31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Lead Concentrates in Motor Spirit
– I present the following petition from 34 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members or 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 ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– A petition has been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth 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 Missen. ‘
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer him to an article which appears in today’s Australian which is captioned ‘Jim Carlton, Federal Liberal M.P. for Mackellar and chairman of the Government Members’ Employment and Youth Affairs Committee takes a look at the Catholic report on unemployment and concludes the church is dabbling with Marxism ‘. Is this the view of the Government as well as the view of the chairman of that Committee? If so, how could such a situation have arisen after four years of Fraser Government?
– I read the article this morning. I think that anyone who read it would understand quite clearly that it expressed a viewpoint of an individual. It did not purport to be the viewpoint of the Government. I think that is the answer to the question.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. What avenues are available to Australia to check whether approximately $1 billion paid in 1976-77 to the South West African People’s Organisation by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and other United Nations affiliates was used for humanitarian or for revolutionary purposes? Are recent reports published in France accurate in their claims that armaments being delivered via Angola for use by SWAPO, are paid for by the UN, UNESCO or some other UN affiliate? Can it be verified that about $10m paid to SWAPO was used as intended to ease the plight of a few thousand Ovambo refugees who reportedly still live as miserably as if they had received nothing at all?
-I think that all Australians would be concerned that aid given by any nation should go to those authentically in need and should not be diverted for military purposes. One of our great problems in Kampuchea at this moment is to make sure that those who are the innocent victims of war should get the aid and not those who are perpetrating the war. I say that to Senator Rocher by way of general background. He will recall that some days ago I replied to a question very much along these lines which I think he asked. I think he asked a question about alleged assistance from the United Nations Children’s Fund to liberation movements in southern Africa. I responded to that question. All United Nations agencies keep full records of humanitarian assistance given to various recipients, irrespective of who they are. These records are regularly made public. I have no information which could support claims that assistance is being given by United Nations agencies for revoluntionary purposes, including the delivery of armaments to the South West African People’s Organisation. I will pass the question on to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and suggest that he make further inquiries. As to the last part of the honourable senator’s question regarding aid to SWAPO, I would need more precise details of the aid to which he refers, particularly which agency was a donor, before I could reply. Perhaps the honourable senator will discuss the matter with me and I will pursue it further. I understand that he has a very real interest in the matter.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. It now seems certain that the commercial production of, firstly, a light battery-powered van and then a passenger car will begin in 1 980. Because of the newness of the venture and the small throughput, they will be about 40 per cent dearer than conventional vehicles. Because of the important role that these vehicles will play in the conservation of petrol, will the Minister be prepared to recommend that sales tax on these units be waived?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for National Development.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. When speaking to the National Press Club on Wednesday, 10 October, the Chief Minister for the Northern Territory, Mr Paul Everingham, suggested that the defence establishment, particularly the engineering and service corps, could provide an enormous boost to Aboriginal communities in the Territory by raising a force of approximately 1,000 Aborigines, principally to educate them in trades et cetera, which would enable them to participate more in local government-type activities. Having in mind that this type of service appears to attract these young men, as instanced by the Volunteer Army Unit in the Top End, will the Minister take up the matter with the Government in an endeavour to give a much-needed boost to Aboriginal employment, particularly amongst Aboriginal youth, whose numbers are increasing tremendously throughout the Northern Territory?
– I have read the speech to which the honourable senator refers. Unfortunately I was not able to hear it delivered. The matter which has been brought before the Senate in this question from the honourable senator is but one of a series of very useful suggestions contained in the speech. Honourable senators will be aware that there is a national employment strategy for Aboriginals which includes the use of the organs of the Commonwealth Government to provide employment opportunities for Aboriginals. That strategy has been effective in bringing quite a large number of Aboriginal people into the work force, but at the same time there has been a most distressing lack of progress in terms of overall employment among Aboriginals. For that reason I think the suggestion made by Mr Everingham in that speech certainly ought to be considered by the Government. I will refer it to my colleague, the Minister for Defence, to see whether an additional effort can be made in the areas under his jurisdiction.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for National Development aware that the Minister for National Development, Mr Newman, advocated the hoarding of fuel, particularly avgas, in a public statement made at a meeting in North Queensland last week and that he made a similar statement in Canberra this week? Is the Minister aware that a fuel hoarding policy, already condemned by this Government, will lead to an unjust system of fuel distribution which wealthy farmers, mining companies and wealthy business people will be able to exploit to their financial advantage? Can the Minister inform the Parliament whether Mr Newman’s public statements indicate a change in Government fuel policies, or whether it means that the Government has lost control of the fuel industry generally?
– I have not seen any reports of the character referred to by Senator Keeffe which allege that Mr Newman, the Minister for National Development, made certain statements. I will investigate the question and the alleged statements and refer the matter to the Minister for National Development.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications give any information about the stage of development of the proposed Broadcasting Information Office? I understand that the establishment of that unit would mean that a start could be made on researching the effects of television on the learning behaviour of children.
– The appointment of a director for the Broadcasting Information Office is under consideration by the Government at the moment. A short list of applicants has been prepared and interviews are being conducted. Once the position of director has been filled, the Office will be established as soon as possible. Any decision on specific research activities and the priorities of the Broadcasting Information Office will not be made until after the unit has been established. I think that the honourable senator who asked the question and all honourable senators will be aware that a good deal has been done already in the field of the relationship between children and television. Senator Davidson chaired an inquiry into the effect of television on children by the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts. That inquiry did a great deal of valuable work in the field and made a number of important recommendations. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications is finalising his recommendations on what should be the Government’s response to the report and will make a statement on that in the near future. A great deal of work has been done by other agencies in company with the work done by the Government. That has had an important influence on the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal and its Children’s Programs Committee and on the new arrangements affecting television programs for children which were announced recently.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. It being over three months since the Minister for Primary Industry received a submission from the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation on the proposed restructuring of Asia Dairy Industries Ltd, is the Minister in a position to say what, if any, parts of the ADFF submission have been accepted and when some announcement on the matter will be made?
– I have no information which would help the honourable senator in his query about the re-arrangement of Asia Dairy Industries Ltd. I will seek that information from the Minister for Primary Industry.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and refers to the recent accident involving a DC8 aircraft at Athens airport, which caused some concern because the aircraft had been carrying radioactive materials. Is the Minister aware that this Parliament’s Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, in its 1976 report on Canberra city waste, expressed concern about the lack of safety measures with respect to aircraft using Canberra airport and carrying radioactive materials? Can the Minister say what continuing measures are being taken to ensure safety with respect to aircraft carrying radioactive materials and using Canberra airport? Is the Minister in a position to indicate also what measures are being taken at other airports around Australia in this respect?
– The honourable senator has raised an interesting and important question. There are precautions which are required of and observed by aircraft carrying radioactive materials. I will get from Mr Nixon a detailed response to the questions raised by the honourable senator and will let him have that as soon as possible.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Transport inform the Senate of the reason or reasons that Mr Jim Bayutti has not been reappointed to the Board of Qantas Airways Ltd, especially in view of the excellent work done by Mr Bayutti amongst the Australian ethnic community on behalf of Qantas while he was a member of the Board, an example being the work he did as President of the Italian-Australian Association, an organisation based in Italy, which was responsible for raising millions of dollars of additional revenue for Qantas in recent years?
-I will seek a reply to that question from the Minister for Transport.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications been drawn to an article which appeared in a recent edition of the West Coast Sentinel, a newspaper which circulates in the Eyre Peninsula region of South Australia, the substance of which is that no funds have been allocated in the current financial year for the extension of television services to the Eyre Peninsula? I draw the Minister’s attention to what I regard as a misleading headline associated with that article which says ‘No money for Eyre Peninsula television’. I think it is grossly misleading. Is this an accurate indication of the view taken by the Government of this most important project? If not, will the Minister once and for all explain to the Senate the current position in the provision of television services to Eyre Peninsula residents? Also, does the Minister recall that some time ago the Government approved and announced a capital works program for television extension to this area estimated to cost in excess of $2m and which was planned to be completed by 1 983? Is the Minister confident this deadline will be met?
– You said that it would be concluded by 1 978 so you put out a misleading statement.
– I am very grateful to Senator McLaren for his attempt to assist, but I would be even more grateful if he would keep quiet. I am somewhat surprised to hear about the report which is referred to by the honourable senator in his question. I have not had my attention drawn to the publication the West Coast Sentinel and, in particular, I have no knowledge of its report on the subject. The matter has been aired in this chamber on a number of occasions. I am most disturbed that there should be an inaccurate report. I will take up all the points which have been raised by the honourable senator and seek to have the correct information published in that journal.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources and concerns the dangerous, uneconomic and impractical proposals of the Tonkin Government of South Australia to market the uranium by-product of the Roxby Downs copper, gold and rare earths field. Did the Minister note an editorial opinion in the Australian on Tuesday that ‘coal- not our uranium- is emerging as the wonder fuel of the 20th century’? Is it a fact that on the best possible estimates there will be a world oversupply of uranium oxide for at least the next decade of as much as 20,000 tonnes a year by 1985? Is a price drop inevitable, probably from the present $43 per lb to as low as $28 per lb? Will it not prove difficult to sell uranium oxide even at that price which is one which would barely cover the cost of production in Australia? In view of these economic factors, will the Government now use its influence to persuade the Government of South Australia to support the recently expressed policy of the Australian Democrat Legislative Councillor, Mr Lance Milne, to mine copper, gold and rare earths at Roxby Downs and to return the uranium ore to the ground as mine fill, as is being done elsewhere in the world?
– The short answer to Senator Mason’s question, which finally emerged from the very lengthy preamble, is no. The fact of the matter is that one of the immediate and most beneficial changes for the people of South Australia with the election of the Tonkin Government is that some development will now be able to take place in South Australia. In answer to a question yesterday the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, referred to a statement by the Acting Treasurer, Mr Eric Robinson, in which he indicated that as the Foreign Investment Review Board has approved the financial arrangements between the entrepreneurs at Roxby Downs that great project will now be able to go ahead. The proposition referred to by Senator Mason of somehow extracting the uranium and putting it back in the ground would be the most impractical proposition I have ever heard expressed in this Senate, and I have heard some pretty queer propositions from the Opposition as far as development is concerned. That sort of proposition would be impossible economically. It would simply mean a return to the policies of the Labor Government in South Australia, which prevented any development of this major resource taking place. It is a multi-mineral resource, of which uranium is only one part, and its development will provide a tremendous boost to the South Australian economy. As was indicated yesterday in answer to a question, the Acting Treasurer estimated that investment in it will be of the order of $ 1 ,000m. So it is the sort of development that people in this country, and certainly people on this side of the chamber, thoroughly applaud and hope will be successful.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I again draw your attention to the numerous rulings you have given in the past. Apparently Senator Webster and Senator Carrick are to be joined by another Minister in giving long waffling answers. Will you draw the Minister’s attention to your previous rulings?
– The point of order is not sustained.
– I am answering a very long question and I have not yet finished. The question contained a reference to the future of coal. Certainly the Government agrees that coal has a very great future, and it must be the continuing policy of governments to encourage the development of coal in this country.
– I ask a supplementary question. I suggest to the Minister that he has not answered the most important part of my question. Is it not a fact that there will be a world over-supply of uranium over the next ten years? Will the Minister get up in this place and seriously deny that?
– The Minister has replied to the question. However, does he wish to reply to that aspect?
-I am very glad that Senator Mason is anxious for me to continue, despite the disagreement by other honourable senators opposite. The fact of the matter is that there is a considerable demand for uranium and there will be a growing demand. We believe that the encouragement of the development and marketing of uranium by this Government and other governments, such as the Tonkin Government in South Australia, will ensure that there will be markets for Australian uranium.
-Has the Minister representing the Prime Minister noted answers that have been provided to me this week to questions I have had on notice concerning the employment of women in the Commonwealth Public Service and in the Australian Broadcasting Commission? Has the Minister noted that of the 50,000 women employed in the Commonwealth Public Service none is in the First Division and only 23 are in the Second Division? Has the Minister also noted that in the Australian Broadcasting Commission, whilst the total number of women employed is 1 ,884, only one is paid at a rate equivalent to that of a Second Division officer? Will the Minister agree that those figures evidence discrimination against women occupying senior positions in the Public Service? Will he ask the Prime Minister to request the Public Service Board to take an urgent look at the matter?
-I do not know whether the figures quoted by Senator McClelland are correct. The Government is very keen to ensure that there is no discrimination within the work force. As I understand it, the Australian Broadcasting Commission is a statutory authority and, although it may have some parallel with the Public Service Board in its salaries and wages structures, it has complete autonomy in the promotion of staff. So the matter raised by Senator McClelland would not be a Public Service Board matter but rather one for the statutory authority. I will direct the remainder of the question to the attention of the Prime Minister.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for National Development seen reports of further significant finds of minerals, including uranium, copper, gold and rare earth, some 1,600 metres south of recent significant discoveries at Roxby Downs mine in South Australia, which have greatly increased what had already been described as massive reserves, larger than the area of the city of Melbourne? Also, has the Minister seen statements by the Australian Labor Party spokesman on minerals and energy, warning companies that any development of a mine such as Roxby Downs would be at their own risk, because the Australian Labor Party would not honour any contractual arrangements? Also, is the Minister aware that such statements by the Australian Labor Party in South Australia were a contributing factor in the decimation of that party in the recent election in that State, because such Leftwing dominated policies threatened the development of one of the greatest -
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Surely this is a misuse of Question Time. The honourable senator is making a lengthy political statement in the guise of asking a question. That is a breach of the Standing Orders and contrary to your rulings.
– A few moments ago Senator Mason asked a question on a similar subject which was much longer than Senator Young’s has been. Yesterday Senator Mason complained about the abuse of Question Time but led off today by breaching Standing Orders. Senator Young’s question has been far briefer.
- Mr President, I seek to make a personal explanation. Every part of that was a question.
– Order! When I rise honourable senators will be seated. I ask Senator Young not to introduce political comment and to continue his question.
-Thank you, sir. Finally, I ask: Is the Minister also aware that the development of Roxby Downs, which is one of the greatest mineral discoveries made not only in South Australia but in Australia, would bring great socio-economic benefits to South Australia, a result which could be frustrated by the policies of the Australian Labor Party?
– I am aware of the reported further discoveries of mineral deposits within the Roxby Downs area of South Australia. That is not altogether surprising because it had been projected that it contained much greater deposits than even the massive deposits that had already been announced. The more that encouragement and opportunity is given for the development of mineral, petroleum and energy resources generally, the more discoveries will be made and the greater wealth there will be in prospect for the Australian community as a whole. I have not seen the specific warning by the Australian Labor Party spokesman to which the honourable senator has referred, that is, that that Party would not honour any contractual arrangements in relation to the marketing of uranium that companies may enter into in respect of the Roxby Downs area. However, I am not surprised to hear that such a warning has been given, because it has been given on other occasions by the Australian Labor Party, in line with its policy of trying to prevent the development and marketing of uranium in this country. Indeed during its term of office its whole policy served as a complete dampener on the development of resources of any kind in this country so it is all in line with that Party’s policy. Certainly, great social and economic benefits for Australians will flow from this development, as has happened in the past. I am not pessimistic about results. I am confident that the Australian people will not be fooled and will not give the Australian Labor Party the opportunity to carry out such unfortunate threats.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and relates to the recent introduction of low alcohol beer and its wide acceptance since it has been placed on the market. I ask: Has the Government considered the benefits to the community of low alcohol beer, particularly the reduced alcohol intake by those who may subsequently drive cars? Does the Minister agree that, in the community interest, government impetus should be given to the encouragement of the consumption of low alcohol beer in preference to beers of the usual alcoholic content? If so, will he comment on the possibility of lowering the excise payable on low alcohol beer for this purpose?
– The Government is very well aware of the advantages of low alcohol beer and its benefits as mentioned by Senator Missen. The Government is considering the question of lower excise on low alcohol beer but that would be a Budget matter and one for future determination. This matter is of great interest to the Senate and no doubt to the Government. The report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare in regard to these matters is also under study.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Reports state that an Australian contribution of relief food consisting of 20 tonnes of high protein biscuits and 90 tonnes of vegetable oil for East Timor is still in Jakarta where it arrived more than a month ago. What is the reason for the delay in the distribution? Who is to blame for the delay? What action is the Australian Government taking to see that it is distributed as a matter of urgency?
– I am aware that a consignment of relief aid for Timor has been awaiting clearance in Jakarta since late August. The consignment comprises 90 tonnes of vegetable oil and 25 tonnes of high protein biscuits. Clearance of the goods has been delayed by documentation problems. The Indonesian Red Cross, to whom the goods have been consigned, notified the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in late September that additional documentation certifying that the goods are a gift from the Australian Government to the Indonesian Red Cross for use in the society’s humanitarian works in East Timor had to be obtained from the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra before clearance could be effected. I am advised that the Indonesian Embassy is expected to issue the necessary documentation shortly.
My understanding is also that there is some 2,500 tonnes of corn to be delivered to Timor. The feasibility of shipping the first consignment of 1,200 tonnes direct to Dili in the near future is currently being examined. This would eliminate transhipment problems. We are still awaiting advice from the Indonesian Government. Because we would share any Australian’s anxiety at any delays, I will direct the substance of the question to the Minister and see whether we can expedite these matters.
– I ask a supplementary question. How can the Leader of the Government in the Senate tolerate this position? He has given a placid answer to a very urgent question. How can he tolerate the attitude of the Indonesian Government and the continuing delays? How can he further tolerate the fact that Australia has to meet the cost of distributing this aid? This House needs an answer to that right now.
– I of all people am not one to tolerate this matter. I have lived amongst the people of East Timor. I have lived with them and have seen their below subsistence levels. I have lived on their food. There is no question of my toleration of this matter at all. The people of the island of Timor are among the lowest subsistence people in the world. This is to be deplored. Those people will need, for the foreseeable future, outside aid to supplement them even to bare subsistence level. There is no question of tolerating this. If Senator Georges had listened to me he would know that I said that because I regarded this as serious I would urge the Minister for Foreign Affairs to see whether we could do more to aid in this regard.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of the introduction by the Thatcher Government in the United Kingdom of a new statistical index- a tax and prices index- which measures the combined effects of changes in direct taxes and prices on people’s purchasing power? Would such an index, more accurately than the consumer price index, measure changes in prices paid by households for goods and services as it would take into account the effects of net take home pay resulting from changes in direct taxation? Will the Government consider the construction of such an index in Australia to provide a clearer picture in the change of net household income for review by arbitral tribunals, the Government, consumer groups and other interested persons in conjunction with the CPI?
– I have seen some reports regarding the approach of the Thatcher Government to a new statistical index. I have neither the information before me nor the personal expertise to be able to adjudicate upon it. Secondly, it is a fact that all those who have had experience over the years with the mechanism of the present consumer price index in Australia are aware that it- I suppose, like any index- suffers some quite significant defects. It might benefit from review and reform. I think the best thing I can do is refer the substance of the question to the Treasurer and seek his study of and comment upon it.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services. Have some Queensland teachers who normally work as presiding officers and poll clerks on an election day been informed by the Australian Electoral Office that their services might be required on 8 December this year? If so, is this an indication that the Government is seriously considering holding a general election this year?
Honourable senators- Oh!
– I can only join in the chorus of incredulous Ohs. I will ask the Minister for Administrative Services what is going on.
- Mr President, my question is about a very old financial institution in South Australia which must be very close to the concern of your family because of its long links with that State. My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Mr Myer
Solomon, a South Australian businessman, and others have recently called on the Treasurer to do everything possible to allow the Bank of Adelaide to retain its separate identity.
– Let’s nationalise it.
– In view of the stance taken by the small shareholders to keep the Bank of Adelaide operating as a going concern so as not to lessen the competition in the Australian banking system, is the Treasurer prepared to discuss with the Reserve Bank of Australia a revision of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd takeover of the Bank of Adelaide?
– In response to Senator Watson’s question and to Senator Mulvihill ‘s interjection, the first thing I can say is that unlike the Labor Opposition we will not be nationalising banks. I am delighted to hear for the consumption of the Australian public that the Labor Party believes that banks should be nationalised. We do not. The substance of the question should have a direct and expert Treasury response. I will refer the question to the Treasurer to seek a response.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Transport will recall that some days ago Senator O ‘Byrne and I asked questions relating to the maintenance and security of DC9 aircraft operating in Australia. The Minister reassured us that that type of aircraft was free of any special need for scrutiny. Has the Minister seen a report in one of this morning’s newspapers that authorities in the United States of America will now require that type of aircraft to be specially scrutinised? Can he inform the Senate as to whether that report is correct? What operations are being carried out in Australia to ensure that the standards set by the American authorities are met?
– I do recall the earlier questions from Senator O ‘Byrne and Senator Bishop on this subject but I have not seen the report to which the honourable senator refers. I do recall that in the earlier answers which I gave I indicated not only that action was being taken within Australia to ensure that everything was satisfactory but also that close communication was being maintained with the relevant United States authorities. I have little doubt that whatever is happening in the United States in this case is being considered by the Australian authorities, but I will get a proper and definitive reply from the honourable senator as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs and concerns aid to Kampuchea. Is the Minister aware that some families in Adelaide have decided to collect food, such as sugar, milk powder and other supplies, to assist the relief effort in Kampuchea and that they are doing so because they feel that actual cartons of food collected here are more physically visible than money contributions? Is the Minister also aware that, having collected quantities of food, these families now have no way of getting it to Kampuchea and have been unable to get advice on where to go with their cartons of food? Can the Minister advise these people and other Australians willing and eager to collect aid what they should do best to assist the relief effort? Is it always true that contributions of money are more helpful than donations of food or medical supplies? If so, to whom should these donations be made? Finally, I am aware from this morning’s newspapers that in the past week or two $350,000 has been given by Australian families to a Kampuchean aid committee’s fund target of $2m authorised by the highly reputable Australian Council for the Overseas Aid. In this light, will the Government consider accrediting a single agency or selecting a number of agencies to act in an integrated way for relief aid to Kampuchea?
-I think Senator Teague ‘s question is a very important one. The Australian community has shown a very warm, sympathetic and practical response to the disaster in Kampuchea. At both the official government level and the community level Australia is showing the way to the world. I noticed in this morning’s Press that one individual has made a very significant contribution. As to the specific question asked, I have been advised that some people in Adelaide have been in touch with the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, which is an umbrella organisation of non-government Australian aid agencies. They were informed that it is difficult to transport food to Kampuchea and that it is uneconomic to collect food in small quantities because of the cost and the logistic reasons. I understand that the Council advised these people that unless such food is brought in bulk it is better to purchase the food through voluntary agencies or to make funds available for the purchase of food in bulk close to the location. I have been informed that expert advice on how best to proceed is available by telephoning the International Disaster Emergencies Committee, which has a Canberra telephone number.
Honourable senators may wish to note it. That number is 474822. This Committee has been set up for this purpose, and its office is located in Bailey Arcade, Civic, Canberra. The Government has been in touch with the Council, and it is agreed that the Committee is the appropriate collection centre for relief aid. From that, Senator Teague will be aware that cash contributions are clearly the most appropriate way of assisting with disaster relief for Kampuchea. The Government stands ready to consult at any time with appropriate Australian and international relief organisations about facilitating arrangements for the delivery of relief supplies, but I stress that bulk is imperative for transportation and that cash is the obvious means, because we can then transform the money to bulk and speed up the transportation to those most in need.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security whether there is an arrangement between the Department of Social Security and the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs under which unemployed persons registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service for over a year are referred back to the Department of Social Security to be classified as probably unemployable and asked to apply instead for a special benefit. If this is so, could the Senate be given some details of this arrangement?
– I am not aware of any formal arrangement along the lines suggested by Senator Grimes. I believe that there were suggestions from one source that there are people presently receiving unemployment benefit who may not be correctly in that category in that they may not be capable, however willing, of undertaking permanent employment. As far as I am aware, there is no formal arrangement along the lines suggested. Some comments were made that a reclassification of those who presently receive unemployment benefit may reveal that there are people who could be regarded as not correctly placed in the unemployed category. I will check to see whether any arrangement has been made and whether any discussions have been held. I am not aware that any formal arrangement has been made.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. If such an arrangement is in existence whereby people are declared to be probably unemployable, would an appropriate classification for them be that of invalid pensioner rather than putting them on a special benefit? The Minister will know that very stringent guidelines are imposed on special benefits and that this creates great difficulties for people who have to apply for them.
– Yes, I would be inclined to agree with Senator Grimes that if a person is incapable of employment the special benefit which is astringently tested and which is a temporary benefit would not be the appropriate benefit on which that person should be placed. If we had a closer investigation of the numbers of people who are chronically unemployed we may find that some other category would be more appropriate. I agree that the invalid pension could be a category, although the legislative requirement for receipt of that pension is 85 per cent incapacity. It may be that a new category could apply and that a more permanent arrangement with regard to income may involve some relaxation of invalid pension requirements, or there may be some other way in which this could be done. As far as I know, no great advance has been made on the suggestion that some analysis may prove that there is another category that would be appropriate. I will check to see whether any development of that suggestion has been undertaken.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Government prepared to consider a reduction in excise on fuels blended on an organic sourced fuel such as ethanol?
– This is a policy matter but I can say in general terms that the Government is interested in every useful suggestion that would increase the volume of energy sources indigenous to Australia. Therefore, I will refer the matter both to the Minister for National Development, who has a direct responsibility in enlarging energy sources, and to the Treasurer, who has responsibility in terms of money and revenue and the abatement of excise on organically produced fuels.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I draw his attention to a startling statement made by the Commissioner for Community Relations that there were 30 racial groupings with an estimated 100,000 members in Australia. Has the Minister been briefed on a recent upsurge in thefts of gelignite and other explosive equipment? It was stated in the Canberra Times on Saturday that this has resulted in a major security scare. Does he share my concern that 130 sticks of gelignite discovered hidden in Stromlo Forest had been stolen from the back of a utility truck left unattended by a Canberra builder. I might add that the truck containing the explosives was clearly marked as such. Is it not time that the Minister introduced legislation to regulate the purchase, use and storage of explosives in Commonwealth territories and to encourage all States to do likewise?
– That question has a number of parts to it, many of which do not concern me directly except in the overall sense of the problems that may be represented by them. I am not aware of the specific incident of theft to which Senator O ‘Byrne refers. I will give the question consideration insofar as it concerns my portfolio and refer other aspects of it to the Minister for Administrative Services, who is responsible for the Australian Federal Police. The question of introducing into the Australian Capital Territory legislation regarding the storage of explosives and so on is really a matter for the Minister for the Capital Territory. I will refer the question to him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Whilst recognising that the labelling of food containers is largely a State matter, is the Minister able to say whether any action is being taken to have food and drink manufacturers throughout Australia list ingredients on the labels of food and drink containers so that those people who are interested in the contents of the food that they eat can have some idea of the principal ingredients and things such as preservatives and so on?
– I am not able to provide an answer. I recall a similar question along these lines, but I will seek information from the Minister for Health and advise Senator Townley.
-Is the Minister for Science and the Environment aware that the proposed second section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park lies between Lizard Island and Innisfail? Is the Minister also aware that the only known breeding areas of black martin are in this region? In the light of this, I ask the Minister: Has the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority been consulted by the Department of Primary Industry concerning the conservation of the black martin in the Great Barrier Reef region?
Does the Government propose to accept the recommendations of the 1978 report of the Australian Fisheries Council which stated that under no circumstances should foreign participation in already developed fisheries be considered, including fish of the Great Barrier Reef?
-The answer to the first three parts of the question which the honourable senator raises is no. In answer to the last part I point out that I am not sure of the contents of the particular report. I will take up this matter with the Minister for Primary Industry and attempt to get a response for the honourable senator.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources aware that extraction costs of uranium in Australia are lower than those of most of our known resources? For example, it is said that at $30 per lb we have 25 per cent of the world ‘s reserves, but that at $50 per lb our share drops to 8 per cent and at $100 per lb our share is almost negligible because uranium can be extracted from the sea for less. As the price of the fuel plays an important part in whether nations turn to the use of dangerous plutonium, will the Minister agree that this nation has a responsibility to supply the world with uranium at a reasonable price to ensure that the use of breeder reactors is kept to a minimum?
– I think it is clear that the resource-rich nations of the world, of which Australia is one, have international duties to supply those resources to a world which is growing short of energy resources. I agree in general terms with the proposition that Senator Maunsell has presented. Of course, there are other responsibilities which we have as a government and a nation and which are expressed in the safeguards of one kind or another contained in our uranium policy. They concern both the development of uranium mining in accordance with environmental standards and safeguards as well as the sale of uranium to countries with which we have entered into safeguards agreements. I think there are the two responsibilities. Although I have answered the question in general terms in this way, I will refer this important question to the Minister for Trade and Resources to see whether he wishes to add anything further.
– I refer the Minister for Science and the Environment to a statement made yesterday by Mr Viner, the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, in which he linked the Unemployed Workers Union to the Australian Conservation Foundation because both organisations, together with a number of other organisations, share a particular post box in Canberra. Is the Minister able to confirm that this post office box number is the address for groups which share the facilities of the Canberra and South East Region Environment Centre? Is it not a fact that such centres are funded by this Government to provide resources for community groups? Is it the Government’s view that because organisations share a post box they also share their views?
– I noted a comment made in one of the newspapers relating to this matter and points which Mr Viner apparently made in speaking on it. The honourable senator asked me whether I am able to confirm that a particular box number is used by various groups. I regret that I am unable to confirm that that is so. The honourable senator asked me whether it is a fact that the Federal Government provides funding for various groups. Indeed, the Commonwealth Government is proud that it is able to provide funds for non-government conservation groups. In fact, the Australian Conservation Foundation is the beneficiary of the largest grant made in this area by my Department.
The honourable senator asked me further whether, because a particular group shares a post box number, it should be thought that the attitude of that group is similar to that of the other people who share the post box number. I would have thought that the honourable senator would be concerned to learn that anybody who used a post box number was unaware of other people using that post box number. For instance, this morning when I discussed this matter with Mr Hill of the Australian Conservation Foundation, I pointed out to him that if, for example, a group became aware of the fact that the Nazi Party was sharing its post box number it probably would be unwise for that group to continue to share that post box number with that party.
– Break it down.
– I am sure that Senator Cavanagh, despite all his talk, would agree with that proposition. The basic fact is that over a period of years I have seen a situation in which some groups in the community have used post box numbers. Those post box facilities must be paid for by somebody. It is my feeling that if a conservation group were contributing to funds used to secure a post box facility it would be unwise for that group to be unaware in its management process of who had access to that post box. That is purely fact.
– What is wrong with the unemployed working?
-Mr President, I am responding to four separate questions. In this instance the Federal Government is not concerned about the post box number or who uses it. The problems which may arise because of the management practices of a particular group is that group’s concern. I believe that that is the point which Mr Viner was making yesterday.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr President. Is the Minister for Science and the Environment saying that today he advised the Australian Conservation Foundation that, in respect of the people with whom it shares post box facilities, it should pay close regard to the analogy which the Minister drew this morning relating to the Nazi Party?
-Mr President, I think that is a quite foolish question but it probably requires an answer. We regularly receive foolish questions. The first part of the question asked whether I was saying a certain thing. No, I was not saying that. The second part of the question asked whether I was giving certain advice. I made it quite clear that the Federal Government is not advising any non-government conservation group, whether or not it receives Federal Government funds, on how it should conduct its affairs.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education and refers to the shortage of skilled tradesmen in Australia. The Minister will be aware that it is possible to obtain professional qualifications to become a doctor, lawyer, master mariner or similar professional at any mature age and there are many examples of brilliant mature age students. But to become a qualified tradesmen, in the majority of trades it is necessary to make the decision to take an apprenticeship during one’s teenage years. Is the Government taking any action to introduce, in some way, mature age apprenticeship courses, or will the Government consider setting up an alternative to the craft system so that mature age people can obtain trade qualifications, perhaps through the technical and further education colleges?
– Where are they going to get their jobs?
-One of the characteristics of the substantial unemployment condition which has existed in Australia since 1974 is a significant scarcity of trained craftsmen. The question of where these people will get jobs does not arise. Australia’s productivity and ability to complete on world markets are suffering from a lack of skills. This question overlaps the education and employment portfolios. The question of mature age training of apprentices has been a vexed one throughout the States and elsewhere.
I think I am right in saying that the Apprenticeship Board in the Australian Capital Territory in recent years has ventured into the mature age apprenticeship field. I believe that is- I acknowledge it as such- a very sensible reform. Considerable discussions are going on, in which the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs and my own Department have been participating, on the whole question of the training of apprentices, whether in use the old orthodox system of indentures and the master journeyman-apprentice relationship or in other ways. Studies of progress throughout the world on this aspect have been made. No one system becomes clear. It is true that there ought to be some opportunities for mature age people to achieve the craftsmanship that normally is achieved through the avenue of apprenticeship. I will refer the question to my colleague the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs and seek his views too.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Transport seen reports in this morning’s Press, and in particular in the Canberra Times, that in the matter of Mrs Deborah Wardley counsel for Ansett Airlines of Australia told the Victorian Supreme Court yesterday that if Ansett was now forced to admit her to the November pilot training intake it would nevertheless proceed immediately to dismiss her forthwith under its powers under the Airline Pilots’ Agreement? What is the Government’s reaction to this extraordinary statement? Does it accept that it amounts to a quite contemptuous disregard not only for the courts but also for the letter and the spirit of the relevant sex discrimination legislation? Finally, will the Government consider imposing conditions on Ansett ‘s operating licences to ensure that it does not continue to engage in flagrant sex discrimination of this kind in the future?
– I did see a report- I think it was in the Canberra Times this morning- in the sorts of terms outlined by Senator Evans. Beyond confessing a little personal surprise, I cannot really answer his question because as far as I know the Government has not determined an attitude on the matter. Indeed it would be unlikely that it would have had the opportunity to do so. As I understand it, the report relates to matters which were put before the court only in the last day. I will refer the question to the Minister for Transport for an authoritative reply on behalf of the Government.
– On Tuesday 9 October a number of specific questions were raised by Senator Cavanagh on investigations of deaths of employees at Radium Hill in South Australia. I undertook to seek further information from the Minister for Health. I have now been advised that about 600 employees of the total of 3,000 employed at Radium Hill have been traced. The investigation disclosed that 22 who had died had spent in excess of 12 months underground. Nine of those- that is 40.9 per cent- had died from cancer. Of those who had worked underground for less than 12 months, 16 had died, three from cancer. Of those who had worked above ground for the whole time 20 had died, three from cancer. I am unaware from what source the honourable senator obtained the figure of 300 deaths. The information available to the Minister for Health refers only to the deaths I have mentioned, which total 58.
The honourable senator is correct in saying that radon gas is a breakdown product of uranium, but that does not mean that open cut mining of uranium is more dangerous than underground mining of uranium. The Commonwealth Department of Health developed its Code of Practice on Radiation Protection in the Mining and Milling of Radioactive Ores in 1975 to ensure that the health of miners would not be affected. The code has already been included in legislation in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. The Commonwealth Government is approaching finalisation of a redraft of this code to include it in the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Act 1978. The honourable senator will appreciate that a document prepared as a code invariably will need redrafting before incorporation into specific legislation.
– Earlier today in Question Time, Senator Sibraa raised the matter of the non-reappointment of Mr Bayutti to the Board of Qantas Airways Ltd. I am now advised by the
Minister for Transport that his appreciation and that of the Government has been conveyed to Mr Bayutti for the substantial contribution he has made to the work of the Qantas Board over the last five years. In addition to his special interest in the Italian community, he has made a broad contribution to the work of Qantas and has shown a real interest in the affairs of the company. Appointments to the Qantas Board are made for a specified period, and in Mr Bayutti ‘s case it was five years. When considering appointments or reappointments, the Government has to take into account the need to ensure continutiy, on the one hand and the need to provide opportunities for other people with differing qualifications and experience to make a contribution to the activities of Qantas. In these circumstances the Senate will appreciate that it does not necessarily follow that directors automatically will be reappointed to the Board. I can assure the Senate that the decision not to reappoint Mr Bayutti is not a reflection on him or his abilities.
– Yesterday Senator Bonner asked me a question about infant mortality statistics and the lack of statistics in some States. I indicated an attitude at that time but I have since had confirmation that the Department of Health has taken action at both ministerial and departmental level to obtain the agreement of registrars of births and deaths in all States, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory for the separate identification of Aboriginal Australians in birth and death registrations. This is, of course, to assist in remedial measures. I mention that because there is some controversy in some areas about the need to identify Aboriginality in certain circumstances, and it raises difficult questions about the rights of individuals and whether the information has been gained for a purpose which is beneficial or oppressive. I mention that because it is the sort of difficult decision that governments and agencies sometimes have to make.
– Earlier in Question Time, Senator Bishop again raised the question of the safety of DC9 aircraft and referred to a newspaper article of today which indicated that there were new safety checks for DC9s. I have now received advice, and this confirms the comment I made earlier, that the Department of Transport has been keeping close contact with the United States Federal Aviation Administration and with the manufacturer following the Air
Canada DC9 occurrence on 17 September. No inspection directive has yet been issued by the United States Federal Aviation Administration for the version of the DC9 with ventral stairs, which is the only type in use in Australia. Nevertheless, the Department has initiated a special inspection program for the DC9 aircraft operated by Ansett Airlines of Australia and TransAustralia Airlines and inspections are being carried out to the agreed program. The Department will review the inspection program when the United States Federal Aviation Administration issues an inspection directive.
Senator CARRICK (New South Wales)Minister for Education)- Pursuant to section 37 of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act 1970,I present the annual report of the Australian Industry Development Corporation for 1979.
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 35 (2) of the Prices Justification Act 1 973,I present the annual report of the Prices Justification Tribunal for 1978-79.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Department of National Development for 1978-79.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 36 of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Act 1970, I present the annual report of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation for 1 979.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 49 of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation Act 1977, I present the interim annual report of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation for 1979.
– by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the report.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Minister for Aboriginal Affairs)- For the information of honourable senators, I present the annual report of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs for 1978-79.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present the report and transcript of evidence of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations on its inquiry into the Advance to the Minister of Finance.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- I move:
As a result of a recommendation of Senate Estimates Committee A in its report of May 1978, the Senate referred to our Committee on 6 June 1978 the use of the funds approved by the Parliament for the Advance to the Minister for Finance. This issue has concerned the Senate for some time. The matter has been debated in the Chamber on several occasions over recent years.
There are two main reasons for this concern. The first is that the use of the Advance involves expenditure by the Government of moneys which have not been appropriated for the purpose by the Parliament. The second is that the amounts being allocated to the Advance have risen in the last ten years. In 1969-70, for example, the amount allocated to the Advance was $40m, which represented about 1.3 percent of the total amount of that year’s Appropriation Acts. In 1978-79 the Advance was allocated $225m, which represented about 2.1 per cent of the total provision in the Appropriation Acts.
The first part of our report describes the technical processes which are used in the application of the Advance. Honourable senators will be aware of these processes so I will not elaborate on them now. The Committee examined the Advance in order to answer the following questions: Does the current use of the Advance give too much latitude to the Government of the day to evade the principle of Parliamentary appropriation of expenditure which is required by section 83 of the Constitution? Would another system conform more closely with this principle and yet still provide the Government with sufficient flexibility? We concluded that a centrallycontrolled contingency fund such as the Advance is the best method of providing the Government with expenditure flexibility.
We then went on to consider whether the actual operation of the Advance could be improved. The first conclusion we drew was that it is important to ensure that there is no sudden escalation in the amount allocated to the Advance. A sudden rise in the amount would provide the Government with more opportunity to evade the principle of maximum prior Parliamentary appropriation of Government expenditure. In 1978-79 the amount allocated to the Advance represented 2.3 per cent of the previous year’s totals for the Appropriation Acts. Whilst any particular ceiling or cut-off point that one might specify must necessarily be arbitrary, we consider that bearing in mind the previous practice in this Parliament and in comparable countries, this present figure of 2.3 percent represents a point beyond which the Advance should not be allowed to grow without specific Parliamentary scrutiny and approval. We have therefore recommended that if in future years the amount allocated to the Advance in Appropriation Bills (No. 1) and (No. 2) is greater than the total of the Appropriation Acts of the preceding year then the matter should be formally considered by the Parliament. The most appropriate method of consideration is, in our opinion, to refer the matter to the relevant committee in each House, for example, the Senate Standing Committee on
Finance and Government Operations and the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure.
We discovered that considerable confusion has arisen as to the conditions under which moneys appropriated to the Advance can be made available in supplementation of existing appropriations for specified purposes. Without going into the full details, these are the terms which have been used to describe the criteria for access to the Advance by the various authorities: unforeseen and extraordinary expenditure’; urgent or special circumstances’; ‘urgent and unforeseeable requirements’; ‘urgent and unforeseen expenditure’; ‘urgent or unforeseen needs’. This situation is obviously highly confusing and undesirable. The meanings of those various terms, quite obviously, differ substantially. The uncertainty was the cause of the disquiet expressed by Estimates Committee A in its report of May 1978. We have therefore recommended that the criteria be standardised so that access to the Advance to supplement existing appropriations should only be given in ‘urgent and unforeseen’ circumstances. We consider further that the term ‘unforeseen’ should be regarded as including ‘unforeseen as to amount’. At the moment the criteria is set out in the Finance Directions. Ministers and others need not be bound by the Directions and they may be changed without the Parliament being informed. We therefore consider that the criteria should be given a greater legislative impact by placing them in the Finance Regulations made under the Audit Act.
The Committee next considered expenditure from the Advance for new services for which no specific appropriation has been made. Expenditure on new items was of particular concern to the Committee because it is theoretically possible for the Government to use the Advance to fund an entirely new program so that when the Parliament is approached for appropriation it is presented with a fait accompli. We concluded after our investigation that the potential for abusing the Advance in this way can be overcome by earlier and more explicit disclosure of the expenditure from the Advance. We have therefore recommended two ways of improving the disclosure. First, we have recommended that the explanations accompanying the Additional Estimates should contain a separate section for each department showing the funds which had already been provided from the Advance. Secondly, we have recommended that the Government issue a public statement of approvals of expenditure from the Advance at the end of each month and that this statement be tabled in Parliament at the earliest opportunity. The statement would list all expenditure which requires creation of a new appropriation item and expenditure of amounts greater than $50,000 for the other categories of expenditure from the Advance. The Committee considers that the implementation of these changes to the operation of the Advance would strengthen the principle of prior parliamentary appropriation of the expenditure of public moneys and still leave the Government with sufficient flexibility over its affairs. I commend the report to the Senate. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-by leave- I rise just for a couple of minutes to make some comments in relation to the statement. The order of Business Paper is extremely uninformative. If one looks at the paper, one will find that Senator Rae was to present a report from the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations on a matter. If it had not been for the fact that Senator Rae, as Chairman of that Committee, had paid me the courtesy as Chairman of Estimates Committee A of informing me last night that that report was to be presented, I would not have known. I do not know the contents of the report. I was interested to hear the comments made just now by Senator Rae on the contents. I wish to raise a point in relation to this kind of reference, this kind of report, and the position in which it puts the Senate which I think the Senate should address itself to. The reference to this Committee came from Estimates Committee A. There have been a number of referrals to this matter by that Committee. In its most recent report, the Committee referred to it again and said that it awaited with some interest the conclusions and the report of the Committee on Finance and Government Operations.
It is reasonably unusual for a major reference to go from one Senate Committee, in this case an Estimates Committee, to another Senate Committee, in this case a Standing Committee- the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. For various reasons the report cannot be made available any time in advance of the Chairman actually tabling it and making his statement. There are some historical reasons for that. I suggest for a couple of reasons that perhaps the Senate might address itself to making that sort of report available on some limited basis. At present when Ministers table departmental reports or make ministerial statements they pay the Opposition the courtesy of providing it with copies of those reports and those statements.
– Well, they are expected to pay that courtesy, Senator Grimes, so that the main Opposition spokesman can have a chance to look at the report and then comment. In the case of a report which involves another Senate committee, that courtesy cannot be paid under the present circumstances. As I said, I found Senator Rae’s statement very interesting. It is quite possible that Estimates Committee A or a couple of members of it may have been interested in making some comment on the points that have been raised now. As it is, the report will go on the Notice Paper. We will have to wait at least some weeks until it comes up for debate. In the meantime we will read the report with interest so that we can participate when it is debated, because it is a very important matter. I rose to make the point that it will be several weeks before anyone can comment on it. In effect, people who have a very keen interest- for example the parallel of Opposition front bench senators- in a particular subject cannot comment because it is covered by a Senate report. I have had the view put to me that if a report is instituted by the Senate the Senate should know about it before anyone else gets a peep at it. I think that that situation is not really very different from the situation in the case of departmental reports. Many departments and statutory corporations are required to report to the Parliament. In theory the same situation should apply because those reports are required by the Parliament under legislation. I think that the principle is the same. It is unfortunate that because a report is a Senate report those who had a very keen and active interest in initiating the investigation cannot make any comment in this chamber until the report comes up on the Notice Paper, which may take several weeks. I suggest that the Senate address itself to this type of problem to see whether some other reasonable arrangement, but which nevertheless protects the Senate, could be reached.
-by leave-I support what Senator Martin said. I am sure that she did not know that she would be raising this matter. A problem is often encountered by chairmen of committees when reports of other committees, departmental reports and ministerial statements concerning them are put down. A recent example- it happened within the last fortnight- was the statement by the Minister on the report by the Senate Standing Committee on
Constitutional and Legal Affairs in regard to the priority of Crown debts. It is true that I sighted the ministerial statement an hour or two before it was delivered and therefore I was able to say something about it. But very often this is the one opportunity that arises in a practical sense under the parliamentary system for us to make some useful comment in such a way that the public will understand what is happening in regard to action on a report or, in this case, a report which is coming down and obviously affects another committee.
I noted that in the report this year of Estimates Committee B there is a recommendation- I have now been advised of this-that a reference should go to my committee, the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee. I will not comment on the substance of that except to say that such a thing would well not be known by the Chairman of the committee concerned. When the matter arises he may want to make a comment. In the present circumstances this fact is known. But such things are done very often. Perhaps I am getting slightly off the point but I think it is relevant to point out that quite often senators move motions calling for matters to be referred to Senate committees. Unfortunately the people moving such motions very often do not check beforehand with the Senate committee or its Chairman to determine the availability of that committee to take up the reference, whether it will have time to deal with it, or whether the committee considers it irrelevant to its work and should go to another committee. That most unfortunate practice has developed in regard to putting down motions, lt seems mostly to concern my Committee. We seem to be the repository of investigations, and it is a problem. I did not hear what Senator Evans said, but I am sure that I agree with him if he made a complimentary remark to the Committee. It is also unfortunate that, both in the initiation of the recommendations and in the bringing forward of the final product, there is not an opportunity to show a committee’s report to other than members of the committee in advance. If it is shown to the Opposition spokesman in advance, then that is an exception to the general rule that there should not be disclosure of a document until it is reported to the Senate. I think it should be taken at least one step further than that so that the chairmen of the committees affected by it -
– You are going to get into trouble if you do that. Anyone can release a report.
– We are in trouble at the moment because we have the situation that the Opposition spokesman sees the report -
– Not always.
– I understand the honourable senator’s point that it is not always shown to an Opposition spokesman. There is a general rule that it should be -
– Not a committee report. He gets a copy of a Minister’s statement.
– If it happens only in regard to ministerial statements and does not happen in regard to committee reports, committee reports therefore will not receive the same publicity, or the public will not be fully aware of them, because of the fact that there is no knowledge in advance to enable people to make an informed comment on them. I think the whole matter should be examined to see how much further this ought to be taken so that committee reports do get proper emphasis when they are brought down and are not left for months before they are debated.
-by leave- If members of the Government are in difficulty, one can imagine how much more so the members of the Opposition can be in difficulty. I agree with Senator Missen that something ought to be done. It seems to me that it may be necessary for notice of motion to be given that these reports are coming down so that we have at least a day’s notice. If necessary we could seek some sort of access to the report or make arrangements to get a brief outline of the report and its importance. However, I disagree with Senator Missen on one point. It should not be a requirement or it should not be considered a requirement that an honourable senator should approach the chairman of a committee before bringing down a reference to that committee. It is for the Senate to decide.
– Not a requirement, but as a matter of courtesy and common sense.
-Not even as a matter of courtesy or common sense. If the person concerned is on the Committee, I think he or she would be bound to approach the chairman of that committee. But if an individual senator desires to bring down a reference to a committee he should not be inhibited in any way, unless the Senate itself says so, by the chairman saying: We cannot handle it, we do not think it is necessary. We do not think it is important.’ We should not inhibit an honourable senator in regard to any initiative which he may wish to take in relation to referring some matter to a committee. For that reason I would say that I do not accept what Senator Missen is saying in that regard.
– I am not saying that.
– As far as making prior announcement of giving warning to senators of reports coming before us is concerned, 1 have in my hand a report which I received a few moments ago. I have had only a few moments to look at it. lt is the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts relating to the Archives Bill 1978. It was delivered to me in an envelope in the Senate. I would say that that is a means by which we on this side can have some forewarning of the contents of a report in case we need to make some comment on it today. Too often we find that comments on these reports appear in the Press before we see them. That is an unsatisfactory situation. It has happened in the past. We have not questioned it or raised any matter of privilege in relation to the practice because I believe that the comments that anyone has to make on these reports are important.
– So the Opposition Whip does get copies of Senate committee reports?
– I have got this one, but so did everyone else, I think.
Honourable senators- No.
– That is a compliment to the Whip.
– If that compliment is paid to me, why is not it paid to all other honourable senators? It seems to be a sensible arrangement to have copies of this report delivered. I did not realise I was the only one to receive a copy. When I received it I thought, ‘That is not a bad idea’.
– It will become a collector’s item.
– It might even be autographed. I will move back to the point I was making quickly. I think that was a good initiative and it could be extended to all honourable senators in the chamber. I do not say that copies should be placed in senators’ boxes. But at least we should have copies of the reports before us and would have at least half an hour to look at them. If something urgent arose or if some comment were made which needed to be debated it could be debated forthwith.
Senator RAE (Tasmania)- I seek leave to make a brief statement and to move a motion.
– We have had a useful debate this morning following the presentation of the Committee report. I understand and sympathise with the point made by Senator Martin and Senator Missen. It seems that there could well be some reconsideration of the provisions of the Standing Orders. The relevant provisions basically are contained in Standing Order 308 which states:
The evidence taken by any Select Committee of the Senate and documents presented to such Committee, which have not been reported to the Senate, shall not, unless authorised by the Senate or the Committee, be disclosed or published by any member or such Committee, or by any other person.
Standing Order 315 states:
The Report of a Committee shall be presented to the Senate by the Chairman, and may be read.
Standing Order 3 1 6 states:
Upon the presentation of a Report no discussion shall take place; but the Report may be ordered to be printed with the documents accompanying it.
Standing Order 3 1 7 states:
If any proceeding be necessary upon a Report of a Committee, such proceeding shall be brought under the consideration of the Senate by a specific Motion, of which notice must be given in the usual manner.
It seems to me -
– I think there is an Act dealing with publication too?
– Yes there is, but those are the Standing Orders which it would be within the power of the Senate to change. The legislation may have to be considered as well, but that would be a separate matter. Following the discussion that has taken place and so that an improved system can be developed, I move:
One of the things which bothers me is the distribution of these reports. I suspect that when I get back to my office I will find a copy of the report on my desk.
– You cannot speak on it. You cannot prepare a speech if you do not have a copy of the report in front of you.
– I think that is one of the matters that ought to be included for discussion in Senator Rae’s motion.
– I support the motion that the Standing Orders Committee should look at other methods of presentation of Committee reports. At the same time, I think that we will have to be very careful if we allow the release of a report before it is tabled in Parliament. This is an offence against an Act of Parliament. I do not know the law on defamation, but the reports of parliamentary committees are privileged documents once they are tabled. If something defamatory were printed before a report was tabled in Parliament, one wonders whether the law of defamation would apply. But if there is no legal prohibition on the publication of details contained in reports before they are tabled in Parliament, we will get into considerable danger if someone leaks information from the Committee and justifies it because of a common interest in the particular matter.
This report could have been debated today, but we denied the Senate the right to debate it when we gave Senator Rae leave to continue his remarks. Senator Martin’s interjection was pertinent. She questioned whether we were capable of debating the report if we had not seen it. Therefore, perhaps we should have seen it. All the arguments point to the fact that the period between the tabling of a report and the debate on it is too long. The solution does not lie in making the report available to honourable senators before it is tabled. It lies in being able to debate it within days of its being tabled. That is not impossible. It can be achieved. The Standing Orders Committee could look into that question. Rather than releasing reports to honourable senators before they are tabled, the Standing Orders could state that we should debate them within a short period after they are tabled.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I present a report from the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts on its inquiry into certain aspects of the Archives Bill 1978. I add that some copies of the report have been distributed to interested people in the Senate within the last hour. Senator Georges does well to take up this point because it was Senator Georges himself, on one occasion when I was presenting a report and statement, who took a point of order and complained that the report had not been distributed in the Senate. I have taken the precaution since then of distributing copies of reports of my Committee on a limited basis to members of the Committee, the leaders in the Senate and to Party Whips purely as a matter of interest and courtesy very shortly before such reports are tabled. That is what happened this morning. I present this report now together with the transcript of evidence.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- I move:
As I mentioned earlier, the Committee is reporting only on certain aspects of the Archives Bill 1978, and in this context, I would like to recall briefly the circumstances under which this matter was referred to the Committee.
The Senate will recall that on 28 September 1 978, it was resolved that:
In accordance with the direction implicit in the second part of this resolution, we decided to confine our inquiry into the Archives Bill 1978 to matters other than the access provisions covered in Division 3 of Part 5 and the other areas of the Bill that relate to this Division. We also excluded sub-clause 3 (7) from our examination since this sub-clause defines the open access period by reference to which the public is entitled under Division 3 of Part 5 to have access to Commonwealth records.
Our inquiry was therefore confined in the main to administrative and organisational aspects of the Archives and matters relating to archival custody and management of Commonwealth records. Aspects of the Bill covered by Division 3 and other related matters of access will be dealt with in a later report from the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. Much of the criticism levelled at those aspects of the Bill we examined, seemed to suggest that the legislation conferred powers on the Archives that would allow for unnecessary encroachment upon the domain of other custodial institutions throughout Australia.
From our consideration of both written and oral evidence taken during the inquiry, we are satisfied that, apart from some minor exceptions that we mention in the report, the Bill does not go beyond setting out in legislative terms the current functions, policies and practices of the Archives. Accordingly, we have few disagreements with the main thrust of this piece of legislation.
We have, however, made several recommendations For amendments to the Bill and these, we believe, will lead to:
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, 1 present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Crop Adaptation Laboratory Tor the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation at Black Mountain. Acton, Australian Capital Territory.
– by leave- I have received the report of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner on the land claim known as the Uluru (Ayers Rock) National Park and Lake Amadeus/Luritja land claim. I propose to table the report when it is printed, but I shall make known the Commissioner’s recommendation now, together with my decision, in order to avoid unnecessary delay. This land claim was the fourth to be heard by the Commissioner under the provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. The Act provides, amongst other things, a mechanism whereby Aboriginals may lodge claims to unalienated or vacant Crown land on the basis of traditional ownership of that land, and for the claims to be heard by the Commissioner who then reports to me and to my colleague, the Minister for Home Affairs.
The present claim comprised the Uluru (Ayers Rock-Mount Olga) National Park, and a larger area to the north and south adjoining land owned by the Petermann Aboriginal Land Trust. It was lodged by the Central Land Council. When the hearing began, the claim was amended by the withdrawal of the most northern section of the claim area. During the hearing, which began in April and lasted two months, the Commissioner ruled that the National Park was alienated land and therefore not able to be claimed under the Act. The Commissioner has found that the amended area of claim is unalienated Crown land and that there are Aboriginals who are the traditional owners of that land. He has recommended that the land be granted to a land trust for the benefit of Aboriginals entitled by Aboriginal tradition to the use or occupation of the land.
In making his recommendations, the Land Commissioner is required by the Act to comment upon such matters as the number of Aboriginals who would be advantaged by the land grant, the nature and extent of that advantage, whether detriment might result to any person or community as a result of the grant and the effect which the grant would have on existing or proposed patterns of land usage. The Commissioner has indicated that several hundred Aboriginals would benefit if the land were to be granted to an Aboriginal land trust, in that the grant may give impetus to the establishment of communities in the claim area and would be of considerable moral significance to the claimants and to others living in reasonable proximity.
As to any detriment that might result to any person or community as a result of any grant made, the Commissioner has indicated that there would be no detriment likely to be suffered by any persons or communities as a result of any grants being made. He has also commented that there was no evidence of any likely harmful effect upon existing or proposed patterns of land usage in the region. As to roads, there is no doubt that the main road through Curtin Springs station to Uluru (Ayers Rock) is a road over which the public has a right of way and so this road will be excluded from any land that will be granted. A second road was also mentioned during the hearing- a road which does not exist at present but which is planned to run from the western boundary of Curtin Springs station to the tourist town site of Yulara. Although there is no legal requirement for the route of this proposed road to be excluded from any land grant, the claimants, through the Central Land Council, withdrew their claim to this particular strip of land. As a consequence, this road would not be a part of any grant of land made.
During the course of the hearings the Northern Territory Government had an opportunity to put its views before the Commissioner. In determining whether I should accept the recommendations of the Land Commissioner, I have given serious consideration to the views expressed by the Northern Territory Government during the course of the hearings and I have also sought that Government’s views as to the recommendations made by the Land Commissioner. The Northern Territory Government has indicated to me that it does not wish to express a view but has no objection to my announcing the approval of the Uluru land claim in accordance with the recommendations of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner.
Therefore, having given due regard to the recommendations made by the Commissioner and his comments relating to those recommendations, and having had regard to the interests of other groups in the Northern Territory, I have accepted the Commissioner’s recommendations that the land be granted. I shall establish a land trust and will recommend to the GovernorGeneral that a grant of an estate in fee simple in the land be made to the trust. The land to be granted, which amounts to some 5,360 square kilometres, does not of course include the site of the new town of Yulara just outside the northern boundary of the National Park, which will be developed as a tourist village. Nor does it include two roads over which the public has a right of way, and to which I have referred. Printed copies of the Commissioner’s report will not be available for some weeks but a limited number of photocopies are available from the Records Office and the Parliamentary Library. I move:
– It is gratifying that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has moved with some alacrity to endorse the general recommendations of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner. I think it is of some importance to deal with the matter with speed and to give endorsement to the manner in which the Commissioner has carried out his duties as expressed in the Act of this Parliament. He has applied himself in the terms of the Act. Although we may have some misgivings perhaps about the Act or feel that the Act does not go sufficiently in the direction of redressing the vexed problem of land rights in Australia, it appears from the Minister’s statement that the Commissioner has acted with a degree of compassion, has applied some integrity to his obligations and has taken into consideration some of the moral factors which Aboriginal land claims have presented to him. I think it is worth noting that the Northern Territory Government has not acted on all occasions in the spirit of the Commonwealth legislation, although, as the Minister has indicated in the statement he has just presented, finally the position of the Northern Territory Government became a little more amenable and acceptable from the point of view of the national Parliament.
Unfortunately from time to time some differences have been expressed between what we regard as our obligations with respect to land rights in the Northern Territory and the perhaps more short-sighted and subjective views that have been expressed by the Northern Territory Government which perhaps looks at development and its narrow perspectives somewhat in contradiction to the stated strategies which have been followed by the national Parliament on an all party basis. Be that as it may, the Government through this Minister, in bypassing the narrow, short-sighted views of the Northern Territory Government and in adopting the principles expressed by the Commissioner, has taken the right steps, as we see it. Of course, in many respects it leaves unresolved the very vexed issue of national parks and the alienation which the Commissioner has suggested should be taken into consideration.
One of the important developments of recent years has been the development of the conservation movement in this country. It is a real people’s movement which began at the grass roots level and sought to bring about, through the enactment of government legislation, a recognition of the need for us to apply ourselves to conserving our resources and our natural environment. But when we are dealing with matters of land tenure in the Northern Territory, it has to be said that the Aboriginal communities are the original conservationists. I do not think that anyone could ever claim that the Aboriginal communities have not applied themselves to proper principles of conservation. They have regarded land in the proper light; they have regarded land as part of their home environment. They would find it difficult to comprehend why they should not be allowed to continue to have access to and be interested in areas of land which we have designated as national parks and alienated land. Ever since Aborigines have lived in Australia they have regarded land and conservation as one and the same thing.
Since white civilisation came to this continent we have seen many examples of our acting improperly in conservation matters. So the Opposition supports the Minister in his endeavours in the matter of land tenure in that, to a limited extent, we have made moves in respect of Uluru and its associated areas. Perhaps that can be considered part payment of the enormous debt we owe to the original inhabitants of our continent. Whatever conflict developed over the past 200 years or so developed as a result of our seizure of their lands. We look with a great deal of shame at some of the actions which were taken by our ancestors. We not only seized the Aborigines’ lands, their homes, but also massacred the tribes in the process. It has taken a great deal of time for us to provide some rectification of the tremendous problems created.
We are dealing with a group of people who have been alienated from their land as a result of the arrival of Western civilisation. We are dealing with people who have shown that they have very good values in respect of land and conservation issues. We are dealing with a group of people who over the centuries in which we have been here have shown themselves to be very patient, very courteous and very retiring people, people who are not aggressive by nature, people who are very co-operative and people who find it difficult to comprehend our system of values as we seek to rectify the effects of the great crimes we committed against their race over the 200 years in which we have been here.
The least we can do is to take the steps which are being taken, to consider the matter of the alienation of their lands and to seek to rectify the problem in the areas in which matters still have to be resolved; that is, the areas to which the Aborigines still lay claim, particularly the areas which we now regard as having tourist and development potential. The least we can do is to give very serious consideration to the movement seeking a treaty of commitment which has now developed among our communities. We need to understand the motivation of people associated with that movement. I was pained to read in recent times comments made in the Sydney Morning Herald by a former editor, Guy Harriott, who criticised attempts being made by well-meaning people in our communities to take even more definite steps to repay our debt to the Aboriginal people.
Therefore the movement which is developing and is requesting a treaty of commitment with the Aboriginal people which will recognise our total agreement to rearranging our relationships with the Aboriginal people is a movement which ought to have the support of all right-thinking people in the community and should not be looked upon as a movement seeking a platitudinous or meek type of arrangement. It is an arrangement which we have an obligation to support and its proposed treaty ought to be accepted as a very small part payment for what we have done to the people in our country. In the Northern Territory we have an opportunity to take energetic steps to repay the Aboriginal people. In that way, the steps which the Minister has taken in this important area are seen by the Opposition as being steps in the right direction. Mr President, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
– May I seek leave to make a brief statement, Mr President?.
– You do not have the call, Senator Keeffe.
-Is leave granted to Senator Gietzelt to continue his remarks?
Motion (by Senator Peter Baume) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
– If that is the attitude which is going to be adopted and the debate is going to be gagged–
– It is a Government measure. It is the usual method adopted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an Order of the Day for the next day of sitting.
– Do I need to seek leave to speak now?
– No. A motion is before the Chair.
- Mr President, I do not want to hold up the debate. I endorse the remarks made by my colleague, Senator Gietzelt, but there are a couple of points–
- Senator, I am sorry but you must speak to the motion, which is that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. You must not speak on the original matter.
– What Senator Keeffe is doing -
– I am speaking to the paper.
– Is indicating why the debate ought not to be adjourned. He is saying that it ought not to be adjourned because–
– It is too late to do that. That has been dealt with. We are now debating the motion concerning the resumption of the debate.
– The motion concerns the resumption of the debate.
– That is right. What I am saying is that Senator Keeffe wants to make a couple of points concerning why the debate should not be adjourned to a later time- at least I hope that is what he wants to do.
The PRESI DENT- That would be in order.
– Yes, thank you. Mr Whip, I do want to do that. I would like to see us finish the debate on the matter now because I think we have not touched on a couple of points. I assume I am in order in raising those points.
– I do not think so.
-Then all 1 can do, straight out, under the Standing Orders, is oppose the motion for the adjournment of the debate. The situation seems pretty crazy to me when we use Standing Orders to stifle debate in this chamber. I indicated earlier that all I wanted to do was spend two or three minutes making some remarks. I forgo doing that now. I intend to speak on Aboriginal affairs in the adjournment debate tonight. I shall raise this matter probably with a little more feeling than I intended to speak about it now. If this is the way the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) wants to suppress debate on aboriginal affairs in this chamber, I will go along with what he wants to do.
– In supporting the motion that the debate be now adjourned I wish to point out that I intended to speak on the matter. If Senator Gietzelt can stand and make certain criticisms of the Northern Territory Government it is unfair that I am unable to answer the charges. 1, too, hope to speak on the matter at an early date.
– in reply- There is no desire on the part of the Government to restrict debate. We have the normal problem of dealing with business. I endeavoured in the statement to make a more detailed assessment of the factors involved in the grant. I will welcome debate on it. There is other business which has to be dealt with by the Senate and the Government needs to pursue that business.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave- At present over 20 Bills are before one or other of the Houses which the Government proposes for passage through the Senate before the Parliament rises for the end of the year adjournment. In addition a further four Bills are being introduced into the other place today and a number of measures are yet to be settled. I am informing honourable senators so that we may be able to arrange the program to facilitate adequate consideration of the legislation. It will be apparent that we now face a full program and will need to make consistent progress day by day. For instance, we can look to debating some 20 Bills in the remaining weeks of this month.
-by leave- I refer to a matter that I have raised here before. Is it anticipated that any Bills dealing with primary industry will be left until the dying stages of the Parliament, as is usually the case, or will they be introduced earlier?
Senator CHANEY (Western AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs)- by leave- I have no precise information before me at the moment. I will seek it for the honourable senator.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this Bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill proposes amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which are designed to remedy deficiences in the operation of the Act which have become evident in recent months. The amendments will require a Commissioner to consult with his Deputy President before making or varying an award relating to wages and conditions; prohibit the Commission from ordering, recommending or sanctioning in any way, an employer paying wages to an employee for time when the employee was engaged in industrial action; provide for the expeditious hearing of stand-down applications, either before a single member of the Commission or a Full Bench; provide that the question of whether an industrial dispute exists may be the subject of a reference to a Full Bench; enable an industrial dispute or part of an industrial dispute to be referred to a Full Bench at the conciliation stage; reinforce the powers of the President of the Commission by enabling him to withdraw a matter from another member of the Commission and either deal with it himself or refer the matter to a Full Bench; and provide increased protection for the community by creating an alternative path to the deregistration of organisations and thereby remove delays in the deregistration process in cases where the safety, health or welfare of the community are put at risk by industrial action.
Consultation with NLCC
Before dealing more fully with the substance of the proposed amendments, I want to refer to the process of consultation in the National Labour Consultative Council. The Government established the National Labour Consultative Council, by statute, in 1977 as a continuing, tripartite consultative body. As a general practice, proposals involving industrial relations and manpower issues, including possible legislation, are submitted to the Council for discussion and expression of views for Government’s consideration.
The Government’s initial proposals about the particular issues dealt with in the Bill before the House were discussed by the NLCC at its 12th Meeting on 6 August this year. Representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations did not attend that meeting. Both organisations had formally advised me that their executives had jointly resolved on 16 July not to participate in NLCC discussions pending resolution of certain matters. I wrote to both organisations on 26 July, stressing the importance the Government placed on the role of the Council. 1 received no response to these letters prior to the 6 August Meeting of NLCC. I might add that I subsequently received replies in late August and early September advising that both organisations were prepared to resume their participation in NLCC discussions subject to certain conditions. I replied to their letters on 7 September and I hope to see both organisations resume their participation in Council. The Council regretted the absence of union representatives. Nevertheless, the Council felt obliged to carry out its statutory functions. As on previous occasions, the Government in finalising its proposed legislation, has given careful consideration to the points raised in the Council’s discussions.
Requirement of Consultation by Commissioners
The Bill proposes that a Commissioner be required to consult with his Deputy President before making or varying an award with respect to wages and conditions. There is a complex range of awards and registered agreements operating in industries coming within the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. This very fact demands consistency of principle in decision-making within the Commission itself. Regrettably there have been some occasions when such consistency has been lacking. The consequences for the community have been serious, both industrially and economically. The proposed consultative process is designed to provide greater co-ordination and consistency in decision-making within the Commission.
Powers of the Commission in Relation to Payments to Workers for Time Lost through Industrial Action
I turn next to the proposal to limit the powers of the Commission in relation to payments to workers for time lost through industrial action. At the present time the Commission may provide for payment to employees in respect of time not worked because they were engaged in industrial action. This is undesirable by any standards. Not only does it encourage irresponsible industrial action, it also forces the employer to pay for the very disruption that puts his business at risk and damages the economic and social life of the community. It is an outlandish concept and indeed makes a mockery of any supposed ‘right to strike’. This legislation now makes it quite clear that the Commission will not be able to award, or in any way sanction, payment for time lost through industrial action. Accordingly the Bill proposes an amendment to the Act to provide that the Commission is not empowered to make an award, certify a memorandum of agreement, make a recommendation or take any other action, whether by way of conciliation or arbitration, in respect of a claim for the making of a payment to employees in respect of a period during which those employees were engaged in industrial action.
The Bill proposes amendments to require the Commission to deal expeditiously with standdown applications. A stand-down clause is one that authorises an employer not to pay some or all of his employees in specified circumstances, for example, where they cannot be usefully employed because of a breakdown of machinery or industrial action by other employees. Applications for stand-down clauses are usually dealt with by a Commissioner or Deputy President.
There are three main reasons why the Government is proposing these amendments to speed up the process for consideration of stand-down clauses in awards, First, the harmful effects of industrial action on any enterprise are often serious, and they can be disastrous in the case of small employers. There is little they can do to protect themselves. Employers should not be required to ‘carry’ employees for whom there is no work because of the industrial action of other employees. Secondly, stand-down clauses protect employees from being sacked- they enable the employer to avoid the need to dismiss employees for whom no work is available as a result of industrial action by others. Thirdly, provision for prompt access by employers to the Commission in applications for stand-down clauses should encourage unionists generally to exert a moderating influence on particular union members and officers who are quick to call strikes rather than use the processes of conciliation and arbitration.
A decision to take industrial action all too often gravely affects innocent people not directly involved. Any person considering industrial action should be sensitive to the possible consequences of that action for his fellow workers and for the well being of the community.
References to a Full Bench 1 now turn to the proposed amendments which remedy deficiencies in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act inhibiting the referral of matters to a Full Bench of the Commission. Those deficiencies were highlighted during proceedings in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission concerning a claim by the Australian Telecommunication Employees Association for a 20 per cent increase in all wage levels of ATEA members employed by the Australian Telecommunications Commission. The Telecommunications Commission resisted the claim on the grounds that it conflicted with the principles governing wage indexation. ATEA members then imposed bans and limitations which caused the breakdown of the Australian Telecommunications system with very serious social and economic consequences.
Because of the gravity of the situation, it was essential, in the public interest, that the matter be referred to a Full Bench. However, there were difficulties in getting such a reference. It is clearly unacceptable that the processes of the Commission for the proper settlement of industrial disputes should be frustrated because of procedural deficiencies. It is proposed to remedy those deficiencies by the following amendments to the Act: First, an amendment to provide that the question whether or not an industrial dispute exists may be the subject of a reference to a Full Bench of the Commission; second, an amendment to enable an industrial dispute or part of an industrial dispute to be referred to a Full Bench at the conciliation stage; and third, an amendment to empower the President of the Commission to withdraw a matter from a member of the Commission and deal with it himself by conciliation and/or arbitration or refer it to a Full Bench.
Cancellation of Registration
For some time now the Government has recognised that in certain situations there is a need to provide an alternative to the form of deregistration processes presently available under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The need arises from the actions of a few pursuing selfish interests with reckless disregard for the community. Many unions, or sections of them, are strategically placed to interfere with the provision of goods and services to the community. Indeed, they have used the vulnerability of the community to their disruptive tactics as a powerful industrial weapon, and even, on occasions, for blatantly political purposes. The Government does not believe that any member of our community, whether a direct participant in industrial relations or not, should have to put up with tactics which threaten their health, safety or welfare.
We believe that it is proper for all organisations to effectively represent the legitimate interests of their members. But these organisations also have a responsibility to the community. It is an unfortunate fact that some of these organisations, or sections of them, have in the past, ignored that responsibility and rejected the proper process for settling their disputes. I need only remind honourable senators of the disruption caused by members of the Transport Workers Union in support of claims for wage increases under a number of awards. That disruption had a dramatic effect, for example, on the supply of milk and other vital foodstuffs.
This Government is concerned about the rights of individuals. We have already acted to protect the rights of individuals in relation to industrial organisations. We will not stand by and watch while individual Australians are denied their right to obtain goods and services affecting their safety, health or welfare. Registration under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act confers very significant rights and privileges upon an organisation. It also carries with it obligations. The Government believes that the present deregistration provisions are not adequate to deal with the special circumstances where organisations, or sections of them, endanger the safety, health or welfare of Australian families. In this context, the existing grounds for deregistration do not sufficiently protect individuals or the public interest.
Accordingly, this Bill proposes that another process of deregistration be provided which will be additional to the existing provisions. I will briefly deal with the main features of the proposed new provision. The Minister may apply to a Full Bench of the Commission for a declaration that industrial action by an organisation or a group of its members has had, is having, or is likely to have, a substantial adverse effect on the safety, health or welfare of the community or a part of the. community. At this point I ask honourable senators to note it is not any adverse effect due to industrial action that will make an organisation liable to deregistration by these processes; the adverse effect must be substantial. Moreover, the right to initiate proceedings is restricted to the Minister, and the decision as to whether the threshold test has been satisfied lies with a Full Bench of the Commission.
Where the Full Bench makes a declaration the Governor-General may within six months direct the Registrar to cancel the organisation’s registration or make orders suspending the rights, privileges or capacities of the organisation or giving directions as to the exercise of any of its rights, privileges or capacities or for restricting the use of its funds or property to ensure observance of the order. Cancellation of registration need not follow a declaration. If the organisation undertakes not to pursue the industrial action that might be the end of the matter. If it were to go back on its undertaking, deregistration could be directed at any time up to six months after the declaration by the Full Bench. After that time, of course, the Minister would need to obtain another declaration by a Full Bench.
The orders that the Governor-General may make as an alternative to cancellation of registration are the same as those that may be made as an alternative to deregistration under the existing provision for cancellation of registration. Where such an order has been made it will remain open to the Governor-General, within the next six months, to direct that the organisation’s registration be cancelled. I remind honourable senators that the Acts Interpretation Act provides that a reference to the Governor-General in an Act shall, unless the contrary intention appears, be read as referring to the GovernorGeneral acting with the advice of the Executive Council, that is, with the advice of Ministers. No contrary intention is expressed in these amendments. Consequently, in exercising powers under the section, the Governor-General will act with the advice of the Executive Council. Finally, where the Governor-General has directed that an organisation’s registration be cancelled, the organisation cannot be re-registered without the consent of the Governor-General. He may make his consent conditional upon the organisation complying with conditions he prescribes.
These new provisions are designed specifically to protect the job security, safety, health or welfare of Australian men and women and their families. They would be used only where these rights, fundamental to any democracy, are threatened. If any group acts in a way which puts these rights at risk, then they cannot expect the community to continue granting them the privileges to which they would otherwise be entitled. When the basis of life is under attack, the public is entitled to expect its Government to protect their interests. Irresponsible behaviour endangering the very foundation of our society is, fortunately, uncommon. But it does occur and cannot be dealt with by the usual means. This proposed legislation recognises that fact, and will provide the Government with the necessary procedures to protect its citizens. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3 April, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time. (Quorum formed).
-The Senate is debating the Passports Amendment Bill 1979, a piece of legislation in respect of which my own knowledge is relatively recent. I merely wish to make some general comments about the legislation in the course of the second reading debate. The purpose of this Bill is to make a number of amendments to the existing legislation on passports. Basically it does three things. Firstly, it gives a wide discretion to the Minister, both in the issuing and cancellation of passports; secondly, it lays down some criteria in some circumstances for authorised officers in issuing passports; and, thirdly, it substantially increases the penalties for offences under the Act.
The Opposition does not oppose the Bill but is concerned with a number of its features. In respect of one issue it will move an amendment to the motion for the second reading and in respect of others it will seek changes to the Bill in the Committee stage. Under the previous legislation the Minister had no power in relation to the issue of passports although he had wide discretion in their cancellation. The power to issue passports resided with officers authorised by the Minister. They exercised wide discretion in the issue of passports and no doubt the exercise of that discretion was based upon the policies of the government of the time. In any event this Bill makes it quite clear that the Minister had overriding control in both the issue and cancellation of passports.
While the Opposition does not oppose this ministerial discretion it is alarmed that there is no check on the exercise of that discretion. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal was established to provide checks on unfettered discretion given to governments, either to officials or to Ministers. The existence of that Tribunal gave the citizen some confidence that administrative discretions were not exercised in an arbitrary way. The policies of this Government towards the operation of that Tribunal are somewhat obscure. In some cases discretions created by legislation are referred to that body, but this does not happen in others. In this case very wide discretion is conferred on the Minister and his officials under the passports legislation and is not subject to any appeal. Thus a passport could be denied or cancelled without any reason given and the citizen has no recourse whatsoever other than to appeal to the individual who took the initial step.
The Opposition believes that administrative discretions should be referable on appeal to the Appeals Tribunal unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary. In other words, there should be appeal against the exercise of admin.strative discretion unless the government of the day gave very cogent reasons why such an appeal should not lie. In this case, if one accepts what the then Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) said during the House of Representatives debate, it would appear that the matter has not even been considered. For this reason, during the Committee stage the Opposition will be moving an amendment that will allow an appeal and it urges most strongly that the Government give this amendment very serious consideration, if only in the interests of consistency with other legislation brought down by this Government.
One of the problems under the legislation is that a passport could be denied to a person without his being told. The issue of a passport to such a person could be delayed, and delayed without any reason being given and without any assurance that a decision would be made ultimately. The Opposition believes that some time limit should be imposed during which the Government should make up its mind about whether a passport will be issued to that person. If a passport had not been issued within that time, such a person should then have a right to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Under conditions such as these, people could be assured of receiving just treatment under the legislation. Honourable senators on both sides of the chamber should be concerned that the Government invites them to create laws which transfer significant discretion to administration. The Parliament should indicate that it would be much more happy to confer these powers after proper appeal provisions are instituted. The Senate, of course, as the vaunted watchdog of the Executive, should be very concerned in relation to that issue.
The amendments introduced by this Bill are somewhat confusing. In the second reading speech, the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) said that the Bill seeks to provide a proper legislative basis for passport policy and a clear legislative framework for the exercise of ministerial discretion. If that is the case, then this Bill has been a significant failure. Under the Bill, the Minister has unfettered discretion, with no guidelines. A few guidelines are being introduced for authorised officers, but they are subject to being overridden by ministerial direction and, in any event, do not cover every situation. For example, in the second reading speech, the Minister discussed the practice of requiring the consent of a spouse or former spouse to the issue of a passport. He recognised that this matter was a difficult one and involved the infringement of certain rights. He indicated that the practice of requiring that consent would continue. Where is anything dealing with that issue in the Bill? There is no reference to the consent of the spouse. There is no restriction on authorised officers issuing passports without any consent. Apparently this is one area which will be left to unfettered ministerial direction and for which there is no legislative framework at all.
The provisions contained in the Bill provide directions to passport officials in cases of minors, people for whom there is a warrant for arrest, people who owe money to the Commonwealth, and other classes of persons to whom passports will not be issued. However, even this legislative framework is subject to being overridden at any time by directions from the Minister. In those circumstances, it is not clear just what benefits will be gained by having these matters in the Bill. Certainly the legislation does not live up to the expectation created by Ministers that it would spell out as clearly as possible the reasons for which a citizen may be refused a passport.
Even so, there are some issues arising from this part of the Bill which do require attention. Among the matters dealt with by the Bill are the conditions under which a passport will be issued to a person under 1 8 years of age. The broad intention of this aspect of the Bill is to ensure that an unmarried minor is not issued with a passport without steps having been taken to protect the rights of the child and the rights of persons who have custody or guardianship of or access to the child. The intention of this part of the Bill is acceptable to the Opposition. However, it does not deal with the situation of entry of the child’s name on the passport of an adult. To increase the protection provided by this part of the Bill, the Opposition will be seeking an amendment to those clauses.
I touch on the question of the need for consent of a spouse or former spouse. The Minister indicated that this need will be significantly reduced when Australia becomes a signatory to the International Convention on Recovery Abroad of Maintenance. As this Convention came into existence in 1956, the Opposition invites the Minister to inform the Senate why Australia has not yet become a signatory to that Convention prior to this time, which is some 23 years after its commencement and when Australia intends to become a signatory to it? One aspect of the Bill which concerns the Opposition is the stiff increase in penalties provided under the Act. For example, under the existing legislation if a person fails to hand over on demand any passport in his possession after it has been cancelled, he is subject to a penalty of £ 100 or imprisonment for three months. Under this Bill he would be liable to a year’s gaol. The Bill creates a new offence. If somebody loses a passport and fails, as soon as he becomes aware of the loss, to report it, he is liable for a penalty of a year’s gaol. These are fairly serious penalties in respect of the offences to which I have referred.
– It is a potentially serious matter, is it not?
– I must say that these provisions strike terror in my heart when I recall the fate of some passports I have held.
– I am sorry you remarked about that.
-I thought that it may be a not uncommon event and something which might even provoke the Minister.
– It does not apply to official passports, surely.
-No, but I am talking about passports before the Minister became the holder of an official passport. With respect, it may lead him to examine more closely the provisions of this Bill. In the view of the Opposition, serious offences demand serious penalties, and the Bill provides for a penalty of up to five years gaol for offences involving the forgery of passports. The Opposition has no quarrel with this provision. It is obvious and necessary. However, it is concerned about the stiff increases in penalties for what appear to be fairly minor offences. No reason has been given by the Government for these dramatic increases. In the second reading speech, the Minister pointed out that the Government was concerned with traffic in lost, stolen and forged passports but has given no indication that there has been any increase in that sort of traffic in Australian passports. No information has been provided concerning the incidence of offences of this type and certainly no justification has been provided for the increased penalties. In those circumstances, the Opposition will move a number of amendments seeking to reduce the penalties in a number of cases.
It is clear from the second reading speech and from the Bill that much of the administration of passport legislation will depend on the policies of the government of the day. These policies may change from time to time but will not be spelt out in legislation. One of these issues has given rise to very serious concern in recent times. There is considerable concern in many sections of the community about the need to show on Australian passports the place of birth. The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence recommended in its 1976 report on dual nationality that consideration be given to deleting this requirement. The Minister has indicated that the Government is not prepared to accept this proposal. He pointed out that a number of countries would not accept passports which did not show any place of birth; thus the absence of this information would inconvenience a large number of Australian travellers.
On that basis the Government intends to continue with the practice of showing this information on the passport. This practice is not suitable to many naturalised Australians and other Australians born outside this country who do not wish to have their place of birth stated on their passports. Many of these passports holders may be caused difficulties because of the provision of this information. For this reason, the Opposition sees considerable merit in giving passport holders an option as to whether their place of birth appears on the passport. This would ensure that for the majority of Australians who are not concerned with this issue, their travelling rights around the world would not be restricted in any way as a result of passport policy. On the other hand, people who elect to have this information removed from their passports should be able to do so on being informed of the potential difficulties they will face in gaining entry into certain countries. It seems quite reasonable to the Opposition that such an option should be available and it urges the Government to consider adopting this course in the future. For that reason, the Opposition proposes an amendment to the second reading speech, and I move:
– The fact that passport legislation in this country largely has been unchanged for 40 years clearly indicates the need for some reconsideration of this very important legislation at this stage. Whilst the legislation has not changed a great deal in 40 years, the situation in which passports are used and the purposes for which they are issued has changed dramatically. The impact of technology and more specifically communications on this situation, particularly with respect to air travel, has had a dramatic impact. The same is true also of sea and land travel. Many more people are now able to move around the world. Most recently we have witnessed the first effects of the impact of lower air fares, as a result of which we will see a much larger number of people travelling around the world. It is salutary to note that each year in the vicinity of one million Australians now travel overseas. In a nation with a population of 15 million, that is quite an astonishing number. Also to be considered is the impact of relative affluence, particularly in a country such as Australia, which leads increasing numbers of people to seek new experiences- often by overseas travel which, in turn, requires the use of passports.
In this dramatically changed situation in the last 40 years, the number of passports issued has increased equally dramatically. It is perhaps worth examining, in the course of this debate, the number of passports now being issued in this country. In 1975 just over 370,000 passports were issued; in 1976 over 380,000; in 1977, 367,000; and last year 402,000. To 30 April of this year, 154,000 passports were issued in Australia alone. That figure excludes passports issued by our overseas posts and reflects an increase of almost 19 per cent over the 130,000 issued in Australia in the first four months of 1978. That means that well over 1,000 passports are being issued to Australians every day. It is also worth taking into account that, as I read the figures, this means that nearly a thousand passports a day are being issued within Australia by the Department of Foreign Affairs and its officers in the various States, and that 100,000 are being issued annually by overseas posts. Obviously, the load that those quite remarkable figures must impose on Australia’s overseas posts, and on the Department of Foreign Affairs and its State offices, is quite substantial.
I have referred already to the changed circumstances as a result of which many more Australians are travelling overseas, but it is worth recalling that they are not just tourists. Australia has many traders and entrepreneurs travelling constantly around the world. Many Australian artists, individuals and major performing companies are constantly on the move around the world. Also, Government officials, State and Federal, are constantly on the move pursuing Australia ‘s interests in a variety of forums, conferences and direct bilateral negotiations on a range of issues. Partly because of this, Australia is constantly opening new posts particularly, most recently, in the Pacific, South America, the Middle East and Africa. As we do so, it is likely that that will have its own impact in increasing the numbers of Australians who travel as facilities, through Australian representation, are made available. All of this means that there will be an increasing consular work load on the Department of Foreign Affairs, on the Department’s posts and on the posts of other departments which in some cases assist it in these matters around the world.
Recently, the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence conducted an inquiry into the operations of the Department of Foreign Affairs. In the course of the inquiry some evidence was taken on the question of the issue of passports and the impact on the Department of the increasing consular work load. In evidence taken on 27 July 1978 one of the officers of the Department, referring to a statement made earlier in the day by the Secretary of the Department, said that it referred both to a previous and to a pending increase in the consular work load. He added: 1 think the simple index of increase in recent years is probably that of the annual rate of passport issue. In looking at a live-year period- a convenient one from 1971-1975- we saw a doubling from about 170.000, in rounded figures, to over 350,000 in that period. This has a double impact on the Department . . .
I wish to emphasise this - in that we issue the passport to begin with and then are required in the consular function to respond to the needs of those who are travelling overseas as a consequence.
So it is not simply the issue of the passport but the follow-up work that often occurs with respect to lost passports, et cetera. People who are travelling may lose their money, have goods stolen or find themselves in difficulty for other reasons. The consular work load, in that sense, extends far beyond the simple issuing of passports or other travel documents to Australians. As I have mentioned already, each year about a million Australian citizens travel overseas. I refer again to the evidence given to the Committee by the same officer on the same day, that is 27 July 1978, concerning the possible increase in the number of Australians who will travel overseas. He stated:
Wc have to face the possibility that in about 10 years time the figure of Australians going overseas will have gone to three million, as against approximately one million Australians going overseas per year at present. Now even taking a halfway point of 1985, and resting solely on a Qantas projection, one is looking at at least a doubling to two million.
So it looks as if, by the mid-1980s, we may have at least two million Australians travelling overseas, and by the end of the 1980s perhaps three million. As I have said, already the Department of Foreign Affairs, and its posts, are issuing close to half a million passports a year. If the number of Australians who travel is trebled it gives some measure of the amount of work that this will involve for the Department and the difficulties that, in turn, it may involve for its posts.
I refer to those matters because they help to emphasise how important it is that our passport legislation should be brought up to date, as this Bill attempts to do. The issuing of passports is becoming a massive task for government and for its civil servants. I should refer to the fact that the Department of Foreign Affairs has been responsible for the issuance of passports only since, as 1 recall it, 1975. I believe that is appropriate because, obviously, the very large numbers of Australians travelling overseas by land, sea or air, can have a significant impact, simply by their presence in various countries, on Australia’s international relations. When we consider that in perhaps a decade some 20 per cent of our population may travel overseas in the course of the year we realise that the impact that- simply by their presence, behaviour and activities- this can have on our relationships with other countries could be quite significant. Indeed, I believe that already, with about a million people travelling overseas each year, it is quite significant.
In referring to the impact of those travellers on our relations with other countries it is worth noting that the issue of passports, as this legislation reflects, and as was stated in the second reading speech of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), is relevant to our obligations to other countries. The Minister said that Australia has an obligation to the countries to which its citizens travelled. Already Australian passports contain a message from the GovernorGeneral asking those countries, in formal terms, to provide free passage, protection and assistance to the bearer in the traditional sense in which those terms are meant. That, of course, imposes on any Australian government a responsibility to ensure, to the extent that it can, that passports will not be issued to persons who may, in one way or another, threaten the security, national integrity or public order of another country, or the rights of that country’s citizens. Obviously, that refers particularly to certain extremists and extremist organisations, terrorists, those who may be involved in the drug trade, and people of that kind.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Hansard of last night’s Senate proceedings at page 1 192 records that Senator Wriedt stated:
I wish to move an amendment. I move:
Hansard then shows an interjection in my name saying:
It was not I who interjected. It was another honourable senator on this side of the chamber. It certainly was not 1. 1 do not wish it to appear in the record that I was objecting to Senator Wriedt’s application. In fact, as appears later in Hansard I actually spoke supporting his amendment. I would just like to draw that to the attention of the Senate. I also ask that the reprint of Hansard in the weekly edition be corrected either by way of deleting it or, if the honourable senator who made the interjection can be identified, by putting it in his name.
– In this case I shall attend to what action needs to be taken to rectify the position.
– I have referred to the frequency of Australians travelling overseas and the vast number of passports being issued. I emphasise the need for greater attention to be given to the career structure in the Australian Consular Services. I referred earlier to the inquiry undertaken by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. In this context I would simply like to refer to some of the findings of that Committee in its report which has been tabled in the Senate. I quote from page 6 of the report:
The Committee recommends that a very high priority bc given to a thorough review of consular and administrative careers with the aim of developing a career structure for officers performing varied, responsible and essential services.
On page 47 of the Senate Committee’s report there is also reference to the importance of effective training of consular staff. Without going over that in detail, I would simply like to emphasise that the Senate Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee did see a very real need for the development of a career consular service and a need for more effective training and support facilities for our consular services provided to Australians around the world. The Minister for Foreign
Affairs (Mr Peacock) did, in a statement to Parliament on 26 May 1978, indicate that the Government was giving attention to these matters. I would hope that pursuant to the Senate Committee’s report those activities might be intensified to ensure that the consular staff is properly trained to meet the very demanding and varied tasks that it must face around the world. There ought to be a proper career structure in particular so that officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs who are involved in consular work will be encouraged to remain in that career; their experience is then consistently available to the Department in later years and it is not lost as they leave the Department or consular activities to seek advancement elsewhere.
All of this adds strength to the argument that the passport legislation that we are now considering is of very considerable importance. It is equally important that the integrity of the passport ought to be maintained because of the large number of people travelling. It must be appreciated that if in some way the value of a document such as a passport is devalued, it will only lead to greater difficulties for the very large number of Australians travelling around the world. Therefore if passports are lost and frequently turn up in the hands of people who ought not to have them and are misused in various ways by criminals or people involved in extremist activities, Australian passports will not be treated with the respect with which they are now treated. Travelling Australians using Australian passports will find their way hindered as a result because officials of the countries to which Australians travel will then scrutinise documents far more carefully if they are concerned that Australian documents are being misused.
It is important to maintain the integrity of the Australian passport. This legislation is directed at ensuring that people do take their passport seriously and do understand its significance as a travel document. As a result of that, the penalties which are provided in this legislation are, I would concede, quite severe. It has to be noted that these penalties have not changed since the 1920s, as I understand it. As I indicated at the outset, the .situations in which passports are used and the numbers being used have changed quite dramatically, particularly in recent times. As I have just suggested, it is very important that we maintain the standing and the integrity of the Australian passport, Australians may find difficulty in their travels as a result of much closer scrutiny and concern on the part of officials of other countries.
Amendments will be moved by the Opposition in the Committee stage. As I have said, I concede that the penalties contained in this legislation are quite severe, but I believe they have to be seen in the context, firstly, of the very large numbers of passports being issued to Australians travelling overseas and, secondly, the importance of maintaining the integrity and acceptability of the Australian passport as a travel document to facilitate the movement of Australians when they travel overseas. It is worth pointing out in that context that the penalties created by this legislation follow, as I understand it, most of the penalties prescribed in the Crimes Act for comparable offences. The Opposition has been critical of the penalty, for example, of a maximum of one year’s imprisonment for the failure of a person to report the loss or theft of a passport as soon as that person becomes aware of the loss or theft.
There was some exchange between Senator Chaney and Senator Button. I understand that Senator Button was somewhat concerned about that provision for some reason. It seems, I would suggest, that in a sense this is not excessive. It is designed to highlight the importance of the passport and to deter people who may lose their passport and not report it, or people who may be tempted, for example in difficult circumstances, to sell their passport. The penalty is designed to deter such actions or to ensure that people do report a lost passport. As I understand it, several thousand passports are lost or are reported lost each year. Very few of these are reported to be recovered subsequently. It does seem to be a problem of some proportion and one with which this legislation through the penalties provided seeks to deal.
Another matter that I would like to deal with in respect of this legislation is the question of the place of birth of the Australian citizen being required on the passport. In his second reading speech, the Minister referred at some length to this difficulty and the problems that it poses for many Australians. He points out that many people have expressed their concern about this. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence recommended that the deletion of this provision as to place of birth ought to be considered and the Government established an interdepartmental committee to examine that question.
– What countries did you have in mind that it would embarrass?
– I will be referring to a number of countries shortly as to this provision in the legislation and the requirement as to place of birth. The Government has reached the conclusion following these examinations that the omission of the place of birth provision poses a number of problems. It is required on application documents, in any case. Some countries require it to be shown on the passport before they will issue a visa. The problem has been put to me that in fact some Australians whose country of birth is other than Australia and who now have an Australian passport cannot get a visa to return to their former homeland. This happens, for example, if that country is not specifically named on their Australian passport. It can readily be argued- I would agree- that it raises real questions as to the rights of Australians when another country says to an Australian citizen that he must have a certain item of information on his passport or a visa will not be issued to him to return to that country. 1 emphasise that I am talking about people- cases of which I am awarewho sought to return to their country of origin. It may well be that in some cases people nowadays put their town or city of origin as the place of birth rather than the country. I believe that some embassies in Australia still require that the country of origin, as they understand that country, ought to be placed on the passport. That seems to me to suggest some attempt to question the right of Australian citizens to decide what information they will put on the passport when the Australian Government has made it quite clear that a town or city of birth is adequate.
I understand that a survey has been done of a number of countries, through our embassies overseas, as to their requirements in this respect. Some 56 countries responded to an inquiry as to whether they would accept the place of residence rather than the place of birth on Australian passports. Fourteen of those countries indicated that they would find that unacceptable. Those countries are Turkey, South Africa, Syria, Italy, Egypt, West Germany, France, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Israel, Trinidad and Tobago, Zambia, Guyana and Yugoslavia. A further 18 countries said that whilst they would not necessarily reject Australian passports showing only the place of residence, the place of birth details would continue to remain a requirement for entry and departure documentation. Those 18 countries are Ghana, Greece, Brazil, Philippines, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Vietnam, Pakistan, Jamaica, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Soviet Union, Botswana, Burma, Sweden, Iran, Austria and the United States of America.
I suggest that those lists show a wide diversity of countries in each group which have indicated that they would not accept the place of residence and, in any case, would require details as to the place of birth and country of birth on visa documents. I say that only because it raises questions with respect to the amendment that has been proposed, as I understand it. It also emphasises the difficulty in dealing with this issue. On the one hand an Australian citizen with an Australian passport ought to have the right to decide, in accordance with Australian law, what information should go on his passport. On the other hand, when one is travelling to someone else’s country the Government and the authorities in that country have a right, which must be recognised, to say what information they require before they permit entry.
– That is why the amendment suggests an option.
– I appreciate that, but I have indicated that that might not resolve the issue as it stands, given the information that is available from a number of countries. It is a very complex issue. Whilst it relates to the rights of an Australian citizen seeking to travel it equally relates to the rights of other countries, their governments and people, to which an Australian citizen is seeking entry. The issue is of great sensitivity to many Australians. For that reason I believe a good deal more work needs to be done on this matter at a time when a whole range of human rights issues is before the United Nations, for example, and in the minds of a lot of people around the world for a lot of very good reasons. It seems to me that it is a matter that needs to be dealt with internationally, through the United Nations, and also bilaterally. The Australian Government- any Australian government- has a responsibility to pursue the interests of its citizens who may be concerned about the information required of them by other governments, information which they feel they ought not have to give. I suggest that in that context it is the responsibility of any Australian government to attempt to deal with these matters bilaterally; to reach an agreement which, whilst meeting the requirements of other governments, also meets the interests and concerns of Australian citizens. In saying that I recognise that this matter is tied up with great difficulties in respect of questions of dual citizenship which are not readily resolvable but which governments must continue to attempt to resolve in the interests of their own and other citizens.
One other matter I would like to deal with briefly is child abduction. I have to say that in my electorate there have been a number of cases in which children have been taken by one spouse or by one partner in a dissolved relationship and that spouse or partner has left the country with the children without any reference to the other spouse or former partner to the great distress of that person. There simply are not effective controls on the ability of people to remove children from this country. In one case of which I am aware custody proceedings were pending. One of the parties involved simply took the children and went to a country with which Australia has limited relations in respect of such matters. There has proved to be no way in which the interests of the person remaining in Australia and that person’s right to access to that person’s children can be met. One must welcome any measures to help overcome such difficulties. Obviously the provisions of this legislation do not by any means entirely eliminate the problem but the legislation does address itself to the issue in an attempt to tighten up procedures in respect of the issue of passports and their use. Of course, passport legislation is only one aspect of this very great problem that causes such deep emotional distress to people when they are affected by it. Obviously a number of other aspects of our legal structure need to be considered and reconsidered to ensure protection for people in this situation.
The Government established an interdepartmental committee to investigate the issue. A statement was made on 26 August by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). It was a Press statement and was issued publicly. It is on the record. I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
The statement read as follows-
The Federal Government has decided to introduce tough new measures aimed at preventing children being removed from Australia by one parent without the knowledge or against the wishes of the other parent.
The Government has also decided that in appropriate cases it will grant financial assistance to assist parents instituting court action overseas to recover children removed from Australia by the other parent.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Andrew Peacock, and the Attorney-General, Senator Peter Durack, QC, said today the new measures followed a detailed review of what legislative and administrative changes were necessary to reduce the incidence of child removal.
The Ministers said media reports had suggested that hundreds of children may have been removed from Australia by one parent without the consent of the other. About 10 such cases come to the Government ‘s notice each year.
While the number of child removal cases does not appear to bc as high as the media reports suggest, the Government is concerned to make its legislation and administrative procedures as effective as possible to minimise the problem; ‘ the Ministers said.
Because of the frequency of marriages in Australia between partners of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and the availability of rapid transport, the problem is likely to increase in Australia ‘ the Ministers said.
The Ministers said the prevention of child removal was a complex matter involving questions of jurisdiction, dual nationality, citizenship, freedom of travel and rights of the child.
It is important to understand that there is no instant panacea for this problem. But we hope that when the new legislative and administrative measures are put into effect, the Government will both reduce the occurrence of the problem and assist in the recovery of children who have been succesfully removed from Australia, ‘ the Ministers said.
The Ministers said the changes included:
Revision of sections 62 and 63 of the Migration Act 1 9S8, which provide for offences in respect of the removal and carriage from Australia of children in respect of whom custody or access orders have been made or arc being sought, to give them broader application, and relocation of the provisions to the Family Law Act 1975 where their existence should become more generally known;
Improving procedures for the entry of details of some children on warning lists and tightening of checks at departure points;
Officers of the Departments of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and Business and Consumer Affairs stepping up at departure points identification checks of children who are accompanied by only one parent:
Tighten parental consent requirements for the issue of passports to children leaving Australia;
Approaches to courts to achieve better communication of orders for delivery up of passports by applicants to police and foreign embassies and consulates in Australia;
Requesting foreign diplomatic missions in Australia to decline passport facilities in respect of children who they are informed or who they have reasonable cause to believe are the subject of Australian court orders for delivery up of passports;
Additional and further approaches to other countries, especially New Zealand, to secure arrangements for the reciprocal enforcement of custody orders between Australia and those countries;
Continued participation by Australia in discussions in the Hague Conference on Private International Law on a proposed international convention on the specific problem of child removal;
Authorisation of the Attorney-General to grant financial assistance in deserving cases to assist parents to institute legal proceedings overseas for recovery of their children removed from Australia by the other parent.
Inclusion of the problem on the agenda in future discussions between Australia and New Zealand on travel arrangements between the two countries.
The Ministers said that the States would be asked to cooperate in making information on measures to prevent removal of children from Australia available from magistrates ‘ courts.
Until these measures had been implemented the Ministers suggested that people who suspected their children may be removed from Australia by the other parent should consult a solicitor, or a registry of the Family Court of Australia, the Family Court of Western Australia or the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory for information on preventive measures.
– There is one other matter that I wish to touch upon. It relates to the question of appeals against the refusal or delay of an application for a passport. I make the point at the outset that the passport legislation which the Bill before us amends has been in existence for 40 years without appeal procedures. No appeal procedures are contained in this legislation although I understand that ought not be taken to mean that the Government does not wish to consider and to implement some form of appeal procedures. In fact that whole issue was examined in reviewing existing legislation during the preparation of the Bill before us. A statement on this matter appeared in the annual report of the Department of Foreign Affairs for the year ended 31 December 1978. 1 think that statement bears looking at in the context of this legislation. It stated that the question of a review was:
That was stated in the annual report of the Department of Foreign Affairs for last year. The Government is looking at this question of appeals; it recognises that there ought to be some mechanism for appeals. The real question is what sort of mechanism it ought to be and when and how it ought to be introduced. As I understand it, the view has been taken by the Government that the legislation ought to be in operation for a period to enable it to assess how many appeals there might be, the nature of those appeals and, in the context of that information, the mechanism by which such appeals might be dealt with.
– You know that is a lot of hocus-pocus. You have had years to consider this thing.
– The honourable senator may consider it to be hocus-pocus. That would be characteristic of the cynical view that he seems to take of many matters. I am simply saying that a statement was made in the annual report of the Department of Foreign Affairs which indicated a commitment to an appeals mechanism. I understand that the Government wishes to see this legislation in operation so that it can determine the best form of appeals machinery to handle appeals under the legislation. It might be preferable from the honourable senator’s point of view to introduce appeals machinery now and then have to change it later. The Government takes the view that it would like to introduce machinery that will work. I understand that the Labor Party has few reservations about introducing things that do not work, but the Government takes a different view.
I wish to make an additional point. I understand that the Ombudsman legislation already provides an avenue for challenging decisions to refuse to issue a passport or to cancel a passport, or in relation to any delay in the issue of a passport, which refers to one of the Opposition’s proposed amendments. So there is immediate provision of appeal to the Ombudsman with respect to these administrative decisions. Also, the Government is examining the need for appeals machinery. I would agree that it is necessary but 1 would like to be sure, as I think the Government would like to be sure, that when an appeals mechanism is introduced it is relevant to the type of appeals that are likely to emerge under this legislation and that it works in the interest of those making the appeal.
– So you go to the Ombudsman in the meantime as a workable system?
– It is an avenue of appeal that is available.
– Do you say that it is a workable system?
– The honourable senator either deliberately misunderstands or fails to understand. I prefer to think that he does not misunderstand deliberately. I am saying that there is an avenue of appeal on these administrative decisions and that in the process as I understand it- I hope the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) will address himself to this in responding to the second reading debate- the Government has under consideration the question of what is the best form of appeals machinery to be applied under this legislation. I think that is clear enough.
I conclude by reiterating what I said about the passports legislation in this country being virtually unchanged for several decades. At a time when the situation affecting the issue and use of passports has changed dramatically, when one million Australians are travelling annually and when the Department of Foreign Affairs and its posts around the world are now issuing nearly 500,000 passports a year, it is important that Australia’s passports legislation be brought up to date, that it be more effective and that decisions be made in a way that is more open and fairer to the community. Whilst this legislation may leave some gaps that disconcert members of the Opposition and perhaps may impose penalties that some consider too severe, I would suggest nevertheless that it is an important step towards bringing Australia’s passports legislation up to date.
-The Senate is dealing with a Bill for an Act to amend the Passports Act 1938. Whilst the Opposition is in agreement with the main thrust of the Billnamely, removing the issuing of passports or, more importantly, their denial from the realm of administrative discretion and instead providing a legislative guide to authorised officers as to the grounds on which a passport can be denied- the second reading speech of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) provides an opportunity to point to some anomalies between the stated objectives of the Government in introducing this legislation and its actual provisions.
The Senate is dealing with a very fundamental and important human right; namely, the right to move freely between countries round the world. I have discovered that it is a very ancient right, recognised in clause 42 of the Magna Carta of 1215, which states:
It is allowed henceforth to any one to go out from our Kingdom, and to return, safely and securely, by land and by water . . .
That is a very bold statement of an ancient right to move freely across the frontiers of the kingdom.
– They did not need a passport in those days.
– Of course, passports are very ancient. People obviously needed some permission to leave the realm, otherwise there would not have been the need to put that in clause 42 of the great charter of 1215. Certain writs were available. Ne exeat regno, which was an ancient writ of the 13th century, was always available through the Lord Chancellor to restrain a person from moving outside the kingdom until he had discharged, for example, his military duties. I regret to say that in the Parliament’s copy of the Magna Carta in King’s Hallwhich is the enrolled Magna Carta which became law by being put on the statute roll in 1297- there is no mention of this clause. It is a cause for regret that somewhere between 1215 and the enrolling of the Magna Carta in 1297 that clause was deleted. Nevertheless, one does not have to go back to ancient history to establish that we are dealing with a human right. It is well known that in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, adopted by the United Nations in December of that year, article 13 (2) states: . . everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own and to return to his country.
In fact, that simply establishes that there is an international recognition that in dealing with the granting and withdrawal of passports one is dealing with a very fundamental human right to move freely from one’s own country and to return. Whilst a passport is in no sense an exit visa, and it is not necessary for an Australian to have a passport in order to leave Australia, it is effectively an entry visa from the point of view of the receiving country, which requires a passport as identification of the person concerned and of his or her nationality. Many carriers refuse to take a person unless a passport is available. In fact, generally speaking, if an Australian wishes to gain entry to another country it is essential that he or she holds a current passport.
Therefore, the granting or withholding of a passport affects this fundamental human right. For that reason, at first glance the Opposition was pleased to see this legislation because on the face of it- particularly in clause 8, amending section 7- there are enumerated the grounds on which a passport may be denied. For example, it requires one to be denied to an unmarried minor except in special circumstances; it requires one to be denied to a person who owes the Commonwealth certain moneys; and in a new instance not previously covered in governmental practice it requires one to be denied where the Minister forms the opinion that the person applying for the passport would engage in some activity of violence or otherwise interfere with the well-being of the citizens of a country to which he might seek entry.
Looking at the Bill initially, it seemed that this was a classic case of the Government’s doing what it ought to do, namely, removing restrictions on a human right from the realm of administrative decision and Executive discretion and putting down a statement in the Parliament on the criteria so that the elected representatives could either adopt them or reject them. One finds on closer examination, though it is not very clear from the second reading speech of the Minister for Education, that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) appears to retain an overriding discretion in the cancellation of passports and may reject an application for a passport. I say that this is not clear. It is certainly not clear from the Minister’s second reading speech. He said in that speech, amongst other things:
These restrictions- some of which I have enumeratedapply only to the issue of passports by authorised officers and do not . . . affect the Minister’s general discretionary power to issue passports.
It is clear from the wording of the Bill that the Minister may direct an authorised officer to issue a passport despite the fact that the authorised officer would not be inclined to issue it because the applicant came within one of the enumerated categories! The question is whether the Minister can refuse a passport even in the absence of a new section 8 ground. If it is the case that the Minister can refuse an Australian citizen a passport without relying on any of the grounds outlined in the new section 8, the fact is that we have in the issue of a passport, not the recognition of a human right as the Minister purported to say in his second reading speech, namely, the right to travel freely between one’s country and any other country, but a mere privilege which can be granted or withdrawn at any time in the untrammelled discretion of the Minister. The fact is that in the new section 7, the Minister is added to the present list of those who can issue passports.
Legislation up until now has placed the issuing of passports simply in the hands of an authorised officer, no doubt acting under governmental guidelines. The new amendments which we are considering today add the Minister as a person who can issue passports. That would seem to indicate that the Minister himself, whilst acknowledging that the authorised officer is always bound to act within the guidelines and new criteria set out in statutory form, retains an untrammelled discretion on whether to grant a passport. This seems to me to be directly contradictory to the spirit which should permeate and which I understood the Minister wanted to permeate this legislation. If I misunderstand the position I would be willing to receive advice to that effect. In fact, I would be delighted to receive advice to that effect.
Another slight anomaly arises which I feel goes against the recognition of the right to travel as a basic human right guaranteed by the possession of a passport. A new section introduced states that a passport always remains the property of the Commonwealth. I would like some elucidation in the Minister’s remarks as to why this needs to be the case. It seems to me that a passport is evidence of personal identity and nationality. If I am an Australian citizen, surely, on the payment of a reasonable fee for the preparation of the documentation, I ought to be in possession of my own passport as proof of who 1 am and of my nationality. This is so linked to my basic human right to move around freely that, as an extension of that right, the passport evidencing my nationality ought to be my own property and not the property of the Commonwealth.
I was saying that, nevertheless, the Opposition agrees with much in this Bill, particularly in the setting down of four or five categories which an authorised officer needs to advert to and needs to rely on if he- I exclude the Minister- is to refuse to issue a passport. In particular, I personally am pleased to see that the Government has taken a very courageous stand. I say ‘courageous’ because I know that this would have caused much representation from police forces in particular and also from corporate affairs commissions. The Government appears to have dropped the practice hitherto obtaining whereby passports were denied to persons who were under investigation in respect of crime, particularly corporate crime, so that they could not leave the country with any expectation of being received in another country.
It may be that this needs some explanation because I imagine that most Australians, off the cuff, would think that a person under suspicion ought not to be able to flee before investigations enable the police to move to a situation where warrants could be issued for his arrest or in some way to bring him before the courts. I return to the fundamental premise on which we have to approach this Bill, that is, that one is dealing with a fundamental human right to travel freely. The Government has taken, as I say, a courageous view that in recognising this human right, the passport system ought not to be used as an extension of the police or judicial system. No more restraint ought to be placed on an Australian citizen by the Executive in exercising its power to issue, cancel or reject an application for a passport than would be placed on that citizen by the courts of this country.
– That was the view of Ernest Bevin, the great British Foreign Secretary.
– In that case we are in a great tradition of liberty. I am pleased to see that the conservative Liberal Government of Australia in 1979 is catching up with the Ernest Bevin of some 30 years ago. I do not really make that remark in any derogatory fashion. I am very pleased to see the Government taking this stand. I will quote what Lord Denning, that very esteemed Lord Justice -
– A terrible reactionary.
– He is not reactionary in this, I can assure the honourable senator. I refer to a case, Ghani v. Jones, reported in 1971, Queen’s Bench, at page 709. Lord Denning was faced with a request by police to retain passports in order to restrain somebody from going abroad. The case had not yet come before a court. The police argued that they might need the passports in order to sustain a particular charge of murder. Lord Denning said:
I cannot help reeling that the real reason why the passports have not been returned is because the officers wish to prevent the plaintiffs from leaving this country pending police inquiries. That is not a legitimate ground for holding them. Either they have grounds for arresting them, or they have not. If they have not, the plaintiffs should be allowed to leave- even if it means they are fleeing from the reach of justice. A man’s liberty of movement is regarded so highly by the law of England that it is not to be hindered or prevented except on the surest grounds. It must not be taken away on a suspicion which is not grave enough to warrant his arrest.
That is a principle which I believe is fundamentally just and which, it is pleasing to see, is incorporated in this Bill, at least as far as authorised officers are concerned. If I am correct in saying that the Minister has an overall and untrammelled discretion, in certain cases and in the face of that tradition, he may still prevent the person from leaving by denying him his passport.
I do not intend to go over the ground covered so ably by Senator Button to indicate some of the Opposition’s worries because they will find expression at the Committee stage. I direct my final remarks to our amendment to the motion for the second reading. It is to the effect that an Australian citizen ought to have the option of whether his place of birth appears on the passport. The wording of it is:
At end of motion, add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that the place of birth should only be disclosed on a passport if the holder or applicant so elects ‘.
Those final two words, ‘so elects’, I think answer much of the point that has been made by Senator Knight. It is true that many countries will deny entry to an Australian passport holder if that passport does not disclose the place of birth. Those countries were enumerated by Senator Knight. Whilst some other countries are prepared to accept an Australian passport which does not disclose the place of birth, they require that the information be supplied when issuing a visa. Surely an applicant can be allowed to make the decision whether he or she wants to take the risk. This is a matter of grave concern particularly to many naturalised Australians. It has taken some three years for the Government to ponder the report on dual nationality from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. That report was tabled on 14 October 1976 three years ago almost to the day. In that report, which emanated from a committee of both Houses and from all sides of politics, the following is stated:
There is a strong argument that in any official document the Australian Government should not appear to make distinctions between naturalised and natural-born citizens. In view of this the practice of showing the place of birth of the holder on an Australian passport might be discontinued and in its stead ‘place of residence ‘ inserted. The adoption of this suggestion might tend to avoid some difficulties encountered by dual nationals when visiting the country of their other nationality.
The Committee commended that particular point to the study of the Government. The
Government has had that report as a whole before it for some three years. It has had an interdepartmental committee working on the report. As was pointed out in a debate in this place some four or five months ago, the interdepartmental committee took a very languid and unsympathetic approach over a whole range of issues to the plight of dual nationals in this country.
– Who took that attitude?
– The interdepartmental committee and the Government in reliance on it. My evidence of the Government’s reliance on it includes this piece of legislation in front of us. Despite a strong plea from a committee comprising members and senators from both Houses and from all sides of politics, the Government has decided not to allow an Australian citizen the simple option of whether the place of birth should appear in his or her passport.
– Do you concede that if somebody exercises that option, goes to a country where it is not required to name the country of birth and then goes to a country where it is required, the passport has to be changed? That is a terribly complex operation.
– This is something that the person would have to be acquainted with. The sort of list which Senator Knight has would be available at any office which issues passports and at consular offices abroad, and the person would have to keep that list in mind when making his or her choice. What we are saying is that an Australian citizen who feels that danger, jeopardy and risk are involved in putting down his place of birth ought to have his very real, genuine and justified fears put at rest by a simple governmental decision allowing this option to be afforded on an application for a passport. That is the effect of the second reading amendment that the Opposition will be pressing. We press it on behalf of many tens of thousands of naturalised Australians who, as honourable senators know, face grave difficulties in returning to their former homelands; and amongst those difficulties is the information that may appear on a passport.
On the whole the Opposition welcomes this piece of legislation as an attempt to put down firm legislative criteria for the guidance of authorised officers in issuing or declining to issue Australian passports. However, we feel that certain matters need to be dealt with at the Committee stage, particularly regarding the time lapse between the application for a passport and its issue or the rejection of the application. We say that that process should take no longer than 30 days in a normal instance. We say that wherever a discretion is exercised by governmental officials, that discretion ought to be appealable to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Of course, we welcome the possibility of the Ombudsman’s exercising some role in this matter, particularly as to delay. If an administrative discretion is exercisable, it would seem only appropriate that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ought to be available to ensure that the discretion is exercised in accordance with criteria laid down by the elected representatives, if this Bill is passed into law.
Such a fundamental human right is involved in this legislation that one can only hope that when the Minister replies he will give some indication of the extent to which the Minister retains an untrammelled discretion to refuse to issue a passport. This is fundamental. For example, questions have been raised as to whether the consent of a spouse will be required to enable an applicant to obtain a passport to go abroad. There is some administrative practice to that effect. It is not mentioned in the Bill as something to which an authorised officer can direct his mind. But can the Minister, in his untrammelled discretion, make that one of the considerations that he takes into account? We need to know the position of the Minister in relation to this fundamental human right. We need to be assured that to the greatest extent possible the freedom to move abroad, which has been recognised internationally in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in our own tradition since the promulgation of Magna Carta in 1215, is fully recognised in our community.
– I think that Senator Tate has delivered a very interesting and learned speech on this subject. He laid great stress upon the basic human right of people to travel, which has been recognised and acknowledged by the responsible Minister. I acknowledge that that is a terribly important element in this legislation. The Bill before us proposes a number of significant amendments and additions to the Passports Act 1938. The Opposition has moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading to which Senator Tate addressed his remarks. It concerns the fact that the place of birth should be disclosed on the passport of an applicant only if he so elects. I will come back to that point a little later.
I think this legislation results from a statement on consular matters made by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) on 26 May 1978. In the second reading speech on this Bill of the Minister for Education (Senator
Carrick), the Minister foreshadowed amendments to the Passport Act. He drew attention to the legislation governing the issue of passports, which has not been changed to any significant degree for some 40 years. Since that time there have been tremendous changes in the patterns of travel of Australians. In those days of slow journeys by ships relatively few Australians travelled overseas. Today travel is open to many hundreds of thousands of Australians who travel regularly to countries within our region and elsewhere. It is interesting to note that the Minister mentioned that, I think, some one thousand passports are issued every month. That indicates that roughly 400,000 Australians are obtaining passports every year.
– A thousand a day.
– Was it a thousand a day? I am sorry, my mathematics are a bit astray. I was not using my calculator. I accept the correction. The Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, in its report- I think Senator Knight referred to that report and I have no doubt that my colleague, Senator Sibraa, referred to it also- drew attention to the need for us to strengthen our consular service because of the great increase in travel. That increase has created new problems for Australian missions overseas.
We all know of the unfortunate fact that, because of the tremendous increase in travel and the availability of travel to so many people now, more and more Australians are getting into difficulties of one sort or another and the consular services overseas, particularly in the countries to which a great number of Australians travel, are under greatly increased pressures to handle the problems which arise. Those problems relate not only to drug offences and other offences which are increasing at an alarming rate, with Australians finding themselves in gaol in foreign countries, but also to many other matters, such as destitute Australians, the loss of passports and all the other types of problems which can affect people travelling overseas.
There is an urgent need, which the Committee recognised and made recommendations on, for an increase in and an upgrading and extension of our consular service. Australians are travelling in more countries and in the past in many countries we have relied upon the goodwill of the British to look after our interests. Today, because of their own problems, the British are less inclined to look after our interests. Therefore, there is a need for Australia to have consulates in many more areas throughout the world. The Committee recognised that and I think the Minister recognises the need to expand our consular service.
This legislation also puts beyond doubt the reasons for passports being refused. Senator Tate addressed himself to this matter also. We have a dual responsibility. Whilst protecting the rights of people to travel overseas, we have to acknowledge that Australia has responsibilities to other nations of the international community. We have a responsibility to ensure, as far as possible- this is spelt out in the Minister’s second reading speech- that Australian passport holders do not threaten the national security or public order of other countries; and that we do not grant easily passports to known drug pedlars and people who have offended or are likely to offend against the laws of other countries, to terrorists and so on. Those are international responsibilities which Australia, as other countries, must accept. The concern of the Government to do so is reflected in this legislation.
I would like to refer to several aspects of the legislation. I referred to the need for us to strengthen our consular service. That is very important today. I think we can expect that the number of Australians travelling overseas will not decrease but increase. If we are to accept the responsibility, which we must accept, of as far as practicable looking after Australian citizens, there is a great need not only to improve the standard of the consular service but also to expand it.
One matter which the Minister acknowledged, which has concerned me and I am quite sure has concerned other honourable senators, is the need for people to obtain the consent of a spouse before travelling overseas. This has caused a good deal of concern and distress. I am sure that we are all aware of individual cases of that. I welcome the assurance of the Minister that when Australia becomes a signatory to the international convention of recovery abroad of maintenance the practice of requiring the consent of a spouse will be discontinued. I do not know what problems are involved in Australia’s becoming a signatory to that convention, but one would hope that before very long we will become a signatory to it because it does create problems for people who have been separated from their spouse for many years and who, indeed, have lost contact with their spouse, to have to try to obtain the approval of that spouse in order to travel overseas. It is a human problem which should be recognised and I am pleased it is recognised.
– In other words, there is a need for a lot more flexibility.
– I think that that is a possibility. I am not sure how one would administer that flexibility. I think the worry is how to make judgments, but in principle I would agree with Senator Gietzelt. An approach was made to me concerning a case in which a woman had not seen her husband for about 10 years and she was required to obtain his permission to travel overseas. She had no obligation to him and he had none to her.
– If she has a child she cannot leave without his permission.
– I might add, that the child concerned is beyond 18 years of age. I know that that woman is very distressed about this requirement, which has created some quite human problems for her. So I am delighted that the need for the discontinuance of this requirement is recognised and I hope that soon it will be discontinued.
Another matter to which I refer is one to which Senator Tate referred, I think with a considerable amount of feeling. I share his feeling on the matter. I refer to the requirement to indicate one ‘s place of birth. As Senator Tate indicated, a recommendation on that was made by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, of which I was a member. I supported the Committee’s recommendation. The Minister said that a considerable amount of careful study was made of that recommendation. He then gave the reasons why at this stage it could not be complied with. There is no question that the requirement does cause concern and distress to a great number of people. The concern and distress it causes are understandable, but I do not think that we can overcome the problem to which my colleague, Senator Knight, referred; namely, that it is a requirement of other countries that the date and place of birth be provided. The Minister acknowledged the fact that the requirement does cause concern and distress, but advanced reasons why at this stage it cannot be removed. Most of us when we have travelled overseas, as most of us have, when filling in immigration cards for entry into various countries, have been required to indicate our date and place of birth and our country of residence. Until such time as there is an internationally recognised commitment not to require that information, very many Australian travellers will be in difficulty.
Senator Tate made a comment which I think is valid. People themselves can decide whether they will go to a certain country. I think that is a right which people should have. But all sorts of problems are created when people want to go to a country and are not prepared to give their place of birth. I recognise the problems and the difficulties that confront many people. While I sympathise greatly with the argument that the place of birth should be deleted, 1 am persuaded by the Minister that at this stage it is difficult for Australia to take a unilateral stand on the matter. I think that the proposition is most desirable. The Minister said, I think, that place of birth need not include the country of birth. I suppose if a person did not wish to indicate that he was born in the country to which he was travelling, his place of birth would clearly indicate to the authorities where he was born. The country of birth may be omitted at the applicant’s request. I think that perhaps that is going as far as we can reasonably go at this stage.
Whilst I acknowledge the purpose of the Opposition ‘s amendment and the compassion behind it, I doubt that we could go very much further until such time as there is an international recognition of the undesirability, to put it in its mildest form, of showing place and country of birth. For that reason, while I greatly sympathise with the purpose of the amendment, I think it is a little unrealistic at this stage. I hope that we will continue to work internationally, to the best of our ability and with other countries which think the same, to try to overcome this problem. We should acknowledge that it is a very real human problem.
The final matter to which I wish to refer is the examination of changes to reduce the incidence of children being removed by one parent without the knowledge of the other. Again I think that each and every one of us is aware of the tremendous problems which are involved. We are aware of mothers who have been travelling almost the world at tremendous cost to try to find their children who have been removed by a father.
– And vice versa.
– Yes, and vice versa. 1 do not want to be a sexist. The Minister drew attention to this aspect and said that the Bill strengthens the relative provisions in order to help to overcome this problem and acknowledges that other factors, such as legislation, are involved. I welcome the acknowledgement. An interdepartmental committee is involved in the examination of this matter. I trust that it will come up with some pretty firm recommendations on whether amendments to the Passports Act or other legislation will help to overcome these tremendous problems from which so many people have suffered. I think that we are all concerned with the human problems that are involved in these matters. I welcome the assurance by the Minister that this matter will be examined very carefully. I trust that it can be resolved satisfactorily.
I note that the Opposition is intending to move a number of amendments at the Committee stage. I think in general that the Opposition supports the legislation and its amendments are an attempt to change, in a minor way, penalties and so on. I think that this is an important piece of legislation which moves greatly towards what we would all wish to see- a protection of basic human rights. Also involved are international responsibilities, the protection of human rights which extend beyond what people might regard as the right to obtain a passport and the human problems which I have mentioned. The legislation acknowledges these facts. This is a significant step forward. Therefore, I welcome the legislation.
– This Bill modernises existing legislation. I agree with the majority of the provisions of the Bill. 1 disagree with some sections of it. I find myself in agreement with a lot of the remarks made today by Senator Knight and Senator Sim. Along with them I was a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence that held an inquiry into the Department of Foreign Affairs and dealt with some of the problems of our consular service. As Senator Knight said, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of Australians who are going overseas. I believe he used a figure of one million for this year and said that it is likely to increase to a figure of three million a year in the 1 980s.
Our consular services as they exist at the moment are inadequate. Senator Sim mentioned the point that in a lot of places the British are carrying the bag and doing the work for us. I had a letter recently from an Australian who got into difficulties with visas in South America, in Colombia and in Paraguay. In each case he had to go to the British Embassy to get him out of trouble. In fact right throughout the world Britain is declining its diplomatic representation and we will not be able to rely on that country all the time in the future. I believe there is a very strong case for having a special consular section within the Department of Foreign Affairs where people can take up consular work as a career as opposed to the present situation. I would expect that because of the tremendous number of Australians who are travelling overseas at the moment there will be a special need in the near future to increase our consular staff in Honolulu and to open a new post in Bali purely because of the sorts of problems that are occurring. I have had people write to me about the problems they have encountered in Bali with drug offences, traffic charges, hospitalisation problems, and lost passports- all the sorts of things that occur as Australians travel more and more throughout the world.
The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, in its report on dual nationality, looked at a problem that has been talked about today. As a member of the Joint Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee I support the amendment which would delete the place of birth on the passport and insert the place of residence. When people make application for an Australian passport we need to ascertain the date and place of birth. I wish to read into Hansard evidence which was placed before the Committee from the Joint Baltic Committee of Canberra. It states:
As I said, that came from the Joint Baltic Committee. Of course, when it is near election time the Government always wants to do something for the Baltic community. It throws it a scrap when some fake communist campaign is on in some trade union.
– Or captive nations week.
– Or captive nations week. I suggest that there is a chance for the Government to really do something today for the Baltic community by supporting the amendment put forward by the Opposition.
– Does ‘place of residence’ mean the city or country?
– I will get to that in a minute. I do not believe that there is a great deal of difference. I am sure that the Baltic community would not want the city shown on the passport. As a result of this, the Joint Committee on
Foreign Affairs and Defence stated in its recommendations:
There is a strong argument that in any official document the Australian Government should not appear to make distinctions between naturalised and natural-born citizens. In view of this the practice of showing the place of birth of the holder on an Australian passport might bc discontinued and in its stead ‘place of residence ‘ inserted. The adoption of this suggestion might tend to avoid some difficulties encountered by dual nationals when visiting the country of their other nationality. The Committee suggests further study of this possible change in the form of passports.
I know that Senator Knight and Senator Sim have said today that there is an argument- what seems to be a fairly legitimate argument- that some other countries object to this and that if we did this on our own we would be placing people in a difficult situation. However, I believe that it can be overcome. I understand that in Switzerland recently legislation was introduced allowing for the sort of thing we are putting forward today. 1 want to refer now to clause 8, which deals with the reasons for refusing passports. Clause 8 states that a person can be refused a passport when the authorised officer believes that he already has in his possession or control an Australian passport in force, unless there are special reasons. I ask the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), to tell the Senate later what are the special reasons for somebody having two passports. During the last parliamentary recess I was a member of a parliamentary delegation that visited Africa. When we were having a briefing on the Sudan- one of the countries we were going to- it was pointed out that if any of us had Israeli visas in our passports we could be refused admission to the Sudan. Subsequently I checked this out with officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which also gave us a briefing. They confirmed that this was correct and that I should apply for another passport as I had an Israeli visa- unused, incidentally- in my official passport. Finally, a matter of three weeks to a month later, when I was in Nairobi an ordinary Australian passport arrived. The situation then was that I had an official passport and an ordinary passport.
– Have you still got them?
– I have still got them. When 1 was in Nairobi I spoke to the Egyptian Ambassador, who would be well known to many members of the Senate because he was the Egyptian Ambassador in Canberra before he went to Nairobi. I raised this matter with him and also with the Ambassador from the Sudan, who was at a social function with us. They both advised me that at that moment it was not necessary to have two passports, probably because of the increasing links between Israel and Egypt and the strong links between Egypt and the Sudan. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not critical of the personnel of the Department of Foreign Affairs, either in Canberra or Nairobi. In fact, the opposite is the case. They did everything to protect my interests, and I appreciate that. They followed the instructions that were given to them and I followed the instructions they gave to me. Of course, the situation now is that I have an official passport with an Israeli visa in it and an ordinary passport with a visa for the Sudan.
That leads me to a number of questions. Firstly, what is government policy? What happens when a Minister, a trade official or a businessman travels through the Middle East? Would such a person have a passport for Israel in one pocket and a passport for the Arab countries in another pocket? When he flies out of Israel does he change aeroplanes and change his passport? What is government policy for tourists visiting the Middle East? What advice do we give to Australians who may be forced to have a stopover in Damascus or Bahrein, places where Qantas stops? What happens if mechanical or technical problems arise and people have to stay in those cities for a number of days? What would be the situation if they already had an Israeli visa in an Australian passport? Do we give them any advice? Does Qantas give them any advice? I point out that Qantas is not the only airline that flies from Europe to Australia with stopovers in the Middle East. A number of airlines stop over at Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, and even parts of Iran. What advice do we give to Australians who are visiting Libya or Iraq, two countries that question Israel ‘s right to exist, if they have an Israeli visa in their passports? It could be that the visa is years old. It could be that the passport is coming to the end of its life and that early in the life of that passport the person visited Israel. Do we give such people any advice at all? It could be that before they left Australia to go overseas and sought a visa to Israel they had no intention of going to some of the countries I have mentioned. What happens to such people if they arrive at Libya or Iraq and have an Australian passport with an Israeli visa in it? If it is government policy that people should have two passports because of this Middle East issue, I think it is wrong and should be reviewed.
– But is it not up to the Middle East countries to determine whether they will let you in with a certain visa in your passport? It is not up to the Australian Government.
– I am coming to that. I think it is a fundamental part of Australian foreign policy, a bipartisan part of our foreign policy, that we do not question Israel’s right to exist. I do not believe we ought to tarnish that policy with a two-passport policy for the Middle East, at any level.
– Does that mean you would tell people they are not to go to some Arab countries?
– I think we should be dealing with this at a government-to-government level. I think the appropriate level at which to commence is the official passport level. As I have said, it is a question that ought to be dealt with on a government-to-government basis. We should inform the countries which are demanding this that there is one official passport and that is it, full stop.
– And then if they refuse an Australian entry if his passport has an Israeli visa?
– On my experience, we ought to check up on the policy in a number of these countries. I have mentioned that we were informed here that the Sudan would not accept my passport, but in fact it did.
– But it does change with circumstances.
– It does change with circumstances, but I believe that a stand ought to be taken at a government level. The Government ought to protest at least about this situation. I have raised a number of issues and I hope that the Minister can give me answers to them later. It is something that I intend to push in the Committee stage of the debate.
– 1 ask the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) when he replies to clarify for me the division of roles between the Department of Foreign Affairs in its custody of overseas travel documents and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on those rare occasions when a foreign seaman might seek sanctuary- not so much internal sanctuary as aid under the Refugee Seamen’s Convention. Do our passport authorities issue him with a document or is it an immigration operation? Have there been many such cases? I doubt it, but I want to get the ground rules established.
-Winding up this debate for the Opposition as I understand I now am, I want to try to draw together some of the various themes that have been expressed by speakers on both sides of the House and to draw the Senate’s attention very closely to the terms of the Bill before us. The Passports Amendment Bill no doubt is admirable in its apparent intention but I suggest is quite unhappy in its execution. It is admirable to the extent that the freedom of movement- the right to travel, to enter, to leave from and return to one’s own country- is too important to be left to unfettered ministerial or bureaucratic whim, which is exactly the situation that has prevailed until now, with a general discretionary power being vested in the Minister with respect to refusals to issue passports and the cancellation of passports. This Bill apparently is intended to specify guidelines and to identify with some precision the circumstances in which in the future passports may be refused or revoked. Nonetheless, the Opposition argues that this Bill is unhappy in its execution to the extent that when one closely examines the legislation one finds just as many areas of vagueness and discretion and opportunities for bureaucratic or ministerial wrongheadedness as has been the case hitherto.
The central problem with the Bill is the very way in which it is constructed. It does not say that, subject to certain necessary exceptions every Australian citizen has a basic right to a passport. It does not say that a passport shall be issued on application unless clauses (a), (b), (c), (d) et cetera apply so as to justify a refusal. Rather, what it says is that passports may be issued upon application, with various provisions then going on to set out circumstances a, b, c, d, et cetera in which a passport shall not be issued unless the Minister, in the exercise of his discretionary benevolence, decides nonetheless to override the particular authorising officer and issue it anyway.
Thus, before we even get to the specific provisions of the legislation, which directly and explicitly justify a refusal to issue a passportprovisions such as the existence of an arrest warrant or a court order- we have, as Senator Tate has been at pains to point out, a general area of discretion vested in the Minister and his officers to decide whether or not to issue the passport, irrespective of the applicability of those provisions. It is this situation which makes possible, for example, the continued operation of that policy, or practice as it is described, whereby passports will not in fact be issued to one spouse, or former spouse, without the consent of the other. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), in his second reading speech, openly acknowledged that this practice, to which there is no specific reference at all in the text of this legislation, will continue until at least Australia becomes a signatory to the International Convention on the Recovery of Maintenance. Incidentally, we are not told how long it will take for that signatory status to come about, but knowing Australia’s track record in regard to the ratification of international treaties- a most unhappy one in any context in which State rights and interests have been perceived to be involved, as no doubt they will be in this area- one wonders just how long this situation will continue to obtain.
On the subject of this particular discretionary practice, which will continue for some unforeseeable future time, I mention that it has been very widely and, in my view, quite properly criticised. It can produce bizarre results, as indeed Senator Sim has pointed out. Especially is this the case when one has a situation in which partners have been long divorced- even more so when at least one of them has not remarried. As the Passport Act is now administered, and will continue to be administered in the foreseeable future, the consent of the other spouse is still required.
Senator Coleman drew to my attention the other day a case in Perth of which she had become aware, in which a couple had been divorced for some 10 or 15 years. The husband had remarried and had established a new family, wife and children. The ex-wife had not remarried but had gone into business on her own and this had involved considerable travel overseas. She had had her passport renewed three times and each time she had been obliged by the passport authorities in Perth to go back and dig out her former husband, to intrude embarrassingly on the new long-established, family circle, and get the necessary signature from him. It is an absurd situation and seems to be one that ought not to be allowed to continue. I make that point in the context of the more important general observation I make about the whole structure of the Bill- that discretionary practices of this kind are still perfectly capable of continuing. There is in the text of the legislation nothing which in any way confines the discretion as narrowly as the cosmetic aspects of this Bill would perhaps suggest.
The second point that I make about the Bill is that there indeed may be a whole variety of conditions which the Minister, or the officers administering the Bill can require to be satisfied before a passport will be issued, conditions going especially to the nature of the information which much be supplied by the passport applicant. The
Bill sets no limits at all on the nature of such information which may be required, or on any other conditions that must be satisfied before a passport will be issued. Some of these conditions can, of course, be very oppressive. Here I note specifically the point that has been the subject of much discussion in this debate about the condition which the Australian Government has continued to insist upon, namely, that applicants for passports should disclose their place of birth, which is in turn noted in the passport document itself.
I really must repeat what has been said by other speakers on this subject. It is extraordinary that the Government has been so obdurate on the issue when faced with a case made out so articulately by a number of migrant groups in the community, to whom the matter is of special and great concern. In particular, it is interesting to note the way in which the Government, as my colleague Senator Sibraa has mentioned, has been so insensitive to the pleas of the Baltic community, to the needs of which, at election time anyway, the Government is notoriously so sensitive.
– When, on an aircraft entering another country you fill in a report card, you have also to state your place of birth and country of origin.
– Also, previously, when it came to citizenship ceremonies you allowed dual citizenship.
– Some countries simply will not admit people unless they identify themselves on an entry visa application or entry card at the port of arrival or additionally in their own passport as having been born in a particular place. We know how many countries there are, because that information has already been made available in another place. There are 15 or 17 such countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Vietnam. I think that that information has been made available.
- Senator Knight gave it this afternoon.
– I apologise to Senator Knight. The point is surely that if a person does not want to go to any one of those countries he should have the option of being able to avoid committing himself to giving that information, for good reasons, so far as some other country is concerned. The only answer that the Minister has been able to give in the other place in the course of his second reading speech, and in statements subsequently made, has been that it would be a disability if persons were not able to visit those countries. It is only a disability to the particular individual. If he is prepared to take that riskhaving been fully apprised of the nature of the disability in question and made fully aware of the number of countries where he will suffer that disability if he does not give this information at the relevant stage- I find great difficulty in understanding why this compulsory condition should continue to be imposed by the Australian passport authorities.
– May I pose one problem?
– If you have a passport on which the place of residence is given and the person then wants to visit a country where the place of birth is required he must have a different passport. The process of getting that new passport is difficult and time consuming and already imposes an enormous burden on our new system, which is processing half a million passports a year. I suggest that for the individual involved it can pose considerable difficulties.
– The honourable senator premises his question on the basis that such a person may then want to visit a country where such information must be disclosed. I say that the people who are making the point about a place of birth not being shown on their passport must accept realistically that that particular privilege will present difficulties to them elsewhere. I do not disagree that it is unrealistic to have people armed with multiple passports. It is unrealistic administratively for Australia to make multiple passports of that kind available. I am not suggesting for a moment that people with this preoccupation ought to be given that much consideration. All I am saying is that if their preoccupation with this issue is so strong or is so well founded to them in respect of the country that they want to visit, under those circumstances they ought to be given that option. I would have thought that to be entirely consistent with the kind of free enterprise ideology and personal initiative ideology that we are so constantly hearing about from the other side of this chamber.
– I was simply suggesting to you that the Government in tackling this problem has to look at those practicalities.
– I understand the practicalities, but it seems to me that if someone has asked for a specific kind of passport without the place of birth being recorded and has been granted one, it is perfectly reasonable for the Government to say, provided that person has that sort of passport on the basis of full and accurate knowledge about the implications of that application: We are not going to issue you with another passport until the normal expiry time has elapsed ‘. It seems to me that that is the kind of administrative or practical penalty that one has to pay if one is going to have the benefit of this advantage. Of course, it would be much nicer if, by some international diplomatic arrangement, common standards were agreed upon which did not require this provision to be included on anybody’s passport. That would obviously be the optimal solution, but pending that millennium it seems to me that the concerns of certain sections of the community can be satisfied provided that those sections of the community are prepared to accept certain consequential pains and penalties attached to that. That is the only point that I, at least, am trying to make. I do not think my colleagues on this side have been trying to push it any further.
The third point that I want to make is one that again has been made by the previous speakers and can be put very briefly. There is no time limit specified in the legislation within which the Government, the Minister and the officers must respond to a passport application. There is no sanction if the authorities simply sit on a passport application and make that most familiar and comfortable of all bureaucratic decisions, namely, the non-decision. The Opposition proposes to require that these decisions be made within a period of 30 days after the application, taking the view as we do that it is only in this way that that peculiarly insidious form of bureaucratic obstruction can be flushed to the surface. It is only in this way that it will be impossible to hide what are, in fact, adverse decisions behind a smokescreen of purported bureaucratic inefficiency.
The fourth matter which I want to raise deals with the language of some of the specific grounds for exception which are set out in the Bill, language which, in the view of the Opposition- in my view, at least- leaves much to be desired. May I mention first in this respect that part of the Bill which now deals with alleged criminals or persons perhaps suspected, if not having been convicted, of having committed some crime. We have been told that this is one traditional area of discretionary practice which is to be no longer pursued. In particular, suspected white collar criminals will no longer be refused the issue of a passport or have their existing passport revoked if their activities are merely under suspicion or investigation for corporate type crimes as has been the case in the past. This statement by the Government has inevitably provoked some suspicions around the place that the Liberal and Country Party coalition is once again being soft on its own.
I for one do not have any difficulty with the notion that quite precise guidelines should be imposed here as elsewhere if persons are going to be denied their right to a passport and their right to freedom of movement. I am quite happy with the notion that there should not be an unfettered discretion to refuse a passport simply upon a suspicion which may or may not be wellfounded. What worries me about the language of the Bill as it stands at the moment and indeed the ministerial statement introducing it, is the degree of hyprocrisy which seems to me to surround this issue. As I understand it, under the text of the Bill, there need in practice be no really wellfounded suspicion at all before a person can be denied a passport. This is clear from the very text of the provision in clause 7b which makes one of the explicit grounds for refusal of a passport the fact that the officer in question has reason to believe that there is in force a warrant issued in Australia for the arrest of that person; not a warrant that has been executed, not a situation where a person has been arrested, but a situation where a warrant has been issued.
Anyone who knows anything at all about criminal investigation practice in Australia will be aware of just how easy it is to get an arrest warrant sworn out and just how easy it is to get an arrest warrant even in the absence of any significant degree of legitimately held suspicion at all. Regrettably the issuing of arrest warrants, as with search warrants, is very much a formality, a rubber stamp affair, in Australia. This continues and will continue to be the case for as long as the Government refuses to implement the Criminal Investigation Bill which has been the subject of a good deal of comment in this chamber over the years. It is really nonsense, I would suggest, the notion that there is some serious criterion involved regarding arrrest warrants. More than that- I revert back to the general point that I made right at the outset- despite the way in which the language of this Bill is dressed up it inexorably follows from any careful reading of it that there is in any event a residual ministerial discretion to refuse a passport quite apart from the question of whether or not any of these specific grounds in proposed new clauses 7a, 7b, 7c, 7d and 7e of the Bill are satisfied.
– Can I just ask you about that? Do you not feel that this comes back to the responsibility of the Parliament and that it is necessary to have the discretion in the Parliament via the Minister rather than the Public Service?
– I would prefer, if there is to be a discretionary power vested in the Minister, firstly that that be properly articulated, acknowledged and not dressed up with the kind of smokescreen which we have in the presentation of this Bill, where it is suggested that a formerly wide discretion has now been confined within narrow statutory provisions. The second point that I would make is that if there is to be a general ministerial discretion operating in this area it ought to be stated in such a way that it is subject to quite elaborate guidelines in terms of particular situations and contexts in which that ministerial discretion can be exercised; and further, that it should be explicitly subject to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. If the Government can satisfy those sorts of conditions I would not object to there being some residual degree of ministerial discretion operating in this area because I am well aware, as all honourable senators are and no doubt Senator Young is, of the difficulty of anticipating all the situations in advance that might justify the refusal to issue or the revocation of a passport. What concerns me is the way in which statements have been made about intended practice or about the actual likely operation of this Bill or what this Bill requires or demands which is not justified by careful reading of it. One can see, when one puts aside the superficial appearance of the legislation, that one is left with exactly the same old range of ministerial discretion that we had in the past.
Turning to the final example I want to mention of specific language in the Bill, even this specific language in some of these clauses is enormously wide in its potential scope. I refer to the proposed new clause 7E where one of the specific grounds upon which an authorised officer can refuse a passport is a situation where the Minister has formed the opinion that if an Australian passport were issued to the person, the person would be likely to engage in conduct outside Australia that might, among other things, disrupt public order in the country or would endanger the health or welfare of persons in a country other than Australia. It seems to me that the grounds upon which that opinion can be formed about disruption of public order and endangering the health or welfare and so on are potentially enormously wide. It is no great caricature to say that this sort of statutory language could be applied with a great deal of accuracy to most end of season football trips leaving Australia where the capacity for disruption, loutishness and general barbarism of behaviour that sometimes attends these sort of occasions-
-Not if they are rugby union sides.
– I speak, as always, for my own code. It is such as to arguably justify the application of that kind of criteria. It is just another example of the kinds of difficulties one gets into when one uses language like this. It is unhappy in security legislation and in criminal legislation, and equally unhappy in legislation referring to a matter as important as passports. The final point I want to make about the difficulties associated with this Bill is this: The vagueness of the specific exceptions, which are set out, and the existence of this residual general discretion in the Minister do make it crucial that there be some opportunity to test impartially the use of both bureaucratic and ministerial exercises of discretion by appeals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
It seems to me, and the Opposition, that this Bill, which fails to make provision for any such appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, is yet another demonstration of what a hollow facade that whole vaunted new administrative law has become. Two years after the event we are still waiting for the proclamation of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act which would enable judicial review of the exercise of bureaucratic and administrative decisions of the kind that are provided for in this Bill. Despite a series of questions over recent months by Senator Button, myself and others in this chamber there is still no indication whatsoever from the Government as to when that piece of legislation will be proclaimed. Referring to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal itself, we still have a state of affairs whereby that Tribunal is coasting along with an absolute minimum of jurisdiction, where there is still an acute resistance, with each new piece of legislation or subordinate legislation that comes through this Parliament being vested in that Tribunal. We are still getting no information as to what jurisdiction is to be vested in that Tribunal.
I raised this issue during the Estimates debates in May this year and again in the recent series of Estimates debates. It is still impossible to get any indication of just how seriously the Government is committed to using this glorious piece of machinery which has been set up. When one sees important matters in legislation like this without any provision for redress or appeal to the administrative appeals machinery one cannot be blamed for thinking that this Government’s commitment to the whole business of administrative law reform is about as empty as every other Government promise. We are left with something rather like the Cheshire cat- there is absolutely nothing left but the grin, and that grin is starting to look a little thin-lipped.
The passport issuing area is just one of those really crucial areas of civil liberty which are a test of any government’s sincerity and credibility. I readily acknowledge that the whole business of passport issuing is something which the Whitlam Labor Government, as Senator Carrick no doubt will be tempted to say as he always does in reply, should have got around to, along with a number of other things that it did try to do. It is a test of any government’s sincerity to properly come to grips with and tackle matters of this kind. It was an area which was ripe for reform. If this legislation is a test of this Government’s sincerity about civil liberties in the area of the freedom of movement, it is a test which this Government has manifestly failed. There has been a very obvious concern to be seen to be doing something, but that concern has simply- in my view- masked the reality that beneath this brand new sparkling piece of legislation absolutely nothing has changed.
– in reply- The Senate is in the concluding stages of the second reading debate on the Passports Amendment Bill 1979. I thank honourable senators for their contributions. The contributions have been thoughtful and useful. I do remind honourable senators about the general framework of this legislation. The second reading speech stated:
The Bill proposes a number of significant amendments and additions to the Passports Act 1938-73. lt aims to update and modernise existing legislation and practice by clearly embodying in the Act the reason for which a passport may be properly denied and by increasing the range of offences and penalties.
The Bill has some five main objectives. The first is to empower the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in addition to the officers authorised by him, to issue passports. Let me say in response to Senator Evans that there is nothing equivocal about the ministerial power as such. The Bill itself is quite unequivocal in defining that power. That discretion has always been there. It remains clear and unequivocal in this Bill. Nothing has changed in that regard. The second objective is to list a number of classes of people to whom with certain exceptions passports shall not be issued by authorised officers. I think there can be no general exception to that. There may be discussions on particular cases. The third objective is to impose an obligation on passport holders to report any loss of a passport to the relevant authorities and to empower officers to demand the delivering up of passports in certain cases. Quite clearly one has only to reflect upon the significance and importance of a passport as a document and to the opportunities for criminality and general fraud that can come if the passport passes into the wrong hands to see that this is logical and imperative. The fourth objective is to establish new offences relating to the improper use and possession of a passport. That flows from the third objective. The fifth objective is to strengthen a number of offences relating to the making of false or misleading statements for the purpose of obtaining a passport. That is another logical extension.
Running through the matters raised in the debate, initially I heard Senator Tate, and latterly Senator Evans, mention the question of human rights. The Government needs no reminder, either by way of theory or practice, of the importance of human rights. In what I heard Senator Evans say there was a suggestion that an individual right is inviolate, that it is an unqualified right. Of course, that is completely wrong. Individual rights must always be subject to the rights of others. Rights are qualified in any society, not to restrict the individual but indeed to widen his rights. In the whole debate on human liberty over the centuries liberty, subject to the rights of others, has been a profound qualification. In this legislation there is a further qualification- our international obligations and our relations with other countries.
The Government fully recognises the right to travel. As stated in the second reading speech, ‘to leave and return to one’s own country’ is recognised as a basic human right. We have signified our recognition of that in the declaration of human rights. That is quite clear. The Opposition recognised that there were certain limitations on that because those limitations are necessary in the declaration of the rights of others. That is what the rights of a society are all about. It might be well to remind the Opposition of the part of my second reading speech when I said:
As well as its obligation to provide travel facilities to its own citizens, the Government, as a responsible member of the international community, has an obligation to those countries to which its citizens travel. Australian passports contain a message from the Governor-General requesting other countries to provide free passage, protection and assistance to the bearer. This imposes on the Government a responsibility to ensure, as far as it can, that passports are not issued to persons likely to threaten the national security and public order of another country, or the rights and welfare of its citizens. Of particular concern are political extremists and terrorists, drug pedlars and persons inclined to violent acts as a result of mental illness. This concern is also reflected in the Bill.
So we can see that, in determining the concept of human rights and human liberty, the right to travel is recognised. The freedom of the individual is recognised, but it is qualified, as it must always be, within our own society and within our own nation as subject to the rights of others as we see them- the rights of the spouse, the rights of the child, the rights of the law in terms of breaches of the law- and subject to international rights and obligations. We are saying: ‘Here is one of our citizens. He is a citizen of good repute. We ask you to treat him with full courtesy, civility and freedom’. So it is quite impossible to approach any piece of legislation in terms of what would be licence, not human rights, and there is a vast difference between those two things.
I make reference now to the points that were raised by individual senators. The suggestion by Senator Evans that we were somewhat coy about ministerial discretion is not right. The Bill is unequivocal on that point, and that has always been so. I have referred to the discussion by Senator Tate on human rights. It is quite clear within the Bill itself that there must be reasons for withholding passports and that in the generality, I think, is fully accepted. The question at issue is the particularity of the reasons. Senator Tate also raised the matter of the phraseology of the Bill when it refers to the Minister forming an opinion. That is not new. It has been continuous through all governments. The honourable senator asked whether the Minister can use his discretion to refuse a passport. As I have said, the answer is yes. This discretion has been retained because of the human and unpredictable nature of the passport function. The Minister has always had this discretion, but has not previously given major reasons. A series of reasons, not a totality of reasons, is contained in the Bill.
Senator Tate queried why the passport remains the property of the Commonwealth. A little reflection will show why that should be so. It has always been the case in law. The Bill confirms it. It is a document which confers upon the individual certain rights under certain circumstances. It is not a negotiable document. It cannot be sold; it cannot be transferred. Clearly, the sovereignty of the right must remain with the Government. Because it is a government document it has a higher standing than a personal document, and the passport must be accountable. As I have said, the holder does not have the right to dispose of it by gift or by sale. Therefore, that is an essential requirement.
Among the other matters raised was the point made by the Opposition that there ought to be a limitation upon the Minister as to time, a 30-day limit for him to take action. The Opposition proposes to move an amendment that within 30 days of receiving a passport application an authorised officer shall issue a passport or inform the applicant that he has been denied it or it is still under consideration. It is always the intention of the Government in drafting new passport legislation that, as a general rule, reasons for refusing a passport should be given. That is largely why the Bill clearly spells out the reasons for which a passport might properly be denied. It is not considered that this amendment of the Opposition would gain the result it seeks.
The policy of successive governments has been to issue passports with a minimum of delay, where possible within two or three days of application. There are important practical difficulties in the proposed amendment. Passport officers would be faced with the major operation of recording and checking the dates of receipt and issue. If, for any reason, there was any breakdown in issuing procedures, such as the recent delay following the reductions in air fares, the need to provide formal advice to applicants would only exacerbate the problem. The time and effort expended on meeting notification requirement could profitably be spent issuing passports. A further practical difficulty is that in some cases information sought from other authorities would not be received in time to meet the 30-day requirement. To specify a section of the Act in such cases would be to prejudge the issue.
The Opposition also raised the point that a decision not to issue a passport also constitutes an unstated ground for not issuing a passport, and should therefore be subject to appeal. The Opposition included the 30-day clause amongst those against which a right of appeal should be provided under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal amendment. The Government considers that at this time the Ombudsman Act provides an avenue through which applicants for passports may seek redress for delay in passport issue. A further avenue will be available with the introduction of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act. The Government is contemplating the provision of the right of appeal. It believes that this Act should be shaken down with the present provisions so that we can see the future more clearly. Senator Evans spoke about the requirement for the consent of the spouse to be obtained. We are well aware that this requirement constitutes an inconvenience at times. But at the moment it is our only means of protecting the interests of former spouses. As has been made clear by other Government speakers, this will be discontinued when the convention for the recovery of maintenance abroad comes into force for Australia.
Running through a number of speeches, both Government and Opposition, was the query about whether something could be done to remove the necessity for defining the place of birth on the passport. The Government clearly understands the fears of some people, particularly those who have come from the so-called Iron Curtain countries, that they be so asked. It is not with any insensitivity that this Bill still includes the provision. Indeed, it is with a very sensitive understanding of the matter that it does so. Requests for removal of the place of birth from passports are recieved mainly from citizens born overseas who wish to avoid problems when returning to their countries of birth or other nationality or who wish to avoid identification with a nation or regime with which they are out of sympathy. Inquiries show clearly that the omission of the place of birth from passports would result in a document which is defective for the purpose both of travel and of identification. That is the real dilemma. Omission of this information would not achieve the desired object as travellers would have to give it in other documentation and probably provide separate documentary evidence. Simply to leave it out would be self-defeating, despite our enormous sympathy towards the argument. Passports are accepted by visa-issuing authorities as official confirmation of the date and place of birth details given in applications for visas. The absence of these details from a passport would require travellers to carry additional evidence in order to establish their place of birth when applying for visas. They would also need to carry this additional evidence for entry or departure documentation, which may or may not be accepted. Difficulties which could confront travellers holding passports without place of birth details could range from delays at entry and departure points to refusal of entry.
The Opposition’s amendment that the place of birth should be disclosed on a passport only if the holder so elects could have quite unpredictable results. In any case it reflects on the totality of Australian passports the concept of a government travel document, wheresoever on this globe, and would thus be against the best interests of the majority of travellers. Significantly, suggestions have been made that place of residence be substituted in passports in lieu of place of birth. For technical purposes of identification, details of place of residence are quite unsatisfactory. Such details may change frequently during a lifetime and are difficult or impossible to authenticate from official records. Place of birth does not change and can normally be verified from official documents which are readily available.
Of the 56 countries which responded to an inquiry about whether they would accept place of residence in lieu of place of birth in Australian passports, 14 indicated that they find the substitution unacceptable. These included quite a significant number of major countries which were Turkey, South Africa, Syria, Italy, Egypt, West Germany, France, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Israel, Trinidad and Tobago, Zambia, Guyana and Yugoslavia. That is a very significant part of the globe, where transit itself may be of importance. A further 18 countries said that, whilst they would not necessarily reject Australian passports showing only place of residence, place of birth details would continue to remain a requirement for entry and departure documentation. That statement has exactly the same significance as the reply of those countries which did not wish place of residence to be shown. They included Ghana, Greece, Brazil, the Philipines Bangladesh, Tanzania, Vietnam, Pakistan, Jamaica, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Union of Soviet Social Republics, Botswana, Burma, Sweden, Iran, Austria and the United States of America. Taken together, that is a formidable section of the world. Indeed, if one looks at the nature of those countries, one finds that they include substantially the very countries that people fear will take exception when officials look at the place of birth. We have been told, in effect, that we will not be allowed into those countries unless by visa application or by disclosing on a passport a place of birth.
Although a complete check has not been undertaken of those countries which require date and place of birth details on application for entry permits, a random check of 30 countries for which Australians require visas shows that only three do not require place of birth details. When we look at the practical situation, we see that the amendment becomes an impossibility. The recommendation in the report on dual nationality from the Joint Committee for Foreign Affairs and Defence that place of birth be deleted from Australian passports and be substituted by place of residence has been given a great deal of consideration by an interdepartmental committee and by the Government. For the reasons I have just given, the Government, however reluctantly, is not prepared to agree with the omission. Indeed, as can be seen, it could cause more grief, worry, suffering and obstruction than it seeks to evade. However, in accordance with current practice, applicants may choose to omit country of birth from an Australian passport.
I have dealt with the key matters, that were raised during the second reading debate. I commend honourable senators for what was an important and useful debate. I failed to draw attention to matters which Senator Sibraa raised. He referred to clause 8 of the Bill which deals with the refusal of a second passport except where there are special reasons. He sought examples of those reasons. I am advised that examples for refusing a second passport would be, say, for travel to Taiwan if the other passport contained a Chinese visa, for travel to some countries if the other passport had an Israeli visa or for travel by some businessmen who frequently visit countries where visas take a long time to obtain. Senator Sibraa asked whether the Government would take a stand on Arab passport requirements. The answer is, of course, that entry to those countries a domestic matter for the countries concerned. This rule applies to everyone. There is no discrimination against Australians or Australian passport holders. Senator Mulvihill asked a question about refugee documents for seamen. That information is not available to me at the moment. We can provide the information to Senator Mulvihill and I will do so. I thank the honourable senators who took part in the debate for their contributions and I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 7- by leave- taken together.
– I take this opportunity to remark that if, as in clause 6 and as emphasised by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), an Australian passport remains the property of the Commonwealth, it would seem to me that the Commonwealth should take more pride in the control of its property than has been indicated by the Minister in his reply at the second reading stage. I have never heard and never hope to hear again remarks so subservient on behalf of the Australian Government to the requirement of other governments. Surely we are an independent nation in the community of nations. The Australian Government ought to be able to say to the world community: ‘Michael Tate is an Australian. This person who wishes to travel is Michael Tate and is an Australian citizen’. For the Australian Government to require in its documents issued in order to identify me as an Australian citizen that the place of birth be included simply because other governments require it seems to me to be a derogation from our national sovereignty.
– You are saying that you should not be subject to the laws of the other countries when you visit those countries?
– No I am not. If other countries wish me to indicate -
– That is ultimately what you are saying.
– The honourable senator has intervened twice instead of allowing me to reply to his initial remark. If other countries wish me to indicate my place of birth in order to gain entry to that other country, I will do so if I wish to gain entry. Let that be done at the time of the visa application or, as has been mentioned, when filling in the card that is given on the aircraft or ship. I am quite happy to act in accordance with the laws of the country to which I am seeking entry. What I am saying is that Australian law should not anticipate or be subservient to the requirements of the laws of other countries. Let us assert our national independence and sovereignty and say to the world: This document identifies an Australian citizen and so long as he is an Australian citizen that ought to be indicated in the passport and be quite sufficient. I regard the Minister’s remarks as not coming to terms with the sort of status which the Australian Government ought to enjoy in the community of nations.
– I seek the guidance of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) on the issue which Senator Tate raised. I concede the specific issue that Senator Tate referred to while not conceding the general proposition which he was putting initially. I think Senator Tate recognises that. I put to the Minister that while I accept in a certain practical sense, the need expressed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) to create a document in which changes are not constantly required and which, therefore meets the needs of the travelling public in general, a number of people in the community are quite justifiably concerned about some of the impositions placed upon them by some governments which are represented in this city. For example, when I spoke earlier I raised the question of people travelling with an Australian passport in which there is a requirement for the Australian citizen to put his or her place of birth. They put the city of their birth, which is the place of their birth, but when they go to one of these embassies they are required to put the country of birth.
This raises a question as to the rights of Australians in that context, because that situation occurs in Australia. One would assume that the town or city of birth would legitimately be considered the place of birth. In this capital of Australia we have a situation in which certain governments say to Australian citizens: ‘We will tell you what you must put on your Australian passport’. I think that is the specific issue which Senator Tate is addressing and which ought to be addressed thoroughly by the Government. I simply ask: Given the practicalities and difficulties which the Government posed in issuing these very important travel documents to individuals, is it attempting to negotiate with some of these countries that take a firm stand on this issue? There are many such countries from which many Australians come, such as Turkey, Italy and Yugoslavia, all of which are among the 14 countries which have said that they would find the suggested substitution unacceptable. I simply ask: Are we negotiating this? Are we discussing with these countries on a governmenttogovernment bilateral basis to try to meet what are to be fairly considered the legitimate interests of many Australian citizens?
– I suggest to Senator Tate that when he looks at the Hansard record he will find that he has drawn a quite wrong inference from what I said. I take it that he was referring to my description of human freedom to travel and the qualification in terms of putting the place of birth. What I said was that we subscribe fully to the notion of the freedom of the individual, but that we recognise that under the rule of law, which Senator Tate understands, that freedom is subject to the rights of others. In our community we have very proper rules to determine the enlargement and the limiting of the liberty of individual citizens in Australia. That is the rule of law, whether it comes from J. S. Mill or from modern-day -
– Or from Locke.
-Or from Locke. But that is the fact. I also said that there is a second situation. That is the international consideration that the document takes the citizen to another country and purports to say that the citizen is of good repute and that the other country can reasonably accept that citizen on that basis. This constitutes no subservience at all. In fact it enlarges the dignity and the freedom of the individual Australian in journeying abroad. I reject any suggestion that we are pandering to anybody else. We would be the last to suggest that Australia should not have the right to impose its own travel arrangements and restrictions upon those who come to our shores. We would defend to the last our right to do that. So why can we not defend to the last the right of others, although we might not agree with them in this situation?
asked me specifically whether we are negotiating with countries to see whether we can make the journey easier, for instance, with regard to the place of birth of a passport holder. My understanding is that discussions are in hand with at least one significant country and I have no doubt that they will proceed with others. The question of whether place of birth means town of birth or country of birth I think is pedantic and irrelevant.
– It is not.
– I have no doubt in the world that those people who come from the Iron Curtain countries, for example, would not feel that they were hiding anything at all by giving the capital city instead of the country of birth.
– It is not a matter of hiding something. It is a matter of recognition of a particular national entity.
-If that is the case, they can put both which would define it. As to the specifics, I believe that this Bill is widening the liberty and dignity of the individual Australian abroad. I will certainly pursue with the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) the suggestion that we could try to break down barriers to make the journey easier.
-As I understand it, Senator Knight sought some elucidation from the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in response to what Senator Tate put forward. We did not get that elucidation because the waters are even more muddied than they were when the discussion first started. I always enjoy Senator Carrick ‘s excursions into the realms of the political philosophers of the times from which he comes- the eighteenth century. But I fail to see their appropriateness to this discussion.
– You are familiar with eighteenth century political philosophy presumably, senator?
– Well, yes.
– I am delighted to hear that you reject them, because socialists do.
– In that case the Minister would not be delighted but bitterly upset, I am sure. As I understand it, the point of Senator Tate’s comment is simply that an Australian citizen going to a country in the group mentioned would comply with the law of that state by filling in the appropriate form which that state requires to be filled in- either an application for a visa or an entry card- and would write his place of birth on that form. The point that Senator Tate was making was that that compliance with the law of a particular state is really all that should be required of an Australian citizen. The inclusion of the place of birth in the passport adds nothing to that requirement of the law of the particular state. All it does is to provide a system of mirror photographs, as it were. It is like being asked to provide one’s driving licence to prove one’s signature. In a passport there are many things which relate to that point- the photograph and so on. It is not a question of the place of birth being an essential piece of information in terms of international law.
– If that country requires it, it is. That is the matter at issue.
– Of course, but what Senator Tate is putting is that we as Australian citizens should not be required by the domestic requirements of other states to put the place of birth in the passport. It should be sufficient to provide that information in another way. I follow what Senator Carrick said in his answer, namely, that any freedoms must be limited by the overriding freedoms of others. That is to say, freedom as an individual notion exists subject to the qualification of respect for the freedom of others. But surely there is not an issue of that order in the discussion which has taken place here today. The analogy seems to me to be totally inappropriate. For that reason, I support the observations which were made by Senator Tate and which, with respect, do not seem to have been answered.
-I have a couple of questions on clause 7 of the Bill. I refer to the second reading speech of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), in which he stated:
Clause 7 empowers the Minister to issue passports. Currently the position is that only officers authorised by the Minister can issue passports. It is considered that, to retain an element of flexibility in dealing with the vast range of circumstances that surround passport applications, the Minister for Foreign Affairs should himself retain an unfettered discretion to issue passports.
I ask the Minister: What qualifications must a person have to receive a diplomatic passport?
– I want to make clear, because I think it is not clear now that Senator Button has intervened, the point I was pursuing, which I am satisfied that the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, has answered. My question related to the requirement to show one’s place of birth on a passport and asked whether the requirement is to show the town or city of birth and, in addition, the country of birth. There are citizens of Australia who object to having to put the name of the country of their birth on their passports, but in order to get a visa to that country they are compelled by representatives of that country within Australia to do so.
– In the course of this debate I will seek an answer to Senator McLaren’s question. My advisers and I thought we had the list of persons qualified to receive a diplomatic passport, but we do not have it handy. 1 can be much more precise in answer to Senator Knight and I think that that might help to clarify issues raised by Senator Tate and Senator Button. I am advised that we allow only the town or city of birth to be shown in order that people may avoid nominating a country which they do not recognise. I confess that when I spoke on this before I did not understand that nicety. I think it is important that that point should be made. The one country which, to our knowledge, has queried that has been approached and we believe it will accept our practice. I think that answers that question. We will provide the qualifications for receiving a diplomatic passport as we journey through the legislation.
– In view of the answer given by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), may I suggest that consideration of clause 7 of the Bill be postponed until an answer to my question is provided because, depending on the type of answer I am given, I may have a series of other questions to ask. If we pass this clause now, the Minister may say later that the clause has been passed and 1 have no vehicle by which to ask the questions which I may want to ask on the issue of passports.
- Mr Temporary Chairman, we may do that or take it in globo. I give an undertaking to provide an answer to the honourable senator and an opportunity for him to ask further questions if I can by the time the Committee stage of this Bill is finished. No attempt will be made to limit that.
-I buy into this debate on the point raised by Senator Tate and Senator Knight in relation to the requirement to state the country of the place of birth on passports. I understand that our passports contain provision for naming the town of birth and also provision to name the country in which that town is situate. But I understand also that if one names a township in what is now the country of Yugoslavia, goes to the Yugoslavian Embassy and asks for a visa to get into Yugoslavia one will be required by that Embassy to state the country in which that town is situate. Earlier Senator Tate interjected that such a requirement is reprehensible. I agree with him. I ask the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) to have the Government take up this matter with the Yugoslavian Embassy because the Government must recognise that now in Australia a large number of Australian citizens refuse to recognise the current Yugoslavian Government as the Government of their country. They are Australian citizens with Australian rights. I ask simply that the Government take up this matter with the Yugoslavian Embassy as a matter of urgency to try to protect the rights of those Australian citizens.
– In my previous answer I referred to the fact that we were negotiating with a country- I had in mind Yugoslavia- that there appeared to be excellent co-operation and that there appeared to be reason to believe that we will reach full understanding. We all hope that that will be so.
– I would like a point in the journey clause 7 clarified. I am not clear whether reasons are given when a decision is made to refuse or to cancel a passport by officials or perhaps by the Minister. For example, will reference be made to the section of the Act under which the refusal or cancellation has been decided, or will no reasons be given in such circumstances?
– I am advised that the general intention is that the reasons will be given. I will need to clarify that on the journey because I would imagine that the very fact that a ministerial discretion is provided implies that there may be some discretion on the part of the Minister in that regard. But, of course, in the long run, any appeal mechanism against the ministerial discretion would have the effect of disclosing reasons. Because I am not an expert on this and I do not want to make a commitment on the issue, I simply advise that at the moment the basic advice is that, in the generality of things, reasons will be provided.
– I appreciate that the answer just given by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) to Senator Knight’s question was a qualified answer. As I understand it, it was to the effect that it is envisaged that reasons for a refusal to issue a passport, for example, will be given and that those reasons will be consistent with clause 7 of the Bill. A matter which particularly concerns me is what the situation would be with a decision to refuse to issue a passport for reasons which are not stated in the legislation- I take is that such reasons still exist- essentially as a matter of ministerial discretion. I refer to refusal on the grounds of security reports. For a very long period in Australia that was a ground for refusal which operated to the detriment of many migrants in this country.
– The ministerial discretions must encompass the various matters Senator Button raised. The lists outlined are obviously not exclusive. But the legislation will be subject to security appeals under the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation legislation. But also, fundamentally, as provision is made for a right of appeal to the Ombudsman on the one hand and, in the longer term, a right of appeal generally in an administrative appeals sense, the Minister necessarily would have to disclose his reasons for refusal to issue or cancel a passport, if he had not already disclosed them to the person concerned. So disclosure is possible. If it were a security matter, disclosure would be made in a confidential way.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 8 (Passport not to be issued to unmarried minors except in special circumstances)
-The Opposition proposes to move two amendments to clause 8. The intention of the proposed amendments is to affect proposed sub-section 7A(1) and 7A(2) contained in the Bill. Under proposed section 7A, restrictions are placed on an authorised officer in the issue of passports to unmarried minors. The combined effect of those two proposed sub-sections is that an authorised officer, unless directed by the Minister, may issue a passport to a person who is unmarried and who is not 18 years of age only in very restricted circumstances.
However, proposed section 7A does not deal with the situation of a very young minor whose name may be included on the passport of an adult, who is likely to be a parent or guardian of that minor. Under existing passport practice it is not necessary to issue a very young minor with a passport but rather to make an entry on the passport of that minor’s parent or guardian. The proposed section places no limits on the powers of an authorised officer to make such an entry. In the case of a very young minor being taken out of the country under circumstances not contemplated by the section, there are no restrictions on an authorised officer as in the case of a young minor with a separate passport. The intention of these two amendments is to remedy that defect in the legislation and the Opposition hope that the Government will consider the matter seriously. It seems to be an anomalous situation in terms of the function of an authorised officer as contemplated by this clause of the Bill. I move:
– The Government will oppose the amendment basically because it is entirely unnecessary. The amendments relate to the endorsement of children on a passport as distinct from the issue of separate passports. This is dealt with in regulations at the moment and that will continue. The same safeguards as provided in the Bill will apply to the regulations. So, the amendments as proposed are not necessary.
-I appreciate the answers I got from the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) about the two passport policy. I understand why it is necessary. However, I wish to ask some other questions. In my earlier speech I asked about the Government’s policy on tourists visiting the Middle East, and I now include Taiwan, and the advice given to Australians who may have forced stopovers. I mentioned two places, Damascus and Bahrain. I mention this because of what happened to me on a flight. We stopped at a place called Abadan in Iran. Luckily enough we had to stop for only about five hours. What would have been the situation for somebody with an Israeli visa if the travellers had to stay there overnight? I wonder how that great liberal democrat the Ayatollah Khomeini and his team would have dealt with the situation. Such a situation nearly occurred with the airline with which I travelled. What advice do we give Australians who are visiting countries like Libya or Iraq? What information do the airlines give these people when they are leaving Australia? Sometimes these people would not wish to visit those countries but they might be forced to stop over.
I also appreciate the point that Senator Knight was making, that the government of a country can insist on certain conditions. The point I was trying to make was that we should protest at the highest level- government to government. I think we should avoid the situation which happened a couple of years ago. It was ludicrous. Everybody in the countries which a delegation of members of this Parliament visited knew that the delegation had been to Israel- it was touring the Middle East- and that its members each had two passports. In that situation members of the delegation should have said that they would not go.
– Basically the information is covered in what is called TIM- the Travel Information Manual- which is held by all airlines and travel agents. That is the source of the advice.
– Very few people have access to it.
– I cannot answer that. I think it is an important question. I understand fully, and sympathise with, the nature and the objectives of the questions being asked. If it is felt that there is not sufficient access I can refer the matter to the Minister. I would have thought that every airline and travel agent would have advised passengers upon the writing of tickets of the conditions of entry to the particular places. If that is not the case I will seek more information.
Inherent in Senator Sibraa ‘s questions are matters not only concerning passports but also concerning the advice of the Government. I do not think that I should be expected to respond to them now. They are significant questions. With Senator Sibraa ‘s tolerance I will ask the officers to take them as being on notice and in due course give answers to the Senate. The matters really get to the heart of foreign policy as distinct from the passport situation. With Senator Sibraa ‘s indulgence I will do that.
– I wish to take up a question which I ask about many Bills that come before this Parliament. I refer to proposed new section 7E. I do not know whether I will ever get anywhere or whether anyone will look at the right of the individual when an injustice occurs. I am concerned with the right of appeal of someone against a wrong action of an officer or a Minister. I do not know what right of appeal is prescribed under the Passports Act, but at least we have an Ombudsman and administrative appeals tribunals. The question I always bring up is this: When someone seeks to appeal against an injustice that is done to him how does he prove that the action was done contrary to the Act? I heard Senator Tate earlier today say that he appreciates that the criteria is set out in the legislation. Previously there was a discretion. Proposed new section 7E provides:
To establish that the Minister is wrong one has to establish that the Minister did not ‘form the opinion’ and not that he could not ‘form the opinion’. How is that proved? I concede that the conduct of some individuals would not justify the issuing of passports. If a passport is not issued the person concerned will have to go to an appeals tribunal and prove that the Minister was wrong because the Minister had not ‘formed the opinion ‘. This is an impossible test for someone who has been unjustly refused a passport. I think that the language of the legislation should at least contain some criteria by which it can be established that the Minister was wrong in that he never took account of the criteria that Parliament established.
– Again I appreciate the answers I got from the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). I suggest that the Commonwealth should print a brochure, to be given out when anybody purchases an airline ticket, telling people about the dangers of visiting certain places in the Middle East and of the situation between China and Taiwan. I still think that there is a loophole. The loophole occurs with a passport which has been in force for four or five years and which has been used for visits to Taiwan, China, Israel, Libya or one of the other countries concerned. When that person makes another visit he may find himself in trouble the first time he produces his passport.
– Is no such brochure issued at present?
– I suppose that is my question. I do not think there is. The situation has been brought home to me personally. I make these observations for whatever they are worth.
– I wish to respond to several matters. As to Senator Sibraa’s general question following upon the matters arising out of the Travel Information Manual, I will look to see whether there is in simple documented form something for all travellers. I imagine that, first of all, rapid change could put that out of date and, secondly, some of the niceties may require fairly diplomatic expression. However, we will look at that. As to Senator Cavanagh’s question, I am advised that the appeal provisions envisaged for the future would cover two tests. The first test would be the legality of the decision and the second test would be the correctness of the decision. The intention is for these matters to be taken up in subsequent appeal situations.
Intervening upon the previous question I answered, I am told that we have a brochure called ‘Hints for Australian Travellers’ which stresses the need to ascertain visa requirements. We will consider strengthening the advice given on this point in the brochure. The brochure does not tell a traveller what is happening in regard to visas; it tells him to go and find out. I imagine that is because of the need for the brochure to be up to date. Senator McLaren asked about eligibility for diplomatic passports. At the risk of wearying the Senate, I will read a document I have here. I am advised that the matter of eligibility is a Cabinet decision and therefore an instruction to the Department and to the issuing officers. The eligible categories for diplomatic passports are:
the Prime Minister
iii ) the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, an Australian Government Minister
the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives
the Chief Justice and Justices of the High Court of Australia
the Chief of the Defence Force Staff and the Chiefs of the Australian Naval, General and Air Staffs, when proceeding overseas on official business
a First Division Officer of the Australian Public Service proceeding overseas on official business
the following Statutory Office holders:
Chairman of the Public Service Board the Solicitor-General
Governorofthe Reserve Bank
an Ambassador, High Commissioner or other Head of a Diplomatic or Consular Mission of Australia
an Officer of the Australian Public Service who is the leader of a delegation on behalf of the Australian Government or its sole representative, attending an international conference or undertaking formal bilateral or multilateral negotiations
a Member of Her Majesty’s Australian Diplomatic Service (not including ‘a member of the administrative and technical staff or a member of the service staff or a private servant’ as defined in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations)
a Member of the staff of any Australian Government department or instrumentality assigned to a diplomatic mission overseas and notified to the Receiving Country as holding a recognised diplomatic rank
an Australian Government Diplomatic Courier
a Governor of a State
a Premier of a State
a State Government Minister proceeding overseas on official business
the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of a State proceeding overseas on official business
a Permanent Head of a State Premier’s Department accompanying his Premier overseas on an official visit
one Member of the staff of any person covered by category (i) to (iv) of PART A and (i) of PART B above, accompanying that person overseas on official business
a person in respect of whom the Minister for Foreign Affairs considers that exceptional circumstances apply
the spouse of a person granted a diplomatic passport provided:
the spouse is an Australian citizen or possesses the status of a British subject; and
the cost of the spouse’s fare to the overseas destination is to be met from Australian or State revenue.
– I presume that I am in order now in referring back to clause 7. The Minister has provided the Senate with the answers I sought. I listened as closely as I could but I was not able to write down all the categories. However, in only one case that I wrote down could I see where one Mr Harry M. Miller would have been entitled to a diplomatic passport. That would have been under the category of exceptional circumstances applying to a person employed by the Government. The Minister will recall the debate that took place on the Passports Amendment Bill in the House of Representatives in March when the former Minister for Primary Industry said that he had queried the issue of a diplomatic passport to one Harry M. Miller. That passport was issued in 1977 by the then Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Withers.
Before I proceed any further, I ask: How many passports has Mr Harry M. Miller in his possession at present? I guess that if I were to ask this question at Question Time I would have to wait six months to get the answer, as I did to my question on the use of telephones by Mr Miller. I am asking the question during the debate on this Bill, while the officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs are in the Senate, so that I may get a direct answer. I express again my concern and that of the Opposition that this Government saw fit to issue to one Harry M. Miller a diplomatic passport to travel overseas when members of parliament who go overseas to recognised conferences as official representatives of the Parliament are not provided with a diplomatic passport but have to travel with an official passport. It is a matter of great concern that one citizen who is in very close favour with the Government can find himself in possession of a diplomatic passport. This was the subject of grave criticism by a person who was held in very high esteem by the present Government when it was previously in government. Mr Howard Beale wrote an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 1 6 April in which he was very bitter in his criticism of the way in which a diplomatic passport was conferred upon one Harry M. Miller. It is a matter of great concern.
I ask, firstly, about how many passports Mr Miller now has in his possession and whether he has a diplomatic passport. I might be treading on dangerous ground, but I will quote from a report in the Sydney Morning Herald on 31 March which states that Mr Harry M. Miller was ordered to surrender his passport. Further, the article stated that he had as many as three or four passports. At that time Mr Miller was before the court on legal matters. I also ask the Minister whether anything in this amending Bill will prevent any Minister of the Crown from conferring a diplomatic passport upon persons who do not qualify under the guidelines set down.
– I am advised that over the course of time one and only one diplomatic passport has been issued to Mr Miller. That passport, which was handed in to the Department of Foreign Affairs on 30 March this year, had expired nine months earlier. So there was one passport and it expired in the middle of last year. It was issued on the advice of the Minister concerned that Mr Miller, being the Chairman of the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation, a very significant committee, and involved in travelling extensively on behalf of the Government and talking at high levels, should have this facility. It was, as I understand it, issued for that job, and used for it. He no longer holds it. It expired in the middle of last year and has been returned to the Department. The honourable senator also asked whether anything in the Bill related to this situation. The issuance of diplomatic passports and the schedule setting out who shall be eligible for them is not a matter for legislation but one traditionally decided by cabinets and therefore outside the scope of this Bill.
– The Minister, in the course of his answer, said that Mr Miller had been issued with a diplomatic passport on one occasion, that it had expired and that quite some time passed before it was recalled. That seems odd when one considers the fact that a member of Parliament with an official passport is told that immediately upon his return from overseas he should surrender it to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
– No, he is not.
– I was so informed and I have always returned mine. When I was issued with an official passport I was told that upon my return I should hand it to the Department of Foreign Affairs. I have always done so. I do not quibble with that because I think that the Department is in a better position to safeguard my passport than I am. But I wish now to quote an article from the Melbourne Age of 30 March referring to Mr Miller’s VIP passports. It states that Mr Sinclair, in answer to a question by Dr Klugman said:
Without my knowledge it was issued on 3 subsequent occasions. ‘
The Minister has told me that only on one occasion did Mr Miller have a passport, yet Mr Sinclair, in March last, when this Bill was before the House of Representatives, said that on three occasions Mr Miller was issued with a diplomatic passport. Also, we learn that upon his return he was allowed to keep it, without any apparent request being made for it- unless a request was made that he return it and he refused to do sountil Mr Peacock had to take very stringent steps to have it returned. It would appear to me that somewhere in the Act there must be a great degree of looseness if a person such as Mr Harry M. Miller can on three occasions obtain a diplomatic passport. I am not the first person to criticise the Government for this. Mr Howard Beale did that in the article to which I referred. Will the Bill tighten up the situation in respect of the issuing of passports, so that this situation will not occur again?
– I am advised that honourable senators who have official passports have them issued for the duration of the term of Parliament. One is very much at liberty to return the passport before then for safe keeping if one so desires. Incidentally, it is not appropriate for any honourable senator to have two passports, an official passport and an ordinary one. Having said that, I am advised that what I stated earlier concerning Mr Miller was correct. He was issued with one diplomatic passport which expired on a certain date and was subsequently returned. Possibly the confusion occurs because a diplomatic passport, one document, was originaly issued and was certified on three occasions for three specific trips. These are administrative matters and have been such traditionally.
The Minister’s answer provides me with a vehicle for another question. He has said that members of Parliament are not entitled to have two passports, that is, an ordinary passport and an official one. Yet, in the Sydney Morning Herald report of the court case to which I referred we find the following:
Referring to reports that Mr Miller had more than one passport, Mr Davidson asked Mr Berman to specify whether one or more passports should be surrendered. Mr Berman declined to specify more than one passport.
I now ask: In view of the fact that members of the Parliament are entitled to only one passport, how many did Mr Miller have?
– There is no confusion in regard to this matter. Diplomatic passports are valid for very limited periods and for specific trips. Therefore, they have a very limited life. It would be normal for a person who might travel extensively to hold an ordinary passport and, from time to time, have a diplomatic passport which had been activated for a limited period, after which it would terminate.
– I take it from what the Minister has said that in my situation I should have had two official passports, one as a member of the Parliament and one as a member of an official delegation. I should not have been issued with an ordinary passport, but with a second official passport.
– I am not sure whether my remarks are relevant to this clause or to a later one, but I wish to refer to a matter which intrigues me. I will not mention the individual, but I am sure that a nod is as good as a wink. A certain Australian lost his passport in Spain. Suddenly he was given documents to return to Canberra. That will provide a fair clue. Then he surfaced in Paraguay, where he was supposed to have found his original passport. I understand that there was a certain fracas with another country’s ambassador.
– In Caracas?
-No, it was in
Paraguay, which is even better. The Minister’s advisers might recall the case. I ask whether we have prevented a repetition of that kind of thing? To take the story a little further, I say that I understand that a particular ambassador of one country had grey hair, as did another person. A murder squad was on the job and it shot the wrong person. The officers of the Department might know the Canberra citizen to whom I am referring.
– I acknowledge the nod and the wink rendered by the honourable senator and have relayed them by signals to my very competent advisers. I am told, in regard to Senator Sibraa ‘s query, that if he found it necessary to have two passports it was in order to overcome a particular local difficulty which prevailed at the time.
– I move:
The amendment relates to that part of clause 8 which proposes to insert new section 7E (2). Under sub-section ( 1 ) of the proposed new section an authorised officer shall not issue a passport to a person if the Minister has notified the authorised officer that he has formed certain opinions about what that person would do outside Australia. The wording of the proposed section is: ‘. . . if the Minister has notified the authorised officer that . . . ‘ Under proposed new section 7E (2) the notification given by the Minister ceases to have effect upon the giving to the authorised officer of a notice stating that the notification has ceased to have effect. The first point to note about the clause is that there is no explanation of a difference in wording of the section, in that the words notice and notification appear to be interchangeable. I ask the Minister to indicate what is a notification, what is a notice, and what is the difference? Perhaps that knowledge would help us along the way considerably. More importantly, I want to draw attention, in relation to this amendment, to the fact that the notice under sub-section (2) need not necessarily be given by the Minister. In other words, the Minister may notify the authorised officer under sub-section ( 1 ) and subsequently the authorised officer may receive a notice cancelling the notification. That notice does not have to be given by the Minister. It can be given by somebody else, for example, a person in a superior position to the authorised officer, such as the permanent head.
It seems to the Opposition inappropriate that someone other than the Minister could cancel a notification given by the Minister unless that is deliberately intended by the Government. I seek clarification in relation to that. Again, I reiterate that there may be a satisfactory explanation. In the absence of an explanation, as we read the Bill at the present time, the Opposition’s amendment is to ensure that both the notice and the notification have to come from the Minister. We also need to understand what each of them is.
– I do not know how Senator Button will take this shock, but the Government is willing to accept the amendment. The Government believes that in terms of style it does clarify the situation. Even from an eighteenth century Liberal I hope that he will accept it with grace and a benign assurance that we do think that it adds to the understanding.
Amendment agreed to.
The amendment adds a new proposed section 7F. Throughout the second reading stage I referred to the absence from the Bill of any time limits on the Minister or any authorised officer in making a decision on the issue of a passport. The Opposition indicated earlier that it believed that this situation is unjust to applicants. They may have to wait for some time without a decision by the Government. That means in effect that the applicant could for a long time be denied a passport by default without any explanation. During the discussion of earlier clauses, I indicated that in the past this situation has been known to run for years. To overcome this defect, the Opposition proposes an amendment to the Bill which would ensure that the Minister or an authorised officer must make some decision within 30 days. I appreciate that Senator Carrick, in the course of his reply at the second reading stage, said that it may not be possible for a decision to be made within 30 days because advice has to be received from outside offices and so on. With respect, that may be a reason for saying that it should not be 30 days, that it should be 60 days or something like that. It is not a reason for not grappling with the point of principle that a person should not be left in limbo awaiting a decision which in effect amounts to a refusal to issue a passport and no decision having to be given because the Government has not applied its mind to the question, or for some other reason.
In addition to that, because unusual circumstances are covered by the clause, the Opposition proposes in this amendment that even in situations where either the Minister or an authorised officer has not made up his mind, or that there are reasons for delaying the decision, the applicant can be so notified, which in a sense is a further way of dealing with the point which the Minister made in his reply at the second reading stage. There are two ways of handling the problem which the Minister foreshadowed, apparently as the Government’s reason for the rejection of this amendment. We would say on the Opposition side that the amendment is a minor restriction on the freedom of the Minister or the authorised officer. The Opposition believes that such a freedom of an applicant for a passport is highly appropriate. I now get back to the discussion of the great philosophers of the eighteenth century, the balance of freedoms and so on. Senator Carrick will no doubt take that further in his reply. The failure by the Minister or an authorised officer to act within the time limits proposed should attract the right of appeal by the applicant. That is a matter which we can discuss in a later amendment. That appeal, in our view, should be to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
What we are concerned about here is a point of principle whereby an applicant can be left in limbo. We say that if there are reasons for the delay beyond 30 days, the Minister or authorised officer should inform the applicant that there are special reasons why there is a delay or, alternatively, if the time of 30 days is too short the Government should look at the question of providing a longer time in which the Minister or authorised officer has to give the applicant some sort of answer. I would have thought that this is a reasonable proposition which would appeal to the alert libertarians on the Government benches in that section of the Senate and should have the support of the Senate.
Senator CARRICK (New South Wales)Minister for Education) (5.21)- During my response at the second reading stage of the Bill, I dealt at length with this matter. I do not think that I should weary the Senate with canvassing the ground now. I pointed out that the great bulk of applications is dealt with within two or three days. I pointed out the impracticality of the amendment itself. Fundamentally, if the Passport Act is brought under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal the 30-day concept of a proposal would certainly not be necessary, as the Ombudsman Act already provides for application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for any review of failure to carry out acts which are subject to appeal before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. It would seem that the obvious thing to do is to provide an appeals device which can look to the heart of things. It may not take 30 days. It may well be that somebody needs action to be taken in much greater urgency and requires an appeals device. I believe that the combination of what the Act intends now and the appeals which have been foreshadowed for the future is a better solution than the Opposition proposes. We would reject the amendment.
-The point that I was seeking to make is, with respect, being missed by the Minister. First of all, it is not sufficient for the Minister to say that the bulk of passport applications is dealt with very expeditiously within two or three weeks.
– Two or three days, I am sorry. For the purpose of the argument I wish to put, the time is immaterial. It is not sufficient to talk about the bulk being dealt with in a short period. What the amendment is concerned about is, as it were, the hard case, the exceptional case, which may result in detriment to a particular applicant. With the greatest respect, in the context of the discussion on this Bill, it is not sufficient for us as an Opposition to say that we accept that the Government is- if I may use the Minister’s word- contemplating an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal which would embrace these sorts of matters. The third argument, really, which is advanced by the Minister is that this is impractical. What we are concerned about is that some provision should be inserted which protects the applicant in the difficult situation and which is practical. In our submission, it is specious to reject it on the basis that 30 days may be impractical.
-Another aspect of the amendment perhaps has been glossed over by the Minister. The amendment requires that when an application for a passport is denied the section upon which the authorised officer is relying ought to be notified to the applicant. Even agreeing with the Minister that there is an appeals mechanism in a sense to the Ombudsman, my query is: How is the Ombudsman to be acquainted with the ground of the decision taken by the authorised officer? Under the Bill as it is presently drafted there is no need for the authorised officer to indicate the ground upon which he took his decision. I ask: How does the Ombudsman find out whether in fact one of the grounds in the Bill were relied on, whether some irrelevant ground was taken into account or whether there was just sheer maladministration?
– I think that Senator Tate could not have been in the chamber when I responded earlier. I said the intention is that, if an application is denied, the applicant is to be notified of the section of the Act under which the denial is made. Therefore that would make way for the Ombudsman to intervene.
-I may have missed the comment by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). Is that an indication of an administrative practice that is to be adopted or will this be written into the Act? We want a legislative guarantee that a person will be notified of the grounds upon which an authorised officer has acted. I ani putting to one side the question of ministerial discretion which may go outside the legislative criteria.
– It is proposed to be an administrative procedure.
Proposed new section negatived.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 13- by leave- taken together.
-A number of amendments to clauses 9 to 13 have been circulated by the Opposition. They are numbered 5 to 1 5 inclusive. I seek leave to move the amendments together.
Our amendments basically deal with the penalties in the Bill. In the course of the second reading debate I indicated that we felt that the penalties proposed were too severe in many cases for what were relatively minor offences. The Opposition proposes the reduction of all penalties with the exception of the penalty for forgery, which is included in clause 12 and which proposes the insertion of a new section 9 (b). For a start, we believe that some of these offences should not be indictable offences. It seems most unjust that to fail to notify the loss of a passport should be an indictable offence under any circumstance. One could go through the offences covered in this Bill and see similar situations. The Opposition is proposing this course because, firstly, under the existing Act penalties for offences leave the court with an option to impose a fine or imprisonment. The Opposition is seeking to ensure that the courts have the option which they have under the existing Act; that is to say, that there is a discretion in the court. We also believe that the maximum sentences proposed under the Bill for most of these offences are too severe. However, we recognise that maximum fines under the existing Act are too low in view of the time that has elapsed since these fines were included in the Act and the change in money values that has occurred. As a result we have proposed the changes with the exception of the penalties dealing with forgery which we consider appropriate.
The Opposition proposes that for each offence attracting a penalty of one year’s gaol the penalty be varied to read ‘$500 or imprisonment for three months’. Where the proposed penalty is two years’ gaol the Opposition suggests the substitution of a fine not exceeding $ 1 , 000 or imprisonment for six months. If these changes are acceptable to the Government it would be necessary to vary proposed section 1 1 which makes all offences under the Act indictable. Under the Opposition’s proposed amendments only the offence of forgery would be an indictable offence while the rest would remain as summary offences.
A significant reason in convincing the Opposition that this would be the correct approach was that the Government has failed to indicate any reasons why it has substantially increased the penalties, apart from the ones we recognise as necessary due to the change in money values. It has not pointed to an upsurge in the breaches of the provisions of the old Passports Act. It has not been argued that the Government is having difficulty in regulating the provisions of the old Passports Act. We have been told nothing about the rate of convictions or penalties imposed under the previous legislation. It seems that little thought has been given to the change in penalties. The Opposition suggests that the Government should give serious consideration to the suggested amendments, the most important aspect of them being the apparent imbalance between the penalty for forgery and the penalty for minor offences such as losing one ‘s passport. In our view forgery is a serious offence and the others are not.
– The Government rejects these amendments. I would like to remind the Senate that the current penalties under the Passports Act have not changed since 1920- some 59 years. Commonwealth police are concerned that the value of a passport is not fully recognised by the penalties under the present legislation. I think that everyone would agree with that. I think that all would understand how many serious crimes involve the misuse of passports. The Opposition said that it considers that the proposed penalties in the Bill, with the exception of those for forgery, are too severe. It proposes that they be reduced by a factor of four. I make it very clear that the penalties for new offences created by the Bill follow most of the penalties prescribed in the Crimes Act for comparable offences. They reflect changed circumstances in regard to increased travel and the use and misuse of passports. They are in line with comparable offences under the Crimes Act. I also make it clear that the penalties are maximum penalties and should be regarded as such. There was some confusion in the debate in another place, and maybe here, over the interpretation of penalties prescribed. There was discussion over the difference between imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year and the penalty of imprisonment for two years. Section 41 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1 90 1 provides that in the latter case the stipulated penalty is a maximum one.
The Opposition criticised the penalty of a maximum of one year’s imprisonment for the failure of a person to report the loss or theft of a passport as soon as he became aware of the loss or theft. It is considered that the penalty is not excessive. I stress that it is a maximum sentence. It is designed to deter people who sell passports. An honest citizen has nothing to fear and could be expected to automatically report the loss or theft of a passport as soon as he becomes aware of it. The Opposition has proposed that all offences with reduced penalties be heard summarily in magistrates’ courts except that of forgery of passports which is covered in new section 9(b) and for which the penalty is five years’ imprisonment. It also proposes that the offence of forgery could be prosecuted in a magistrate’s court with the consent of the relevant magistrate and the parties. This amounts to a scaled down version of the existing provision and is not acceptable for the reasons already given.
-On the question of penalties, I think it ought to be clearly understood that the Opposition regards the offences as serious, particularly forgery, which is a very grave offence. Therefore the Opposition agrees with the penalty for forgery prescribed in the Bill. What the Opposition is saying is that discretion ought to be placed in the court. An alternative should be open to the court so that a fine may be substituted for a term of imprisonment in an appropriate case. As an illustration of what might be an appropriate case, I refer to Senator Carrick ‘s last remark when he said that an honest citizen may have nothing to fear. An honest citizen has nothing to fear if he does what Senator Carrick indicated he ought to do, namely, notify the loss or theft of a passport as soon as practicable. He has nothing to fear in those circumstances because he has committed no offence. But where an Australian passport is lost or stolen and for any number of reasons the passport holder fails to report this loss or theft within the shortest practicable time, he is guilty of an offence. All we are saying is that that range of reasons may include reasons which are such that, although an offence has been committed, it ought not to result in imprisonment of the passport holder.
An honest citizen ought to have nothing to fear in that situation because he would never be prosecuted. This is where we think that our proposal has advantages over the present structure of the Bill. There may be cases where it would be unjust to prosecute the passport holder despite the fact that technically an offence has occurred following the loss or theft of a passport, knowing that the court has no alternative but to subject that person to a term of imprisonment, albeit imprisonment for up to one year. We say that the court ought to have placed in its hands the opportunity to exact a monetary penalty rather than have no other alternative but to imprison the person, even if it be for a period of only a week. In other words, we say that the discretion should be placed in the court rather than in the hands of the prosecuting authority, where invariably it will now reside, because prosecutions will not take place in circumstances where the failure to notify the loss or theft is for a trivial reason which nevertheless does breach the law.
Clauses agreed to.
Proposed new clause 1 3a.
-The remaining amendment is amendment No. 16, which has been circulated by the Opposition. I move:
I should indicate that during the second reading debate I pointed out that there was no appeal from the very wide discretion of the Minister and his authorised officers, and we saw no reason why these matters should not be subject to an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. From the exchanges which we have had at various stages of the debate, it is quite clear that the Government is contemplating this course but it is not in a position at this stage to do anything about it. I do not quite see why. I had difficulty in understanding the view which Senator Knight expressed, which was that somehow by watching the operation of this Bill when it becomes an Act there will be some new wisdom as to how many people wanted to appeal, why they wanted to appeal and so on. When one considers that the operation of the principal Act goes back a large number of years- I am fully aware that there is no appeals provision in that Act- one would have thought that that experience would already have been available to the Department, and an appeals provision of this kind could be inserted. When I say that there is no appeals provision in the present legislation, I am saying that the environment in relation to the rights of the subject, the rights of the citizen, has changed considerably in the last few years as a result of legislation of the previous Government and of this Government. This legislation should be made consistent with that changed environment in relation to these matters.
We strongly commend to the Government the proposal set out in this amendment. We would derogate from our function as an Opposition if we accepted contemplations of the Government. All sorts of things are within human contemplation but they are not necessarily attained. I commend the amendment to the Senate.
– A number of times during the course of the debate I have stated the Government’s attitude in relation to this matter. I simply conclude the debate by reminding the Senate, first of all, that the present Passports Act has been in operation for more than 40 years without any appeals provision. That does not say that there should not have been one. The Bill proposes substantial changes in the Act, principally relating to those clauses which specify the reasons for withholding passports. These changes strongly reflect the basic intention of the Government, which has been to place the whole decision process on a public legislated basis and to embody the greatest possible protection of the rights of citizens in the legislation. By amending the legislation in this way the Government has sought to ensure that the policies behind this process are clearly known and understood by all concerned.
It should be made clear then that provision for appeal is a logical extension of the philosophy embodied in the Bill. In fact, it has always been the Government’s intention to provide for appeals. The question of appeals was canvassed in the review which preceded preparation of the present Bill and, as a matter of record, the intention was foreshadowed clearly in the annual report of the Department of Foreign Affairs for the year ended 31 December 1978. This report, which was published in April this year and tabled in Parliament on 2 May, stated that the trend to review was:
I believe that, with that understanding, the Bill itself is intact. The Government rejects the amendment.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a third time.
– I present the twelfth report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
(5.45)- I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to amend further the States Grants (Roads) Act 1977 by providing an additional $38m in Commonwealth grants to the States for roadworks in 1979-80. The Bill also provides for an increase in quotas for State road expenditure from their own resources. Honourable senators will recall that the States Grants (Roads) Act 1977 originally provided for grants totalling $475m to be made available to the States in each of the three years 1977-78 to 1979-80. When the Act was introduced in 1977, the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) announced that it was the Government’s intention to adjust the grants for 1978-79 and 1979-80 so that they would be maintained at a level equivalent in real terms to the 1977-78 amounts. Accordingly, the Act was amended last year to provide an additional $33m in grants for both 1978- 79 and 1979-80 bringing the total in each of these years to $508m. The Bill now before the Senate provides for the level of the grants for 1979- 80 to be increased to $546m, an increase of almost 7.5 per cent over the amount provided in 1978-79.
The Bill gives effect to the Government’s decision on roads assistance which of necessity had to be taken and announced earlier this year. The States have often emphasised the need for early advice of Commonwealth funding levels in order to assist the development of their annual road programs. The additional moneys which were provided last year were in general allocated among road categories pro rata to the original allocations. This Bill also provides for a pro rata allocation of the increased funds for 1979-80. This will effectively ensure that the priorities inherent in the original allocations are maintained.
In line with the Government’s view that road funding is a responsibility of all three levels of government, each State will be required to fund an increased quota of road expenditure from its own resources in order to qualify for Commonwealth assistance. The Government has decided that State expenditure quotas for 1979-80 should, as in 1978-79, be increased by the same percentage as the Commonwealth grants. I should emphasise that the quotas represent minimum expenditure requirements which the States are free to exceed according to the priority which they attach to their road programs. The details of the legislation are quite straightforward. The Bill provides for the repeal of the Schedules to the
States Grants (Roads) Act 1977 and for their replacement with new Schedules setting out the increased Commonwealth grants by road categories and the increased State quotas. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23 May, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not oppose the Crimes (Aircraft) Amendment Bill. As the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) indicated in his second reading speech when introducing the Bill, when it is passed there will be discussions with State Attorneys-General to try to provide a uniform enactment throughout Australia to cover airports in relation to hoaxes, hoax telephone calls, fake bomb threats and home-made bomb threats at airports. The purpose of the legislation is to protect the travelling public and aircraft from a variety of offences associated with airports and air navigation and to provide substantial penalties for these offences. We welcome all of these matters which are undoubtedly necessary. We take the view that this is a very cheap form of legislation when one considers legislation of this kind and, for example, the estimated $30m which will be required, we understand, to ensure the air travel security of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). This is a very cheap Bill.
– Any Prime Minister’s security?
– No, I am referring to this Prime Minister. There are only three leaders in the world- President Carter, the late lamented Idi Amin and Malcolm Fraser- who require aircraft of this kind. So it is not any Prime Minister. As Opposition spokesman on education, I recall that the amount involved in the purchase of the Prime Minister’s VIP aircraft would build 30 schools in Australia. I find it unfortunate that some citizens must have their security assured at that cost to the Australian taxpayer. The cost of this legislation, however, is quite cheap and, we hope, effective. We hope also that it is complimented by legislation of the State parliaments. We commend the legislation to the Senate.
– Whilst the Opposition supports the Crimes (Aircraft)
Amendment Bill, I think it ought to be recognised just how inadequate the Government’s response overall has been to the safety of air navigation aids and aerodromes in Australia. In fact, this legislation is simply a partial response to the pressure which has been put on the Government both by the International Federation of Airline Pilots Association which met in March of this year and demanded that the governments of the world institute such checks as are provided for in this Bill. Of course, the Australian Federation of Airpilots has taken the same stand, particularly after the incident at Coolangatta in early June where a domestic flight was hijacked by an individual who managed to get on board with a sawn-off shotgun without being detected. This was because of certain defects which I will shortly bring to the attention of the chamber.
It is true that Australia has been relatively free of this type of incident perhaps mainly because we have some geographical advantage in being removed from some of the political hotspots of the world. Indeed, we have also been free of these sorts of incidents because the Government has recognised the weight and force of the lobby represented by the International Federation of Airline Pilots Association. Therefore on international flights safety measures have been extremely stringent. There are two matters to be noted in this respect. Firstly, the character of persons undertaking attacks on people in airport transit lounges and in aircraft is changing. Whereas in the 1960s the typical case of hijacking was for political purposes with the person perhaps trying to fly to Havana or some other haven which was ideologically suitable, nowadays the persons who are hijacking aircraft are doing it because of personal idiosyncrasies. For example, honourable senators will remember the incident in Sydney when an attacker took a knife to a girl, bundled her onto a jumbo jet and had in his possession two gelignite bombs. He merely wanted to travel to Moscow, via Rome to see the Pope. It was a personal idiosyncrasy.
It is this type of person against whom one needs 100 per cent security checks. This Bill does nothing to institute in Australian domestic airports what I believe to be absolutely essential, namely, security checks on 100 per cent of the flights concerned. It does not occur at the moment because the Government places the burden of instituting security checks on the domestic airlines. It is the airlines which pay for the security organisations to carry out the checks which I believe are random but which, overall, are designed to deal with about one in every three passengers on domestic flights in Australia. The fact that that person could get onto the aircraft at Coolangatta with a sawn-off shotgun, hijack an aircraft and be overcome only through the bravery of the air-hostesses concerned shows that our domestic air flights are vulnerable to attack by the irrational or the self-seeking, perhaps even for monetary reward.
Honourable senators will recall the famous incident of Mr Brown who tried to obtain some half million dollars by a false bomb hoax. He stated that a bomb had been placed on an aircraft of Qantas Airways Ltd. All these instances spring to mind but are not really met by this Bill.
– The whole of Coolangatta airport is at risk.
-That is correct. The Bill is cosmetic. It does not deal with the real problem because it does neither of two things: It does not require 100 per cent screening of Australian domestic flights and it does nothing by way of aiding the staffing situation at our domestic airports. Thus one has a very clear indication of the Government’s shallow concern for this matter. After the jumbo jet incident in Sydney, Senator Mason of the Australian Democrats asked a question in this place on 5 April. He pointed out that the establishment at Sydney airport was for 84 Commonwealth police officers. In fact, there were only 60.
– You can say what you like about him as he has gone away.
– What I am going to say is favourable. He had divulged the information that an establishment of 29 plain clothes officers was provided for Sydney airport whilst, in fact, there were only 1 8 officers. There was an establishment of 55 uniformed officers, but there were only 42 at the airport. He asked the Government to ensure urgently that the staffing was brought up to establishment. I understand from Senator Mason that he has received no reply to that question asked on 5 April 1979. In fact, the problem to which he was pointing occurs at most other airports. I have not shown this table to the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) who is at the table but I seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard. It is a table on the established and actual strengths of Department of Transport Officers associated with airport security at Australian airports as at 30 April 1979. It has been prepared from an answer to question No. 3893 at page 2879 of the House of Representatives daily Hansard of 4 June 1979.
The table read as follows-
– The relevant part of the table shows, amongst other things, that at Melbourne Airport at 30 April 1 973 there was an established strength of 73 whereas the actual strength was 60. Together with the figures for the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport that indicates the failure of the Government to come to grips with this problem of security of airports and air navigation aids.
Whilst this piece of legislation is welcomed by the Opposition, we see it as being possibly ineffective in that there will not be sufficient personnel to carry out the searches which are authorised by the Bill and to take the action that may be necessary if they become suspicious about any person or piece of baggage. My view- not that of the Opposition- is that Australian airline passengers would be willing to accept 100 per cent security checks to ensure that irrational people and those motivated by greed or some obscure purpose known only to themselves do not threaten the lives of those who seek to travel by air.
– in reply- I am pleased that the Opposition is supporting this measure. Senator Button indicated that it is doing so and Senator Tate made some comments of a more general kind with regard to air safety and security generally. Most of the matters that he raised are for the attention of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon). I will refer his views to the Minister for Transport. However, I wish to refer to one or two other matters that he mentioned because I think that he is under a misunderstanding. The fact is that some time towards the end of last year the Government decided to propose these amendments to the Parliament- I have not the actual date- but it was not due to any pressure which had been brought to bear by any meetings of pilots or anybody else which may have taken place this year. I can assure the Senate that my submissions in regard to this matter were made last year and the Bill was introduced into the Senate in May last.
This is not the only matter dealing with crimes on aircraft. This Bill expands the legislation which deals with criminal activity on aerodromes as well as on aircraft. The principal Act has been in operation since 1963. In addition to that Act we have the Crimes (Hijacking of Aircraft) Act which implements a special international convention on the subject which took place several years ago. The Crimes (Hijacking of Aircraft) Act provides for even greater penalties in specific cases of hijacking. In fact a charge has been laid already under that Act in respect of one of the incidents that Senator Tate mentioned, but as that matter is sub judice I do not propose to say anything further about it. Apart from those comments, I accept that the Opposition is supporting the measure and I hope that it will have a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Report on Torres Strait Treaty
Debate resumed from 3 1 May, on motion by Senator Georges:
That the Senate take note of the report.
-The report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which is before the Senate tonight was presented to the Parliament on 31 May 1979. At that time some comments were made by the honourable senator who presented the report. I take this opportunity to support the recommendations which have been brought down by the Sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. To me the report represents some success after a long period of deliberation between the Australian Government and the Government of Queensland- a deliberation which was not at all times peaceful or, for that matter, pleasant. Past experience of negotiations with the Queensland Government and in particular with the Premier of Queensland has made one familiar with the knee jerk reaction with which the Premier responds to any proposition, in particular to reasonable propositions. On looking at the history of events leading up to the Torres Strait Treaty, one can be critical of the
Queensland Premier, in that he did his best to frustrate and to delay its introduction and to incite- although perhaps ‘excite ‘is a more polite word to use- the people in the area to oppose what is a reasonable arrangement between two governments which have been very close; namely, the new Government of Papua New Guinea and the Australian Government.
There is a close kinship between the two countries which is important in many regards. It is a relationship between a black country and, essentially, a white country. The relationship is unusual for its harmony over the years. It is exceptional in that Australia has given tremendous support to New Guinea over many years. In spite of many criticisms, that support has been enlightened support. That has been so despite all the problems that had to be faced- the problems of narrow, racist attitudes which are held by many people and of tensions between peoples of different colour. They were all difficulties which had to be faced in the relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea. I think it is to our credit and to the credit of the Government of Papua New Guinea that, for some considerable time, we have shared an harmonious relationship, unlike many other countries which have been given independence and after a short time that independence has been lost. I think it must be a matter of satisfaction to many of us that, in spite of some difficulties which have recently emerged in Papua New Guinea, its Government and people have done particularly well in adjusting to the democratic forms of government which we have assisted them to adopt.
– We thrust it upon them.
– We invited them to adopt it. It was their own free decision.
-We invited them to adopt it.
Honourable senators interjecting-
– I am not averse to being assisted in this debate, Mr President, because I do not doubt that the Treaty and the report before the chamber are considered important. The interjections- I should say, the assistance I received- seem to indicate that considerable interest is still held in the developing nation of Papua New Guinea. There is some considerable satisfaction in the way in which its people have managed and continue to manage to develop their own character and their own methods in the face of reaction which emerged from what I spoke about earlier.
The Premier of Queensland did very little to assist in facing the very difficult problem of establishing some sort of boundary and in recognising the responsibilities which flowed to both nations after independence was granted. Unfortunately, the Premier of Queensland did stir in the minds of the Torres Strait Islanders resistance to the just claim of the Papua New Guinea Government to some offshore sovereigntyperhaps that is a word which we can use in this regard; even a republican can get away with using the word from time to time- over the waters. The Papua New Guinea Government felt that it should have some claim to the benefits which flow from the waters surrounding the shores of Papua New Guinea. It is to the discredit of the Queensland Government that for so long it held up an agreement which eventually was reached.
The Sub-Committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence was responsible for what I consider to be a fairly thorough investigation of the problems involved and was responsible for bringing down acceptable recommendations. But what has flowed from that investigation and those recommendations? An agreement has been reached between the two nations that the rights of the indigenous people in the area should be protected; that their rights to Australian citizenship should not in any way be affected; that there should be a common zone of interest to the Papua New Guineans and the Torres Strait Islanders; and that the area is of importance to both peoples and should be protected for their common use. I believe that out of that sort of concept will develop future cooperation between the two peoples.
Honourable senators who have been to the Torres Strait will appreciate the intense beauty of the area. If one were looking for a place similar in beauty, although its climate and zonal position are not the same, one could look to the Mediterranean. One could say that the Torres Strait area is of such beauty that it would be capable of being enjoyed by people in the same way as the Mediterranean is enjoyed by the people who live on its shores. It is an area of great natural wealth and beauty. For that reason it needs specific protection not only in the interests of the people of the area but also in the interests of us all.
The problems on Thursday Island, which is in the Torres Strait islands group, give us some concern and point to the need for great caution. We should not intrude upon this area the worst problems, not just the problems, of the main centres of civilisation. It is to be regretted that white civilisation has imposed upon the Thursday Island people problems which should not have been imposed upon them. Thursday Island is only one of the islands of the Torres Strait. One must consider the rest of the islands and accept the special responsibility to see that the environment is not interrupted, not destroyed and not overprotected, although I am not suggesting that it should be overprotected. I am suggesting that there should be some care and concern for the future of the area. The point I am making is that the people of the area are best able to do this. They should be able to make their own decisions. In their own way they should be able to frustrate some of the inroads of civilisation. They should be able to make their own decisions and be able to protect the quality of life for themselves and for future generations.
This treaty establishes a zone which enables the Torres Strait island people to maintain their own independence and at the same time not be isolated from the peoples of Papua New Guinea with whom they have a very close relationship. This concept of a zone makes it possible for both peoples to have maximum use of” the area to their own benefit. There are some dangers. Although I speak of the concept that the people themselves are best able to make their own decisions, nevertheless they are not infallible. It is quite possible that they will make certain decisions, pressed by commercial interests, to overdevelop the area. In supervising this treaty arrangement we must ensure that certain commercial interests do not overexploit the area to the disadvantage of the local people.
I may seem to be giving a homily. I am trying to say that the report seems to have arrived at the only solution for the area- recognition of the rights of Papua New Guinea and the protection of the peoples and the environment. My and other people’s experience of the area has been that commercial interests have tended to overexploit it and to take away from the indigenous peoples the ability to live their sort of life, based on the richness and wealth of the area. If establishing this zone excludes exploitation by foreign interests- by that I mean foreign fishermen and I include Western Australian fishermen, Tasmanian fishermen, Queensland fishermen, Japanese fishermen and New Guinea fishermen- which seek to overexploit the area and to denude it, we must support it to the fullest extent possible.
– Would you object if you had more commercial enterprises to assist the people? I emphasise the word ‘assist’.
– I am wary of this. The turtle farms were established to assist in this area. I am sorry that the honourable senator has brought me to this subject. Often areas have been overexploited with the honest intention of assisting people. Sometimes areas are overexploited with the assistance of some of the people of the area. We have done it ourselves. We have overexploited our own areas. We have gone across our own country like parasites, eating out large areas, denuding them, overstocking them and destroying them. We have destroyed good pastures, have moved to other pastures and have proceeded to destroy them. I think that Senator Kilgariff warned us of the overstocking in the Northern Territory and the disaster which will follow if bad seasons occur. We have been past masters of this exploitation. We have not been able to control interests which seek in the short term to take advantage. We are all guilty of this commercial greed. Because of certain arrangements with New Guinea companies which may be allowed into this area, it is quite possible that Japanese interests, in co-operation with Papua New Guinea interests, can overexploit this area. That can be to the disadvantage of the Torres Strait island people.
– I was thinking more of joint ventures where they could come in and assist the people to develop the fishing industry in certain areas.
– This area is of immense beauty. It is, in effect, the very northern part of the Great Barrier Reef. It consists of a multitude of islands, both inhabited and uninhabited. It consists of a vast number of reefs. Some of those reefs are rich in crayfish. The crayfish are being overexploited at present. The crayfish are not being caught by the use of the cray baskets which are used in Western Australia and Tasmania. In the Torres Strait area the painted cray has been taken by spear. There is a tendency to take and not to replace. My view is that if the area is to be exploited we need planning and full supervision.
– I accept that.
– Yes. The area needs supervision by fishery and other experts. In the early stages the area needs the sophisticated supervision of the more advanced countries which really do conserve and farm.
– And encourage local development; that is the point.
– Exactly. We need to involve the local people in the things that they know best; to take the richness but not denude the area. Unless this zone is properly protected the area will be denuded. The people of the area will move away. The islands will become underpopulated. The communities will become unable to support themselves. Beyond this treaty there is a resonsibility to see that the zone works and the two peoples in the area are not in conflict with each other. We have to see that there is a certain harmony. This presents certain problems for us as well. I think that all of these things have to be considered before we look at the problems which may flow. I may speak about those problems later. From the very first, it was suggested that what was needed for the ill-fated turtle project was a supervised scientific investigation of the turtle population potential of the area so that there could be some control of what was taken from the sea. That would have meant the protection of the rookeries and some scientific investigation in which the people could have become involved. It would have taken a number of years to establish the level of the ebb and flow of the turtle population. There could have been some controlled taking from the sea by the indigenous people for their own and some commercial use. But they were caught up in an extravagant enterprise that was bound to fail, and the full consequences of that are still to be realised. Let me not get back onto that subject.
Similarly, in relation to fishing in the area, the taking of trochus shells or beche-de-mer, which still have a potential sale in Japan and other places, needs controlled intelligent supervision involving the people of the area, thus enabling them to develop the sort of life that we would envy. One of the problems is that we have failed to impress upon the people of the area the quality of their lives. They do not need to have all the switches that we have. They need to have communication for pleasure, and eventually they will get that by satellite. At present they have their own radio communication, and they have access to communication from Papua New Guinea. A lifestyle is developing which to my mind is equal, if not superior, to our town, when one considers the beauty of the environment.
Dealing with the report, I think that each of the recommendations, if they are carried out, will lead to harmony in the area and will recover us from the position of confrontation that has developed because of the knee-jerk reaction to which I referred before, the endeavour to score politically by setting the Torres Strait islanders against the Papua New Guineans and putting Queenslanders against the rest of Australia. Fortunately that is now over, but this treaty should have been arrived at quite some time ago. Another problem that emerges in this area is the recognition that the people are moving to the mainland. I believe that eventually, because of the nature of the area, there will be a movement back. Nevertheless, there is a flow of people from that area seeking greater economic security. Many of the Torres Strait islanders go across to Western Australia to work on the railways. They are a people who apply themselves; they are a strong people.
– They are good people at laying railway tracks. They have an outstanding production record.
-They also have an outstanding record in many other ways. They are good humoured; they have a character of their own. That is not to say that they have no faults. They have the same sorts of foolish racial attitudes that we have. For instance, the Torres Strait islanders for some reason have a set against the Pacific islanders, and there is a community of Pacific islanders on one of the islands- I cannot recall the name. It is the same foolish, narrow, stupid, human attitude of which we are guilty. One of the good things about this treaty is that it will break down that attitude because it will allow a common usage between the two peoples.
To develop what I was saying before, the search for greater economic security means that Torres Strait islanders are moving southwards, but my view is that they will go back. There has also been a trend for Papua New Guineans to come into the Torres Strait, and some of them have been exploited, not only by white interests but also by black interests. Some leaders of the islanders have exploited their own people and the people from Papua New Guinea. In the days of the pearling luggers they exploited their own, just as we exploit our own. The Papua New Guineans have been using the islands as a bridge to Australia, and there has been increased activity by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to prevent that. However, it is very difficult to prevent and my view is that it ought not to be prevented. Whilst I believe that in some way we must maintain immigration control in the area, nevertheless we ought not to be so stupid as to try to stop every little gap and loophole to prevent a Papua New Guinean coming into the Torres Strait Islands, staying there with friends for six months, taking a new name and becoming a relative of a Torres Strait islander. Although there are some varied characteristics, in many cases it is impossible to distinguish between them. In addition, they do not want to distinguish. There are many people from Papua New Guinea who have come into Australia over the last half century and are recognised here as Torres Strait islanders.
– We have to assist to control the immigration, otherwise the Torres Strait islanders themselves would get upset about it. They do express a concern about this because there is too great an influx.
– Perhaps they do express concern about it, but my experience has been that they may have assisted it at one time. A little money may have passed backwards and forwards to take advantage of the-
– Stepping stones.
– Stepping stones into Australia. For goodness sake, do not let us impose the sort of tight strict supervision that will mean we will have a line of customs forts across the area. I do not deny that that is the right thing to do if there is access for drugs and other illegal goods. I have no objection to that approach. But I would have a strong objection if we imposed strict and limiting supervision on these people.
I do not know what other honourable senators believe, but I believe that we are being forced by a variety of events over which we have no control to accept a considerable change in the nature and character of our society. As I have said before, given 50 or 100 years we will overcome this narrow conditioned attitude of resentment of those whose colour is different from our own. I believe that eventually we will become far more enlightened and that the flow of people from one place to another will be much easier. The way to balance that flow is to improve the economic conditions of the area to the point where the people prefer to stay there, or to the point where we would like to go there ourselves, and that is a possibility in this area. However, if we go there let us do so without damaging the environment by bringing in some of the rather superficial, commercial, shallow attitudes and ways that we have. I have spoken for half an hour on this report, in which 1 have an interest, and I know that other honourable senators also have an interest in it. Perhaps I have set the tone for substantial contributions to be made to General Business for the rest of the evening.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 31 May, on motion by Senator Georges:
That the Senate take note of the report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Woodchips and the Environment: Reports- Ministerial Statement
Consideration resumed from 31 May, on motion by Senator Jessop:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report on Industrial Research and Development in Australia
Debate resumed from 6 June, on motion by Senator Jessop:
That the Senate take note of the report.
– I wish to address some remarks this evening to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment entitled Industrial Research and Development in Australia. I start by offering my congratulations to the Committee for what I regard as one of the most significant and important reports to come before the Senate in a lengthy period. I have been of the view for a long time that the question of future social and economic growth in Australia depends almost entirely upon making the correct decisions on matters of fundamental research and development. I wish to begin by drawing attention to what I regard as the primary recommendations and conclusions of the report of the Committee of which Senator Jessop was chairman. At pages 15 and 16 the following three conclusions will be found:
It is my intention this evening to speak about the matter of national science policy and the conclusions and recommendations of the report brought down by the Committee. Senator Jessop, in a speech delivered to the Australian Industrial Research Group and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation on 18 September 1979 made a number of perceptive comments not only on his own report but also on the state of science and technology in Australia in general. He said:
Many parliamentarians approach science and technology as they would a strange dog which is simultaneously showing its teeth and wagging its tail. They don ‘t know which end of the animal to believe!
He went on, in speaking of the conclusions that the Committee had reached, to say:
At present no clear national policy for science and technology exists in this country. In consequence there can be little coherence, sense or purpose or direction in Government support Tor industrial research and development. Yet a sense of direction and national purpose is desperately needed.
In order to indicate the magnitude of the problem to which his Committee was addressing its mind, he wenton:
Between 1973-74 and 1976-77 Australian effort in terms of manpower engaged in research and development declined by 40 per cent. Indications are that the decline has continued since 1976-77. Between the same years gross expenditure on research and development in Australia, as a percentage of the gross domestic product fell from 1.29 per cent to 0.97 per cent, a reduction of 25 per cent. No other member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has shown so great a decline.
That decline is the subject to which I wish to turn my attention this evening, and on which I would offer some warnings which I hope will not be taken as warnings of impending doom or disaster but rather of the need for substantial changes in government thinking and policy and in the thinking and policy pursued by certain elements of the private sector in this country. I turn first to the question of support for research and development as evidenced in the 1979-80 Budget. Honourable senators will know that in certain areas there has been a marked increase in the levels of government funding for research and development. For instance, industrial research and development-assisted project grants are expected to rise from $16,750,000 to $22,950,000 in the next year and industrial research and development-assisted grants for public interest projects are to rise from $2.25m to $4.0m in the coming year. Similarly, in the related field of energy research, development and demonstration programs, the rise will be from $4m last year to $9,057,000 next year. These are major increases of a quite important nature in expenditure but they tend to distract us from the fact that in terms of funding other areas of research and development have not fared so well in this Budget. For instance, funding for research and development in education is to be cut from $1,040,000 to $1,025,000 this year. Funding for transport research is to be cut from $680,000 to $440,000.
One could equally draw attention to the fact that the increases that have taken place in the Budget for the National Health and Medical Research Council in the next year have been extremely small, that is, from $ 12.8m to only $14m, an increase in real terms of about half of one per cent. By contrast, funding for the Australian Research Grants Committee has declined in real terms by about 3.6 per cent. It is important to make it quite clear that although there have been substantial increases in allocations to the Department of Productivity, the Department of National Development and, as well, to such groups as the Australian Institute of Marine Science, CSIRO and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, in a number of other areas net losses- at an extremely dangerous and disturbing level- in government funding for research in this country have occurred.
There has been a general decline over a number of years in the whole attitude to research and development in Australia. The gross figures for research and development expenditure in Australia, when compared with those of other countries, are a little misleading. In our statistics, unlike the Americans and some others, we specifically exclude the amount allocated to research and development for defence. Nevertheless, I do not believe that we are doing particularly well in world terms. In a most perceptive article by C. L. Rubenstein entitled ‘Changes in Australian Science and Technology Policies: From Ends to Means’, which appeared in the Australian Journal of Public Administration in September 1978, the following observation was made:
Australia’s R and D expenditure is not artifically inflated by large defence commitments, as is frequently the case elsewhere, yet still amounted to 1.3 per cent of GDP in 1973-74 … a figure above the OECD level in absolute terms or on a per capita basis.
But as I indicated, in quoting from the speech that Senator Jessop made earlier this year, and as the Committee’s report indicated, that impressive figure of 1.3 per cent in the course of about five years has declined by 25 per cent to a figure of 0.97 per cent. That is a matter of considerable concern for Australia in general. There is no doubt that there is a general malaise throughout the developed world about investment in industrial research and development. In an article in the New Scientist of 9 August 1979 the following comment was made:
Industrial research and development in the member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development- the world’s rich western nations- has stagnated for the past decade.
That is an extemely disturbing thing to learn when one considers that the activities and the well being of the rest of the world are very largely dependent upon the growth of research and development and production in those extremely rich nations that constitute the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
– We may have reached a plateau.
-I do not believe that we have reached a plateau. I believe that we have reached a stage at which governments have lost confidence in the ability of investment in research and development to make real social and economic process. I think that it is necessary for us parliamentarians and for people in the community to continue to reassert the belief that investment in fundamental research has long term benefits not only for the nation in which it is undertaken but also for the larger world community. It is interesting to note that in countries such as France investment in research and development has been a matter of political debate. In the New Scientist of I March 1973, in an article by Paris correspondent Henry Kahn, the French elections were described in the following fashion:
All parties contesting the French election, which takes place on 4 and 1 1 March, consider science and technology to be the bread of life and the foundation of progress- at least, in their public utterances. Three major groups are involved in the fight for power in the National Assembly, and each comprises a variety of different parties with individual ideas on the role of R & D.
The article went on to indicate that this could be turned into some degree of political reality. By the time the New Scientist correspondent was reporting on 9 August 1979 he was able to write:
France is to embark on a national research and development programme which should boost the nation’s R&D spending by almost £1000 million a year. The aim is to bring research spending by France’s public and private sectors up to the levels of the United States, the German Federal Republic, the United Kingdom and Japan. All of these are spending about 2.2 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP)-
We should compare that with the 0.97 per cent in Australia- while in recent years, France has devoted only around 1.8 per cent of GDP to research.
It is important to understand that one of the reasons that the British economy appears to have gone into a state of decline is that the British in recent years have not been making their contribution to industrial research and development. Again, in the New Scientist, it was reported that between 1964 and 1975 the percentage of the country’s gross domestic product devoted to research and development fell from 2.23 per cent to 2.09 per cent. One can see in the failure and the staggering of the British economy in that period a direct reflection of the failure of the British to involve themselves in the important task of investing in research and development. In recent years the British have woken up to themselves. The experience of the British in general in terms of their attempt to arrest this decline made the important guidelines for the Australian Government to follow.
Great Britain has decided to give a substantial role in fostering and supporting research and development to a body called the National Research and Development Corporation, which operates within the framework of its science and technology policy- indeed it has operated for 25 years- and is now making an extremely healthy profit. That is an indication to Australia of the extent to which co-operation between government and private sector can make a substantial contribution to reversing the decline of research and development in this country which, I believe, certainly needs to be reversed. The United States has dealt with much the same problem. There is a body in the US called the National Science Foundation. I quote from an article by Philip Handler in the journal Science in May 1979:
Its appropriation has grown almost 40-fold over the last 25 years, and the President’s budget request for fiscal year 1980, with its total of about $32.5 billion for research and development. Today, the NSF is clearly the lead federal agency for support of such areas as systemic biology, astronomy, chemistry, solid-state physics, environmental science, and various social sciences. It is second only to the NIH in total funding of research at universities.
I want to make the point quite clearly that the use of bodies such as the British NRDC and the United States NSF has led to a situation in which the government has been able to make substantial investment in the private sector and has been able to make substantial progress in reversing the trends that have taken place in the decline in research and development expenditure in those countries. The Government is not unaware of the effectiveness of the United Kingdom National Research and Development Corporation because only this month it received a report from a most outstanding Australian academic, Professor Ron Johnston, of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Wollongong, making absolutely clear to the Government the extent to which co-operation between the Government and the private sector can be a major factor in reversing this lamentable trend. For instance, if one were to look at a series of strategies which relate to the reversion of this decline in support of research and development, one would do well to look in a magazine called Technology Review which in May 1979 published an article by J. Herbert Hollomon entitled: ‘Government and the Innovation Process’ in which Hollomon analyses a variety of attitudes that have been taken towards government promotion of research and development. He classifies Japan as pursuing a policy where technology is identified with growth. He says:
The distinguishing feature of Japanese technology policy has been its total and complete identification with economic growth policies . . .
British government policy has focused heavily on supporting research and development in basic fields. This orientation has led the British to make major contributions to science and technology- in particular to areas of ‘big science’ such as defense, nuclear energy, and space. But this emphasis has been heavily on the supply side, with only modest attention given to market demand for the products of research and to the problems of commercialising promising new technologies.
He classifies the approach in France as one of maintaining independence. He says:
French science and technology policy has been characterised by heavy government support of civilian technology, notably in such high-technology fields as computers, aircraft, and nuclear energy. It is consistent with the highly centralised administrative structure of the government, characterised by strong direction and control and emphasis on long-range planning.
Most technology policy has been dictated by France’s political commitment to industrial and technological independence.
– Would you agree with long term planning along these lines?
– I am not sufficiently hidebound by any ideological considerations to find realistic long term planning anything which is in the slightest way objectionable. He goes on to describe the West German situation as being characterised by support in the private sector. He says:
In contrast to France, Germany relies more on market forces and industry-government-university cooperation than on government regulation and control to foster innovation. Government assistance is normally granted only if market strength seems to assure ultimate success; hence the German government’s direct role in developing such major technologies as electronics and computers, much as in the U.K.. and France.
Most German aid, however, seeks to influence the “climate” for innovation through indirect measures. The principal thrust of German policy is to reduce the costs of research and development to private firms and to encourage large, technically-based corporations in advanced areas.
We have available to the Australian Government a variety and range of experience which the Government would do particularly well to study in the development of a uniquely Australian science and technology policy. The Australian Science and Technology Council, which has come to occupy a fundamental and central role in the planning of technology and science in Australia, has produced two reports which deal centrally with the question of the basic funding of research. In a report which bears the tide ‘The Direct Funding of Basic Research’, ASTEC has made a series of 1 1 policy recommendations to the Government which start from the premise, firstly:
The financial support for research in the Institute of Advanced Studies in the Australian National University be maintained at adequate level.
It goes on to make recommendations about the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Research Grants Committee, the distribution of university funds, the central role that ASTEC has to play and the nature of the reports of the Universities Commission and various other groups and organisations which have made recommendations to the Government in this field. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the 1 1 recommendations made by the Australian Science and Technology Council report directing ‘The Direct Funding of Basic Research’.
Leave granted. 77te document read as follows-
That financial support for research in the Institute of Advanced Studies in the Australian National University be maintained at an adequate level.
That the present practice whereby research in universities is supported by funds through the Tertiary Education Commission and selected projects are directly funded by ARGC, NH & MRC and through other advisory and funding bodies, be continued.
That universities re-examine their procedures for the distribution of research funds derived from the Recurrent grants and the Special Research Grants with a view to giving greater support to their best research workers and, when appropriate, to group and team efforts.
That ARGC be continued as a funding body for the support of the most outstanding research projects and promising research workers in universities and in other non-government laboratories and institutions.
That requests for Commonwealth funds for items of scientific equipment or facilities costing between $0. IS million and $ 1 .0 million from investigators in universities and in colleges of advanced education, or combined teams of investigators from these institutions and government laboratories or organisations, in fields of interest other than the medical and dental sciences, be assessed by the ARGC, placed in order of priority and submitted to the Minister for Science with supporting documentation; and that, if such requests are approved, the Government allocate additional funds through an appropriate agency specifically for the procurement of such facilities. (Recommendation 7 in ‘Science and Technology in Australia 1977-78’, Volume 1A).
That requests for Commonwealth funds for scientific equipment or facilities costing between $0.15 million and $1.0 million in the medical and dental sciences be assessed by the National Health and Medical Research Council, placed in order of priority and submitted to the Minister for Health with supporting documentation; and that, if such requests are approved, the Government allocate funds to the National Health and Medical Research Council specifically
Tor the procurement of such facilities. (Recommendation 18 in ‘Science and Technology in Australia 1977-78’, Volume 1a).
That the funds available to the Australian Research Grants Committee and to the National Health and Medical Research Council for the support of research projects having exceptional merit and promise be steadily increased (in real terms) over the next five years; and that more emphasis be placed on the vigorous support of excellence. (Recommendation 9 in ‘Science and Technology in Australia 1977-78’. Volume 1A).
That the case for more funds be developed by ARGC and NH & MRC each year, in preparation for the Commonwealth budget, and that these bc forwarded to ASTEC for comment before they arc considered by the Government.
That the Category B research grants proposed by the Universities Commission in its Sixth Report (1975) be implemented as soon as possible and that ASTEC and other bodies such as the Australian Research Grants Committee and the National Health and Medical Research Council be consulted when the Centres of Concentration are being determined by the Tertiary Education Commission. (Recommendation 10 in ‘Science and Technology in Australia 1977-78’, Volume Ia).
That ARGC, NH & MRC and the Tertiary Education Commission endeavour to identify fields of research which they judge to be in the national interest, and which need to be stimulated and developed, and forward comments to ASTEC.
Recommendation 1 1
That the Departments of Productivity and Science (now the Department of Science and the Environment) study the operations of the (UK) National Research Development Corporation and other similar bodies, in order to identify the detailed requirements and terms of reference for an Australian equivalent for consideration by the Government; and that following consideration of the above study, an NRDClike body be established in Australia, financed in the first instance by a government loan. (Recommendation 7 in ‘Science and Technology in Australia 1977-78’, Volume IA).
-Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. The second report of ASTEC which deals with this question is entitled ‘Science and Technology in Australia 1 977-78: Summary and Recommendations’. It contains three basic recommendations. Recommendation 2 states:
That all appropriate government departments and agencies be required to give greater attention to the placement of R&D contracts with industry such that, within the three-year forward estimates period, there is a substantial increase in government-funded R&D being performed by industry; and that accordingly these departments and agencies be asked to prepare a program for R&D contracts with industry.
That the funds available to the Australian Research Grants Committee and to the National Health and Medical Research Council for the support of research projects having exceptional merit and promise be steadily increased ( in real terms) over the next five years; and that more emphasis bc placed on the vigorous support of excellence.
If the Government is prepared to establish ASTEC and is prepared to receive reports from ASTEC I believe that the very last thing it ought to be doing is to ignore the recommendations that ASTEC is making about substantial increases in payments to the ARGC and the NH and MRC which clearly it has not yet picked up in its annual budget. Clearly, in view of the recommendations and the report that it has from ASTEC, it fails to pick up those ASTEC recommendations at its own cost and, more particularly, at the nation’s long term cost. I do not believe that the Budget as it is shaped for next year should be shaped without a greater degree of sensitivity to the recommendations from ASTEC that were given in this year’s Budget. I appreciate that much of this year’s Budget would have been decided upon and moneys committed before the ASTEC report was in the hands of the Government. But the Government will not be able to ignore the ASTEC reports in the framing of next year’s Budget unless it is prepared to put in jeopardy the social and economic progress that Australia as a nation is capable of making.
I have said on previous occasions that I regard the development of a national science and technology policy as one of the critical things with which this Government has to come to grips. Fundamental research is the sort of research which is absolutely necessary. The ASTEC report which I previously quoted on the direct funding of basic research had this to say about the benefits of funding of basic research:
The history of technological innovation abounds with examples of practical application and commercial developments which derived fairly directly from basic research. Most disciplines of science can offer examples of basic research which subsequently turned out to be useful. In many cases this happened even when the scientists concerned could not envisage any useful application, as Rutherford failed to see for atomic energy.
The funding of basic research is absolutely critical. I appreciate the enormous expansion that this Government has made in the funds available to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation since it has been in office, an expansion of about 50 per cent, but by and large the research of the CSIRO is tuned to the solving of immediate problems. It is essentially a practical organisation oriented towards the solving of problems. One only has to look at its work in Sirotherm and all of the other innovations. One only has to look at its effective grappling with the problem of aphid resistant lucerne. Nevertheless, decisions about whether or not an investment will be made at the Australian National University or at Macquarie University in a matter like a linear accelerator for research into high energy physics are decisions which the Government has to make and, I believe, has to make fairly promptly.
Few countries in the world find that their national research and development programs are as totally dependent or as heavily dependent upon government support as is the case in Australia. That is one of the unique things about Australia. It has been indicated, for instance, that at the time of the Organisation for the Economic Co-operation and Development examiners report in 1974 the government sector provided 63 per cent of the funds available for research and development in Australia. Since then the situation has deteriorated with the government sector now providing 77 per cent of all the funds available for research and development in this country. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard two tables which appear in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment. One relates to gross expenditure on research and development by source of funds, which is to be found on page 6 1 of the report of Senator Jessop ‘s Committee. The other table deals with the ratio of business enterprise research and development to government research and development in OECD countries for 1973 and 1975, which is to be found on page 84 of the same report.
The tables read as follows-
-Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. As I have already mentioned, the fact that this is growing in the United Kingdom and that there are consequent failures on the part of the United Kingdom economy to adapt ought to be salutory lessons.
It should not be believed that the Government is wholly responsible for this. On page 18 of the report of Senator Jessop ‘s Committee it is stated:
Some time during the last 10 years Australian industry lost its entrepreneurial drive.
That undoubtedly is true and undoubtedly it is a tragedy. When one looks at the sorts of losses that have occurred in Australia because of failure to invest in innovations and developments in Australia one can look at the Nashua copier, for instance. It was pioneered in this country and sales for 1978 are expected to reach $ 1,000m. Yet it was unable to get a sufficient degree of support from Australian industry to go foward. One only has to look, for instance, at the editorials in the weekend Australian of 1 and 2 September of this year to indicate the extent to which investment by Australian companies in Australian innovations is lacking. One can look at the Australian of 2 October 1979 to see the innovation of Mr Bob Lloyd and Mr Max Turner which was a breakthrough in developing a process which could substitute refined coal for oil and gas as an economic and clean fuel for electricity generation. These two Australian entrepreneurs have been sent to the American market to find funds because there were not Australians with sufficient perception to invest in this Australian invention. One almost despairs of the ability of Australia to wake up to itself. I would not say that that is absolutely true by any means.
One could look, for instance, at the Presidential Address to the 49th Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science Congress delivered by Dr K. L. Sutherland entitled ‘Science and Technology- Old Mutton or Spring Lamb’ to indicate the extent to which comparable small countries, such as Norway and Israel, have made enormous strides in this regard. Dr Sutherland’s address talks about the Royal Norwegian Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which has greatly assisted industry to develop in that country. He went on to discuss the position in Israel and reported, for instance, that Israel now has exports of $42 5 m due to local innovations- Israeli innovations- now being exported worldwide. One could look at the suggestions from that most distinguished Australian, Sir Mark Oliphant in his Charles Joseph La Trobe Memorial Lecture entitled ‘Science, Technology and Society’ in which he proposes a framework in which Australian research and development can take place or, to go back to 1971, to a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation publication by Jacques Spaey, Jacques Deny Jean Ladriere and others entitled ‘Science for Development: An Essay on the Origin and Organisation of National Science Policies ‘.
One thing that is absolutely lacking in this country, in my belief, is a coherent and developed Australian national science policy. Let us look at the position in the Commonwealth departments. Which Commonwealth departments are doing research and development? By my estimation, the only departments which do not appear to have some research and development work going on are the Department of Finance, the Department of Transport and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. In the Department of Aboriginal Affairs there is the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies; in the Department of Administrative Services there is a commission of inquiry into drugs; the Attorney-General’s Department conducts criminology research and family studies; the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs has the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence; the Department of the Capital Territory has a nature conservation committee; the Department of Defence has a defence science and technology organisation; the Department of Education has the Curriculum Development Centre and the Education Research and Development Committee; the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs has the National Training Council; the Department of Foreign Affairs has all of our international agreements; the Department of Health has the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, the National Acoustics Laboratories, and the Australian Dental Standards Laboratory, et cetera; the Department of Home Affairs has the National Library of Australia; the Department of Housing and Construction has the Australian Housing Research Council; the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has the population study; the Department of Industrial Relations has the Trade Union Training Authority; the Department of Industry and Commerce has the Australian Manufacturing Council; the Department of National Development has the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and the Water Resources Council; the Postal and Telecommunications
Department has the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia); the Department of Primary Industry has the Bureau of Animal Health, the Commonwealth Council for Rural Research and Extension and the Australian Wine Research Institute; the Prime Minister’s Department has the Australian Science and Technology Council; the Department of Productivity has the industrial research and development bodies; the Department of Science and the Environment has a whole string of them; the Department of Social Security has the National Advisory Council for the Handicapped and the Social Welfare Policy Secretariat; the Department of Trade and Resources has the Uranium Advisory Council; and Treasury has the Bureau of Statistics.
– But are they put into practical application? That is the next step.
– I appreciate that. The point I am making is that all of these bodies exist and produce reports, but nobody at a national level is attempting to co-ordinate what they are saying in order to promote it, to evaluate it, to finance it, to make practical application out of it and, if necessary, to sell it.
If one looks through the report of Senator Rae’s committee on the statutory bodies in this field one finds the following bodies listed: The Anglo-Australian Telescope Board, Applied Ecology Pty Ltd, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Bureau of Statistics, the Industrial Research and Development Incentives Board, the Institute of Aboriginal Studies, the Institute of Anatomy, the Institute of Criminology, the Institute of Marine Science, the Australian Maritime College, the Australian Meat Research Committee, the Australian National University, the Australian Postal Commission, the Telecommunications Commission, the Australian Tobacco Board, the Trade Union Training Authority, the Australian Wine Board, the Australian
Wool Testing Authority, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Canberra College of Advanced Education, the Australian Chicken Meat Research Committee, the Commonwealth Practitioners Board, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission, the Criminology Research Council, the Curriculum Development Centre, the Environment Protection Commissioner, the Fishing Industry Research Committee, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Institute of Family Studies, the Medical Research Endowment Fund, the Metric Conversion Board, the National Health Act Committee, the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian National Library, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the National Standards Commission, the National Television Advisory Committee, the Oilseeds Research Committee, the Pig Industry Research Committee, the River Murray Commission, the Schools Commission, the Supervising Scientist for the Alligators Rivers Region, the Tertiary Education Commission, the Therapeutic Goods Committee, the Whaling Inspector and the Wheat Industry Research Council. One could add others to that list. Who is preparing the overall national plan, the national coordination, of these things?
Australia, in my view, is very poor in terms of the percentage it provides per capita for research. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard tables from pages 77 and 85 of the report of the Standing Committee on Science and the Environment on gross expenditure on research and development on a per capita basis and as a percentage of the gross domestic product in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries since 1 973.
The table read as follows-
– As a comparison I draw attention to the extremely low levels of funding for research and investment through the National Health and Medical Research Council and seek similarly to incorporate in Hansard a table taken from the 1977 report of the National
Health and Medical Research Council on comparative funding for medical research in selected countries.
The table read as follows-
-The need to develop a full and complete science policy in this country has been drawn to the attention of Australian governments over a long period. In 1963, a report from the OECD entitled ‘Science and the Policies of Governments’ made it absolutely clear to the Australian governments, as to others that there was this need. The report states:
A nation needs a comprehensive and consistent policy for the support and advancement of science, because there are more opportunities to advance science and technology than there are resources available to exploit them all.
In 1974, 11 years later, the OECD examiners came to this country and reported:
As there is no Australian economic plan, it is not surprising that there has been little attempt to establish a coherent science policy, or even a research policy, although the need for this now seems to be fairly generally recognised.
That was commented upon by the then Minister for Science in March 1974, in a publication entitled ‘Towards an Australian Science Council’, in which the Minister said:
Australia’s scientists have made notable contributions in the past, not only to the advancement and welfare of their own country, but also to the international pool of shared scientific knowledge which is available for the benefit of all peoples.
The present-day complexities of science, superimposed on, and interacting with those of human society call, however, for a more coherent national approach in the future to the development and utilisation of Australian science than has characterised the past.
But we still do not have that. The Coombs Royal Commission, in a report which was prepared in 1975, adopted a somewhat different policy. The Coombs Commission, in its special paper entitled ‘Towards Diversity and Adaptability’, indicated its belief that there should not be a Ministry of Science. I am glad to see that the Government has taken no notice of the recommendations of the Coombs Commission in that regard. An important step was that in 1 975 the coalition parties put forward a science and technology policy- in my view it was a very good policy- that, I regret to say, this Goverment has not taken to heart and acted upon. I regret to say that it is a policy this Government has not taken to heart and has not acted upon. For instance, this is what we undertook in 1975:
We will establish a National Information Office to monitor, store and disseminate scientific information and technical data. The office will be encouraged to develop necessary and ancillary services and will publish regular catalogue material.
We said also:
We will investigate the need to establish an independent authority to evaluate and assess new scientific and technological processes, products and development. The Authority will report to the Minister and the Government could refer matters for investigation.
We went on to say:
As recommended by the OECD Examiners Report we will present to Parliament an annual Science Statement clearly indicating trends in research and development in terms of overall priorities.
There is no independent technology assessment authority. There is no national information office. There have been no annual science reports to this Parliament. Those were the policies upon which this Government was elected and which it has an obligation at least to attempt to fulfil. We have elevated ASTEC to a position of extraordinary importance. I ask honourable senators to look at the reports that have come to us. A report entitled ‘The Next Generation of Australian Telescopes’ contains significant recommendations. The Minister for Science and the Environment and I have spent time at Siding Springs and know of the importance of astronomical and astrophysical research in this country.
– What a magnificent place.
– It is a magnificent place. The Government deserves full credit for the limited amount of support it is giving this research at the moment. I refer also to a report on the ‘Immediate Issues of Marine Sciences and Technology in Australia ‘, on which there has not yet been a full scale investigation and to the ASTEC report on the future of the Bureau of Mineral Resources on which we will wait for activity to be undertaken. I would not say that this is an indication that the policies adopted by the Liberal and National Country Party governments have been failures. The policies promoted by the Australian Labor Party in government have been of a quite different nature. I would not make my own comment but rather rely again on Rubenstein’s article from the Australian Journal of Public Administration which characterises them in these words:
Labor preferences for a ‘scientist dominated Council’ reflected a naive ‘leave it to the expert’ syndrome and an ignorance of the tendency for such councils elsewhereparticularly in the United Kingdom and Canada- to undermine the scientific sophistication and awareness of potential users, to concentrate on supply rather than demand problems, and to obfuscate the termination of priorities and value choices that necessarily must be made.
I believe that there is a need for a development of a dialogue across this chamber, between this chamber and people outside the Parliament and between the Government and people outside the Parliament to find a more useful and a more rational approach to the development of science policy in this country. It is important that we should appreciate, for instance, the rate of change that takes place in science and technology. A computer which could closely replicate the functions of the average human brain when first designed, would in terms of physical size, would have been as large as the city of London. With various other micro-processors, electronic devices and transistors it was reduced to the size of a large room. It was progressively reduced to the size of a large desk. Today it is portable. It can be picked up and moved around. One only has to look at the cost to realize the changes made. This is one of the few areas in which costs have come down almost in exponential terms. Carl Sagan writing in his book The Dragons of Eden said:
Consider, for example, the development of small, pocket computers. I have in my laboratory a desk-sized computer purchased with a research grant in the late 1960s for $4,900. I also have another product of the same manufacturer, a computer that fits into the palm of my hand which was purchased in 1975. The new computer does everything that the old computer did, including programming capability and several addressable memories. But it costs $145, and is getting cheaper at a breathtaking rate.
In the last 1 5 years a computer the size of a large desk has been reduced so that it fits in the palm of the hand. Its cost also has been reduced from $4,900 to $ 145. One has to appreciate the extent to which changes in medical technology are changing the face of society in general. One has to appreciate the extent to which changes in technology are changing the pattern of the Australian work force, changing the nature of the work and changing the future of work. One has to appreciate the almost limitless opportunities of developments in space, space technology communication growth and development and communication technology.
We have unique and particular problems to address in Australia. They can be addressed by Australian scientists like Eccles, Burnet or Nossal who in any number of fields have shown themselves to be the equal of scientists anywhere in the world. The contribution of Australina scientists to the world scientific community is a proud and impressive one but it has not been mightily helped by the policies which governments have pursued since the end of the last war.
It is important to understand, however, that this matter is not devoid of intellectual and ideological considerations. Science has been under assault for many hundreds and, indeed, thousands of years. Let me take honourable senators back to the writings of Plato. Many people know that the use of calculators by young people throughout the community is criticised today. People say that they use calculators, they cannot do simple arithmetic they cannot write down and solve their equations on a piece of paper. They are all dependant on little machines. There is nothing new about that. Let me read what Plato had to say in his dialogue the Phaedrus. He records a discussion about the invention of writing, as he sees it, between the Egyptian god Thoth, the god of writing, and the Egyptian god Ammon. Ammon says:
This discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without its reality.
The criticism of the use of science and technology is that old. It was criticised perceptively by Karl Marx in a number of his writings. If one looks at his works ‘Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts’, ‘Contributions to the Critique of Political Economy’, ‘Anti-Duhring’ and the remarkable work ‘The Poverty of Philosophy’ one will see that there is a substantial intellectual criticism of the use of science and technology. His latter day disciple Marcuse, writing in 1972 said this:
The technical apparatus of production and distribution (with an increasing sector of automation) functions, not as the sum total of mere instruments which can be isolated from their social and political effects, but rather as a system which determines a priori the product of the apparatus as well as the operations of services and extending it. In this society, the productive apparatus tends to become totalitarian to the extent to which it determines not only the socially needed occupations, skills and attitudes, but also individual needs and aspirations. It thus ‘obliterates the opposition between the private and public existence, between individual and social needs.
In constructing a national science policy one should be aware of those intellectual critiques including the critiques that have been made by the eminent Australian philosopher, John Passmore, who writes about what he calls the revolt against science and the attitudes put by the late remarkable Dr Jacob Bronowski in talking about the need to ‘disestablish science’ and to separate science and technology from the processes and the operation of, and financial dependence upon, the Government. We must realise that even an Australian Government Minister, Mr Morrison, in a publication entitled Science and Technology in the Service of Society in January 1 975 was able to write:
Although science and technology have brought countless benefits to our society, the implications of scientific programs have recently come under increasing scrutiny and criticism. The growth of public disenchantment with the role of science and technology is the result of several factors, including the military applications of scientific discoveries, a questioning of the true value of high-cost technology such as space exploration, and the impact of science and technology on the environment.
Unless, as Einstein demanded, we are prepared to come to grips with those intellectual problems about the development of science all else will be in vain. We can come to grips with them. The outstanding philosopher, Sir Karl Popper, has made enormous strides in the intellectual development which tries to marry the human spirit with a concern for science and technology and has done so in a most admirable sense. I do not know how many honourable senators are familiar in any way with the writings of Sir Karl Popper, but if we are to come to grips with these problems we ought to come to grips with the intellectual arguments that lie behind them. For instance, we need public participation and accountability in science policy. It is not good enough for Professor Birch to prepare a report on the CSIRO in which he says that one of the things that should be in the CSIRO Act is a comment that the executive of CSIRO should appropriately delegate other functions so that it can give prime consideration to ‘Broad questions of policy (scientific, technological, industrial, economic, social) required to provide effective scientific and technical directions for the whole organisation’ and then find that when the Government brings in a Bill to reform CSIRO which takes up all those points except the social point, as if the social consequences of CSIRO or of anybody else’s high level technology was irrelevant. We should look at the debate taking place at the moment because Professor Max Charlesworth in Melbourne has produced a report calling for an end to recombatant DNA research in this country along the lines of the disastrous attempt of the community in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to muzzle the research that was going on at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the moment there is no response to the propositions- I believe the unreasonable propositions- that Professor Charlesworth has put forward. There is a general lack of debate in the community of a rational nature about atomic energy, what it means, how safe it is, what its prospects are and whether it is worthwhile as part of the intellectual debate about science policy in this country.
We have seen the appalling reaction to the United Nations Conference on Science and Technology for Development which took place in August in Vienna. The Australian delegation to that Conference prepared a magnificent report. It was the best report submitted to that United Nations Conference. It has not been debated in this Parliament. It has not been looked at in this Parliament. If one bothers to get the minutes from the United Nations Conference they will show just what a contribution Australia made. This Parliament has no idea whether Australia was even represented there, let alone whether it made a contribution, because we are not told. Science policy does not concern this Parliament. Scientific issues do not concern this Parliament. If we look at the debate taking place within the universities about the role of” the universities, the integration between that sector and the government sector, one sees the work that Ron Johnston is doing at the University of Wollongong, but nobody here knows anything about that. Yet these reports go through to the Government. They go through to ASTEC. They go through to the Department of Productivity. Yet nobody in this Parliament sees them unless they go and get them from the author himself. We could look at the work that Professor Bruce Williams has done. As far back as 1972 when writing in the journal Search, Professor Williams was putting a university view on science policy for Australia. That was not developed and not debated in this chamber. It was not developed and not debated in the Parliament as a whole.
The outside contacts with industry which ASTEC has emphasised, which CSIRO has emphasised, which the British National Research and Development Corporation has emphasised and which Professor Johnston has emphasised in a paper which he provided to ASTEC entitled ‘Programs to Promote Interaction between Governments, Universities and Industries in the United Kingdom ‘ and which was delivered in September of this year to ASTECwhy do these things not come to the Parliament?
Why do these things not come to members of parliament for constructive comment and for some degree of analysis? I have spoken before of the need for this Parliament to become intimately involved in the development and administration of science policy. Some years ago the Parliamentary Library, I think it was, prepared a brilliant paper entitled ‘The Role of the Legislature in the Formulation of Science Policy- A Review and Analysis’. It contained important suggestions about science policy in this country and about the role of this chamber, this Parliament, in the development of science policy. Nobody has paid attention to that and it has never been raised for debate.
The issues that one could look at in science policy are enormous. They include the petitions that come in here day by day about such things as whether we are to participate in some search for extra-terrestrial intelligence and the work that Carl Sagan has done in this field. People in this chamber by and large laugh them off as if they were in the next page of science fiction. They include the important questions which science is opening up to us: What is the meaning of the term ‘life and death’? Where does one commence? Where does one end? What is this Parliament doing about it? It includes important political considerations: Is 1984 a reality? Is Brave New World a reality? Are we going to get to grips with the ethical problems raised by Aldous Huxley and George Orwell?
What is the role that science is playing in the development of a religious consciousness? Is science going to prove the Turin Shroud to have been the shroud in which the body of Christ was wrapped? Does it matter? If it does prove it, what happens to the religious beliefs of thousands of millions of people around the world? What will we have? Are we to have a religious system based upon scientific proof which is able to eliminate Kierkegaard’s leap of faith into religious belief? Are those not issues which are of some importance? The sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset has said:
Transferring so much work to machines may produce something like Athenian Democracy; Athenians could be equal because they had the slaves to do the work for them.
What are the political implications of a community which does not have to work for eight hours a day, 40 hours a week, or whatever it happens to be? There are real political implications in that. None of us is paying very much attention to those. The challenges will not be easy. Alfred North Whitehead wrote this: lt is the business of the future to be dangerous . . . The major advances in civilisation are processes that all but wrecked the societies in which they occur.
How are we placed to respond to the potential wrecking of Australian society in the 1 980s and 1990s by the increases and changes in science and technology? Who in this place is concerned? Who in the Government is concerned to make a contribution to this debate? I have detained the Senate for almost an hour on the subject. It is the first occasion, I think, on which one has been able to indulge in a widespread and wideranging debate about the issues in science and technology policy. I believe they are important. However, I believe that underneath them all there are ethical questions to be asked and ethical questions to be answered. Martin Luther King said:
The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
We must be prepared to understand that that challenge is not just a challenge about another passing problem. Employment and unemployment, the deficit, the rate of inflation, the problems of salinity in the Murray River- things of that nature- are problems which are essentially capable of solution by various policies adjusted from time to time, case by case, and which are capable of resolution in a political sense. The fundamental issues in science and technology policies are issues about the future of the Australian community. They are issues about the role of individual men and women in the Australian community. They are issues about Australia’s role in the international community. They are issues about the survival of the human race as such. Frankly, if this Government and succeeding governments are not prepared to take a far more concrete look at the funding and organisation of science policy and research in this country and if the dialogue which can take place not between political parties but within political parties and then with political parties cooperating to form a national science policy is to be relegated to something that we get round to one Thursday night once in a year because there happens to be an odd space on the agenda of the Parliament to raise them, then we are going to take the most reprehensible course of action that any parliament can take. It would be a gross betrayal of the generations that will follow us and for whom we ought to be laying a better foundation and a better future.
– I compliment Senator Puplick on his wide-ranging and erudite remarks on the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment which is before the Senate, particularly his remarks concerning the importance of science and technology to the Australian community. The importance of science and technology to Australia simply cannot be overstated. It will provide the only way for us to maintain our standard of living. Despite the comments of people from other political philosophies in the country- the neolithic and negative approach of redistribution of income and the rest- the only way in which we will maintain our standard of living–
– Turn your microphone around.
– I would be distressed if Senator Georges could not hear this. I agree that what I am saying is very important. The place held by science and technology in Australia is terribly important. It is only through the application of science and technology that we will maintain our standard of living and improve it and find a place which this country deserves with its people and its national resources. So even though I am a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment, I cannot commend the Committee so strongly for what it has done. I do not believe that everything it has said in its report is necessarily correct, but if it has done something to attract attention to the importance of science and technology to Australia ‘s future it has done this country a very great service. I do not wish to speak for very long on this report. Unlike Senator Puplick, I do not wish to range over the whole subject of science and technology. I would like just to take one narrow point which is developed at page 235 of the report relating to tariff protection in Australia. The report states:
However, the Committee wishes to point out that by offering a protected economic environment, any government to a large extent renders inoperative one of the outstanding factors which produce innovative activity: the profit motive. A history of protectionism has indelibly stamped Australian management’s attitudes.
Later the report states:
We have bred, in fact, a generation of management and technicians in the manufacturing sector, many of whom have never operated outside the benevolent umbrella of borrowed processes and bureaucratically-secured domestic markets.
The overall effect of tariff protection appears to be the creation of a manufacturing sector that is inward-looking, overly dependent on a small domestic market, and reluctant to look beyond its immediate situation in justifying the costs of research and development. This history of protection has also given rise to a widespread belief expressed by numerous witnesses during the inquiry, that injection of more government funds is the “universal panacea”, the solution to all our research and development problems.
I stress that that is not an attack on the trade unions or the workers, or anything like that. That is a very pungent statement on the shortcomings of management, which has been protected from the realities of life, the realities of the commercial world, the realities of competition and, above all, the realities of performing in the competitive market places of the world. That has been the tragic consequence of tariff protection in Australia. It started with the highest and most laudible motives, with a belief in creating industry and giving Australian industry and Australian workers a place in the world. That belief of supporting Australian workers and finding jobs for them is as essential today as it ever was.
The point which needs to be made is that the way of ensuring that is different now in 1 979 and will be different in 1980, which we are now facing, from what it was in 1945 and 1950 when we started our heavy tariff protection. The solutions which we found to the problems of that time have just grown and grown and they no longer have any relevance to the needs of the Australian community. If we persist with this hallucination, this perversion of the truth, of delaying the reality of the international market place, of protecting more and more inefficient industries and keeping more and more people behind higher and higher tariff protections, we will face total economic collapse. I shall quote from an article which appeared in the National Times in September this year, which listed the following five effects of the extension of protectionism:
New jobs will not become available at anything like the rate needed to keep up with the growing stream of job-seekers.
Many of the jobs presently held by Australians will be increasingly at risk.
More and more Australians will find themselves stuck with skills and training that have no long-term future- that are obsolete in international terms.
Day to day economic activity- in the retailing sector, for example- will remain depressed as consumer doubts about inflation and unemployment restrict spending.
When change does become inescapable, it is likely to be more savage in its impact and more expensive to cope with than it need have been.
The people of this country are very talented. We have a lot of capable people who can work and produce something. While we run away from the realities of the marketplace by providing absurd tariff protection levels we cannot hope to compete with other nations. Not many people in this country realise the extent of tariff protection. Tariff protection in net subsidy equivalent is running at between $4,000m and $5,000m a year. That is a staggering proportion. There are two consequences of that. First of all, it means that every industry operating in this country produces goods which are loaded by that absurd and irrational tariff. The extreme case I can find is that of the bed sheeting industry, for which the subsidy equivalent is running at about $21,000 a person. I do not know what the subsidy equivalent is for the motor industry, but it is–
– But you are subsidising Australian taxpayers. If they are out of work they are not taxpayers. Where do you put those age groups- people of 45 years?
– I am grateful for Senator Mulvihill’s comment, but I make a plea for balance. There is an economic cost which can be exceeded. I think that in some industries, such as the clothing industry, we have gone beyond any reasonable limits. Certainly, I would agree that any proposition to abandon tariffs in Australia is unreal and irrational because the fundamental point is that, no matter how much money we earn from mining and mineral exports, from primary production- beef, wool and wheat- and all the other great things that we do, we will always be reliant upon manufacturing industry to provide creative and satisfying employment for the great majority of Australian people. We will always need some tariff protection for that. My plea is for a bit of sanity and balance so that that industry can grow and become bigger and so that we can earn more from the people in that industry.
– It’s the transformation time- how quickly you can slot them.
– Right; that is what I am coming to. My fear- my nightmare- is the fact that there is no transformation time, there is no indication, that we will ever face up to the reality. When we have subsidies running at about $2 1 ,000 a year for people in the bed sheeting industry, we are in the cloud cuckoo world, the Mickey Mouse world of unreality and there is no future for the workers in that industry because there will come a time when that subsidy, no matter how great, cannot be sustained and those workers will be placed on the unemployed list.
I believe that that will be a tragedy. Australia can compete. I have no doubts about that at all, I make a plea to the Government to take notice of the Crawford report on structural employment in the country, the Industries Assistance Commission report on manufacturing industries and, to a lesser degree, the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment on industrial research and development in Australia. I think those reports make the point that only through high technology and the creation of new industries will new jobs be created and will Australia be able to perform and have its place in the sun.
This matter is not restricted entirely to Australian internal affairs. If we could put a wall around this country and live within it that might be possible, but we are part of the community of nations and there is no way in which we can live in the context of nations adjoining this countrythe Association of South East Asian Nations group of countries, the Asian group of countries and the European group of countries- without trading with them. We cannot live in isolation. The classical point is the situation which prevails with the clothing industry. All my life I have heard that we cannot compete with low-cost Asian labor; that what we need is tariff protection, income tax concessions and all the rest so that we can modernise. We have gone through this exercise before. What have we got from the clothing industry? It still has a massive level of protection. The cost of ordinary run-of-the-mill shirts has risen from $5 to $17. A decent shirt costs about $35. It does not matter what people pay for a shirt, when they take it home and wash it for the first time the stitching falls out of the sleeves. Where are we going with this policy? We have supported the clothing industry for years. I make a differentiation between the clothing and textile industries. The policy has been completely self-defeating.
Australia can perform. My plea is for a gradual change to realism, for a reduction in tariff protection. Unless this occurs we will not be able to employ people which is something which is necessary for the welfare of the Australian community. More importantly, we will not be able to compete as we need to do with the export markets in the minerals and primary production fields. I hope that as a national parliament we will be able to fulfil the great potential of Australia by legislating intelligently to overcome the inbuilt and unnecessary handicaps that we have.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report on Pollution of the Murray River
Debate resumed from 7 June, on motion by Senator Jessop:
That the Senate take note of the report.
-I would like to make a few remarks on this report. The Senate has been waiting for years for governments to act on the proper control of the River Murray, but nothing has happened. I think that very little change has been made to the River Murray Waters Agreement since the River Murray Commission’s first meeting in 1917. The River Murray working party reported in October 1975. I believe that some results should have emanated from that report. After the report was made the four governments- Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia- agreed that the Commission should be able to take water quality and environmental matters into consideration. Yet no legislation has been passed to give the Commission any legal right to deal with, let alone consider, such matters since the tabling of that report. Following the tabling of the River Murray working party’s report on 21 October 1976 the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) said: 1 now expect that work will commence on updating and consolidating the River Murray Waters Agreement to include the necessary amendments.
When the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment produced its report this had still not been done, and still nothing has happened. I am convinced nevertheless of the present Government’s good intentions. I believe that this is borne out by the fact that the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) wrote to me on 6 July and stated:
Finally, I share your concern at the need to accelerate the formalisation of water quality responsibilities of the River Murray Commission in an amended River Murray Waters Agreement, and I hope to be in a position in the next few weeks to invite the appropriate State Ministers to have a meeting with me to iron out the difficulties which have arisen over the last year.
I understand that a meeting of the State and Commonwealth Ministers is scheduled for 22 October at which the state of the River Murray Waters Agreement will be discussed. It is my earnest hope that action will result from this meeting. However, my greatest fear is that the whole question will be put into the modern bureaucrat’s equivalent of a too hard basket- some committee will be set up to look at what countless committees have looked at before- and proper management of the Murray will be delayed for another decade.
My Committee believes that it should act as a catalyst to stimulate action. We believe that this sort of approach is just not good enough. To give an example of inexcusable bureaucratic delay, I refer to the amendments proposed to the River Murray Waters Agreement in July 1978 by the River Murray Commission. It is my understanding that the State Attorney-General’s departments have not even looked at these proposals. Let me give another example. I propose to have the Parliamentary Library’s Constitutional and
Legal Affairs group look at this aspect. The River Murray Commission is operating illegally every time it spends any money looking at or even considering environmental matters. This sort of thing cannot be allowed to go on. I think it is about time that the public knew that the Victorian Government has come up with a set of new proposals which it refuses to spell out and which has destroyed any chance of agreement on this urgent issue being resolved quickly. It has taken years of delicate negotiations to get agreement on proposals to deal with water quality in this important river system. It has taken years to get powers for the Commission, and the whole effort has now been torpedoed. The Victorians have apparently introduced quite new matters into this whole issue, such as some vague scheme for a council of ministers to oversee the Murray, but have not had the courtesy of detailing their ideas for the benefit of other States and the Commonwealth.
One firm recommendation was made in our report. We said that the Murray Valley salinity and drainage study- The Maunsell report- be made public immediately. I have had a look at this draft report. I understand that with minor alterations it has been accepted. It was agreed to nearly three months ago, yet no report has been tabled in the Parliament. Furthermore, we have been told that the Department of National Development is preparing an abridged edition of the report so that the public can understand it. Even that document has not yet surfaced. I do not know the reason for the delay. We have been told that some technical matters are detailed in the report. I understand from academic sources that a lecturer in journalism was employed to produce a report which perhaps could- be made more acceptable to the public. I further understand that his draft did not meet with universal approval in the Department of National Development and that another draft had to be prepared, causing further delay. When this sort of thing happens it is understandable that people along the Murray express the feeling that they are being snowed by the bureaucracy. I believe that they are entitled to this view.
If the bureaucracy thinks that it will snow the Senate committee on this matter it has another think coming. The Committee has a responsibility. It is dedicated to the important role of overseeing environmental matters in Australia. The question of overseeing water quality becomes paramount. I think that people often forget that our most important national resource is water. I personally think- I believe this view is shared by members of my committee- that the question of water pollution in the River Murray is a national issue and transcends State borders. The effluent of Victoria and New South Wales becomes the drinking water of South Australia. Without adequate water supplies in South Australia- South Australia is the driest State in the Commonwealth- our industrial progress is inhibited. During the course of our inquiry into the pollution of the River Murray we learned not only that the River Murray and its tributaries in the States contribute to pollution of that water resource but also that water from Queensland finds its way into the River Murray system and can add to the pollution.
My colleague Senator Thomas, as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources, presented to the Senate a report which indicated that the Committee believed that a national water authority ought to be established. One could say that that might appear to be contrary to the spirit of the present Government in Australia, but I do not think that that really matters when it comes to an important resource such as water. I believe that it is a national responsibility. It is the responsibility of the national government to see that water quality throughout Australia is preserved. As far as I am concerned, the spirit of federalism, if we want to pursue that philosophy, can be preserved in this very vital matter. I believe that a national water authority ought to be established by the Commonwealth, with representation from all the States and the Northern Territory, to enable a far greater say to be had in what happens with this important resource. The River Murray Commission is inhibited simply because the State and Federal governments have not agreed to give it the necessary power, authority and financial resources to determine what salinity mitigation control projects should be undertaken. It is inhibited because the governments insist upon a majority view in relation to the Commission. I believe that the River Murray Commission ought to have the authority and the legislative teeth to deal with the problem, and I think that the progress report we have presented demonstrates that view.
I can assure the Senate that we are waiting anxiously for the Government’s response to this report. I can also assure the Senate that we are anxious to examine the Maunsell report, which has been presented and at present is being printed. We have asked the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) to make that report available in its entirety so that we can look at its technical aspects and we will be making a further report on this very important question as soon as that report is made available to us. I think that every honourable senator in this chamber ought to regard this report as being fundamental to the development of Australia. Without adequate water supplies and without adequate high quality water this country will be inhibited in its development. I rest my case on that and assure the Senate that my Committee will follow this through to ensure that the people of Australia are protected in relation to this very valuable resource.
– My main purpose in rising to speak on this question is that, because of the importance of the water supply to South Australia, it would be a bad thing if, after setting up a committee to inquire into this matter, the Federal Parliament simply noted the report following an address by the chairman of the committee. It is too important to the State that Senator Jessop and I represent to go unnoticed, with no great concern being shown by the elected members. Having read the report, and I am relying on memory, I was not greatly impressed. Whilst the report states the problem and makes a recommendation for wider powers relating to the quality of water it does not seem to suggest solutions. I was very impressed with the speech made tonight by Senator Puplick. I do not entirely agree with him, however, because I am beginning to think that research and development is progressing to the point where the public will no longer accept any more of it. In a very thorough address to this chamber Senator Puplick raised the question, among other things, of scientific studies on the salinity of the water in the River Murray. Whether the solution lies in preventing pollution in the way suggested by scientific studies or in polluting and clearing the water used by the States is one of the things that needs consideration.
As Senator Jessop said, the important problem is that South Australia is at the tail end of the longest sewer in the world, and it provides water for our gardening, irrigation and drinking. I point out that that water is supplied far beyond Adelaide to Port Augusta and Whyalla. It is polluted water that interstate visitors cannot drink. The causes of the pollution relate to lack of care in purification and the increased irrigation along the river. Irrigation along the River Murray is carried out by a system which involves flooding the flats and letting the water either run or seep back into the river. In that process it washes out the salt from the ground, with a resulting effect on the vegetation that can be grown. The greater the irrigation the worse the pollution of the water.
Senator Jessop has provided me with an extract from today’s Advertiser which indicates that the new Government in South Australia is making a bid to block a new irrigation project in New South Wales which would use water from the Darling River, which ultimately flows into the River Murray and provides some help in clearing the salt from the water. The stage has been reached where it is almost impossible to use the water at the outer end of the river, yet an attempt is being made to make matters worse through irrigation in another State. Although a protest has been made by South Australia, how much can we expect those who want to use the water in New South Wales to care about the purity of the water in South Australia? They want to develop a profitable irrigation project and have the money to do so. If we are to establish a commission concerned with the quality of the water, then the States which have pure water must stop development that is in the interest of their States in order to preserve water quality lower down the river. It is recognised that unless something is done the stage will be reached where the River Murray water will not be usable. Although I appreciate what the new South Australian Government is doing to protest about this project–
– The previous Government adopted the same attitude.
– Although I hope that it will achieve something, I am critical that the present Government, on the basis of Budget restraints and the economic position, has scrapped the previous Government’s scheme to purify the water supply of the iron triangle of Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Whyalla.
– But the point, senator, is that one must recognise the importance of what you have just said. The State Government must have regard for what is happening in other States. It is far more important to preserve water quality than to spend a lot of money on sophisticated filtration plants, with the incredible maintenance that is involved over such a long period.
-The honourable senator has had quite some time in which to speak. The sacrifices necessitated on the part of other States are such that I question whether that aim can ever be achieved. Not only would that prevent new projects from taking place in other States but also it would justify the cancellation of some irrigation projects in those States. Can we get the States to agree to it? All the time we get increased encroachment. A paper pulp mill is proposed for Albury-Wodonga. We are told that there has been an environmental study.
– There is no problem about that. If the honourable senator read the report he would realise that my Committee visited the area and is very happy about what is going on.
– I did read the report.
– I do not think you read it very carefully.
-The effluent from the mill would be drained off into tanks and it would eventually go back into the Murray River. I query whether that objective can be attained if achieving greater purity for South Australia’s water means that development is to be stopped in other States. An alternative, perhaps at high cost, would be to receive polluted water and purify it at the source of use. I happen to live in a suburb that is served by the only reservoir in South Australia in which the water is purified. The result is that we have today an entirely different water supply. The water travels from Adelaide through pipelines to Whyalla and the iron triangle. In one year there was an outbreak of disease as a result of the condition of the water. Although the cost of purification is high, I question whether it should be sacrificed on the ground of economy at this time.
One looks at the expected development in South Australia and realises that if we are now to go into Roxby Downs and the other mining which is anticipated heavier and heavier demands will be made on the water supply of the State. I am pleased to hear that we have before us what is only a progress report; that the Committee will seek further solutions to the problem. We must identify the solution, whether it be to stop the use further up the river or, as Senator Puplick has suggested, to employ science to overcome pollution at the point of use. That is a matter that we should be deciding and spending our money on today, so that we can put into operation whatever solution proves possible. I agree with Senator Jessop in saying that it is most essential that we endeavour to force through the three State governments and possibly the Federal Government acceptance of the need for the River Murray Commission to have the power and responsibility to deal with water quality as well as water quantity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Reports on Woodchips and the Environment- Government Response
Senator JESSOP (South Australia)-by leave- My Committee’s report on woodchips and the environment opens with this quotation from Proclamation 2 of the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment
The protection and improvement or the human environment is a major issue which affects the well-being of peoples and economic development throughout the world; it is the urgent desire of the people of the whole world and the duty of all governments.
I repeat that it is the duty of all governments. On 31 May 1979 the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) presented a statement purporting to be a response from the Government to the recommendations arising from my Committee’s inquiry into the impact on the Australian environment of the woodchip industry program. My Committee, and the earlier committee on social environment chaired by Senator Keeffe worked extremely hard for over two years on this reference. The matter was referred to us by the Senate, the upper chamber of the Parliament. Altogether, 245 written submissions were examined, 147 witnesses were heard on a total of 16 separate occasions and field inspections were made in four States. The Committee’s final reports contain nearly 500 pages.
This represents a considerable effort, in what I believe was a truly comprehensive inquiry. Its impartiality can perhaps be judged by the fact that commendations on its quality have been received from industry, forest authorities and the conservation movement alike.
Why did the Senate refer this matter to one of its standing committees, and why did the Committee seek the views of the community on this matter? It was so that, having made a thorough examination of the problem, Parliament could, with authority, make practical, informed recommendations to the Executive Government for action. In my reply of 3 1 May 1 979 to the Federal Government’s response to the report I was strongly critical of the way in which some of the most important aspects of the Committee’s recommendations had been ignored. Indeed one could well say that the State governments had been more responsive to the Committee’s proposals than had the Federal Executive. In my view the response made by the Federal Government could be interpreted as a cavalier dismissal of the Committee’s major recommendations. It does not give the impression that the recommendations were the subject of the thorough attention that the topic warrants.
As I said at the beginning of my remarks on 3 1 May, I am pleased at the initiative of this Government in instituting systematic ministerial responses to Parliamentary reports. However, implementation of this initiative is poorly begun. It is essential that Ministers should ensure that serious, relevant and well-considered responses be made to Parliamentary reports to accord with the care with which they were compiled and bearing in mind that they reflect the views of the community on matters of moment. I hope that the Government will now re-examine the two woodchip reports that we have presented with a view to making a fresh response before the end of this Parliamentary session.
Last week the Committee, consistent with its obligation to exert a continuing oversight of environmental matters, returned to the Manjimup forest area. It was able to take with it people from the Conservation Authority and the South West Forest Protection Foundation and to talk with foresters, representatives of industry and conservationists- 1 would point out to Senator Missen- in an unemotional environment. We were able to gather them around the table to discuss matters of concern with respect to woodchipping in that area. I was quite impressed with the way that the polarisation of these views was absolutely minimised and, in fact, nullified, by reasonable consultation.
– We too are listening.
– You have a captive audience.
– I would imagine that the people from Tasmania ought to be interested in this important topic and ought to listen to the example. Conservationists are sometimes regarded as extremists, emotive people. Perhaps some of them are.
– Some millers are too.
– I will get around to that. Also foresters can be quite emotive in a different way. Also the industry people can be emotive, as my colleague reminds me. This exercise of the Senate Committee on Science and the Environment demonstrated that people can be drawn together and introduced to each other in a nonemotive spirit. I regarded the exercise of our return to the Manjimup area as a demonstration of how members of Parliament can bring the community together and have regard to the importance of having the forestry areas dedicated for recreational purposes and for perpetual forests so that our national heritage can be preserved for our great grandchildren. Those people can be brought together so that they can recognise the advantages of the commercial aspects of the forestry operations that are so important to Senator O ‘Byrne and Senator Tate who intruded into my speech a while ago.
The report of my Committee draws attention to the need for more research and for the collation of more information as far as forestry operations are concerned. We call in this report for a national policy of land use planning to incorporate everybody’s interest. Today 1 received a telex message from a Mr Conacher who accompanied the Committee on the particular exercise last week of returning to the Manjimup area. In this telex he expressed his concern and support for the recommendations that we have made in the report. We think, as a bipartisan Committee representative of all the views of the people of Australia, that it is very important for governments to recognise the need for community involvement as far as these environmental decisions are concerned. I gave an example where this Committee of the Senate was able to collect together people with differing views with respect to forestry operations and it was a success. I think that that in itself is an example that ought to be recognised by the governments of Australia and that the governments ought to become more involved with the community interests that I have described in a genuine attempt to come to grips with the need to formulate a national land use policy for the benefit of all Australians.
Debate resumed from 8 June, on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Senate take note of the report.
-This report of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances was presented by Senator Cavanagh, the Deputy Chairman of the Committee, acting in my absence. His name has remained on the Notice Paper. As yet there has not been a response from the Government in respect to the matters set out in the report. I think there is some need for a response for reasons which I will indicate shortly to the Senate. This is a matter which covers three different items. First, it deals with two questions of confusion and uncertainty in the law which we believe, as a Committee, should be resolved by legislation in this country. Secondly, it deals with a number of matters which the Committee has considered over a period of some six months and shows the way in which the Committee has handled the various questions which have arisen in regard to that. Thirdly, it deals with a number of undertakings which Ministers have given and which only to some extent have been carried out. I will very briefly illustrate the matters which this report covers. I invite honourable senators to read the report thoroughly and to consider it.
The first matter has worried me for some time. That is in connection with the law relating to the disallowance of a repealing instrument of a regulation or ordinance which has the effect of being disallowed by the Senate. The question arises as to what is the effect of that. What happens in regard to the law? That ordinance goes, but does it revive the previous ordinance which existed in regard to that matter or is there a vacuum to be left in the law? In a number of chapters in this report the Committee has made some attempt to express what is the law. It points out what was the common law rule which had the effect of reviving the repealed Act. Where an Act was repealed the previous Act would be revived. That was so held at common law. That has been modified by section 7 of the Acts Interpretation Act which provided in regard to an Act that it did not have the effect of reviving the repealed Act.
This situation has become even more complex because in 1974 the Senate disallowed certain amendments to the Matrimonial Causes Act and litigation ensued. The court took the view that it was highly undesirable that there should be a void in regard to rights and made a different decision. So the result of all this is that there is quite considerable obscurity in regard to the law. lt is an important area of the law, particularly where it applies to regulations and ordinances that are disallowed. If a repealing regulation is itself disallowed, there is a further problem in regard to it. Without going into detail, I want to say that it is the opinion of the Committee that the obvious solution to the whole problem is for the Acts Interpretation Act to be amended so as to provide explicitly for the effect of an allowance of a repealing instrument. The Committee is strongly in favour of the common law rule of revival being applied to the disallowance of regulations. The Committee believes that this would avoid a vacuum in the law and would also strengthen the control which the Parliament has over delegated legislation. In conclusion, the Committee believes that the common law rule of revival should by statute be applied to the disallowance of all instruments. I hope that the Government will take action in this regard. Whatever decision is made, at least there should be no obscurity in regard to this area.
The second matter of law which was raised in this report deals with the onus of proof in criminal cases. It is a matter which has arisen on a number of occasions before the Committee since 1975 when it examined the Australian Capital Territory Motor Traffic Ordinance. It arises where quite a bit of legislation has placed an onus of a burden of proof upon a defendant in prosecutions. I do not intend to go into the detail of this. There are complex questions of law where courts have found that the onus has been put on the defendant in many prosecutions to prove certain things, and it certainly is the view of the Committee that the law should be clear as to whatever may be the requirement of a person to establish a defence. Statutory defences, of course, are often made available to defendants. The general onus of proof should remain at all stages clearly on the prosecution, which has been the substantial position of the law for a long time. Without going into the details, considerations have been given to this matter in the United Kingdom where attempts have been made to clarify the position to ensure that defendants do not have placed upon them the burden of proving their innocence beyond reasonable doubt. In conclusion on this matter we say:
It is the belief of the Committee that the persuasive burden should not bc upon the defendant in criminal matters, particularly in delegated legislation. The conclusion of the Committee is that this can best be achieved by the enactment of a statutory provision such as was recommended by the English Criminal Law Revision Committee.
We also suggest that statutory provisions that impose the burden of proof upon defendants in criminal cases should be referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional, and Legal Affairs for further consideration. We therefore believe that there should be legislation in the Commonwealth at an early date to clarify the difficulties which have arisen under various parts of our legislation, lt would be easier to have a general Act which makes quite clear where the onus lies rather than to try to alter the various regulations which litter our records; alternatively, all could be individually clarified. To pass a law which makes the position clear is, I think, an urgent necessity.
The second part of the report refers to a series of regulations which were considered by the Committee over a period of six months. I do not propose to go into those. In each case they are briefly described in the report. We hope that the Senate is satisfied that the Committee has discharged its onus and obligation to the Senate in pressing Ministers for alterations. With the very considerable co-operation of Ministers I think that we have managed to obtain amendments to quite a number of regulations in which there were difficulties coming within the obligations of the Committee.
I think I must say something further about the third matter raised in the report because it is a long standing problem. I refer to outstanding undertakings by Ministers which have not been honoured. It will be recalled by the Senate that early this year the Senate passed the following resolution:
That the Senate take note of the statement,
That was the statement in respect of ministerial undertakings which have not been honoured- and note with concern the failure of some Ministers and departments promptly to carry out undertakings given to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances to amend unsatisfactory legislation, as recorded in the Sixtysecond Report of the Committee.
The Committee then reported on a number of regulations. I refer to page 14 of the report. I will merely restate the position in regard to the regulations that are covered in this June report. In regard to the position of Postal services regulations it states:
The responsible Minister has now agreed not to await the reports of those bodies and to proceed with the promised amendments.
I am afraid that that has not yet been done and that position is quite unchanged. Likewise with regulations under the Customs Act, a matter which was being considered by the Administrative Review Council. Now, in October, that position is still unchanged. Amendments to the Australian Capital Territory Consumer Affairs Ordinance were proposed by the Minister. The Committee has seen the draft of the amendments. The matter is continuing. It does appear that the amendments will be made. The final matter is the Australian Capital Territory Sale of Motor Vehicles Ordinance, referred to on page 1 5 of the report. The report states:
There was to be a review of the ordinance but it had not been completed. This position remains unchanged. In the report we refer to further undertakings that were given since the Sixtysecond Report of the Committee under which the criticism was originally made. Four undertakings are referred to. The alteration of the Historic Shipwrecks Regulations has been carried out. Likewise alterations have been carried out to the Student Assistance Regulations. Alterations have been made to the Australian Capital Territory Child Welfare Ordinance, one of our most recent inquiries. The undertaking in respect of the Dried Fruits Export Control (Licences) Regulation has not yet been attended to. One can see that there has been an improvement in the speed in carrying out undertakings that have been given since the Committee reported in rather sharp terms about this matter. A number of matters still remain to be cleared up. They are the matters which are covered by this report. We hope that in the areas where legislation is required the Government will make a statement at an early stage. The six-month period in which it undertook to give answers is fast drawing to a close. We hope that at an early date there is action by the Government on this matter.
– In view of the time it would be unfair to bring on another speaker. I can use up the five minutes in endorsing what Senator Missen said. As Acting Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances I moved the motion for the adjournment in Senator Missen ‘s absence. I then handed over to him and at my request he moved the adoption of that motion. He did that, firstly, because he is the Chairman of the Committee and, secondly, because the two main issues are legal matters and he has the legal training to present them. Nevertheless, there are one or two things I want to mention. This report was put down on 8 June. The Minister concerned has a bit of time left. Whilst reporting within six months is not mandatory the Committee would have no objection to the Minister reporting on this question at an earlier time. In moving the motion I expressed the Committee’s wish that the report should receive the earliest consideration of the Senate and by senators during the recess. I then sought leave to continue my remarks.
I do not know whether honourable senators have considered one of my concerns. Are reports that come to this Senate really considered? Is their importance recognised? As Senator Missen has said, there are two recommendations in this report upon which the Government could act. One is an amendment to the Acts Interpretation Act to make clear that it does say what everyone in this chamber thought it said. Doubts are now expressed as a result of judgments. Whilst the Act would appear to be clear on common law aspects in regard to repealed legislation, it does not make clear that when a regulation repealing another regulation is disallowed the previous regulation survives. Apparently serious doubt exists within the Attorney-General ‘s Department in regard to this matter. When the law is ambiguous it should be clarified so that the position is well known. If there is a vacuum in the legislation, as Senator Missen said, there will be an occasion when someone is hurt. I therefore think that there should be an amendment as early as possible.
The second matter I wish to raise refers to the recommendation of the Committee relating to burden of proof. The Committee stated:
The Committee does recommend, however, that the matter of statutory provisions imposing the burden of proof upon defendants in criminal cases be referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
I do not think that the Minister’s direction or approval is needed for that reference to the Committee. The Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs is a Committee of this Senate. We have the power to refer the matter to it. Whether the Committee’s recommendations are then acted upon is possibly a matter for the Government. I have refrained from moving it because of some criticism concerning a notice of motion about referring something to the Committee. I believe that the Committee is overburdened with work. However, I would mention the point that this Senate ought to consider forwarding the request from the Regulations and Ordinances Committee to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs and await its report. That would then be the appropriate time for ministerial action.
Aborigines- Accidents on Mururoa Atoll
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., under sessional order I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– With your co-operation, Mr President, and the co-operation of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), I will not keep the Senate for a great time, but there are two or three matters relating to Aboriginal affairs which I should like to talk about this evening. They are items that I had hoped to raise when the amendments to the Northern Territory land rights Bill came before the chamber, but the Bill has been withdrawn once or twice and I am not sure that we will be seeing it during the course of this session.
I want to complain, perhaps not emotionally but rather deeply, about what I believe is happening to Aborigines in this country under this Government. I get the impression- I hope that I am wrong but I do not think that I amthat the intention of the Government is to make sure that the Aborigines get only the crumbs. This goes back to 1978 when the Borroloola land rights claim was granted in a very depleted sort of way. As honourable senators will recall, Borroloola is largely under the control of Mt Isa Mines Ltd or a subsidiary company which operates in this area. As a result of the land rights judgment there, MIM will finish up with a deep water port, just as Nabalco has at Nhulunbuy, and it will have access to the sea over Aboriginal lands through Tawalla and Bing Bong stations. It will be able to build its own road and railway, and maybe even a pipeline. They will go through the Borroloola town common, on current plans. This is, of course, the scrappy little piece of land- the crumbs- which was granted to local Aboriginal people. It is a case of whether the Aboriginals should get the justice to which they are entitled or whether the mine should get the money making areas to which it thinks it is entitled.
A journalist wrote recently, insofar as Boorroloola is concerned, that it was now a hell on earth with a putrid water supply and common latrine pits serving 57 houses. Even Bing Bong station, about which we talked in this chamber when the land rights judgment was brought down, is Aboriginal country. It was applied for in 1976 under the Land Rights Act and the claim was heard in 1 978, but most of the requests were rejected. The Aboriginal leader, Leo Finlay, who is probably known to most people in this Parliament associated with Aboriginal affairs, once said at Borroloola:
The thing is we are here to tell you that you lose some of your country. That is straight. Not only you, me too. We only got a little bit, the rubbish pan of it, that is all. We got what’s left over.
The statement made by Leo Finlay is quite correct insofar as the Borroloola claim is concerned.
I have no intention of breaching Standing Orders in referring to the Uluru-Lake AmadeusLuritja land claim, which I wanted to talk about today in depth, but I do want to say insofar as that land claim is concerned that the land that has been granted is virtually rubbish land. In other words, one comes from a more affluent area in terms of agriculture, and crosses over the rubbish land to get to better land. I do not know how many people in this chamber have been through the area but I have been over it several times. I have walked over a lot of it. As recently as last May, in the company of my daughters and my son, I spent a couple of days driving and walking through the area.
The real land there is where the Uluru National Park is situated. One of the things I had hoped to ask the Minister about today- I hope that he or his advisers will read of this in Hansard tomorrow and perhaps come up with an explanation- is why an application in relation to the park itself has not been proceeded with. This can be done along the lines of the Kakadu National Park situation. Title can be granted by Aboriginal Land Commissioner insofar as the Aborigines are concerned and then it can be let back for use by the general public. There has been a great wall of silence in relation to this matter and we do not know what has happened about it.
I will refrain from reading from the statement of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs about the report of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner on the Uluru-Lake Amadeus-Luritja land claim if it is thought that I would be infringing on Standing Orders by doing so, but I do not think I would be. The relevant section reads:
During the course of the hearings the Northern Territory Government had an opportunity to put its views before the Commissioner. In determining whether I should accept the recommendations of the Land Commissioner, I have given serious consideration to the views expressed by the Northern Territory Government during the course of the hearings and I have also sought that Government’s views as to the recommendations made by the Land Commissioner. The Northern Territory Government has indicated to me that it does not wish to express a view but has no objection to my announcing the approval of the Uluru land claim in accordance with recommendations of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner.
There is little reference in that report to another area of land which is the subject of a claim. I believe that when that is prepared it should be a just case in relation to title insofar as the Aborigines and the area are concerned. The Edward Pelew group of islands, off Borroloola, are now divided.
The point that I am trying to make now is that there has been great reluctance by this Government to stand up to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. As I continue with my contribution to this adjournment debate, I will point to a number of instances when I believe that this Government has backed off in fear. It has backed off in fear from the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly in the same way as it has backed off from the Queensland Government. In order to make the story a fairly full story, I shall cite examples taken from a debate in the Queensland State Parliament last month. I think I can show insofar as the Northern Territory Government and the Queensland Government are concerned that the Federal Government is not prepared to have any confrontation at all, and the end result of this, of course, is that the Aborigines are the people who suffer.
The Edward Pelew group of islands has a great mythological and cultural value. It is listed in the National Estate under the Australian Heritage Commission Act. Vanderlin Island, which is owned by the Johnson family, has on it a cattle station carrying some 900 head of cattle. There is no suggestion that the Aborigines want these people to move from that island. A claim for North Island has been rejected. That was in the original claim in 1976. Centre Island was given to MIM in spite of the fact that the Aborigines also wanted it. West Island, one of the smaller islands, is probably not suitable for the purpose for which the Aborigines required it.
In a recent issue of the Canberra Times- this appeared in a number of other newspapers on the same day- an article appeared entitled ‘Aboriginal Housing Plan Changed after Petition’. This is a further example of how this Government is knuckling under to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly or to its Majority Leader, and those who stand behind the Majority Leader. The article reads:
The Northern Territory Government had reduced an Aboriginal housing program in Alice Springs and decided not to build the houses next to private houses in the town, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Chancy said yesterday.
The decision had followed circulation of a petition in Alice Springs for termination of the project in favour of building a separate village for the Aborigines.
Senator Chaney agreed that the petition had alleged that the proposed tenants were ‘unemployed, unacquainted with the work ethic, incapable of removing unsanitary, putrid, domestic garbage and litter, ignorant of hygiene, by-laws and reasonable urban behaviour, subject to alcoholism . . .’
He was answering the Opposition spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs, Dr Everingham, who had put a series of questions on the Notice Paper about the housing program and the petition. To make matters worse, this organisation- I will quote from a short article in the Nation Review shortly- has even changed its name because of the backlash in the Alice Springs area, in the Northern Territory and in Australia generally. I will just read a couple of paragraphs from the petition. It is addressed to the Chief Minister, Mr Paul Anthony Edward Everingham and states:
Whereas it is proposed by your Government through the medium of the Housing Commission and funded by the Commonwealth Government through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to convert and erect certain special houses for the accommodation of tenants of a substandard nature who do not comply with the minimum standards of acceptability as tenants by the Housing Commission. and whereas the undersigned
These are the local white people-
Therefore your petitioners will suffer loss if this plan proceeds because your proposed tenants are-
This reprehensibly worded petition continues in that vein. It has been widely circulated even though the organisation has since changed its name perhaps to make it slightly more acceptable to the local population. That was one of the documents which I showed to you, Mr President, and the Minister at the table at the time. I seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
To: The Honourable The Chief Minister Mr Paul Anthony Edward Everingham Esq.
WHEREAS it is proposed by your Government through the medium of the Housing Commission and funded by the Commonwealth Government through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to convert and erect certain special houses for the accommodation of tenants of a substandard nature who do not comply with the minimum standards of acceptability as tenants by the Housing Commission
AND WHEREAS the undersigned will suffer loss, injury, noise nuisance and injury to health as a result and will otherwise be damnified as set hereunder
AND WHEREAS there are viable alternatives for the housing of the said substandard tenants which your Government has not explored
THEREFORE your petitioners will suffer loss if this plan proceeds because your proposed tenants are-
Unemployed and unacquainted with the work ethic.
Unused to suburban living and incapable of the performance of simple household duties which are the minimum requirements for suburban living e.g., the collection and removal of their own domestic garbage and litter
Ignorant of the importance of hygiene
Tribal or quasi-tribal so that the single family unit is not their customary family group but rather an extended family numbering scores of humans ‘and canines
Unacquainted with by-laws and reasonable standards of Australian urban behaviour
f ) Subject to addiction to alcohol
Your petitioners will be injured as follows-
1 ) Householders who follow the Australian work ethic cannot maintain surveillance of their property during working hours
Petitioners who are shift workers without whose assistance such essential services as power, ambulance, fire and Police would not operate will suffer acutely from noise and pollution emanating from your special houses
Ordinary working families will suffer noise and disturbance during ordinary sleeping hours from the noise created by these unacceptably large domestic units
Your petitioners anticipate suffering health problems arising from the accumulation of large deposits of unsanitary domestic rubbish
Your petitioners will question stench problems and the putrefaction of the air they breath arising from the tenants inability to remove rubbish
Your petitioners will suffer a litter problem in the streets of Alice Springs and damage to the aesthetic beauty of the town
Your petitioners foresee that you intend to construct numerous special houses as aforesaid and to undermine the quality of life, general health, happiness and quiet enjoyment of life thereby depriving your petitioners of the minimum expectations of any Australian following the working ethic and contributing taxes to her Majesty’s Government
Your petitioners in the immediate neighbourhood will suffer financial loss in the lowering of the value of their homes in which they have invested their savings gleaned by years of careful effort in adherence to the aforesaid working ethic and notwithstanding the ravages of Her Majesty ‘s tax collection
Your petitioners will suffer financial loss in the inability to sell their homes or let their homes at reasonable prices and rates
10) Your petitioners in the Gap area are distressed by fears that the continued peaceful integrated existence of the races will be disrupted by your crash assimilation program and friction between the races will be thus fostered and fanned
Your petitioners are concerned that your proposed tenants do not desire to cope with the responsibilities and stresses of suburban living and your tenants will thereby suffer unhappiness.
Now your petitioners pray that you cease forthwith the program on which you have embarked, you cease to threaten the quality of life of your humble petitioners and that you arrange for the construction of a village to house your tenants away from the Township of Alice Springs so that your petitioners will nol be damnified aforesaid.
– I wish to refer to an article in the Nation Review of 26 July 1979 which states:
The turning point seems to have come in late June when the Citizens for Civilised Living group, the people who drafted the petition, as they were known then- or Alice Springs Citizens Association as it later called itself, secured the active support of the member for Gillen, Mr Jim Robertson. The representations in Darwin made by Robertson, himself a resident of the east side area where the houses for blacks are not wanted, are believed to have brought about the eventual backdown by the Northern Territory Government.
I understand that the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly said originally that it would not change the program. I understand also that the Australian Government Department of Aboriginal Affairs stated that it too would not bend to the group of racists which compiled this petition in Alice Springs. I quote now from the Nation Review of 20 September 1 979, a story written by Alan Austin, a reputable journalist:
If the Northern Territory Government had hoped that by truncating the Alice Springs Special Aboriginal housing programme it would dispose of the irritating objections from a frenzied racist fringe, it has been disappointed.
For despite the Government’s substantial contraction of the original proposal to construct and convert dwellings to meet the special needs of extended Aboriginal families the rancour has spread and intensified.
As reported earlier (NR 26 July), a small group of Alice Springs residents organised by local solicitor Mr Ted Skuse calling themselves “Citizens for Civilised Living” vigorously opposed the proposed scheme. Last May, after work on some of the dwellings had commenced, they convened public meetings, drew up a petition which one NT Legislative Assembly member has described as “scurrilous ana abhorrent “, and canvassed for signatures door to door.
Prospective Aboriginal tenants were referred to in the petition as “unemployed and unacquainted with the work ethic”, “incapable of the performance of simple household duties”, “ignorant of the importance of hygiene”, and “addicted to alcohol “.
Five Alice Springs Aboriginal organisations immediately responded to the public statements of the “Civilised Citizens” expressing their deep disappointment and outrage at the blatantly racist attacks.
A meeting followed shortly after, on 9 June, of the Alice Springs Citizens Association, the new improved Citizens for Civilised Living Several Alice Springs parliamentarians attended including, notably. Education Minister in the Country Liberal Party Government, Mr Jim Robertson.
I quote further from the story:
The inclination of anyone reading that petition is to laugh. But it is not funny. It is not funny because this Government of the Northern Territory responded to it; it is not funny because the members of Alice Springs responded to the 1 ,300 petitioners attached to it; and it is not funny because the legal firm that prepared this disgraceful document collected as a retainer $96,000 a year of Aboriginal money from the Northern Land Council. It is not funny at all.
This gentleman, Mr Skuse, is a member of the firm that was able to collect this amount of money from this Government and yet it is able to change the policy of the Government. I am being scrupulously fair about this matter. On 20 September 1979 as a footnote to the story written by Mr Austin the Nation Review carried this report:
Following publication of the NR story on 26 July a letter from the solicitors Ward Keller of Darwin was received, NR Letters 16 August, accusing NR of misrepresenting Mildren and Partners and Mr Ted Skuse.
Mr Ted Skuse, incidentally, if I may interpose, was one of the group’s leaders. I understand that his wife, Sue Skuse, is now the secretary of this organisation. She is also the secretary for Mr Ted Skuse in his legal practice. The article further states:
Two weeks ago NR called on Mr Skuse at his Alice Springs practice to seek clarification of his views and involvement.
His wife Sue Skuse advised that Mr Skuse was too busy but, yes, we could call back tomorrow at nine to make an appointment. Unfortunately Mr Skuse was too busy next day also. Such is the frantic pace of life of a crusading Alice Springs lawyer.
Also in the 26 July article it was stated that Jim Robertson lived in the east side area of Alice Springs where houses for blacks are not wanted. Apologies. Mr Robertson in fact lives in the Gillen area where houses for blacks are not wanted.
The next document in this saga is signed by the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service, the Tangatjira Council, the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, the Central Land Council and the Institute of Aboriginal Development. I seek leave to incorporate that document in Hansard because it is the reply of these organisations to the Skuse organisation.
– Has that document been seen by the Minister?
-The Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, has seen all the documents, as have you, Mr President.
The document read as follows-
We are gravely concerned at the action being taken by Messrs Skuse and Dean and the group that has called itself the Citizens for Civilized Living to prevent Aboriginal people obtaining proper housing in Alice Springs.
We support the special housing program of the Northern Territory Government through the Housing Commission. We commend the stand taken by the Minister for Lands, Marshall Perron, in stating that the special housing program will go ahead.
We have read the petition being circulated and listened to a tape of the meeting held by the group last Saturday. We are very upset by what is being said. The petitioners deeply insult the many thousands of Aboriginal people now living successfully in houses in Alice Springs. They ignore the fact that some Aboriginal people without homes are wanting to live in houses in Alice Springs and are entitled to do so. They ignore the tremendous work being done by Tangatjira Council to provide housing and by the Homemakers group funded by the Department of Community Welfare to assist Aboriginal people into settling into homes and caring for them. They ignore the fact that non-Aboriginal people sometimes cause noise, disruption and damage to their homes.
In the petition and at the meeting untrue and insulting things were said about the applicants for homes under the program. Those people are talking with their lawyers about legal action. People who are asked to sign the petition should think carefully about what the petition says about the people who are listed to go into the houses. lt is sad that this group of extremists assume that Alice Springs belongs to them by right and that they can exclude those who are different to them. Alice Springs is on traditional Aboriginal country and Aboriginal people are a significant part of the town. We want Aboriginal people and white people to be living together in harmony, not insulting each other. This group is stirring up trouble. Aboriginal people have a great need for housing and only when that need is met will the pressure on individual houses be reduced.
We stress the importance of the special Aboriginal housing program and call upon Mr Everingham to reject the petition emphatically and confirm that the program will proceed.
-There is a further document which I seek to have incorporated in Hansard. It is headed ‘Aboriginal Housing Program- some facts’ and sets out, in brief detail, the people who are likely to live in these houses as originally planned and the cost of the homes. I hope that the Minister will agree to its incorporation. It is prepared by the Federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the Central Land Council, the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress and the Tangatjira Council.
The document read as follows-
ABORIGINAL HOUSING PROGRAM
This is not an experiment! The Commonwealth has been assisting the States in this way for ten years. All States and the N.T. have recognised urgent need for more housing for Aboriginals. As recently as 18 May a meeting of Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers emphasized the continuing need for more housing for Aboriginals. The N.T. was represented by the Chief Minister, Mr Everingham.
Discussions about the N.T. program commenced between D.A.A. and the N.T. Housing Commission in 1974. A special Planning Committee has developed the program, which is aimed at towns where the need exists- and this means most towns in the territory.
Agreements exist between Commonwealth and the States on the operation of the Special Housing Program. Northern Territory has also agreed. The agreement provides for, among other things, the manner of selection of tenants, the management of tenancies, including questions of evictions, and for the establishment of Homemaker and other support services.
Alice Springs Town Council discussed the program at a meeting in June 1978. Whilst the Council was informed of intention to proceed, Council was given the opportunity to comment, and did so.
The current contract is for fifteen houses at a total cost of $41 1,529-an average of $27,435.
Alice Springs Homemaker Service commenced in May 1978. Its purpose is to be a friendly support service to tenants, and where necessary to give experience in basic requirements in managing a home. The scheme is operated by the N.T. Department of Community Development, but a need is seen for its expansion. The program has been working with some of the prospective tenants for twelve months.
The applicants for these homes registered with the Housing Commission, and are not being forced into the program. The fact that their name is on the list does not mean that they will automatically obtain a house. There is to be a Selection Committee- preferably all Aboriginal- and it is already clear that only Aboriginal people know whether the applicants are basically suitable.
It is true that old houses in the East Side area have created problems for nearby residents. These houses were constructed many years ago by the welfare authorities as emergency accommodation for families in crisis. Some of them are still used in this way, but this is not the intention with the new program. There has been in recent years a deliberate policy to allow these old houses to run down, with a view to their demolition.
Experience in the States over ten years indicates that Housing Commissions experience a degree of difficulty with certain tenants, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. Overall however. Commissions have reported that the special Aboriginal Housing Program has been very successful. The purpose of the program is to maximise success by a suitably designed house and support services.
Department of Aboriginal Affairs Central Land Council Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Tangatjira Council.
– I have asked numerous questions in this chamber concerning the payment of award wages in Aboriginal communities in Queensland. A Dorothy Dix question was asked in the Queensland Parliament on 12 September 1979. The only way I can defend myself is by speaking in the debate. The question asked by Mr Ted Row, pursuant to notice, of the Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs, Mr Porter, was:
Is he aware of an outburst by Senator Jim Keeffe published in ‘The Townsville Daily Bulletin’ on 11 September condemning State and Federal Governments in relation to Aboriginal and Island Affairs?
What is the truth of the matter so mischievously distorted by Senator Keeffe?
That is totally untrue. I believe that I released a very low key Press statement. It was widely publicised. Apparently as Mr Row comes from the Hinchin brook electorate the only newspaper he was able to read, was able to obtain or could afford to buy was the Townsville Daily Bulletin. My Press release was not meant to be mischievous in any way, nor was it distorted. It was a statement of facts. Then we have a distorted reply from the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs. He stated:
I have seen the report and, once again, Senator Keeffe is indulging in wild fantasies. To replace fantasy with fact, let me make it very plain that it was his own Federal Labor Government, under the ministerial guidance of his colleague Senator Jim Cavanagh, which, in a fit of pique ruthlessly slashed $3,190,000 from Queensland’s 1974-75 housing allocation after the Budget was approved by Parliament.
I want to correct that suggestion because Queensland is notorious for its failure to spend money allocated for Aboriginal affairs. When the Office of Aboriginal Affairs was established it was agreed among the States that they would keep up their ratio of funding for Aborigines.
Queensland was the only State that failed to do this. Over the years allocations have been made for housing and for other projects and apparently they have never been used for this purpose. The allegation in this reply to a question is that the Labor Government decided to slash more than $3m from a spending area.This is not true. That amount of money was devoted to housing associations and to other organisations for the building of houses by Aborigines on behalf of Aborigines. The money was never taken away from the State.
I know that the Whitlam Government is often blamed in this chamber and in the other placeparticularly in this chamber- for its so-called weaknesses and so on, but during the period of the Whitlam Government more than $ 100m was refused by Queensland. It would not take the money because it alleged that a tag was attached to it. This was part of this fit of pique by the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs. He went on to say:
This amount has never been recovered by the State, and its cumulative effect, with inflation added, is over $20,000,000.
I say that that is an absolute and utter untruth. First of all, the Minister’s economic reckoning is wrong. That could not possibly happen. In any case, the money was never taken away. It still went to the Aborigines but in a slightly different way, because we did not trust the State Government with the money. Honourable senators will recall that in the first year of the Fraser Administration- Senator Guilfoyle would remember this- funding was made available for women’s refuges. It was taken by the Queensland Government and never given to women’s refuges. That is why this Government now funds women’s refuges in Queensland directly. It cannot trust the Government of that State with the money that is allocated. The State Minister went on to say:
It is ironical that Senator Keeffe should denigrate the outstanding effort made by so many Aboriginal Queenslanders in contributing to their own housing, development and general well-being, in spite of irresponsible reduction of funds by the Federal Labor Government.
That is another untruth. I have never denigrated anybody in the Aboriginal community, but I have denigrated the Government of Queensland in a nice way. The Minister continued:
The Senator must also be aware that, under his party’s Government, Queensland suffered the worst deal of all States.
Of course it suffered the worst deal of all States, because it knocked back more than $100m. It would not take that amount off a Federal Labor government. The Minister went on:
What is more, we remained the only State Government that continued to contribute more in real money terms and manpower than the Commonwealth to our indigenous peoples. State expenditure continues to outstrip Commonwealth spending in Queensland and remains far in excess of the contribution made by any other State Government.
Not even that is true. If I wanted to be a political cheapskate I could say that Fraser and Petersen are in the same barrel. But a contribution is still given by the Commonwealth Government to the Government of Queensland. That is an unfair accusation. The situation might change when Flo comes here. The Minister continued:
Because of its irresponsible mismanagement of the country’s economy, the Labor Government created economic circumstances that deprived many of Queensland’s Aborigines of work opportunities and employment. In its turn, this led to a migration back to the reserves, where some sense of security was obtainable.
That too is totally untrue. In fact when the Commonwealth Government gave money to the States it did so with the stipulation that if any employment was generated the workers had to be paid at award rates. Award rates were not paid even to workers on the water reticulation system on Palm Island. The local training rateabout one-half of the basic wage- was paid to people working back hoes and other heavy equipment. Those people should have been receiving up to double- and probably more- the wages that they were receiving. But a lot more will be said about that over the next few months. Mr Porter continued:
My Government, from its scarce resources-
Could never undertake to guarantee full employment at award wages for all of those who seek it. What we do, in close consultation with the councils and at their request, is spread our resources as widely as possible.
That is another untruth because the State Government does not spread its resources at the council’s request. Every council in that State wants to see its workers in the various communities paid the award wage. But the State Government decides what wage will be paid, and it is a sub-standard wage. A number of communities such as those at Yarrabah, Kowonyama, Mornington Island and Aurukun are fed up with this sort of system and are seeking an improvement in their living conditions and wage standards. Then the Minister said:
This very human approach maximises work and training opportunities and allows the largest possible number of people to be employed and preserve their self-respect.
Half the people employed on communities in Queensland are being paid a weekly wage which is less than the dole. It is amazing that they keep on working. Obviously they have a pride in what they are trying to do, because they are working for slave wages. The Minister went on:
This is something the Honouable Senator would not understand.
I understand it only too well. He continued:
Were the Queensland Government to adopt the Honourable Senator’s calls for immediate payment of award wages, available funds would prove hopelessly inadequate and many hundreds of people in remote communities would be thrown into dole queues. Both the State and Federal Governments seek to avoid this destructive situation.
This is the so-called training wage which was brought in many years ago. There are people who were put on the training wage in about 1 964 or 1965 and, guess what, they are still on the training wage. They are people who are nearing or who have already reached the age at which they can apply for and receive the age pension. But they are still on the training wage trying to bring up families of eight to 10 kids. The Minister continued:
The Honourable Senator’s claims are all in direct contrast to the report of the impartial House of Representative Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, released in April last year. This report found that the physical environmental conditions on Aboriginal and Islander reserves in Queensland are markedly superior-
If one goes to Yarrabah one finds that the houses are falling down around the heads of the families who live in them because they are riddled with white ants. If one goes there in the wet season one sees that the water pours in off the hills so that there is a foot of water under some of the houses. The kids are living in shocking conditions, and that is supposed to be one of the better reserves. The Minister said:
Conditions … are markedly superior to those of all other States and, in particular, superior to those of the Northern Territory, where the Labor Government lavished public moneys for many years on extravagant experiments, for very little lasting results.
The Northern Territory, under various administrations, certainly was a long way behind. In three years of Labor Government or with the limited amount of money which has been made available in the four years since then one cannot pick up the damage that has been done over many years. The people in the Territory have lived in the little tin roof shacks that we call Giese ‘s bus stops. In some areas they are still forced to live in them because of a lack of other accommodation. But it is no reason at all-
– You are very unfair.
– I am not being unfair at all.
– He is a person who has given his lifetime to the people.
– I am sorry, Mr President, but I will answer the honourable senator’s interjection through you. I believe that a paternalistic attitude has been adopted by the gentleman to whom I referred. I did not make any derogatory remarks about him at all. Mr President, you know as well as I do that those little pads, those little shacks, were known as Giese ‘s bus stops. I think the nickname came from the Aborigines themselves. They were little shacks that one would not put even one’s dog in. One would have more affection for one’s dog than to put it into one of t hose pads. I am merely making a factual statement again. The Minister continued:
This Commonwealth Parliamentary document showed that Queensland . . . accounted Tor some 43 percent-
– I think that you should get back in your own paddock.
– If my colleague on my left would remain quiet for five minutes I will finish my contribution to the adjournment debate.
– Hear, hear!
– I am sorry that the Minister has to be at the table tonight because we know that he has no concern for either the problems of Aborigines or what might be happening with them. 1 suggest that if the Minister stopped interjecting it might help me. The answer continued:
What is more, the report did not take into account 13,000 Aborigines and Islanders, representing 20 per cent of the State ‘s total indigenous population, who have been rehoused in towns and cities throughout Queensland in the last decade to a thoroughly acceptable community standard.
I cease quoting at that point, Mr President, because I believe that that also is an exaggeration of the real position. I shall read two or three final quotations. We have just heard about Mr Porter’s excellent housing program. At the New Mapoon settlement on Cape York Peninsula 38 per cent of those so-called very good houses are without a shower, 35 per cent are without running water inside the house and 42 per cent are without drainage or have inadequate drainage. At Cowal Creek, another settlement in the Bamaga group, 38 per cent of the houses are without a shower, 20 per cent are without water inside the house and 55 per cent of the homes, which Mr Porter says are palaces, have either no drainage or inadequate drainage. Let us look at the situation at the third settlement there, that is, the Umagico settlement, where there are 23 houses in which 131 people live, with an average of 5.6 persons living in each house. Of those houses, 26 per cent do not have a shower, 13 per cent have no water inside the house, 1 7 per cent do not even have a laundry and 52 per cent have no drainage or inadequate drainage. It is no wonder that 14 doctors in north Queensland signed a petition condemning the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement for its many weaknesses and making certain suggestions. This is what they stated in their petition:
We, the undersigned doctors, involved in aboriginal health in North Queensland consider that aboriginal health in this region has reached a crisis, and that there is an urgent need to improve this situation by the following measures.
As I had a copy of this document incorporated in Hansard during the Budget debate, I will just make reference to a couple of points in it. The doctors stated:
These charges are necessary as the paternalistic and undemocratic policies of D.A.l.A. are adversely affecting the population, leading to alcoholism, malnutrition and maladaptive behaviour. These now present the single most important health issue in these communities. We consider that self-determination and a sense of ownership of land is a basic human need, without which physical health cannot be improved. All health policies must consider the health of the community as defined by the World Health Organisationthe social psychological and physical well being of the people.
Mr President, it was necessary to quote those various points in their geographical order- for want of a better term- to point out, as I said earlier, that the Australian Government has a tendency to back down to State or Territory organisations which do not want to comply with Commonwealth Government policies in relation to Aboriginal affairs. That has to stop somewhere because one of the end results of that is an increase in the rate of infant mortality, which in Queensland is quite disgraceful. In some parts of the Northern Territory it is even worse.
– It is getting lower. It is the lowest figure on record.
– Of course it is getting lower. That is because of people such as Dr Trevor Cutter; it is no thanks to the Northern Territory Government. The improved health policy in the Northern Territory was established by the Whitlam Labor Government. If it had not been for the grand plan of that Government 200 kids in every thousand in the Northern Territory would still be being killed.
– I am not interested in politics; I am interested in Aboriginal children and their mortality rate is lower than at any other time.
-That happened long before Senator Kilgariff was here; he is quite a new chum around the place. But a previous Minister for Health who sat in this chamber decided that the death rate at the Alice Springs Hospital was not really worth worrying about. It was the same all over the black areas in the Northern Territory. I hope that the relevant documents and the facts I have outlined tonight will be referred to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), and that the Government will take some note of it.
– On 29 August this year I asked the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) whether he was aware of a report carried by the Australian Press earlier in the month that an accident at the French Mururoa Atoll atomic testing range may have been responsible for several deaths, a number of other casualties and a minor tidal wave. I asked the Minister whether the accident had been monitored or otherwise investigated by his Department, and I further asked him to inform the Senate of the result of any such investigation. Finally, I asked him whether it was the case that no investigation had been carried out and, if that was so, whether he would inform the Senate why this had not been done. At that time, the Minister was unable to provide me with an answer to my questions, but undertook to do so. For the enlightenment of honourable senators and the public, I will read the letter I received from the Minister on 4 October 1 979. It states:
I refer to your question without notice, on Wednesday, 29 August, 1979, regarding reports of accidents at the French nuclear test site on Mururoa Atoll.
There were a number of press reports during August about accidents at the nuclear test site on Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia. Early in the month, the Australian Embassy in Paris was instructed to seek details of the accidents from the French authorities and, at that time, made known the concern in Australia about these reports.
The French Atomic Energy Commission confirmed that there had been two recent accidents at Mururoa Atoll. On 6 July, two technicians died after a chemical explosion and a fire. On 26 July, six people at the test site were injured when a large wave swept over the road around the Atoll.
The French authorities assert that the type of large wave which swept Mururoa Atoll road on 26 July cannot be created by shock waves generated by nuclear explosions and that the timing of the wave did not coincide with the timing of any nuclear test. They have instituted an enquiry into the accidents and an expert mission from France will visit the Atoll shortly to carry out an investigation. The Australian Government is continuing to monitor developments.
With regard to possible dangers to the Australian population from French nuclear tests, the Australian Radiation Laboratory maintains a continuous detection and early warning program to monitor radioactive fallout over Australia. My colleague the Minister for Health has advised me that no anomalous increase in airborne radioactivity has been detected in this surveillance program.
Yours sincerely J. J. Webster
Since I received that reply, a number of developments have taken place regarding these incidents. After these accidents in July, the French Polynesian Territorial Assembly, the popularly elected representatives of the people who live in the area, resolved that the French Government had to suspend atomic testing at Mururoa until a Territorial commission of inquiry had carried out its own inquiry into safety at the site. The Assembly also called for a visit by impartial civilian radio-biologists and for the establishment of a permanent laboratory conducted by independent professional researchers. As the Minister has noted, the French Government then set up an inquiry into the accidents but has gone no further in meeting the demands of the Assembly.
The French Government inquiry has five members, two of whom are members of the Atomic Energy Commission, which insists that the July accidents were industrial accidents with nothing to do with nuclear tests. A third member is also a government employee. The Minister’s answer indicates that the Australian Government’s attitude is a passive one of monitoring developments. The Minister also noted that the radioactive fallout over Australia is being monitored. Presumably this refers only to atmospheric monitoring. I ask the Minister to clarify whether the Australian Government or any other independent group that he is aware of is monitoring the effects of this nuclear testing, particularly on the marine life in Mururoa Atoll area. I raise this matter because the effects of radiation on marine life surely could be just as damaging to mankind in the long term as atmospheric tests.
I have explained the measures that the people in the area are demanding to ensure that the tests are being conducted in such a way as to minimise any danger to them. I urge the Minister to use his good offices with the Government to make sure that it supports the demands that the Territorial Assembly made to the French Government that the tests at Mururoa be made as safe as possible. Australia should play a more active role by offering an impartial team of experts to carry out radiation tests in the area. This should not just be done for the altrusitic reasons of benefiting the people of French Polynesia but also because the location of the Mururoa Atoll makes the safety of the tests of critical importance to all people who inhabit the Pacific Basin.
I remind the Minister that the Labor Government played an active role in the International Court of Justice and opposed atmospheric tests that the French were carrying out at Mururoa Atoll. Since 1975 the French have been underground with their tests. I sincerely hope that the
Government has not been underground with its care and concern for the Pacific and what is happening around Mururoa Atoll in particular. I ask the Minister to use his good offices to make sure that some independent testing, especially of marine life, is carried out in the area.
– I acknowledge the comments that have been made by the two honourable senators’ who have spoken in the adjournment debate. Testing at
Mururoa Atoll is of concern to my own Department and to the Department of Health. I will study the comments that Senator Mcintosh has made. I am quite certain that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) will take note of the lengthy remarks made by Senator Keeffe. I am sure that he is well alert to the comments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.13 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 22 August 1979:
Did an advertisement in the Sunday Mail, 29 July 1979, state amongst other things, that ‘ university research indicates 67.2S per cent success for Ma Evans hair restorer’; if so, what are the details of the university research referred to.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
An advertisement for Ma Evans Herbal Hair Tonic (not hair restorer) appeared in the Sunday Mail, 29 July 1979. There was a reference in that advertisement to university research, indicating that 67.25 per cent of people who had bought 3 or more bottles of The Original Ma Evans Herbal Hair Tonic claimed they had successfully arrested thinning or falling hair or other major hair disorders. I am not aware of the details of the research referred to in this advertisement. This information, however, may be available to the honourable senator from the manufacturer of the product.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 22 August 1979:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
UN Peacekeeping Operations in the Middle East (Question No. 1749)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 22 August 1 979:
– The Acting Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
1 ) Countries providing contingents to United Nations peacekeeping operations in the Middle East are:
Fiji, France, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, and Senegal.
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United States and USSR.
Austria, Canada, Finland and Poland.
Note: UNEF’s mandate lapsed on 24 July 1979 and the force is now being progressively withdrawn. Withdrawal is expected to be completed in January 1980. The following countries provided contingents to UNEF:
Australia, Austria, Finland, Ghana, Poland, Sweden, Canada and Indonesia.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 23 August 1979:
How many women are employed in the Australian Broadcasting Commission and how many of these women are in the first and second divisions of the Public Service.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The total number of women employed in the Australian Broadcasting Commission as at 31 August 1979 was 1,884.
One of these is paid at a rate equivalent to Level 2 of the second division of the Commonwealth Public Service.
Uranium Exploration Training in the Philippines (Question No. 1828)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 29 August 1979:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Mr G. Battey, Head, Uranium Resources Evaluation Unit, Australian Atomic Energy Commission.
Mr J. Rees, Geophysicist, Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 29 August 1979:
3 ) How much of the grant has the Government paid:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Wheat: Inquiry into Grain Pests (Question No. 1917)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 12 September 1979:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Working Party examined progress made or expected to be made under existing programs for the control and eradication of insect infestation of grain and recognised the need to examine practical and economically feasible modifications to existing programs.
A proposal of the Working Party was that an economic evaluation be made of the approaches to the control of insect infestation to establish those options which may be more appropriate to the circumstances of the industry and to identify those avenues of research which might be best pursued for the future benefit of the industry.
The evaluation is being carried out by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics with inputs being provided by other organisations including CSIRO, the AWB, bulk handling authorities and State Departments.
It is expected that the results of the study will provide options as a basis for decisions on the most appropriate strategy for the future.
The Working Party also identified the need for an expert study to be made of grain sampling intensity and methodology.
The Stored Products Sub-committee of the Entomology Committee of the Standing Committee on Agriculture examined this aspect and concluded that further work on the mechanics of sampling at receival into the bulk storage system and the development of statistical analysis of sampling results would be useful.
The improvement of sampling techniques is being pursued by CSIRO and several State Departments as part of their research programs.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 13 September 1979:
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 13 September 1979:
Senator CHANEY-The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) The information required is contained in the following tables.
Australian Sovereignty in Antarctica
-On 28 August 1979 Senator Puplick asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the following question without notice:
Is he aware that in the book recently published by Mr Renouf, the former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, a proposal is advanced that Australia should abandon its claim to much of the Antarctic continent? Secondly, I ask the Minister whether he has seen the editorial which appeared in the Canberra Times of 2 1 August 1979, which suggested that Mr Renoufs advice should be accepted to the extent that Australia should proclaim its intention, when the time is ripe, to transfer its claimed sovereignty to an agreed international regime. I ask the Minister whether the Australian Government has any proposals in mind to abandon, now or in the foreseeable future, any of its claims to sovereignty over any part of the Antarctic continent?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It remains the Government’s policy to maintain sovereignty over the Australian Antarctic Territory. Under Australian law, the AAT has the constitutional status of an Australian Territory similar to that of any other federal territory. The Government has no intention of undoing what has been accomplished over the years by its legislation on the AAT.
Parallel with and consistent with our sovereignty over the AAT, Australia participates in an important international regime in Antarctica- namely the Antarctic Treaty. Our participation in that regime, which serves important Australian strategic interests, is on the basis of our sovereignty over part of Antarctica and our interest in the future of the continent.
At the same time, Australia is sensitive to the interest of other countries in the future of Antarctica. I refer the honourable senator to my statement in the House on 15 March 1 977, when I spoke of the need to define our national interest in Antarctica in terms which recognise its potential importance to the whole of mankind.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 October 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19791011_senate_31_s82/>.