31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 1 9 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That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed to ensure that the people are free to utilize whichever system they prefer and so enable the return to imperial weights and measures wherever the people so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.
Lead Concentrates in Motor Spirit
– I present the following petition from 100 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the lead content levels in Australian motor spirit have been proven to have detrimental health effects on our child population.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled should:
Take legislative action to reduce and ultimately remove lead concentrates from motor spirit in Australia.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will every pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 2,412 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, as it is clear that unemployment is a long term problem in Australia, the Government should extend to the unemployed the same assistance as is given to any other disadvantaged member of the community. There is an urgent need to alleviate the financial hardship and emotional stress that the unemployed are suffering.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Government adopt positive policies to reduce unemployment,
That the basic Unemployment Benefit be raised to at least the level of the poverty line as calculated by Professor Henderson,
In line with other Social Service additional income awards, and in order to encourage work creation schemes and the fostering of initiative and self respect, that the $6 per week additional income limit be raised to at least $20 per week,
That the financial penalties above the earning of $20 per week, assessed on a monthly basis, bc calculated at the same rate as other Social Security benefits.
That the Commonwealth grant subsidies to state governments so that the unemployed can be granted transport concessions in order that they are not penalised in job seeking.
That pharmaceutical and medical concessions be granted to the unemployed equivalent to those received by other Social Service beneficiaries.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will every pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 2,445 citizens of Australia, mostly from that very well known city of Warrnambool in western Victoria:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The Petition of the undersigned residents of the Electorate of Wannon respectfully showeth:
That the Australian Government should provide greater assistance and help to those refugees who have been forced to leave their homes in Vietnam, Kampuchea and Laos.
Your Petitioners most humbly Pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should:
Provide an immediate increase in the number of IndoChinese refugees to be admitted to Australia for permanent settlement to at least 24,000 per year;
Provide greater financial aid and assistance to those agencies which are assisting the Indo-Chinese refugees in their temporary camps in South East Asia;
Bring maximum political and diplomatic pressure to bear upon the governments of Vietnam, Kampuchea and Laos to ensure an end to those policies which are causing the flight of refugees to neighbouring South East Asian countries.
I hope they will be bipartisan policies.
– I raise a point of order, in case we establish a precedent. I think that petitions have to be presented to the House without comment. There should not be any asides when a petition is being presented.
– That is quite correct. Comment must not be made in the presentation of a petition.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
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 because the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and especially its Recommendations:
Therefore the Senate has a responsibility to the families of Australia not to adopt this controversial Report and its Recommendations.
We therefore call on the Government to:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take no measures concerning the Royal Commission on Human Relationships Report that will further undermine and weaken marriage, child-care or the family which according to the United Nations is ‘the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state ‘.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Peter Baume.
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 National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representatives without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Sheil.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system, and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Sheil.
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. by Senators Guilfoyle and McLaren.
-I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That the Senate take note of the Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission on Special Assistance for States 1979, tabled in the Senate on 9 October 1 979.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That the Senate take note of the Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission on Special Assistance for the Northern Territory 1979, tabled in the Senate on 9 October 1979.
-The Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry will be aware of the traditional right of the Tasmanian Government to control fishing operations of foreign vessels in waters south of latitude 39 degrees 12 minutes, that is, south of Wilson’s Promontory. He will also be aware of the efforts which have been made by both the Tasmanian Government and the Tasmanian fishing industry in the development of the industry in Tasmanian waters over the years, and particularly the development of the squid fishing industry. Can the Minister advise whether the Federal Government is currently considering dispensing with that traditional right of Tasmania by allowing foreign vessels which are engaged in feasibility fishing and which may be based in mainland ports to have free and open access to these waters despite the consequent detrimental effect that would have on the indigenous Tasmanian industry, in both the taking of fish and its processing in that State? Will the Minister assure the Senate that the Government will fully protect Tasmania’s traditional rights in this area?
-On behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry I believe I can acknowledge that the views of any particular State as they relate to feasibility fishing permits that are granted will be taken into account. As I understand it, during the 1979-80 season there will be a number of proposals involving feasibility fishing in south-eastern waters, particularly for squid. Perhaps it is that which has raised Senator Wriedt ‘s interest. My understanding is that proposals are currently being considered by the Commonwealth, but those proposals are being considered in conjunction with the State governments concerned. In this regard, discussions relating to the conditions that may apply in the forthcoming season have been held with the Tasmanian fisheries development authority as well as the fisheries authorities of New South Wales,
Victoria and South Australia. Those discussions have taken place in recent months.
The areas of operation for each company, including the position with respect to operations north and south of the 39th parallel of latitude, are still under consideration. On completion of the consideration, the matter will be referred to the Minister for Primary Industry for his decision. I understand that the views of industry and the position of the various States, including Tasmania, have been noted. Honourable senators may be assured that, when reaching final decisions on the various applications, the Federal Government will be mindful of the objective of ensuring maximum benefit from the next season of test feasibility fishing.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware of the recently released report by the Pastoral Industry Review Committee chaired by Mr B. G. Jennings which was established in Western Australia in 1 977? Is the Minister aware that several recommendations relate to Commonwealth Government policy? Will the Minister bring this report to the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry whom he represents in the Senate so that the Commonwealth Government’s response can be forthcoming in the near future?
-My understanding is that the Minister for Primary Industry is aware of the existence of the report but because its subject matter concerns essentially Western Australiathe report was produced by and for the Western Australian Government- he may consider it inappropriate to comment on its content at this stage. I understand that the report contains some 29 recommendations which relate to Commonwealth policy. Because this matter is essentially one for the State of Western Australia at this moment, I believe it is correct for the Minister for Primary Industry to await the outcome of that State ‘s consideration.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to a Press release issued by the Minister for Transport on 5 October which stated that Mr Harry M. Miller improperly received remuneration as a director of Qantas Airways Ltd from 16 March to 2 May this year after he had resigned from the Qantas Board effective from 16 March. Can the Minister advise whether Mr
Miller has yet repaid the amount of $817.67 received by him after the date of his resignation of 16 March as confirmed in the news release of the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon? Is this Mr Miller the same Mr Miller who incurred an expenditure of $585,580 while Chairman of the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation and special adviser for the Australian bi-centenary celebration? I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the Press release of Mr Nixon dated 5 October.
The document read as follows- (Statement by the Minister for Transport, Hon P. J. Nixon, MP)
The Minister for Transport, Mr Peter Nixon today commented on statements concerning the resignation of Mr Harry M. Miller from the Qantas Board.
Mr Nixon said that Mr Sinclair, on behalf of the Government, announced on March 16, 1979, that Mr Miller would be writing to offer his resignation from Qantas and the Australia Meat and Livestock Corporation.
Mr Nixon said that under the Qantas Articles of Association, a formal resignation was required to be submitted in writing to him.
I subsequently received Mr Miller’s formal letter of resignation, dated April 20, 1979, and my letter accepting Mr Miller’s resignation was dated May 2, 1979.’
In accordance with the Articles, Qantas notified the Queensland Corporate Affairs Commission that the effective date of Mr Miller’s resignation was May 2, 1979, that is the date on which his resignation was accepted.
Mr Nixon said that Mr Miller took no active role in the affairs of Qantas from March 16. The last board meeting he attended was on February 28, 1979.
So far as Mr Miller was concerned, he has completely broken all formal ties with Qantas from March 16.’
Mr Nixon said, however, he had now been advised by Qantas that Mr Miller did continue to receive remuneration from Qantas in the period March 16 and May 2, 1979. Apart time Director’s remuneration is $6,350 per year, and in the period between March 16 and May 2, Mr Miller received a gross amount of $8 17.67.
Mr Nixon said he had spoken to Mr Miller this morning and he understood that, as Mr Miller’s intention had been that his resignation be effective from March 16, Mr Miller was making arrangements to repay Qantas.
5 October 1979
– I was in two minds about whether to welcome Senator McLaren back and I have decided not to. Senator McLaren, in one sense at least, is setting an excellent precedent for this chamber and, in another respect, he is setting a very poor precedent. I leave it to honourable senators to draw their own conclusions as to where he is setting a poor precedent. But the good precedent that I commend to other honourable senators is to ask a question and to answer it in the same breath. Since the question appears to have been answered in the Press release which was incorporated in Hansard, I have nothing to add. However, I will carefully peruse the question when it is available to me in the Hansard pinks and if there is any section that remains unanswered I will certainly give the honourable senator a further reply.
– I wish to ask the Minister a supplementary question. Despite the remarks of the Minister, I did ask him whether Mr Miller had yet repaid the amount of $817.67 which was mentioned in the Press release of the Minister for Transport.
– I shall do precisely as I indicated before I sat down and I will let the honourable senator have a reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services.
– Ask him about–
– No, it is a gentle question this time. Is the Minister aware that evidence was given to Senate Estimates Committee E, in relation to the supply of Australian flags, that the Department of Administrative Services was having difficulties in getting the flags made? As there has been such a laudable and heavy demand for the flag in recent times- my office was advised recently that the delay was of the order of six months- will the Department consider placing orders with a Queensland flag maker who can supply the national ensign?
– I am sure that not only Queenslanders but all Australians will be interested in the matter raised by the honourable senator. The demand for the flag is gratifying. I agree with the honourable senator. I will refer his suggestion to the Department of Administrative Services. I am sure that in accordance with its normal procedures it will take advantage of the information that he has given.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Education. I refer to a question asked of the Minister on 27 September by Senator Lewis, in which he asked about the apparent relative decline in students enrolling in vocational courses in the technical and further education sector compared with students enrolling in what he termed arts and humanities subjects. I refer also to the Minister’s answer in which he said, not surprisingly;
Most of this problem occurred in the period of the Labor Government . . . I . . . underline a profound truth. I now say that during those years there was a drift away from the vital TAFE courses into too heavy a concentration in the arts courses.
I ask the Minister whether he was aware when he gave that answer that during the three years of Labor government enrolments in vocational TAFE courses increased by 25 per cent and in arts courses- in spite of the growth of colleges of advanced education- by less than 20 per cent. I ask also whether the Minister intends to continue with the practice of giving answers of this kind without any reference whatsoever to the facts.
– One would only have to go to such authorities as the Williams Committee report and the Crawford Committee report to find sources, quite apart from my comments, which indicate that in the past and prior to this Government’s coming to office there had been a choice away from TAFE and towards the arts courses. The fact is that not only I but also other persons in authority and other reports have indicated these things. If the honourable senator wants source material for that I would be happy to direct him towards it.
– I have a supplementary question. The question which I asked related to what the Minister said about enrolments in the period of the Whitlam Government. It is in the Hansard record of 27 September. I ask the Minister: Is what he told the Senate in relation to that period factually correct or not?
-Whenever Senator Button shows ersatz irritation we can be sure he is light on facts. It is the old lawyer’s ploy- ‘If you are light on facts and light on the law, thump the blooming table’. It is the old advice to those who are pleading in the law. Senator Button is neither pounding the facts nor pounding the law; he is pounding the blooming table. If he looks to my reply in the past and to my reply today he will find that they are totally accurate.
– You are misleading the House.
– Order! That is an imputation, Senator Grimes.
– It is not an imputation; it is a declaration of fact.
– That is most unparliamentary.
– I say it, too. It is absolutely true.
– It is absolutely true. He is a liar. The man is a liar.
– Order! I ask you to withdraw. You cannot say in this place that a man is a liar.
– With respect to you, Mr President, of course I must withdraw, but with no respect to that character.
– I take a point of order. Mr President, I understood you to ask for a withdrawal.
– He has withdrawn.
– With deference to you, sir; it should be unconditional.
– Order! We in this national parliament have an obligation to act in a way which attracts the respect of the nation. I ask each honourable senator to observe that. We are in this place protem to maintain its traditions and we are expected to act correctly. I ask every honourable senator to play his part in ensuring that our institution is respected as it should be.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and concerns current delays in the Mereenie oil field negotiations which the Magellan Petroleum Co. claims have been caused by the Central Land Council seeking appeal procedures under the Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. I ask the Minister: Is it true that the Aboriginal owners of the land have, by their actions or attitudes, caused the delay in the Mereenie development, or has the delay been caused by the company? Has the Central Land Council called for the appointment of an arbitrator, as provided for under the Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act? If so, when will the Minister determine the appointment?
– Honourable senators would be aware that for a considerable period negotiations have been going on between the Magellan Petroleum Co. and the Central Land Council. To say that may be stretching the point a little because in some periods there have not really been any negotiations at all. In fact, both the Northern Territory Minister concerned, Mr Tuxworth, and I have actively encouraged the parties to negotiate. That encouragement certainly has extended to the company, which has tended simply to state its position as being one in which it should not have to enter into the sort of agreement which is being requested.
As to who is to blame for the delay, it certainly is true that some time ago the Central Land Council indicated to me that it thought that agreement would not be reached. It sought the appointment of an arbitrator, who can be provided under the Act. Subsequent to that request, the company made it clear that it was not anxious to have an arbitrator appointed at this stage but wished to continue negotiations. Recently the company indicated that it wished to make a further offer to the Central Land Council, acting for the traditional owners. The present position, I understand, is that a further meeting is to be held between the company and the Central Land Council. 1 believe that that meeting is to be held on 22 October in Alice Springs. It is my understanding that at that meeting a further offer will be made by the company.
I would like to say, though, as this is a matter of some public interest, that the mining industry does tend to assert that it is important that time limits should be placed on negotiations and on when an arbitrator is to be appointed, so that there will not be undue delay with respect to development projects. It is interesting that in this particular case the party which wishes to keep the negotiations going rather than have an arbitrator appointed is, in fact, the mining company.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education and follows the question asked by Senator Button. I simply ask the Minister: Will he produce in this chamber the statistical evidence to back the answer he gave to Senator Lewis on 27 September?
-I will look at the substance of the question. The fact of the matter is that no honourable senator could have before him at this moment the precise wording of the question asked on 27 September. From my recollection of the question, it asked whether in the past a lack of priority had been given to technical and further education and too much concentration had been placed on the humanities and arts courses. The answer to that is emphatically yes. If there is anything to add to that I will do so.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware that planes bound for or redirected to Hobart must at certain periods of an evening rely on information and directions from the Launceston operations centre? Further, what measures are under consideration to ensure that Hobart Airport is manned by air traffic controllers 24 hours each day?
– I have some information relating to the Hobart Airport which, unlike other capital city airports, is not manned continuously, as was indicated by the honourable senator in his question. In fact, the particular control tower is manned on a 24-hour basis for eight days each fortnight and for 2 1 hours for the remaining six days, with a requirement that it will always be manned whenever a regular public transport aircraft movement occurs. So there is a relatively restricted period in each fortnight in which the control tower is not manned. The reason for the difference between Hobart Airport and the other capital city airports is, of course, the simple practical one: Manning is in accordance with traffic requirements which are lower in Hobart than in any other capital city. This is simply because of population. The Bureau of Meteorology’s weather observer is on duty at Hobart Airport for 24 hours a day and makes observations that are then fed into the airways operations system of the Department of Transport which operates on a continuous basis and ensures that pilots in command are fully informed of essential operational information. So there is no gap with respect to the provision of that sort of essential information.
– Has the Minister for Social Security seen Press reports of the meeting of.the Anglican Synod of the Diocese of Tasmania held at the weekend which urged the Federal Government to increase the amount of money an unemployed person can earn without loss of unemployment benefits? At present benefits are affected if one earns more than a minuscule $6 a week. In view of the fact that the present policy is widely condemned as discouraging youngsters from taking occasional jobs and as encouraging dishonesty in divulging earnings if they do, will the Minister undertake an immediate examination of this socially destructive policy with a view to raising the permitted earnings to at least $20 a week?
– I have seen reports recently from the Anglican Synod and others with regard to the amount of free income that can be earned without loss of unemployment benefits. The proposal has been put before me by other groups at other times. I undertake to analyse the situation that would arise, in conjunction with some of the things that we were talking about yesterday, in looking at ways in which we are able to encourage young people to seek training and in other ways to make themselves more likely to have opportunities for employment. It is difficult to estimate the cost to the Federal Government of raising the amount involved to something like $20 a week. I undertake to give further attention to analysing the statements that were made by the Anglican Synod at the weekend.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs by saying that no doubt the Minister is aware that in some countries persons arriving from other countries can make duty free purchases after their arrival but of course prior to declaration of Customs. As an attempt to have Australians returning to this country spend their money in Australia, will the Minister examine whether such a practice could be worked out to be feasible in Australia and, perhaps I should add, particularly in Tasmania when the Hobart-Christchurch air link commences?
– I will pass that constructive suggestion to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and invite him to consider whether it is feasible.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Science and the Environment been drawn to the statements made by the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory at the National Press Club yesterday where he criticised the National Parks and Wildlife Service’s active administration of the Northern Territory’s two main national parks and described it as pouring taxpayers’ money down the drain’? Does the Minister believe that this is a fair description of the work done by the Service? What action does the Minister propose to take to clarify the matter?
– My attention has been drawn to the reported comments of Mr Everingham in criticism of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service’s administration of Uluru and Kakadu national parks and to his suggestion of the Service’s pouring taxpayers’ money down the drain. I disagree with the Minister; I do not think his comments are appropriate. Uluru National Park was declared under the Commonwealth National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act on 24 May 1977. Declaration under the Commonwealth Act followed discussions with the then Northern Territory Majority Leader Dr Letts and relevant Commonwealth Ministers. I believe this reflected high acceptance by both governments that the area is of national and international significance. By arrangement, the day-to-day management of the park is carried out by the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission on behalf of the Commonwealth, and $400,000 is to be appropriated for the expenses of that Commission in 1979-80. In addition, $410,000 has been allocated for the carrying out of capital works. I make the point that there has been close discussion between the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth Government. Other matters of importance relate to the Central Land Council and the discussions that have taken place between the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Council on the proposed plan of management for the park.
As far as the second part of the question is concerned, the declaration of Kakadu National Park arises from the Government’s response to the recommendation of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry that a major national park in the Alligator Rivers region should be established under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. The inquiry also recommended that Aboriginal land claims in the area should be granted. I have had discussions on a number of occasions with people in the Northern Territory and with other Ministers because ministries other than mine are concerned with the significant capital expenditure that is likely to be made there. The amount of over $ 1.5m that may be spent by the Commonwealth this financial year is indicative of the important part that we see the area playing in Australia’s future and, indeed, we hope that it will become an area of international stature. From the discussions and investigations in which I have been involved, I do not think it is fair to say that money is being squandered in those areas.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. I thank the Minister for the information he gave, but I draw attention to the second half of my question: What action does the Minister propose to take to clarify this situation?
– I do not see any particular action that is worth while taking at the moment. State and State-like governments, and even members of the Opposition at times, have views which do not necessarily prompt a Minister to act immediately a statement is made. The core of the matter relates to whether the Commonwealth is ensuring that its expenditure is efficient and allocated properly. I believe that that is the situation at the moment.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing either the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs or the Minister for Trade and Resources. Has the Minister seen the reported comments of Mr John Nott, Secretary of State for Trade for the United Kingdom, that ‘Australian trade barriers could inhibit plans for Perth to become a service centre of the oil and gas exploration industry in South East Asia’? Further, Mr Nott said that Australian tariffs of up to 40 per cent have handicapped the establishment of local industry which is competing against relatively free trade areas such as Singapore, and that high tariffs increase costs, limit choice, and can lead to retaliation. Will the Government take note of Mr Nott’s comments and recognise that the maintenance of high levels of protection for sections of Australian industry are self-defeating and damaging to Australia ‘s economic development?
– I did see some general report of what Mr Nott said when he was here in relation to the matter raised by Senator Sim. I am not familiar with the detailed statements made by Mr Nott, who is Secretary of State for Trade in the United Kingdom Government, but I am sure that the Government would be most interested in his comments. Mr Nott made a recent visit to Australia and discussed matters of considerable interest and importance. I will refer Senator Sim ‘s question to the Ministers whom I represent in relation to trade and tariff matters and invite them to comment in more detail on the statement.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. On 3 October an official of the Australian National Railways Commission stated that rail services from Adelaide to Port Pirie would be cut back to save money. I ask whether the closing down and curtailment of rail services is in the best interests of Australia’s future transport needs. As the transport of people and goods is being left more and more to road vehicles, are we not likely to find ourselves in need of the railways that are now falling into disrepair when fuel for motor vehicles becomes scarcer and dearer?
– I do not believe that it is possible to give a succinct answer to the question asked by the honourable senator as to whether the closing down of railways is in the best interests of Australia’s future transport needs. I would have thought that that matter would have to be examined on a case by case basis, according to the traffic available and the economics of alternative transport. Obviously, the economics of alternative transport will vary as the price of different forms of energy varies. No doubt there is something important in the point that I think the honourable senator is trying to make, namely, that as petroleum fuels become more scarce and more expensive other energy sources will become more economic to use. I will examine the question further and, if I think I can add anything useful to what I have said, I will do so.
With respect to the particular rail link that has been referred to by the honourable senator, I assume that it is one of those in South Australia which are subject to the agreement between the Commonwealth and the State under which rail closures are subject to joint consultation. One would hope that, with the election of the new and vital government in South Australia, some of the difficulties of the past will be resolved more easily than they have been.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry provide any reason for the hold-up in approvals for joint feasibility fishing projects off the coast of South Australia? My attention has been drawn particularly to a squid fishing project at Port Lincoln involving a Japanese company, Nippon Suisan for which I understand State government approval has been given. Is the Minister aware of the unemployment problems at Port Lincoln and that many job opportunities would flow from this venture as, of course, they would flow from other projects that are anticipated in other areas? As the fishing season begins in November and prompt notification is required to enable the Japanese research vessels to arrive in South Australian waters by that time, will the Minister treat the matter of granting Commonwealth approval as one of urgency and request his colleague to contact the companies concerned as early as possible?
– 1 understand that a number of proposals involving feasibility fishing for squid in south-eastern waters during the 1979-80 squid season are currently being considered by the Commonwealth in conjunction with the relevant State governments. I understand that several of them involve operations in waters off South Australia. In this regard, in recent months discussions of the proposals and the conditions that are to apply during the forthcoming season have been held with South Australian, Victorian, Tasmanian and New South Wales fisheries authorities within the framework of the South-eastern Fisheries Committee, to which I referred earlier.
The project that Senator Jessop mentioned, involving Nippon Suisan, was considered by that Committee in September of this year and will be referred to the Minister for Primary Industry for his consideration. The area of operation for each project is a matter which is still under consideration. I understand that it has been referred to the Minister for his decision this day. The honourable senator may be assured that every endeavour is being made to expedite consideration of all proposals received, particularly concerning squid feasibility fishing in waters off the south-east coast of Australia, including those involving operations off South Australia. The conditions to apply to all those projects will be the subject of review. If the Government approves any of these projects it is bound to be mindful of the need to ensure that maximum benefits are achieved by Australia from the feasibility squid fishing that is taking place.
-Will the AttorneyGeneral give an assurance to the Senate and an undertaking to the people of Australia that the impending securities legislation will effectively outlaw insider trading?
– Although the question is directed to me as Attorney-General, it is within the responsibility of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. The national companies and securities legislation, which has been the subject of a great deal of discussion between the State and Commonwealth Attorneys-General, I understand is proceeding and is fairly well advanced. I do not know when the legislation is likely to be introduced into the Parliament. The legislation to establish the National Companies and Securities Commission has already been introduced. I will refer the question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Certainly, the legislation will be along the lines of the legislation that already exists in the States which includes some very considerable provisions in relation to insider trading. At this stage I am not able to comment on the actual details.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science and the Environment.
Has the Minister noted an item in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald entitled: ‘Wine Makers Fear Smelter Pollution’? The article quotes Mr B. Dawson, a member of the Hunter River Valley Vignerons Association, as saying that an aluminium smelter at Farley would threaten about 3,000 hectares of grape vines in the Pokolbin district. Can the Minister inform the Senate about the alleged claim that scientific evidence from overseas showed that agricultural crops were likely to be damaged by fluoride pollution from aluminium smelters?
– Yesterday my attention was drawn to the article and I noted the comment. I did not move to have my Department investigate it fully. The article related to an aluminium smelter. Aluminium is not a product whose export is prohibited or requires Commonwealth approval. The honourable senator will know that the Commonwealth interest comes into these matters immediately the Commonwealth’s building and development program is involved, when the provision of overseas finance to a particular proposal is involved, or when there is the question of whether there should be approval of export or foreign investment proposals. The actual comment about evidence being available from overseas indicating some degradation of the countryside is not familiar to me. I will take up that matter with my Department and bring a reply direct to the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Is it true that a stopwork order has been issued on the overdue and considerably delayed plans for the construction of a memorial plaque at Cooma outside the Snowy Mountains Authority headquarters as a tribute to the 123 former members of the Authority work force who lost their lives in industrial accidents?
– The short answer is no. To use Senator Mulvihill ‘s phrase, there has not been a ‘stop-work order’ in this matter. It is of course a matter of very great concern requiring recognition that so many men lost their lives during the construction of the Snowy Mountains scheme. I understand that some 12 1 men did lose their lives. In October 1978 the erection of a memorial to these men was approved. Subsequently the Snowy Mountains Authority commissioned the design of a cairn with an engraved plaque to be erected near the head office of the
Authority in Cooma. The estimated cost of this initial proposal was $60,000. That was considered unacceptable and a redesign was requested. A revised design with an estimated cost of $40,000 has been submitted and is currently under examination.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I preface my question by referring to the petition which I presented earlier today from 2,445 citizens. I understand from my informant that it was gathered by just a handful of people over a period of three or four weeks from a number of Christian people at their churches in the area from which I come. I think that is an indication of the concern that people have for this problem. I ask the Minister: What action has been taken to speed up the resettlement of Indo-Chinese refugees in Australia? What is the Government’s attitude to requests for financial aid from those agencies which are assisting the Indo-Chinese refugees in their transit camps? What action is the Government taking to have the governments of Vietnam, Kampuchea and Laos end those policies which are causing the flight of refugees?
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has advised me that the Government has increased the program for Indo-Chinese refugees to 14,000 for this year. I am also advised that this program is proceeding at a satisfactory rate. It will be recalled that at the Geneva conference in July a decision was taken to double the pledges for resettlement places from 125,000 to 260,000. As a result of this world-wide effort, camp populations in a number of countries are now being rapidly reduced. Australia contributed a total of $8.4m refugee resettlement funds in 1978-79, including $6. 19m and $2. 3m in bilateral aid. Australia has contributed more than $ 12m to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees since 1975 for Indo-Chinese refugees.
The Australian Government has consistently sought to focus world attention on the Government of Vietnam as the source of the refugee problems in Indo-China. As a result of the pressure brought to bear by Australia and other nations at the United Nations conference on Indo-Chinese refugees held in Geneva in July, the Government of Vietnam agreed to stop the outflow of refugees from Vietnam for a reasonable time. It can be said that Australia, together with like-minded governments, is closely monitoring the actions of the Government of Vietnam and is considering action which might be taken through the United Nations if the Vietnamese Government does not honour its undertaking. Any other matters raised by Senator Lewis I could refer to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to seek information.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. With respect to the new application for continuation of unemployment benefits forms issued by the Commonwealth Employment Service, has the Minister been informed that the Southport branch of the CES is advising people that they must list at least 20 jobs that they have inquired about over the preceding two weeks? How many positions must people apply for or make inquiries about before they are entitled to unemployment benefits?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Science and the Environment to a report in the Melbourne Herald dated 25 September 1979 relating to the International Whaling Commission. Is the Minister aware of this report which claims that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is trying to overturn the International Whaling Commission’s partial ban on deep sea whaling by seeking to secure a quota of 1 ,500 sperm whales for the coming season? Is the Minister also aware that the Soviet Union’s proposal has been sent to the 23 International Whaling Commission members for a postal vote by 17 October? Whilst appreciating the Prime Minister’s strong statement on 12 July 1979 relating to recent whaling initiatives by Australia, I ask: Can the Minister assure the Senate that Australia’s commitment to the protection of whales is strongly reaffirmed by campaigning and voting against this Soviet proposal?
– I acknowledge the very deep interest that Senator Missen has in this particular matter. Indeed, he has been a source of strong support for various bodies in the Australian community interested in protecting whales. I am aware of the USSR proposal for a new International Whaling Commission schedule amendment to permit the taking of 1,508 sperm whales in the 1979-80 season. The report in the Herald of 25 September was quite accurate. Professor J. D. Ovington, the head of the
Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, is our member on the International Whaling Commission. The chairman of the International Whaling Commission had requested a vote on that amendment by International Whaling Commission members. That vote was to be lodged by 1 7 October.
– We were told all that.
– I think that Senator Georges will be interested -
– I am interested; but get to the point.
– In keeping with the stated policy of this Government of opposition to whaling, both domestically and internationally, and through the medium of the International Whaling Commission, I can confirm for Senator Missen that the Australian delegate, Professor Ovington, lodged the Australian vote against the USSR proposal on 28 September 1979.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is the Government aware that the former Governor-General of Papua New Guinea, Sir John Guise, M.P., has recently spoken out against Indonesia’s expansionist designs towards Papua New Guinea? Is the Government aware of reports that the Papua New Guinea Opposition politician, Miss Josephine Abaijah has suggested the integration of Papua New Guinea with a Federation of Greater Indonesia? Has the Government any knowledge of the Indonesian plan called ‘Operation Bird of Paradise’ which aims to prepare the ground for the eventual absorption of Papua New Guinea into Indonesia, a plan which sets a timetable for this development from 1979 to 1984? Does the Government unequivocally support the absolute integrity and independence of Papua New Guinea? Has the Government taken any special steps, either financially or militarily, to provide extra support for the independence of Papua New Guinea, particularly in view of the degree of political instability in Indonesia?
– I ask that that question be placed on notice.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Science and the Environment. I refer to news items today referring to a booklet published by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation relating to the control of bushfires. As the booklet is described as one of the most authoritative of its kind yet compiled, will the Minister distribute copies of the booklet and will its contents be made readily available to State and local authorities? In view of the serious fire situation in many parts of Australia this summer, will the Minister arrange for appropriate distribution and publicity of this booklet?
– The honourable senator raises an important matter. I do not know of any recent publication of a booklet relating to bushfires. Basically I think this is a second reference by CSIRO to a book published some little time ago entitled Bushfires in Australia, which was written by two CSIRO officers, Mr Harry Luke and Mr Alan McArthur. I think that that is the book to which Senator Davidson refers. Indeed, he is correct in his assumption that it is a most authoritative book. I believe that it is the most authoritative book on bushfires in this country. The two individuals who wrote the book are strong supporters basically of an Australian system of decentralising responsibility for preventing and controlling fires. This comes out in the book. It deals with many facets of fire control and fire behaviour and is written particularly for the great army of volunteer bush fire brigade members without whom rural fire control in this country would be impossible. The book draws on 30 or 40 years of experience in fire research and it is a quite sizable volume. I am not sure of the price of the book.
– Just tell us whether it is available.
– It is readily available for honourable senators. As Senator Georges is speaking so much, I suggest to him that he secure a number of copies and distribute them to bushfire authorities in Queensland. That would be a particularly fine gesture. However, I do not think that the book can be distributed free by my Department.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister representing the Prime Minister. It follows the not entirely definitive answer from Senator Durack regarding insider trading and the new companies legislation. Does the Government intend that the new legislation should prevent, for example, consulting geologists with their friends establishing a company to speculate in mining shares using, as an aid to successful speculation, assay information the geologists gain as consulting geologists to the company in whose shares they would speculate? Does the Prime Minister know that Mr Noel CrichtonBrowne was the major shareholder in such a company established by Burrill and Jones for mining speculation by them and, as they put it, their friends? Does the Prime Minister believe that Mr Crichton-Browne is an appropriate person to represent the Liberal Party in the national parliament?
– The question seeks the views and comments of the Prime Minister. I suggest, therefore, that the question be placed on the Notice Paper.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. A recent publication of the Minister’s Department which provided background notes on Aboriginal infant mortality stated ‘Reliable figures are not available from other States’, the exception being the Northern Territory. In view of this statement, will the Minister consider requesting the appropriate State Ministers to implement a system in their respective States whereby detailed statistics will be compiled in relation to Aboriginal infant mortality in order that a much broader view of the recognised areas of neglect and cause may be established?
– The honourable senator refers to a matter which has received some attention in the Senate. The recent more encouraging figures from the Northern Territory indicate that the 1977 jump in infant mortality appears to have been an aberration. He is quite correct in what he says in the question, namely, that detailed information is not available from any State, although some information is available from some parts of States. I think that the honourable senator’s own State of Queensland has some information, but not all the information, relating to infant mortality among Aboriginals. The suggestion the honourable senator makes is a good one. I will certainly examine it. I am not sure in my own mind whether a request has not already been made to that effect. I certainly will look into the matter carefully and let the honourable senator know the result of my inquiries.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and refers to a question asked of her yesterday by Senator Melzer. It was pointed out that the Victorian Minister for Community Welfare Services had announced that the State Government would refuse to pay pensions under the States Grants (Deserted Wives) Act as from 1 January next year. The Minister replied that this would be considered at a conference of administrators from the various States at the end of this month. I refer also to her reply yesterday to a question on notice from me in which she stated that this matter would actually be finalised at a meeting of the Council of Social Welfare Ministers in March 1980. 1 ask the Minister: What will happen to the women in Victoria who otherwise would have been paid pensions under the States Grants (Deserted Wives) Act between January and March next year if this matter is not to be finalised until March next year?
– I did not imply in my answer that this matter would not receive consideration or be decided before March of next year. I think that Senator Grimes and others are aware of the committee of administrators that was set up by the Social Welfare Ministers to look at the introduction of a sole parent pension. The report of that committee is to be discussed this week, I believe, at an administrators meeting which is making preparations for the Ministers meeting in March. As well as referring to that committee’s work, I said that the Commonwealth Government was giving consideration to the position, and the Prime Minister and the Victorian Premier, I believe, have exchanged correspondence on it. So, separately from the position that I have referred to with regard to the report of the committee dealing with the sole parent pension, the Government is considering the matter, and as soon as I am able to say anything on it I will see that Senator Grimes is advised. It has been untimely that the Victorian Government has taken this action prior to the consideration of the report because all States were interested in considering whether there ought to be a continuation of the arrangements under the States Grants (Deserted Wives) Act or whether some new arrangements ought to be put into operation. However, we are separately looking at the position and when the Commonwealth Government has given consideration to it I will see that advice is given.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to the headline in today’s Australian, which states:
Uranium, copper and gold bonanza. $ 1,000m go-ahead for Roxby Downs.
I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that the Labor spokesman, Mr Keating, has warned that the project would go ahead at its own fisk? Is it a fact that Mr Keating reaffirmed that any future Labor Government would allow only companies with existing contracts to honour their .orders arid warned companies that they would be developing new mines at their own risk? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the details of the Acting Treasurer’s statement yesterday and reaffirm the Government’s determination that this project, which is vital to South Australia, should proceed in spite of the reported threats of the Hayden Opposition and the militant unions associated with the South Australian Trades and Labour Council?
– I have seen newspaper reports to the effect that Senator Messner has described. I have seen what purports to be a statement by the spokesman of the Labor Party - the one inside the Parliament; not the one who is trying to come in and who holds another view. Mr Keating, the one inside the Parliament, has indicated that we would, do this at our own risk and that there would be no guarantee of continuity. That: is aimed at driving off investment in Australia. It is aimed at stopping employment opportunities in South Australia. The people of South Australia and the people of Australia should understand the mean-minded attitude that lies behind this. For what is regarded as perhaps a short term political trick to be taken, the aim is to deny the people of Australia very worthwhile job opportunities
The Acting Treasurer announced yesterday that approval had been given under the Government’s foreign investment policy for the Western Mining Corporation and the British’ Petroleum group to undertake detailed exploration and development of the Olympic Dam copperuraniumgold prospect located on Roxby Downs station in South Australia. The Government’s decision was reached after detailed examination of the proposal by the Foreign Investment Review Board in terms of the guidelines for foreign participation in new natural resource projects, including uranium. The proposal would provide for 51 per cent Australian participation and WMC would retain the major role in the management and control of the project.
The Government considered that the arrangements satisfied the criteria established in the Treasurer’s statement of 10 June 1979 relating to the development of new uranium projects, although it recognised that that project was not exclusively a uranium project. In welcoming the arrangements between WMC and BP yesterday, the Acting Treasurer indicated that it was likely that orderly development of Olympic Dam would proceed, with ultimate capital expenditure in excess of $ 1,000m. Development of the project is expected to provide substantial economic benefits for Australia, including new employment and export earnings, as well as regional development for South Australia.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. I draw your attention to the fact that again the Minister is contravening rulings you have given on numerous occasions. I ask also whether the document from which he is reading is an official document or a Press statement. I think that he ought to indicate its origin when he is reading from it in trying to reply to a question on a subject of a controversial nature.
– A Dorothy Dixer.
– I think that that practice should be followed, regardless of whether the question is a Dorothy Dixer. Also, Mr President, I think you ought to draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that he is not keeping to the truth of this matter.
– I do not . accept the honourable senator’s claim relating to the truth of the matter. However, we would get through Question Time more rapidly if, when a statement has been made the previous day and a Minister is referring to it, he indicated where a copy of that statement might be located. I do believe that the more precise honourable senators are in both questions and answers the more questions will be able to be asked by honourable senators. I am conscious of the need for more opportunity to be given to honourable senators to ask questions.
-We Ministers who represent other Ministers in this chamber are given day by day precise and accurate briefs to enable us to respond to questions. That is what I am doing. I am giving an answer in the most precise form in which a Minister can provide an answer. If I may, Mr President, I will be very brief in continuing to respond to the question. But, of course, it cannot have escaped your notice, Mr President, or the notice of the people of Australia, that a deliberate attempt is being made to obstruct by way of constant interjection this information being given.
As I was saying, the Acting Treasurer said yesterday that the Government’s approval was without prejudice to the rights of the Government to exercise control over the export of uranium. In the exercise of that control, the policies of the Government which would be relevant include its policies with respect to marketing, safeguards and the protection of the environment. The Government’s decision has been conveyed to the South Australian Government, which has supported the proposal for early development of that project.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Is it a fact that the Government is considering changing the method of payment of the family allowance and invalid pension? If so, what are the changes which are under consideration?
– I have no knowledge of any proposed changes to the family allowance, other than what is contained in the Social Services Amendment Bill which will come into the House shortly. A change is proposed which brings in the matters raised by Senator Bishop with regard to the family allowance paid to parents for a period and to institutions for a period. I think that change will be welcomed. It will enable us to apportion the family allowance between parents and institutions when short term care is provided in both places. As far as invalid pensions are concerned, I am not aware of any proposed changes which the honourable senator may have in mind. I would be pleased to check with him what is in his mind and, if he would like a fact checked, I would be pleased to do so. The Social Services Amendment Bill, which I think will be introduced in the House of Representatives tomorrow, picks up all the matters which were raised in the Budget as well as one or two other items.
- Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
– There is no need to speak to the point of order. No point of order is involved. A reference was made to a situation which may affect the number of questions asked. I shall leave it at that for the time being. Brief and direct replies are the very source of information.
– I wish to raise a point of order which I have raised before. The Leader of the Government cannot, without the leave of the Senate, ask that further questions be placed on notice. We seek leave in this place for almost everything we do. Yet we persist with this procedure of questions being asked and at the end of the hour the Leader of the Government asking, without leave, that further questions be placed on notice. I raise this point of order again. I will continue to do so until the matter is settled. This habit has crept into the proceedings and should not be allowed. I suggest to you, Mr President, that the Leader of the Government can ask that further questions be placed on notice only with the leave of the Senate. If the Leader of the Government sought leave to do so possibly we would grant it, but one or two honourable senators may not be satisfied with the procedures adopted at Question Time and may refuse leave. It is a right of any honourable senator to so refuse.
– May I speak to the point of order?
– I am one of those who feel aggrieved because of what is happening in this chamber concerning replies to questions. What Senator Georges has said is perfectly true. I am also of the opinion that leave ought to be sought. I suggest that I might test that belief, in view of the fact that Question Time has been closed off illegally according to the Standing Orders, by asking a question now of a Minister.
– No. I indicate to honourable senators that it is within the competence of the Leader of the Government at any time to say that further questions should be placed on notice. He has done so. He is quite right in so doing.
– I would like to speak to the point of order.
– I have ruled on the matter.
-by leave- I wish to refer to the procedure at Question Time. It has been constantly abhorred by the Australian Democrats. We support the Labor Party in this matter. On our timing, probably 40 minutes of Question Time today was devoted to Dorothy Dixers which are prepared answers to questions which Ministers know about beforehand. There is no way in the world that these answers could be given unless the Ministers were informed beforehand. I think it is time the public knew about this procedure. It is a fact that Question Time is one of the valued privileges of this place. I ask you, Mr President, to cause a study to be made of the actual time in Question Time today and yesterday which has been occupied by the answers of two Ministers, Senator Webster and Senator Carrick.
– Today 27 questions were put and answered. Yesterday 34 were asked and answered. It is not a bad performance if the number of questions exceeds 30 in 60 minutes. I take on board what has been said. I am fully appreciative of the desire of honourable senators to ask questions. It is difficult for the Chair to ensure a rotation, even at times on the second sitting day of the week, unless 30-odd questions a day are asked.
– I have received a letter from Senator Wriedt proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:
The implications of the Fraser Government ‘s record levels of overseas borrowings.
I call upon those senators who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– The Opposition raises this matter of public importance because it believes that a series of events which has recently been given very little publicity and therefore has largely escaped public notice will create the most serious problems for the Australian economy in the immediate years ahead and may well have dramatic consequences for all Australians. These events have led to the present Government now being in debt to the world ‘s money lenders for an amount exceeding $5,000m. Never in the history of this country has Australia been as deeply in debt as it is now. This is not something which has occurred overnight; it has developed over the past three years. When the Government embarked upon this course in an attempt to maintain Australia’s international monetary position- it was in a healthy condition when it came to office- it is certain that in its wildest dreams it would never have believed that this program of borrowing would get out of hand to the extent that it has. For example, in Australia today five times as much is owed overseas per head of population as when this Government came to office. Had anybody, whether in government or out of government, suggested that by the third quarter of this year these borrowings would pass the $5,000m mark, he would not only have been laughed at but also accused of being a prophet of gloom who was trying to paint a picture of an economy heading for collapse. Although we in the Opposition were critical of the Government’s embarking upon this course, we did not envisage the extent to which it was going to put itself in debt to other countries. It is not a matter about which anyone can claim a prophetic insight, much less is it one from which any satisfaction can be obtained. For this reason the Opposition does not raise this matter lightly. It has watched with considerable interest and concern the changes in Australia’s balance of payments, the movements in our international reserves, and the capital movements since the Fraser Government came to power in 1975.
We are well aware of the difficulties created for any government by the instability of international trade, the problems created by the increase in oil prices, and the actions which oil importing countries have taken in responding to those price increases. At the same time, we have watched, again with considerable interest, the capital movements that have occurred following the large incomes which have been received by those in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the consequences these have had for the international monetary system.
The previous Government, the Whitlam Government, came to power in 1 972 in the initial stages of the oil price changes and the massive capital transfers, which amounted to approximately $70,000m in the first year. The Whitlam Government was affected adversely, as were many other governments, and some of the difficulties it faced were not dissimilar to those which the present Government is now facing. In spite of the attempts by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to do so, he cannot disguise the fact that during the period of the previous Government he was taking an entirely unrealistic view in claiming that Australia had absolute control over its economic destiny. His Government’s actions have thrown his words back in his face. He now finds that the fortunes of Australia, one of the world’s larger trading nations, depend upon our ability to maintain sales of our primary products, minerals and manufacturing exports, and that what happens to the world economy has direct and significant impact on our own economic fortunes.
Over the past week or so a series of events has triggered off a new period of short run uncertainty which has serious implications for the future of Australia’s balance of payments and our ability to maintain a reasonable rate of economic growth. There has been increasing uncertainty about the United States dollar, the value of gold has skyrocketed to record prices, and other precious metals have followed suit. To top it all off, the International Monetary Fund has issued a pessimistic statement about the international economy for 1 980. It is in this environment that we see the present Government’s continuing program of heavy overseas borrowings as creating current and contingent problems. Because of the nature of the current borrowing programs, future governments will have to live with the increasing debt repayments schedule, which is accumulating at a faster rate than funds are being borrowed. That is a very significant point for us to remember.
It is not widely recognised that, because the value of the Deutsche mark, the Swiss franc and the Dutch guilder have appreciated substantially, over the last two years Australia’s loan repayment commitments have increased by $525m. This is the amount, in addition to the regular repayments, that Australia has been forced to meet because of unfavourable currency adjustments. The announcement recently by the West German Chancellor that the Deutche mark would be revalued against other major European currencies by another 5 per cent will further increase the cost of our loan repayments on the very substantial loans that we have already from West Germany.
If Government supporters believe that I am being selective in using figures, I suggest that they look at Table 3 in Budget Paper No. 6 of this year’s Budget documents. This shows that, to 30 June of this year, the adverse impact of currency movements has amounted to no less than $349m, which is a staggering amount in anyone’s language. Importantly, it is an amount which will have to be met from increased export earnings. At a time when commodity prices are picking up and there has been a revival in the rural sector it would have been hoped that the additional export income could be used to fund some of our own development work and repay some of the existing loans. That would be an option available to the Government. It would have been hoped that we could move closer and closer to financing the buying back of the farm, as we term it, and to having purely Australian investment in many of our significant development projects. But the policies of the present Government are effectively reducing the prospect of that happening. It is an option that has not been exercised. Every additional dollar earned is used wholly or partly to pay back the money lenders of Europe and, ironically, to increase the earnings of the investors of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries who, through the financial institutions of Europe and North America, are lending funds to Australia.
Table 3 becomes even more revealing when calculations are made about the effective rate of interest on the loans whose currencies have appreciated against the Australian dollar, it shows that the rates for these loans, which were made at different times in the last three years, were regarded by the Government as very favourable. For example, one loan made on 7 October 1 977, for $250m German marks, was made at rates of interest which were as low as 5.25 per cent. The average rate has been around 8 per cent. But, with the appreciation in the value of the mark against the Australian dollar, the effective rate is now close to 20 per cent and with the announced 5 per cent revaluation to which I have just referred will well exceed an effective rate of 20 per cent. In no one’s terms could that be regarded as a reasonable rate.
It is not enough that the effective rate hike is confined to one loan. For the information of the Senate, the Government supporters in particular, perhaps I could detail some of the other loans on which the effective rate of interest now exceeds as much as 14 per cent. I refer, for example, to two public loans raised through Morgan Guaranty in New York for a total of $ 1,526m. The additional cost thereof, because of the falling value of the dollar, is $35. 6m. A public loan in London of $56. 7m is to be subject to an additional cost of $ 10.3m. I refer also to two public loans, made in Switzerland and totalling $ 157m, for which the additional cost will reach no less than $102m, and so the story goes on. We believe that if the International Monetary Fund’s projections for next year are correct, the currency relativities will not change markedly and the figures that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has presented for 1 979-80 will be repeated in 1 980-8 1 .
Recently, the Bank of New South Wales pointed out in its economic review that the whole basis for the success of the Government’s strategy is the expectation that there will be a significant recovery in the current account. Whilst there have been some signs that this has occurred over the past perhaps two or three months, there is evidence to suggest that it may be seasonal only. If the International Monetary Fund report is correct and the United States Administration is unable to halt the recession in that country, then there is a very real chance that our current account will deteriorate further and that overseas borrowings and the repayments of interest and capital will become a major problem and hamper the flexibility of Government economic management.
The Opposition finds it extraordinary that the Fraser Government should have allowed itself to get into this bind. It was the same Government, or the same Fraser-Lynch team, which prior to the election in 197S was so vocal about good economic management. It was that same team which criticised the then Government for even investigating the possibility of negotiating overseas loans for the purpose of actually- I emphasise the word actually- developing Australia’s own resources by Australians. Of course, assets were involved to match those borrowings. What do we have now under the present arrangements? We have an overseas borrowing program in three years which is now exceeding $5,000m. What do we have to show for that? I would suggest very little. The total reserves position has not strengthened. The Bank of New South Wales made reference to this in that same report that it gave in February of this year. It stated:
Despite the overseas borrowings and the recent adoption of a different method of valuing official holdings of gold Australia has been hard pushed to maintain the value of its international reserves at around the $3 billion.
This is not a note of optimism and it is not a comment being made by the Opposition. It is being made by Australia’s leading trading bank. The fact that the amount of overseas borrowings now exceeds $5,000m makes a mockery of a statement which was made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) when he said two or three years ago that under no circumstances would he put Australia into hock to the tune of even $ 1,000m. We are now in hock to the tune of no less than $5,000m. He has excelled himself by being a mere 400 per cent out in his calculations. Apart from the repayment implications, the current debt position shows that either the Prime Minister simply did not understand the implications of what he was talking about at that time or else he does not understand now what his Government is doing. I raised this matter in the Senate three weeks ago. Senator Messner, who apparently is the Government’s economic guru in this place, seemed to be completely confused on these matters. I understand that he is regarded on the Government side as being the only one who can speak on economic matters. At the time he made three points. He asked a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). The first question was: Was there a net reduction in borrowings of the order of $ 130 m last year? The second question asked whether the Government’s borrowings had been invested offshore. Thirdly, he asked whether the outlook for private capital inflow was substantially better than two years ago.
In relation to the first matter, Table No. 3 to which I referred earlier, shows that Australia’s overseas borrowings rose from $3, 533m to $5, 178m over the 12 months to 30 June this year. This hardly constitutes a reduction of $ 130m. In fact, it is an increase in our total overseas commitment over that period of no less than $ 1,650m. It is probably correct that some of the funds borrowed overseas were reinvested because the loan funds may not have been remitted to Australia. It would depend on the arrangement between the borrower and the lender. They would not give an effective rate of return anywhere near the effective rate that we are paying on most of the loans obtained in Europe. The fact that our interest commitments over the last two years have increased by a figure in excess of $500m is an indication of the additional costs that we are facing. Senator Messner was partly correct when he said that private capital inflow has improved, but that has been patchy. There is evidence to suggest that all that inflow is not for long term investment purposes. Again, as the Bank of New South Wales pointed out in the document in relation to the revival in capital inflow in 1976-77:
So we would expect that after the devaluation the capital would start to flow in a very similar position to what occurred in 1971-72 when the currency was undervalued and we had the massive inflow of about $3,000m in 12 months. There is a similar situation at the present time. Clearly some people have not read the dissection of the capital inflow as clearly as they should. They have not read what the Reserve Bank of Australia has had to say. If we look at the figures for July of this year, which are the latest available, we find that the inflow, both direct and portfolio, has been largely in the form of loans. The figure for loans for this financial year was $1.5 billion against the other categories of $1.2 billion. This is a significant movement in the capital market in this country. Perhaps the Minister can explain to us just what the Government is proposing to do about it and whether it understands the significance. This means that investors are looking to regular payments on private capital and the actual amount of risk capital which creates less short term obligations is growing smaller. Perhaps Senator Messner can give us a comment on that when he speaks to it.
The Opposition has raised this matter today because it is of the belief that the Government has squandered opportunities. It has been prepared to borrow overseas to an extent and, as I said earlier, it had no conception when it embarked on this policy that it would go to these lengths. Neither the Opposition nor anybody else imagined that by this time in 1 979 we would owe in excess of $5,000m overseas. By this time next year, when we go to an election, presumably that figure will be anywhere between $6 billion and $6.5 billion, which is an enormous load on the Australian public. We are, in fact, handing on, for years to come, a financial burden which will have to be carried by people other than ourselves.
– Let me put the discussion in perspective. Senator Wriedt has moved on behalf of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate a matter which he describes as being of public importance. The subject is the implications of the Fraser Government’s record levels of overseas borrowings. He then proceeded to argue that those implications are negative ones for Australia and that Australia has suffered and will suffer. (Quorum formed). I was making the point that Senator Wriedt had said that the implications of the Commonwealth Government’s borrowings would be negative ones both for the present and the future of Australia and emphatically would be opposed in their magnitude, direction or philosophy to what a Labor Government either contemplated doing or might do in the future. Let me say that every fact before us rejects that. Let me simply say one thing: Here is Senator Wriedt arguing that over a period of four years it is wrong to borrow something in the order of $4,29 lm. In fact, he was a senior member of a government which in 1975 sought to borrow, in one year, $4,000m. He cannot have it both ways. His Government in fact sought to put up in one year the level of overseas borrowings by an amount which, taken together, would be grossly larger than the present borrowings.
I will give some of the facts. Let me relate the borrowings of this Government, the external debt as such, to the gross domestic product. As at 30 June 1979 Commonwealth and State external debt represented 5.8 per cent of the GDP. The external debt 10 years ago was 6.5 per cent of the GDP. Twenty years ago it was 10.8 per cent of the GDP. The present debt is lower than 10 years ago and half the amount of 20 years ago. If the Labor Party had succeeded in its borrowings it would have been 7 per cent in 1 975 as compared with some 5.8 per cent now. The fact of the matter is that the first dolly falls over; the argument that the present debt in its magnitude is something that Labor would reject- that Labor would regard as wrong- is disproven by the fact that Labor tried to reach a situation grossly larger than the present situation. It did so, incidentally, in an atmosphere of very great instability in this country.
I remind the Senate of the Khemlani loans with charges and commissions of 2.5 per cent. The repayments were to be over 20 years from the date of receipt, which involved the total repayments of the $4,000m amounting to $17.6 billion. The Labor Party said today that we are wrong when what we have done over four years is more modest than it would have done in one year. Our borrowings have been against a more stable inflation rate with more stable interest rates, which compare so much more favourably with what it did. I will apply the objective tests. How does one test whether or not one ‘s overseas borrowing is good or bad by implementation for the present or future of Australia? Surely it is by the way overseas countries measure Australia’s credit-worthiness for the present and for the future. That is the test of whether our management and our economy are sound. I have repeatedly stated and do so again that the Whitlam Government of which Senator Wriedt was a part took us from a no-inflation country to a country which was in the highest quarter of high inflation countries in the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development. We have now put it in the bottom quarter.
I draw attention to the credit rating of Australia in relation to some 93 countries. A table has just been put out by the Institutional Investor. In a moment I will seek leave to have that table incorporated in Hansard. It is an authoritative article setting out how the world regards this country for now and for the future in its credit rating and in its management of the economy. One will find that Australia is rated within the first 10 countries surpassed only by the top industrial countries of the world. The test of our borrowing program, as weighed not by the Labor Party but by all of the sound economic authorities of the world, is that we are regarded as having a top credit rating in the world. I seek leave to have that table incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– I ask Senator Carrick also to incorporate in Hansard the percentage of unemployed people in each of those countries mentioned in that schedule he seeks to incorporate in Hansard.
-Is leave granted for the incorporation?
The table read as follows-
– I am happy to answer Senator McLaren’s interjection because unemployment in this country descended from a virtually full employment situation when the Whitlam Government went into office to a disaster situation in the period 1974-75 when in one period alone 1 10,000 people were cast out of the manufacturing industry, when Australia was costed out of the world markets and the solid basis of chronic unemployment was established in this country. For those on the opposite benches to seek to gain any kind of satisfaction out of the chronic unemployment they created is really Satan rebuking sin. Let us face the test of the implications of our borrowing program. I pointed out that it has been a respectable one, vastly better than in the past in terms of measurement of the GDP. It is significantly better than if Labor had got its infamous Khemlani loan. It has been against the background of a Government that has reduced inflation in a significant way which has attracted the admiration of the world.
The fact of the matter is that the Government’s overseas borrowing has been demonstrably successful because this country had been able to maintain its low inflation basis through its stability. The Government’s overseas borrowing policy in recent years has been directed towards supplementing the level of private capital inflow from abroad so as to broadly maintain our level of international reserves and to support the exchange rate. The use of the exchange rate to support the anti-inflationary thrust of domestic policies has been and will continue to be a key element in the Government’s economic strategy. The fact is that we can measure our borrowing policy in the very success of our anti-inflation programs, which I remind the Senate have been successful, are successful and are acknowledged throughout the world. They are the measures of the implications that have been made. Senator Wriedt was of a mind to raise the question of what the International Monetary Fund said. I think it is important to look at what was said by the Fund. In its annual report released on 17 September it stated: lt now seems clear that the decline of output growth in the industrial world will prove much sharper than has been generally expected.
As growth in output in the industrial countries has been proceeding at a rate of 4 per cent per annum over the past two years, this statement cannot be construed as implying that an international recession, such as occurred in 1975 when output in those countries declined by almost one per cent, is expected. The fact is that the scenario advanced by the Fund does not come as a surprise to the Government. I invite honourable senators to look at the Budget Papers. I remind them that in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) that was framed after the reduced growth prospects overseas had become evident, he noted that the year ahead would be difficult for the world economy. Nevertheless, Australia’s prospects are better than those of many countries. One of the fundamental reasons why they are better is our sound borrowing programs, which have contributed to the stability of the economy, the stability of the exchange rate and stability in getting inflation down. Australia’s prospects are so much better. They are, of course, boosted by record farm production last year. Exports are expected to grow quite strongly in this year while the growth of imports may diminish slightly. Added to that are Australia’s high self-sufficiency in domestic oil and our great strides to use our local energy and make ourselves freer from the impact of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the outside situation.
The Treasurer has indicated that the current account deficit in the balance of payments could decline by several hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming year. There are also encouraging prospects for net private capital inflow. As indicated in the Budget Speech, taken together these prospective improvements would permit a substantially lower overseas borrowing program by the Commonwealth than last year. That has been made clear in the Budget but I remind the Senate that the Government has budgeted for a substantially lower deficit. The Government now has a much more satisfactory balance of payments situation and, since last March, has not sought to draw money, to raise loans, although one is now foreshadowed.
Senator Wriedt suggested that this indebtedness would mount because of movements of currencies. He drew upon a table in the Budget papers to support that comment. Senator Wriedt shows a crass ignorance of the situation. No one can tell what the cost of a loan will be in terms of its repayments until the final repayments are made, because we are talking about a spread of years.
– How were you able to tell in the case of the Khemlani loans?
-Senator McAuliffe reminds me of the Khemlani loans. I need no reminding. That comment has destroyed Senator Wriedt ‘s argument. The fact that Senator McAuliffe and Senator Wriedt were part of a government which in one year wanted to raise $4,000m destroys their argument that raising something in excess of $4,000m over four years is a bad thing. I have already measured the relationship of their prospective borrowings to the gross domestic product with ours. I am happy if Senator McAuliffe continues to interject. He will help to refresh the memories of the Australian people about the disastrous record of the Whitlam Government, which he supported, in its attempts at overseas borrowing. The people of Australia would well recall the advice of the
Commonwealth Treasury in terms of the methodology of that borrowing. The Commonwealth Treasury was at pains- this is now documentedto indicate that the whole of the Whitlam Government’s methodology was wrong, that it was an unstable and costly matter. Yet members of the Opposition rose to their feet today to say that there are some adverse implications in this matter.
One wonders why Senator Wriedt brought this matter forward. He used all sorts of extravagant statements to suggest that this was unprecedented, that the Labor Government could not envisage borrowing on that magnitude. Yet he was a Minister and added his support to something far wider than that. And what are the implications? Basically, the implications are this: That Australia has moved in four years, from a country with soaring inflation, soaring interest rates, with deficits in terms of balance of trade and with unemployment running rife, to a situation where today we have placated inflation to a point where we are now in the respectable company of the lower quarter of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. Today we have a balance of payments which is healthy and respectable. Indeed, we have not been forced by any pressures to respond in terms of the exchange rate, to devalue and therefore to inflate. We are rated, not by Senator Wriedt but by those who know throughout the world, in the top 10 creditworthy countries.
– Where do we rate on unemployment?
– Also, since the interjection is about unemployment, month by month, modestly yet nevertheless sturdily, employment is gradually growing. So we are recovering from the disasters of the past.
– Rubbish. Where are the jobs?
- Senator McLaren is calling out ‘where are the jobs?’ It would have been good if his voice had been raised in this place in 1974 and 1975 when the Whitlam Government, of which he was a member- a raucous member at that- costed Australia out of world markets. It took from us our ability to employ, it cut tariffs across the board and there was a 37 per cent soaring in interest rates in one year. (Quorum formed).
- Mr President, in recent years we have witnessed from our political opponents the development of a new cult in political propaganda which seems to consist of turning the truth upside down as often as possible until it becomes unrecognisable as fact. The greatest exponent of this new political science- we could call it Carrickism is the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick. It is to his credit that on any given day when he is asked a question or makes a contribution to any debate, he will always return to the dark ages of the Whitlam era and he will try to upturn the truth so that, as I said previously, it becomes unrecognisable as a fact.
Do I need to remind honourable senators opposite of what happened in the period between May 1975 and October 1975? The Leader of the Government in the Senate seems to relish taking us back to those years. I accept that challenge today and go back to 1975. 1 remind him of some of the extravagant claims he made. He was supported by Senator Peter Baume. Both gentlemen, through chosen ignorance, asked some of the most preposterous questions when the Supply Bills, the Appropriation Bills and the Loan Bills were before this chamber. It was a chosen ignorance and it put them to shame. It did not enhance their prestige in this chamber. The claims they made were elementary, and any first year accountancy student would know about them. I can vividly recall Senator Peter Baume, supported by Senator Carrick, who is now the Leader of the Government, when we were discussing the Appropriation Bills, asking why Appropriation Bills Nos 1 and 2 did not show the increased postal charges and the increased telephone charges. It had to be pointed out to those two honourable senators that under the financial regulations of the Audit Act those charges are not entitled to be in Appropriation Bill (No. 1) and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) but are more correctly in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and Appropriation Bill (No. 4).
The greatest episode in their epic story was when they asked 12 questions about why the Loan Bill was before the Parliament. They conveniently forgot that the Loan Bill provides revenue for defence expenditure when the consolidated revenue fund is unable to meet that expenditure. They highlighted the fact that $ 1,502m was required and tried, by marked innuendo, to say that we were rigging the books and were not carrying out the financial transactions of the Government as we should. The worst episode of their epic story was when they dealt with the $4,000m that this Government was endeavouring to borrow from overseas. Why were we endeavouring to borrow that money? I think that the electorate of Australia should be reminded again why we were endeavouring to borrow it. We were endeavouring to borrow the money to finance our mineral and resource development. I think that Government senators should give us full credit, even if they regard it as being old fashioned today, for working on the principle that there was still great merit in buying back the farm and using overseas technology to develop our great resources. That was one of the specific reasons we wanted the money on that occasion. What was the reaction at that time of Opposition senators who are now in Government? It might be appropriate to quote to you what the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had to say at that time. Mr Fraser, who was being reliably reported in the Hansard, is on the record as having said in regard to the $4,000m proposed loan that the Labor Government was putting Australia in hock to overseas interest. He went on to say:
So why did he -
That is Mr Whitlam- . . want to strengthen the external financial position by the borrowing of $4,000m? Is it to deal with current and immediately foreseeable unemployment?
The Prime Minister -
He was referring to Mr Whitlam- , . knows that there is an easier way of doing that without getting into hock with Middle East countries.
The Prime Minister also had this to say:
Why was the impact of the funds on the Australian economy utterly ignored? It would have increased the national debt by $1,000 for the average Australian family. The amount approached the total income of all companies in Australia.
Still talking to the proposed overseas borrowings from Arab countries by the Whitlam Labor Government, Mr Fraser said:
It exceeds the value of all wool, wheat and sugar produced in Australia last year. It is almost as much as total government spending on welfare. No comparable loan had ever been raised. At one stroke it would have increased Australia’s overseas debt three-fold. Yet the Government claims to be responsible.
They are the words of the present Prime Minister of Australia when the Labor Government was seeking to raise $4,000m. How much money did we raise? In the period we were in office we raised only $434m from overseas sources. At the time we were criticised but we must have had plenty of foresight in going to the Arab countries and trying to arrange petro-dollar loans. That is where our petrol supplies come from. We must have shown great foresight because I read in the newspaper recently that Mr Fraser and Mr Anthony were recently in the Middle East trying to negotiate direct oil supplies on a government to government basis with the Arab countries. Not only were they arranging for these supplies when they were over there but also they were arranging loans from the Arab countries to develop our mineral resources. That is exactly the same thing that we did in 1972 and 1973 when Senator Carrick, the leader of the band opposite in those days, backed up by his pigmy lieutenant, Senator Baume, were howling and roaring that we were handing over to the Arab countries, that we would have to make political statements, that we would have to take a political position against the Israelis. What rot! Mr Anthony and Mr Fraser are doing the same thing today.
The only difference between what we were attempting to do when we were borrowing $4,000m and what the present Government is doing today, is that we had come clean. We said what we were going to do with the $4,000m, yet we were roundly condemned. We borrowed only $434m from overseas sources. Let us look at the track record of the present Government in overseas borrowings. It does not care whether they come from Arab countries or anywhere else as long as it can get the money. A table I have on the Government’s Budget financing transactions from 1968-69 to 1978-79 shows that in 1968-69 the total net overseas borrowings amounted to $142m; in 1969-70 there were none. That was the period of a Liberal-Country Party government. In 1970-71 under a Liberal-Country Party government, there were minimal borrowings. In 1971- 72 the borrowings were again minimal. In 1972- 73 under a Labor Government, the borrowings were minimal. In 1973-74, the same situation prevailed. In 1974-75 with a Labor Government, overseas borrowings amounted to $2m. In 1975-76 they were $126m. In 1976-77, an amount of $357m was borrowed. In 1977-78 overseas borrowings amounted to $1,6 12m and in 1978-79 they were $ 1,502m, making the borrowings of this Government in the last four years over $5 billion compared with $434m borrowed by the Labor Government. I pose the question to Government senators sitting over there smugly -
– In silence.
– They are sitting there smugly and in silence. I pose this question: Who is putting Australia in hock? Is it the Labor Government that borrowed $434m against our overseas reserves or this Government that has borrowed in four years over $5 billion? There is a marked difference for the reasons why there were any borrowings in the first place. As I previously pointed out, the Australian Government endeavoured to borrow $4,000m for mineral and resource development and introduced the latest technology into this country to assist in their development. But I challenge the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the speaker who will follow him to deny that the Government is borrowing money overseas today to prop up the Australian dollar. In 1976 the dollar was devalued by 17.6 per cent. The only reason that this Government is not forced into another devaluation today is because it is borrowing against our overseas reserves. We are on the brink of bankruptcy. It is of no use honourable senators opposite laughing. They should talk to someone who knows something about the economic position of this country, not to some suburban accountant from South Australia. They should speak to the Treasury officials and to economists who know what is happening in this country. I am ashamed, sad and sorry to have to make it public knowledge that if we do not do something about the ratio of the overseas borrowings of this Government to our overseas reserves we will shortly be on the brink of disaster and of bankruptcy. Otherwise, if the Government is to stop borrowing, it will have to give serious consideration to devaluing the dollar.
The Government is seeking money to prop up its deficit. The Labor Government sought money to carry out mineral and resource development in this country. The $4,000m that we were going to borrow was to come from Arab countries, which is exactly where this Government is getting its money today- the Arab bank, the Kuwait bank and anywhere else it can get it. It does not care. It will take oil and it will talk to anybody as long as it can get money to prop up its deficit. At least we were honest. We said that $60,000m excess money was floating around in the form of petro-dollars from the Arab countries and that if we could get $4,000m of that money we could develop our mineral and other resources. The money was to be drawn through the Moscow Narodny Bank, was to be deposited in New York and was to remain there and be drawn on, which is contrary to what Senator Carrick, the Leader of the Government in the Senate said. (Quorum formed). In conclusion let me say that the challenge is fairly and squarely at the Government’s feet. I hate to have to expose publicly the financial position of this country, but if something is not done about it shortly we will be in a diabolical situation. It is up to the Government to rein in its overseas borrowings, to do something practical and to introduce a decent and worthwhile economic policy.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
-On behalf of the Government I will gladly take up the challenge of the Opposition with regard to the economic management of this country, because quite clearly it was Labor’s period of government that created the mess in this country. The people of Australia know it. The people of South Australia demonstrated on 15 September that they still know it. The fact is that without the courage and determination of the Fraser Government to right the wrongs in the economy there would not have been the achievements that we have seen since 1975. Let us look at some of the points which the OppositionSenator McAuliffe in particular- has been making with regard to the borrowings by the Whitlam Labor Government during the latter part of its period in office. We remember quite clearly its attempts to borrow money for temporary purposes. We remember quite well the minute signed at the Lodge on 13 December 1 974 as an authority to raise borrowings.
– What about the Sankey case? That said that that was not true. Are you challenging a court of law?
– I do not intend to be sidetracked into an argument of that sort. This matter has been demonstrated. Clearly it was not so much the fact of the loan but the purpose behind it which brought Australia’s reputation overseas into disrepute at that time. It was clearly that perception of the Australian people at that time which brought about a change of government.
Let us consider some of the suggestions from both Senator McAuliffe and Senator Wriedt with regard to the present overseas loans. Senator Wriedt made the point that, as a result of the currency movements in the last 12 months, $525m would be added to the total loan repayments. Quite clearly that is a classic example of extrapolating long-term trends from short-term movements- movements over the last 12 months or so. Most of the loans that have been raised over the last three years have expiry dates that extend to 20 years. Most of them are for more than eight years. One small loan of 250 million Swiss francs has a five-year term but most of them are in the 10, 1 5 or 20 years range. It is ridiculous to state that a movement of $525m on that sum- only 12 per cent of the total principal, I might add- somehow represents a growth in the sum to be repaid eventually. I hope that the people of Australia will not be attracted to that sort of misleading statement which Senator Wriedt would like us all to believe. The mistake of trying to demonstrate that short-term movements in currency trends, as the result of the need of governments to raise money from time to time for financing transactions in a particular year, will somehow be part of longer-term trends is the basis of this attack today, and of course it has absolutely no foundation.
Let us look at the reasons for the need to raise these borrowings in the first place. I think we have to consider a little of the history of the last few years. In fact we need to go back to 1973 to consider what has happened with the currency reserves of Australia during the last five years. Honourable senators will recall that immediately the Whitlam Government came to power in December 1972 there was a revaluation- an upward valuation- of the Australian dollar of about 7 per cent against the United States dollar on the world market. This was followed later that year by a further upward movement of around 5 per cent. About a year later- in September 1974- there was a downward movement, a devaluation, of about 2lh per cent. That was against the thrust of economic pressures which were causing enormous unemployment. We will recall that there was an increase in unemployment from 60,000 to over 200,000 in five or six months. These trends were fuelled by that fundamental evil- inflation- which the Whitlam Labor Government failed to come to terms with, which was the underlying pressure on the economy and which has created the difficulties that we are still suffering. It has been demonstrated that the Whitlam Government’s devaluation of the dollar by l2Vi per cent in September 1974 was clearly a result of the weakness of the Australian currency and of a loss of faith in the Australian dollar on the world currency market. That was a demonstrable fact.
Of course, we saw a furious and desperate attempt by the Whitlam Labor Government to recover the economy in the latter part of 1974. Instead of attending to the very real pressures on the Australian dollar at that time, what did it do? Did it seek to redress the problems of inflation and unemployment as rapidly as possible? No; it sought to enter into all sorts of pie in the sky schemes. It sought to raise $4,000m overseas in order, we now hear from Senator McAuliffe, to use it for a purpose related to mining projects. I say to Senator McAuliffe that that was not demonstrated or stated at any time when his Government was being questioned on the matter in this place and in the House of Representatives. We know the history. I will not go into that any further, except to say once again that those borrowings were for temporary purposes. Senator
McAuliffe can say what he likes about the Labor Government having borrowed only $400m in the period in which it was in power, but quite clearly the sum that Government intended to borrow was far higher than that.
But let us not drift too far from the point. The fact is that the Labor Government at that time was not seeking to redress the fundamental problems of the economy in order to stabilise the value of the Australian currency. What that Government did was to damage the reputation of the Australian currency by seeking to encourage all sorts of odd people, such as Mr Khemlani, to attempt to raise funds from around the world and by offering authorities to various people to raise money on the world money markets. All sorts of side-alley activities, which obviously would have had a tremendous effect upon the borrowing power of the Australian dollar, were undertaken.
But what is the current situation? Senator McAuliffe tried to make the point that Australia’s reputation was not very hot overseas. In a document outlining the credit rating of institutional investors for 1979, Australia ranks tenth out of a total of 93 nations. It is one of the top ten nations which have the highest credit ratings in the world at present. The ranking is: The United States, West Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Norway and then Australia. Those countries have demonstrated their strength on the international markets and Australia is recognised, as a brother to those great nations in the world markets.
We have to ask ourselves why that is so. Why is Australia so highly regarded on the world markets? The fact is that we have a government which has demonstrated its ability to attack the fundamental problems of the economy. We have seen the Fraser Government getting inflation under control and in fact reducing the inflation rate from about 17 per cent in 1975 to about 8 per cent in 1979. They are facts. Quite clearly, those efforts and those absolute achievements over the past few years have inspired the world money markets to have confidence in this country. It is demonstrably clear from the stock market, from the price of Australian mining company shares on the stock exchange, that a great deal of interest in this country is shown overseas. That will continue.
I deal in particular with the credibility problem because I believe that it is at the core of Australia’s economic growth. We are about to burst into a new expansionary era in the mining industry, as was demonstrated clearly in the announcement made yesterday in regard to the BP organisation’s investment in Roxby Downs in South Australia. Clearly, enormous interest in our resource projects is building up overseas, in particular our energy projects. We know of their vast potential. It is clear that Australia needs capital to develop those projects. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recently announced that Australia ranks very highly as an energy-rich country. It obviously has great potential for future development.
– You are selling us out.
– Honourable senators opposite cannot bear to hear the truth. We have a situation in which clearly Australia needs foreign capital. In order to get foreign capital it requires a very good credit rating on the world ‘s markets. The key to that is to control the economy, in particular inflation. The control of inflation is at the core of Australia’s monetary and economic control. Obviously only one government in Australia can possibly contribute towards that control in an effective way in terms of the overseas situation and that is the Commonwealth Government. I refer, of course, to the Fraser Liberal-National Country Party Government. Clearly, the Opposition cannot offer any alternative to the Government’s proposal. There is no likelihood that the Opposition can offer a clear incentive for people to invest in this country, whether they be overseas or in Australia. A situation is developing in this country in which faith in the Australian dollar will develop more and more. There may be fluctuations from time to time.
I return to my original point. Senator Elstob attempted over the radio to make the point that there will be a run-down in the value of the Australian dollar. He can suggest that if he wishes, but the point is that he is extrapolating long-term trends in the currency and in the international sphere from very short-term data. That is a very unsound approach to adopt in trying to assess trends in any situation within any economy, or for that matter, business. But certainly it is a very unfortunate way to try to assess an international situation. We know that in recent times the world ‘s money markets have been affected very greatly by the dramatic increase in the price of gold, which was related to a decrease in the value of the United States dollar on the world’s markets.
– And the Australian dollar.
-Senator Elstob totally misunderstands the point. The fact is, as he would know- that is, I hope he knows- that Australia trades mostly in United States dollars; consequently, the Australian dollar and the United States dollar are tied together through the basket-weighted system. They move in relation to each other. That has been a fact of life over the past few years. Indeed, that is something we will learn to live with as time goes on. But the point remains that confidence in the Australian dollar is developing more and more on the world markets. That claim is reinforced by the most recent export statistics, which indicate that our exports are growing at a faster rate than our imports. We can see trends developing there. Nevertheless, I do not want to fall into the trap of of extrapolating long-term trends from shortterm data, as the Labor Party is trying to do.
– If Senator Messner thinks he can cover up the economic sins of this Government by harking back to the days of the Whitlam Labor Government- a period of some four years ago- he should take another long and deep think. I remind him that the latest gallup poll figures show that the Australian people are fed up with the constant hoodwinking to which they have been subjected by Ministers of this Government on the subject of unemployment, on the subject of inflation and on the subject of overseas borrowings. The latest unemployment figures show that nearly 400,000 Australians are out of work-396,967 to be exact- 1 44,000 of them being Australian kids. What do the figures show as far as inflation is concerned? The 1 978 Budget showed an estimate of 5 per cent. However it rose to some 8.8 per cent. This year it is estimated at a minimum of 10 per cent. Now we are on the subject of overseas borrowings. While Senator Messner and Senator Carrick engage in this hyperbole they will see the gap between the political parties continue to widen as the gallup polls are taken.
The Opposition, because of its concern and because of the concern of the Australian people, has raised for discussion as a matter of public importance the implications of the Fraser Government’s record levels of overseas borrowings, borrowings which since this Government came into office have reached a staggering amount of over $5,000m. The figures were given by my colleague, Senator McAuliffe. As I said, it is a staggering amount. It grew by $1.5 billion in the last financial year. The implications for Australia, notwithstanding anything that Senator Carrick or Senator Messner might have said, are very great. Before I deal with the implications, let me remind the Senate again of Senator McAuliffe ‘s figures. In the two 18-month periods of office of the Whitlam Labor Government- we did not have a single period of 3 years in office; we had two interrupted periods of 18 months- the total borrowings abroad were $434m.
We have heard a lot today from Senator Carrick and Senator Messner about Mr Khemlani. We know that members of the Government have lived off the name for years from the time they patronised him one infamous night at the Wellington Hotel in November of 1975. Notwithstanding their smug satisfaction when they draw breath in order to whisper the word ‘Khemlani’, the fact is that last financial year this present Government borrowed three
times more than the total amount the Labor Government borrowed over a period of three years. The Fraser Government, in its total period of four years in office, has borrowed abroad ten times more than the amount that the Labor Government borrowed between 1972 and 1975. What does this mean in terms of national figures for each Australian’s commitment? In this regard I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard Table 10 of Budget Paper No. 6 which is headed Securities on Issue, Australia and Overseas, Interest Liability and Total per Head of Population, at 30 June 1954 to 1979’.
The table read as follows-
– I thank the House. I refer in particular to the last classification set out in that table, the total interest liability of every Australian citizen. I hope that every Australian listening to this broadcast will heed these figures. In 1975, the last year of the Labor Government, each Australian bore an interest bill, not capital and interest but interest alone, of $72:50 on borrowings in Australia. In 1979, under the Fraser Government, each Australian bore an interest bill of $129.09 on borrowings in Australia, an increase of roughly 80 per cent. What is the amount for overseas borrowings? The same graph shows that in 1975 each Australian paid an interest bill of $5.93. In 1979 under the Fraser Government each Australian paid an interest bill of $25.24 on overseas borrowings, an increase of over 400 per cent.
I should like to find time to say something about the present Government’s lack of ethics in its conduct in this Senate from June 197-5 to
November 1975. In its political guerrilla war against the Labor Government of the day, it dragged decent Australian citizens and senior public servants to the Bar of this Senate to answer questions on loan raisings. It was one of the most scandalous things that I have ever seen and, as events now turn out as illustrated by the figures which Senator McAuliffe related to the Senate, it was one of the most hypocritical political acts of all time. Unfortunately time does not permit me to do so.
I want to discuss the implications for future Australians of the present Government’s economic policies and its heavy, staggering overseas borrowing programs. Senator Carrick referred to credit ratings and to a triple A credit rating. I remind honourable senators that Australia was given the triple A credit rating when Mr Frank Crean was the Treasurer in the Whitlam Government. We all know that the present Treasurer (Mr Howard) and officers of the Treasury have, as it were, like kids with new toys, proudly shown their triple A credit borrowing status each time a new international loan is raised. How long is that situation likely to last? Last November Mr James Wolfensohn was in Australia. He is a partner in the prestigious Wall Street, New York, broking firm of Salomon Brothers. According to the National Times for the week ending 4 November 1978 Mr Wolfensohn is an Australian merchant banker who has been highly successful in London and New York. He has told Australian bankers and financiers that Australia’s international credit rating could fall. He said:
Australia could be in danger of losing its triple A borrowing status in international markets …
He went on to say:
Clearly Australia is not in jeopardy today.
I emphasise that this was said in November 1978. He continued:
I don ‘t think the problem is immediate, but I think’ it should be watched closely.
If you had another couple of years of poor balance of payments and an increase in debt, then I ‘d watch it.
What do we find in these latest Budget figures? Another $1.5 billion of overseas loans is being sought by this Government. Let me also remind the Australian people and the members of the Government what the situation is likely to be if the Government continues on this mad course it is engaging in merely to prop up the value of the Australian dollar. Another article which has come across my desk is headed ‘Digging Deeper Into National Debt’. It is written by Mr Greg Crough who is in the Department of Economics at the University of Sydney. He has .pointed out that in the past two years the Federal Government has become a major borrower on the international capital markets and to a large extent the borrowing has been designed to supplement Australia’s foreign exchange reserves which have been starting to run down for some time due to a deteriorating balance of payments situation. I emphasise his words:
The borrowing by the Federal Government is not earmarked for investment in ‘productive’ projects of a long term developmental nature. On the other hand, the State Governments are beginning to embark on a series of major international borrowing programs, mainly for infra-structural projects, such as power stations, coal loaders and port facilities, most of which will be of substantial benefit to private corporations, particularly transnational mining corporations. The result of both sets of borrowing programs will inevitably be to further integrate Australia into the world capitalist system and the international division of labour, and will be paid for by Australian workers and taxpayers.
On page 50 Mr Crough points out that the Bank of New South Wales recently made the following very important observation:
The period of heaviest burden of capital repayment when debts mature starts in 1981-82 and does not ease until 1987-88 . . . If in three or four years hence Australia were still in the position of being a net borrower overseas, over and above its requirement to roll over borrowings, it could indeed be building up intractable problems on the external account.
It is not a member of the Australian Labor Party making that pronouncement; it is not Mr Crough of the Economics Department of the University of Sydney; it is the Bank of New South Wales, one of the great financial institutions of this country. In short, the bank is saying that if the Government continues on its present path it could be building up intractable problems on the external account. Mr Crough also raises the question as to why this amount- this great amount, this staggering amount- is being borrowed. He points out that the money is being borrowed by the Federal Government, as my colleague Senator McAuliffe said, essentially to prop up the balance of payments, to prevent a severe rundown in the size of Australia’s international reserves and a devaluation of the dollar. He states that at the end of December 1977 Australia’s international reserves stood at $2,879m but by April 1979 they had risen to $3, 677m. Therefore, after borrowing over $4,000m in foreign currencies, all of the proceeds have gone and the official reserves have risen by only $800m. It is no wonder that the Labor movement in this Senate today has raised as a matter of public importance the question of the implications of the Fraser Government’s record levels of overseas borrowings. Not only do we say it, not only does that great financial institution, the respected Bank of New South Wales, say it, but well known and expert economists throughout Australia also say it. It is a serious matter indeed.
– I find some difficulty in knowing how to reply to the attack that has been made. It was so misguided, misconceived and confused that it was rather hard to follow what the Opposition was trying to get at. Senator Wriedt tried to compare apples and pears. He talked about figures of five or 10 years ago and, without adjusting them in relation to inflation, compared them with today’s figures. Senator McAuliffe spent most of his speech arguing in favour of the Labor Party’s proposal to borrow $4,000m, which in present day terms would be $7,000m, and then spent the rest of his speech berating the present Government for borrowing $ 1 ,500m last year. I say again that it was rather hard to follow what the Opposition was getting at.
Let me refer to what I would have thought was a much more preferable approach to this question. Australia’s external debt is now 5.3 per cent of gross domestic product. Ten years ago it was 6.5 per cent; 20 years ago it was 10.8 per cent. In other words, the dangerous situation- described in dramatic terms by Senator McAuliffe as being on the brink of bankruptcy- is one which has improved dramatically in the past 20 years, from a situation where external debt was 10.8 per cent of gross domestic product to one where it is down to 5.3 per cent. If that does not rebut the nonsense that we have heard this afternoon from the Opposition I do not know what will.
I wish to deal now with a matter raised by other speakers which I think warrants repeating. A recent publication of the Institutional Investor lists credit ratings given by some 90 banks around the world. Those major financial institutions who participated in a survey conducted by the Institutional Investor rated Australia in the top 10 of the 93 countries surveyed-. That is the answer to what Senator McClelland was talking about and it indicates the current attitude in relation to Australia. Senator McClelland quoted what Mr Salomon said in November last year, but it is quite obvious that the bankers of the world do not agree with either Mr Salomon or Senator McClelland.
I refer briefly to another matter that was raised in relation to the spread of borrowings around the world. Some honourable senators have tried to compare some funny money deals, conducted by a back door method by the previous Government, with what might be regarded as the perfectly open, ordinary, straightforward means that have been adopted by this open, straightforward Government, which has not had to resort to lies to try to cover up what it has been doing in relation to borrowing funds. I do not want to go tripping down memory lane, as some honourable senators have this afternoon, but I remind honourable senators that a series of clear proven lies were told in relation to those overseas loans in 1975.
Opposition senators interjecting-
– Order! Interjections were at a minimum while a speech was made from my left. I would appreciate a similar attitude being adopted by honourable senators on my left while the honourable senator on my right is speaking.
– I think the only comment I can make is that empty vessels make the most noise. I refer to the spread of Australia’s overseas debt in relation to various currencies. It is 34 per cent in United States dollars, ‘23 per cent in Deutschemarks, 1 5 per cent in yen, 16 per cent in Swiss francs, 8.4 per cent in guilders, and 2.8 per cent in other currencies. In other words, our overseas debt is spread around a number of good, strong and representative currencies of the world. The borrowings are from some of our major trading partners, particularly in Europe, at relatively low interest rates, a matter which ought to be taken into account when making comparisons with some of the other types of loans at very high interest rates to which reference has been made in the debate this afternoon and which were proposed in 1974 and 1975.
I will deal briefly with the current situation because people who listened to Senator McAuliffe ‘s comments of gloom and doom may be concerned’. It is as well to note this statement on page 5 5 of Budget Paper No. 1 :
The marked improvement in Australia’s international competitiveness in recent years is assumed to be maintained and perhaps somewhat enhanced during 1979-80. The existing program of government overseas borrowing designed broadly to maintain the level of reserves is also assumed to continue, although the strengthening that has already occurred and is in prospect for the balance of payments should enable that program to be wound down substantially. - The Government’s monetary policy is directed to restraining growth in the monetary aggregates to a degree consistent with a supply of funds adequate for sustainable growth in activity and employment while at the same time bearing down on inflation and inflationary expectations. .
That, in summary, is the present Government’s approach. It is one which has been supported consistently by other countries and by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which has repeatedly confirmed that it is the correct approach to overcome the problems that are being suffered in this country and so many other countries.
The assumption made in the Budget on the general trade position is that there will be a continuance in the growth of our trade. The latest figures out, those for September, indicate that to this stage that assumption is being borne out. For that month a record trade surplus was achieved. When one considers the steady measures that have been taken to counter inflation and to avoid creating uncertainty by continually making currency exchange adjustments, one must support those measures. I remind honourable senators that in the 1973-75 period three, if not four, such adjustments were made but only one, in 1976, has been made since this Government was elected to office. The borrowings which have been undertaken still represent a low percentage of the gross domestic product. As I have pointed out, 20 years ago Australia’s borrowings represented 10.8 per cent of gross domestic product. The figure is now down to 5.3 per cent. Therefore, no one can claim that it represents a huge or dramatic growth in terms of Australia ‘s capacity to borrow and repay. The steps that have been undertaken by the Government have overcome the substantial destruction of our trade competitiveness during the period 1974-75. This has been rectified to a stage at which Australia can look forward to rapidly expanding trade, conducted on a competitive and successful basis. Again at page 47 of Budget Paper No. 1, we read:
Over recent years external policy has been conducted against a background of sizeable current account deficits . . . financed to less than the usual extent by long-term private capital inflow. This stemmed not merely from the subdued state of the world economy, but from the domestic economic distortions which developed in the mid- 1 970s and which reduced the competitiveness of Australian industries and Australia’s attractiveness to foreign capital.
As I said a moment ago, insofar as any logical argument has been presented this afternoon by the Opposition,- it is totally refuted by the statements of the OECD. Senator McAuliffe claimed that Australia was on the brink of bankruptcy. One need only ask any real economist whether that is so. I refer to the opinion of the OECD, which most people in the world would accept as being made up of real economists. At page 45 of its report of June 1 979, on Australia, we read:
Australia is a resource-rich country and there is every reason to expect that, over the medium term, world demand for agricultural products and minerals will lead to a restoration of strong capital inflows to finance the development of these resources. As experience in 1978 suggests, continued progress in restoring better price performance and financial stability generally could hasten the further recovery in these inflows. Accordingly . .
These are the words that I emphasise- the Government’s policy of pursuing its stabilisation goals while temporarily supporting the balance of payments by official foreign borrowing would seem to offer the best chance of achieving sustainable improvement in overall economic performance in the medium term.
I refer honourable senators opposite, who are obviously totally confused on the matter, to page 45 of that report which, as I have said, confirms that the Government’s approach, including its overseas borrowings, offers the best prospect for the achievement of sustainable improvement in overall economic performance. That statement by the OECD, if nothing else, destroys entirely the unsubstantiated and unsubstantiatable claims that have been made in the Senate by the Australian Labor Party this afternoon. We have an improving position. We have an increasing capacity to borrow and repay. In summary, we have a very high credit rating round the world. We have the approval and support of the OECD for the policy that is being pursued. Our total external debt, rated as a percentage of gross domestic product, is only half of what it was 20 years ago.
Bearing those matters in mind, how can it be said that it is a matter of concern that overseas borrowings have reached an amount which, in real terms, is still far less than the amount which the Labor Government, in 1974 and 1975, was proposing to borrow in one fell swoop. The borrowing of $4,000m then contemplated would be equal to an amount of $7,000m today. I suggest that we can refute the claim that Australia is in some way on the brink of bankruptcy and, rather, join the OECD and the Australian Government in saying that the picture for the future of Australia is looking good. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I bring up the report of Estimates Committee A on the particulars of proposed expenditure for the year 1979-80 and departmental expenditure under the Advance to the Minister for Finance 1978-79, together with the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave-Mr President, I have taken the somewhat unusual step of making a statement on the tabling of an Estimates committee report because of the particular importance to the Parliament of a matter raised in the report of Estimates Committee A. I refer to the Parliament’s appropriation and staffing. This matter has long been of concern to honourable senators on both sides of the chamber. It has long been of concern to the Presiding Officers, both past and present, and it has long been of concern to Senate Estimates Committee A. Some honourable senators will recall that a separate appropriation for the Parliament was raised in 1965 by a committee of Government senators chaired by the then Senator Cormack. Honourable senators will recall the then Senator Murphy’s view that the Parliament is not an ordinary annual service of the government. He stated:
It may be ordinary: it may be annual; it may even be regarded as a service; but it is not a service of the government.
The matter was next raised by the Senate House Committee in 1972. Chaired by Sir Magnus Cormack as President, the membership of that Committee was Senators Guilfoyle, Jessop, Laucke, Milliner, Murphy and O ‘Byrne. They reported to the Senate a resolution which honourable senators will now find quoted, in part, in the report of Estimates Committee A just tabled. The matter was again raised in 1974 by Senate Estimates Committee A. It was again raised by Estimates Committee A in May 1978, again in November 1978 and, finally, again in the latest report.
Mr President, the Committee is very much aware of your efforts and those of the Speaker to achieve greater control over the expenditure and staffing of the Parliament, and it is now time for the Senate to throw its weight behind you to put an end to the impasse that has existed for at least the last 14 years. Honourable senators will be aware of the widespread feeling throughout this Parliament, and the country, that the performance of Parliament, in ensuring that governments are fully accountable for their actions, has deteriorated. There have been many calls for reform. Yet the most significant and effective reform in the history of the Parliament- the establishment of the Senate’s legislative and general purpose standing committees and Estimates committees- is becoming endangered. Specialisation has increased enormously in recent years, particularly with the advances made in science and technology. More and more, governments rely on advice from experts and, for its part, the Parliament needs financial and staffing flexibility and capacity to inform itself. Whilst the floor of Parliament will always remain the final accounting place, committees are the sinews of effective accountability. No one concerned with the role of Parliament would suggest that it should be provided with unlimited resources. Just as there are restraints on the spending and staffing of governments, so too should there be restraints on the spending and staffing of the Parliament. But for Parliament to properly fulfil and maintain its function, it must now make such arrangements as are necessary to achieve its proper constitutional relationship with the Executive, in practice as well as in theory. I commend to honourable senators for further information the reports I have mentioned in my statement and trust that the Senate will shortly find the time to give this matter the urgent attention it deserves.
– I move:
I speak firstly to the question of amending the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942 to remove this absurd ban that is now an anachronism on the broadcasting or televising of election matter after midnight on the Wednesday preceding an election day. I submit that this provision is outmoded. It has outlived its use, if ever it had a use. The reason why it is allowed to persist by successive governments, I believe, is a classic example of the national inertia that is now pervading this country. It provides an unanswerable case for sunset provisions to be considered in future legislation. One argument that could be advanced for the proposition for its retention- no doubt the argument was put forward when it was first introduced into legislation- is that one wealthy party could spend a fortune up to midnight on the Friday night before an election and swamp all other less affluent parties. The contradiction of this and the absurdity of it is that a wealthy party can now do just that through newspapers and the print media. In fact, there have been examples of that. A party with a great deal of money can and does do that through newspapers at the very last minute on the Friday night or on the Saturday morning of an election which then renders a smaller party, or a less wealthy party, totally incapable of responding to that advertisement.
– We should exclude that too.
– I believe that we should exclude that. I am coming to that; it is part of my motion. There was a classic case in the recent South Australian elections where the South Australian Liberal Party did what I believe was a most reprehensible and dishonest act. A large series of advertisements were lodged on the Friday and, I think, on the Saturday. I am not sure of that. They were authorised by a person called D. Willett for the Liberal Party of South Australia. The advertisements read: ‘Make your legislative council vote count’. That was the heading. The subject of the advertisement was:
Your vote for any party other than the Liberal or Labor Party may not be counted. The peculiar system of voting for the South Australian Legislative Council means that votes cast for any group other than the major parties may result in preferences not being distributed.
To put it at its very least, that is misleading. To put it at its worst, it is a lie. It is a deliberate attempt to mislead the people who read the newspapers. The fact that it was a lie was proven because the votes for a candidate for the Australian Democrats- a minority party- were counted and he was elected.
This sort of thing is now permitted under our electoral legislation. There was no way that we could go on radio and television on the Friday night to point out the untruthfulness of that advertisement, nor was there any way that we could counter it at the last moment. To that extent, I do believe that: it is quite wrong and ought to be removed. The second reason the motion was introduced was to overcome a wealthy party swamping a less wealthy party. That is why I have put in my motion that the Committee ought to consider amending the Act to put a limitation on the amount of expenses that can be spent by any political party or individual in an election campaign. The third reason for this absurdity is that a political party can still swamp a television station or a radio station on the Wednesday before an election with an incredible amount of money. So even the original justification for the insertion of this provision in the Broadcasting and Television Act seems to fall to the ground.
We also have a ridiculous situation that can and has occurred where there is, say, an obscure by-election in a State. Perhaps it is in an area which is way out in the country and where no city issues are affected; it is a by-election for a State
Parliament. If a Federal election happened to be taking place at that dme and if perchance a leader of a political party wanted to make his policy speech on a Thursday night and if the State by-election was on a Saturday, it could well result in a situation where that policy speech would have to be postponed in that State. That seems to me to be an unjustifiable limitation on free speech. I now refer back to the advertisement of the Liberal Party of South Australia. This is something that probably makes me more angry than anything else on this matter about which I am speaking today. That is the untruthfulness of advertising that political parties or politicians are allowed to place.
It would seem that if one manufactures and sells a secondhand motor car, a refrigerator or toilet soap, one is inhibited by the Trade Practices Act on what one can or cannot say in that advertising. For example, if one is advertising and selling toilet soap and makes a misleading or a false representation on what that soap can do for a person, then one is open to a very heavy penalty of up to a $50,000 fine. Political parties and politicians are exempt from that. The situation which prevails in Australia today is that if one misleads in advertising toilet soap then one can be heavily fined and perhaps gaoled. But if one tries to aspire for the highest office in the land, namely a seat in a Parliament, then one is exempt. It is open for a politician to tell as many lies and to make as many misleading statements about his opponents or about his own performance that he can. That is a situation that must be corrected. I was appalled at the answer to a question on notice which was given to me by the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr McLeay) when I asked him whether he would give consideration to amending this situation. This was his reply:
Assessment of the content of political advertising along the lines suggested appears essentially to be a matter for subjective judgment of the electorate- a judgment along with other relevant factors is obviously taken into account at the polling booths.
The Minister is saying that if a political party has unlimited funds or is supported by an incredibly wealthy individual it can hire the best public relations people or the best advertising agency in the business to dolly up its lies and misleading statements as best it can. He is saying that if one can fool a voter- namely, get over his subjective judgment- that is fair.
– And then get up and talk about morality afterwards.
– Exactly. I regard the answer to my question as utter hypocrisy. In the area of political advertising we know that facts can be distorted, allegations can be made against individuals and political parties at the last moment and there is no restriction on that. There is no redress available to the offended party. On the question of public funding I ask: Is it democracy that a party with the most money- to put it at the least, the most affluent- has an advantage over all other parties? Is it in the spirit of democracy that if a party has millions it can then flood the media with that money? Is it in the spirit of democracy that that party therefore has an advantage over other political parties?
– If you have a newspaper you do better.
– That is another question. I thank Senator Cavanagh for his intervention. My objection to the private funding of political parties would be reduced if that funding were made public. It seems incredible to me that that is not done. If a political party receives funds from sources which it does not disclose, then at least inferentially it is bounden to those sources in some way or another. I am pleased with the attitude of the Labor Party on this matter. I did not hear what Senator Cavanagh said yesterday when I gave notice of this motion. Apparently he agreed with me and said that it was Labor Party policy. I thought he would be contradicting it. The argument of disclosing sources applies to my friends in the Labor Party. As soon as it secretly receives money from trade unions and other supporters it loses its objectivity. By definition, it must. More particularly the Liberal Party and the National Country Party, if they receive millions -
– The trade unions have no money because of the Liberal Party policy.
– Surely Senator McLaren is not asking me to be naive enough to believe that the trade, unions do not finance the Labor Party in its election campaigns; The principle is precisely the same although I will concede to Senator McLaren that the amount of money given to the Labor Party by trade unions nowhere near compares with the amount of money given to the Liberal and National Country parties by God knows whom.
– How do you know?
- Senator Messner asks how we know. I admired the speech he made on the previous motion. It showed that he has a profound knowledge of economics. With his background I concede that. Let him do a very simple sum with the membership of the Liberal Party, which is not well known but can be reasonably assessed. If you multiply that national membership by the membership fee and add on a few dollars that you get from your cake stalls and whatever- which we all have to do to raise this sort of money- you will find, Senator Messner, that the Liberal Party spends on an average something like Sim a year more than you can disclose that it receives from the subscriptions of members. I am not trying to score a point; that is simple arithmetic. All I am saying is that the sources of the money received are unknown to me, unknown to this Parliament and to the people of this country. If perchance hundreds of thousands of dollars come from oil companies, and I have no evidence that it does -
– Or uranium lobbies.
– Or from uranium lobbies. All I am asking is, how in the name of fortune can you gentlemen sitting on the other side of the chamber or your Ministers in the Cabinet be objective to any legislation which might adversely affect the mining lobby or the oil companies?
– Order! Direct your remarks to the Chair.
– I believe that in public funding there ought to be a threshold of public support before public funding can be provided. Other countries have set a threshold of 2.5 per cent of the vote. The United States of America has public funding for presidential elections; it is in in West Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The United Kingdom is now seriously contemplating its introduction. I concede that the Liberal Party has a prima facie logical objection to public funding: Why should taxpayers be forced to pay part of their taxes for the funding of a political party that might be anathema to them? That is a valid point.
– Would you just give me one instance of an oil company putting pressure on you when you were a Minister?
-I wish that Senator MacGibbon, instead of making smart alec, snide and sneaky remarks in this Senate, would have the kind of guts to go to Queensland to expose the scandal that is now apparent in the BjelkePetersen Foundation in regard to how donations are being asked for under the guise of advertising. The advertisement is saying the subscriptions can be written off against tax. If Senator MacGibbon believes that a taxpayer should not have to give to a political party which is anathema to him, I say that that is already happening. I am not naive enough to believe that much of the money paid in donations to political parties in this country is not written off against tax and therefore the taxpayer pays for the funding of a political party to a substantial extent. That money is under cover, it is hidden. The man in the street who cannot rip off the tax system through expense accounts or whatever is paying more tax because the amount of tax coming from companies is reduced as political advertising is used as a deduction. A novel suggestion put to me by someone outside my party is that if public funding is introduced we might follow the example of other countries by having a little line on the tax form saying: ‘If a proportion of your taxes is to fund a political party at an election campaign would you indicate here the name of the political party you would like your proportion of taxes to fund. To some extent that would overcome the objections which some Liberals are quite properly putting to the suggestion of public funding.
– Like the Canadian legislation.
– It is very much like the Canadian legislation. It would also establish the amount of threshold support that a political party has.
- Senator, might I just ask you-
– I would like to answer Senator Young, but I did give Senator Baume an undertaking that I would not abuse the time.
– Order! Senator, please direct your remarks to the Chair. Address the Chair.
– I am sorry. I apologise. In regard to how-to-vote cards an almost obscene situation now exists. Outside polling booths on polling day people rush voters, particularly the elderly, in a most disgraceful fashion. They thrust how-to-vote cards at them, sometimes almost knocking each other over in the mad scramble to win a vote. There is nothing wrong with and no great mystery in having the political party of the candidate placed beside his name on the ballot paper. Can any senator on the other side of the House give me one logical reason for not having the word ‘Liberal’ against his name on the ballot paper when he stands for election? I notice a thunderous silence now coming from them. The fact is that they know they have the money; they know they can man every polling booth, if necessary, by paying people and they know they have the massive numbers who are prepared to do that. Public funding would be to the advantage of minority or less wealthy parties. I know that the lay organisation of the Liberal
Party, the administration, in almost every State wants this electoral reform but the political arm has denied it.
In conclusion I mention the limitation of electoral expenses. A farce has been carried on in this Parliament ever since I have been a member in relation to the statutory declarations demanded of members of Parliament and senators that on their election campaign they have not spent more than a certain amount, have not allowed it to be spent, or are not aware that it has been spent. The amount is $1,000 for senators and $500 for members of the House of Representatives. It is an absurd anachronism. Every member of this Parliament knows it. Many members of this Parliament follow the practice that I have adopted, and I followed other people. I simply refuse to sign the form. In my earlier days I used to amend the form by crossing out that part which says with my knowledge or consent’ because I did not know. But I was breaking the law by doing that. I am still breaking the law, but I would rather break the law than commit perjury. Any member of this Parliament, of this Senate or of the House of Representatives, who signed that form without amendment at the last election ran a great risk of committing perjury. I would have thought that that would be an insufferable situation.
I understand that the action taken by the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the Australian Democrats in Tasmania has frightened some politicians. I can assure honourable senators that that matter is still not completed. I give notice that after the next Federal election or the next Federal by-election the result, whichever way it goes, will be challenged by me unless this Electoral Act is amended to take the hypocrisy out of it so far as election spending is concerned.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
Motion ( by Senator Peter Baume) put:
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion ( by Senator Chipp) agreed to:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I claim to have been misrepresented. Senator Chipp alleged that I made smart, snide and various other derogatory remarks during the course of his speech. It is not often that I have a chance to ask a question of Senator Chipp because he is not often here. I asked Senator Chipp to give one instance of when pressure was placed on him, when he was a Minister of the Crown, to conform to the wishes of an oil company.
– I present the report of Senate Estimates Committee B on the particulars of proposed expenditure for the year 1979-80 and departmental expenditure under the Advance to the Minister for Finance 1 978-79, together with the Hansard record of the Committee ‘s proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- At page 3 in the final paragraph of the report mention is made that the Committee was awaiting a reply from the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) in relation to one of the matters raised during the Committee’s hearings. The Attorney-General had now provided a full answer to the question asked but the reply was not received until the Committee finalised its report. The letter will be tabled in the Senate together with other information received by the Committee at a subsequent time.
-I bring up the report of Estimates Committee C on the particulars of proposed expenditure for the year 1979-80 and departmental expenditure under the Advance to the Minister of Finance for the year 1978-79 together with the Hansard record of the Committee ‘s proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I bring up the report of Estimates Committee D on the particulars of proposed expenditure for the year 1979-80 and the departmental expenditure under the Advance to the Minister for Finance 1978- 79 together with the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I bring up the report of Estimates Committee E on the particulars of proposed expenditure for the year 1979- 80 and the departmental expenditure under the Advance to the Minister for Finance 1978- 79 together with the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I bring up the report of Estimates Committee F on the particulars of proposed expenditure for the year 1979- 80 and the departmental expenditure under the Advance to the Minister for Finance for the year 1978-79 together with the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Debate resumed from 9 October, on motion by Senator Chaney:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Senate has before it the
Loan Bill which is presented annually. It is largely a machinery Bill but one with which we have become familiar in recent years particularly. The purpose of the Bill is to provide the Government with the authority to borrow the funds to make up the expected deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund during the current financial year. The Bill will enable the Government to borrow the funds to cover the expected Budget deficit of $2.2 billion during 1978-79. Of that amount, $1.68 billion is related to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Bill has become a traditional procedure in this Parliament for transferring expenditure normally in the Consolidated Revenue Fund to another account or for increasing receipts. The Bill also allows some defence expenditure to be transferred to the loan fund as a means of avoiding approval of the Loan Council.
As I have said on previous occasions when similar Loan Bills have been debated annually, the Loan Bill was part of the procedures which the Opposition used in 1975 to bring down the Labor Government. For a period of two months that year the Opposition asked the Government to provide detailed information over a wide range of matters. At the time former Senator Cotton, as a front bench spokesman for the Opposition said:
As I have mentioned previously, the Second reading speech was not terribly satisfactory. It is a very short Bill; it contains only five clauses two of which are of any significance and the others being of little significance.
These were his remarks at that time in 1975. Unlike former Senator Cotton and the Opposition of the day- the present Government- we do not take the view that the explanation of the Bill is inadequate because the drafting style has been used in this type of legislation for many years and was drawn up in that manner prior to 1975. But in view of the precarious state of the present economy and the likelihood that economic fortunes will not improve, we propose to follow the precedent set by the then Opposition parties and we will be seeking more detailed information about aspects of the Government’s economic and fiscal policies. I will be coming back to those matters later.
Fortunately, and probably as a result of the pro’dding and the criticism of the Opposition and many people in the financial community, the Fraser Government is becoming a little more cautious about the predictions it makes and the figures which it presents to Parliament in the Budget Papers. The lessons which should have been learned from Mr Lynch ‘s rubbery figures, as he termed them, have not been applied entirely and we still find serious discrepancies between the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Howard), and the Treasurer’s assessment of our economic fortunes.
There has also been a serious discrepancy between the promises made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the actual policies of the Government. It is not surprising in the circumstances that we should be seeking more information. We still suspect much of what is put before us by this Government. It is pertinent, I believe, to recall some of those promises, because it helps to explain our reservations. We all remember the promise made by the Prime Minister which we debated this afternoon- that he would not put the country into hock. Now we find that overseas borrowings by the Australian Government in the last three years are in excess of $5,000m. We also remember that Mr Fraser promised that there would be lower government expenditure and the deficit would be reduced. What has happened? The level of the deficits under the present Government’s first three years in office has been much higher than it was in the period of the previous government.
Mr Fraser also promised that interest rates would fall by 2 per cent by 30 June this year. What happened to that promise? Interest rates have started to rise. It is now the expectation of the market that by the middle of next year the overdraft rate could be around 12 per cent. We also remember his promise about full tax indexation. This was a central plank of Liberal Party economic policy and a very appealing one to the electorate. What happened to that? Full tax indexation was never introduced and less than full tax indexation, as it was termed, has been scrubbed for both personal and corporate taxpayers. We remember the promises about reducing income tax. What happened to those promises? First, Mr Fraser introduced a tax surcharge last year and with the effects of this year’s measures, together with a predicted rate of inflation of 9 per cent, 10 per cent or maybe more, we will as taxpayers be paying more tax, not less tax, next year.
Then there was the promise that unemployment would start to fall continuously from February of last year. We know the story about that. We have seen this Government become the custodian of the greatest and highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression. The recent improvements disguise many of the people who have opted out of the work force, who have been excluded because of the policies of the present Government and the machinations involving the quoting of figures of the Australian
Bureau of Statistics or the Commonwealth Employment Service. This is hardly a record which would inspire confidence and the time is now long gone when government spokesmen can effectively mount the old three-legged hobbyhorse and complain that all the fault rests with the previous Government.
The Prime Minister has admitted that he made a promise that he would take three years to clean up the economy, but he admits that he has failed to do so. He also admits that he must take the blame for the mess in which we find ourselves today. Time and again the Government has boasted that it would be a better economic manager than the previous Government. The Opposition said only today in a debate on the overseas borrowings issue that the Prime Minister and his colleagues have led us to the pawnbrokers of the world. Even yesterday the Acting Treasurer and Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) announced that half of an Australian company’s interest in the Roxby Downs mining venture is to be sold off to yet another multinational company. Before long it will be fairly hard to find any national asset over which somebody overseas has not got a mortgage. It is up to the electorate to make a judgment about the performance of the present Government.
I just want to cite a few figures about the more immediate matters of the deficit and those borrowings in this Bill which are important to us. In the three years of office of the previous Government the total of our Budget deficits was $6.4 billion, but we find that the total over the first three years of the present Government- a comparable period- is $10.8 billion. We find that in the first three years of Mr Fraser’s Government the deficits total $4.4 billion more than they totalled in the three years of the previous Government. Despite the fact that this Government has cut back in every sphere of government activity, it finds itself in infinitely more difficult circumstances after three and a half yearsnearly four years- of government than it was in when it came to power. In the three years between 1972 and 1975 the total Commonwealth sector deficit, as a percentage of our gross domestic product, averaged 3.3 per cent, whilst for the period of the present Government it has averaged 3.9 per cent, which is substantially above the figure for the period of the previous Government.
Part of the reason for the increased deficits under this Government is that unemployment has risen quite dramatically. It has almost doubled- from about 240,000 when it came to office to nearly 400,000 now. Therefore, large sums are being paid out in unemployment and related benefits. The level of economic growth has been lower than predicted and corporate tax has not increased at the rate anticipated by the Government. In other words, the Fraser Government has not produced any significant recovery. In fact it has an obsession with the size of the deficit. It has cut back total funds to the States in real terms with the result that capital works have been very much curtailed in the States. It has shunted a number of Budget items out into the semi-government market in an attempt to reduce the deficit. As examples I can cite the financing of Telecom Australia, the loans to the Australian Wool Corporation and the financing of the first advance to wheat growers by commercial bills. Those practices were not used prior to this Government’s advent.
There are several other areas in which there have been cosmetic manoeuvres to try to reduce the Budget deficit figure. David Block and Associates Pty Ltd, which is a very prominent firm of Sydney investment advisers, recently commented that the real Budget deficit is in excess of $3 billion. The Government has argued that unless it reduces the deficit it will be impossible to increase employment and to reduce inflation and interest rates. There is truth in that argument only as long as the manufacturing resources of the country are operating at full capacity and money wages are increasing at a faster rate than inflation. But neither situation exists in this country. In spite of marginal improvements manufacturing industry capacity utilisation is still running at about 76 per cent and there is considerable leeway to be taken up before any inflationary pressures are exerted. The Government has presided over a significant reduction in real wages and, in spite of its claim to the contrary, much of the cost-push pressure is due to government action and not to money wage pressures. We have only to look at the massive increases in indirect taxation last year and the insidious increases in petrol prices for some of the explanation of why inflation is rising again.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-The Senate has before it the Loan Bill 1 979. In the course of my earlier remarks I referred to certain developments in the economy over the past 12 months. As this Bill authorises the Government to make certain transfers of money into the Consolidated Revenue Fund because of the deficit problems, I referred to the increases in indirect taxation which have taken place over the past 12 months as a means whereby the Government hopes to get down the deficit. One of the most significant aspects of those increases has been the quite dramatic increase in petrol prices. In addition, there have been substantial increases in commodity and food prices, but they have very little to do with increases in money wages.
For some inexplicable reason, the Government sticks its head in the sand over those indicators. If it dropped its obsession with the deficit but still remained conscious of the risks associated with inflation and give some selective stimulation we could be moving back to a situation of full employment. As the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research has pointed out, if we were to get back to having full employment the deficit would disappear. But the Government, which has taken a very stubborn attitude on this whole issue of inflation and unemployment, fails to admit that a change of policy is warranted. We are convinced that this Government is prepared to live with high levels of unemployment and has convinced itself that most people who are registered as unemployed are really unemployable. But the fact is that there has been a cutback in youth training scheme funds, which is verification of the view taken by the Government. The Government has an obsession with getting the inflation rate down, which obviously is a good course to follow. But we do not accept the proposition that the inflation rate should be forced down at the price of increasing unemployment.
The policy which the Government is adopting will not necessarily reduce the deficit. I suspect that the Government proposes to tax its way out of increased deficits. It will use the crude oil levy to which I have referred and, simultaneously, it will hope that the member countries of the Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries will continue to increase the price of crude oil. The Australian motorist will contribute $2 billion, and probably more, to Consolidated Revenue this financial year. The main purpose of the levy is not to conserve fuel; even if it has that effect it will be simply a by-product. The Fraser Government’s intention is to use the proceeds of the levy to reduce its Budget deficit.
We cannot honestly blame the OPEC countries for the increased inflation rate in Australia. The Government is using the oil exporters as a scapegoat. If it is not, we should ask the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) especially and the Acting Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) whether they would be prepared to put ceiling prices on wool, wheat and meat during the current commodity boom. The answer obviously would be no. We had this problem some years ago. Nor does the Government wish the
OPEC countries to put a ceiling price on crude oil because increased prices will be the Fraser Government’s solution to its revenue problems. The Government will generate increased inflation with this levy. It is not OPEC which is to blame but, as has been pointed out on many occasions, the developed countries which seek to exploit the oil price increases by adopting these inflationary taxing policies. Australia would probably be the best example of that.
It is also likely that the recent statement by the Acting Treasurer, Mr Eric Robinson, that he prefers indirect taxes to direct taxation is a signal that the Government will increase indirect taxation in order to bring down its deficit. This will only impose harsher burdens on lower income groups, especially the unemployed and people generally disadvantaged in the community, all for the sake of getting down the deficit. But at the same time it will bring about substantial increases in inflation. There is a very real chance that the Government may face more serious problems than it expects over the next 12 months and that some of its policies, particularly the overseas borrowing program, will come unstuck. If the recent commodity price boom following a shift out of liquid into non-liquid assets continues- something which was referred to in the debate this afternoon- and accelerates over the next few months and certainly over the next 12 months, there may be a reduction in export returns to Australia and a slow down in the rate of capital inflow. There could also be what could fairly be described as psychological effects, particularly on the public sector.
Under those circumstances the proportion of debt repayment will increase and Australia may have some difficulty sustaining a positive rate of economic growth and maintaining living standards in real terms. It is for these reasons that we in the Opposition will present a series of questions to the Government, which has now become a standard practice in debating the loan Bill when it comes before the Parliament each year. As has been the case in the past three years’, we will not oppose the Bill. In contrast to the position which obtained in 1975 when we were in government, when the then Opposition adopted the quite irresponsible attitude of holding up the loan legislation, which made it extremely difficult for the then Government to function properly, we will not oppose the Bill. We would not even attempt that if we were in a position in this chamber to do so. But we certainly will seek from the Government detailed answers to questions on current matters involving the economy. I will deal with those at the Committee stage.
– I support the Loan Bill 1979, which is designed to give legislative effect to the financing of the government deficit. I do not think there is any need to go into the mechanics of this operation; rather, I shall address my remarks very briefly to the general format of the deficit and to the way in which it is to be financed. I would like to refer to the deficit operated by the Government and to its effect upon the economy as the air-hose syndrome. (Quorum formed). I hope my colleagues do not think that I called the quorum myself. I was referring earlier to the air-hose syndrome which relates to the deficit incurred by governments in running the economy. Because the Government is so involved in the private sector of the economy and because it does in fact incur a deficit, a difference between income and revenue which has to be raised from the people by way of borrowings, we have a stepping on the air-hose effect, cutting off the supply of funds for the private sector. Consequently it dries up interest rates and makes it more difficult for private industry to get going. That is precisely the situation under which we have suffered over the last five years or so.
– It is called ‘crowding out ‘.
-The air-hose syndrome is one of concern in my State of South Australia because of the activities of the former Labor Government in respect of over-regulation of the economy. The effect of that sort of control and that sort of involvement upon interest rates and the capital market generally is crowding out, as Senator Walsh so well put it, the private sector and making it extremely difficult for it to expand in any circumstances. The objective of the Fraser Government since it came to power obviously has been to try to reduce that deficit. It has succeeded in real terms in achieving that over the last four years. Let me refer to the Budget Speech which indicates that the overall deficit for the 1979-80 year is estimated to be $2, 193m. This will be a reduction of some $ 1,285m on the 1978-79 year.
– It is over $ 1 billion.
– It is over $ 1 billion, as Senator Young points out. Excluding overseas transactions, the domestic deficit will fall from some $2,258m in 1978-79 to a figure of only $875 m in 1979-80. 1 see Senator Walsh squirming as he hears the truth. In fact the deficit as a proportion of gross domestic product will fall from 3.4 per cent to only 1.9 per cent of the total gross national product. This is a significant point to make. Senator Wriedt clearly was leading the people who were listening tonight to believe that somehow the deficit had increased over the last few years and that in fact the Liberal governments since they have been in power from 1975 have been in favour of increasing the deficit. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the objective of the Fraser Government to ensure that the deficit decreases over time. ‘
I want to make one other point. I refer to the important part which the deficit plays in the total money supply of Australia. It is well recognised that a rise in the rate of inflation which may occur rapidly from time to time is always immediately preceded by increases in the domestic, money supply.
– You are behind the times. Howard sat that down on its head a few months ago.
-We can argue about 1973 and about 1951, but these facts can be related. As we now well recognise, the increase in the deficit of the Government obviously leads to an increase in the money supply. The improving performance of the Australian economy overseas, because of increased competitiveness and improved performance in the rural sector, is likely to lead to an inflow of capital from overseas into new resource projects plus, I hope, smaller deficits on the current account of the balance of payments. A deficit which is of the order of, say, $4,000 m which I understand is the Opposition’s proposal at present to soak up unemployment would obviously add significantly to the money supply, thereby leading to further inflation and consequently, as we all have observed over the last five years and particularly under the Whitlam Government, to further unemployment.
Certainly those on this side of the House recognise that inflation leads to increased wage pressures which deprive other people in the community of jobs. Inflation is the root cause of unemployment and unless Australia conquers that we may face continuing problems with unemployment over a number of years. Our objective in this country is to defeat inflation so as to ensure that people get back to work. I support the Bill wholeheartedly and support the Government ‘s objective in seeking to reduce the deficit so as to ensure that not only is inflation brought under control and significantly reduced in this coming year but also the job situation is improved because of the lower inflation rate.
-I used to think that Senator Messner- although of course he was obliged because of his loyalty to the Government to put over some specious arguments from time to time- fundamentally understood these issues, but after hearing the speech he has just delivered I must say that I have been forced to revise that opinion. Among other things he said that an increase in the deficit inevitably leads to an increase in the money supply. As any first year economics student with an IQ above 85 should know- probably any high school economics student should know- an increase in the deficit not funded by loans from the public will increase the money supply. An increase in the deficit funded by loans from the public has no effect at all on the money supply. I have been forced to revise my opinion as to Senator Messner ‘s technical grasp of some of the most fundamental questions which are raised by the Bill which is before the Senate tonight.
– Your opinion would not matter.
-What did you say?
– I said that your opinion would not matter much.
– What did the most inconsequential senator from South Australia say? I am afraid 1 did not hear what he said. He apparently is not willing to repeat it at a higher level so that I can hear what sort of nonsense is being brayed from his mouth.
– He is obviously terrified of you.
-Who said that? That, I think, was Senator Chipp who discovered principles when Mr Fraser sacked him from the Ministry. In 1975–
– Why don’t you try to control yourself?
– The honourable senator can argue about that later on. Perhaps he might also care to explain why he voted in 1 975 against the principle of disclosure of funding for political parties which he was espousing with a good deal of zeal earlier this afternoon. At the time the then Labor Government was bringing in legislation to compel political parties to do just that.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– Perhaps the honourable senator might even care to reply to my letter in the National Farmer of a few weeks ago. However, I digress, because the Bill before the Senate tonight is the Loan Bill.
– I fight only in my own class. Did you hear that?
-Did I hear what?
– I fight only in my own class and I do not take on lightweights like you.
-Senator Chipp had better get down with all the other humbugs and frauds who are running around the place and not try to take me on. I repeat: Senator Chipp has just spoken; Senator Chipp, the man who discovered principles when Mr Fraser sacked him from the ministry in 1975. Senator Chipp was quite prepared to be a Minister in the illegitimate government which existed between 1 1 November and 13 December 1975. Then when Mr Fraser sacked him as a Minister in the legitimate Government following the 1975 election, Senator Chipp discovered principles.
– You can do better than that, surely.
– I can. I will tell honourable senators about Senator Chipp ‘s letter in the National Farmer, if he wishes, but I am not going to be distracted too much from the subject matter of this debate. Obviously the truth hurts, as can be deduced from Senator Chipp ‘s very voluble protests about the exposure of some of his sleazy past. To return to the subject matter of the Bill, in 1975 the then Opposition concocted what it proclaimed to be sinister motives for the introduction of an identical Bill.
– You are a disgrace to the Labor Party.
– I do not want to become involved in a debate with the man who discovered principles when he was sacked from the Ministry nearly four years ago. I would be happy to debate that issue with him from a public platform at any time, but I do not want to debate it tonight. I want to talk about the Loan Bill. In 1975 the then Opposition, with the consent of Senator Chipp, I might add, concocted what it suggested were sinister motives for the production of such a Bill. It was said that the then government was trying to bypass the discipline of Parliament in funding government expenditure and so on, all of which, I mention again, had the tacit approval of Senator Chipp, since he remained silent and silence is consent. In particular, and I think this has to be quoted, when a similar Loan Bill was before the Senate on 15 October 1975, Senator Withers said:
It is the intention of the Opposition to take steps to force this Government to an election for the House of Representatives. I say that now so that there can be no doubt abour our position. At the conclusion of my speech I will be moving an amendment.
As Senator Withers promised, at the conclusion of his speech he moved this amendment:
Leave out all the words after ‘That’ insert: this Bill be not further proceeded with until the Government agrees to submit itself to the judgment of the people, the Senate being of the opinion that the Prime Minister and his Government no longer have the trust and confidence of the Australian people because of-
the continuing incompetence, evasion, deceit and duplicity of the Prime Minister and his Ministers as exemplified in the overseas loan scandal which was an attempt by the Government to subvert the Constitution, to by-pass Parliament and to evade its responsibilities to the States and the Loan Council;
If I may interpolate, this Bill is outside the scrutiny of the Loan Council. From that fact, which had been a fact ever since Federation, the then Opposition tried to concoct some sinister motives for the introduction by the Labor Government in 1 975 of an identical Bill, apart from the figures. Senator Withers’ amendment continued:
Just imagine that! The amendment referred to the Prime Minister’s failure to maintain proper control over the activities of his Ministers, which were seen to be reprehensible and extraordinary in 1 975 and apparently are seen to be quite predictable today. The amendment continued: and Government to the detriment of the Australian nation and people: and
Of course, in the early 1950s, under that latter day immaculate economic engineer, Sir Robert Menzies, inflation was the highest it had ever been in Australia, so that was factually incorrect. Unemployment is now approximately 200,000 higher than it was when the then Leader of the Opposition in the Senate moved that amendment in 1975. Ultimately, of course, the then Opposition not only blocked that Bill but it also refused to pass the appropriation Bills. As a result of the disgraceful events with which we are all familiar the Parliament was dissolved on 1 1 November, lt is highly relevant to resurrect some of the assertions made by members of the then Opposition, all of whom- with the notable exception of Senator Withers and more recently Mr Sinclair- are now senior Ministers in the present Government. On the same day that this Bill was before the Senate in 1 975, Mr Anthony asked a question in the House of Representatives. He asked:
Has the Prime Minister yet become aware of the fact that the people of Australia have lost confidence and trust in him and his crumbling government?
One wonders whether Mr Anthony is now aware of the fact that just over 30 per cent of the Australian people have any confidence in the present Prime Minister and about 40 per cent have confidence in his Government. Mr Anthony continued:
Does he know that the great majority of Australians are sick and tired of the smell of scandal that hangs around his Government-
Sick and tired of the smell of scandal that hangs around his Government’, said Mr Anthony in 1975- and that they no longer believe that he and his Government are capable of governing or fit to govern? I again ask the Prime Minister: Will he do the decent thing and resign.
So said Mr Anthony in 1975. Of course he was not the only person who is a senior Minister in the present Government who was making comments like that in those days. For example, the present and then deputy leader of the Liberal Party, Mr Lynch, said:
Why did the Prime Minister refuse the request which I made of him yesterday to table all relevant documents in the overseas loan affair?
Is it not an interesting proposition that all the relevant documents should have been tabled? There is a good deal to be said for that point of view. There is a great deal to be said for the point of view which asserts that it is about time Mr Lynch, who asked that question, tabled the documents pertaining to his land speculation activities in the Western Port Peninsula. Mr Lynch, who in 1975 was an adherent to the view that there was a responsibility on Ministers to table all relevant information, now asserts- with the full backing of the Prime Minister- that the public has no right to see the confidential report from his accountants, which the Prime Minister claims to have seen, regarding his land speculation and tax evasion activities. I note in passing that Mr Lynch has not only modified but also reversed his view in the last three years as to whether Ministers have an obligation to lay relevant documents on the table of the House of Representatives. On 15 October Mr Lynch concluded his question by asking:
Has the Prime Minister made himself aware of all relevant documents in the loans affair? Will he now table all of those documents?’
When will the right honourable member for Flinders table the report which he asserts, with the endorsement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), was prepared by his accountants and solicitors pertaining to his land speculation activities, aided by insider trading and tax avoidance activities- to use the euphemismrelated thereto. Then Mr Sinclair, by way of question on the same day, 15 October 1975, in the House of Representatives, asked:
What is the Prime Minister’s current attitude to the Westminster doctrine of ministerial responsibility? Does the Prime Minister accept any responsibility for any of the actions of his Ministers?
That is a question which certainly, were it not for the sub judice rule, which I have no intention of breaching, could be posed to the Prime Minister of Australia today. Does the Prime Minister accept any responsibility for any of the actions of his Ministers? The supreme irony is that the person who in 1 975 asked that question of the then Prime Minister was none other than the former Minister for Primary Industry. He asked further:
If not, what responsibility does he accept as leader of his Government?
– Why judge him now? He has not been in the courts.
– I am not going to judge anyone. 1 will deal with the honourable senator in a minute. That also is a highly relevant question which could be posed to the Prime Minister today. If not- if he does not accept responsibility for any of the actions of his Ministers- what responsibility for any of the actions of his Ministers- what responsibility does he accept as leader of his Government? I would love to get an answer to that question.
In the last couple of weeks we have seen a great deal of synthetic outrage focussed on the bogus proposition that recently somebody has been maligned under parliamentary privilege without having an opportunity to reply. I want to make two observations on that. Firstly, the person concerned has had, in the last two years, unlimited opportunities to reply. As recently as Thursday, 27 September, he had unlimited opportunities to reply in the House of Representatives. How many people who are maligned or have aspersions cast upon their character or conduct under parliamentary privilege are given the opportunity of having unlimited time in the House of Representatives to reply to those aspersions? Very few have access to a forum that is as effective as the House of Representatives, and on 27 September last Mr Sinclair had access to it without time restriction.
Goebbels used to assert that if a lie were repeated often enough it would be accepted as the truth. That principle seems to have been modified in Australia- a lie has only to be uttered once to be accepted in some quarters as the truth. One of the greatest lies of all in this particular incident is the statement that the person concerned has had no opportunity to defend himself. However, I note that Mr Sinclair, when speaking in the House of Representatives on 27 September, devoted a significant proportion of the time which he did take to a personal attack upon Creighton Walsh without providing independent corroboration or evidence.
- Mr President, I rise to a point of order. I direct your attention to Standing Order 4 1 9, which states that no senator shall digress from the subject matter of any question under discussion. I simply seek your guidance as to whether the honourable senator is addressing himself to the subject of the Loan Bill which is before the Senate at present.
– When finance Bills are being debated greater latitude is extended to honourable senators than is otherwise the case. At the same time, I have been listening very intently to Senator Walsh and I direct him to be very careful not to breach in any way the sub judice rule of which he has made mention.
- Mr President, I have not canvassed at all, and I do not intend to canvass, the substance of the charges which have been laid against the former Minister for Primary Industry. What I do wish to comment upon is the mixture of incompetence and hypocrisy which in the last couple of weeks has been so evident in so much of the media comment. On 27 September, in the House of Representatives, an individual was maligned, smeared or whatever one likes to call it. That individual has not an opportunity to reply on anything like equal terms such as is afforded the person who maligned him. Again, I make no judgment as to the accuracy of the aspersions cast upon Creighton Walsh on that occasion by the former Minister for Primary Industry. I simply state what ought to have been a self-evident fact even to Murdoch hacks; that is, that the person who was smeared under privilege in regard to this matter, without having any opportunity to defend himself, was Creighton Walsh and that the person who did that smearing was Ian Sinclair. One might also have gained the impression -
- Mr President, I now draw your attention to Standing Order 418, which provides that all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections upon members of the Parliament shall be considered highly disorderly. I suggest that to say that the right honourable member for New England was the person who did the smearing is not consistent with the provisions of that Standing Order.
– I wish to speak briefly to the point of order. It is quite ludicrous that Senator Baume should raise this as a point of order. The word ‘smear’ is used and accepted in this Parliament. To suggest that Senator Walsh would be out of order by asserting that there was some smear in the speech made by a member of the House of Representatives is to ignore the fact, whether it constituted a smear or not, that the use of the word ‘smear’ has been accepted in this Parliament as legitimate. Only 10 minutes ago an honourable senator illustrated what had become an accepted term in this Parliament when he read an amendment moved in this chamber by members of the Liberal Party accusing the Prime Minister of the day of deceit. The use of that term is now accepted. If it can be accepted in the Parliament that one can accuse the Prime Minister personally of being a deceitful person, it is ludicrous to suggest that one cannot say that someone was guilty of a smear in the other chamber.
– It was done by substantive motion. A substantive motion is a very different matter.
– In the course of debate on a substantive motion things can be said that may not be said in normal parliamentary debate. Under Standing Order 418, inferences and imputations reflecting on members of this or another place are forbidden. I ask the honourable senator to continue his speech.
– If Senator Baume objects to the use of the verb ‘smear’, I am quite happy to withdraw it. I just direct the attention of anyone who is sufficiently interested to the speech that was made by Mr Sinclair in the House of Representatives on 27 September and to the uncorroborated allegations that he made against Creighton Walsh, allegations to which Creighton Walsh has had no equal opportunity to reply. Certainly, he has not had the opportunity to reply, with the spotlight of the nation’s media upon him, in the national parliament under parliamentary privilege- an opportunity which has been extended to the former Minister for Primary Industry on numerous occasions and which was last extended to him, without time restriction I stress, on 27 September last.
The casual reader of what passes for a national Press in Australia could well have been excused in the last couple of weeks for coming to the conclusion that the procedures followed with respect to the Finnane report were without precedent in Australian parliamentary history. That, of course, is nonsense. The Gowans report which was presented by the Liberal Government of Victoria made very serious allegations about several senior personnel in the Victorian State Housing Commission. That report was tabled in the
Victorian Parliament. The Beach report into the Victorian police force made very serious allegations against a great number of senior Victorian police personnel. That report was also tabled in the Parliament of Victoria under a State Liberal Government and I stress, without protest, without any synthetic outrage from any sections of the media or members of Liberal and Country parties which pretend or purport to have been outraged by events in Sydney in the last couple of weeks.
– Ersatz outrage.
– Yes, ersatz outrage. I might also mention that Sir Richard Eggleston in the report which he delivered in, I think, 1969, recommended the very procedure with respect to these matters which was followed by the New South Wales Government two weeks ago. I might also mention that the inquiry into the Gollin company was conducted, I understand, by a very well known and distinguished member of the Liberal Party and the Sydney Bar. I think it was called the Spender inquiry. The first report of the inquiry was tabled in the New South Wales Parliament 12 months before charges were laid against Keith Compton Gale. Ultimately he was convicted and sentenced to about 13 years imprisonment. So contrary to the impression that the gullible readers of the newspapers may have picked up in the last few weeks, there are dozens of precedents for the procedure which was followed by the New South Wales Government a fortnight ago.
Before closing my remarks, I just want to make a couple of other comments about the Bill proper, in particular with respect to gold mining. As was disclosed in a discussion which was held earlier today, in the last couple of years the Government has borrowed more than $4 billion overseas. Our current holdings of gold and foreign reserves amount to just under $4 billion. Following the simplistic line of argument that appealed to the present Prime Minister a few years ago, one could assert that Australia was about to be delivered into international receivership because we have borrowed in excess of our assets. That is over-simplifying the situation, of course, and that is not really the case, but I still make the point. In the last couple of years the present Government has borrowed more money than it asserted it would have been quite catastrophic to borrow just a few years before. The proposition that Australia should borrow $4 billion overseas was greeted with mock horror by all the senior Ministers in the present Government. Since then the Government which they support has borrowed more than $4 billion.
I return to the $3.8 billion of gold and foreign exchange holdings which Australia currently has. We hold about six million ounces of gold which, with some minor variations, is the level of gold holding that we have held for a number of years. Because of the very rapid increase in the price of gold over the last three years- if we go back to August 1976 when the price of gold in modern times bottomed- no less than $1.7 billion of our current overseas holdings in foreign exchange in gold is due to appreciation in that stock of gold. It is relatively easy to have wisdom with hindsight. In the 1975 election campaign it was promised in Kalgoorlie by Mr Lynch, among others, that a Liberal Party Government, if elected, would take steps to ensure that the gold mining industry in Kalgoorlie was sustained at the level which then operated. What happened after the Liberal Party had safely won the seat, was as has happened to so many promises from that period. Of course, the elected Liberal Government did nothing and allowed the gold mines to close.
Even though one now has hindsight, it should have been fairly clear at that stage that there would have been a significant appreciation in the price of gold and that the then price was unrealistically low. One can now assert with absolute certainty, that had the Government of that day made a commitment to gold mining- this is in late 1976- which would have induced significant investment in development in Kalgoorlie, the product would have been coming onto the market six months ago and now. In other words, it is one of the very best investments that could possibly have been made. The Government did not have sufficient foresight to do that. As a result, enormous profits could have been made from mining gold in Kalgoorlie now, but it requires a time lag of about two years to actually start producing on a significant scale. The nation is losing not only on the income but also is losing very severely from the forgone employment opportunities because of the short-sighted attitude of the Government of the day.
-I had not intended to enter this debate. I had not given you my name, Mr President, nor the Whips. I do not think that under Standing Orders I am required to do that. In fact, I am sure that I am not required to do it. I am obliged to rise to my feet because of certain statements that have been made by Senator Walsh on the matter of parliamentary privilege. I believe that since the Opposition has raised this question of parliamentary privilege, it is an appropriate time for me to state quite categorically that a concerted attempt is being made by a back bench member of the Opposition in this House and a back bench member of the Australian Labor Party Government in Tasmania to vilify and character assassinate members of the trade union movement in respect of moneys that were provided by the State Government for trade union training purposes.
– Order! I must indicate that this is a loan Bill and I have allowed certain latitudes. Senator, you must relate your remarks to the matter before the Senate now, which is the Loan Bill 1979.
- Mr President, I understand that it is not the first reading stage and that you have to give certain latitudes. You have given latitudes to Senator Walsh in respect of certain statements that were made by the former Minister for Primary Industry in the House of Representatives the week before last. Since that matter was raised I intend to speak to this Bill in respect of allegations that have been made, not about loan money but about grant money which now has been found to have been -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I would like to make it quite clear that under Standing Orders the honourable senator is departing from the subject matter of the debate. 1 want to make it quite clear that if he is allowed to continue along this line then this debate is quite open for all honourable senators to follow ad lib any subject they might like to bring up. If you would rule that way, Mr President, then I will be silent.
– This Bill does not allow for a debate on any matter, irrespective of its relationship to the Bill before the House. It has to be related to the Loan Bill. I ask you, Senator Harradine, to continue your remarks but you will relate them to financial measures which are inherent to this Bill before the Senate now.
- Mr President, following upon the theme that was adopted by Senator Walsh and allowed by you, I simply say that I hope the Leader of the Opposition is in future able to ensure that there is no further abuse of parliamentary privilege by members of his party in this Senate; and that includes Senator O’Byrne who just rose to his feet.
– With great respect to you, Mr President, I suggest that you put an end to this right now. I can assure you that if this line is to continue this place will not spend much more time tonight on matters pertaining to this Bill. If we want the Senate turned into a real don.neybrook tonight we are heading the right way for that. I want to make it quite clear that the reference to me was what I expected to come forth. If that is Senator Harradine ‘s form and he wants it to be matched here tonight on that basis I can assure you that it will be. I ask you to put a cap on it straight away.
– The need for relevance to the matter before the Senate is real. Earlier I did use the word ‘latitude’ but I was referring to measures related to finance. In the process I would say that I erred in allowing too much latitude which I cannot allow to continue.
– In regard to the Loan Bill I believe that the ability of the Government to meet its payments, as demanded by its commitments to defence and social security, have not been or are not being met out of general revenue received by the Government through ordinary taxation measures. If we are to maintain a decent defence force- which I believe we do not have at this present moment- and if we are to meet the challenges that will face us in the 1980s then we of course have to ensure that we have enough money for that purpose. Much has been said about the need to close taxation gaps and the cheating that goes on in regard to taxation. Arrangements have been made to avoid taxation. I am not talking about the little avoidances, 1 am talking about the major robberies that have taken place, the hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax that individuals are able to avoid paying. This Bill seeks to overcome that sort of shortfall and the Government is asking the Senate to pass it.
One of the things that the Government must do in respect of its outgoings is to fund education. Education is a very important aspect of funding. I refer not only to the traditional education that is normally thought of, such as primary, secondary and tertiary education, but also to education in the broad sense. I refer to the question of trade union education. One of the matters which is contained in the Budget and for which the Government is providing substantial funds is the area of trade union education through the Trade Union Training Authority.
– I raise a point of order. I would like you, Mr President, to rule whether trade union training is an appropriate matter to discuss under this Bill.
– Are you the backbencher?
– Oh, no. If this matter is in order J think that all other -
– Why are you so worried, Justin?
– I am not worried, I am only busting to have a go to expose this man. But I cannot do that under this Bill. He is getting away with it and I will not allow him to do that. The Standing Orders provide for him to be kept to the Bill that is before the Senate. If he wants to discuss trade union training in Tasmania he will have to take the consequences. But now is not the appropriate time. I would run the risk of being ruled out of order if I were to counter what he is about to say. He will not get away with it.
– Order! Senator Harradine must relate his remarks to the provisions in the Bill presently before the Senate.
– Thank you, Mr President. I thought I was doing so. The Government has a commitment to trade union education through the Trade Union Training Authority. Substantial sums have been made available in the Budget for that purpose. The purpose of this legislation is to allow for the borrowing of loan moneys to make up the difference between what the Government can receive from its ordinary taxation sources and its expenditure. One of the areas of expenditure is of course trade union training. The Government was not seen off for the amount of $55,000 as was previously alleged by Senator O’Byrne and published by the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union in its newsletter.
– Order! This Bill makes no provision for the matters to which you are now referring. Keep to the Loan Bill as such and not any area- it could be financial- not related directly to the Bill.
– Thank you, Mr President. I believe that the Government has a responsibility to ensure that its programs are properly and adequately funded. I feel that it ought to live or attempt to live within its means and continue to block off the unjustified manipulation of the taxation system by some of those companies and partnerships that are getting away with blue murder in that area. If it were able to do that I believe it would come to us on fewer occasions with the type of legislation that we have before us tonight. I consider that there will be an opportunity- I believe there has been a public opportunity- for the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate to ensure that what has occurred in this chamber does not occur again. That would prove whether he has got the strength of leadership or is too weak to ensure that that does not happen. Mr President, I conclude my remarks.
– Why do you not sit down? Get back in the gutter where you belong.
- Mr President, I draw your attention to what I regard as an utter breach of the Standing Orders. I heard the remark: ‘Get back in the gutter where you belong’. I find that totally offensive to any member of this chamber.
– Order! It is our desire in this chamber to maintain the decorum of the place. Senator Wriedt, the honourable senator had finished his speech. Do you wish to state whether you withdraw? You cannot use those words against an honourable senator.
- Mr President, if you seek a withdrawal, I will certainly withdraw. But may I make the observation, as I rose to a point of order, that I warned the Senate 20 minutes ago what would be the result if this was permitted to go on. I regret using any remarks which you regard as being inappropriate. I do not normally do that. To me it is utterly shameful that this debate, which up until now has been conducted on a reasonably intelligent level, has been allowed by all the previous speakers to degenerate as it has been allowed to degenerate tonight.
– I take a point of order. The Leader of the Opposition has said, as a reflection on the Chair, that tonight this debate has been allowed to degenerate. I find that offensive as it is a reflection on the Chair. I ask that you call upon the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw.
– I did not take the reflection to which you refer in the serious manner you obviously have. For that I thank you. Senator Wriedt, I have no doubt, has no desire to make any reflections on the Chair.
– Not on the Chair. Of course not.
– I press the simple situation. Any one of us can take offence at what is unparliamentary. The words have only one simple meaning, and that is that things were allowed to go on tonight. That is a reflection on the Chair. I do not press it any further. Let Senator Wriedt be judged on his own conduct.
– The honourable senator has made an objection, Senator Wriedt. The honourable senator has objected, I take it, to the words used, indicating some reflection on my conduct of this place.
– I do not want to delay the Senate. I thought that you ruled that your interpretation of what I said was that it was not a reflection on you. I think you would know that it is not my practice in this place to reflect on the Chair. It never has been. I am not deviating from that tonight. I find it petty that the Leader of the Government is trying to use the occasion to make some puerile point. That is all that he is doing. We all know that. There was no reflection on the Chair on my part. If you seek a withdrawal, sir, I will withdraw. But until you seek it, I will not withdraw.
– If you say that you did not intend any reflection on the Chair, I accept that. I ask the Minister for Education to speak now.
- Mr President, I think the Senate and the public would like to know that the Senate had intended to debate the Loan Bill 1 979. In the past 30 minutes, if I may say so, provocation has occurred in this chamber. With great respect and with no reflection on you, Mr President, on your own admission Senator Walsh adopted exactly the kind of approach to this debate that you quite properly found fault with in the case of Senator Harradine. I must put that in perspective. If there are attempts, as apparently there are, for evidence to come out, then Senator Harradine has the opportunity, in accordance with the forms of this Senate, to disclose what he had been attempting to say tonight, and I have no doubt that he will do so. The Bill before the chamber is -
- Mr President, is this the closure of the second reading debate?
– This is the completion of the second reading.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– You may do so after the Minister has spoken. I will call on you.
– No; I am entitled to do so after the speech has been made.
– I have called the Minister. After he has spoken I will call on you, Senator O’Byrne.
– I am entitled to reply immediately after the senator has spoken.
– You should rise immediately after he has finished speaking to indicate your desire to make a personal explanation. I will give you the opportunity to make that explanation in detail.
– He was taking a point of order.
– I take a point of order.
– What is the point of order?
– The Minister was taking a point of order. That is why he was on his feet.
– No. I called him as the next speaker after Senator Harradine. The Minister is speaking to the Bill and is closing this debate.
– He was speaking to a point of order.
– No. It was not a point of order.
– Once again Senator Mcintosh defies you, Mr President. I was not speaking to the point of order. I rose upon your call to me, as Leader of the Government and Minister in charge of this Bill, to conclude this debate. Those on the opposite side of the chamber have used the subject matter of this second reading debate for the purpose of wideranging abuse. Now they are cranky because it has bounced back on them. This Bill is a simple Bill. It is brought in each year at this time to finance the deficit. It is a simple five-clause Bill -
– You did not say that in 1975. That is what we are reminding you of. It is on record.
– I do not mind in the least if the Senate is reminded of 1975. Tonight the Opposition has demonstrated one thing; That it fails to realise that its members are sitting on that side of the chamber not because of this Government but because twice, at the ballot box, by an overwhelming majority, the people of Australia said: ‘You, the Labor Party, sit on that side of the chamber’. No attempts to deflect from that can take away the fact that the one umpire in this country, the ballot box at Federal elections, has placed them on that side of the chamber. It will continue to place them there. They come up with these petty grievances. The fact of the matter is that here is a Bill which aims to finance the deficit. This is the traditional Bill to finance the deficit. The deficit in this Budget is $2, 193m and in the traditional style provision is being made to finance for defence purposes a sum of $ 1,800m, of which some $ 1,604m will be required for Consolidated Revenue purposes. That is the basis of this legislation. In the course of the debate a number of things have been articulated here. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) took the opportunity to give us a lecture on economics and to say fundamentally that what was happening in relation to the size of the deficit, the relationship to employment and all of these things, was wrong; and that what we needed to do was not to concentrate on lowering the deficit, not to tie ourselves to a deficit, but to so enlarge the deficit that we would in some magic way increase employment.
A lot has been done by way of quotations tonight but I want to deal with this basic principle of whether or not there is sound management in the reduction of deficits and whether or not the size of the deficit is fundamental to reduction of inflation and to increase in employment. Tonight Senator Wriedt said that that is a thesis that he rejects entirely.
– We want to know what you said in 1975.
-I will help Senator McAuliffe. I will read out what his Party and his Government said in 1975, to their great joy, and what his present Leader, Mr Hayden, said and has never retracted about the thesis of the importance of small deficits in relation to the control of inflation and in relation to the uplift of employment. Shout as Senator McAuliffe may, he cannot drown out the fact that his Leader, Mr Hayden, said these things. In the 1975 Budget Speech, Mr Hayden looked to the thesis of the control of inflation, the size of the deficit and its relationship to employment. They are the three things on which Senator Wriedt based his whole speech tonight. I will remind honourable senators of what Senator Wriedt said. He said that the size of the deficit could be increased and increased substantially; the size of the deficit is not the worry at all; we should take no note of that and should go about things which would create employment. I read from the Budget Speech delivered by Mr Hayden, the Treasurer in the Whitlam Government:
On the economic front, inflation is this nation ‘s most menacing enemy. We aim to curb it. Unless this aim is achieved, the nation’s productive capacity will run down and job opportunities will diminish.
In the first paragraph the present Leader of the Australian Labor Party (Mr Hayden) said that inflation is the chief enemy; unless it is controlled, job opportunities will diminish. Senator Wriedt ‘s argument tonight went out the window. Mr Hayden said:
Our present level of unemployment is too high. If we fail to control inflation unemployment will get worse.
He went on to say:
This year’s budgetary considerations began, as usual, with an examination of the prospective Budget aggregates. Expenditures were projected to grow much more rapidly than revenues and the prospective deficit was nearly double that of 1974-75. Clearly, such a deficit could not be countenanced under the circumstances.
So the then Treasurer, Mr Hayden, said that a large deficit could not be countenanced under any circumstances. He went on to say:
In the context of an economy beginning to pick up, a deficit of the order initially projected would have been a prescription for accelerating inflation. Its acceptance would have been tantamount to abandoning concern with inflation, discarding our wages policies, condemning the corporate sector to an attack upon its profitability and threatening the future jobs of thousands of Australians- all at a time when the first signs of improvement in most of those respects arc beginning to appear.
The present Labor leader then went on to say:
We arc no longer operating in that simple Keynesian world in which some reduction in unemployment could, apparently, always be purchased at the cost of some more inflation. Today, it is inflation itself which is the central policy problem. More inflation simply leads to more unemployment.
Senator Wriedt rejected this thesis entirely tonight as, no doubt, he is rejecting his leader in another place. I repeat what Mr Hayden ‘s words were when he had economic responsibility:
Today, it is inflation itself which is the central policy problem. More inflation simply leads to more unemployment.
He also said:
Some might argue that a large deficit could be offset by a tough monetary policy- but this would mean greatly increased interest rates, disruption in financial markets, further depression of business confidence and serious company failures. That is an unacceptable option.
The fact is that tonight the Leader of the Opposition has sought, on the basis of this Loan Bill, to put forward a proposition on an economic thesis which is entirely the antithesis of what his leader argued and what happened in government at the time. Mr Hayden articulated the central thesisthat is, if the country is to be restored from inflation, inflation must be tackled first; otherwise Government funding and Government expenditure will be increased and unemployment will be increased. On Mr Hayden ‘s thesis, what Senator Wriedt said tonight is a recipe for increased unemployment.
I make no mention at all of Senator Walsh’s contribution which was a device to get around the Standing Orders of this chamber. I simply say that in this Bill the ordinary forms of financing the deficit are set out. It is a simple Bill in itself. I understand that Senator Wriedt proposes to put forward a series of questions. As in the past, they will be taken on notice and replies will be given to them in due course. As the Opposition has had some bitter nostalgia during this debate, I state again the fact that no amount of argument by the Opposition can overlook one point, namely, that on two major occasions at the ballot box the people of Australia put the Opposition where it is and where it is likely to stay. Having said that, I commend the Bill to the Senate.
-by leave-I would like to make a personal explanation. During the course of the debate on the Loan Bill to authorise the borrowing and expending of money for defence purposes, an honourable senator from Tasmania, Senator Harradine, borrowed the time of the Senate to use it as a forum under parliamentary privilege for his own defence purposes inasmuch as he said that there has been a concerted attempt by a back bencher- he named me- to vilify and assassinate the characters of members of the trade union movement. I reject that statement and I would say that Senator Harradine has offended all the traditions of the Parliament in making that dastardly attack on me. I would also like to draw, the attention of the Senate to the fact that Senator Harradine at the moment is under pressure in Tasmania on this very matter that he has raised in the Senate tonight.
– Order! You are making a personal explanation only.
– This is my personal explanation of why the honourable senator has vilified me. He has misdirected government funds in Tasmania and he is under investigation by the Auditor-General.
– On a point of order, Mr President, I submit that a personal explanation should not go this far.
– A personal explanation, as you well know, Senator O ‘Byrne, is made in a personal way. If you have been misquoted or misrepresented you may reply to that, but may do no more than that. I call Senator O’Byrne.
- Mr President -
– I rise to speak on the point of order.
– If I have been accused of vilifying and assassinating the character of an honourable senator, I should have the right to reply to that charge, to object to it, to deny it and to explain to the Senate the motivation behind this very virulent and unfair attack on me personally.
– No, that would be debating the matter. The honourable senator should deny absolutely what he is said to have done. That would be the personal explanation on matters that have been referred to. There are other times and occasions for the honourable senator to bring this matter up if he wishes to do so. I believe that the honourable senator has stated his case in the personal explanation. He has answered the matter and said that he utterly refutes any wrong impressions that the honourable senator has directed towards him in this matter. He cannot debate the matter.
- Mr President, I still want to speak to that point of order. This is a separate case where the honourable senator is not replying on the indulgence of the President. He has sought leave of the Senate. The Senate granted him leave to make a personal explanation in which he claimed he was defamed in utterances made. I think that the Senate has decided he has full rights to make the full explanation.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order. Standing Order 410 is absolutely clear on this point. It states:
A’ Senator . . . shall not introduce any new matter, or interrupt any Senator in possession of the Chair . . .
We will pass over that part. The Standing Order goes on to state: no debatable matter shall be brought forward or debate arise on such explanation.
I suggest that the ruling you made, Mr President, is the one that should be followed.
– That is quite right. I will quote Standing Order 410 to you, Senator O’Byrne.
– It was my intention to make a personal explanation and to claim that I have been misrepresented by another senator. I do not think that you, Mr President, or any other member of this chamber would deny me the right to deny vehemently that I, as a back bencher, had vilified and assassinated the character of members of the trade union movement in Tasmania. I have attempted to give the background of this attack on me and you, Mr President, have ruled that I am not allowed to do so and I am being prevented from doing so. But I believe that I have the right to make a personal explanation.
– The chamber has given you that right.
– It has given me that right. All I wanted to point out- it is only factual-is that the matter that Senator Harradine attempted to raise tonight relating to the misappropriation of funds from the State Government in Tasmania, for which he is in great difficulty there and for which he is using this forum -
– Order! You are now debating the question and Standing Order 408 does not allow a matter such as this to be debated. I will read the appropriate Standing Order. It states:
By the indulgence of the Senate -
Which has been granted to you, Senator O’Byrne- a senator may explain matters of a personal nature, although there be no Question before the Senate; but such matters may not be debated.
You must observe that Standing Order. You cannot debate the matter. You may explain matters of a personal nature concerning your situation in this regard. You have sought to reply to a misrepresentation, but you cannot debate the matter. I rule that way very firmly.
– I will test out the sincerity of this chamber by asking that the charge that I have vilified and assassinated the characters of members of the trade union movement be withdrawn and that Senator Harradine apologise to me. I insist on that, Mr President.
– At the time the words are uttered points of order may be taken. You cannot take points of order later.
– I rise to a point of order. Mr President, I was in the chamber when Senator O’Byrne rose prior to your calling Senator Carrick to close the debate on the Bill. Senator O’Byrne rose at the conclusion of Senator Harradine ‘s speech and you refused him leave to speak. I well recall that. I was in the chamber. After some toing and froing between you, Senator O’Byrne sat down and you said that he could raise the matter when Senator Carrick had finished. You are now saying that he should have raised the matter at the time, and you denied him the opportunity to do so.
– At the time, the honourable senator indicated to me that he wished to make a personal explanation and I said that I would call him for that purpose after I had called the Minister to whom I had already given the call before Senator O ‘Byrne indicated that he wished to speak. A point of order was not taken at that time. It was a matter of seeking the indulgence of the Senate to make a personal explanation.
– I raise a point of order. I think it is valid. I did not know that Senator Harradine had apparently said that Senator O’Byrne had vilified and assassinated the characters of trade union leaders, which is a serious allegation. Standing Order 408 states:
By the indulgence of the Senate -
Which has been granted to Senator O ‘Byrne- a Senator may explain matters of a personal nature, although there be no Question before the Senate . . .
He is explaining why it is incorrect to say that he vilified and assassinated the characters of trade union leaders, which was the accusation. I think the Standing Orders set out that he has a full right to explain why the accusation is not justified. Therefore, I submit that if the accusation is not justified and is just for the purpose of getting Senator Harradine out of some difficult position in which he finds himself in Tasmania, then Senator O’Byrne is entitled to exonerate himself completely, to extend his expressions to the whole cause of the conflict.
– I have already ruled on the matter which you have raised, Senator Cavanagh.I now put the question that this Bill-
- Mr President, I move-
– Order! Are you seeking leave to make a statement?
– I have not completed my personal explanation. Surely I have certain rights here still.
– I have extended to you every right I can possibly extend to you. I thought you had finished your personal explanation.
– I have not finished. I was sat down by the raising of a point of order. I repeat: A very offensive accusation has been made against me. I am not being given any rights at all to counter that vile accusation and you, Mr President, are ruling that I can draw attention only to the fact that this accusation has been made. You know that previously this sort of cross-fire has taken place here and by your ruling you are depriving me of the right to counter what Senator Harradine has said publicly against me in this chamber.
– And over the airwaves to the nation.
– He has taken advantage of that without any consultation with the Whips. He has abused the privileges of the Senate because usually the Whips arrange the order of speakers. He spoke about a matter which had no reference to the Bill, which is authorising expenditure of moneys. He used the forum of the Senate to attack me and now I am being deprived of my right to defend myself. If that is the way in which the Standing Orders are to be operated here, we are bringing this chamber into disgrace; and that is exactly what Senator Harradine is doing. I want to try to draw a halt to the type of thing whereby he can make these accusations against me and have the protection of the Chair. He does not deserve the protection of the Chair. While he was speaking I drew attention to the fact that he was not relating his remarks to the Bill. You allowed him to go on. He got out what he wanted to express over the air and I am being deprived of my right to defend myself. All I can do now, I suppose, to defer to your ruling, Mr President, is take up the matter during the adjournment debate tonight. But he has the advantage over me in that he is such a crawler -
– Order! You must not use those terms.
– That he would use the air waves to attack me and I have to speak during the adjournment debate when the same people who heard him cannot hear me. It is not fair and I think that something should be done about him.
- Mr President, I move:
In support of that motion I point out that that would enable Senator O’Byrne -
– Order! You cannot move a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders when there is a motion before the Senate, that is, that this Bill be now read a second time.
– As there is obvious interest on both sides of the chamber, when consideration of this Bill has been completed we would be interested in receiving a proposition from either the Labor Party or Senator Harradine that would enable an effective debate on the subject to take place, as two members of this chamber allege certain things against each other. I invite the chamber to conclude its consideration of this Bill so that we can direct our attention to other matters.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– At the second reading stage of the Bill I indicated that I intended to ask a number of questions of the Government, as we have done in previous years. I shall read the questions and I trust that the Government will give us satisfactory answers to them. We are not opposing the legislation, but we do want answers to the following questions:
Question No. 1
What was the total of unused cash balance at 30 June 1979?
Question No. 2
How were subscriptions to the Government’s loan program derived:
institutions under the 30-20 rule;
open public subscriptions;
has there been any change in the distribution of subscriptions of the tap and tender system and if so what;
what have been the amounts of securities offered by the Reserve Bank of Australia during each week since the introduction of the tap and tender system and what were the interest rates applicable to every offering?
Question No. 3
How does the Government propose to fund or finance the deficit for the coming year now estimated at $2 . 2m?
Is it the intention of the continued overseas borrowings to support the Australian dollar or to supplement domestic resources available for developmental purposes?
The balance and details of the various areas outlined below would be helpful in analysing the position:
Net drawings under overseas credit arrngements;
b ) net proceeds of overseas borrowings;
net proceeds of bond sales to the non-bank public;
) net changes in Treasury notes on issue-
1 ) to the non-bank public: and
to the banking system;
net proceeds of bond sales to the banking system;
f) use of Reserve Bank cash balances: and
the amount of interest received on each loan raised overseas of which the funds have not been remitted to Australia.
Question No. 4
What are the implications of maintenance of the 1978-79 level of overseas borrowings by the Australian Government for:
) The Australian capital market;
b ) the money supply; and
private capital inflow especially of equity capital?
Question No. 5
What are the existing amortisation and interest payments on total Australian- Commonwealth and States- overseas loans, in Australian dollars, due during 1978-79, 1979-80, 1980-81, 1981-82 and 1982-83?
Question No. 6
What are the total Australian and overseas borrowings approved by Australian Government statutory authorities?
Were those borrowings or any similar borrowings in years preceding 1978-79 provided out of the Federal Budget and if so which authorities and what were the amounts for each year since 1970-71?
What are the overseas borrowings made by Australian Government statutory authorities which are supported by an Australian Government guarantee? What are the details of each loan?
Have there been exchange losses or gains on loans by Australian Government statutory authorities for loans raised since 30 June 1 970 and if so what are the losses or gains for each loan?
Question No. 7
What are the ratios of Australia’s exports of goods and services to total external debt in each year since 1 970?
What has been Australia ‘s external debt service ratio in each year since 1 950?
How does this external debt ratio compare with comparable countries, such as Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and New Zealand?
How does the external debt ratio compare with all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries?
Question No. 8
What arc the details of the overseas loans entered into or under negotiation by the Commonwealth after 1 January 1 976? In particular, in what currency are the loans repayable and on what dates and in what currency is the interest payable?
What are the negotiation commissions for each of the loans negotiated or in the process of being negotiated and after taking account of the negotiation commissions what are the effective annual rates of interest?
Where have loans raised overseas but not remitted to Australia been invested, at what rates and under what terms and conditions?
Question No. 9
At what stage of 1979 was the equivalent Bill or Bills introduced; what amount was finally transferred under the procedures outlined in those Bills and what was the surplus or deficiency?
Question No. 10
What is the reason for the urgency of the Bill; why should it be passed before the Appropriation Bills for 1 979-80?
Question No. 1 1
For 1978-79 what was the amount of defence expenditure transferred from the Consolidated Revenue fund to the loan fund?
Question No. 12
What are the specific authorities under which expenditures have been charged to the loan fund from 1978-79?
Question No. 1 3
What is the Australian Loan Council program for 1979-80?
Are there any resolutions of Loan Council relating to defence loans?
What credits are, or would be, available in the loan fund which can be used for defence expenditure?
Question No. 1 4
Has approval been given to any of the States for borrowing funds outside Australia, and what are the terms and conditions of these loans?
Question No. 1 5
What are the proportions of the loan proceeds since the introduction of the tap and tender system relating to long term borrowings and short term monies?
How much long and short term monies were obtained from banks and other institutions?
Has any attempt been made during 1977-78 to identify details of stocks taken up by institutions other than the banks and, if not, why not?
What are the results?
Question No. 1 6
Docs the Government confirm the overall target rate of growth in the volume of money, the M3 factor, announced in the Budget Speech?
If the overall target has been varied, what is the up to date figure?
Question No. 1 7
Have any estimates been made about the rate of private capital inflow for 1979-80 and, if so, what is the estimated flow?
If the flow does not achieve the estimates, what is the effect on the current arrangements for financing the deficit and supporting the value of the Australian dollar?
Question No. 18
What have been the quarterly receipts for the crude oil levy?
What are the anticipated crude oil levy receipts for each quarter of 1979-80 and what is the estimated price of Saudi Arabian light crude in each quarter on which the projected revenue from the levy is based?
As I indicated earlier, we expect considered replies from the Government at the first opportunity.
– I indicated in my response to remarks made by honourable senators in the second reading debate that the Government will seek answers to those questions and let the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) have them.
– I would like to address a question to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), who is responsible for the Loan Bill. I remind the Minister that the Loan Bill which is being debated in the chamber is a machinery measure which provides for loan funds to be raised specifically to meet defence expenditure because there are insufficient funds in Consolidated Revenue. The amount sought is $ 1,604m. The Minister in his second reading address said that this is a machinery measure designed for the purposes I have just expressed. I ask the Minister: In 1975, when the Loan Bill which sought to appropriate an amount of $ 1 ,502m was introduced into the Parliament correctly in accordance with finance regulations prescribed by the Audit Act in order to make funds available for defence expenditure because there were insufficient funds in Consolidated Revenue that year and was before the Senate, why did he and the other holders of ministerial rank today say that the legislation was a ploy and was an attempt by the Whitlam Labor Government to jack up the deficit with which it would be confronted? The then Opposition asked a series of questions- some 14 in all - which filled three pages of the Senate Hansard. I am not trying to be funny or to score a point.
Over a period of years I have had some respect for the Leader of the Government in the Senate, but in this instance I am very mindful of what he said in this chamber in 1975, supported by Senator Baume. This evening, because positions have changed, he is trying to tell us that this is a machinery measure introduced simply to provide funds. I would like the Minister to explain to me what is the difference, other than in the amount appropriated, between the Loan Bill of 1 975 and the legislation which is before us this evening. I am particularly interested in this. I have had the honour of being Chairman of the nation’s Joint Committee of Public Accounts. Even if I appear vain, I feel I know something of the procedures under which the Parliament is financed. In 1 975 I was horrified and astounded to hear Senator Carrick in particular take the stand he did and make all sorts of innuendoes to the effect that the then Whitlam Labor Government was rigging the books. If the provisions of the Bills introduced in 1975 and 1979 are the same, will the Minister admit to the Senate that the preposterous stand that he adopted in 1975 was one of chosen ignorance and was designed not to seek genuine information but to enable him to engage in innuendo to embarrass the government of the day?
– Let me put in perspective what this Loan Bill does. If there is a deficit in the Budget it is necessary, in order to contain inflation, to undertake public borrowing programs so that the volume of money in the community is not inflated. There is a deficit of $2, 193m, but the Consolidated Revenue deficit is $ 1,604m. The Bill proposes that borrowings shall not exceed $ 1,800m there being allowed a little leeway. The device used is that the borrowings are for defence purposes. As Senator McAuliffe will know, under the 1927 Loan Council financial agreement and the gentlemen’s agreements as such borrowings for defence purposes traditionally do not need the approval of other members of the Loan Council. This has been the ordinary device; this is the machinery process.
The debate tonight is on a Budget which in itself is within the ordinary parameters of normal finance and normal good management. By all tests the debate in 1975 was on a wide series of mismanagements which led to questions being asked and a stand being taken. Senator McAuliffe says that a list of questions was asked at the time. I well recall them. A very similar list of questions has been posed tonight. I take it that Senator Wriedt is earnestly seeking information, and so we will get it. I can only say that the test of the validity of the then Opposition’s stand on the Loan Bill was the test of the two ballot boxes, in 1975 and 1977.
– I enter into the debate at the Committee stage because of a remark made by the Leader of the Government, Senator Carrick, when he was closing the second reading debate. He said tonight that this Bill was only a simple Bill and that he could not understand the attitude taken by members of the Labor Party in their speeches at the second reading stage. I want to remind Senator Carrick of what happened in 1975. 1 will quote his words which are recorded in Hansard on 1 October 1975 at page 879. The Senate was debating the Loan Bill 1975. When Senator Carrick rose to speak at 13 minutes past ten he said:
Mr Deputy President, the Senate is debating the Loan Bill 1975. It is not, as the Government would like to have us believe, a minor machinery matter. It is a vital part of the overall strategy of the Federal Budget, and the testing or this Bill is a primary testing of the authenticity or the validity of the Budget itself.
Senator Carrick said on 1 October 1 975 that the Loan Bill was not a minor machinery Bill as the Government claimed. Yet in the chamber tonight he claims that the Loan Bill 1 979 which the Government has introduced is only a simple Bill. Worse than that, let us look at what he said further on in his comments. At page 883 of Hansard for the same date he is reported as saying:
In other words the Government will increase substantially the total money supply by printing money, thereby escalating intiation to an enormous degree. What is the result of an analysis of this simple little machinery Loan Bill?
Of course Senator Carrick said that in a very facetious manner. In Hansard that statement is followed by a question mark. That shows that attitude Senator Carrick adopted then. He further went on to say:
First, it is a device, and a corrupt device. The corruption is evident throughout the whole of the Budget Speech.
If I had the time to turn up further remarks Senator Carrick made on Loan Bills while the Labor Party was in government honourable senators would see where Senator Carrick repeatedly accused the Whitlam Government of being corrupt, deceitful and dishonest. I have raised the matter in the chamber many times. When senators on this side of the chamber use those same words against this Government the President stops them. The same thing happened tonight in the second reading debate. It was said that such words could be used quite legitimately in a substantive motion. Such words were used repeatedly in substantive motions by the Leader of the Government not only concerning the Loan Bill but also concerning the Budget. He was repeatedly accusing the Whitlam Government of corruption, deceit and dishonesty.
The Minister has the gall to claim tonight that this is only a simple Bill and to ask why the Labor Party Opposition should make any remarks at all about it. He claimed, as I said, in October 1975 that the Loan Bill was not a simple Bill but was a matter of major importance associated with the then Budget. I think that the more Senator Carrick speaks in this place the more we realise that he is a man of double standards. He will say one thing in Opposition and the very opposite in Government. I hope that the public at large in the very near future will wake up to the double standards of this Government which are espoused by Senator Carrick so often in the Senate.
– It is unwise for the Leader of the Government (Senator Carrick) to introduce new matters at the Committee stage of the debate because it leads to the necessity of rebuttal. He referred with great emphasis to the ballots of 1975 and 1 977 when the will of the people prevailed. I can take him back a little further than that- to 1 972 and 1974, but particularly to 1974, when the will of the people prevailed. The then Opposition refused to accept that verdict and immediately began to institute a series of procedures in order to defeat the elected government of the day, and it succeeded. The device that was used was a similar Bill to that before us. The Leader of the Government needs to be reminded again and again that the then Opposition used the Loan Bill in this place as a device to stop the flow of funds to the community in order to defeat the elected government of the day.
Let us not refer to the ballot boxes of 1975 or 1977 because the then Opposition took the elected government of the day to the ballot box at the height of its unpopularity. In fact that is what we should be doing now if we had the numbers which honourable senators opposite had on that occasion. They got the numbers in a very devious and, shall we say, unsavoury way. They got them with the help of Bjelke-Petersen and ex-senator Pat Field. The then Opposition got those numbers in order to prevent the passage of the Loan Bill. It used delaying tactic after delaying tactic. It instituted the greatest strike of all times. It perpetuated its will upon the people and upon this House. This House was misused for the sole purpose of destroying the elected government of the day and of denying the people their right to the ballot box. If we had the numbers and if we were to follow the precedent of honourable senators opposite we would take the Government to the ballot box at the moment of its greatest unpopularity.
– You would get the stick as you got it in South Australia.
– Would the honourable senator like to test the ballot box? The honourable senator will have noticed what the polls are showing federally in South Australia. There is a swing of 10 per cent running against the honourable senator’s party. I challenge the Government to test the ballot box. Honourable senators opposite have reached the reprehensible stage that they accused us of. Are they prepared to let us take the issue to the people?
– Would they endorse you again, Senator?
– I need no one’s endorsement. I am not here to waste time; that is the last thought that would enter my mind. I wish to make some very pertinent points in rebuttal of the matters raised by the Leader of the Government. Let us put an end to this dissembling. I almost used the word hyprocrisy but that is not a term we should use here. Let us face the fact that honourable senators opposite deliberately used the device of this Bill to defeat the elected Government of the day. It is no use the Leader of the Government winding on. I am reminded of the wise old Greek who said of someone: ‘He talks out of both sides of his mouth ‘. When I hear the Leader of the Government really at it, either at Question Time or when he is stirred by an interjection, 1 believe that he is talking, as the wise old Greek said, out of both sides of his mouth. I do not mean that in a disrespectful way. 1 merely say that he says so much but so little. He is in such a hurry that it pours out; it does not come out in the normal, reasonable and respectable way.
– Don’t look at Senator McLaren when you say that.
-Senator McLaren has another style, an effective style. We owe quite a deal to Senator McLaren, especially when there is a dull moment in this place. Do not in any way deny to Senator McLaren that he is effective when he is on his feet. He puts honourable senators opposite in retreat and he always speaks the truth. I am not reflecting on anyone on the Government side at the present time, but Senator McLaren always speaks the truth.
I return to the Loan Bill, which is the matter before the Chair. I have pointed out the devious methods which the Opposition of the day- the Government of today- used against the people. We would like some information, just as honourable senators opposite sought information. Perhaps I am not as polite or as considerate as the Leader of the Opposition. I remember that honourable senators opposite demanded information and delayed proceedings until that information was obtained. For that reason, perhaps I am justified in taking a different attitude from that of my leader by seeking right now the information for which he has asked. I ask for it to be given not at some future date but right now.
– On their own standards, they should have it here.
-That is correct; or they would hold up this place until they received the information, and we should endeavour to do so. A number of questions have been asked tonight, and I say to the Leader of the Government in the Senate that he should be able to answer some of those questions. Surely, with the facilities he has at his disposal, it should not be too difficult to answer question No. 1: What was the total of the unused cash balance at 30 June 1979? It is a oneline question and we should be able to get a quick answer. What was the total of the unused cash balance at 30 June 1979? At this stage, I will sit down in order to give the Government an opportunity to answer that question before we proceed to get the answers to the rest of the questions.
– This debate seems to have degenerated into a discussion as to which was the most corrupt, deceitful and dishonest government- the Whitlam Government or this Government. I am not an adjudicator on that matter. Possibly I would be prejudiced in making an assessment, so I will leave it at that. The Minister has stated that the Government is budgeting for a deficit of $ 1,604m, which is the difference between its expenditure and its income. This Bill relates to another $ 1,800m of government expenditure which is derived not from income but from loan moneys. Do I understand from that that this year the real deficit of the Government will be $3,404m, of which all but $ 1,604m will be covered by revenue received, and that an extra expenditure of $ 1,800m for defence purposes will come from loans? If that is so, the Budget deficit of expenditure over income is being reduced by finding another method of financing the deficit. Is that a true analysis of what will happen? If so, will the government be truthful and say what its deficit of expenditure over income will be this year, excluding loans? In order to hide such a deficit do we have to commit the country to additional loans and additional interest repayments?
– Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) give us the answers to the questions that have been put to him tonight by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt)? If not, I will take further part in this debate.
– It appears that there is some kind of warfare between the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) and his party. The Leader of the Opposition undertook from the table to accept the arrangement that the questions would be answered in due course, with expedition, after this Bill is passed. He accepted that, but tonight there has been an attempt to filibuster, to spin out this debate. Because the Labor Party does not want a broadcast of the debate that apparently it so eagerly sought before, a device is being used. The Government has accepted the Leader of the Opposition ‘s offer that 1 8 questions be supplied and answers given at a later date, and that would encompass Senator George’s question. The answer to Senator Cavanagh ‘s question is no. What he says is wrong. The deficit is $2, 193m, of which $ 1,604m is from the Consolidated Revenue account, and we are borrowing a maximum of $ 1,800m to make a safe margin. The wording defence expenditure’ is simply the device that is used by all governments to borrow money without the need to go to the Loan Council.
– I want to make it clear from the outset that there is no divergence of opinion between the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) and the back benchers. I also want to make it abundantly clear that the Leader of the Opposition has been a lot more conciliatory than the Government was when it was in Opposition. I remind honourable senators of what happened in 1975 when a similar Bill was before the Senate. I will quote from Hansard the words of Senator Cotton, who was the then Opposition spokesman in this chamber.
– And they had the numbers then.
– Yes, they had the numbers. As recorded on page 698 of Hansard, in answer to an interjection from Senator Devitt, Senator Cotton said:
Senator, I appreciate very much your continuous interest and your wish to help, but if you will let me proceed the whole scene will become clear. To repeat, what I am saying now is that on 29 August -
That was 1975- 10 questions were asked. On 2 September we received answers to those 10 questions. Following on from that we held the view that there was a need for more information, more specific detail, and some clarity in some of these areas which are still of concern. Accordingly, the Minister arranged for some senior Treasury officials to have a conference with a few of us on the morning of 3 September.
I ask Senator Carrick: Will he give to members of the Opposition the same facilities as we gave to Senator Cotton when we were in government? Will he arrange for a consultation between the Treasury officials and the Leader of the Opposition in order to provide the answers to the questions that he has asked, so that we might be able to do the same as he did- come back with a further 17 questions as a result of the answers given to the first 10? When we were in government we did not attempt to railroad the Bill through the Senate. We got the answers for the Opposition. We made provision for Senator Cotton and two other honourable senators to sit down in consultation with officers from the Treasury. That was arranged by the Labor Government. We had nothing to hide on the Loan Bill. Of course, the then Opposition was not satisfied with the answers to those 10 questions. As Senator Cotton said, according to Hansard, the then Opposition came up with a further 1 7 questions. We provided the answers to those questions and then proceeded to the second reading of the Bill. I ask Senator Carrick tonight, in all fairness, to make the same facilities available to Senator Wriedt and next week, after we have had the answers to those questions, permit us if need be to pose more questions that may have arisen out of them, proceeding only then to the final stages of the Bill. If he will not do that, I can only repeat that he speaks with a forked tongue- that he says one thing when he is in Opposition and another when he is in government.
Government senators interjecting-
– There are a lot of interjections from the other side of the chamber. Since I have been in this place I have learned to go back to the Hansard record and quote what is in it. I take that as gospel as to what has been said in this place. If the record had not been correct I am sure that the particular senator concerned would have taken action to have it corrected, to ensure that he would not be misreported. Therefore, the words that I have quoted from Hansard on two occasions tonight are the exact words that were uttered, firstly, by Senator Carrick in the second reading debate on the Loan Bill and, secondly, by Senator Cotton in seeking answers to 10 questions. I repeat, we provided the facilities for him to sit down with Treasury officials and question them in private. Then, when we brought him the answers to the 10 questions, Senator Cotton posed another 17 questions to which he wanted answers. I am quite convinced in my own mind that Senator Carrick would have been one of those persons who, with Senator Cotton, consulted the Treasury officials. I say that because of the expertise that he thought he had when he debated the Bill at the second reading stage and also because of his probing questions, before the Estimates committee, in trying to embarrass the Whitlam Government. Our record is clear. When we were in Government we made the facilities available to the then Opposition, and in all fairness we now ask the Government to make the same facilities available to the present Opposition.
– I would like to ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). Earlier I heard him say that the deficit was $2, 1 39 m and that the shortage in the Consolidated Revenue Fund was $ 1,604m but that to play safe the Government was asking for the provision under this Bill of $ 1,800m. On this occasion we are exploring this matter just as did Senator Carrick and his henchmen in 1975. 1 am interested to know how the difference of $196 m bet ween the shortage of $ 1,604m in the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the amount of $ 1,800m being appropriated under this Bill is to be accounted for. Someone commented to me the other day that the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) had had a bad month: His new planes were falling out of the sky, his submarines would not submerge, the radar and the Skyhawks had tumbled off the Melbourne, his race horses could not win and the lizards he backed at Cunnamulla had got the message from the Government and were running around in circles. I ask Senator Carrick whether the $ 196m difference referred to in order to play safe, as compared with the actual shortage in the Consolidated Revenue Fund is designed to cover these misadventures of the Minister for Defence?
– The answer is no. Every government has used exactly this procedure. It has always given itself a limit that is beyond the deficit in the Consolidated Revenue. It is the maximum amount that can be borrowed. In fact, the Government may not borrow to that level or anything like it.
– I want to remind the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) of some of the words he used in the debate on the Loan Bill of 1975.
– Come, come!
Senator Harradine says, ‘Come, come! ‘
– He was here in 1975.
– I do not know that he was. It might help the honourable senator if these matters were recalled.
– You are worrying Senator O’Byrne. He wants to get on before the night is over.
– I invite those honourable senators to go and have their blue outside. I am now talking about a very important matter, the Loan Bill 1979 and wish to remind the Leader of the Government in the Senate, in case he feels that we are filibustering, of something that he said in 1975 when the same sort of Bill was before the Senate. On 1 October 1975, Senator Carrick spoke in the debate on the Loan Bill 1975 at 10.13 p.m. and said:
Mr Deputy President, the Senate is debating the Loan Bill 1975. It is not, as the Government would like to have us believe, a minor machinery matter. It is a vital part of the overall strategy of the Federal Budget, and the testing of this Bill is a primary testing of the authenticity or the validity of the Budget itself.
– That was when they were bushranging.
-This is what Senator Carrick said when he was a member of the Opposition. I remind him that he added:
It is therefore a very proper and absolutely necessary duty of an Opposition to do what we are now doing.
He went on to raise certain matters and the debate continued until 15 October, a fortnight longer. It was on 15 October that the then Senator Cotton, acting on behalf of the then Opposition, posed certain questions to the Labor Government. After a period of 14 days, notwithstanding the fact that Senator Wriedt, the Leader of the Government in the Senate at the time, had given answer after answer to questions posed on this important Bill, the Loan Bill 1975, the then Opposition decided to defer passage of the Bill until the then Government agreed to go to an election.
– It is only a machinery measure tonight.
Tonight, as my colleague, Senator McAuliffe says, it is referred to as a machinery matter, despite the fact that on 1 October 1975, as reported at page 879 of Hansard, Senator Carrick, a front bench member of the then Opposition, said: lt is not, as the Government would like to have us believe, a minor machinery matter.
– How long did it take?
-My colleague, Senator Mcintosh, asked me how long it took. I inform honourable senators that that was a speech made by Senator Carrick on 1 October 1975. The motion to defer further consideration of the Bill was moved by Senator Cotton on 15 October 1975. It took a fortnight to reach that determination. Then from 1 5 October to 1 1 November, which was a period of between three weeks and a month, we know what the situation was. It is complete hypocrisy for the members of the Government now to say that it is a minor machinery matter and merely an interim part of the Budget strategy. Therefore, I feel that it is fair enough for us on the Opposition side to ask the sorts of questions that were asked by the then Opposition when we were in government. The unfortunate situation, of course, is that so far as we are concerned we do not have the capacity, as the then Opposition had the capacity at that time, to stack the numbers in the Senate because it was never satisfied with the answers that we gave. I believe that all of the questions that have been posed by my colleague, the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt, are questions that should be given due consideration by the Government. If the Government is not hypocritical, if it is true to what it said in 1 975, then it will see that this debate is adjourned until the answers are provided in a proper manner so that we of the Opposition can consider the answers that the Government might provide.
– I am seldom guilty of feeling resentment, but I do feel it tonight especially since the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) endeavoured to divide us on this side. He endeavoured to indicate that there was some sort of disagreement in the approach that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) was taking and the approach that we were taking. There was nothing of the sort. We are merely endeavouring to emphasise the difference in the position which the Leader of the Opposition has taken on this occasion and the position which the Government took when it had before it a loan Bill, which is a device or a means of raising defence money. It is an extraordinary Bill which comes before us at this time. The Government has indicated that this is a machinery Bill. But on all other occasions it was referred to as a very important instrument by which the Government of the day was destroyed. Perhaps I am being repetitive, but nevertheless it is necessary for me to make that point again.
It is obvious that the Government does not realise or appreciate the enormity of the action which it took in 1975. The enormity of the action is now relevant to this debate. All those things of which the present Government falsely accused the Labor Government of the day can be accurately returned to it because it brought the nation to a position which I can describe as truly reprehensible. If the Government followed its own advice it would resign and go to the people. I am particularly interested in the fact that this Bill refers somewhere to defence. That makes what Senator McAuliffe said very pertinent indeed. I was attracted to what he was saying about the Minister for Defence, Mr Killen, and the fact that his portfolio had become a disaster. It is not only a disaster to Mr Killen but also a disaster to the whole nation. One wonders why he is not called Calamity Killen. As Senator McAuliffe has explained, he has poor luck at most things and he certainly has poor luck at lizard racing. That is the record of this Government. I will now turn back to the matter before the Chair.
– It is no wonder you smile.
– I have not had much practice at that lately. Nevertheless I can smile at the discomfiture of the Government at this moment. What was it endeavouring to do tonight? It is not concerned with the proper running of this place. It was about to take advantage of a situation and to cause a disorder. I hold the Leader of the Government in the Senate responsible.
– At the request of Senator O ‘Byrne to have time on the air.
– It shows the standards which the Government applies to this place in that the Leader of the Government in the Senate allows this chamber to descend or to break down on the initiative of Senator Harradine from Tasmania. I am sorry that I have deviated. He is provocative to the extreme. Even gentle, mild mannered senators on this side are often stirred to anger. The matter before the Chair is the Loan Bill, the device that was misused in 1975. As I have said before- it will be repeated again and again in this place- the Liberal-National Country Party coalition used the device falsely in this place and brought this chamber into discredit to defeat the elected government of the day. If honourable senators think that 1 am going back too far, I point out that we are constantly reminded in this place by the Leader of the Government in the Senate of the errors of the past. We ought now to be concerned with the errors of the present, the errors of this Government which have brought 400,000 people- more than 400,000 people, if we consider the situation correctly- into the area of poverty. If anything is to be considered reprehensible then, of course, that is.
I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question which, for some reason or other, he has forgotten or he is not prepared to answer. It was just one question, not 10 or a further 1 7. 1 just asked one question, only to have it brushed aside. He does himself a disservice, but he does his advisers an even greater disservice. My understanding is that if they were asked the question they would give the answer. But the Leader of the Government in the Senate is taking an obstinate position. He refused to give information which surely should be readily available to him. The question which I asked him to answer was this: Question No. 1. What was the total of the unused cash balance at 30 June 1979? I am very much interested in that and so is Senator Young, obviously. Senator Missen showed some interest. As to Senator Davidson, I am not quite certain whether he understands what this is all about, but it seems to me that there is an interest in this question which is before the Chair. It is: What was the total of the unused cash balance at 30 June 1979? I invite the Minister to give the answer.
– I gave the answer. I said that at Senator Wriedt’s request we would provide that answer as we would with the others. I draw the attention of the Committee to the device to so debate so that there is a denial of a debate on the air on a request made by Senator O’Byrne. If indeed this debate goes on until the broadcast time is ended it will be an indication that the Labor Party in fact aims to so talk this out by way of filibuster so that there can be no time. The request was made by the Opposition. I want it clearly understood that that is so.
– The Government has to borrow $ 1,800m on the advice that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has given this chamber to furnish accommodation for the Loan Bills to make up an inadequacy in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. I ask the Minister Where does the Government propose to raise this money and at what interest rate will it be raised? I am prompted to ask that question on the Loan Bill, which I know is a little irregular and not what normally would be asked during the discussion of a Loan Bill, as I was reminded of the sanctimonious attitude of the Government in 1975 when the Whitlam Government proposed to raise petrodollars from the Arab countries. We heard all sorts of accusations such as: ‘Fancy getting money from the Arabs. You will have to make a political statement and declare where you stand on the Arab- Israeli question’. That was absolute rot because the money was to come through the Moscow Narodny Bank, be deposited in the United States of America and to come into this country by way of equipment.
I mention that because I am absolutely astounded to find out the avenues where the present Government is raising its $5,000m of overseas borrowing. The Government says that it does not know where it will come from. But it must be aware of that. Papers such as the Wall Street Journal, Barrons. the Economist, the Financial Times and so on have stated who are the lenders and the sub-lenders. Let us look at some of the areas where the money has been raised. It has been raised at the Banque Arabe et Internationale et Investissement the Kuwait International Investment Company, the Arab Financial Consultants Company, the Saudi International Bank, and so the list goes on. So much for the sanctimonious Fraser Government which was concerned with where the funds of the Labor Government were coming from. I am concerned with where this money will be raised. I am not only concerned with the avenues from which it will be raised but also concerned with the rate of interest that will be paid.
In the days of the Whitlam Labor Government money was raised on paper money value rates at between 5 per cent and 9 per cent. But this Government is on record as having paid as high as 20 per cent for some of its loans. I would like the Minister to assure me as to where this money will come from. Will it come from the Arab states that this Government so roundly condemned the Whitlam Government for considering? What will the interest rate be?
– What is the commission?
– I would not suggest that. I do think that Ministers of the Crown are honourable people, irrespective of their political persuasion. I do not subscribe to the accusations of corruption that were levelled at the Labor Ministers when we were in government. I did not accept it then and I am not prepared to accept it now as criticism of the people who sit opposite as Ministers. But one cannot criticise one crowd of people for taking certain action and adopting a sanctimonious attitude and then find oneself in the self-same position and endeavour to justify it.
– While this debate has continued I have become concerned with the actual intention of the Loan Bill. Senator Carrick raised the question that on this side of the chamber there is an action of filibustering for the sole purpose of preventing one senator from getting on the air. I think that justifies some reply. Whilst it would be a departure from the Bill at the Committee stage, the invitation to depart from the Bill was introduced by the Minister for Education. It is true that we have been notified that after this Bill Senator Harradine will move the suspension of Standing Orders to permit Senator O’Byrne to speak for 10 minutes to reply to some allegation that Senator Harradine made. We received an indication from Senator Carrick that the Government would support that motion and it would be carried. The condition was that Senator Harradine would have 10 minutes to reply to what Senator O’Byrne may have said, which on any standard is not a fair deal.
– He can go second, as far as that is concerned.
-Mr Chairman, you will note the interruption of a guilty conscience. I believe that the whole question is based on the accusation made by Senator Harradine that Senator O’Byrne has vilified and assassinated the character of trade union leaders. That is as I understand it. Although the Standing Ordersfrom rulings given tonight- prevent Senator O’Byrne from replying to that, obviously the only person with an entitlement to speak on the accusations made is Senator O’Byrne. If we are to be involved in a discussion on corruption that may occur in Tasmania I cannot believe that Tasmanians will be in their igloos listening to the radio to hear what we are saying in Canberra.
– No worries. Nobody is listening.
– I think that Senator Harradine ‘s secretary possibly is listening but I do not think anyone else is interested in what he may have said. I think we are fooling ourselves.
– Order! Senator Cavanagh, I must ask you to confine your remarks to the Loan Bill. I believe that you the addressing yourself to a motion that has not as yet been moved.
– I appreciate that, Mr Chairman. I congratulate you on a ruling that did not seem to apply when Senator O’Byrne tried to make his application. Coming back to the Bill, I do not think that what the Opposition is accused of is real, although there may be some justification for it. There is real anxiety about the provisions of the Bill. From an analysis of the Bill we can see that clause 3 makes provision for the Government to borrow to the extent of $ 1 ,800m. Clause 4 provides:
Moneys borrowed . . . that is the $ 1,800m- under section 3 shall be applied only Tor the expenses of borrowing and for services specified under the heading DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE’ . . .
Therefore, the first question is: What is the cost of borrowing the $ 1 ,800m?
– At what interest rate?
– I think that the interest rate is pertinent. What is the cost? How much goes into defence? As responsible representatives of the taxpayers of Australia should we agree to the right of the Government to borrow $ 1,800m with interest payments for the purpose of defence without knowing the expenditure which the Department of Defence will make? We seem to have expended a huge amount of money on some material acquired for defence and it has been dumped in the sea. That seems to be the record at the present time.
– The radar fell off HMAS Melbourne, and we have submarines that do not surface.
– And an aeroplane fell off HMAS Melbourne. Are we justified in voting $ 1,800m for defence, for equipment that is never used in defence, never fires a shot, but acts simply as a haven for fish or sharks under the sea? Surely we are entitled to some explanation as to how the $ 1,800m is to be expended. How much will the raising of the loans cost? When we have collected the money, what will we spend it on? Will it be spent on ships, or submarines that do not surface, as the honourable senator from Queensland said? Surely we are entitled to some explanation. Clause 5 ( 1 ) of the Bill reads:
Nothing in this Act or in an Act referred to in section 4 shall be taken to authorize the expenditure for a service referred to in section 4 of an amount the expenditure of which would result in the total expenditure for that service under this Act and the Acts referred to in section 4 exceeding the total of the amounts authorized by the Acts referred to in section 4 to be expended in respect of that service.
This seems to be a limitation on the $ 1, 800m. But we have no explanation and the Minister seems reluctant to give us any explanation, as is obvious from his refusal to reply to Senator Georges’ question in relation to this expenditure. It is all right if a Minister cannot supply these details and has passed over the table to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) a statement that the answers will be supplied at some time in the future. But surely this is vital information concerning the matter of whether we should pass the authority Ibr the raising of a loan of $ 1,800m. If the Minister cannot supply this information now, and that is something which is readily understood because the Minister representing the Minister for Defence possibly cannot supply it, should we, without knowledge of what is the surplus overhanging, give the Government power to raise it? Surely we are entitled to an answer to the pertinent questions.
– Tell them you will refuse Supply. That will do it.
– In my experience in the Senate no government has ever refused Supply. But on two occasions a government deferred Supply until such time as certain things happened. All that I am saying now is that on the basis of the criteria that the Liberal Party has set, the Opposition is justified in deferring this Bill until such time as answers are given to Senator Wriedt. Then we can decide whether or not the expenditure is justified.
– Tell them that it will be deferred.
– We have not said that we want an adjournment. We said that we would not refuse it.
– I hope to come in somewhere in this debate between Senator Missen and Senator McClelland. I am sorry to be interrupting the honourable senators, but I feel that there are some things which must be said. The question is not whether we can amend or refuse. The Senate’s power of restriction relates to a money Bill, and a money Bill deals with the ordinary annual expenditure of government. This Bill could be amended or it could be deferred. There are no implications in regard to what I still consider the unconstitutional action of a government on two occasions in the past.
– You should seek a legal opinion.
-My legal friends who I accept as having some legal knowledge disagree with me if they are members of the Government forces but agree with me if they are members of the Opposition forces. That shows the validity and security of legal opinions. But at least I ask.
– It depends on how much you pay for the opinion.
-That is an entirely new thought. That is another reason why this matter should be adjourned. Perhaps I should check the Treasury of the Labor Party to see what legal advice we can get. But I do ask the Minister to answer the question. Can he give us some information on how this $ 1,800m will be used for defence expenditure?
- Mr Chairman, it is over an hour now since the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) asked 16 questions of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick).
– We have not got an answer yet.
– You have not got an answer. The Leader of the Opposition agreed to the suggestion by the Leader of the Government in the Senate that detailed responses to these questions would be provided to the Opposition, and indeed to the Senate, after the Bill was passed. That was accepted by the Leader of the Opposition. I just wonder why the Opposition now seeks to delay this particular Bill.
– We are not delaying it. We are asking a few questions.
– It is the first time in three and a half years that a Bill of this nature has taken this amount of time. I do not know about previous years, because I was not here. I speak merely from my own experience, and this is the first time in my memory that such a long time has been taken over this type of legislation. One has to ask oneself why, and one has to come to the conclusion that members of the Opposition, with the cognisance of the Leader of the Opposition, are allowing Senator O’Byrne time to prepare statements which he and they will regret.
– What are you talking about?
- Senator O’Byrne requested time to make certain statements while our proceedings were being broadcast and I foreshadowed that I would enable that to take place. I cannot perceive of any other reason why -
– I must ask you, Senator Harradine, to return to the Bill to which I assume you were addressing yourself.
– I raise a point of order. Tonight a member of the Government says that it depends on how much one pays for advice. I want to know whether there has been a conspiracy in this debate tonight, and whether Senator Harradine has actually paid for advice from Senator Rae on the Government side. There ought to be a statement made about the matter because obviously the honourable senator is going off at a tangent tonight trying to create a diversion in order to satisfy his own ends. I was rather stunned when I heard the comment by Senator Rae that it depends on how much one is prepared to pay this Parliament for legal advice. If there are honourable senators on that side of the House with some half baked legal training who are prepared to sell their knowledge and if Senator Harradine is involved in this, there ought to be an inquiry into how they are conspiring in this Senate.
– No point of order arises.
– May I have leave to respond to that statement if there is no point of order?
– There is no point of order.
– May I have leave to respond to that statement in the form of a personal explanation if there is no point of order?
- Senator Rae, I have ruled that there is no point of order. I must call Senator Harradine.
– I seek leave to make a response to an attack which has been made on me. I wish to make a personal explanation very simply and very shortly.
– Are you seeking leave to make a personal explanation?
– I can understand that tempers on the Opposition side have become a little frayed. My interjection simply referred to an old situation which is best described as ‘He who acts for himself hath a fool for an advocate’. I was speaking about getting value for money. I meant that if people act on legal opinions which have been given for nothing it may be that they are acting in a way which is not entirely in their best interests. 1 can only suggest to members of the Opposition that they stop trying to malign people in the way that Senator Keeffe has done. He tried to suggest that in some way I was seeking to be paid by Senator Harradine. I think that most honourable senators would know that so far as Tasmania is concerned
Senator Harradine and I are not likely to be seeking either–
– We happen to be political opponents.
– We happen to be political opponents. It is not likely that Senator Harradine would seek my opinion and it is not likely that I would be prepared to give it to him either free or for money.
– The question is that this Bill stand as printed. Those of that opinion say Aye’ to the contrary ‘No’, I think the ‘Ayes’ have it.
- Mr Chairman -
– The honourable senator has risen too late.
– Do I have the right to get the call?
– I raise a point of order. Mr Chairman, I tried to get the call a while ago and you gave Senator Harradine the call. I wanted to make a contribution to the debate.
– Sit down.
– I am sorry, Senator Bonner. The Chairman happens to be in charge of this chamber. You are merely the bell boy at this stage. I expected to get the call. I was on my feet, Mr Chairman, and you started putting the question. Now I would like some explanation for your action. Am I going to get the call?
– I have put the question, but if you insist that you were standing and I failed to see you, I will call you now.
-Mr Chairman, I recommend that you see an optometrist so that you see people when they stand otherwise we will have to wait until Flo gets here to deal with you.
– I have given you the call, Senator Keeffe.
– I merely wanted to make a contribution–
– I wish to take a point of order. We have just taken a vote on this motion. The debate is concluded. I put it to you, Mr Chairman, that at this stage it is impossible for anyone to continue the debate on this subject because the debate has closed and there has been a vote taken on it. Even though it might be unfortunate for Senator Keeffe, he cannot resume the debate. Another honourable senator might want to speak in reply and the debate might go on continuously. Yet we have already voted on the motion. Having voted on it we cannot rescind that vote without another motion being moved.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. Mr Chairman, I think Senator Missen does you a discourtesy because you extended a courtesy to Senator Keeffe. I think the matter is closed and Senator Keeffe has said what he had to say. I do not think there is any need to carry on with the point of order.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion ( by Senator Carrick) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– Many questions have been asked in relation to this Bill. I understand that Senator Wriedt has asked 13 questions and that replies will be supplied to him. In my contribution at the Committee stage of this debate, I asked whether we could be given some indication of the expenditure under this Bill. Do 1 take it for granted that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) is not going to reply to this request? If this is so, I am very reluctant to vote for the expenditure of $ 1,800m without knowing how the money is to be spent other than that it will be spent on defence. What will the money be used to purchase? Will it be used to purchase obsolete equipment or worthwhile missiles and machinery? I do not know. Do I take it that the Minister is simply ignoring a legitimate request for information from an honourable senator?
- Senator Cavanagh knows as well as and perhaps better than most honourable senators that the expenditures on which he is seeking information are all set out in precise detail in the Appropriation Bills. He can get the total answers that he seeks from those Bills.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator O’Byrne from making a statement for 10 minutes and then Senator Harradine from making a statement for 10 minutes.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
– During a previous debate, Senator O ‘Byrne sought to -
- Mr Chairman, 1 wish to raise a point of order based on Standing Order 448 which deals with the suspension of Standing Orders. The Standing Order 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, without Notice: Provided that such Motion is carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of Senators.
The point I am raising is that this is not a matter of urgent necessity. I put it to you, Mr Chairman, that we ought not to be misusing the Standing Orders which specify that such motions should be moved only in cases of urgent necessity. This is not a matter of urgent necessity. The fact that the Leader of the Government in the Senate seconded a trivial and frivolous motion by Senator Harradine-
– At a request from Senator O’Byrne.
- Senator Carrick knows better than that. He is party to a frivolous and trivial motion on the part of Senator Harradine and I say that it is a misuse of the Standing Orders. It is not a matter of urgent necessity.
– Order ! The point of order is not sustained by me. It is a matter for the determination of the Senate as to whether this is a matter of urgency.
– I wish to move an amendment. I move:
– No way.
– Honourable senators heard the interjection ‘no way’. That is an example of the sort of democracy that comes from the Government side. Anyway, I will let that go for the moment. I think it is proper that I should recount what has occurred here tonight. As Senator Georges has said, quite properly, a frivolous motion to suspend Standing Orders has been moved by Senator Harradine in collusion with the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick. We began tonight’s debate on the Loan Bill by discussing matters of concern to this nation. A proper debate was ensuing and then during the course of that debate Senator Harradine tried to introduce a matter which was not pertinent to the legislation because of some personal fight he is having in Tasmania. You will recall, Mr President, that I alerted you and the Senate to the danger of allowing him to continue in that vein. My advice was only partly heeded, with respect to you, Mr President. I know that you were not in a position to sit him down, but he was allowed to go far enough to destroy the debate completely. Any audience still listening to these proceedings must be ashamed of what it has had to put up with by listening to the Senate.
The Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, and Senator Harradine decided in collusion that rather than debate matters of substance for the whole of the evening, which we are supposed to be doing, they would try to score some petty political point against either Senator O’Byrne or me. One would imagine that Senator Carrick, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, would act responsibly. Perhaps we do not expect independent senators to act responsibly but we expect the Leader of the Government in the Senate to do so. He was prepared to go along with this petty scheme of Senator Harradine ‘s just for the sake of some minor point scoring over some personal fight that Senator Harradine has been having in Tasmania with some other people. That is the reason that this evening has been virtually wasted. During the course of that debate, and I am not empowered -
– I take a point of order. As I understand it, Senator Harradine has moved a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. He was interrupted by a point of order, which has been completed, and he has not been given the opportunity to continue his speech in favour ofthe -
– That is his fault. He sat down.
– He sat down because a point of order was taken against him. As I understand it, he has not completed his speech in support of his motion and, therefore, the seconder or the mover of an amendment is not yet in a position to make a speech. I would suggest that Senator Harradine be given the call.
– Order! The situation is that Senator Wriedt has moved an amendment to the motion.
-Thank you, Mr President. In view of the point of order that was raised by Senator Missen, it is significant just to remind ourselves that Senator Carrick seconded the motion moved by Senator Harradine without saying one word to justify the suspension of Standing Orders. He was part of a deal done with Senator Harradine about two hours ago to get this matter before the Senate tonight in the hope of scoring some puerile point. He will be in for an awful surprise when this debate proceeds. If it does not proceed tonight it will do so at some future time. If Senator Carrick thinks that there will be some advantage to the Government out of this little exercise, he will learn something between now and then.
The reason why I have moved this amendment is that Senator Harradine mentioned me during the course of the debate earlier on the Loan Bill. I am not greatly concerned about that because that will be dealt with in due course. But it was because of that reference and his indication that he intended deliberately and intentionally to wreck the debate tonight that I drew your attention, Mr President, to the dangers of allowing that to develop. We have seen what has happened. For that reason I believe that it is only proper that I should be allowed to speak for ten minutes if the Senate determines that Senator Harradine and Senator O’Byrne also should be allowed to speak for ten minutes.
– The Government would not seek to deny Senator Wriedt the opportunity to speak for ten minutes. I take it that he feels that he personally is also involved in the allegations. But the Government would hope that in any such amendment a similar period of ten minutes would be allowed to the Government, if it seeks to use the opportunity. I suggest to Senator Wriedt that he should accept that. If he is willing to accept that amendment, that is that. Whilst I am on my feet I point out for the benefit of all honourable senators that during the debate on the Loan Bill tonight a disputation took place between two honourable senators, Senator Harradine and Senator Justin O’Byrne. In the course of it Senator Justin O’Byrne claimed that he was misrepresented and said that he wanted to make a personal explanation. He said that he was being denied time on the air to make his explanation and he made a plea that he be given time on the air to do so. So I, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, in responding to him and not to Senator Harradine, said that at the conclusion of the debate on the Bill I would be happy to provide adequate time for both sides to debate the matter.
– That is a lie. You spoke with him. What a deliberate lie.
– Order! Senator Grimes, you cannot accuse an honourable senator of lying, and you know that. I ask you to withdraw.
SenatorGrimes- I withdraw both words, just to keep it going.
– All honourable senators should know that the situation at this moment is that we as a Government are responding to a request from a Labor senator that he be given time on the air to make an explanation. That there will not be time on the air is due to the fact that the Labor Party set about a filibuster to deny time on the air for this debate. That is the only reason. I invite Senator Wriedt to add to his amendment that additional time be given to the Government. If he does so, we will support his amendments.
Senator WRIEDT (Tasmania- Leader of the Opposition)- May I speak? I have been invited to do so. I certainly will not accept the invitation of Senator Carrick. If he wants to move-
– You must seek leave to speak.
-I seek leave.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– If Senator Carrick wants to move a further amendment, that is up to him. I do not know whether he will be within the Standing Orders. 1 have moved my amendment to permit me to speak for ten minutes in this debate. I am surprised at the inference contained in Senator Carrick ‘s remarks that somebody on the Government side must also be implicated in allegations, because I am allegedly -
- Senator Carrick himself.
– Yes. I am allegedly wanting to get ten minutes to speak in this debate because I am supposed to be the subject of allegations. That is not the case at all. That is not the reason why I want to speak. But if that is his argument -
– You want to speak as Leader of the Opposition, do you?
– I want to speak because I was named by Senator Harradine, if Senator Carrick recalls. Nobody on the Government side was named. I do not know what Senator Carrick’s justification is for wanting to get in on the act unless he believes that somebody on his side is also the subject of allegations.
– I wish to move a further amendment.
– Wait a while. There is a motion before the Chair. The amendment is: That Senator Wriedt be also afforded ten minutes to speak in the debate’. The question now is: ‘That the words proposed to be added by this amendment be added’. You can speak to that motion.
– I wish to speak to that. As we have one minute to go before 11 o’clock I foreshadow a further amendment that I be given 10 minutes to speak on this matter. I do that because it is fairly obvious from the remarks made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) that he has indicated the level to which he is prepared to go to assist Senator Harradine in the rather questionable initiative that he took earlier tonight. It must now be apparent that we have to talk out this matter. For the Leader of the Government in the Senate to accuse us of using a variety of devices is, I would say- I find it difficult not to use the word ‘hypocritical’hypocritical of him because really he is responsible for the situation in which we find ourselves.
- Senator Georges, you must not accuse the Minister of being a hypocrite.
– Well, he is a dissembler.
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., under Sessional Order I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
-We have reached an extraordinary situation tonight in that I am now moving a further amendment to the motion to permit me a further 10 minutes to speak. But as it is now after 1 1 o’clock, I have lost all desire to speak on the matter.
Government senators- We are still being broadcast.
– If our proceedings are being broadcast at this time, I think something is wrong. Are we being broadcast?
Government senators- Yes.
– Well, great stuff. Let me make the point that I made previously. It is necessary for us to make the issue fairly clear as there is a faint possibility that someone other than us is listening to this debate. IT anyone in Tasmania is listening, I would be very surprised, although it is possible that a poor farmer who is ploughing at night and has nothing else to listen to but what we are saying here is listening. If so, I pity him. This is the first time that I have pitied anyone who is likely to be a supporter of the National Country Party. But in all seriousness, are we to suspend Standing Orders for Senator Harradine? I notice he has disappeared. Where is he? Where is the cause of all this? I see him now. If we suspend Standing Orders- it is likely that the Senate will consider debate of the issue an urgent necessity- then it is not quite reasonable, shall we say, that Senator Harradine should be allowed 10 minutes to speak, then another honourable senator should have 10 minutes and then the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) should be allowed 10 minutes to speak. In particular, it is not fair for the Leader of the Government in the Senate to be allowed 10 minutes to speak without the rest of us being allowed to have a say.
It would be far better if the motion were to suspend Standing Orders to permit our debating this matter freely until about 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. I am certain that every honourable senator would like to participate in the debate until 3 o’clock or 4 o ‘clock in the morning. I must say that I have no desire to sit down now. If there is just one faint chance that somebody down at the Antarctic or up in the Torres Strait happens to be listening to me then I feel inspired to continue. But now that honourable senators on the Government side have diverted my attention, I have forgotten what I was saying. I really need to commence my comments again. The point I was going to make is that Standing Orders should be suspended to permit a debate beyond the narrow limits of 10 minutes for four speakers. I think that we ought to be prepared to participate in this debate, even though it is on a trivial matter initiated by Senator Harradine and supported by Senator Carrick, to his discredit. We have debated matters here until 3 a.m. or 4 a.m., but they have been positive and important matters which concerned the rights of individuals and of nations. We have read long extracts from treatises.
– From Playboy.
– Yes. On one occasion we even tried to have incorporated in Hansard a very worthy article which appeared in Playboy so that it could be read in Queensland. At the time, that was the only way in which it could be read in Queensland. At that time Senator Wright said we could not incorporate the article because it contained things that ought not be incorporated. But again, I have been diverted.
Although the matter we are discussing is trivial- I repeat that it is trivial- the suspension of Standing Orders is a means to allow Senator Harradine to express his venom. He has already expressed it. He has been in breach of the Standing Orders. His behaviour has been an affront to the Chair. He has stirred and provoked Senator O’Byrne, who normally is a gentle soul, not prone to making outrageous statements against anyone. He is father of the House. He has been in this place for quite some time. He has even been President of the Senate- and a great President of the Senate. Yet tonight this man was provoked by an uncalled for attack by Senator Harradine. Now we are faced with this proposition for the suspension of Standing Orders so that he can have another go and stir the rest of us.
I have received a request that I not take all this valuable broadcasting time at five minutes past eleven, when the whole nation from the Torres Strait to the Antarctic, from the eastern coast right across to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands is listening.
– What are you doing? You are making a farce of the whole thing.
-The matter is a farce. That is the point I have been trying to make all night. Government senators are responsible for making it a farce. They have made it a farce and have been led by Senator Carrick. Fancy saying it is a farce. It has been a farce since about nine o ‘clock tonight. Who is responsible for that? The Government senators are responsible as much as Senator Carrick because they are eager to see Senator Harradine engage in an act of vilification of another senator, nothing more or less than that. Senator Sim tells me it is a sham. Of course it is a sham. The sham has been forced upon us by him, led by Senator Carrick. I have said enough.
– Do you wish to move an amendment to the amendment?
-No. I have decided, in the circumstances, that there is no need for an amendment. I think we ought to proceed to a full debate on the matter. I doubt whether at this time of the night I need to propose a further amendment. However, I would like to ask you a question, Mr President. How is it that on one of the rare occasions we have gone past 1 1 o’clock and are still broadcasting?
– If the Senate has not adjourned at 11 o’clock we broadcast until half past eleven.
-Is that right? That is something I did not realise before. That is something we will have to take advantage of on more frequent occasions, although I do not know whether there are many people who would be bothered listening.
- Senator Wriedt has sought the opportunity to be able to speak for some ten minutes if this motion is carried. It does seem to me and to my colleagues that Senator Wriedt should be able to move his amendment and that -
– I have moved it.
– I am sorry. He should be able to have it carried so he may speak if it is necessary, bearing in mind whatever may have been said by those who have sought the opportunity to exchange what I may describe as some greetings. If it becomes necessary for the Government to seek to reply to something that has been raised, the suggestion which we make is that a speaker on behalf of the Government will seek leave, and we hope that the Senate will give leave to enable him to refer to anything which has been raised.
– On what grounds can you justify that?
– Only on the same grounds on which Senator Wriedt is seeking some time to respond. Senator Wriedt has been mentioned. If it appears that some Government senator has been mentioned in some way–
– There has not been.
– No, but if during the time which is given there is some basis upon which some person on this side of the chamber wishes to speak and an application to seek leave is made, I trust that the appropriate approach of this chamber will be followed. The suggestion which I make is this: The Senate may do what Senator Carrick has suggested and comply with the request which appears to be mutually agreed between Senator O’Byrne and Senator Harradine that they have time to be able to speak. This complies with the request that has been made by Senator Wriedt to enable him to have time to speak. If it becomes desirable- I do not expect this to be necessary- for a member of the Government to be able to have the opportunity to rebut something which has arisen I hope that leave will be granted.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
-This matter arose earlier this evening during the course of a debate on the Loan Bill 1979. The disruption of the Senate business tonight has occurred because Senator Harradine was allowed to depart from the subject matter to make a personal attack on me. Senator Harradine walked across the chamber and spoke to Senator Carrick. He colluded with Senator Carrick to arrange to have this diversion so that the debate on the Loan Bill would not proceed as it had been proceeding. Senator Carrick is becoming experienced at defending people who run close to breaking the law. He might have his hands full in taking on another case and defending people who may be- and this may be sub judicecharged with false pretences, misappropriation of government funds, interception of cheques, forgery and being in possession of funds reasonably suspected of having being stolen.
Besides that, Senator Harradine has continually disturbed the proceedings of this forum by bringing matters forward in which he is engaged in Tasmania. He has used the Standing Orders to put his own case forward. Parliamentary privilege is being abused by Senator Harradine in this matter.
– This has happened ever since he has been here.
– That is quite right. He got here under false pretences. All the years he was in the Labor Party he was an undercover member of the National Civic Council. He denied it on radio and television. He infiltrated the Labor Party under false pretences. He has now been found to have got into the area of misappropriating government funds. He will have great difficulty in getting away from this situation. I would have thought that the first law of nature- self preservation- would have dissuaded Senator Harradine from raising this matter which is very controversial in Tasmania at present. Only yesterday the Mercury reported:
The Premier, Mr Lowe, has sought a further report on the alleged mystery around the $55,000 in Government grants for trade union training.
He said yesterday there were still ‘questions in my mind’ which required clarification.
This is the Premier of the State of Tasmania. This is a matter that is being investigated and it is on the verge of coming under the Crimes Act. Senator Harradine is tempting fate in raising this matter here tonight. The report goes on to say:
He had sought full information on the matter from the Minister for Education, Mr Holgate.
In a letter which is undated, the Minister for Education, Mr Holgate, in replying to a question that was asked in the State, said:
I acknowledge your letter dated 2nd February 1979 requesting further information on grants paid by the Education Department to the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council.
This letter is addressed to Mr McKinnon. He went on to say:
I should point out that the Trade Union Training Authority is a Commonwealth body established by legislation on the 8th September 1975, the grants in question were paid to the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council and administered by the Tasmanian Trade Union Training Advisory Committee, no State funds have been granted to the Commonwealth body.
The grants were initiated by -
– Madam, please pipe down. The Minister in his letter continued:
The grants were initiated by a Cabinet decision on the 27th February 1973 that an annual grant be provided to the Tasmanian Trades and Labor Council to provide financial assistance for Trade Union Education.
This followed a unanimous 1971 ACTU Congress decision . . .
Later on in the letter he said:
I am unable to ascertain from departmental records or copies of the cheques as to who banked the cheques. In only one case is there an endorsement by the payee, this was signed by R. J. Watling in respect of the $10,000 cheque dated 1st November 1977.
All cheques were paid into the Commonwealth Trading Bank and credited to Account No. 925-621. Only two cheques identify the Branch, namely, no 025616 dated 29th November 1976, the Moonah Branch of the Commonwealth Trading Bank and cheque no. 33457 dated the 11th October 1975. the Murray Street Branch of the Commonwealth Trading Bank.
I trust this further information will be of assistance.
Yours sincerely. Harry Holgate, Minister.
Now these are State funds and the Minister was giving his explanation of these funds. On 19 January 1979 the Minister said:
I refer to your letter dated 18th December 1 978 requesting information on grants paid by the State Government to the Trade Union Training Authority and am pleased to provide you with the following information: 18th January 1974. $15,000, forwarded to 41 Davey St, Hobart. 12th December 1974. $10,000, C/- Trades Hall, 41 Davey St, Hobart. 15th December 1975, $10,000, Trades Hall, 219 New Town Rd New Town. 29th November 1976, $10,000, C/- Secretary, Carolside 2 19 New Town Rd New Town. 9th November 1977, $10,000, C/- Secretary, ‘Carolside ‘, 2 1 9 New Town Rd New Town.
All cheques were payable to the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council.
I have here a copy of the report of the AuditorGeneral under the Audit Act of 1 9 1 8. It is a statement of public accounts and is entitled: ‘Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council, Trade Union Training Program ‘. It reads:
State Government grants totalling $55,000 were made available to the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council for a Trade Union Training program under the Consolidated Revenue Appropriation Acts for the years 1973-74 to 1977-78.
Statement of Income and Expenditure for the period 2 1 January 1974 to 28 February 1979 has received my qualified certificate.
This is one report for five years of Commonwealth funds. The report of the Auditor-General continues:
The qualification related to expenditure of $7,949 which was not supported by vouchers. Notwithstanding the qualification. Audit was reasonably satisfied that the expenditure had been properly incurred on the approved purpose of the grants.
In today’s Mercury, which was unavailable until tonight, under the heading ‘Accountants defend trade union finances’, it is stated:
A Hobart chartered accountant said yesterday that $55,000 for trade union training had never been the property of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council.
The Minister said that it was the property of the Trades and Labor Council. You signed the cheques.
– Read on.
– You signed the cheques.
– Order! Senator O’Byrne, direct your remarks through the Chair.
– You try to defend yourself. You are on the hook, brother.
-Senator O’Byrne, direct your remarks through the Chair.
– The article continues:
Mr Rodney Moore, of Hobart chartered accountants Garrott and Garrott said yesterday: ‘The grant was and is not the property of the TTLC
And, to have included them in the TTLC audit would, in my view, have been incorrect.’
– Yes, that is right.
– That is the point I am making. You misappropriated that money.
– Order! Senator O’Byrne, direct your remarks through the Chair.
– It is true.
– Order! Senator O’Byrne, direct your remarks through me.
– I can direct them to you, Mr President. I conclude by saying that the Premier, the Minister, and the whole of the trade union movement in Tasmania are most concerned that this money has been misappropriated. Senator Harradine has carefully covered up his part in the matter. While he was the secretary of the Trades Hall Council he was able to divert this money in the direction of the National Civic Council, and with the money he was able to appoint people to the Trade Union Training Authority. When the Commonwealth took over the responsibility, he continued to draw money from the Tasmanian State Government, even though there was a credit in the account of between $43,000 and $50,000. That was deception. This is a most reprehensible situation, and Senator Harradine is likely to be on a charge of misappropriation of these funds if he cannot give an explanation. He has used this forum instead of a forum in Tasmania, where the matter was perpetrated.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired. I call Senator Harradine.
- Senator O’Byrne convicts himself out of -
– I raise a point of order. Mr President, I appeal to you not to allow this matter to continue.
– I am putting this to you seriously.
– You supported it.
– I did not support it. I have fought against it all night. You know what you have done.
– Order, Senator Georges. There is no point of order. The Senate agreed that the matter should be debated in the way in which it is now being debated. I call Senator Harradine.
-Senator O ‘Byrne and the honourable senator who has just spoken have convicted themselves out of their own mouths. Senator O ‘Byrne -
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I ask that that word be withdrawn. Senator Harradine has just said that I convicted myself out of my own mouth. I find that obnoxious.
Government senators interjecting-
– I do. If my motives tonight have been in any way objectionable, that is for the whole of the Senate to judge. It is obvious that my motives were correct. To be told that I am convicted- I take it that the word ‘convicted’ was used in its true sense- I find objectionable. 1 ask that Senator Harradine withdraw that implication.
– Order! I cannot sustain the point of order.
– I now have only five minutes -
– I raise a point of order.
– I have ruled on that point of order.
– I now have only five minutes in which to–
– I raise a different point of order. The motion carried by the Senate, which was moved by Senator Harradine and amended by Senator Wriedt, was to allow Senator O’Byrne 10 minutes and Senator Wriedt 10 minutes. Mr President, you are now allowing to speak a person who had 10 minutes in this debate when he initiated it earlier today.
– Order! You are wasting the time of the Senate. Senator Harradine was mentioned in the 10 minute provision.
-Senator O’Byrne has convicted himself out of his own mouth. He continues his pattern of extraordinary allegations against trade union officials in my State and his State. This trade union training program was very successful. It was funded by the State Government to the extend of $55,000. All of that money has been accounted for. The AuditorGeneral, in his annual report, stated this. I seek leave to incorporate part of the report in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
TASMANIAN TRADES AND LABOUR COUNCIL
Trade Union Training Program
State Government grants totalling $55,000 were made available to the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council for a Trade Union Training program under the Consolidated Revenue Appropriation Acts for the years 1973-74 to 1977-78.
Statement of Income and Expenditure for the period 2 1 January 1 974 to 28 February 1 979 has received my qualified certificate. The qualification related to expenditure of $7,949 which was not supported by vouchers. Notwithstanding the qualification, Audit was reasonably satisfied that the expenditure had been properly incurred on the approved purpose of the grants.
Expenditure for the period totalled $50,822 of which $33,064 was reimbursed by the Commonwealth, whilst Income also included Interest $5,558 and Miscellaneous Receipts $527. The unexpended balance at 28 February 1979 amounted to $43,327. 1 have sought the advice of the Minister for Education as to his intentions in regard to the unexpended balance of the State Government Grants still held by the Council.
– 1 thank the Senate. The report shows clearly that those who conducted the audit were satisfied that the expenditure had been properly incurred on the approved purposes of the grant. The Premier of Tasmania said this morning that it appeared that only a relatively small expenditure had taken place. He ought to read his Auditor-General ‘s report which shows that expenditure for the period totalled $50,822. So good was the program that it attracted a reimbursement from the Commonwealth.
Senator O’Byrne has continued his attack on trade union officials in my State. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that, on 27 and 28 February, Senator O’Byrne used the words crooks’ and ‘fingers were caught in the till’. He has been convicted out of his own mouth. On that occasion, he said: ‘This was after Senator Harradine had organised to cash in on the Trades Hall building’. He accused me of knocking off$55,000. That is chicken feed. The Trades Hall building was sold for about $500,000. That is the sort of ridiculous accusation that has been made. That is not only a reflection on me; that is a reflection on long-standing trade union officials in my State. That is a reflection on all of the trustees of the Trades Hall Trustees and Management Committee, five of whom have a combined service in the trade union movement of nearly 200 years. I seek to have incorporated in Hansard a letter from the Secretary of the Trades Hall Trustees and Management Committee, Mr N. A. Currie. This letter was sent to all senators to show how false the statement by Senator O’Byrne was.
-Is leave granted?
– No. I know the history of this one.
– Leave is not granted.
– I had the approval of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) for its incorporation. The letter states:
The Trades Hall Trustees and Management Committee wishes to draw the attention of the Senate President and Senators that Senator O’Byrne’s contribution to the Adjournment Debate two weeks ago-
This letter was dated 26 March 1979: displayed total ignorance of matters relating to the Trades Hall Building which are the property of this Committee.
I believe that the opportunity is here and now for Senator O’Byrne to do the decent thing and to withdraw those allegations.
– I will reply to that later on. I think we will leave it to the Auditor-General and the Premier of Tasmania to deal with the statement.
– Order! The honourable senator may not interrupt.
– This is the opportunity to clear the names- I do not mind about my name- of those trade union officials in my State who have dedicated their lives to the trade union movement and indeed to the Labor Party. I believe that they are owed an apology and a retraction by Senator O’Byrne. Indeed, if he is not prepared to give that apology and make that retraction I believe it to be incumbent upon the Opposition as a whole to dissociate itself from that totally false accusation. I will say no more because I feel -
– You had better not. It will be used in evidence against you.
– Since I have been invited to, I will say a couple of things more. It is quite disturbing to see what has occurred in this Parliament tonight. The Opposition allowed time for Senator Justin O’Byrne to renew the type of vilification that has now been proven wrong. I warned, when I got to my feet, that the Leader of the Opposition and members of the Opposition would regret what Senator O’Byrne was about to say. As I recall, he used such terms as interception of cheques, forging documents, false pretenses, possession of funds reasonably suspected to be stolen and misappropriation of government funds. Who is he attacking? He is attacking not only me but also the Tasmanian Labor Government and the integrity of the Auditor-General of that State. He is also attacking the Education Department of the State. The Senate, as a States House, has a right and responsibility to ensure that officers of the Crown are protected. The Senate, as a States House, has the responsibility in this instance not only of protecting the names of individuals who have been vilified but also of protecting the institutions that are necessary for the State to function. I invite the Opposition now, as indeed have the trustees, to dissociate itself from the remarks of Senator O’Byrne.
Senator O’BYRNE (Tasmania )-Mr President, I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim to have been misrepresented. Senator Harradine made a statement about the Trades Hall Management Committee. I want to read out and have incorporated in Hansard a letter from the Building Tradesman’s Association, Room 1 1, Trades Hall, ‘Carolside’, which reads:
Senator Justin O’Byrne, P.O. Box 323, Launceston. Dear Sir,
At a meeting ‘held by the above Association on 13 March 1979, the following resolution was passed unanimously. That the Building Tradesman’s Association views with concern–
– I raise a point of order. Could Senator O’Byrne suggest how he has been misrepresented?
– Would you please not interrupt me? I am explaining to the Senate the reason why I say that I have been misrepresented. Senator Harradine challenged me to withdraw and apologise to members of the Trades Hall Council. Also, he has misrepresented the position. I seek leave to incorporate this letter in Hansard.
– I rise on a point of order. Mr President, I seek your guidance in regard to the application of Standing Order 410, which provides:
A Senator who has spoken to a Question may again be heard, to explain himself in regard to some material part of his speech which has been misquoted or misunderstood, but shall not introduce any new matter . . .
I ask whether there is any possibility that the honourable senator could be introducing new matter and, if so, whether that would be contrary to the provisions of the Standing Order?
– In the course of my explanation I am asking for the indulgence of the Senate to allow me to read this letter, which explains the whole matter of the misrepresentation.
– Does it add any new material?
– No, it does not.
– It is in substantiation of your personal explanation?
– That is right. It relates to whether I should apologise to Senator Harradine for having made a statement earlier about the Trades Hall Council. The letter states: the Building Tradesman’s Association views with concern the unsatisfactory statements by the TTLC on questions that have been asked by affiliates of the TTLC, and this Association, on the $55,000 paid to it by the State Government, and why it has not been shown in TTLC yearly audited balance sheets, and fully supports the actions taken by Senator O’Byrne . . .
– How is this related to your personal explanation, Senator? I want to be as fair as I possibly can.
– Look, I asked for permission.
– Yes, but this is a personal explanation and you cannot bring in any new material.
– It is not new material. The letter concludes: and fully supports the actions taken by Senator O’Byrne in raising the matter in the Senate, and this Association also calls on the State Government to have a public enquiry to find out what exactly has happened to the money.
– I raise a point of order. Senator O’Byrne is giving us some personal reference that someone has given on his ability to raise this matter at some time. It can have nothing to do with the claim that he was personally misrepresented by Senator Harradine in his speech. It has nothing to do with that. I suggest that it might be something which he might want to make a speech on at some other time, but it has nothing to do with a personal explanation. He has not tried so far to say what are the words Senator Harradine said which misrepresented him. I suggest that he is going way beyond the Standing Orders and he should be stopped at this stage.
– As usual, Senator Missen is talking through a hole in his neck.
- Mr President, I did not ask Senator O’Byrne for a ruling; I asked you for a ruling.
– Yes. A personal explanation must refer to words which have been used by some other person about a senator. That which the honourable senator is now seeking to put as justification for a personal explanation should, I think, be reduced to a personal explanation. The honourable senator can in some way or other introduce that material at another time, but you may explain it yourself.
– I conclude my personal explanation by saying that the members of the Association are the Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia, the Operative Painters and Decorators Union of Australia, the Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees Union of Australia and the Operative Plasterers and Plaster Workers Federation of Australia.
– I raise a point of order. Senator O’Byrne is continually deliberately flouting your ruling. He continues to introduce new matter despite the fact that you have ruled that he must not do so.
- Mr President, to save time I seek leave to incorporate this letter in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave has been refused.
- Mr President, I draw your attention to Standing Order 364 which states:
A Document quoted from by a Senator not a Minister of the Crown may be ordered by the Senate to be laid upon the Table: such Order may be made without Notice immediately upon the conclusion of the speech of the Senator who has quoted therefrom.
Under that Standing Order, I call upon Senator O’Byrne to lay the document on the table of the Senate and I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I am only too pleased to do so.
– I will be very brief in my comments in respect of this matter. I think that most people would be aware that I have known Senator Harradine for many years and most people would know of the difficulties which he experienced as a member of the Australian Labor Party. Most people who are interested in politics and certainly those in Tasmania would know that I was one of the persons who supported him during his difficult days following his expulsion. I opposed his expulsion and tried to persuade as many people in the Labor Party as I could not to support that expulsion. I do not think there is any reason that I am aware of that Senator Harradine should have any cause for any personal animosity towards me. However, I pass no judgment on this matter that has been debated tonight between him and Senator O’Byrne. I have not made any statement on it whatsoever and I do not intend to because I have not studied the documents in sufficient detail to know whether the accusations, serious as they are, are accurate. All I know, as Senator O’Byrne has said, is that the Premier of Tasmania is calling for some definitive statement on it from the Minister for Education.
Last Friday afternoon I received a telephone call when I was in my office. I had people with me at the time. It was a telephone call from Senator Harradine. He will remember it. He indicated to me his concern at statements which were being made by my parliamentary colleagues and invited me to take some action to stop them making those statements. As I could not speak to him at any length, I indicated that I would call him back. I did not because of other factors with which I had to deal. He rang me back on Monday. He said to me: ‘I want you to discipline those people in your party- your colleagues- who are saying these things about me’. I said: ‘I cannot discipline them. It is not my business to. If they with to make these statements that is their right in the Parliament’. He went on to say: ‘They are saying it under privilege’. I indicated that it was their right to say it under privilege if they so desired. He persisted that I should do this and eventually he said: ‘Unless you take some action I will spread some stories about you in the electorate ‘.
– That is false.
– It is blackmail.
-That is not false and that is why I am saying it. It was a cross between a threat and blackmail. I said to him: ‘What do you mean by that?’. He reiterated it and said exactly what I have said to the Senate tonight. If he had not said it I would not be raising the matter. That is what I took exception to. Senator Harradine knows that I did and that I eventually hung up on him for what he had said. I do not know what the motive was in Senator Harradine saying that. I can only assume that it was because he did not want certain things to be said in this Parliament. I make it quite clear that I do not know whether Senator O’Byrne is right, but I take the strongest exception to anybody ringing me and threatening me that he would take action against me in my electorate because I would not do what he wanted me to do and that was to shut up Senator O’Byrne and anybody else. Whether or not it was blackmail I do not care, but whatever it was it was not very pleasant.
It is for that reason that today I was angrier in this chamber than I normally am. It was for that reason that I reacted in the way that I did. From memory I think that is the first occasion in the 1 2 years that I have been a member of the Senate that I have ever said anything that I have had to withdraw. I want to make it clear why I took the stand that I did and why I was angry.
Senator HARRADINE (Tasmania)-Mr President, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. What Senator Wriedt said is untrue. It is not in accordance with the facts at all, apart from the fact that I rang him on Friday and also on Monday. What I said to
Senator Wriedt was: ‘You are the Leader of the Labor Party and you are allowing members of your party to make statements about respected trade union officials in my State which are untrue. ‘ Furthermore, I have no reason to have any animosity about Ken Wriedt.
- Senator Wriedt.
– I am sorry, Senator Wriedt. Senator Wriedt came to me when I was the Secretary of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council and I had the numbers in the Australian Labor Party. He was seeking endorsement for the Senate. The battle was between Senator Wriedt and Mr Sherry. I threw my weight in for Senator Wriedt and he got the preselection. I have no problem with Senator Wriedt.
- Mr President, I take a point of order. Permission was granted for Senator Harradine to explain where he had been misrepresented. Does the fact that Senator Harradine assisted Senator Wriedt or someone else constitute a misrepresentation?
- Senator Harradine, you will confine yourself purely to the areas of misrepresentation to which you take exception.
– The particular point of misrepresentation is that Senator Wriedt said that 1 threatened him that 1 would spread stories about him in the electorate. That is totally untrue. I did not mention any of those words. What I said to him was: ‘If you are not prepared to discipline your members on the back bench, it shows that you are not a leader or that the hard Left has got control of the Caucus or that you acquiesce in what is being said. If it is the latter, the public ought to know about it’. Senator Wriedt had the opportunity tonight to dissociate himself from the vicious allegations, and he has not done so.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I want to take only a few minutes, in view of the fact that it is very early in the night and we have quite some time. I want to explain my reasons for objecting to Senator Harradine ‘s request to incorporate in Hansard a letter from Arnold Currie. The reason for my objection was that I think the letter that Senator Harradine wished to incorporate -
– Order! Senator Cavanagh, you well know that in an adjournment debate, you cannot revive matters that have already been debated. You are now reviving a matter which has already been debated.
– It was under a motion to suspend Standing Orders.
– It is still the sitting of the Senate.
-I do not know that, Mr President. I believe that I am entitled to speak on the adjournment on matters -
– By leave only.
– No, it is not by leave. I am entitled to speak on the adjournment on matters other than those on the Notice Paper or those that have been the subject of earlier discussion unless they are essential to the points I wish to make on the adjournment. I do not wish to rehash-
- Senator Cavanagh, you cannot revive matters which have previously been debated.
-I do not want to; I want only to explain my reason for refusing permission for Senator Harradine to incorporate in Hansard a letter.
– That was part of the debate.
– It was not part of the debate; it was my objection to the incorporation of a letter which Senator Harradine wanted incorporated. All I want to say is that I have known Arnold Currie personally for a number of years. I have a copy of the letter that Senator Harradine sought to incorporate and I also have information on the letter that Senator O’Byrne sought to incorporate. I wrote to Arnold Currie to ask him why there was a contradiction between his statement and the letter that Senator Harradine sought to incorporate. Arnold Currie was under an obligation to write that letter as secretary of a small group connected with the Trades Hall. On no account personally or as a member of the Trades Hall group did he support its contents. Therefore, the letter that Senator Harradine wished to incorporate in Hansard misrepresented the position just as everything else that Senator Harradine has said tonight has misrepresented the position.
- Mr President, I again claim that I have been misrepresented, this time by Senator
Cavanagh, who said that I sought to misrepresent the position by seeking to have a letter incorporated in Hansard. He alleges that Mr Currie personally does not support what was written in that letter. That is a total misrepresentation.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. That is not a misrepresentation of Senator Harradine.
– It is a misrepresentation of me.
– It is a misrepresentation of Arnold Currie.
- Mr President–
-Senator Harradine can speak to a matter of personal misrepresentation but not to a misrepresentation in respect of any other person.
– I understand that. Senator Cavanagh said that I misrepresented the letter. I say that I did not misrepresent the letter. Mr Currie signed it. He voted for the resolution. On Monday night of this week a similar resolution was unanimously carried by the Trustees and Management Committee calling upon the Leader of the Opposition to dissociate himself from Senator O ‘Byrne’s allegations in respect of the funds of the Trades Hall.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.51 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment the following question, upon notice, on 28 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Seismic Ships in the Barrier Reef Area (Question No. 1656)
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment the following question, upon notice, on 3 1 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment the following question, upon notice, on 22 August 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
RAAF Long Range Maritime Patrol aircraft undertake usually between four and six routine surveillance flights each month and four RAN Attack-class patrol boats based at Cairns are allocated to civil surveillance and enforcement.
Civilian surface vessels and aircraft are chartered on behalf of the Department of Primary Industry as required to locate foreign fishing vessels which are reported as likely to be in breach of fishery laws.
Combined operations co-ordinated by the Australian Coastal Surveillance Centre involving Defence Force and civilian units have resulted in the apprehension of ten clam boats this year to date.
A further initiative announced last year is the decision to charter a specially-equipped Nomad aircraft to be based on the central Queensland coast and dedicated to surveillance of the Reef area.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 28 August 1 979:
– The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Research results on causal relationships between unemployment and crime, suicide, ill-health and drug abuse are generally inconclusive.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 1 1 September 1979:
What is the reason for the most recently published industrial accident statistics in Victoria being at least two years behind those in all other States. (See answer to Senate Question No. 1675, Hansard, 2 1 August 1979, page 75).
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian Statistician has advised that publication of industrial accident statistics for Victoria for the years 1975-76 and 1976-77 has been delayed because it is apparent that reporting procedures adopted by some insurance companies have resulted in under-reporting of accidents. Some reprocessing of data is required, in order to include the accidents previously not reported. However, it is expected that the 1975-76 bulletin will be published before the end of 1979 and the 1 976-77 bulletin early in 1980.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 27 September 1979:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
1 ) The number of military aircraft involved in exercise Kangaroo III which use Avgas totals seventeen. They are:
The estimated consumption of Avgas for the exercise is:
68 tonnes for Tracker aircraft operating from HMAS Melbourne.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 October 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19791010_senate_31_s82/>.