also it actively engaged in a border war with Vietnam. Relations between Kampuchea and Vietnam traditionally have not been good, but they deteriorated rapidly following the takeover of Kampuchea by Pol Pot. Clearly, there would have been faults on both sides. We do not have sufficient information really to form a conclusive view on why Vietnam finally attacked Kampuchea. But today Vietnam justifies its actions by saying that they were taken because of the excesses of the Pol Pot Government. Certainly there is considerable evidence to support that claim, in the sense that 150,000 Kampuchean refugees went into Vietnam prior to the invasion.
Others see the Vietnam action as an attempt by Vietnam to expand its sphere of influence by military means. Still others see it as an extension of the Sino-Soviet dispute. No doubt, all those factors played some part in the Vietnamese strike. Whatever the reasons, the strike was extraordinarily effective. In just over two weeks the Vietnamese forces, backed by Kampuchean insurgents supporting Vietnam, swept through most of the country and installed the Heng Samrin regime as the administering authority. The speed with which the Vietnamese forces took control of the country was a testimony either of the might of the military forces of the Vietnamese or of the almost total lack of support by the Kampucheans for their Pol Pot Government. That in no way justifies the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea.
In order to put the matter in proper perspective, we should look briefly at the circumstances which enabled this rather extraordinary Kampuchean Government to gain control of Kampuchea. When the Cambodians were taken over in 1970, the forces of the Cambodian communist guerrillas, which were known as the Khmer Rouge, numbered between 1,500 and 3,000 people. In other words, they virtually had no popular support. In that year a revolutionary front was established, which received some support from Prince Sihanouk and began to gain strength rapidly, until eventually it was able to take control of the country with the collapse of the Lon Nol Government. The British journalist, William Shawcross, recently published a book entitled Sideshow- Kissenger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia, which was based on information obtained under the American Freedom of Information Act about the role of the American Government in that Cambodian war. In a recent interview, Mr Shawcross described the situation in Kampuchea following the invasion of that country in May 1 970 in the following terms: . . and from thai moment on it was downhill all the way for Cambodia as far as Cambodia was concerned, because the war spread across the country for the next five years. The agricultural system was destroyed utterly, the people fled from the lands in hundreds of thousands to the towns to escape first the bombing, and then the communists and most important of all perhaps is that the communist Khmer Rouge who had hardly existed as a political force in 1 970, who numbered perhaps 2,000 guerillas in a country by now about 7 million and had no political strength and no hope of gaining power, then throughout the war, grew and grew and then grew vicious and by 1975, the country had been destroyed and the Americans had fled the region and the Khmer Rouge were left to take it over and we know what has happened since.
Mr Shawcross was extremely critical of the role the Americans played in Cambodia in the early 1970s. He was particularly scathing about the comment that President Nixon made to his Chief of Staff, Halderman, when he said:
Bob, 1 want the North Vietnamese to think there is a mad man in the White House and I want them to realise that this mad man has his linger on the nuclear button. That way they will be in Paris negotiating for peace within two weeks.
As a result of the war in Cambodia, with the resulting destruction of the country’s infrastructure in crops, the Khmer Rouge was able to get control of the country and implement its extraordinary policies. The Australian Government’s support for the war in Vietnam extended to the war in Kampuchea, and it was only the advent of a Labor Government in this country at the end of 1972 which led to the Australian Government talcing a stand against that carnage. Yet it was that war which created the conditions that allowed the Pol Pot regime to take over in Kampuchea. To compound our involvement, we now insist on giving our support to that Government, notwithstanding its brutality and notwithstanding the fact that it now controls very little of Kampuchea.
The Australian Government’s attitudes about the Pol Pot regime and the Hanoi Government are completely inconsistent. Because of American involvement in Vietnam, the towns of Vietnam, particularly in the south, became swollen with people from the rural areas responding to the economy that had been created by wartime conditions. The response of the Vietnamese authorities to this position was to compel many of the urban dwellers to return to the countryside in an attempt to revive the country’s agriculture and reduce the urban problems. This created enormous personal difficulty for the people involved, whose lives were disrupted, firstly by the war, and then by the compulsory transfer back to a countryside which was in a very sorry state as a result of saturation bombing and treatment with deadly chemicals.
A similar position occurred in Kampuchea, where people fled to the cities in the course of the war in that country. The response of the Pol Pot Government was to order everyone to the country forthwith and to kill everyone disobeying the order. In addition, the elements of society which were not acceptable to that regime were slaughtered out of hand. By contrast with our response to Vietnam, from which we withdrew aid, we have maintained support for the Pol Pot regime, and that support was forthcoming last Saturday. Because the Government is determined not to take any steps which would be seen to favour Vietnam, it has maintained its recognition of the Pol Pot Government in the face of all the information about the atrocities that have been committed in that country and in the face of the undeniable proposition that it has ceased to be the governing force of Kampuchea. To demonstrate the inconsistency of our decisions, one has to look only at the Australian Government’s attitude to Uganda, where the Government of Amin was thrown out by the invading Tanzanian forces who installed a regime sympathetic to Tanzania. We have had no difficulty in recognising the regime in Uganda and withdrawing our recognition of the Amin Government.
– Are you saying that Heng Samrin is in control of Cambodia?
– I would not know. Does anybody know? We are not advocating recognition of the Heng Samrin regime. I thought I made that clear. We are advocating an evenhanded stance on this. The Government is not. That is the point about which we are concerned. Senator Knight is supporting a government which is supporting a murderous discredited government in another country. The reason given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in correspondence with me is that the Tanzanians have declared their intention to withdraw their forces from Uganda but the Vietnamese have given no such undertaking in regard to Kampuchea. The first point to note, if Senator Knight is listening, is that the Minister’s statement is incorrect in the sense that the Vietnamese have indicated that they will withdraw from Kampuchea under certain conditions. The more important point is that it is a very curious basis for recognising a regime, and it seems to have no basis in international law or in good sense. A mere statement of intent by invading forces cannot be the basis for recognition of any government installed at the behest of those forces, but that is the position argued by Mr Peacock in respect of Uganda.
The record of inconsistency is compounded by what happened last week in the United Nations. The Credentials Committee decided by six votes to three that the Pol Pot administration would continue to represent Kampuchea in the United Nations. When the matter came before the General Assembly there was a Bulgarian motion to have the Committee’s recommendation set aside. Subsequently there was an Indian amendment, which was defeated, and eventually the report of the Committee was put to the Assembly and adopted by 71 votes to 35, with 34 abstentions. The Australian Ambassador told the Assembly that Australia would support the Credentials Committee’s recommendation that the Pol Pot regime be recognised because the United Nations should rely on legal and technical rather than political questions. This rather extraordinary proposition was repeated in the Senate again yesterday. Unfortunately I have not the time to go through the details, but I suggest that the Government compare the reply that was given by Senator Carrick yesterday in this chamber with the reply given by the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Sinclair, in the other chamber. Those two positions were quite inconsistent.
The Government is not only inconsistent with its attitude to other countries but also its own Ministers take these inconsistent views, as I have just indicated. Unfortunately, I have not the time to deal with them individually. This morning on AM the Minister for Foreign Affairs was interviewed. He said:
We are facing a huge tragedy of the most extraordinary dimension -
He was speaking from New York- not just through famine and disease now but with a heightening of the war, and unless people arc prepared to not allow politics to stand in the way and get medical supplies in, then the suffering will he immeasurable.
I have no doubts as to the genuine concern of the Minister at the tragedy in Kampuchea and that he meant every word of what he said, but it is a great pity that those sentiments were not expressed 10 and 12 years ago when not only Kampuchea, but also Vietnam and Laos were suffering the most massive onslaught in history in which more bombs were dropped on those three countries than the total tonnage dropped during the Second World War. It was claimed at the time that Vietnam would be blasted back into the Stone Age. That was one of the few accurate predictions of the effect of American and Australian involvement in the war. In addition, the massive dropping of chemicals to destroy crops set back agriculture in those countries by many years. I use the Minister’s own words again. The suffering at that time was ‘immeasurable’. It was also a ‘huge tragedy of the most extraordinary dimension’. All these terrible events are now in the past. Terrible mistakes were made. They were made because of hard line attitudes and hatreds that ought not to form any part of the thinking of any Australian Government.
Historically we as a nation have little to justify any national feeling of bitterness towards anyone. We are probably in a minority of nations that are fortunate enough to be in that position. It is therefore all the more reason why our role should be, as far as it is possible to be, that of the conciliator and the mediator.
– All of us share the most tremendous sympathy for the suffering of the people of Kampuchea. I acknowledge and recognise- (Quorum formed). I just draw attention to the fact that, when Senator Walsh drew attention to the state of the House, there were only four Labor Party senators present.
– And only four Liberals too.
- Senator Coleman was not in the chamber. We are discussing a matter of urgency brought forward by the Labor Party. One would have thought that Labor Party senators would have placed great store on it. As I was saying, we all acknowledge with sympathy the sufferings of the people of Kampuchea and, indeed, the sufferings of the people of Vietnam and people in other parts of the world. I might add that in the private conversations I have had with my friend and colleague Senator Mcintosh he has shown a tremendously sympathetic attitude towards this problem, and I think that he would acknowledge that I have shown the same sympathy and understanding.
The motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) is an extraordinary one. First of all, it takes the Government to task for its failure to adopt an even-handed approach. I have always regarded the expression ‘evenhanded’ as a most extraordinary one. To my knowledge no one has ever defined what is meant by ‘even-handed’. The Opposition takes the Government to task because we still support the Pol Pot regime. My colleague Senator Knight interjected and drew attention- I am amazed at the ignorance of Senator Wriedt who is the shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs- to the fact that Senator Wriedt does not understand the difference between support and recognition. Recognition does not in any sense imply support. We recognised the horrendous government of Idi Amin. If we are to base our support upon the policies pursued and the lack of humanity shown, there would be many governments in the world, including some major powers, which we would not recognise. Recognition does not imply support. That is a very well known principle of international relations.
– Not to Senator Wriedt.
– As a shadow Minister he apparently does not even understand that. Senator Wriedt referred to the United Nations.
– Wasn’t that the reason–
– I will make my own speech; you can make yours, Senator Chipp. If you want to disagree with what I am saying, you can do so.
– I am asking you a question. Wasn’t that the very reason why the Liberal Party did not recognise Red China for many years?
– That is a different principle altogether, if I may say so. I do not want to argue about Red China at the moment, Senator Chipp.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Jessop)- I suggest that Senator Sim directs his remarks through the Chair.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I accept that admonition. If we are to argue on principles, we will get ourselves into all sorts of problems. I say with respect that Senator Chipp will get into the same sorts of problems; perhaps he will have more problems than we do. Senator Wriedt referred to the United Nations vote which was taken in recent days. It is interesting to note that 71 countries accepted that the Pol Pot regime should still be recognised. Thirty-five countries voted against that proposition, and there were 34 abstentions. We should note in our own national interests- this is what foreign policy is about- that many of the countries which voted for that motion are countries which are vital and crucial to our security. For example, this is a very delicate and sensitive issue amongst the Association of South East Asian Nations which are the countries most directly affected by events in Indo-China. They still vote for the recognition of the Pol Pot regime, although they condemn, as we condemn, the horrendous nature of that regime.
We should also look at the countries which recognise the Heng Samrin regime. They are an interesting group of countries- I will list them in a moment- compared with the countries which still maintain recognition of the Pol Pot regime. There is Vietnam, as one would expect, Laos, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics- one would expect that- the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Mongolia, Cuba, the People’s Democratic Republic of the Yemen, Ethiopia, Angola, Afghanistan, the People’s Republic of the Congo, Libya, Mozambique, Hungary, Grenada, Nicaragua and the Seychelles. They are the only countries which recognise the Heng Samrin regime as the government of Kampuchea. I hope that it is not being suggested that Australia should include itself amongst those countries rather than amongst the countries which still maintain recognition of the Pol Pot government.
Senator Wriedt did not explain what he means, what the resolution means or what the Labor Party means by an even-handed approach. Did he mean that withdrawing recognition from the Pol Pot regime and not recognising either of the regimes are even-handed actions? What would that achieve in practical terms? Surely, if we were sincere in relation to the second part of the motion we would hope to achieve something practical. By recognising neither regime, we achieve nothing. Let us look at the history of this matter. I say with respect that Senator Wriedt ‘s speech was quite irrelevant to the motion. He gave us an interesting historical dissertation of the history of events in Indo-China but this had little directly to do with this motion.
The Australian Government continues to recognise the Pol Pot Government of so-called democratic Kampuchea because at the time when Australia recognised it that Government satisfied the general internationally accepted criteria of recognition. The Heng Samrin regime was installed as a result of the Vietnamese armed intervention in Kampuchea. It does not satisfy internationally accepted criteria of recognition. One could deal with the principles which are laid down as the internationally accepted criteria of recognition, but I will not bore the Senate with that.
If the Vietnamese withdrew from Kampuchea tomorrow the present Heng Samrin regime would not have effective control of the country. It is most probable that the regime would collapse. With all other countries in the region, we have condemned Vietnamese aggression against the legitimate government of Kampuchea, as much as we deplore it and oppose it. Although this has not been suggested by Senator Wriedt, the transference of recognition from the Pol Pot regime to the Heng Samrin regime of course, would be tantamount to recognising that armed intervention, if successful, can be achieved with impunity and internationally recognised with impunity.
– I specifically said that we did not support that.
– I acknowledge that Senator Wriedt did not say that but I am just making the statement. Before coming to the second part of the motion, let me say that Australia’s interests are maintained, as I mentioned previously, by associating ourselves with the general attitude adopted by the ASEAN countries which are in the most delicate and sensitive position. For Australia to take a different attitude from that of the ASEAN countries would be an act of absolute stupidity. What is the situation? With great respect to the Opposition I think its matter of urgency is based upon ignorance. Australia, of all the powers, has been the quickest off the mark in offering food aid to Kampuchea. I would be interested to know whether any other country has offered the type of aid which Australia recently sent, that is, some 3,500 tonnes of rice.
– Yes, but it is not going to get there until it is too late.
– I just referred to ignorance. Because of the Australian offer of rice which will be leaving Geelong in a week or two the World Food Program has immediately released 1,000 tonnes of rice from Thailand. I say that with respect to Senator Coleman; I am sorry I referred to her ignorance. Because of the Australian offer food aid is being made immediately available long before the arrival of our contribution.
It is often said that we should use diplomatic means to cut diplomatic red tape. But what are the facts? As much as we deplore them, the facts are very real. We cannot carry on direct negotiations with the Heng Samrin regime. We do not recognise it. It will not carry out direct negotiations with us. We would like to cut diplomatic red tape. It is easy to say such things, but it is a jolly sight more difficult to do them. If we could, it would be one means of achieving our objective. There are no direct means of communication with the regime.
If we look at the facts we find that in Kampuchea there is only the International Red Cross and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. The regime has been allowing approximately only one plane a week into Phnom Penh to unload food supplies. About 40 tons a week is allowed into Phnom Penh. The reasons are fairly obvious. There are approximately only three people from international relief agencies on the ground. That is all that the regime will allow. There is no fuel. There are no unloading facilities. Aircraft must keep their engines running, otherwise they stay there. The obstacles in the way of providing by air the massive amount of aid which is essential make this almost impossible of achievement. These are the facts of life, much as we may deplore them. We cannot ignore them. It is as simple as that. Indeed, success will depend eventually upon the co-operation of other countries, including the Soviet Union, which has the greatest influence in Vietnam. At the moment it is not providing any assistance towards supplying the massive food aid that is needed.
There is always the question as to where the food already going there is going. Is it going to the starving people of Kampuchea or to the Vietnamese army? We do not know. No one knows. There are distribution problems within the country. The whole infrastructure has been destroyed, as I think Senator Wriedt has mentioned. The whole distribution problem is immense. There needs to be on the ground people who can assist. They are just not there. Three people simply cannot do it. There is a complete lack of co-operation by the regime in Phnom Penh. We must acknowledge that fact. This poses tremendous problems in the provision of aid.
There is also the problem of providing aid across the Thai border. This does not meet with the approval of the Heng Samrin regime. It is suspected- we do not know whether it is truethat many of these people are Pol Pot supporters. The regime wishes to cut off all food aid to such people, give them nothing but provide it for those whom it believes it can control. Questions of international relations with the regime arise if food is continued to be supplied across the border to people whom it regards as its enemies. Yet it is being done. It would be no handicap to us to do it. Indeed, I believe that we are now providing food across the border to these dreadfully unfortunate people.
The best way in which to provide aid is through the recognised international agencies, International Red Cross, UNICEF and these other agencies which have no political axe to grind and cannot be regarded as politically suspect. Yet not even they are allowed to work within Phnom Penh and Kampuchea. I repeat, there has been little or no co-operation from the Heng Samrin regime. Therefore, it is completely unfair, almost irresponsible, to blame the
Government for what is happening. I repeat that, of the significant powers, we were the first to offer substantial aid. I do not say this in any boastful sense. I think it is probably deplorable that the major powers, which in many cases are in a better position to bring pressure to bear, have not done what Australia has done. We need not hang our heads in shame, as the motion would imply. The Government has made it quite clear that if there is to be an international appeal for relief it will play a major part. Such an appeal must be organised to ensure that the people who are affected will be helped; that the aid will go to them and not to others. We should be aware of the cost of this. A massive relief operation will be required. We are talking not of peanuts but of sums amounting to $200 m at least. It will be a massive operation. Already the Australian Government has indicated its willingness to make a significant contribution to any international appeal.
It should be acknowledged now that whatever we try to do will be affected by reports of Vietnamese military action against the remnants of the Pol Pot regime. The latest reports suggest that between 150,000 and 200,000 Vietnamese troops are poised to carry out what they hope will be the last action to destroy the Pol Pot regime. Given that type of situation, I ask quite simply: How, in those areas, can we help the poor, suffering, innocent people who are the victims of the conflict? It will be a major military operation.
– I wish that you had said that 1 2 years ago.
– I will not remind the honourable senator of a speech that he made more recently than 12 years ago. He should look it up one day. I do not renege on anything that I said 12 years ago. Other issues are involved, but let us not go into that now. I wish to draw attention to the problem that confronts us today. Before one condemns Australia one should consider the massive problems that will arise in the coming weeks because of the impending Vietnamese offensive. I would be very interested to know how one is to overcome them unless there is the full co-operation of the Vietnamese authorities in Kampuchea to assist the poor, starving people for whom I believe we all feel tremendous sympathy in their suffering. (Quorum formed).
– I would like to draw the attention of the Senate to the wording of the motion, which is:
The failure of the Australian Government to adopt an even-handed approach to the Kampuchean problem by its continued support for the Pol Pot regime and its failure to respond with sufficient promptness and generosity to the urgent need for relief and aid.
We are not here to discuss the geophysical situation, as seems to have been happening to date. At the moment we are not much concerned about that. We are not debating the rights and wrongs of the regimes which have fought for power and control in Kampuchea. We are not going over old ground; we are talking about the lives of millions of people. Can one imagine a million people dying of starvation? If we counted to one million, taking one second for each number, and counted for 24 hours a day it would take more than 10 days to complete the task. We are talking here of human lives- every one of them a person. The number could be as high as two million. I do not wish to recall 1969 and the saturation bombing by Americans of Cambodia, what happened under the Lon Nol regime when 500,000 people died and half of the population became refugees, or what happened under the Khmer Rouge or the Pol Pot regime. I wish to go over the sequence of events that took place in this chamber. We have known since June what the position was in Kampuchea. We have been quite well aware of it. If we had not been aware of it something would be wrong with our foreign service.
On 1 1 September the first question was asked in Parliament regarding the situation in Kampuchea. I asked Senator Carrick whether the Government was willing to send aid there. I reminded him of the fact that the lack of diplomatic representation in China in no way prevented trade with China. The lack of diplomatic representation in Kampuchea should in no way deter us from trying to find ways and means of getting aid through to Kampuchea. Senator Carrick ‘s reply to my question was:
I have not seen the report to which the honourable senator refers. Perhaps he can direct my attention to its source.
In his reply he also said:
The Government had decided to terminate its aid to the area on one very good basis. The Vietnamese were sustaining a very severe military action.
He went on to say:
I would be happy if Senator Mcintosh could direct my attention to the source of his information.
The information has been floating around since June. I went in to see Senator Carrick that afternoon and I gave him a copy of a report from the Australian Council for Overseas Aid. Representatives of the Council had interviewed refugees from Kampuchea and in the main they were informed that the refugees had come out of Kampuchea because of the food situation and famine that existed there. That was not all I gave him. I gave him a copy of reports from the Lamont paper, which is quite a reliable source, stating the situation in Kampuchea, and reports from the Guardian and the Washington Post.
– How would you have got aid in?
-You tell me later. Senator Carrick said he would read the reports. I expected a reply from him the following day. Instead, I found that Senator Carrick did not reply. In the House of Representatives on 12 September the first question that was asked by a member of the Government was on the Kampuchean situation. That was the first statement made on the situation in Kampuchea. The Minister in his response said:
In response to a recent approach from the World Food Program, the Government has approved the immediate provision of 3,500 tonnes of rice for distribution in Kampuchea by the World Food Program.
That was the first statement. There was nothing before that. I know that the statement from the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) as to what the Government policy was on the deplorable situation that existed in Kampuchea was very good. There was nothing wrong with it. I am not complaining about it or debating it.
– Tell us what government responded before Australia?
-You just pull you woolly head in for a while.
– Name one.
– Does it matter a cracker if I cannot name one? People are dying there by the millions. Have I got to name who is the first person who is in before you make a move? Are you prepared to watch them dying and say: ‘Unless someone else can make a move before us we cannot be discredited ‘? As far as I am concerned, Senator Knight, procrastination for political point scoring -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Jessop)- Order! I suggest that Senator Mcintosh direct his remarks through the Chair.
– Tell us what you would have done.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, how about telling Senator Knight to direct his remarks through the Chair. He is trying to cover up his conscience.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I would appreciate it if Senator Knight would desist from interjecting.
– The first statement came out on Wednesday 12 September but we had known since June about the situation in Kampuchea. Of course nobody else had given aid so we were just waiting to see who would move first. On 13 September I expected that Senator Carrick might answer my question of 1 1 September but the first question from a member of the Government parties on that day was from Senator Davidson. It is quite interesting what Senator Carrick had to say in reply to Senator Davidson’s question. He said:
As to the general situation in Kampuchea, the Government has made a number of statements over recent months.
I think that is really interesting. I challenge Senator Carrick to show me the statements that had been made over recent months. When I took the reports to him, he was not aware of what was going on. He had to see the reports. Yet he was prepared to say on 12 September that the Government had been making statements over recent months. He also said:
Certainly, the refugee problem, the shortages of food and the nature of the regime there will tend to aggravate the increase in the number of boat people.
I do not see how this connects up. Nevertheless, that is the position Senator Carrick was in. He knew nothing about the situation. He had to see these reports. Yet he said that the Government has been making statements for months on the situation in Kampuchea. I expect a reply from Senator Carrick. I would like to see the statements issued prior to 12 September on the situation in Kampuchea. On the radio program AM the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) said, and I think this has been quoted already:
We are facing a huge tragedy of the most extraordinary dimension, not just through famine and disease now but with a heightening of the war, and unless people are prepared to not allow politics to stand in the way and get medical supplies in, then the suffering will be immeasurable.
I think it is worth noting the reference to not allowing politics to stand in the way because the suffering would be immeasurable. Is that not being political? He knows full well that it will be the end of October before the 3,500 tonnes of rice reaches Bangkok. I know what Senator Sim said but I am quite sure that when it was announced on 12 September that that aid would be given the Minister was not aware of the stocks in Bangkok that could be released by the announcement of that aid. I am quite sure he was not aware of it then. I refer to a question asked by the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Burns) on 20 September in the House of Representatives. In reply the Minister for Foreign Affairs said:
I have decided that part of the initial rice contribution of 3,500 tonnes should be used immediately to replace rice obtained locally, lt is to be distributed to approximately 100,000 starving people in the area adjacent to the Thai border.
That is the area that is under the control of the Pol Pot regime. The Minister talks about the distribution of 3,500 tonnes of rice to 100,000 people. Where is the even-handedness in such distribution? It seems a phenomenal amount of rice to be distributed there. On 25 September Senator Carrick said:
In fact, the Government acted very quickly in terms of making known its intention to supply a substantial quantity of foodstuffs.
He said that the Government acted very quickly, but we have known since June about the situation in Kampuchea.
– Where else would you deliver the aid?
Senator McINTOSH You pipe down, you will have your say later. Senator Carrick also said:
Some 1,000 tonnes of rice already have been delivered-
That amount has been delivered in that space of five days. That is a phenomenal amount of rice to be delivered in five days. I do not know where the Minister got his figures. According to Senator Sim, we are getting only a very limited number of things through to Kampuchea. I just do not know where we are in this whole mess. I think we have been dithering and messing around. Statements have been contradictory. Let us be honest about it. Australia has been doing anything but acting promptly. Aid can be got in; we know that from a number of sources. The following statement was made on a radio news program at 7.45 this morning:
In Tokyo yesterday the Vietnamese Embassy issued a statement saying Vietnam would not oppose any aid Western countries could provide as long as it was not used as an excuse for intervening in Kampuchea’s internal affairs.
– What does that mean?
Senator McINTOSH There are numerous reports saying that aid can get in and I believe that we could have done something. If the Government had lived up to its responsibilities, it would have acted long before now. I repeat for the benefit of Senator Knight that genocide through procrastination for political point scoring or for any other silly purpose, as far as I am concerned, is just as reprehensible as outright slaughter.
– How many aircraft are getting into Phnom Phen?
Senator McINTOSH think this Government has quite a sin to answer for in relation to its procrastination since June.
– I am asking you whether you would send in the aid through Phnom Penh?
-Put it on notice.
– I rise to speak on the urgency motion in which the Opposition has alleged the failure of the Government to adopt an even-handed approach to the Kampuchean problem and to respond with sufficient promptness and generosity to the urgent need for aid. In opening, I have to say that I do not in any way deny the obvious sincerity of the remarks made by Senator Mcintosh in this debate. He clearly cares about the fact that millions of people have died in Kampuchea and he clearly cares about the fact that millions more will die of starvation. Nevertheless, it is a pity that he did not, as a vehicle for his sincerity, base his remarks more closely on facts.
The Government is accused of not providing aid to Kampuchea. The honourable senator alleged that it has known about the situation for some time and could have done something about it. He then went on to talk about the phenomenal speed with which the Government has managed to supply 1,000 tonnes of rice to certain areas of Kampuchea. I wish to put some facts on the record. Kampuchea was closed until six weeks ago, so no government could have provided any aid to that country in any independent sort of way. However, when faced with the opportunity to provide food aid to Kampuchea, in response to an approach from the World Food Program, the Government acted immediately and approved the immediate provision of 3,500 tonnes of rice for distribution in Kampuchea. There is no doubt at all that, given the opportunity to give aid, Australia has made it available. We have made the largest contribution of all the countries which have offered aid to Kampuchea, and we made it more quickly than any other government. During the course of his speech Senator Mcintosh laboured very heavily on the point that he thought the Government had not moved quickly enough and, therefore, he cast doubt on the sincerity of the Australian Government’s intentions in relation to aid. He was challenged during his speech to name another government which had acted more quickly. His response was that he just could not do it offhand but that that did not in any way detract from his point.
– I did not say that at all.
– That is the impression Senator Mcintosh gave when Senator Knight challenged him to name a country which had moved more quickly. He said that just because he could not answer here on his feet in the Senate, that question did not take away from what he was saying. In fact, it does because the whole point he was trying to make was that in some way Australia had been tardy or dilatory. I have to inform Senator Mcintosh that Australia was the first country to act in that area, so any point he wanted to make about the Australian Government being dilatory or tardy just is not made. That is reinforced by the fact that Australia is the largest contributor of all countries which have offered aid to date. On three grounds one cannot really accept what Senator Mcintosh was essentially trying to say. Firstly, Kampuchea was closed until six weeks ago; secondly, given the opportunity to contribute and to try to do something about the starvation and misery in Kampuchea, the Australian Government was the quickest to act; and thirdly, the Australian Government has been the most generous of those countries which have acted.
The speech made by Senator Mcintosh was all about aid- honourable senators did not hear anything about that from Senator Wriedt- and it was somehow implied that we should be getting aid into Kampuchea more quickly and in a more satisfactory way than we are at the moment. In opening the case for the Government, Senator Sim made the point that the only way this sort of aid can be distributed properly is through international agencies. At the moment there are only three personnel from international agencies available to help with the aid situation in Phnom Penh. The problem lies within Kampuchea; the obstruction is within Kampuchea. Given even that, only about one plane load of rice a week has been able to get into Phnom Penh. The difficulty is not one of intention- the aid is available- but one of what we can do with the aid that we want to give to Kampuchea. There is not the international personnel available in Phnom Penh to handle any more than is going there at the moment.
The fault for that situation lies with the Heng Samrin regime, not with the Australian Government or the international community. It lies with the regime which currently occupies Kampuchea. At most, we can get in only one plane load of food. The facilities are not there to handle more. So acting as we have in terms of aid is not our fault. The Government has tried to get food as quickly as possible to as many people as possible. I have to make the point that recognition of the Heng Samrin regime would not in any way facilitate supplies from Australia to that country.
– Should we not withhold recognition of both Heng Samrin and Pol Pot?
– I will come to that if I have time. At the moment I am trying to reply to points made by Senator Mcintosh.
– What difference will it make?
– That is another point.
– Could I please have a turn?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Jessop)- Order! I would appreciate it if honourable senators would observe the decorum of the chamber.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I do find it rather difficult to debate under those circumstances and I thank you for your intervention. Recognition of the Heng Samrin regime will not facilitate supplies in any way. The question of recognition is one to which I will refer if I have time. As I have said, at the moment I am trying to reply to the points just made by Senator Mcintosh. I am sure that if my time expires and I am not able to deal with all the points that I wish to on recognition, Senator Knight will adequately cover them when his turn comes. As I understand it, approximately 200,000 people are living in close proximity to the Thai border. Given that we can get aid to them, and the Government has not abandoned other attempts to get aid and food into Kampuchea through the international agencies in Phnom Penh, we have a responsibility to get that food to those people to whom we have access or to whom those distributing aid have access. We have a responsibility to make sure that they at least have the benefit of some of the aid that is available.
It was quite incredible that Senator Mcintosh, whilst being so bitterly critical of the Australian Government and claiming that it did not care about those millions of starving human beings to whom he referred, could in effect only give honourable senators as his contribution in the debate some sort of summary of questions and answers in Parliament. I think the parliamentary and international records show that once the Australian Government had an opportunity to extend aid to Kampuchea, it acted with determination and great sincerity. His critique of answers to questions, in line with his allegations which were incorrect in so far as they extended to aid, therefore did not contribute to this debate at all. lt was also interesting to listen to Senator Wriedt ‘s speech. I take it the main point he was trying to make was that the Australian Government should not recognise either regime. The situation is that Australia does recognise the Pol Pot regime, and most recently the Government’s views on this were expressed in the United Nations. Yesterday, in reply to questions in this place relating to that, Senator Carrick, referred to the Australian vote on the matter of recognition. As recorded in Hansard, he said: . . 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 arc 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.
Senator Wriedt, in his dissertation on the subject of recognition, which is the first half of the urgency motion, said that he did not intend to attack the Pol Pot regime. He nevertheless mounted a fair sort of attack on the Pol Pot regime, with not one word of which, I would think, any Government senator on this side would disagree. The regimes which Kampuchea and the unfortunate Kampuchean people have been submitted to in recent years are disgraceful. Much criticism can be made of the Pol Pot regime. Much criticism also can be made of the Heng Samrin regime. Our basis for recognition does not rest on any notion of just sheer revulsion at what the Pol Pot regime did, but on other standards for international recognition. To withdraw recognition from the Pol Pot regime would not advance us one wit. In fact, as I understand it, most of those who are managing to be supplied with aid by our best efforts are effectively living under the forces of the previous regime. It just shows that there is still an effective force in the Pol Pot regime. I do not think that anyone doubts that, if Vietnam were to withdraw its troops- its army of occupation, as some people call it- from Kampuchea, the Heng Samrin regime could maintain itself. There is no doubt at all that it would collapse. It is only propped up by that Vietnamese army.
The argument is not advanced by pointing out that the Pol Pot regime was a repulsive one. Senator Wriedt went on to say, when talking about the invasion of Kampuchea by Vietnam and advancing various reasons why Vietnam would have invaded Kampuchea, that the invasion was not justified and that that should be put into perspective. I suggest to the Senate that in putting it into perspective he tacitly gave some sort of justification of that invasion. We had quite a long dissertation on the miseries that the Kampuchean people had gone through. He concluded by proposing that our reason for not recognising the Heng Samrin regime was that we were determined not to take any steps seen to favour Vietnam. I do not think that it is worthy of Senator Wriedt to suggest that we were acting out of spite or some sort of historical vindictiveness towards Vietnam. We did and do recognise the Pol Pot regime. It was not one which we would have politically supported in its coming to power. We did and we do recognise the current Vietnamese Government, and we do not have to like it either. We do not bear any spite in our attitude towards that. That is not the basis of our attitude in recognising the Pol Pot regime versus the Heng Samrin regime.
We have in front of us a very curious urgency motion. I do not see that the two subjects sit together in any event. On the one hand, there is the failure of our Government to adopt an evenhanded approach. Apparently the idea of evenhandedness in this case is to recognise nobody at all. That would be on a par with recognising both of them. I believe that we have to make a decision. We live in the Asian region. We care very much about our relations with our’ Asian neighbours. The decision which we make is not one which is made lightly.
It is worth reiterating in that context that no Association of South East Asian Nations country recognises the Heng Samrin regime. Earlier in this discussion, Senator Sim listed those countries which do recognise that regime. Essentially they are Union of Soviet Socialist Republics supported countries or satellite countries. It is interesting that, out of what is essentially a list of Communist countries which have a stronger inclination to allegiances with the Soviet Union, Rumania and Yugoslavia have not recognised the Heng Samrin regime. The ASEAN countries continue to recognise the Pol Pot regime. We do not hang on their coat tails in that sense any more than we would hang on the coat tails of the United States of America in recognising neither regime. We have our own basis. That is the acceptance of the international basis for recognition of any regime.
It is interesting to remember what the figures were on recognition in the United Nations. Seventy one countries voted as we did to accept the credentials of the Pol Pot regime in the United Nations versus 35 countries who voted against. We have soundly based international reasons for recognising the Pol Pot regime, which is the first part of the urgency motion. The second part of the urgency motion, I suggest, is totally false and fatuous. It is unworthy of debate in this chamber. The facts show that Australia, given the scant opportunities that any country in the world has to help that unfortunate country, Kampuchea, at the moment, has acted with speed and with generosity.
– I am very pleased to be able to join in this discussion. I thank the Australian Labor Party for giving me the opportunity to speak in it as I returned only last week from the region which we are discussing. I am pleased to enter the discussion also as we have already heard what I believe are four excellent speeches from the first four participants.
The Australian Democrats will support the motion put forward by Senator Wriedt in this matter, but we will support it with some reluctance. The reluctance does not stem from our belief that we do not agree with the contents of the motion because we do. Our reluctance to vote for this motion arises as we believe that if any matter ever coming before the Senate needed a nonpartisan or a bipartisan approach, it would have been this very question that we are discussing today. The two components in Senator Wriedt ‘s motion have been totally opposed by the two Liberal speakers who have already spoken. The Australian Democrats would argue against that.
We hope that the Government will receive the criticisms that are being made of it today from this side of the House in an objective way- I congratulate the Labor Party on this because our proceedings are being broadcast- for at least the national Parliament is bringing to the attention of the Australian people the plight of millions of humanbeings about whom in Australia at the moment sickening apathy is being held. If this discussion does nothing more today than awaken the conscience of Australian people listening, who will lobby their members of Parliament and their senators to take more urgent and realistic action about the suffering people of Indo China, it will have succeeded. I believe that this discussion, particularly the remarks from this side of the House, will strengthen the hand of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in Cabinet and also with his Department. Although I have high respect for many of the officers in the Department of Foreign Affairs, their highhandedness and their self-persuasion that they and only they know what is good for an area or what should be Government policy sometimes frightens me. I believe that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cabinet ought to listen more and more to Parliament and the reflection of what the people are thinking through members of Parliament rather than the so called experts in the Department of Foreign Affairs.
I will remind the Minister of some of the catastrophic advice that has been given to governments in the past from the Foreign Service. I mention the disgraceful episode and the advice given- some of it was published- regarding Timor; the disgraceful advice contained in a leaked telegram from one of our Asian posts this week, which Senator O ‘Byrne disclosed to the Parliament; and the way in which our ambassadors and the Foreign Service go along with the corrupt Asian states and say that we cannot do anything about it. To me, this sort of thing has to stop. The Ministry and the Parliament have to assert themselves more.
This motion has two parts. The first is that we criticise the Government for not adopting an evenhanded approach to the Kampuchean problem by its continued support for the Pol Pot regime. A lot of semantics have been used in the argument about this word ‘support’. The fact is that our ambassador was instructed to vote for the retention of the Pol Pot regime to represent Cambodia. Let us not quibble about words.
– Come on!
-Does Senator Knight challenge that assertion?
– That is evading the issue. You are suggesting that we support a government that we deplore. We are recognising its existence.
– I have not said anything of the kind. I am saying: ‘Let us not quibble about words’. The fact is that at the weekend the Foreign Minister and the Cabinet which Senator Knight supports instructed our ambassador to vote for the continuance of the Pol Pot regime to represent Kampuchea. I hasten to add that I will not score a political point off Senator Knight by saying that he supports the actions of the Pol Pot regime, but the very fact that he has supported the decision to vote that way means that he supported the continuation of the Pol Pot regime. I say that that is reprehensible not for the reasons that he is imputing to me but because we do not embrace the realities of the area. We could have abstained. I am not suggesting that we should have recognised the other regime. That would have been equally silly and equally reprehensible. But the fact that we have recognised this monstrous regime immediately alienates Vietnam, the whole key to the problem.
Senator Martin is interjecting and making a smart-Alick remark as sometimes she is tempted to do. I listened to her speech very carefully to try to find whether she could tell us a solution to this enormous problem to humanity. The key to it is Vietnam. As much as we might dislike Vietnam and criticise its actions and its political philosophy, the key is Vietnam’s allowing the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, the Red Cross and other aid agencies into Kampuchea. That is where the key is. There is no other way, as far as 1 can see. As much as I would favour a solution being brought about by Prince Sihanouk being allowed to go back and lead a neutral government- 1 put that aside as being unlikely- 1 cannot see Vietnamese troops withdrawing in the immediate future and allowing free access by agencies. The key is Vietnam. As much as we dislike it- as much as I dislike it- the second key is the Soviets. The sheer recognition of the Pol Pot regime will immediately alienate the Soviets. Senator Sim talked about the realities of foreign policies. I am suggesting that nothing 1 have heard from the opposite side of the chamber today has given us any clue to a solution to the problem of how to save starving human beings from dying in the next month or two.
Let me briefly give some history of Cambodia. Senator Wriedt did this previously. In 1975, seven million people lived there. Today four million people are left. Only 20 per cent of the adult population are males. There are hundreds of thousands of orphans. In 1975 there were 500 doctors. Today there are 40 doctors. In Kampuchea today there is only one birth for every 10 deaths. Now two million people- half the existing population- are threatened by starvation over the next six months. Only 5 per cent of the arable rice land is presently planted. That is the sort of situation that we are talking about. I suggest to Government senators that they take the advice of their Foreign Minister, whom I commend with all the strength I have for what he said this morning on the radio program AM. He said: . . unless people are prepared to not allow politics to stand in the way and get medical supplies in, then the suffering will bc immeasurable.
We have to examine every conceivable wayputting politics aside- to get aid in. Recently the Vietnamese forces refused to allow UNICEF to take a prefabricated hospital into Kampuchea. That is a reprehensible act. But are we going to change the minds of the Vietnamese by abusing them in this place or by saying: ‘No, we must not do anything to alienate China and, therefore, we must continue to recognise the Pol Pot regime’? Do we say that we must never do anything to offend the United States of America because it wants us to recognise the Pol Pot regime? We cannot have it two ways. We cannot pursue an impossible and unrewarding course, as I believe this Government is doing in recognising the Pol Pot regime, and expect the keys to the solution of this problem- Vietnam and Russia- to change their views.
Historically, what is Kampuchea? The Khmers were being replaced by the Thais and the Viets over a period of years. French colonisation prevented their total absorption and although the Cambodian Communist Party and the Vietnamese Communist Party fought common enemies over a period of years, there was always antipathy between the two. Sihanouk was the neutral. But the Americans, supported again by us, placed in control of Cambodia during that time a monster of a man called Lon Nol, one of the great heroin pedlars of the Golden Triangle. During that time the United States flew into Kampuchea- then known as Cambodia- 700 tons of rice a week plus probably twice the amount of bombs. It is a criticism of the insanity of the human race that we could fly in 700 tons of food and double that amount of weapons in war time and yet say that it cannot be done and do not take the necessary steps when two million people are faced with starvation. We are doing exactly what the Foreign Minister asked us not to do. We are introducing politics into the question.
The Khmer Rouge or the Pol Pot regime killed between two million and three million people in the years between 1975 and 1979. Senator Martin and Senator Knight need not accept my assertion that by recognising the Pol Pot regime we are alienating people who could force a solution. I imagine that they would concede that Prince Sihanouk is something of an expert on his own country. In an interview which Senator John Wheeldon obtained from him recently he said:
I believe, however, that it is not possible for me to achieve anything for as long as the non-aligned countries and all of the Western countries, except the United States, France, Canada and West Germany, continue to recognise the Pol Pot Government and the Cambodian seat in the United Nations is occupied by a Pol Pot representative.
That is from a person who probably loves his country and who is most knowledgeable about his country and from whom we can now get some form of objective statement. That is why I agree with what the Labor Party has put forward this afternoon. While we continue to recognise the Pol Pot regime it is not possible to have any form of solution in Kampuchea and Cambodia. I conclude by repeating what the Foreign Minister said this morning. Again let us give credit where it is due.
I shall now speak briefly about the second prong of the Opposition’s matter of urgency. I agree to a large extent with what Senator Mcintosh said. We could have acted earlier, although maybe not much earlier. I have great confidence in and admiration for Australia’s Foreign Minister. It pleased me very much to hear him say on AM this morning: 1 was very concerned because it had been put to me this morning that UN personnel’s visas ran out tomorrow and they had not been renewed by the regime in Phnom Penh so I asked the Vietnamese to try and rectify that situation and they gave me the undertaking that they would.
What are we talking about? The Foreign Minister- thank God- was able to do something, but he said that he learnt this morning that the visas of the United Nations personnel will run out tomorrow. Why did somebody not tell him before today that they will run out tomorrow? Why did not somebody tell somebody else that representations could have been made to the Vietnamese, not necessarily by us but by other people who have good offices there?
I conclude with a plea that we adopt the words of the Foreign Minister and not allow politics to stand in the way. Politics will stand in the way if we as a nation continue to follow blindly what the United States says we must do, if we follow blindly what China says we must do, or if we adopt the attitude that we must not offend China because we want to sell our wheat to China, and so on. That is where politics can enter into this matter and stop a solution and allow millions of human beings to die.
– I begin by endorsing the view put by Senator Chipp that it is appropriate that a matter of the gravity of this should be aired in the national Parliament, because the hideous genocide that has occurred in Kampuchea in recent times and the devastating conditions under which so many millions of Kampucheans now live and die of starvation have to be a matter of concern to anyone in this Parliament and to anybody with any humanitarian instincts anywhere. But I have to say that the motion does exactly what he asks that we do not do, and that is that it introduces politics into this matter. The motion attacks- on spurious grounds, I believe- the failure of the Australian Government, to use the terms of the motion, to do a number of things. The motion simply does not stand up to scrutiny. In being a partisan motion in attacking the Government’s action, inevitably in introduces politics into this debate, which one would have hoped might be conducted not at a political level, but rather at a national level in the interests of the people who are dying and starving every day in Kampuchea. I have no doubt that no one in this chamber or in this Parliament can appreciate the suffering that those people must have to face every minute of what is left of their lives.
I must comment on some of the statements made earlier, particularly by Senator Wriedt. It is not a semantic argument if I may say so, to distinguish between support and recognition. If the Australian representative had not supported the credentials of the Kampuchean representatives at the United Nations, there would be no Kampuchean representatives in the United Nations at this time. It is not a matter of semantics. There is a very great difference between support and recognition.
– So what?
– It is important, because this Government does not support Pol Pot. This motion, I believe, suggests that it does. That is not the case. It is very important to note that this Government recognises the Pol Pot regime, or what is left of it in enclaves in Kampuchea; but it does not support the genocide of which obviously that regime is guilty, or the vicious behaviour of that regime when it held more effective power in that country. In that context, I should also comment on Senator Wriedt ‘s reference to Uganda. The point, of course, is that when a new government was installed in Kampala, admittedly backed by Tanzanian troops, it was clearly in control of the territory of Uganda- no one questioned that- and it gained immediate international recognition. That is a very different situation. It is very easy to draw simple parallels, but it does not fit Uganda. There was a government which was in control of the territory which it claimed to control.
I refer also to statements made by Senator Mcintosh to the effect that the Government only as recently as mid-September began to express some concern about the situation in Kampuchea. To say the least, statements of that kind are misleading. No doubt Senator Mcintosh, who is a respected colleague of mine on the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, because of his interest in that very subject must be aware that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has made a number of statements on this issue. The obvious one is his statement in this Parliament on 27 February on the geopolitical situation. In that statement there was extensive discussion of the situation in and the tragedy of Kampuchea. There have been a number of questions answered and statements made, for instance, in March, in May and in July. On 4 July a statement was made by the Foreign Minister after the Association of South East Asian Nations meeting on Indo-China. On 25 July there was reference in the ANZUS communique to the tragedy of Kampuchea and the resolve of the members of ANZUS to try to do something about it. But these things are not done in five minutes, unless there are some means of doing them, and Kampuchea has been closed. It has not been possible to get aid in.
There have been references, facile references, today to getting aid into Kampuchea by some means other than across the border with Thailand. But my question, which I put to Senator Mcintosh, is: How? Where? Where would he get it in? Is he aware that only one aircraft a week can get into Phnom Penh, that there are no unloading facilities and that aircraft have to go on to the ground in Phnom Penh and leave their engines running while boxes are thrown off? The Government has said that it will make an aircraft available and fill it with aid. But what good is that if we cannot get an aircraft in? If we do, there are plenty of other people ready to do it too. But only one aircraft a week is allowed in, and one aircraft carries 40 tonnes. The Australian Government has offered 3,500 tonnes of rice. How much of that is going to get to Phnom Penh on an aircraft? It has to go across the Thai border to Phnom Penh.
– Is the Government going to make it easier to get stuff in by recognising Pol Pot?
– I suggest that if Australia does not recognise the Pol Pot regime, if we do not accept its credentials in the United Nations, Kampuchea is not in the United Nations; it will have no representatives, no voice. If we do recognise Pol Pot, it makes no difference in the world to the amount of aid that we can get into that country. As I understand it, the aid going across the Thai border is in fact going to people who, in theory at least, are supporters of the Pol Pot regime; but that is irrelevant. Presumably most of those people have never heard of Pol Pot. They have probably never heard of Vietnam. But they are suffering because of the policies of both of those countries, and they are dying. It is only across that border that we will get the aid in. The fact that we recognise Pol Pot makes no difference whatever. If we recognised anybody else, or recognised neither of the parties in Kampuchea, it would not make the slightest difference. The question is: How can we help those people who are dying? The answer to that is: By getting aid in now through the World Food Program and international agencies. We have now offered nearly $2m worth of rice. We have made that offer clear. We also have an aircraft ready to go if we can get it in.
The Minister has made statements on many occasions to the effect that we are quite ready to give more aid if we can get it in. We stand ready to give more aid to the Kampuchean people, particularly if international organisations and other nations will put their weight behind it. There has been no dilatoriness on the part of this Government. There has been no tardiness. It has not neglected the situation. It has not sat back and ignored it. The Minister has been making statements about it all year. The tragedy has been recognised. This Government has been involved in negotiations with international agencies and other governments throughout the year, to try to get aid in to these people and to devise the best means of doing so, while the Opposition sits back and accuses the Government in a partisan fashion, making this a political debate which it ought not be. What is the Opposition doing to help by adopting that attitude? It is sitting back, self-satisfied that with empty words in this Senate it might achieve something.
I ask: What would the Opposition do? I put these questions to the Opposition: What else would it have done? When would it have done anything? How would the Opposition have got the aid in? And what answers does it offer? Not one word; not one practical word about the starving millions of Kampuchea. There has been lots of empty rhetoric, but not one practical word about what the Opposition would do. One might well ask, for example: What governments recognise the Pol Pot regime? Senator Chipp has raised that issue. I make just one point on that, and that is that all our ASEAN neighbours take the same position. It might equally be asked: Who opposes recognition of the credentials of the Pol Pot regime, apart from those opposite? Let me list some of those: Vietnam, obviously; the Soviet Union, obviously; the German Democratic Republic; Mongolia; Cuba; Angola; Libya; Mozambique. That would be good company for Australia.
I put it to the Opposition that the first part of this motion is utterly specious. It refers to an even-handed policy. One does not have to look back far to the Labor Party’s concept of evenhandedness with respect to the Middle East in 1973 and 1974 and the disaster that that represented for Australian foreign policy and Australian policy in the Middle East. What do honourable senators opposite mean by the term even-handedness’? What are they referring to? What would they achieve by adopting what they consider to be an even-handed approach? They have said not one word about what they would achieve, what the term ‘even-handedness’ means, or what is the virtue of even-handedness in that situation. What about the second part of this spurious motion which has been put to the Senate? Referring to the Government, it states:
It is a disgraceful political motion. The Australian Government has been among the foremost countries in trying to negotiate a means of getting aid to the Kampuchean people. It has been among the first to provide aid and has said: We are ready to give more because we recognise the hideous suffering caused by the genocide of the Pol Pot regime and the terrible suffering that the Kampuchean people now face’. Not only have we done that; we have also constantly done everything in our power as a government and a nation to relieve the problems of refugees. Australia has taken tens of thousands of refugees, recognising their situation as part of this very great problem. One thousand of those refugees have been Kampucheans, coming directly to Australia from Kampuchea. I think that perhaps it is worth bearing in mind that we have not just been involved in negotiations with other governments and with international agencies to try to get aid into Kampuchea, which we have now done and which we have been among the first to do; the matter of refugees has to be seen in the same context. Australia as a nation and this Government have recognised the great suffering of those people and we have taken Indo-Chinese refugees in greater relative numbers than any other country. One thousand of those refugees have come directly from Kampuchea.
I can only say that this motion introduces a partisan element into debate on this issue. As Senator Chipp said, this is undesirable. It can only be destructive. It is a spurious motion. Its reference to the Pol Pot regime is nonsensical. Its reference to a failure on the part of this Government to act promptly in providing assistance is fatuous. This Government has acted as promptly as possible in the circumstances and as generously as any other government. It has made it clear that it will continue to do so. This motion simply seeks to make political capital out of the suffering millions of Kampucheans. It is a disgrace to this chamber that it should have been put before us in the partisan terms in which it has been put to us. We should debate the matter and the community should be aware of the suffering of the Kampucheans, but let us not make it a partisan debate. For those reasons, I move:
– 1 raise a point of procedure, Madam Acting Deputy President. 1 thought that Senator Knight entered this debate with great vigour. He has put a very firm case which needs to be answered. It is quite extraordinary that he should have moved the gag.
– May I speak to the point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President. Because my case is so strong, as Senator Georges conceded, it is quite clear that the motion is spurious and therefore the question ought now to be put in order to put an end to this debate.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator D. B.Scott)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Wriedt’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator D. B. Scott)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969,I present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
New Terminal Complex at Coolangatta Aerodrome, Queensland; and Darwin Patrol Boat Base at Larrakeyah, Northern Territory.
– I take this opportunity to indicate to the Senate the proposed order of proceedings for the Senate tomorrow, 27 September. It is proposed to ask the Senate to adjourn tomorrow after the transaction of formal business to enable the two Estimates committees which have not finished their deliberations, Committees B and D, to meet. It is hoped that the Senate will adjourn before lunch or as soon as possible thereafter.
– I move:
I believe that the purpose of this motion is selfexplanatory, in view of the recent debate relating to workers compensation and the statements made by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) during that debate. We are entering into a new field of legislation by regulations, and I raise the question whether that course is proper or whether we should have some added machinery to deal with this new field. For a long time I have conducted a campaign to retain control of legislation within the Parliament. I think it is proper that, if possible, the people ‘s elected representatives should have a say in every decision made by the Parliament. They are responsible to the electors and therefore should be the government for the purpose of deciding every issue. But we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that, with the increasing volume of legislation, government would bog down if it did not have some method of using regulations which have the effect of law, thus preventing every little parochial question being brought to the Parliament.
I think that most parliaments have adopted the policy of delegating to someone else powers under legislation, but we have always reserved the right in the legislative machinery of this country to have supervision over the actions of that person. Erskine May in his Parliamentary Practice says that unless restrictions are imposed we would reach a stage where the servant becomes the master. We have had a position in Australia for some considerable time whereby lawmaking can be carried out by regulation and the power is given in an Act of Parliament to someone else, such as a Minister, to make a regulation. But in giving that power to the Executive we imposed some restrictions. We said that the Parliament should have supervisory control and that the Executive could not make laws without the approval of Parliament. In its wisdom, the Parliament passed the Acts Interpretation Act, which provides that when a regulation is made a member of parliament has the right to move for its disallowance. If the regulation is not desirable in the view of politicians, the Parliament decides whether it shall be disallowed. The Parliament does have some control over this delegated legislation; some power stays within the Parliament. If no discussion takes place within 1 S sitting days after notice of disallowance is given it is automatically disallowed. It may be that it is not seen fit to bring the regulation on for debate. In this way, the Parliament and not the Executive has control.
I refer now to the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill. The second reading speech of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) specified amounts of compensation which the Government believes to be the appropriate value for the period. I can visualise that the value may not reflect the correct value in future years. Rather than the Parliament’s deciding on the future amount of compensation, the Bill states that workmen shall be paid compensation of $90 a week or such other amount as is prescribed. Therefore, the power to alter the amount is taken completely away from the Parliament. The amounts are stated in a regulation; the Parliament has the power to disallow the regulation. The Minister, in her speech, said that it was a Cabinet decision that the amounts would be specified by regulation rather than the Parliament periodically deciding on the amount. The Parliament’s supervisory role continues insofar as it has the right by virtue of the Acts Interpretation Act to disallow a regulation when it is made.
The only power that the Parliament has over a regulation is to disallow it. If Parliament does not like the regulation, it can disallow it. Such a system has worked with the types of regulations that we have enacted up to this stage. It would be a courageous politician who would move for the disallowance of a regulation that grants a benefit to someone despite the fact that he would be of the opinion that the benefit was insufficient to be adequate compensation values in terms of a specific time. If in 12 months’ time the Government decided that injured workmen should be paid $ 100 a week and the inflation rate was such as to justify a payment of $ 120 a week, the only action any parliamentarian could take when the Government altered the amount from $90 to $100 would be to move to disallow the regulation. If the Parliament agreed, the regulation would be disallowed. Injured workmen would be prevented from getting the extra $10 a week to which they would become eligible. The Parliament will not be able to substitute any other amount. We will not be able to argue that the amount ought to,be $ 120. No regulations and ordinance committee would ever recommend the disallowance of a regulation if the result of that action would deprive someone of a benefit.
There is another point. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee has given consideration to the Acts Interpretation Act which states that a regulation becomes law once it is gazetted. If Parliament disallows such a regulation, it ceases to be law 14 days after. But in respect of a regulation that rescinds a previous regulation, the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) now advises the Committee that it is legally very doubtful whether, once an ordinance has been repealed by a regulation, and the Parliament has disallowed it, the previous ordinance is revised. If that is so, changes in workmen’s compensation would have to be provided by a regulation which deletes the amounts stated in the schedule and inserts other amounts. Therefore, if Parliament disallowed that regulation, it would be questionable whether a Bill could provide for compensation for injured workmen. The Minister states that this device will be applied to other laws. I can sympathise with this aspect. If it is only a matter of raising the rate of compensation perhaps it is not necessary to involve the time of the Parliament. But we must have some safeguards to ensure that Parliament has power to determine what the rate shall be.
I have looked up Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice to see what he had to say on the issue. He gives an explanation of the British system. The House of Commons and the House of Lords have regulations in three forms. One he terms an affirmative statute under which regulations are made and are not operative until approved by Parliament. He seems to think that that is a shorter method by which to approach the question. Another form involves a committee examining and referring or reporting on the regulation. There is also a system to cover disagreement in both Houses. An affirmative motion must get the assent of both Houses. The British system also has the negative regulation which we have which is operative until it is disallowed. Some 40 days is allowed for disallowance. The British also have amendable regulations whereby the regulation which is made can be amended by the Parliament on application. Obviously the British have extended the powers of regulation more than we have. For that reason machinery has been set up to deal with the regulations. It may be essential that we do the same thing.
I think that the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs should investigate what is operating in other places. To have legislation which prescribes an amount in the future and under which the only control that Parliament has is to allow the prescribed amount is, to my way of thinking at this stage, not a proper use of regulations. If we want to set down the areas in which regulations should be used- perhaps we may need to extend the regulations- we must have the machinery to do so. I think that the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs should look into the matter and advise us. Politicians must retain the right to say what is a fair payment to anyone receiving a benefit at a particular time.
I raise one other point. It was suggested to me that I should speak to Senator Missen about the matter. I regret that I did not do that. I am sure that he would have no objection to the matter being referred to his Committee. I was told that he is very concerned about it, as are other members of the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee. That Committee has so much work on its plate now that it does not know when it could deal with this matter. I do not think that that is a reason to stop the matter from being referred to that Committee. If the only objection to the Committee’s looking at the reference at this time or at any other time is that it could not deal with it for a long time, I suggest that consideration of the matter by the Committee could be delayed until it suited the convenience of the Committee to deal with it. I can give no further explanation than that. I cannot see how any honourable senator who is interested in parliamentary control could object to the matter being referred to the Committee.
Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28 August, on motion by Senator Chaney:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Amendment Bill is complex. Even though this Bill, like many of these various Bills involving matters of finance, would appear to be uninteresting and rather dry, it really sets out to modernise the arrangements for the sale of Commonwealth Government securities. However, the Bill itself and the contents of the second reading speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) are quite important to us. The Bill is significant because it represents a belated modernisation of the Australian giltedged security market and it recognises that in a country such as Australia the competing forces within the money market effectively determine the rates of interest. There have been no major changes to the method of selling Commonwealth securities since the last war. The Australian capital market is not as advanced as many similar markets in the northern hemisphere countries. We have been lagging badly behind in the methods that have been used in recent years.
The Bill deals with two proposals. The first is for Commonwealth bonds to be available on a continuing basis. This is known as the tap system. The second proposal is for treasury notes, which are of shorter duration, to be made available through the Reserve Bank of Australia on a tender basis. They are to be sold on a periodic basis. The aim of the Commonwealth is to give greater flexibility in overall monetary policy. This follows the original announcement by the Treasurer, Mr Howard, on 2 April in two sets of discussions with the States in the Loan Council on the method of determination of interest rates.
We have examined the proposals carefully and, although there are some aspects about which we would have reservations, we will not oppose the Bill. In fact, if the system is to be allowed to work properly without the Government’s attempting to meddle with the determination of interest rates, on which there has been a great deal of comment in the media in the last 12 months or so, then we support the Government’s decision to introduce this new system commonly known as the tap and tender system. It is not unreasonable that we should suspect the Government of having the desire and the capacity to fiddle with interest rates because we recall that in 1977 the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) gave a clear undertaking that interest rates would fall by 2 per cent at the end of the financial year just ended. Of course, he has tried very hard to get out of that commitment, as he has so many others. However, there is no doubt in the minds of all of us, and particularly the financial Press of this country, that he gave that commitment.
When it was realised at the end of last year that pressure existed to force up interest rates and that the Government would be unsuccessful in achieving an inflation rate of 5 per cent or 6 per cent, which had been spelt out as another commitment in last year’s Budget, there was a deliberate attempt to manipulate the market. That was summed up probably more succinctly in a cartoon in the publication the National
Times which quite accurately depicted the position. lt showed two characters, one of whom unmistakably was intended to resemble the Prime Minister and the other the Federal Treasurer. The characters were shown entering a bank, they were hooded and they were carrying truncheons. The caption said: ‘here come the market forces’. That cartoon spelt out much more clearly than words could just how much the Government was in fact interfering with the market forces in respect of interest rates.
The reputable money market operators in Australia and others involved in the financial system warned the Government that there were serious implications in its attempting to manipulate the rates against the general trend. In terms of the Government’s commitment to increase the differential between interest rates in Australia and those overseas, it meant that we became less attractive for overseas investors. Eventually the Government woke up to the fact that it could not control the market artificially and it allowed the official rates to drift upwards. The consequence of that was that rates on semi-government borrowings, overdrafts and loans from institutions such as the Primary Industry Bank of Australia rose. That is why we tend to smile wryly when we see that the Treasurer says in his second reading speech:
Ultimately interest rates can only be determined in accordance with market forces.
I am wondering when this revelation suddenly struck the Treasurer because both his and the Prime Minister’s statements and actions last year did not illustrate that they understood that claim. If the Government persists with the fanciful view that it is still allowing the market to operate, the Australian Financial Review editorial of 9 February this year shows just how farcical that view is, because in that editorial the comment is made:
The Federal Government by its proposals to the Loan Council has at least been obliged to admit failure in its attempts to bring interest rates down by a mixture of bullying and manipulation of the market.
The term ‘bullying and manipulation’ does not sound very much like market forces at work. After the Treasurer made his statement on 2 April the Government’s actions did not seem to indicate to the financial institutions and to the money market at large that it really knew what it was about. In fact, my information is that there was considerable derision from people and organisations whose inclinations would certainly not be to support the Opposition but would tend to support the Government parties. One prominent merchant banker commented that the present Liberal Government was acting more incompetently than any previous government had ever managed to do in dealing with money market matters. Again, that view was reinforced in another editorial in the Australian Financial Review, that of 14 June, which read:
It seems the Fraser Government is determined to establish for itself a reputation for hopeless amateurism in financial management. This would be the only rational explanation for the sporadic and clumsy way in which decisions on bond yields are being made these days.
The editorial was prompted by the fact that after waiting an inordinately long time to announce an increase in the yields from Commonwealth securities, it made its announcement on the evening before the issue of an important semigovernmental security issue, namely that of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works. This meant that the prospectus had to be pulped and the Board of Works issue recast. After announcing the introduction of a new tap and tender system, the Commonwealth set about confusing the market by creating a hybrid, in that tenders are being called for the tap issue. But a number of influential financial people have been very critical of the tap system, or rather the way in which the Reserve Bank of Australia, possibly under directions from the Federal Government, is operating. The operations of this system contradict again the assertion of the Treasurer that it is the market which determines the rates.
In a truly open market one would expect that the Reserve Bank would offer treasury notes very widely. That is not the case. Instead, at irregular intervals it gets in touch with a limited number of money market dealers and brokers, offering to sell short-dated paper- after announcing the total amount of treasury notes which it has for sale. In terms of a free market auction, the Trade Practices Commission would shoot that practice down very smartly. I am told that when the Reserve Bank contacts the authorised money market dealers on its select list, it indicates what it expects the bids to be and that if it does not like the bids it receives it rejects them. If I interpret correctly the timing of the so-called auctions, they are held at the beginning and about the middle of the month, which means that there is a fair likelihood that some of the funds invested are payments which the Commonwealth makes to the States.
It seems to the Opposition that the operation of the tender system needs to be clarified and that the secrecy surrounding the Reserve Bank and the Treasury’s views on the matter should be broken. In addition to my concern about the tender system I also have some trepidation about aspects of the tap system because, with the various terminating dates for the securities, there is a real chance of inverse yields being obtained on at least some of them. It would seem to be preferable to have a single, continuous issue rather than a series of issues. As the Government managed to do that very thing with the now famous Lynch Australian savings bonds, I fail to understand why the same principle could not be applied to bonds issued under the tap system. Fortunately, some of the Commonwealth’s problems were solved by the States’ agreeing to reverse their original requirement that the interest rate set for bonds be within a defined band. This could have made a mockery of the whole system, and the Commonwealth might as well have retained the old cash and conversion loans, with all of the problems that they involved.
One of the real advantages of the Bill will be that no longer will the financial markets be racked with sporadic, large government borrowings. That point should be conceded. Even following the last Budget there will still have to be very substantial Commonwealth borrowingsunless the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries obliges and really hikes the price of crude oil, so that through the crude oil levy the Commonwealth can rake in even more than the $2,000m that it expects to derive from the levy during this financial year. Theoretically, the Reserve Bank should be able more smoothly to obtain the funds that it requires, and this in turn should smooth out changes in the rates of interest. One problem for the Government is that this opens the system to more market exposure and, accordingly, reduces the chance for Government manipulation of the market, of which the present Government has attempted to be the master. However, as those people who have anything to do with the money market know, the attempts by the Fraser Government to bear down on interest rates merely had the effect of rationing credit and shunting potential borrowers into higher interest rate areas outside of the control of the Reserve Bank, which I think anyone would realise would be a counterproductive exercise and would have some inflationary impact.
One of the points that arise out of any consideration of the overall effects of government monetary policy is that there has been a massive increase in the government loan program. Mr J. K. Bain, one of Australia’s senior stockbrokers, in an address to the International Treasurers Club on 12 July last, said:
The annual semi-governmental loan program was of the order of $50Om. Growth has been around S per cent to 10 per cent per annum. In the five years 1975 to 1979 it more than doubled from $944m to $2,086m. The bulk of this increase took place in the period of the Fraser Government. This is likely to continue as State Governments and semigovernment authorities are forced to borrow more and more as they receive less and less from the Federal Budget.
It is pertinent to a consideration of this legislation to quote certain further remarks of Mr Bain, because he is regarded as one of Australia’s most noted authorities on the gilt-edged market. He said further: lt is interesting to compare the growth in Government debt with that of the corporate sector. It is a little more difficult to quantify the medium and long-term funds raised by the corporate sector.
It would appear that in the years June 30 1 969 to 1 975, the listed public companies were raising a somewhat similar amount to the total of new Government securities issued. Both figures increased to about $ 1, 200m in 1974 and then fell back to around $900m in 1975. However, in the period from 1976 onwards Government securities issues have exceeded corporate issues by two to three times . . However, the trend is unmistakable and quite disturbing.
He went on:
It therefore seems that the danger signals arc with us. I am very doubtful that the domestic market can digest further issues of Government securities of the order of $2,500 to $3,000m per annum as have occurred in the past four years without further upward pressure on interest rates and the resultant crowding out of private borrowers.
It is pertinent for us to realise that those comments were made by a man who obviously enjoys a very high standing in Australia’s money market. I have no doubt that none of the remarks that he made had, in any way, any political content. He was making an objective comment on Government policy. We could do well, the Government especially, to take note of what he said, particularly that part in which he refers to the fact that the State governments and the semigovernment authorities are forced to borrow more and more as they receive less and less from the Federal Budget. These are matters which must concern all of us. It is for these reasons that we in the Opposition will be watching the operation of this new system and watching it very closely. Should it not appear to be working effectively we will have no hesitation in bringing it to the notice of the Parliament and to the Government. I trust that the remarks which I have made are taken as an intention to alert the Government to the dangers which obviously are ahead and which, to some degree, the Government’s policy is helping to exacerbate. If my words are not sufficient to convince the Government of these warnings I hope that the comments by a person of Mr Bain’s standing will make the Government aware of the dangers that do lie ahead of it. ( Quorum formed).
– Mr Deputy President -
– Is the Minister closing the debate?
– I was on my feet. I was intending to close the debate.
– I must take a point of order. I understood that Senator Walsh indicated he wished to speak on this legislation. That was done before the Bill came into the chamber.
– Could I indicate, speaking to the point of order, that with the best of will we made up a speakers’ list, based on information received from the Opposition, and it did not include Senator Walsh ‘s name.
– I certainly have no objection to the Minister speaking providing we understand that Senator Walsh may make a comment afterwards if he wishes.
– By way of explanation, I approached the Opposition Whip a little over an hour ago and notified him that I wished to speak on the Bill. I understood that my name had been put on the list.
– I have just been informed that Senator Walsh’s name was handed in in the last half hour. We did not have him when the list was first made up.
-I defer to Senator Walsh.
– The Bill that is currently before the Senate is what is commonly known as the tap and tender Bill. I note from the second reading speech an encouraging recognition of realism in the money market which was sadly lacking from the Government’s thinking, if the Government’s thinking can be assumed to be the same as the statements of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I refer in particular to passages which say:
Ultimately interest rates can only be determined in accordance with market forces. The increased sophistication of financial markets makes this more apparent. The arrangements introduced in this legislation facilitate the selling of Commonwealth securities at rates more in accordance with the forces of supply and demand.
I do not think there will be any serious disputation among people who have any understanding of these things that those statements are correct. I just draw attention to the fact that they stand in stark contrast to the attitude displayed by the Prime Minister just prior to the 1977 election when he said that interest rates would fall by 2 per cent over the coming 12 months. His exact words were:
It is a target that can and will be met.
The reality, of course, was there was no way in which interest rates could be forced down, given the facts that were known in November 1977, without a massive explosion in the money supply. If the Government was going to contain the money supply within the parameters it had itself set, there was no way in which interest rates could be forced down; ultimately interest rates were pushed up.
That statement indicates that the Government and the Prime Minister in particular now realise that interest rates cannot for long be determined by a political fiat but must ultimately be controlled by market forces. That is encouraging. It is a plus for better government, or at least for marginally less bad government. The purpose of the Bill is to simplify and expedite loan raisings by the Commonwealth. To that extent it is commendable and that is the reason it is not being opposed by the Opposition. The old practice of two major Commonwealth loans a year obviously created some lumpiness in the capital market and the smoother flow of funds into Commonwealth securities ought to be of advantage to the whole money market as well as to the Commonwealth Government. Loan raisings of this type while they do not affect the magnitude of a deficit, do affect money supply growth. The public’s comprehension of the inter-relationship of a deficit, of government borrowings, of money supply growth, of capital inflow and so on is, one would have to say, fairly weak. This is a pity. It is an even greater pity that the public has been consistently mislead over a very long period by the arrant nonsense mouthed principally by the Prime Minister who asserted simultaneously that deficits were inflationary and that deficits must be paid back.
A deficit, under some circumstances, can be inflationary but it depends on the way in which it is financed. If a deficit is financed by loan raisings its impact on the money supply is the same as if there were loan raisings within Australia. Its impact on the money supply is the same as if there were no deficit at all and Government expenditure was financed entirely by current revenue, by taxation. Under those circumstances a deficit or the loans which are raised to fund the deficit do ultimately have to be paid back. The type of deficit budgeting which could be inflationary is that which is funded not by loan raisings from the public, but by borrowings from the Reserve Bank which conceptually is identical to printing money. That may be inflationary. Indeed, under most circumstances it is almost certain to have some effect on inflation, maybe with a time lag. That thinking is enshrined in the school of economics, the Chicago school, or in Friedmanism which asserts that because it affects the rate of growth of the money supply it must affect the rate of inflation, albeit after a time lag. The central tenet of Friedmanism is that the rate of inflation can be determined by the growth of the money supply, or the rate of inflation is the rate of growth of the money supply minus any growth in real domestic product.
That was the fundamental economic principle which seemed to have been adopted by this Government when it came into power in late 1975 and which, although with declining enthusiasm, it has followed ever since. I say ‘declining enthusiasm ‘-perhaps ‘ failing conviction ‘ is a more appropriate term- because in April of this year it was apparent, for various reasons mainly related to the Government’s inability or refusal to take prompt action regarding the funding of the first advance on the wheat crop, that the money supply would grow by a great deal more than the 6 per cent to 8 per cent that the Government had forecast as its target in the 1978 Budget. Indeed, it finished up at very close to 12 per cent. In April of this year the explanation of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) for this growth in the money supply well in excess of that which the Government had set as its objective was that the rate of inflation had been higher than the Government had anticipated at the time when it set its monetary growth target. With that statement the Treasurer stood Friedmanism on its head, because he then asserted that the growth rate of the money supply was determined by the growth of inflation, whereas Friedmanism- or the Chicago school- says that the rate of inflation is determined by the rate of growth of the money supply. Nevertheless–
– There are a number of determinants, not only one.
– A number of determinants of what?
– For determining the rate of growth of the money supply.
– I know there are. Of course there are a number of determinants of the rate of growth of the money supply. The point that I was making was that the Chicago school theory- at least in the vulgar way in which it was interpreted and adopted by this Government- is that the rate of inflation is determined by the growth rate of the money supply minus real growth in the gross domestic product. But, in
April this year, the Treasurer, in an attempt to explain why the money supply was increasing at a rate of 50 per cent greater than that which the Government forecast and which it had been stated as its objective, said that the rate of inflation was higher than the Government anticipated when it brought in the 1978 Budget. Whereas the vulgar adaptation of Friedmanism taken on board by this Government in 1975-76 asserted that the rate of inflation was determined by the rate of growth in the money supply, the Treasurer in April was saying that the rate of growth of the money supply was determined by the rate of inflation.
I leave aside all those contradictions and oversimplifications. It nevertheless remains true that the growth rate of the money supply does have some relevance to inflation. Under certain circumstances it has a great deal more relevance than others, those circumstances principally being times of full employment. It will have less influence in times of high unemployment. There is a time lag between the time when the money supply growth is recorded and the inflationary consequences of that growth become apparent. In this context I note that my colleague, John Kerin, the very able member for Werriwa, spoke on this matter in the House of Representatives last night. He put on record some statistical facts which have been placed on record before but which are obviously either not comprehended or not wanted to be understood by members of the Government. He showed- this applied to both common indices of money supply growth, Ml and M3- that the highest money supply growth rate ever recorded in Australia was in the fourth quarter of 1972, when Ml increased by an annual rate of 28 per cent and M3 increased by an annual rate of 27.3 per cent. Of course, that was the period when the McMahon Government was in control. It was in government for all but three weeks of that period.
The principal reason why the money supply was expanding at that extraordinarily high rate was that foreign capital was pouring into the country because the McMahon Government failed to grasp the nettle in late 197 1 and revalue the Australia dollar, when quite clearly the dollar should have been revalued. If one places any credence on Friedmanism or the Chicago school, it was inevitable in a time of full employment and near full employment, which applied at that time- perhaps some would argue that it became over-full employment early in 1973- that there would be an inflationary result or that that money supply growth rate would induce a higher rate of inflation sometime during 1973 or perhaps early in 1976.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I had almost finished my remarks prior to the suspension of the sitting. I was pointing out that the highest ever recorded rate of increase in both M 1 and M3 occured in the last two quarters of 1972 and that this has had very significant inflationary dangers for the future. These facts were pointed out by my colleague, the very able member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin) in the House of Representatives last night. Sir William McMahon attempted to reply in the adjournment debate, he having been the Prime Minister at the time, of course, that this irresponsible increase in the money supply was occurring. In defence of himself, he said:
But we had decided to take action late in 1972 in order to ensure that the rate of growth of the money supply was diminished by preventing the inflow into Australia of funds that would be here for a year or less.
I draw the attention of the Senate to the words:
But we had decided to take action . . .
The Government had not taken any action; it had decided to take action. I do not suppose that any of us are in a position now to know whether the Government of the day had decided to take action. About half the members of that Cabinet are no longer prominent politicians anyway. The real point is that the Government of the day had refused to take the action which had been clearly required at least since the end of 1971, that was, to revalue the Australian dollar. The Government had refused to take that action because the Liberal Party majority was compliant in 1 972 to the Country Party minority. As the events of this afternoon in the House of Representatives have amply demonstrated, that situation still applies. The Liberal Party does not have the intestinal fortitude to do what it knows to be correct, because the Country Party stands over it. Mr Malcolm Fraser is a playground bully grown older who, just like Sir William McMahon, does not have the courage the stand up to the Country Party.
– I raise a point of order. Senator Walsh was speaking in a way which is not consistent with Standing Order 418.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I must ask you, Senator, to address yourself to the Bill.
-I have finished.
-What should I withdraw?
– I heard a statement that the Prime Minister was a playground bully. Could that be withdrawn?
– The statement was that he is a playground bully grown older and anyone who has witnessed his spineless performance in the House of Representatives this afternoon could hardly come to any other conclusion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator, I think that you should withdraw those words.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- They are not parliamentary words. That was not a proper way to refer to a member of the other place. I must ask you to withdraw.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The words that you applied to the Prime Minister.
– That he is a playground bully grown older? I have described him in precisely those terms before in the Senate and there has been no objection raised.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I am asking you to withdraw those words.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Your description of the Prime Minister.
– I made several comments about the Prime Minister. I am not sure precisely which ones you mean. I am quite happy to comply with your ruling, but I am not sure which words you have in mind.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The words that you applied to the Prime Minister in the latter part of your remarks.
- Mr Deputy President, I am at somewhat of a disadvantage when I am asked to withdraw something which is not specified.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The offending words.
-What were the offending words?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- 1 have asked you to withdraw the words you used referable to the Prime Minister. They were used in the last two sentences of your remarks. I think they are perfectly clear to you. I ask you to withdraw them.
– I think it is fundamentally illogical to ask me to withdraw something which is not specified. I am quite happy to comply with your ruling as long as I am aware of that which I am being asked to withdraw.
– Can I suggest that the matter may be proceeded with on the basis that Senator Walsh has indicated that he is quite happy to withdraw whatever he said that may have offended you, Mr Deputy President, and the chamber, and the matter be left there. It can be taken that he has withdrawn whatever was the matter that caused attention to be paid to it. It seems that that may be the simplest way out of the situation which has arisen.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I have asked the honourable senator to withdraw the offensive words which were the words referable to the Prime Minister in the latter part of his speech. I think that is pretty clear.
– I do not wish to hold up the business of the Senate for the rest of the night, so I will withdraw whatever non-specified and apparently non-specifiable offensive remarks I made.
– It was intended to have debated in the Senate the second reading stages of a Bill which is entitled the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Amendment Bill 1979. It is true to say that some senators spoke on every subject but the Bill. That requires that I should make some comments upon it. The Bill is one that arises out of a decision of the Australian Loan Council that certain amendments should be made in order to enable the marketing of bonds and associated inscribed stock in ways somewhat different from the past. Essentially that would enable a new kind of system called the tap system for bonds and a tendering system for treasury notes or associated stock. With one or two minor additions, that is fundamentally what the Bill is about. The debate has attracted comments from certain Opposition senators that in the past there has been some lack of good management on behalf of the Government of the day with regard to interest rates.
The history of the Government of the day, whether it be measured domestically against the record of the previous Government or relative to other countries in the world, is one of which the Australian community may be proud. Australia today, having lowered its inflation rate from the top quarter of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries to the bottom quarter, having steadied and lowered its interest rates over a wide period of borrowings, is competitive in the best sense. It is a respectable country and is amongst the best performers in the Western world. It needs no apology at all to say that the Fraser Government has managed its borrowings well indeed. Our own interest rates today are respectable in world company. A considerable amount of quite erroneous comment was made particularly relating to the deficit. The significant factor of the last Budget is that the domestic deficit is now of such a modest size that it would be thoroughly manageable in terms of quite modest and respectable borrowings. The Bill is a technical one but one which the Opposition has indicated it will support. I commend it to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I move:
The question of moving the suspension of Standing Orders in relation to this matter arises from Standing Orders 448 and 449. Of course this action relates to a particular subject matter which I have indicated as the substance of the substantive motion which I want to move. The Standing Orders are the rules governing the day to day conduct of the business of the Senate. It is sought here to suspend those Standing Orders to deal with a matter of much greater gravity than the day to day business of the Senate. The substantive motion which I seek to move as a result of the suspension of Standing Orders relates to the conduct of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in relation to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). It relates to a matter in respect of which there has been a long and deliberate course of prevarication, evasion and double standards displayed by the Prime Minister to protect -
– I take a point of order. My point of order is that in seeking a suspension of Standing Orders under Standing Order 448 the honourable senator who is moving the motion is required to restrict himself to his reasons for seeking the suspension and not to debate the issues, which Senator Button is starting to do by referring to some alleged facts raised in the other place. He is required to restrain himself until perhaps he obtains the consent of the Senate before he starts to debate the issues. In my submission he was starting to debate the issues.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I am sure that Senator Button is aware of the implications and I trust that he will stick strictly to the matter that he proposes.
-I was putting the point that the Standing Orders of the Senate governed the day to day business of the Senate and that it was sought to suspend those Standing Orders to deal with a more serious matter than the day to day business of the Senate. I indicated the nature of the serious matter to which I wish to advert. That was the situation which provoked the point of order. The substance of the motion sought to be moved if Standing Orders are suspended has to be touched on because one cannot in any sense tell the Senate why one wants to interrupt the normal procedures, the normal business of the Senate, merely by asserting the fact that he wishes to do so. It would be ridiculous for any honourable senator just to assert: ‘I want to suspend the Standing Orders of the Senate’. He has to tell the Senate in some way why he wants to suspend the Standing Orders of the Senate. I began to tell the Senate, and I will endeavour to continue to do so, that I wanted the Senate to deal with a very serious matter which was more important than the day to day business. The serious matter relates to a report of an inquiry set up by the New South Wales Attorney-General. We have been invited in the Senate on numerous occasions to wait until this report has been tabled. We have been told: ‘Wait in patience and then you will have an opportunity to talk about it in circumstances which are fair and reasonable’. That is what I am seeking in seeking to suspend Standing Orders in this place.
– Where is this report?
– If Senator Lewis wants to know where the report is, let me, first of all, read to him-
– Have you got a copy.
-Yes, I have.
– What about tabling it and letting us have a copy.
-I will table this extract when I have read it and all honourable senators will be able to read it. The serious matter in respect to which I have been invited by interjection to refer in detail, as I said, relates to the report of the inquiry by Mr Finnane, who was appointed by the New South Wales Attorney-General. Let me just quote for Senator Lewis’s benefit from a passage of that report because it indicates the basic reason why Standing Orders ought to be suspended. I quote:
Having considered this evidence -
That is referring to the Minister for Primary Industry-
I do not accept Ian Sinclair’s explanation that after his father’s death he found three blank documents with three signatures purporting to be his father’s -
– I take a point of order. What we are witnessing tonight is an attempt to debate an issue rather than an attempt to seek a suspension of Standing Orders. We have not heard anything by way of a simple, explanation as to why the business of the Senate should be interrupted and why the normal procedures of the Senate should be interfered with as a matter of great urgency. What we are having is an attempt to place in Hansard and over the air -
– He is showing the urgency of it.
– We have not had a word about the urgency of it. What we have had is what we would normally expect as a speech in support of the substantive motion should Senator Button succeed in having Standing Orders suspended. May I simply seek, by way of seeking order in this place, that you, Mr Deputy President, restrain Senator Button from debating the issues and keep him to the point of the urgency. Under Standing Order 448 it is only for reasons of urgency that he may move this motion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Button, you have said that you must not concern yourself with the substance of the substantive motion. I trust that you will deal only with the reasons for immediate suspension of Standing Orders.
-With the greatest of respect, I was putting a particular argument. In the course of it I was interrupted by Government senators, who invited me to say what the Finnane report has said. They invited me to do that.
– Oh, no.
-Oh, yes. Senator Lewis did. A minute later Senator Rae raised a point of order.
– I take another point of order. The fact that someone interrupted by interjection and said ‘What is this report?’ does not open it up for Senator Button to speak to the substance of the matter he seeks to raise. He is trying to suggest that he now has some reason to give us extracts- probably the whole of the report if he wishes- from a report of an inquiry. This relates to the substance of this matter. Therefore, in answer to an interjection he is endeavouring to defy your ruling, Mr Deputy President, and to talk about something other than the urgent necessity for suspending Standing Orders, which is the question in issue here. Under Standing Order 448 the Standing Orders can be suspended only in a case of urgent necessity. Speaking in support of what Senator Rae said, I submit that Senator Button is confined to the urgency as to why this matter should be debated tonight and why the ordinary course of business which is before the chamber should be set aside. Beyond that, I suggest, he is not entitled to go. He is not entitled to go into the terms of a report which he claims to have.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I believe that Senator Button is attempting to abide by my ruling,
– In order not to offend further the colleagues and accomplices of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in this matter, 1 will resume an earlier thread of my argument which I was intending to put. I submit, in passing, that the points would have been more graphically illustrated for Government senators if 1 had been permitted freedom of speech and the right to quote from a document about which they are undoubtedly concerned. I said earlier that I sought to suspend Standing Orders as the rules governing the day to day business of the Senate, and 1 want to put to the Senate why that should be done.
The Senate is one of two Houses of this Parliament. The Parliament in which we sit provides the government of Australia and it provides the Ministers in that Government. I put it to the Senate that the integrity of the Parliament is dependent upon the integrity of the Ministers and the integrity of the government which sits in that Parliament. If any higher authority be needed for that proposition, let me quote from the Prime Minister of Australia on that particular question. On 8 August 1978, in a matter which led to the subsequent dismissal of the then Leader of the Government in the Senate, when cowardly points of order were not taken in order to defeat the purpose of suspending Standing Orders, the Prime Minister had this to say about that particular issue and that particular set of circumstances–
– What is the urgency?
-If the honourable senator would just let me speak for a minute and finish, and then interrupt-
– What is the urgency?
-I am entitled to speak, and in the course of my speech I will indicate to
Senator Rae the urgency. I remind the Senate that there are Ministers in this place, as there are in the House of Representatives. They are the government of Australia. What the Prime Minister had to say about this issue at that time was this:
The community rightly demand a high standard from the Ministers of the Government. The judgments on Ministers are more exacting and sometimes more harsh- and one could add ‘more urgent’- than the judgments which might be passed on those outside the sphere of public life. If these high standards were not upheld, the people’s confidence in government- a confidence which is fundamental to Australian democracywould be undermined.
The Government has an obligation to uphold them, even though the cost can be and is in this instance a high one.
That is the standard of the Prime Minister in relation to these matters and that, one would have thought, demands a sense of urgency in this Parliament in relation to the allegations against a senior Minister to which I am not permitted by his colleagues to refer in the context of moving for the suspension of Standing Orders. The Prime Minister said that in relation to Senator Withers, the former Leader of the Government in the Senate. On another occasion, on 14 September 1978, when he was reminding the people of Australia and the Parliament about their obligations in relation to these matters, he had this to say:
I believe . . . that members of this Parliament do a grave and serious disservice to this nation if they seek at every point - and, I might interpolate, at every point of order- at every hand, to destroy any possibility of trust existing.
They are the words of the Prime Minister on two occasions. What I put to the Senate is that the Senate Standing Orders, which are the rules of business for this Senate, the rules for the conduct of the daily business of this Senate, should not be used as a sort of coward ‘s castle; they should not be used as Salome’s veil to try to hide a scar in the Government; they should not be used for these purposes, to prevent the Senate from debating a matter which goes to the integrity of the Ministry, to the integrity of the Government and, in a lesser way, to the integrity of every member of this Parliament.
That is why it is important, and that is why it is urgent that this matter be dealt with. It has gone on for months and months and months, with questions directed to Ministers about this matter. I could take half an hour of the Senate’s time in referring to answers which have been given and which show that either the Prime Minister knew about all of this all along or the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) was lying to him. There is only one conclusion that can be reached. No other options are available on the basis of the material which is now available.
– I raise a point of order. Once again Senator Button has departed from the question of urgency and is starting to debate the issues which he seeks the leave of this chamber to debate. What I find so very hard to understand in the approach that is being adopted is this: Is it because he thinks that he will not receive the support of the Senate to enable him to debate the matter that he is trying to sneak in, in contravention of the Standing Orders, all the nasty bits that he would like to get in if he got leave to debate the matter fully? As a matter of order, if this chamber cannot sort out its business, adhere to its Standing Orders and observe a proper decorum, perhaps we all ought to go home and forget about trying to run a parliament. I think Senator Button has been grossly in breach of the Standing Orders virtually from the time he started to speak. I ask you again, Sir, to bring him back to compliance with the Standing Orders.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Button does have a difficult task in remaining away from the substance. I believe that he is trying to do that. I ask you, Senator Button, to continue to stay away from the substance of the motion for which you seek the suspension of Standing Orders.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy President. Before I was again interrupted I had been making the point that this Parliament consists of two chambers; that this Parliament, in those two chambers, has Ministers in it; that the Prime Minister and others have laid down the highest standards in relation to Ministers and their conduct; and that the integrity of the whole system, according to his view and according to mine- which I put from slightly different premises, I suspect- and the integrity of the Parliament are threatened in circumstances in which there is no confidence in the integrity of a particular Minister. That is a matter of the gravest importance and urgency to this Senate and to the Parliament. I want to -
– I raise a point of order. What Senator Button is now endeavouring to do is to conclude certain things about a Minister of the Crown. There is no suggestion that a Minister of the Crown has been convicted of any offence or anything of that sort. Senator Button is going a step further than the step that Senator Rae was speaking about, because now he is endeavouring to draw conclusions. He has used recently the offensive expression ‘lying’ against a Minister of the Crown. He made that remark a few moments ago. He is now endeavouring to draw conclusions as to the conduct of a Minister. This is going further than quoting from a report and just dealing with the substance of the motion. He is in fact trying to sit here and act as a judge as well, which I suggest is grossly improper. I suggest that he has gone well beyond your ruling, Sir, and should be brought back.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Button, I must ask you not to draw conclusions in the course of the remarks that you are making.
– I do not seek to draw any conclusions on the basis of the Finnane report. What I point out to Senator Missen, if I may be permitted to speak to this, is that when Mr Garland was charged with bribery he was stood down from the Ministry straight away.
– What has this to do with the urgency?
– I am dealing with Senator Missen ‘s point. What I put to the Senate is that entirely different standards and entirely different courses of conduct are being adopted by the Prime Minister. That relates to the substance of the motion; but I say no more than that.
Let us look at an example which occurred in this chamber, in the Senate, on 30 May 1978. On that occasion the Senate acceded to the view which I am now putting. On 30 May 1 978 it was sought to move a censure motion on the then Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Withers. On that occasion I sought to have the Standing Orders suspended for that purpose and Senator Withers promptly acceded to that course being followed. The present Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) should bear that precedent in mind when considering this matter. I remind the Senate that the allegation against Senator Withers, and in respect of which we sought to have the Standing Orders suspended, was one of misleading Parliament. It was not an allegation of fraud or forgery by a Minister of the Crown. There was no such allegation. The allegation of misleading Parliament was a relatively minor one in terms of what the average citizen might think about issues of this kind. I would think that the average Australian is not particularly concerned about-
– You do it every day.
– That is what the average Australian citizen thinks about all of us. People are not particularly concerned about an allegation of misleading Parliament, but the allegations which are included in the substantive motion, which I will seek to move ‘if the Standing Orders are suspended, are very serious allegations indeed to be laid against a Minister of the Crown. Again and again at Question Time we have been told: ‘Look, don’t worry about these things now. Wait until the Attorney-General’s inquiry in New South Wales is complete, then let’s have a look at the matter’. That is the invitation which we have been given on numerous occasions. Now the matter is before us and we have a difficulty about debating it. I referred earlier to a previous occasion on which the Standing Orders were suspended. Ultimately Senator Withers was dismissed by the Prime Minister for impropriety, if you please. That led to a former colleague of ours, a much lamented senator and wit in this place, making the comment at that time that sacking Senator Withers for impropriety was like fining Al Capone for tax evasion. He was not referring to the financial impropriety of Senator Withers but to his political sins. That is a vastly different matter and something in which perhaps we all indulge from time to time.
This is a much more serious matter. The question which Government senators in particular must ask themselves is whether they will hide behind the veil of the Standing Orders; whether they will regard the rules for the conduct of debate in the Senate as a means of evading debate on a major and important issue- an issue which has been discussed tonight in all the news bulletins and has been reported in all the evening papers; an issue which presumably it is not proposed to allow the Senate to discuss because of the Standing Orders. If that is the view which the Government intends to take, it is a most reprehensible view, to use a famous expression. It amounts to concealing a matter of this kind behind glib references to the Standing Orders of the Senate.
I deliberately have been circumspect in everything I have said in the course of my remarks in order to avoid making any allegation which might upset Government senators and in order to avoid dealing with the substance of the matter, which undoubtedly would upset Government senators, lt is most important that it be seen that we regard this as a very serious matter. Honourable senators opposite are fully aware of the fact that it is a serious matter and they should not take any course other than to allow the matter to be debated in the Senate. That is so for two fundamental reasons. Firstly, the substantive motion relates to the Prime Minister and secondly, different standards of behaviour are expected from different Ministers, whether they be national Country Party or Liberal Party Ministers. Different courses of conduct have been established in relation to the defalcations or misbehaviour of different Ministers.
In spite of the lofty sentiments of the Prime Minister, which I read to the Senate at the beginning of my remarks and which should establish beyond doubt the concern of this Senate to deal with this matter as one of importance and a matter of urgency, in the four years of the Fraser Government strange and different standards have been applied to the conduct of various Ministers. I make no allegation of corruption or anything of that kind. I do not want to do so.
– If Senator Maunsell is concerned about that I merely say that more Ministers in this Government have been acquitted than in any other government in the Western world. That is an achievement! The point is that the substantive motion relates to a standard of conduct set by the Prime Minister and then abandoned when various standards were applied to different Ministers. That is a matter of urgency and importance and the Senate should not shrink from dealing with it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I call the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy President. Does the motion require a seconder?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- A motion moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition does not need a seconder.
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy President, will the Leader of the Government in the Senate be closing the debate?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- No. The
Leader of the Government in the Senate will speak to the motion.
-Mr Deputy President–
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy President. Standing Order 448 provides:
In cases or urgent necessity, any Standing or Sessional Order or Orders of the Senate may be suspended on Motion, duly made and seconded, without Notice: Provided that such Motion is carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of senators.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- It is the practice of this Senate that the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition do not need a seconder to their motions.
- Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. With respect, I do not think that you can slide over a Standing Order as easily as that. The Standing Order is quite explicit. It provides that a motion of this nature must be seconded. I do not think that we can bypass the Standing Order just by alleging that it is the practice to do otherwise. It is quite clear that the motion should be seconded.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I merely said that that has not been the case with motions moved by either a leader or deputy leader of a party. That is how I interpret the situation.
- Mr Deputy President, I rise on that point. I think you are correct in saying that it has been a tradition of the Senate, but until now no one has pointed to the relevant Standing Order. If a President or a Deputy President can override the Standing Orders we might as well dispense with the Senate Standing Committee on Standing Orders.
– Are you reflecting on the Chair?
– I am not reflecting on anyone. Mr Deputy President, I got thrown out of my religious cult because I would not believe that the Pope was infallible. I therefore do not accept that any other human is infallible. I say that a Deputy President can err. I ask whether the occupant of the Chair can hold himself above the Standing Orders Committee. The Standing Orders Committee has laid down the Standing Orders, which we may have been breaching for a long time because no honourable senator has raised the matter before. Tonight it has been raised and you, Mr Deputy President, must either sack the Standing Orders Committee or reverse your decision.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! As I said in the first place, it has been a practice- a courtesy perhaps- of this Senate not to require a seconder for a motion moved by either the Leader of the Opposition or the Deputy Leader. I have not required a seconder on other occasions and no reference has been made to the fact that no seconder was called. As the practice stands, I believe that so it should be. It may be a matter that later could be referred to the Standing Orders Committee as being a practice that should be discontinued.
– I raise a point of order. Just under four years ago, the most divisive political event in this country was justified on a literal interpretation of the Constitution. Bearing in mind that precedent- never mind about convention- on a literal interpretation of the words in the Constitution, I draw you attention to the fact that the most divisive political event in the history of this nation was justified on that basis by the people who now sit on the Government side of this House. Standing Order 448 states:
In cases of urgent necessity, any Standing or Sessional Order or Orders of the Senate may be suspended on Motion, duly made and seconded . . .
That is what the Standing Order states and, with respect, I suggest that that is the ruling that ought to apply in this chamber as long as the Standing Orders are worded in that way.
– On the point of order, it may be that Senator Walsh has a point of some substance when he speaks about the literal words of Standing Order 448, but 1 suggest to you, Mr Deputy President, that it avails him nought because the question is whether a motion requires to be seconded. When a motion of urgency is seconded the whole of the Opposition or the Government side get up to support it, but they do not all speak at once nor do they necessarily speak out of order. This chamber has had an orderly system since the days of its creation of taking speakers from alternate sides. I could refer to a ruling of President Givens in 1925. He said:
It is the right of the Chair to decide which Senator has the call to speak; the practice is for Senators to bc called from each side alternately,
Whilst this may or may not be a matter for observance of either the strict letter of the Standing Orders or the practice which has developed over the years, if the Opposition wants to have two speakers in a row it is open to you, Mr Deputy President, to say: ‘No, I will call speakers alternately from each side of the chamber.’ That is precisely what you have done, and properly. Having heard one speaker from the Opposition side, you called a speaker from the Government side. I do not think the question whether a seconder is needed should interfere in any way with the order of speeches. If somebody wishes to pro forma second a motion and reserve his right to speak, that is something which it is open to you to permit him to do.
– I rise to speak on Standing Order 448, which states:
In cases of urgent necessity, any Standing or Sessional Order or Orders of the Senate may be suspended on Motion, duly made and seconded . . . lt is fair to say that, when the Leader or Deputy Leader of the Opposition has sought to move suspension of Standing Orders, custom and practice have been that the motion need not duly be seconded. However, I point out that a leading member of the Opposition, a member of the shadow Ministry, has indicated that he would like to second the motion. Frankly, Mr Deputy President, if you are going to allow debate on the matter, I do not know that it really matters whether Senator Walsh seconds the motion. I assume that, if Senator Carrick is going to reply to Senator Button, he would allow Senator Walsh to be the next speaker. Assuming that Senator Carrick, after he has spoken, does not immediately move that the question be put, I would be prepared to accede to your ruling. I think we should try to get some indication now from the Leader of the Government as to the course of action that he proposes so that Senator Walsh, when indicating that he wants to second the motion, can reserve his right to speak. I suggest that as a matter of practical common sense for your consideration.
– On the point of order, although we adhere to custom and practice, once the attention of the Senate has been drawn to a Standing Order by an honourable senator we must revert to that Standing Order. For instance, many times here we are without a quorum, and that is contrary to the Standing Orders, but immediately a senator attracts attention to that fact we revert to the Standing Orders. Once the attention of the Chair is directed to a Standing Order, he must accept it. In this case, Senator Walsh insists that he wants to second the motion, and the Standing Orders provide for that. I believe that that overcomes any practice that we have followed and will follow in the future. If a senator attracts attention to a Standing Order, that Standing Order must prevail.
- Mr Deputy President, whatever your ruling may be, and quite irrespective, because it is, of what the Government might decide to do, we would be quite happy on this occasion for Senator Walsh to speak out of turn if he so desires and to have the forms of the House so to do. If in the future the Senate wishes to look at this point in order to clarify it, that is a matter for the future. From our point of view, Mr Deputy President, if you desire to call Senator Walsh we will not oppose it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I would be happy to adopt that practice. I have made the ruling I have because it has been the practice, as a matter of courtesy, not to look for a seconder for a motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition or the Deputy Leader. If that is insisted upon on this occasion, I call Senator Walsh.
– I intend to say only two or three sentences, but I must put in as a preamble that I entirely reject the suggestion made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) that I am speaking out of turn. I am speaking in complete conformity with the Standing Orders of the Senate.
In moving for the suspension of the Standing Orders, Senator Button was asked what the urgency of this matter was, and I wish to comment only on that issue. This matter is sufficiently urgent to justify the suspension of Standing Orders because an official and quasi-judicial inquiry has brought down findings which contain the gravest and most substantial allegations ever made against a Minister in an Australian Government. Six hours after that report was made public in Sydney, that Minister is still the fourth ranking Minister in the Government of Australia. He is still there six hours after the gravest and most substantial allegations ever brought down against a Minister in an Australian Government were made public. I respectfully suggest that, if that is not a matter of urgency and a matter of the gravest concern for this Senate, this Senate has abdicated its reason for existence. If the Government opposes the motion moved by Senator Button, the Government has abdicated all claim to the respect of the Australian people.
– So that the Australian community shall have an understanding of what is happening tonight, I point out that the Opposition has sought to seek the suspension of Standing Orders, that is, to seek to interrupt the normal business of the Senate, to debate a motion that Senator Button has moved in these terms:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Button from moving forthwith: That the Senate condemns the Prime Minister for failure to maintain propriety in government.
When asked to justify the urgency, Senator Button and Senator Walsh said that the urgency relates to the Finnane report. I want to put the Finnane report in perspective. I understand that this afternoon while the Senate was sitting, at 3 p.m. or thereabouts, there was tabled in the New South Wales Parliament the first of a series of reports- no one is quite clear how many- by a
Mr Finnane who was conducting in inquiry into some affairs concerning Mr Sinclair and companies with which he was associated. I understand that that report, which is the first of the reports, is some 700 pages in length.
Unlike members of the Labor Party, no member of the Government parties has even seen the report at this moment. Our understanding is that the report contains no recommendations at all and that the State Government, in tabling it, has given no indication of its own thinking or any actions that might follow. What is more, nobody has any idea at all of what may be the substance of any subsequent reports. What is being asked is that one should debate tonight the substance of a document which nobody in the Government parties has seen and, with propriety observed, nobody in the Opposition should have seen in this space of time. Because of the document’s size its contents would have been too vast to have grasped had it been circulated. The document is thoroughly incomplete in itself, on the say so of Mr Finnane and the State Government. The document contains no recommendations. The State Government, in tabling the document, made no recommendations. We are asked, therefore, to debate the propriety or otherwise of one of the Ministers of the Commonwealth Government. Quite clearly that is demonstrably absurd in itself, in that the limitations do not enable anyone here other than those with prior prejudice and bias to form any opinions. Nobody here could give ordinary natural justice to individuals.
In due course that document, with all its ramifications, will become fully public. It will be possible for every member of this Parliament and every member of the community to read it. The intention of Mr Finnane as to any other report or reports he may have will become clear as will his intentions with regard to any recommendations that he might make. The intention of the State Government will become ultimately clear. A person, in a quasi-judicial fashion, has been asked to make an inquiry. That inquiry is far from complete. The report tabled at this moment is only an interim document. In any case, it cannot be judged at this moment because it is not available to the Senate tonight so that the Senate can sit in judgment on it.
Let me make it perfectly clear. There is no intention of the part of the Government to deny in the fullest sense and in the fullness of time the fullest debate on this subject. It is quite clear that the Government of course will arrange, when all the facts are available to all honourable senators and to the public, the fullest debate. If then the
Opposition seeks to challenge the propriety or the conduct of the Government we will welcome the opportunity and we will make provision of time for such a debate. That is perfectly clear. We are saying tonight that it would be ultimately improper and unjust -
– I take a point of order. There is no point in the Minister’s replying to allegations which I did not make. I did not seek to debate the Finnane report tonight or tomorrow for that matter. I am not concerned to debate the detail of that report. If the Minister would be good enough in the normal course of reply to answer the substance of the allegations which are made we would all be assisted.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The Minister is addressing himself to the need to suspend the Standing Orders.
- Senator Button must have a short memory. He cannot have recalled the technicolour words, the lurid words, of Senator Walsh who undoubtedly sought to make the report the substance of his speech. He has a very short memory. He had to be restrained from quoting from what he said was part of the report That is an extraordinary point of order.
Let me sum this up. I give a clear undertaking to the Senate that, when all the evidence is available, there will be the fullest of debates on the substance of the Finance report and the propriety of the Government itself. The Government itself and nobody in the community could tolerate a situation in which there is an attempt in the absence of a report- this report incidentally was vital to what Senator Button and Senator Walsh were doing- to debate such a report tonight. It would be grossly unfair and a denial of justice. All sorts of accusations were made that there were conclusions in the report. The fact is that the inquiry itself has not concluded at this moment. The report is not in existence in its totality unless the Labor Party is better equipped and better informed than the Government on this matter, as it apparently was this afternoon. In any case, the report is not available at this moment. There are no recommendations from the State Government. The Government therefore will oppose the suspension of Standing Orders. 1 move:
That the question be now put.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order ! The question is that the question be now put.
- Mr Deputy President -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- It has to be put forthwith without debate.
- Mr Deputy President, if a motion has been moved surely it is open to discussion.
Government senators- No.
- Mr Deputy President, will you tell me who is the Deputy President of this Senate?
– You are not the Deputy President.
– No. Do Senator Missen, Senator Bonner and others take the mantle of Deputy President?
– They are not in Gympie now.
– No, they are not at Gympie now. The Liberals had a lot of forethought.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Cavanagh, the question has been put.
– What question?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I have put the question.
– What question?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- That the question be now put.
– Who moved that?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- It was moved by the Leader of the Government.
– Just tell me who moved it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The Leader of the Government has moved the motion. I have put the question.
– Yes, but who moved it. You cannot put the motion as you desire, Mr Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Cavanagh, Senator Carrick moved the motion as he concluded his remarks. I have put the motion.
– Who seconded it?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I must put the motion.
– Yes, but I did not hear Senator Carrick. Mr Deputy President, perhaps the Hansard record could be checked. I think an injustice has been done.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I assure Senator Cavanagh that Senator Carrick moved that the question be now put.
– All right; we accept that on your assurance, Mr Deputy President. I want to know who seconded the motion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I do not have to call for a seconder in this case, and I did not call for a seconder. I now put the motion to the Senate.
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator D. B. Scott)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the motion (Senator Button’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President-Senator D. B. Scott)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 19 September, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Senate take note of the papers.
– I rise at this stage to speak in the Budget debate, which has now been proceeding for some weeks, and in the course of which a number of matters concerning the Australian economy and the impact of the Budget thereon have been raised by honourable senators on both sides of the chamber. From the Budget statement has emerged the clear understanding that by the end of this year we will have a 10 per cent inflation rate, and that Australia will have a considerable, and continuing, level of unemployment.
However, I wish particularly to direct attention to the double standards that are quite implicit in the Budget in relation, on the one hand, to the poor and underprivileged in terms of social welfare, employment and other matters and, on the other, to Ministers of this Government. Before referring to that matter in detail I wish to mention briefly the matter of industrial relations in this country and the statements made on a number of occasions by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in relation to it. I remind the Senate that for four years we have been told that one of the factors preventing greater stability in the Australian economy was the demands of unions in respect of wages. But not long ago, on 18-19 August in the Weekend Australian, the Prime Minister said: 1 suppose wages have been . . . neutral in terms of their effect on inflation.
He went on to say:
There’s been very little wage drift outside the Commission’s determinations, much less than I think most people would believe.
After four years of claiming exactly the opposite, the Prime Minister had that to say on 18-19 August. Who could fail to be confused about the direction and integrity of the Government in relation to these matters? On the subject of integrity, I am reminded that on 12 March 1978, the Prime Minister said:
Without integrity- without the appearance and reality of integrity- no Government can hope to have the confidence of the people, or the trust of the people.
It is quite clear that if the Prime Minister has any integrity of any kind it is not of the intellectual kind in regard to his statements on industrial relations, on employment and on other matters which concern wage earners in this country. But I submit, and this is the burden of what I have to say tonight, that the Government has no integrity in terms of standards, in terms of direction, or in terms of the principles which, on the one hand, are applied to Ministers and, on the other, to the underprivileged of this country. Indeed, there is not even integrity in the way in which the various Ministers of this Government are treated.
In 1975 the Labor Government was forced out of office in unusual and quite extraordinary circumstances which left in this country a legacy of political bitterness. The reason and justification for that decision, as expressed by the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Fraser, were that his Party could do better in government than the Labor Government had done. That allegation was expressed, in his 1975 policy speech, in these terms:
This election results from the dishonesty and incompetence of the Whitlam Labor Government. This election has been caused by the dismissal of two acting Prime Ministers for deceiving the Parliament.
He went on to enumerate other reasons of the same kind and added:
What can be done immediately, and must bc done, is to establish- for the first time in three years- sound and honest management of Australia’s affairs. We have a comprehensive strategy.
That is what the then Leader of the Opposition or caretaker Prime Minister said in 1975. Those allegations by Mr Fraser were accompanied by a cacophony of sound from Government senators and Liberal Party Ministers of the caretaker Government supportive of the same sentiments. I remind the Senate that when one talks about honesty, integrity and standards in government, not one Minister of the Whitlam Labor Government appeared in court on a charge of bribery. Not one Minister of the Whitlam Labor Government appeared before a royal commission to explain his conduct to a royal commissioner. Not one Minister of the Whitlam Labor Government was subjected to an inquiry into his personal financial affairs. Not one Minister of the Whitlam Labor Government, after lengthy inquiry, had allegations of fraud and forgery made against him by a quasi-judicial tribunal. Not one Minister of that Government admitted to a quasi-judicial tribunal that he had used a round robin system of cheques in order to cover up offences against the Companies Act. Not one Minister of the Labor Government did that.
Senator Carrick has a highly selective memory of things past. Sigmund Freud once said that neuroticism was an abnormal obsession with the past. By that definition, Senator Carrick is the leading neurotic of the Senate. Constantly, day after day, he has reminded us of the alleged political sins of the Whitlam Government but, of course, does not advert to the features of that Government’s record to which I have just referred.
Since November 1975 the present Prime Minister on numerous occasions has lectured this Parliament and the Australian people about propriety in government. Let me cite to the Senate some brief examples. In July of 1 975 in berating the Labor Government he said:
Ten per cent, or even SO per cent of the truth is as good a way of misleading this Parliament and the Australian people as a downright lie. The half truth, the partial answer and the slipping over of the full facts are a misleading of this Parliament just as much as and maybe much more deliberately than the statement by the former Deputy Prime Minister.
I believe that he was referring to Dr Cairns. On another occasion the same sort of sentiments were echoed by honourable senators in this place. In 1975 the Prime Minister was saying such things as:
Our policies will be directed to working with all of you to give Australia a responsible Government and one that you can trust.
As I said, those sentiments were echoed in this place by people like Senator Webster. I quote from Senator Webster’s views about the same matter. Talking about Ministers in the Labor Government, he had this to say in the Senate on 15 October 1975:
The fact is that evidence of this matter has had to be dragged out of the Ministers day after day. They should be on their feet apologising for the abject faults and falsehoods that they have brought into this Parliament. If they are not ashamed of themselves they ought to be.
A leader with any respect for his own image would declare immediately in this Parliament that he has misled the Parliament, although perhaps unintentionally. Surely those who have followed the disgrace and discharge of the various Ministers during these past months must endorse my comment that any leader with any respect for his own image would resign immediately.
Senator Webster is concerned there about the image of Ministers and that is a matter to which I wish to come in a moment. That was his concern and he should perhaps be here tonight to look after the question of the image of Ministers as he was so keen to do in October 1 975.
The more important statement among the lectures to this Parliament and to the Australian people about propriety came from the then Prime Minister on 8 August 1978 after he and other senior Ministers, including Mr Ian Sinclair and Peter Nixon, had carefully considered the determinations of the McGregor Royal Commission which ultimately made a finding against Senator Withers. The Prime Minister said:
We had no doubt that our first and foremost responsibility was the maintenance of the high standards of propriety set and maintained by this Government.
The community rightly demand a high standard from the Ministers of the Government. The judgments on Ministers are more exacting and sometimes more harsh than the judgments which might be passed on those outside sphere of public life. If these high standards were not upheld, the people’s confidence in government- a confidence which is fundamental to Australian democracy- would be undermined.
The Government has an obligation to uphold them even though the costs can be and is in this instance, a high one.
The Senate is debating the Budget. I cannot stress to the Senate more emphatically that that Budget is a document which relates to the finances of this Government and finances of the people of Australia. The question of integrity and the question of standards become doubly important when one is talking about the Budget documents. I have been concerned, for that reason, to establish the standards which the Prime Minister has laid down for the conduct of Ministers who prepare the Budget, the Ministers who present the Budget to this Parliament, of which we are all members. Those standards are very important. In the case of the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party in the House of Representatives, a very senior Minister, a close confidant of the Prime Minister and one who it might be said talks the same language as the
Prime Minister on these questions, the standards seem to be very different.
Lest there be any doubt that the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party, Mr Sinclair, talks the same language on these questions as the Prime Minister, talks the same language as I have just quoted, might I refer the Senate to the transcript of the PM program tonight when Mr Sinclair said this in a rebroadcast from an earlier occasion:
Our standards arc very high indeed and the standards that I have set I believe maintain exactly the same standards that anyone would wish a person in high public office to set. I certainly, in terms of my own personal financial affairs, have done nothing of which there is any charge of impropriety, the misappropriation, to use the phrase he likes to use, and the sum of money he mentions . . .
That is referring to Mr Whitlam who asked a question about the matter. Later, Mr Sinclair went on to say this: . . I think what Mr Whitlam is trying to do is ensure that he having no case of his own he has got to make one and he just has no case because all these things have been discussed publicly before.
That was in 1 977. Mr Sinclair went on to say:
Well you know the trouble with the Labor Party’s pursuit is that they have got nothing to pursue. You see, the whole matter has been discussed, published, and there is no fact to be revealed that has not been revealed and there is no circumstance which in any way is improper.
Those are the words of the Minister for Primary Industry and Deputy Leader of the National Country Party about himself in November 1977. Those words, as I say, were said about himself. I refer to the standards which have been suggested there by Mr Sinclair and which have been repeated again and again by the Prime Minister in this sort of schizophrenetic attitude to standards which he announces on the one hand and standards which he has on the other. I refer particularly, in illustrating the point about standards, to the interim report of the New South Wales inquiry into the affairs of the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party and the Minister for Primary Industry which was brought out today and which of course is available to the Government. I quote from page 26 of the report -
– I take a point of order. The position is not only one of -
– What is the point of order? What is the Standing Order? You are interrupting his speaking time. It is limited.
– I was about to say that I was referring not only to Standing Order 4 1 8 in relation to the general situation, but also to the far more important factor which is set out on page 252 in the fifth edition of the book by the former Clerk of the Senate entitled Australian Senate Practice. At the top of that page, it states:
The Senate has no Standing Order on the matter and whether a matter is allowed to be discussed is in the discretion of the Chair, whose decision of course is subject to the will of the Senate. In interpreting the sub judice doctrine, the Chair is likely to keep in mind what is the greater good and, in the ultimate, it is submitted that the greater good must be the public interest.
On the preceding page there is this reference, in quoting the Jerger case:
The Parliament does not ask ‘Is there a proceeding pending at this moment’, but rather ‘in all the circumstances, should a debate on a particular matter be permitted at this particular moment?’
Let me remind you of what we understand from allegations made in this chamber this evening are the facts. First, there has not been any document tabled in this chamber. We do not have access to a document which Senator Button wishes to quote from. Secondly, it is described by speakers as an interim report of a quasi-judicial proceeding in which there are allegations of what could amount to criminal activities. It is not clear whether any recommendations have been made in relation to prosecution. We cannot check because we do not have the document. It has been suggested in earlier debates in this place that there are suggestions of criminality in relation to forgery and certain other falsities. The fact, therefore, is that what Senator Button is attempting to do is to refer to a document which is not available to this chamber for anybody to see whether it is selective quotation or not selective quotation. It is a document which is in some way related to a part completed quasi judicial inquiry into alleged offences presumably under the Companies Act which may go further than the Companies Act and involve the criminal law as such. It is the clearest possible case of a situation where the Chair ought to protect. It should do so on the basis to which I referred, which is this: Should a debate on a particular matter be permitted at this particular moment? That is the question.
-I will concede that.
– I take a point of order. I want to get this on record. I would like to quote, in regard to a similar situation, from page 25 1 of Australian Senate Practice, in which the President at the time gave a ruling that ‘reflected the modern trend ( 1 ) that just because a matter is before a court it does not follow that every aspect of the matter is sub judice and should not be brought forward in debate and, (2) that in any event the public interest may prevail over the sub judice doctrine. The Senate has no Standing
Order on the matter and whether a matter is allowed to be discussed is at the discretion of the Chair, whose decision of course is subject to the will of the Senate’.
– Could you read that sentence again?
– I have read it to honourable senators to establish the precedent that the wasting of time- as it was wasted by Senator Rae- by the use of Standing Orders has already been ruled upon by previous Presidents of the Senate. So Senator Button can continue. I wanted to draw the attention of the Senate to that.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I thank honourable senators for their contributions, but I ask them not to debate the matter.
-I am indebted to all honourable senators who have contributed. When I said that I conceded to Senator Rae, all I meant was that I would not read the section of the Finnane report which he finds difficult to stomach. I do not concede any of his arguments about why it should not be read to the Senate. We can debate that at another time. I was talking about the difference in standards which are set by this Government in relation to different classes in the community and different Ministers in this Government. In relation to the matter which is now the subject of a report of the New South Wales inquiry, I say first of all that the Prime Minister has known about that for a very long time- since November 1977 when the issues were first raised in relation to the pecuniary interests of members of Parliament.
One can only conclude from the farrago, the long series or smorgasbord of questions and answers, that somebody is pulling somebody else’s leg, not to put too fine a point on it, and either the Minister for Primary Industry is pulling the Prime Minister’s leg- not to put too fine a point on it- or the Prime Minister is pulling the Parliament’s leg in relation to this matter. For example, 1 refer to the House of Representatives Hansard of 30 August and 7 June this year, when the Minister for Primary Industry had this to say:
Let me say to this House and to the people of Australia that from the moment these irregularities first appeared . . .
That is in relation to himself-
I reported them to the Prime Minister and to my own leader. I told them of the nature and the manner in which I hoped to resolve them.
When the Prime Minister was asked about that on 30 August, he said that Mr Sinclair had, of course, reported these matters to him. He stated:
I think that it would be much better if this matter was put aside . . . until that report is made available and until that report is public. Then there may be some facts on which to make judgements
That is what the Prime Minister said on 30 August in the House of Representatives about that matter. There has been a long history in relation to this question of double standards, of which the Prime Minister of this country has been fully aware. I have referred already to the much vaunted standards of this Government, but let us look for a moment at the reality. Let us look at the standards in relation to these sorts of matters involving people in high places in public life in Australia. In 1975 there was a report brought down in this Parliament by the Joint Committee into the Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament- a committee on the declarations of interests. It was signed by Mr Robinson, now a Minister; by the Honourable Peter Nixon, now a Minister; and evidence was given to it by the Right Honourable Ian Sinclair, now a Minister. That report recommended urgent action in relation to the disclosure of pecuniary interests of members of Parliament. That was in November 1975, and urgent action was recommended in relation to this matter.
What happened after that? Because this report related to an endemic disease of the Fraser Government, nothing was done about that report in 1976 or 1977. It was only in February 1 978 that the Bowen inquiry was set up after the former Treasurer had hit the fence- to use a common piece of parlance- in November 1977. The Bowen committee of inquiry was set up to investigate the question of pecuniary interests. Mr Justice Nigel Bowen, Sir Cecil Looker and others presided over that inquiry. Eighteen months later, after that recommendation which was described as urgent by Ministers of this Government in November 1975, nothing has been told to the Parliament of Australia about the matter. As the whole question of family trusts came out in Australia earlier this year, the Prime Minister flamboyantly announced that he had disposed of his own family trust. He did so after family trusts had become useless vehicles for tax avoidance in Australia. I think that happened in July of this year after that precise situation had changed as a result of legislation of the Government, which the Opposition applauded.
Look what has happened in relation to the standards of other Ministers, compared with the present Minister for Primary Industry who has not even yet been called upon to resign or been asked to stand down from the Ministry. When
Mr Garland was charged with bribery in the context of an election, he instantly stood down from the Ministry. One would have thought that an appropriate course for a Minister to take. He was not convicted; he was charged with bribery. The magistrate said there was a pretty good case against him but he would not send him for trial. So, he got back into the Ministry. When allegations were made in the context of a royal commission against Mr Robinson, as a Minister, he was suspended. They were just allegations made in a royal commission. There was no finding of facts or anything like that. Allegations were made and he was suspended from the Ministry. He came back later, but that is how Mr Robinson was treated. When Mr Lynch got into trouble over Stumpy Gully and tax avoidance, he was dismissed from his post as Treasurer in 1977 because of those allegations.
The interesting fact about that was that the Prime Minister of the day said: ‘Look, there has been an outside inquiry that has acquitted Mr Lynch, in my view, of these charges and therefore I will allow him to remain in the Ministry’. There has been an outside inquiry into relation to Ian Sinclair, too, but the findings are different; so the Prime Minister’s actions are different. His actions are different because Mr Sinclair belongs to a different party. Look what happened to Senator Withers. He was found by a royal commission to be guilty of impropriety, of all things, and he was dismissed from the Ministry. That was the standard applied by the Prime Minister in relation to Senator Withers. Immediately after that the Prime Minister made that very pompous statement about the standard of propriety in government on which he insisted, about which I read to the Senate earlier. That is what happened after Senator Withers was dismissed.
Of course, we all know that after Senator Withers was dismissed that Mr Anthony and others went to the Prime Minister- perhaps with the gift of foresight, I do not know- and said: From now on, Prime Minister, you have to be loyal to your Ministers’. Of course, that was an idea which had never occurred to the Prime Minister of Australia. One has only to ask Sir Billy Snedden or Sir John Gorton to find proof of that fact. Mr Anthony and others suggested to him that for the first time in his life, after Reg Withers was sacked, he ought to be loyal to his Ministers. So he said: ‘Yes, I will be loyal to my Ministers’. Who is the first man who comes along to whom he decides to be loyal? Mr Ian Sinclair, the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party and the Minister for Primary Industry in Australia. So, the unhappy Prime Minister in his one act of loyalty in his life embraces the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party. Fancy anyone embracing a cobra like that in order to display that he has the gift of loyalty. So double standards apply in relation to Liberal Party members.
– I raise a point of order. Standing Order 4 1 8 states that any imputations of improper motives and all personal reflection on members should be considered highly disorderly. The standing order is designed to protect members of the Parliament against allegations made in general debate. As you know, Mr Deputy President, if anyone wishes to make such an allegation he has to do it by way of a substantive motion. The honourable senator called one of the members of the Parliament a cobra. I believe that is not in accordance with the standing order.
-That is called a metaphor, Mr Deputy President. Probably Senator Peter Baume has not heard of that. I did not mean that Mr Sinclair was a cobra. I meant that the Prime Minister embraced an awful problem.
– Is that right?
-Yes, he did when he embraced the Minister for Primary Industry as a person to whom he decided to be loyal. Indeed, he is still being loyal to him. There are double standards- one for Liberals, one for members of the National Country Party; one for some Ministers, one for another; one for this Government and its Ministers and another for the people of Australia.
– The Senate is debating a motion to take note of the Budget Papers. I wish to say a few words tonight about the tobacco industry and the tobacco lobby. May I first declare an interest, that is, that I am a shareholder in two tobacco companies. This is a very necessary measure. If anyone wants to attack the tobacco industry, it is necessary to buy the minimum number of shares one can- I think five shares, in each of the companies- to make sure that one receives the material which they put out and has a right to attend their annual meetings and to ask questions.
In an editorial in May 1979 the British Medical Journal had this to say:
Those who read newspapers or journals published 100 years ago are often surprised that determined campaigns had to be fought in opposition to child labour or baby farming or in favour of clean water or sewage systems. One hundred years hence there will be similar surprise at the delay in taking tough measures against smoking; but, even with the tradition of Simon and Chadwick, Britain is now lagging behind several other civilised societies in its action against tobacco.
The same editorial said: . . in the United Kingdom the number of workers directly employed in the tobacco industry is about 36,000; every year the number of deaths due specifically to smoking.related diseases is at least 50,000.
It is also necessary to point out that people who smoke are not necessarily happy with the habit. In the West Australian newspaper dated 6 September, a Mrs Hazel Russell of Parmelia had published a letter in which she said:
I am a cigarette smoker. I smoke about 30 cigarettes a day, not because I want to but because I cannot stop.
I want to recount some of the latest events in the battle which is going on between the tobacco industry and its lobby and the health industry, which is attempting to mount an anti-smoking campaign on the north coast of New South Wales. Our concern is for the public that the manufacturers seek to ensnare in their addictive and damaging activity. The tobacco industry continues to challenge any association between smoking and ill health. The evidence for this association is now overwhelming. The evidence first began to appear in 1960. In 1962 with a report by the Royal College of Physicians entitled: Smoking and Health’. In 1964 an advisory committee to the Surgeon-General of the Public Health Service in the United States published a report entitled ‘Smoking and Health’. That report discussed the results of some prospective studies of the incidence of illness. The committee had this to say:
In all seven studies, coronary artery disease is the chief contributor to the excess number of deaths of cigarette smokers over non-smokers, with lung cancer uniformly in second place. For all seven studies combined coronary artery disease accounts for 45 per cent of the excess deaths among cigarette smokers, whereas lung cancer accounts for 1 6 per cent.
Some of the other categories of diseases that contribute to (he higher death rates for cigarette smokers over nonsmokers are diseases of the heart and blood vessels, other than coronary artery disease . . . cancer sites other than lung . . . chronic bronchitis and emphysema
Since these diseases as a group are responsible for more than 85 per cent of the higher death rate among cigarette smokers, they arc of particular interest to public health authorities and the medical profession.
This is not the statement of some enthusiastic backyard scientist. This was the committee of the Surgeon-General of the United States. This report was backed up by reports which followed later. In 1971 the Royal College of Physicians published another report reviewing the evidence entitled ‘Smoking and Health Now’. In 1977 the College published yet another report this time entitled ‘Smoking or Health’. There was no longer a possibility of having both. One cannot continue to smoke and be healthy. It is either smoking or health. In that report the Royal College of Physicians- again not some backyard organisation, but one of the top collections of doctors and by the way people who, unlike the tobacco industry, have no vested interest- had this to say:
Cigarette smoking is still as important a cause of death as were the great epidemic diseases of the past.
It went on to say:
Most of the recent slow-down in the rate of improvement of life expectancy, and half the difference in life expectancy between men and women, can be attributed to the fatal effects of smoking. In all, an estimated 2 1,400 deaths in men and 3,750 in women between the ages of 35 and 64 in 1974 were attributable to smoking.
The report goes on and on. It makes the point that a long term study of the British doctor’s records shows that of those aged 35 and over more than twice as many smokers as nonsmokers died before reaching 65.
– How many died from alcohol?
-On average a smoker shortens his life span by about 5M minutes for each cigarette smoked, not much less than the time he spends smoking it. If a smoker gives up smoking his extra risk of dying before his time disappears in 10 to 15 years. The Royal College of Physicians made that statement. The latest report to come out is another from the Surgeon-General of the United States of America which appeared this year. Again it is called ‘Smoking and Health’. Again it is not the report of some backyard organisation. It states that the 1979 report reinforces the major conclusion from 1964 that cigarette smoking is a health hazard of sufficient importance in the United States to warrant appropriate remedial action. The cigarette industry still refuses to acknowledge any link between the activity of smoking and the occurrence of illness. Why? It is quite clear why it refuses to accept it. To do so could have implications for it. It would require the industry to undertake responsible action in the interests of the public of a kind which it does not desire and which it has not undertaken until now. The industry does not wish to acknowledge the facts related to smoking.
Early in 1978 Mr Joseph Califano, then Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in the United States, had this to say about smoking?
Those who ignore these facts are indulging in the most dangerous kind of wishful thinking; they are, quite literally, whistling past the cemetery in their search for a way to rationalise a habit that can become a dangerous dependency.
The few- mostly in the cigarette industry- who attempt to refute this overwhelming consensus of the experts are a selfinterested minority.
– You will keep.
– I am interested to hear Senator McAuliffe interject. We will recall that he has a vested interest in cigarette promotion through the money that comes from cigarette manufacturers to the Queensland Rugby League. Mr Joseph Califano went on:
Their attempts to deny the overwhelming medical evidence about smoking and health are in essence, an attack upon science.
The promotional activities of the cigarette industry worry many of us. The social goal which we are seeking is one which was set out by the World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Smoking Control. I quote its recommendation:
The Committee recommends that non-smoking should be regarded as the normal social behaviour and that all action which can promote development of this attitude be taken.
One cigarette company has acknowledged the link between smoking and ill health. That was the Sobranie company. In its 1977 annual report the Chairman of the company tried to claim that moderate smoking was acceptable. Nevertheless, he stated: lt is irresponsible, in the light of present medical knowledge and advice, to deny that excessive smoking may produce highly deleterious results.
The industry has failed to marry up its economic goals with its social responsibility. The fact that something is legal is not in itself justification for irresponsible behaviour by the proponents of the activity, just as the fact that something is illegal is not in itself justification for irresponsible behaviour by its opponents. Yet the argument of legality is used by the tobacco companies to justify anything they do. Combined with a studied and deliberate refusal to acknowledge the dangers of smoking they give themselves a wide licence for any kind of activity. The World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Smoking Control had this to say about the industry:
The tobacco industry has presented, and will continue to present, a formidable barrier to smoking control. An example of this is its studious avoidance of acknowledgment of the risks of smoking. The common view of all those seriously concerned to reduce smoking is that no worthwhile progress can be achieved unless governments are prepared to put the interests of public health before those of private tobacco enterprise . . . The international tobacco industry’s irresponsible behaviour, and its massive advertising and promotional campaigns, are, in the opinion of the Committee, direct causes of a substantial number of unnecessary deaths.
The promotional activities include the funding of sport. The Queensland Rugby League, of course, the Country Rugby Union of New South Wales and many other sporting bodies draw upon the blood money. In some of the advertising there is an association of smoking with food. I draw the attention of the Senate to an interesting Marlboro display which has gone up on the North Coast of New South Wales recently in which the advertisers are trying to link food with cigarettes. It is a nine square display which, square by square, reads:
Marlboro. Sweets. Marlboro. Flavour. Cigarettes. Flavour. Marlboro. Snacks. Marlboro.
I table this photograph for those who may wish to see it. Another activity of the industry is extensive Press advertising. Its electronic advertising continues because it is able to circumvent the regulations in ways not permitted, for example, in Great Britain where the British Broadcasting Corporation has moved to bring about more effective compliance with the ban on electronic advertising. It also advertises extensively through the print and display media. I observe here that the States of Australia have been slow- I would even say recreant- in not passing laws to complement the Federal legislation on tobacco advertising. The North Coast of New South Wales is a very active health region. It did a survey recently to find out what people knew about the health risks of cigarette smoking. It discovered that 30 per cent of the citizens of the North Coast region did not know that there was an association between smoking and lung cancer and that 70 per cent did not know that there was an association between smoking and heart disease. Therefore, it designed a program to try to do something about this. No doubt it was observing the suggestion of the Surgeon-General in his 1979 report in relation to public policy where he said:
The decision to smoke is a personal decision, but once this is said, it remains unquestionably the responsibility of health officials to ensure that smokers and potential smokers are adequately informed of the hazards.
The trouble with the anti-smoking campaigns is that in the past they have been generally poorly designed. They have been directed to an elite audience. They have been directed to the scientific audience. They have worked only for those people who have understood the message, and some people have. The medical profession has stopped smoking. Surveys have shown that over the last 15 years the smoking rate for doctors has dropped from something over 40 per cent to something under 15 per cent. With that diminished smoking rate there has been shown to be a diminished death rate and an improvement in health. It has been shown that the middle aged and the elderly, the aged cohorts in our community, have reduced their cigarette smoking. But teenagers are increasing their cigarette smoking. Some disturbing evidence has been given in this regard. In the Canberra Times of June last year there appeared an article from Adelaide in which it was reported that 22 per cent of 9-year-old Australian boys and 5 per cent of 9-year-old girls are smokers, according to a survey which had been conducted for the National Health and Medical Research Council.
There is a real problem. Therefore, the North Coast health region has designed and put into action a new kind of health promotion program -not the old kind of elitist program. It has planned an anti-smoking campaign. It has organised professional marketing advice and the professional design of its print and electronic media advertising. It has produced a series of stickers which, I might say for those who come to my office, are being distributed widely in the Parliament. They contain messages such as:
Smokers- please suicide elsewhere.
Smoking is a dying habit.
Kiss a non-smoker. Taste the difference.
The region is putting out T-shirts and organising community activities and it has engaged in an extensive Press, radio and television advertising program which began in May of this year. It has taken on the manufacturers in a limited region to see what it can do to increase awareness and to alter smoking habits. It seems to be effective. It is sufficiently effective that it has caused the tobacco industry to mount a concerted campaign to get rid of what it is doing. The tobacco industry has moved against its entire advertising package but in particular against its package in the print advertising media. A number of spot surveys have shown that awareness of the campaign is high and that information transfer is occurring, although the major evaluation will take place next year. The cigarette companies have moved into the North Coast, have increased their advertising in favour of smoking, have changed their marketing practices and display methods and have also moved to try to prevent and damage the whole campaign.
Of course, there have been some encouraging developments in other parts of Australia. In Sydney this month the Barclay movie theatre withdrew some cigarette advertising when its program was for children. Bobby Fulton and
John Berne, rugby league players of great distinction, have both lent their names and photographs to anti-smoking promotional literature. But the print advertisements which have been put out on the North Coast are very dramatic advertisements. They are well designed and very effective. I will make these seven advertisements available to my colleagues by tabling them. The seven advertisements carry the following headlines:
How many ‘ heart starters ‘ will it take to stop your heart for good? Quit. For life.
A simple plan for your average smoker to get to Hawaii and back. Free. Quit. For life.
Smoking has a nasty habit of turning lovers into just good friends. Quit. For life.
Which twin will die first? Quit. For life.
Guess which twin is the ex-smoker? Quit. For life.
In the short run you will lose your breath. In the long run you could lose a leg. Quit. For life.
The lines you get from smoking are no laughing matter. Quit. For life.
Those advertisements have had a move made against them by the cigarette industry. They have been withdrawn. They have been banned, while a most amazing series of events has taken place. These advertisements were submitted by the Health Commission of New South Wales to the solicitors who advise it- Messrs Dawson Waldron in Sydney, who, we understand, act for many of the cigarette advertisers and are renowned in the field of advertising examination. Their judgment, according to the information given to me by the Health Commission, was that the advertisements were satisfactory.
This is not the first time we have had difficulties. In 1977 the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria tried to get some anti-smoking advertisements on television, to be shown close to the telecasts of the test matches. These were refused. I quote from a letter written by Dr Nigel Gray:
We booked time on Channel O for the purpose of showing this advertisement and were informed that ‘anti-cigarette’ advertisements were not acceptable during or adjacent to the cricket telecasts and replays. The grounds were quite clear: (I) The station regarded anti-cigarette advertising as in conflict with the corporate objectives of the Benson and Hedges Company. (2) The Benson and Hedges Company is the prime ‘off television’ sponsor of the cricket and is thus entitled to freedom from competition in or around the cricket telecasts, regardless of whether or not they choose to advertise on television.
That is great reasoning-
So, a television station is not prepared to take anti-smoking advertisements because it is taking promotional money from a tobacco company. There was another little episode this year, to which one of my colleagues- it may have been Senator Lewis- referred a few months ago. A health message had been put on tape by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, and the anti-smoking message which the RACGP had put on tape for general use was forced to be taken off on complaint, I think, from the tobacco industry. I cannot be certain of that.
Let us look at what has happened on the North Coast. Certain advertising agents acting on behalf of the tobacco manufacturers complained about the radio, television and Press advertisements. They complained on the basis that the voluntary codes for advertising, including the code for tobacco advertising, had not been complied with. But these advertisements were not advertising tobacco. If they were advertising tobacco, they should have adhered to the code for advertising tobacco. But they were not doing so. The interesting thing was that the television and radio advertisements were very quickly back on air after examination by the Federation of Australian Radio Broadcasters and the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations. But the Press advertising was submitted to the Australian Publishers Bureau- a specific body which censors print advertising in this country. All the advertisements were complained about. In a moment I will give the Senate some details of the complaints. The Media Council of Australia said that it believed that sufficient grounds were present to sustain the complaints and requested substantiation of certain facts from the Health Commission. No evidence was taken from the Health Commission when the complaint was heard. It was an ex parte judgment. There was no apparent right of appeal. There was simply an instruction that the MCA thought that there was a case and that the advertisements were to be withdrawn.
The Joint Committee for Disparaging Copy wrote to the Regional Director of the Health Commission, Mr McKay. Its letter included the following statement in support of its decision that the advertisements were to be removed:
The complaint was lodged on behalf of Phillip Morris Ltd by its advertising agent, Leo Burnett Pty Ltd, on the basis that claims made in the abovenamed advertisements are false and the statistics quoted are in fact misleading and serve to disparage their products. Furthermore, the complainant believes the advertisements to be dishonest in that unsupported generalities are gratuitously applied to individuals. The result being that the campaign denigrates a product group whose sale and advertising is legal and governed by Federal and State laws, and by the Voluntary Code for the Advertising of Cigarettes.
It is also contended that the campaign contravenes many aspects of the Media Council’s Advertising Code of Ethics, a copy of which is enclosed for your reference.
It said further:
Accordingly, and until such time as you submit the requisite documentation in support of the various claims made inclusive of statistical data for appropriate determination by the Committee, all advertising in the ‘Quit for Life’ campaign is to be forthwith suspended, and your assurances to this effect should be forwarded within seven (7) days from the date of this communication.
The Health Commission, not surprisingly, wrote back, saying: ‘Please tell us exactly which bits you are objecting to. They are seven large advertisements with a large amount of material in them. Surely the complaints were not to every matter in every advertisement’. On 28 August the Regional Director wrote Mr Hughes, the Secretary of the Joint Committee for Disparaging Copy, a letter in which he said:
I am most anxious that this matter be dealt with as soon as possible as suspension of the ads will have a disrupting effect on our campaign which is just beginning to be effective.
I am sure that spurred the industry on. The letter continued:
The Committee’s request for supporting data on such a generalised complaint provides me with some difficulty because of the enormous amount of material which exists on the hazards associated with smoking. The provision of support data is difficult and I would appreciate your assistance in ascertaining the specific claims which the complainant wishes to dispute to allow the early provision of support data.
Further letters dated 30 August, 3 1 August and 3 September were exchanged. But it was not until two days ago, not until 24 September, almost a month after the advertisements had been suspended, that any specific complaints were made available to the North Coast health region. I have a telex of the letter in which the specific complaints were made known. I have shown that telex to Senator Walsh. He advised me that there would be no objection to its incorporation. I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Senator P. Baume, Parliament House Canberra
QUOTE OF LETTER SENT TO REGIONAL DIRECTOR, HEALTH COMMISSION OF NEW SOUTH WALES NORTH COAST REGION FROM AUSTRALIAN PUBLISHERS’ BUREAU DATED 24 SEPTEMBER 1979.
Dear Mr McKay,
Re: Quit for Life Campaign/Print Advertising
In accordance with your request, the Bureau has now placed before it those claims made in the Quit For Life print advertisements to which substantiation is sought, accordingly I set out hereunder the basic complaints.
“In the short run you will lose your breath. In the long run you could lose a leg”.
Substantiation is called Tor to demonstrate the relationship between smoking and the instances or gangrene, together with the relationship of death from perivoral vascular thrombosis and smoking.
“How many ‘heart starters’ will it take to stop your heart for good?”
Substantiation is called for covering the claim that nicotine in cigarette smoking is the addictive poison and its subsequent effect on heart action/blood pressure and heart stoppage.
“Guess which twin is the ex-smoker”.
Substantiation is sought on the question of the difference claimed in the ventilatory function between smokers and non-smokers.
“Which twin will die first?”
Substantiation is sought covering the claim that nonsmokers can expect to live longer than smokers as well as the claim that those who quit smoking can expect a greater life expectancy.
“The lines you get from smoking are no laughing matter”.
Substantiation to the claim that smoking causes wrinkles.
“Smoking has a nasty habit of turning lovers into just friends”.
Substantiation that smoking has an adverse effect on sexual ability.
In the case of the advertisements above, substantiation is also sought covering the cardiac efficacy of an anti smoking intervention which is an underlying claim made in each of the said advertisements.
“A simple plan for your average smoker to get to Hawaii and Back. Free”
There is also a query concerning the relevant travel costs quoted which it is believed could be easily adjusted. However, the underlying complaint regarding life expectancy also applies to this advertisement.
The Bureau looks forward to you comments.
Signed: W. L. Hughes Acting Secretary. End quote.
V. McKay Regional Director North Coast Region 26 September 1979 5.20 pm
– I thank the Senate. My concern is not directly a concern about the advertising industry. It is acting as an agent for the tobacco industry. My concern is that the cigarette manufacturers have moved to delay the provision of the information which the North Coast health region needed to get these advertisements back into the print media, and that on the basis of an ex parte judgment there was an unconscionable delay in making essential information available. I believe that the tobacco industry is determined to try to stop, to inhibit, to destroy this campaign for healthy life style and this ‘Quit Smoking’ campaign, that it has decided to stand and fight, and that it has decided that the Lismore region will be the place where it will do this. I believe that the industry is not going to be too concerned about how it goes about doing this job.
Let me finish with a couple of quotations concerning the industry. The first of them is from Sir George Godber, Chairman of the World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Smoking Control. He says:
I am urging you, and anyone else who will listen, to believe that the promoters of tobacco products want more people to buy them and to go on buying them through their lives. The result of that can only be- if they succeed- that more and more people will die earlier than they need; that more babies will die young; that more work will be lost through illness; and worst of all, that men and women will spend the last years of their lives as respiratory cripples.
Sir George Godber puts that down as the inevitable result of the failure of a society such as ours to take on the tobacco industry head on and to introduce a sensible public health policy which will sell the virtues of non-smoking and sell the virtues of moderation. The final quotation I give is from the Australian Cancer Society. In an editorial some time ago, it said:
The tobacco industry will remain as a wealthy influential and irresponsible force for ill health in the community. Reasoned argument and evidence does not modify the industry’s opinions.
In conclusion, I say that I do not object to the industry fighting if it thinks tobacco promotion has been unfair. I do not object if it thinks there is some gross irregularity in advertisements as regards truth. But I believe that it has engaged in a war of attrition and I believe that it has not responded with the speed with which it should have responded. What it has attempted to do is to disrupt one of the few very positive campaigns for a more healthy lifestyle in our community. I believe that the industry needs to look to its public image and to its public responsibilities. It has shown precious little public responsibility to date.
– I suppose I had better declare my interest and inform the Senate that, on the 12th floor of the Commonwealth Government Centre in Sydney, my secretaries, Marion Grace and Grace Leil are non smokers, like me. That is not due to my having applied any pressure. I simply make that point before I commence my major remarks.
– You would not knock environmental and occupational health though, would you?
-No. I want to see silicosis and a host of other industrial diseases eradicated. I start my contribution to this debate in recommending to Government senators who have spoken in this debate, for their compulsory reading the publication Public Expenditure and Social Policy in Australia: Volume 1 The Whitlam Years. I challenge what Government senators have said when talking about the Whitlam era. Do they realise the achievements of the Whitlam Government, which included the introduction of national employment and training schemes, the abolition of the means test on the age pension for people over 70 years of age, the introduction of lone father benefits, child care innovations, the provision of telephone interpreter services, the removal of racial clauses in the Crimes Act which has existed since 1 926, the introduction of pension portability and a host of other achievements? They were years of achievement for which we in the Opposition do not make any apology.
I go a little further- I think this is a significant point- and point out to Senator Baume that the Whitlam Government in its first year gave $6.3m to the development of sports grounds. Senator Baume talked about sporting activities being in bondage to Benson & Hedges of Australia Pty Ltd and other sponsors. The fact of the matter is that it was a Labor government which avoided that problem by making adequate financial grants for sporting activities. One of the spin-offs was that at the Olympic Games our hockey team won one of the few medals won by Australia because the team was able to go overseas before the Games and gain experience in international competition. In recent times there has been anguish about why we are not doing so well in winning medals at any of the international sporting meets. The plain fact is that we have the worst of two worlds: On the one hand, perhaps private enterprise benefactors in the United States of America are more generous than they are here; and, on the other side of the coin, people back off in horror if it is suggested that we might emulate the attitudes of Eastern European countries to sports training. Once upon a time it was reckoned that sports training meant regimentation, but it does win medals and it does make people fit. We argue, with our private enterprise hangups, that people should be able to do what they like; yet private enterprise and capitalist excesses are brought about by some of the stupid advertisements which are aimed at sporting activities.
I get down to a more basic matter, namely, the absence of an adequate manpower policy. The peculiar situation that we face today was brought home to me when listening to a speech made by Senator Sim. I like listening to his speeches; they are always well documented. What Senator Sim said was reinforced by a statement made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Andrew Peacock, which referred to our links with the Third World countries. Senator Sim argued about our high tariff wall. Today I took a delegation from the Federated Rubber and Allied Workers Union of Australia and employer representatives to talk to the Minister for Productivity, Mr Macphee, who was extremely sympathetic. I pay tribute to his officers for their efforts to try to deploy 700 people in New South Wales who were employed by Firestone Tyres Pty Ltd. The situation is something like this: Australia utilises something like 10 million tyres per annum. Of that, seven million are produced in the various States of Australia and three million come in from either Taiwan or South Korea. We apply a tariff of, I think, something like 40 per cent. The view of the union and of most of the employers is that a quota system should apply, which probably would boost local consumption to about nine million tyres.
We then raise the cost factor. It could be argued that the wage scales in South Korea and Taiwan are increasing. The thesis of Senator Sim probably would be that, for the sake of three million tyres, it would not be worth while to upset trade relations and exports. The point I put is that we cannot have our cake and eat it. I refer honourable senators to the other side of the coin, namely, the present commitments which Australia, Canada and the United States have towards political refugees. First of all, let me say that I am an advocate of quotas. Dealing with the definition of ‘political refugee’, I am realistic enough to believe that, if the fate of many political dissidents in the Argentine, Uruguay and Chile is to be forced into making a confession by the use of electrodes on bodily extremities, those countries can hardly be democracies.
If one were to look at the statistics for migrants for the first six months of this year or, better still, at the report of the Committee on the Determination of Refugee Status- the DORS committee- one would find that 400 people had their tourist visas converted to permit permanent residence in this country. Over 350 of them came into the category defined as ‘victims of persecution in South East Asia’. I do not mind our honouring our United Nations obligations if it means that we take 12 million people a year. But they are being brought into a tight manpower situation and we do not ask the refugees what their job skills are. Many of them come in family groups. We all know that it has become the norm in our society that the husband and wife both work. Bluntly, that is because there is then a reasonable expectancy of being well towards paying off a home, if not having paid off a home, by the age of 45 years. This is different from the situation we had in the past, when the man was the breadwinner and people probably did not have a home paid off until they were about 59 or 60 years old, if they had it paid off even then.
What I am suggesting is that we are reaching a situation in which we will have extremely limited numbers of job vacancies in the non-tradesmen, process worker, or only slightly above that, gradings of jobs in our manufacturing industries. I say to Senator Sim and to Mr Peacock: If you are going to advocate a particular policy, tell me what you tell the displaced Firestone rubber workers and the people who are under threat in the textile and clothing trades. I am prepared to accept their point if they tell me that the workers will get severance pay and that some of those positions will more or less be phased out. But they cannot tell me that every displaced textile worker and every displaced rubber worker will be made a computer programmer. It is simply ridiculous to say that. I have heard the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, Mr Viner, talk about his Utopian plans for the 1 980s. But when we get away from all the statistics we find that we have to place people in jobs. I suppose that we will probably place the 700 workers I mentioned that I saw today. Perhaps people about 58 years old or thereabouts will receive enough severance pay not to go back into the workforce. But our manpower policy is not as specific as it might be.
I noticed from the record of the Estimates committee hearings that there was some excellent, efficient, skilful probing by Senator Tate on employment and industrial relations. Frankly, when the relevant Minister and departmental officers were subjected to skilful cross examination about increased apprenticeships, it was found that the situation is not as rosy as the Government implies. It always amazes me that, when we get into a discussion on this issue, the Government talks about the role of the trade unions. I do not know of a Luddite attitude being adopted by them. I suppose that my learned industrial colleague from South Australia, Senator Elstob, who has a fund of knowledge on the maritime industry, will agree with what I have to say about the famous occasion when the membership of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia at the port of Mackay was drastically scaled down. The membership would have been, I suppose, 400 people and it got down to about 40 people. Of course, they got reasonable severance pay. But the fact that a smaller unit was involved in handling the sugar cargoes did not reduce the price of sugar. I know that the answer will be that wages are only one component. If the Government accepts that it is only one component, it cannot expect us to accept a reversal of attitude and to believe that in other industries it is the major component.
To get back to the Senator Sim syndrome, it could be said that the pay of the workers in South Korea and Thailand is getting better. Surely, with their mode of life, they are not going to be home owners. This is the theme that Senator Carrick is always on about. That is the point we are making. If a 35-year old worker who is in the middle of making home payment instalments is told that because of a rationalisation plan the Dunlop company is going to produce its rubber in Victoria and not in New South Wales, I do not know how he can be convinced that he should sell his house in Bankstown. These are all human stories and, as far as I can see, the Government’s manpower policy is very vague about the matter.
Dealing with the broad manpower-wage structure, if one looks closely at working conditions in eastern and western Europe one finds that health and medical costs are the stable components in their wage structures. I can remember that in the 1966 to 1969 era when we started our Senate committee system, we had a committee of which Senator Douglas McClelland was a member, dealing with health insurance. Strange as it may seem, the work of that committee virtually paralleled an inquiry being conducted by Mr Justice Nimmo. Before each of those committees, and 1 think Senator McClelland will appreciate this, our socialist recommendations would have been stronger, but we were prepared to accept a reformist posture in relation to the schemes. The czars of the private health organisations, Mr Cade and another gentleman whose name temporarily escapes me were grilled by both committees.
- Mr Turner.
– That is it; Mr Turner. He was another one of the brigands of the private health funds. Talk about private dossiers! He has told people in Sydney that he had a big scrap book containing all the criticisms by Senator McClelland and me, but we are still in public life and he is on the way out. In relation to the health schemes about which we are talking, Mr Justice Nimmo ‘s inquiry, quite apart from the high-powered Committee of which Senator McClelland was a member, advocated reforms within the ambit of private insurance. The Government did nothing about it. In 1972 we won the election on the basis of the acceptance of Medibank I, and that was the levy concept. We supported it and the people wanted it because at least it meant that regardless of whether a person was a process worker or a company executive, the levy was applied to his annual income.
What is the situation today? There are constant fluctuations. The Government has to take account of the segment medical costs, the attitude of the Australian Medical Association and other aspects. People constantly have to adjust their thinking. Of course, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) tried to fiddle around with it and relate it to the cost of living. I say without hesitation, talking about a wage concept and an understanding with the trade union movement, that at the beginning the Fraser Government had that understanding. If it had continued with the original concept of Medibank there would have been no problem. I do not object if somebody wants to join another scheme, but I insist on compulsory across-the-board uniform levy because it is an egalitarian society concept. Every time an adjustment is made the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), says that it is only a matter of $3 or $4. However, a single girl, a process worker, living in a big city and paying high rent, has to pay the same amount as a company director living at Vaucluse. Talk about an egalitarian society! It is wrong, and the Government knows it is wrong, and this is one of the festering sores with the trade union movement. The Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) could go into a huddle tomorrow with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and say: ‘We will give you what the Scandanavian and Eastern trade union movements have got in relation to stability of health costs’. That is a charge on income tax, of course, but during a year in which a man was working overtime he would pay more and during the lean years he would pay less. Contrast that with the constant skyrocketing of the weekly deductions for the Hospitals Contribution Fund and the Medical Benefits Fund and so on. If the Government was honest, it would allow Medibank to compete against them; Medibank would bring them down to reality. This is a simple problem. If we want some form of employment stability, a vital component is health cover.
While I am on the subject of trade unions, senators will know that I have been questioning the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) about his role and the role of Mr Street in the matter of industrial relations. We hear a lot of talk about amalgamation. But what is it? Those who object are always those who go along and vote against something. It is significant that those who abstain from voting put no opposition to the proposals. Nobody in their right senses would deny that an amalgamation of the Storemen and Packers Union and the Transport Workers Union, to give one instance, would be an excellent thing. There are other much smaller amalgamations proposed which would be much more efficient. Yet this Government will not budge one inch in relation to amalgamation.
Referring to consultation, I have a letter dated 6 September from Mr Joe Thompson, Secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation of Australia. The letter deals with Porter (Australia) Pty Ltd, a firm with overseas links. It closed down abruptly following a decision made in the United States boardroom. I had asked Mr Thompson what consultations had been held. In his reply he said that there had been no prior consultation with the union prior to the announcement of the closure. The letter continues:
The Union attempted to negotiate severance pay without success.
The Company operated 3 Divisions at the same site:
Thermoid manufactured asbestos clutch and brake parts.
Disston, manufacturers of hand saws and saw blades.
Osbornes, manufacture of hub caps and wheel dress rims.
The CES did interview people after the Union had made contact with them and requested that they do so.
That is the sort of situation that occurs with these firms. Last year I met a high-ranking American company director, a man in his 70s, who had a few scotchs and became very nostalgic about his experiences in Peru in 1936, when Indians in Gstrings that is all they wore- were working in the underground mines. He was very nostalgic about it, saying that things had never been the same. I am not suggesting that Porter (Australia) were that bad, but I think senators will agree with me that it could have done a lot better. Some senators may have seen the recent Four Corners program on Bolivia and the tin mining. I believe that in some areas the sort of thing I have talked about continues, and while things do not get to the stage that they did with the miners in Peru there is a constant battle for people to hold what they have.
There is another interesting aspect relating to the question of double standards. Some time ago an industrial dispute occurred in the paint industry. I have the journal of the Miscellaneous Workers Union which covers that industry and which refers to an increase of between $7 and $12 a week. For 12 months the employers had resisted any attempt to make an agreement on wages. But this is the punch line. Like many people, and I know that that includes you, Madam Acting Deputy President, in the very small amount of spare time I have I try to do a bit of beautification in my garden. I had a new sixfoot paling fence and 1 decided that on about one weekend in three I would paint it with a four-litre tin of Berger’s Ranch House brown stain. It took me a considerable time to paint it. Every time I bought a four litre tin I found that the price had increased Over a 12-week span a price increase of $1.30 was applied by Berger Paints Pty Ltd, yet it was resisting a work value case put by the union and refusing to offer the union any amount at all. I finished that job successfully after 10 weeks, by the way. I do not doubt that if I do some more painting another $1.30 will have been added to the price of Berger’s Ranch House brown fence stain. The point I make is that it went in for its chop. I have convinced the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney). I can see that he is nodding his head. The company got an increase of $1.30 on every fourlitre tin of Ranch House brown, but the unions had to battle for 12 months to get a hearing and ultimately a decision which was in their favour. No doubt now Berger Paints and all the others will go back into the queue and go after another increase. We can talk about the Prices Justification Tribunal and other bodies but it is a fact that double standards occur and lead to discontent.
Let me illustrate the amazing inconsistencies. A gentleman called, I think, Green Dog, a nonunion truckie, opened Pandora’s Box as far as petrol tax exemptions and other things are concerned. We will not see any flow-on from action taken by truckies for 12 months. If the Federal President of the Transport Workers Union, Mr Ivor Hodgson, or someone else had indulged in the tactics adopted by Green Dog and his colleagues the Government would have invoked the Crimes Act. One Minister- in fairness to Senator Chaney it was a Country Party Minister, Mr Nixon- urged the truckies onto bigger and better things because he thought he could embarrass the New South Wales State Labor Government. Pandora’s Box has been opened with deals about petrol tax. The average motorist will have to pay the cost. The Minister and I know the evils of capitalism. Too many rigs are on the road. The operators cannot get a reasonable living. I do not mind if people say that there should be competition and the best man should win. That is all right, but we have changed the rules of the game now. There are too many trucks and because they damage the roads we all have to face a bigger impost in the form of petrol tax. One does not have to be a socialist to admit that if it was compulsory for vast amounts of heavy goods to be transported by rail or ship not so much money would have to be spent repairing highways. That is elementary.
When Khrushchev visited the United States he said that he was in probably the greatest capitalist country in the world. He said that people could say that there were things wrong with his country but he said that the United States had an excessive duplication in its trucking industry. So the same problem exists there. The United States will have to return to using its railway system for heavy haulage. The same thing will have to happen here. In a democracy people have to be persuaded. It is one thing to persuade people but it is another for all the motorists at large to be slugged with additional costs because the Government finds that it is in a bit of a jam with some truck operators failing to meet their petrol tax obligations. This is one of those situations that obviously will be an albatross around the Government’s neck.
I want to deal with a number of miscellaneous matters. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said well over 16 months ago- it may have been even earlier- that he was governing for all Australians whether they voted for him or not. I heard that speech in a Slovene club. A chap turned to me and said: ‘Well, that is pretty good. Obviously it means some recognition for the worker on the Snowy Mountains scheme’. I had to write about three letters to the Prime Minister asking him when we would get a plaque to commemorate the 123 workers who were killed in industrial accidents while working on the scheme. I was able to marshal considerable agitation from the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Workers Union under Mr Oliver and a member of the Slovene community in Canberra, Mr Roman Bizjak From that we got La Fiamma and Novo Dovo and a host of other newspapers into the act along with quite a lot of other ethnic clubs, the Melbourne and Sydney Trades Hall Councils and Mr Bob Hawke and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I thought that I had won the day. Months ago I was told about plans for a modern commemorative plaque. A competition was held, but still nothing is happening.
I am amazed at attitudes when we are dealing with monuments to people. Most of those 123 workers had been in Australia only a little while. They took on dangerous work. I have made a few telephone calls on this matter and have been told that the plaque is under preparation. 1 am not saying that the Government will welsh on it. I know it will not. Mr Newman, the Minister for National Development, has told me that in due course the ceremony will take place, but over the last two months I have found less and less activity occurring. What is going to happen? I honestly believe that the Minister should take this matter on board. Surely before Christmas we can get a suitable tribute to these workers, most of whom came from overseas lands, for the sacrifices they made. The plaque could probably be sited at the headquarters of the Snowy Mountains Authority at Cooma. This is only a small matter but I think it should be faced up to.
I would like now to retrace my steps a bit and refer to certain racial tensions. I refer to what was called the Battle of Brisbane between a minute group of Vietnamese and members of the Waterside Workers Federation and their two Vietnamese guests. I think the Government, in its calmer moments, would know that if people like Strecko Rover and one or two other extremists- I emphasise that they are only a minute group in the Croatian community- had been told in the early 1960s that they could be in very serious difficulties if they distorted the concept of free speech, we would not have had a lot of other subsequent problems; but we were a bit slow in doing so.
I was not very happy the other night while sitting on Estimates Committee C. I asked about what we had done to extinguish the extremism of the far Right. The best answer I got was that it was thought that the Regional Director of Immigration in Brisbane had spoken to the people concerned. I want to make it very clear that probably four different groups purport to represent the views of the Vietnamese people who have come here in recent times. I am all for organisations, what they are, as they provide a proper consensus of the aims and objectives of people. I appreciate the fact that these organisations are needed for newcomers. It is even better for members of parliament if they get representations from people under a letterhead rather that just individual letters.
When the military junta was in power in Greece a Greek committee known as the Committee for the Restoration of Democracy in Greece was kept under fairly close surveillance by the Commonwealth Police and police special branches in the States. I am probably not always in agreement with even some people on my own side of the Parliament. I accept the fact that in this age of terrorism we have to have police acting on a fairly balanced viewpoint. I hope the Government does not unleash a whirlwind against one of the four groups purporting to represent Vietnamese- I named the group during the Estimates Committee hearings- but I think representatives of the group should be spoken to early so that they do not get the idea that they are a chosen people. In using the words ‘chosen people’, I realise that I must be very careful how I express myself.
I was at an ethnic community function on Saturday night. I assure honourable senators that law enforcement officers have said to me privately: ‘When will the Government stop these people at the bogus Croatian Embassy in Canberra thumbing their noses at the law?’ It might be felt that people will forget about the actions of these people in the embassy. The fact is that every other group obeys the law or tries to obey it. It would be wrong if these people were allowed to go on their own way when the Government would not give other people half the time before it invoked the full effect of the law. We passed the Diplomatic and Consular Missions Bill a long while ago. Lean compare it with some of the Government’s punitive industrial legislation which it gets on the statute books and tries to proclaim as quickly as it can. Some Ministers- I probably exempt Senator Chaneyget a great kick out of applying this legislation. I started off by talking about manpower policy and finished on other matters. If the Government wants to govern for all the people it should see that these transgressors of the law from the far Right are firmly dealt with.
– It is a great pleasure to be speaking in support of this Budget, a Budget that has been so well received by all sections of the Australian community. The Budget builds on the sound foundations of the two previous Budgets and it will maintain and accelerate the economic recovery of Australia. Like its two predecessors, it makes no attempt at all at cosmetic pretences. It makes no attempt to buy votes or favours by using taxpayers ‘ money. ( Quorum formed).
This country has had a long, hard road back from the economic excesses and irresponsibilities of the era from 1972 to 1975. The journey back has been worthwhile, because it has been a successful one. Whilst the war is still on a major battle has been won. We have reduced the inflation rate from the dizzy heights at which it stood during the period of the Labor regime and, most importantly, we have reduced our inflation rate below that of our major trading partners and competitors. We have restrained the more irresponsible elements in the union movement and we have made considerable progress in making Australian industry competitive by improving management techniques and equipment.
We have come a long way, and we are now in a favourable economic position. If anyone doubts that, let him look at the current state of the stock market. In times of high inflation and, more importantly, in times of expectation of high inflation, the stock market falls because stocks and shares do not represent an attractive investment. The present boom on the stock market is a genuine and massive vote of confidence in the Government’s economic policies. We are not out of the woods yet. To give one international example to support that contention, we could be faced with a serious problem if one of the major countries in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries ceased to be a supplier to the world markets. Possibly the biggest threat in this country stems from the dominance of the Marxist Left of the Australian Labor Party and the union movement, a threat of such magnitude that it has driven the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions out of his job, and he is attempting to find another one.
Despite these problems, and they can be dealt with, the fact remains that Australia possesses very great economic strength. We are an energy rich country. We are probably the richest country in energy amongst the industrialised nations. We have enormous reserves of minerals and raw materials and, most importantly, we have a highly educated and intelligent population. If anyone doubts our future he should look at the billions of dollars which are firmly committed to development projects in Australia. The great aluminium refineries in Queensland are striking examples of the faith in our future. Those of us who were privileged to attend the meeting held in Parliament House last year with Mr Herman Kahn from the Hudson Institute will remember his saying that Australia had a great future which only a very peculiar and highly developed genius could destroy. He then went on to say that it very nearly happened in the immediate past.
There has been very little criticism of any substance of the Budget. I wish to deal briefly with one sedulously cultivated myth that all we need to do to cure our problems is to spend more government money. That Keynesian approach works only in times of low inflation. Many countries have tried to buy their way out of problems, but in times of high inflation or stagflation it has not worked in one single case. The reason it does not work is that it does not address itself to the fundamental cause of the problem. It is a very cruel trick to play on the gullible members of the community to say that all we need to do is to open the Government’s purse strings and increase the deficit. Having spent our way into the mess that we are in, or having been spent into it by the Labor Government, how can a continuation of the same policies lead to a recovery or amelioration?
The first point I welcome in the Budget is the increase in the defence allocation, which is increased by $279m or 2.6 per cent in real terms over last year. This is a most necessary move because the percentage of our gross domestic product spent on defence is far less than that in most comparable countries. Given the high technology and long lead times of modern armament systems, we simply cannot afford to lag too far behind the rest of the world. Furthermore, the progressive increase in defence spending in this and future Budgets will allow greater participation of Australian industry. The awarding of the contract to Vickers Cockatoo Dockyard Pty Ltd to build a new fleet supply ship for $70m is a good example of this.
The second item in the Budget to which I refer is the recognition of marine science research. Australia has a great dearth of information on the sea around us. With the current declaration of the 200-mile fishing zone there is a pressing need for Australia to acquire greater scientific information about its marine resources. I particularly welcome the announcement by Cabinet that another 1 1 scientists will be appointed to the Australian Institute of Marine Science and that the Government will provide the support facilities for them. Furthermore, the promise to provide $1.2m for research into marine matters, of which $300,000 a year will be spent on the Great Barrier Reef, is something which will benefit Australia enormously.
The final matter which I wish to comment on is the increase of almost $ 14m in the appropriation to the Department of Productivity. This new department has had very little publicity, but its increased allocation is one of the fundamental moves being made by this Government to improve our economic wellbeing. (Quorum formed). It is a pity that senators from the Labor Party and the Australian Democrats cannot find time to come into the chamber occasionally. Our proceedings have been held up twice by the calling of a quorum because of the lack of Labor Party senators in the chamber. The Department of Productivity has a brief to make Australian industry as competitive as any in the world. It is doing this very effectively by encouraging innovative designs and inventions through the industrial research and development grants, lt is aiding the transfer of the latest technology to industry and educating management in improved management techniques. Finally, it is fostering the introduction of new high technology industries, of which the commercial production of the Australian invention ‘InterScan’ is a good example. Quietly and effectively, in partnership with private enterprise, the Department of Productivity is playing a very important role in our economic affairs.
I must in all honesty refer to two areas in the Budget which cause me some disquiet. The first concerns social security and welfare. Whilst supporting and applauding the humanitarian reasons behind this appropriation, I think that it is timely to draw attention to the magnitude of the task that the Australian people have assumed in servicing social welfare policies which now total yearly nearly $9,000m- 9.6 per cent more than last year’s outlay- and representing more than 28 per cent of all Federal Budget expenditure. This reflects society’s higher and higher expectations of support from the public purse. All of those expectations are eminently reasonable, but there is a definite end to the capacity of the community to pay for those services, particularly when we have zero population growth and an increasingly aged population. I am reminded of that fact when I look at the few senators who at the moment occupy the Opposition benches. Somewhere there has to be an end to expansion and, furthermore, an evaluation of what services we are to provide, and to whom.
Firstly, there has been an increase in the number of people receiving benefits. Secondly, there has been an increase in the benefit rate itself. To illustrate the increase in the numbers receiving benefits, we can cite the ratio of wage and salary earners to pensioners. Ten years ago each pensioner was supported by about five workers. Today each pensioner is supported by closer to 2.5, certainly less than three workers- even though the number in the work force has increased.
– Madame Acting Deputy President, in responding to the remarks made about the Opposition by the honourable senator I draw your attention to Standing Order 406, under which a member of the Senate may not read a speech.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Coleman)- I am sure that Senator
MacGibbon has in front of him copious notes. I draw his attention to the Standing Order.
– Madam Acting Deputy President, I am speaking from very copious notes, on which I have worked at length, because I wish to be accurate when I speak.
– You haven’t been so far.
Senator Walters- I wish to raise a point of order. Senator Walsh is out of order in interjecting from a place other than his own. I ask that he be called to order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I remind the Senate that an honourable senator who intends interjecting should first ensure that he or she is sitting in his or her correct place. I ask Senator MacGibbon to address his remarks to the Chair.
– My apologies, Madam Acting Deputy President. I was overcome by the brilliance of the remarks that were made to me. As regards the increases in benefits paid, we have gone from an expenditure in fiscal 1969-70 of $ 1,269m to an expenditure today of $8, 925m, which in monetary terms represents about a 700 per cent increase in ten years. All things considered, that is quite a staggering increase.
Some other aspects of welfare merit our attention. The biggest expenditure in the area of social welfare is upon the age pension and amounts to $3, 625m annually. Only a few years ago the age pension was seen as a supplement for those in need not as a universal benefit. If we see the age pension as being awarded only on the basis of need, we can save a considerable amount in the Budget. But that can be done only if we provide adequate incentives and rewards through the taxation system to encourage people to provide for themselves. On the other hand, if we see the age pension as a universal right, we are virtually operating a national superannuation scheme; but we are doing so without setting up a national fund to support it. We are paying for it out of income and not on any actuarial basis whatever. Apart from these considerations, there is a great need for the Government to develop a facility for self-employed persons to operate their own superannuation schemes. That would take some of the pressure off the many attempts now made to form tax evasion schemes.
My second general observation on welfare concerns the way in which the Government has become its own sub-contractor in providing many welfare services. I would prefer that the Government worked through the reputable and established charitable organisations, whether they be church-based, such as the St Vincent de Paul Society or the Salvation Army, or community-based such as Legacy. Those organisations have a compassion, a dedication, an efficiency and an insight into the real needs of the community that no public service can ever attain.
Any discussion of Budget outlays must lead to a discussion of Budget receipts or taxes. No Parliamentarian in this chamber can be oblivious to the raging ferment in the country concerning income taxation. Taxation is universally seen as being too high, and the Income Tax Act as too complex to administer. Let me reject firmly the notion that income tax should be replaced by a retail turnover tax, a value-added tax or any other increase in indirect taxation which in Australia, as anyone who has tried to buy a car or a bottle of whisky knows, is not low. The unjust and untenable aspect of increasing indirect taxation is that it hits the poorest hardest. One of the myths about indirect taxation is that it is a discretionary tax. In other words, if you choose not to spend, you choose not to pay tax. That may be true, but what about the low income earners? What about the people, of whom there are very many, who have to spend 100 per cent of their income in order to live? They have no choice but to pay tax on everything that they buy.
To return to the point that I made some moments ago in regard to the growing tax revolt, I say that the answer is not to evade the root cause of the problem by setting up alternative taxing schemes, but rather to cut tax rates. Hand in hand with this, the Income Tax Act needs to be thrown out and replaced by a simplified Act. The first point to note is that the Government should cease viewing the general public and the business world as an endless source of money. I cannot believe that every program that is funded under the Budget is essential to Australia. I cannot believe that some could not be dispensed with, that some could not be performed just as well by private enterprise. I cannot believe that we do not duplicate some services that are performed by the States.
I am well aware that the consequences of lowering taxation are that some services have to be cut or eliminated. I do not shrink from that proposition, nor should any government, because the Australian community is far more sophisticated than it was 10 years ago. It would be quite impossible today for a Mr Hayden to come along and sell a universal health scheme, covering everyone for $120m, such as he did between 1 970 and 1 972. The majority of people realise that governments cannot do everything. They realise that governments, whatever their political affiliation, are notoriously inept at running commercial enterprises- and so many of the ventures that governments get into today possess a commercial element. We seem to be locked into a situation in which, whenever a program is funded it becomes sacrosanct and embalmed forever in the catacombs of the Treasury.
– Read us the next page.
– I will be glad to enlighten the honourable senator. The present Income Tax Act needs to be replaced. It is not an overstatement to say that most of Australia’s problems are attributable to this one Act. It gives incentive to neither employees nor employers, so commercial initiative, which is the life-blood of our society, is repressed. It encourages, by its very complexity, evasion of income tax and dishonesty. Thereby it puts at risk one of the basic tenets of our culture, which is respect for the rule of law. No member of this Parliament can be happy about the incidence of tax evasion, or the alternate currency, or any of the consequences of those actions, or of where the society is going.
There is no justification for the Government’s taking more from a dollar than the worker takes. The maximum rate of taxation should not exceed 50c in the dollar. There is no reason to penalise efforts by taxing overtime at punitive rates. At present there is no reward for either employers or employees in regard to overtime and I see no reason why such payments should not be tax free. After all, that is what is going on in the real world and it is working very well in practice. By lowering taxation, stimulating commerce and producing new wealth, in short by using taxation in a creative way- not in a negative way by trying to redistribute income around the community- the shortfall in taxation will be made up and we will all be better off.
Bankruptcy: Payments to Creditors- Slovic Community in Australia- Cootamundra Abattoirs: Industrial Dispute
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order, it being 1 1 p.m., under sessional order, I put the question-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
-Mr Deputy President, I am merely taking the time of the Senate for a few moments to elaborate on a question I asked on Tuesday, concerning the breakdown, as I claimed it, of the Federal bankruptcy jurisdiction throughout Australia. I was referring to the non-payment of dividends by Official Receivers offices, I believe in many of the districts throughout Australia, but with particular reference to the Tasmanian situation. It seems that under the strain of increased bankruptcies throughout Australia Official Receivers offices are finding it impossible to allocate staff to give to creditors what is their due and what is available. I want to bring to the Senate ‘s attention a particular case- that of Messrs S. R. and P. Clements who live on the east coast of Tasmania. I merely bring it forward as an example of the difficulties which creditors are facing. In this case the estate of the bankrupt was dealt with by the Official Receiver in Hobart and he had available 50c in the dollar to pay creditors.
Messrs S. R. and P. Clements were owed some $4,000 and, therefore, could have expected, in the normal course of events, to have received $2,000. Having not received this amount as they thought they ought to in good time, on 26 March 1979 they wrote through their solicitors to the Official Receiver asking why the 50c in the dollar, namely $2,000, had not been paid to them knowing that it was available in the estate accounts of the Official Receiver. On 10 May 1 979 the following reply was received:
Dear Sirs, I refer to your letter dated 26 March 1979 and advise that I have sufficient funds in hand to pay a dividend of SOc in the dollar. However, because of the abnormal number of bankruptcies I have had staff handling new bankruptcies and have stopped paying dividends. Staff ceilings have restricted the number of staff available to handle the work. I am unable to advise when a dividend will be paid.
No prospect was held out as to when a dividend could be paid. The Clements were prepared to bide some little time, but on 29 August, in desperation, they wrote again. On 4 September they received another letter from the Official Receiver which confirmed the difficulties that the office was operating under without the necessary staff to handle the payment of dividends. To add further to the troubles of the Official Receiver, he had lost the services of one of his qualified accountants.
– He went to the Ombudsman’s Office, I think.
– For whatever reason, he has left many thousands of creditors in a predicament. The Official Receiver continues:
When taking into account the delay in obtaining a suitably qualified replacement and his training this office will be facing a most critical situation during the next 12 months.
I regret that I have had to take the step of not paying dividends but similar action has already commenced on the Mainland states to handle the number of bankruptcies.
Hence my question on Tuesday relating to the breakdown throughout Australia which is my inference only, I admit, from that paragraph from the Official Receiver’s office in Tasmania. The fact is that that case is one instance of a situation which I have been able to confirm on the telephone, namely that no dividends have been paid to any creditors in Tasmania by the Official Receiver’s office since the beginning of this calendar year. That means that many thousands of creditors have been denied their right to share in the distribution of what, by definition, are meagre assets and on which they depend as they themselves are hard-pressed.
– What a Government! It sends people bankrupt and then it will not even pay through the Official Receiver.
-That is right. It is terrible.
– What a scandal. It is another scandal.
– I thought it had elements of scandal in it and therefore, some half hour ago, I went through the annual report of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs for 1977-78. On page 59 of that report the Department states:
During the year ended 30 June 1978, 3,117 persons became bankrupt throughout Australia . . . The figure represents the highest number of bankruptcies recorded in a particular year since the commencement of Commonwealth bankruptcy administration, and is a sharp increase on the total for the preceding financial year.
In Tasmania, for example, this year the figures are even worse. From an average of about 160 bankruptcies, the projected total number of bankruptcies for this year is 280. Hence one can see that even last year the Department knew the strain that the bankruptcy administration would be under. The Official Receiver’s Office obviously was feeling the strain last year. That strain is minimal compared with the burden under which officers in the Official Receiver’s Department are working this year. In the 1 1th annual report relating to the Bankruptcy Act for 1 977-78, there are hints of the difficulties. I refer to page 7 where, under the heading ‘Administration ‘, the report states:
The total number of estates under administration at the close of the year, namely 8,664, represents an increase of 759 estates during the year. Maximum operational efficiency demands that the number of estates under administration should be reduced substantially, but this is not possible under existing staffing conditions in Official Receivers’ Offices.
This gives an indication, a hint, that the bankruptcy administration was feeling the strain of staff ceilings. I found it difficult to understand the report when it speaks about the Official Receivers’ estate account. On page 8 the report states:
The rate of distribution to creditors of moneys held by Official Receivers on their behalf was satisfactory in the existing staffing circumstances.
Once again, that tells one nothing unless one knows the real dilemma of creditors such as the Clements which I brought to the attention of the Senate tonight. In fact it is difficult to understand the situation because one reads in Schedule 12, Part B on page 30 of the report that whereas during the year almost $8m was received by the Official Receiver’s Offices throughout Australia and almost $7,500,000 was disbursed during the year, the balance to credit of the estate account as at 30 June 1978 was still $7,420,396. This means that throughout Australia there was almost as much money sitting in the estate accounts at the end of the financial year 30 June 1978 as was distributed to creditors. Well over $7m, which ought to have been distributed to creditors, was sitting in the estate accounts of Official Receivers’ Offices throughout Australia. I am not sure- I have not had time to find outbut perhaps it is earning interest for the Government while the creditors, who are hard pressed and in desperate need of the distribution of the meagre assets of those who have gone bankrupt, perhaps are themselves paying interest on overdrafts or other loans or such arrangements as they can make to tide themselves over until the Official Receivers’ Offices get sufficient staff to enable dividends to be paid. The question is: Until when? The letter of early September from which I quoted indicates that the Official Receiver in Hobart, for example, sees the problem as continuing for at least another 12 months. He holds out no prospect, no indication, no hope at all to the Clements, amongst others, of when any payment will be made out of the bankrupt estates account.
Because of the nature of Tasmanian society I am personally acquainted with most of those who work in the Official Receiver’s Office in Hobart. I know them to be dedicated, hardworking, conscientious and concerned that the administration of their office results in creditors being paid that which is possible to be paid out of a bankrupt’s estate. But obviously an intolerable situation has developed for creditors due to circumstances completely beyond the control of the Official Receiver’s Office. I feel they are circumstances within the control of the Government.
Surely when thousands upon thousands of ordinary small business traders throughout the community are seeking to recover from a situation which has befallen them because they have traded in goods and services with a person who has become bankrupt, this Government, or for that matter any government committed to small business enterprise- should be striving to ensure that a quick, fair and efficient distribution of assets takes place. Therefore, on behalf of the Clements, who are merely examples of thousands of Tasmanian creditors and perhaps tens of thousands of Australian creditors, I ask that the Government gives urgent priority to the staff ceiling at it operates in the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, with particular reference to the Official Receiver’s Office, so that dividend clerks and other necessary personnel can be appointed in sufficient numbers to ensure that creditors throughout Australia get their due as quickly as possible.
– Last night Senator Davidson rose to right a wrong. Tonight, I rise to rectify two wrongs. In the first instance, I refer the Senate to 17 August 1978 when the Diplomatic and Consular Missions Bill was being discussed. As recorded on page 166 of Hansard, Senator Harradine quoted from submissions he had received from the Slovenian-Australian Association. That was a perfectly legitimate exercise, but the material supplied to him was, to say the least, extremely uncharitable to another organisation- the Slovene Society, whose address is Post Office Box 189 Woden, Australian Capital Territory. That organisation took umbrage at the fact that the SlovenianAustralian Association had implied that the Society had sinister motives. I will not go into a long discourse tonight, but to see that both points of view are put, I wish to incorporate in Hansard a letter from Bert Pribac the President of the Slovene Society. He empowered me to take this action. I have cleared the matter with the Government Whip, and I seek leave to have that document incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
SLOVENE SOCIETY-SLOVENSKO DRUSTVO
Karantania Inc. No. A.428
P.O. Box 189 Woden, A.C.T. 2606
Tony Mulvihill, ] Parliament House, Canberra
You may recall a letter with some attachments that a group of Slovenians from Canberra and Queanbeyan, mainly members of our Society, have addressed to Senator Brian Harradine, asking him for a retraction regarding certain statements he has made in the Australian Senate about the Slovenian community in Canberra and Queanbeyan.
We have received only a letter of acknowledgement from Senator Harradine, which does not satisfy the hurt feelings of our members, neither does justice to the truth.
I have consulted with all the signatories of that letter of 5 May 1979 and they have authorized me to ask You, as a Senator and great friend of the Slovenian and Yugoslav community in Australia, whether You could sec that our statements in that letter could be incorporated in to Hansard, not only to present our point of view, but to redress matters uttered by Senator Harradine, which are undoubtedly untrue and offensive to us signatories and have been uttered under the privilege of the Senate.We have hoped that Senator Harradine would have seen the need to make some corrections and apologies, especially in respect to our Society.
For reasons that we don ‘t know he has not done so and we feel, that only one side of the story has been presented rather unfairly.
We would be grateful if You could obtain permission from the Senate to incorporate our letter and statements into Hansard, at least those parts that would clear our names and the dignity of our Society.
You may care to note again, that among the signatories are three J.P.s and one Queanbeyan City Councillor.
President of the Society
– On a more serious note, I have also a more lengthy document- one might call it an aide-memoire- dealing with relations with the Slovene community in the Australian Capital Territory. As a Temporary Chairman of Committees, I feel that there is a standard to be maintained and as a result I have decided, after consultation and getting the advice of the Clerk of the Senate, to seek leave to incorporate the first three pages and the first paragraph on the fourth page of that document.
The document read as follows-
SLOVENE SOCIETY-SLOVENSKO DRUSTVO
Karantania Inc. No. A428
P.O. Box 1 89 Woden. ACT 2606
The Right Honourable Senator
Canberra. ACT 2600
It came to the attention of us undersigned that you made a statement last year during the Senate Debate on the Consular Mission Bill (Hansard, 17 August 1978, pp. 166-167), parts of which we undersigned consider to be offensive to us, without ground in truth and denigrating to many Australian citizens of Slovenian origin.
Because the Committee of the Slovenian-Australian Association of Canberra Incorporated (SAACI) felt it necessary to bring certain matters to your attention and the attention of the Australian Federal Parliament, we feel to be entitled to make this statement in the interest of truth and the good name of the Slovenian Community in Canberra and Queanbeyan.
For your information and the information of other Senators we undersigned wish to make the following comments in regard of what you have quoted on 17 August:
It is evident from certain passages of the ‘roneoed’ letter from SAACI that it is strongly and unmistakenly insinuated that Yugoslav agents are trying to take over the said association of which many of us signatories are life members or have been ordinary members.
It is also suggested in that letter that because the said agents have been unsuccessful, they have established their own parallel organization. For your reference and recall we quote the said passage again from p. 1 66 of the Hansard;
The letter from the Slovenian Australian Association of Canberra continues:
It is no wonder that our national clubs in Sydney and Wollongong have been taken over and that our free news media in Australia is gradually becoming the instrument for Yugoslav communist propaganda. Where they have been unsuccessful, as for example in Canberra, they have established their own parallel organisation with the purpose of eventually taking over other free-thinking establishments, as for example, our own organization. This formidable success in takeover of groups and individuals by Yugoslav agents was made possible only because Yugoslavia can still claim citizenship over its dissidents.
As we undersigned are also founding members or friends of the Slovene Society Karantania Incorporated, the only other parallel Slovenian organization in Canberra beside the SAACI, many of us and many other Slovenians will rightly assume that the authors of that letter from SAACI meant us as the parallel organization. In fact, as the substance of their accusations in their many broadcasts and newsheets against some of us personally and against the Slovene Society Karantania as a whole has been consistently in the same vein, we have no other choice but to assume so and therefore feel deeply slandered and abused.
Why a parallel Slovenian Organization has been established?
We regret sincerely that you have been perhaps unable to make someeffort to ascertain the true facts, because if you would have done so, you would have surely discovered that the parallel organisation named Slovene Society Karantania has been established by the independent will of Australian citizens like you, by people of differing but independent religious or political views.
For your information and the information of other concerned people, we wish to use this occasion therefore to inform you why the Slovenes in Canberra have been forced to have two organisations, though the community itself is scarcely one thousand members strong (including children and infants). In fact various estimates have been made, butit seems that the size of the Slovenian community is between 700 and 1,200, of which less than 200 are registered members of the two societies. The others belong to other organisations and clubs and may attend occasionally functions of the two associations.
Many of us left the old homeland Slovenia in the postwar years when the political and economic situation in Slovenia and Yugoslavia was rather restrictive and most of us did not agree with that situation or with the regime. Therefore it is an insult to us to be branded as agents of the Yugoslav state. We are and have been, since we arrived, loyal Australian citizens with no political claims on the old homeland, beyond the claim of free travel to visit our relatives and friends still living there. When we travel abroad, we respect the laws of the countries we may perchance visit, including the laws of Slovenia and Yugoslavia.
Since the Australian government has been maintaining friendly relations with our old homeland, we have no other aspiration but to benefit from such relations, either by free travel to visit relatives or by entertaining in our midst cultural and sport groups from the old country. We have been pleased when the cultural agreement came into being and we were pleased to listen to the Slovenski Oktet and now to see films from the old country. We feel we are entitled in these things as taxpayers and honest citizens. We are not opposed to acknowledge within this frame the legal Yugoslav representatives in this country at such functions.
While there is no denial that the Yugoslav government can exercise considerable power over its citizens at home and abroad and may have done so occasionally, especially in the immediate postwar period, we accept the fact that governments of all persuasions do so occasionally, when it suits them. We have discovered no evidence that Australian citizens of Slovenian origin have been imprisoned, tortured or killed when they visited the old homeland, especially not so in the last several years.
To us living here in Canberra and Queanbeyan, there is much more insidious and relevant the pressure and power exercised over us in our daily living by extremist groups in our midst. These groups have insulted, libelled and ostracized members of the Slovenian community, denying them even the natural social intercourse in their own community. They have used threats by way of unsigned and signed circulars, unsigned and threatening telephone calls and letters and in certain instances violence was perpetrated, though people were and are still afraid to witness because of threats to them or their families.
Considering that the Slovenian community in Canberra and Queanbeyan is a very closely knit national group, almost as a village community, with most of its members being employed in the building trade, then any denial of social relationship and any ostracizing has the immediate effect of splitting the community. As this ostracizing has been used very frequently in the last four or five years by the SAACI, great damage to the well being of the community has been done.
Though much of the conflict could be attributed to personal misunderstanding and rivalries, even jealousy and petty squabbles, we believe and we have evidence that the main reason for the divisiveness is of a political nature.
This is the reason why we have established a parallel Slovenian organization in Canberra, dear Senator!
Since then, most of our members and surely most of our Committee members have kept a distanced and independent stand against the purveyors of extreme ideologies. We do not want nor desire to continue old homeland feuds and battles in our new homeland Australia. We are just Australians of Slovenian origin, involved very much in the Australian economic, cultural and social life.
– As a postscript, I wish to say that some time ago the Senate had a high powered committee chaired by Senator Townley, and its members included the present Attorney-General (Senator Durack), Senator John Wheeldon, Senator Webster and myself. If the spokesman for the Slovenian-Australian Association feels that there is still something to be said, I would respectfully suggest to the Government that that committee be reconvened. I wish to leave my speech at that. I think it is a low powered submission by me.
The second matter concerns a National Country Party member in the other place, Mr Lusher. I refer to an industrial dispute in relation to the Cootamundra abattoir. Mr Lusher took it upon himself to assume the role of a de facto conciliation commissioner. The dispute was one of those that all honourable senators are aware of. It concerned a conflict between State and Federal awards. His remarks were not very complimentary to the very dedicated Federal Secretary of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union, Mr Fred Hall. Tonight all I want to do is to see that justice is done. I shall seek to incorporate in Hansard a letter that was sent to Mr J. Brown, M.H.R., stating the union’s point of view. What is much more important is that the whole of the attitude of the union to the dispute was endorsed in a subsequent judgment by Justice Mary Gaudron in the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I think the documents speak for themselves. I seek leave to incorporate them in Hansard.
The documents read as follows- 2 1st September, 1979.
Mr. J. Brown, M.H.R. Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600.
I refer to the speech made by the Country Party member, Stephen Lusher re the Cootamundra Abattoirs reported in Hansard, 1 3th September, page 1 161.
Mr Lusher, M.H.R., has been interfering in Union matters for his own political purposes and in support of the attitude of the employer (Metro Meats Limited), who own and conducts the abattoir at Cootamundra (previously owned and operated for many years by Conkey and Sons) under the guise that he is acting for members of the Union to get the Works re-opened by getting them to accept the employer’s proposition that their rates of pay and conditions of employment be covered by a federal award.
Through these activities and criticism of the Union in the local media he succeeded in getting support from a few of our members for his campaign to take the matter out of the hands of the Union who was supporting a unanimous decision carried by all of our members employed at the abattoir in opposition to federal award coverage.
Mr Lusher ‘s campaign included the use of all local media outlets, and by making contact with some of our members living in Cootamundra who were previously employed at the abattoir.
All that he achieved was to create dissention amongst the members involved and exposed a number of them because of their support of his campaign against the Union and acting contrary to their own resolution exposed them and destroyed them industrially in the eyes of their workmates.
He, of course, was not concerned about the use he was making of them because his whole object was to obtain a result favourable to the company, and the political mileage that flowed from his campaign against the Union and the impression that he was acting in the best interests of the exemployees. in encouraging them to act contrary to their own resolution and their Union in opposition to federal coverage.
To enable a fuller picture of the issues involved some of the background industrial history of the abattoirs must be stated.
I make the point on the information given to me by company management that the plant is now operating on a broken time basis. There is the prospect of a closure of the plant which unfortunately is becoming a common situation within this industry. ‘
He contacted the nearest C.E.S. office which was Wagga to check on the position and told the officer that the employees had been sacked for being on strike. In fact, the Agency in Cootamundra were refusing even to give the dismissed employees.
The Union was left to rectify the position which took some time because of Lusher’s interference, because the facts were that they were not really dismissed because they were on strike for one day.
In fact, a Mr. C. Watson, General Manager for Metro Meats stated in evidence before Commissioner Gough on 27th June, that the company maintained operations at Cootamundra for as long as they were viable but it reached a point where it was no longer viable, because of losses and the high price of live stock and we had to close it down.
Subsequently, after consulting the employees at the abattoir and our Federal Executive, the company was informed that the Union would not agree to Federal coverage.
The company replied that they would approach the Federal Commission by way of an application seeking federal coverage.
This meeting was organised at the instigation of Mr Lusher (see copies of telegrams enclosed). The telegrams were not admitted by the Judge but they were certainly designed with the help of Mr Lusher to influence the company’s case and the Commission.
This approach attracted a number of our members, finally bringing about a situation where meetings were being called against the wishes of the Union and the local delegates with Mr Lusher ‘s support and indeed participated in the meetings by his attendance and addressing same.
This meeting, by a substantial majority (only 20 against), carried the following resolution- “That this meeting endorses its previous decision which was carried unanimously to oppose federal award coverage for the purposes of maintaining State award coverage unci the retention of present agreements, and we await the decision of Justice Gaudron. We support the actions of the Union Officials and the Works Officials in carrying out our original decision. “This meeting condemns the unwanted interference by Mr Lusher, the federal member for Hume, who under the guise of giving support to some members to have the Works re-opened is supporting the employer by enticing them to agree to federal coverage in the hope that they will become the majority and force the Union to abandon its opposition to federal coverage. “His efforts have failed, despite his media campaign and Union-bushing along with organising and addressing unauthorised meetings of some Union members who were well in the minority and demand that he refrain in the future from political interference into our affairs. “
Lusher refers on Page 1161 of Hansard, that the Union at the meeting on 25th August, had assured the meeting that the decision would be handed the following week.
That is not correct, because what I said was that (he Judge had indicated (o me (hat she would write her decision during the following week, hut there was no indication when it would bc handed down.
Yours faithfully, F.T.HALL
Fi Mis 243/79
SD Print E937
IN THE AUSTRALIAN CONCILIATION AND ARBITRATION COMMISSION
Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904
In the matter of an application by the Meat and Allied Trades Federation of Australia to vary the
FEDERAL MEAT INDUSTRY INTERIM AWARD, 1965
in relation to respondency ( C No. 646 of 1979)
JUSTICE GAUDRON, Sydney. 19 September 1979. DECISION
This muller, the hearing of which was commenced before Commissioner Gough and was by consent of the parties referred to me for further hearing and determination, arises from un application by the Meat and Allied Trades Federation of Australia to extend the Meat Industry Interim Award, 1965 to the operation of Metro Meat Ltd. at Cootamundra in the State of New South Wales.
The meal works were until recently operated by Conkey and Son Ltd. in accordance with the provisions of the New South Wales Butchers. Wholesalers (Country) Award. The works were on 29 March, 1979 taken over by Metro Meat which operates abattoirs at Noarlunga and Peterborough in South Australia and at Katanning and Geraldton in Western Australia. At each of the five works, Metro Meat slaughters and processes beef, mutton, lambs and pigs. Each of Metro Meat’s five abattoirs is export licensed, and as much as 80 per cent of its total product is exported. Some of its product finds its way on to (he inter-state market, and only a small proportion of the product of any of the abattoirs is traded locally.
The South Australian works at Noarlunga operate under the provisions of the subject award. The Western Australian establishments operate understate regulation, although it is to be noted that the application which gave rise to these proceedings states that ‘indeed, the Company will be making a similar application to cover its West Australian operations at Katanning and Geraldton, Western Australia. ‘
Metro Meats has a centralised administration situated in Adelaide. Cattle arc from time to time transported interstate to keep the various operations running at maximum capacity. Processed meat is similarly transported interstate to enable agglomeration for the filling of orders. Personnel arc also interchanged between the operations, although not to a significant degree.
The operation of Metro Meat, in particular their location in different states and their significant export orientation, arc such that prima facie federal award regulation is desirable. Additional factors were relied upon by Metro Meat in support of the application and included the advantages of being placed on a competitive footing with other meat exporters whose operations are governed by federal awards, and the benefits of better industrial relations which the Company hoped would flow from federal award coverage. Unfortunately, these subsidiary arguments have hidden within them the factors which make extension of the subject award to the Cootamundra operations of Metro Meat undesirable. The award has not proved to be the best method of regulating the meatworks of large meat exporters. The Angliss Group, Borthwicks, T. A. Field and J. C. Huttons whom Metro Meat nominated as its competitors in the meat export industry, all operate under federal awards which have been separated from the general federal meat award. Moreover, the subject award makes no provision for piece work or tally mutton slaughtering, a system which has operated at Cootamundra and which presumably Metro Meat would wish to continue. For its mutton slaughtering in South Australia a separate agreement has been reached between the Company and the South Australian Branch of the Union. The absence of such a provision would in the event that the subject award were extended to the Cootamundra operations be more likely to cause industrial disputation than to effect industrial peace. The evidence suggests that the last few years have witnessed an unhappy industrial relations environment at the Cootamundra works. It would be naive to suppose that the introduction of a federal award would of itself transform this situation. Indeed, it would appear that some disputes have arisen directly from the moves made by Metro Meat to secure federal award coverage. Certain changes would eventually follow any such introduction, and not all such change would benefit the employees. Indeed some would be to the disadvantage of some employees. These factors in my view make extension of the Federal Meat Industry Interim Award. 1965 to the Cootamundra works of Metro Meat inappropriate. Moreover without wishing to prejudice any further application with respect to the Katanning and Geraldton works, it should be noted that the subject award does not operate in the state of Western Australia.
For the above reasons, I reject the application. Such rejection is a rejection only of extension of the Federal Meat Industry Interim Award, and not of the concept of federal award coverage, which, as I have previously indicated would appear to be appropriate to operations such as those of Metro Meat.
BY THE COMMISSION DEPUTY PRESIDENT.
– On those sentiments, the defence rests.
– Very briefly, I invite members of the Senate to refer to the debate recorded on pages 165 to 168 of the Senate Hansard of 17 August 1978. 1 think the response has been altogether out of proportion to what was said on that occasion. I emphasise that I said on that occasion that I had a wide circle of friends who were Yugoslavs, Slovenes and Croatians. It is not for me to enter into, nor do I desire to enter into, deep discussions or to take sides on any question of difference. The main reason why I quoted from the roneoed document which was sent to all senators and which was the property of all senators was to support the argument, which I think is supported by all honourable senators, that no disadvantages should be incurred by Australian citizens by reason of dual nationality. Clearly, there were disadvantages in the case that was mentioned.
While I am on my feet I would like to support what Senator Tate said about the difficulties being experienced by the Registrar in Bankruptcy in Hobart. I urge the responsible Minister to treat this matter as a matter of great importance and urgency. 1 had occasion last week and this week to raise officially the plight of a number of employees of a particular bankrupt. Those employees are in very dire circumstances. The money is there for them to be paid but it is not being paid to them. For what reasons it is not being paid, I do not know. Senator Tate obviously has more information than I do, but I understand that the person concerned, whom he mentioned, sought a job in the office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman and has been appointed to it. That will leave a very great gap in the office of the Registrar in Bankruptcy in Hobart.
I am considering reporting this matter to the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council and the State branch of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. If they get such a report they will not muck around. Members of unions are waiting for their just pay. Their colleagues are not going to allow the situation to exist in an industry whereby because one person in that industry goes bankrupt his employees have to wait months and months for their pay. Their mates are not going to stand around doing nothing. They are not going to allow that industry to operate if those circumstances occur and people go bankrupt in that industry. We can finesse all we like, but these people are entitled to their just payment. It is long overdue. I believe that the way in which to overcome this is for the Minister urgently to recruit sufficient people in Tasmania to do the job and, in the meantime, to send down experienced officers to clear up the backlog in our State.
– The bankruptcy matters which were raised by Senator Tate and spoken to by Senator Harradine this evening were originally raised by Senator Tate in the Senate yesterday. I am advised by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) that the matter has been referred to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) who is examining the matters raised by Senator Tate. I will ensure that the remarks this evening of Senator Tate and Senator Harradine are also referred to the Minister. With respect to the matters raised by Senator Mulvihill, I understood him to say that he was concerned to set the record straight and to get certain views into the public arena. I will see that those views are brought to the attention of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.22 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 22 August 1 979:
What was the intake of migrants from: (a) the United Kingdom excluding Northern Ireland; (b) Northern Ireland; (c) Eire; (d) Italy; (e) Yugoslavia; (f) Greece; (g) Portugal; (h) Spain: (i) West Germany; (j) Chile; (lt) Uruguay; (I) Peru: (m) Ecuador; (n) Hong Kong); (o) India; (p) the Philippines; (g) Malaysia; (r) Lebanon; (s) Cyprus; (t) the United States; and (u) Canada, during the first six months of 1 979.
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Settler arrivals by country of last residence for the period 1 January 1979 to 30 June 1979 are set out in the table below. The statistics are based on passenger cards filled out by travellers on arrival in Australia. As a large proportion of settlers from the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany describe themselves simply as former residents of Germany, it is not possible to differentiate between these countries in the statistics.
In interpreting these statistics, it should be borne in mind that most of the settler arrivals in these months, would have been selected prior to the introduction of NUMAS.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 29 August 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 1 1 September 1979:
Did (a) the Draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared by Pancontinental for its Jabiluka project indicate that the open cut method of mining would be employed: and
the final statement indicate underground mining; if so, why has the later statement not been considered as a draft, and public discussion invited, in view of the dangers of making such major changes without giving an opportunity for public debate.
– The answer to the honourable Senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 30 August 1979:
– The Minister for Finance has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Under the same arrangements, the States are responsible for the day-to-day administration of relief measures.
-On 18 September 1979 (Hansard, page 756), Senator Mason asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Health, a question without notice concerning the prescribing of Valium syrup for use by young children.
The Minister for Health has provided the following information:
There were 9, 1 1 8 pharmaceutical benefit prescriptions for Valium syrup last financial year.
Valium syrup is available on the prescription of a registered medical practitioner as an unrestricted pharmaceutical benefit. It is for the medical practitioner to assess his patient’s condition and determine whether Valium syrup is indicated.
It is not the normal practice of my Department to conduct surveys which include reasons and justification for the prescription by registered medical practitioners of unrestricted pharmaceutical benefits
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 September 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790926_senate_31_s82/>.