31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 28 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The Petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That in order to: facilitate the development of the North of Australia provide an all-weather rapid land transport system from north to south and vice versa facilitate better defence of Northern Australia provide improved transport for primary and mining products to southern markets boost tourism
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should:
Urge that the Federal Government give favourable consideration to proceeding forthwith with the completion of the construction of the North/South railway from Alice Springs to Darwin as a matter of priority.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representatives without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senators Maunsell and Webster.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That although artistically the Red Army Choir may be a great choir, it is nonetheless a propaganda unit of the Red Army, the army which is the instrument of the Communist dictatorship, bent on world domination along with the destruction of the Christian faith.
Your petitioners humbly pray that entry into Australia shall be denied to the Red Army Choir.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Bishop.
-I remind the AttorneyGeneral that yesterday he undertook to provide Senator Sibraa with details of the date on which a pardon was granted to Mr Nakis and of the terms of the pardon. He also undertook to provide Senator Walsh with details of why the questions on notice relating to costs of the social security fraud case had not been answered and to make inquiries about the estimate of the total cost of the case. Is the Attorney-General now in a position to provide the answers to those questions?
– I am in a position to provide an answer to the question asked by Senator Sibraa. I regret that I have not been able to focus on answering the question on costs, but, as I explained yesterday, answers in relation to costs incurred up to that time were given during the hearings of the Senate Estimates committees. The other aspect of Senator Walsh’s question really asked for an estimate of the future costs. That question will take a little time to answer. Yesterday Senator Sibraa asked me:
On what date did the Attorney-General and the Governor-General grant a pardon to Mr Nakis who, on his own admission, had lied in several interviews with the police?
The answer to that question is that I granted to Mr Chris Nakis an indemnity against prosecution by and on behalf of the Commonwealth on 22 March 1 979. On my advice, His Excellency the Governor-General granted Mr Nakis a free pardon on 18 May 1979. The decision to recommend a free pardon for Mr Nakis was taken following the presentation on 20 April 1979 of a private information against Mr Nakis, alleging that between 1 July 1972 and 3 1 March 1978 Mr
Nakis and others did defraud the Commonwealth. The second part of Senator Sibraa ‘s question reads:
Was it before or after 4 April 1978 when Mr Nakis was arrested?
Mr Nakis was arrested on 2 April 1978.
– After he had been given a pardon.
- Mr Nakis was arrested on 2 April 1978. He was granted a pardon on 18 May 1979.
– But you decided before then.
– I do not know how many times I must say this. Let me go back to the fact that I granted to Mr Nakis an indemnity against prosecution by and on behalf of the Commonwealth on 22 March 1979. Mr Nakis was arrested on 2 April 1978. Have honourable senators got it clear now? The third part of the question reads:
Were the terms of the pardon to grant him immunity from government prosecution and from any future legal action arising from the alleged social security frauds case?
The answer to that is that the indemnity given by me on 22 March 1979 consisted of an undertaking that no criminal proceedings of any kind would be taken by or behalf of the Commonwealth against Mr Nakis arising out of or resulting from any admissions made or information given by him or any other person in relation to the making between 1 August 1975 and 1 January 1977 of claims for the payment of sickness benefit or invalid pensions pursuant to the Social Services Act 1 947. The free pardon, dated 18 May 1979, was in respect of all offences against the laws of the Commonwealth which he may have committed between I January 1975 and 3 1 March 1 978 in relation to the preparation and lodgment of claims for the payment of sickness benefit and invalid pensions pursuant to the Social Services Act 1 947 and the receipt of such benefit and pensions.
-Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware of the alleged pollution of drinking water and an outbreak of gastroenteritis in the Aboriginal community on Palm Island off Townsville? If not, will he investigate the matter to ascertain whether he, through the Minister for Health, might be able to give some assistance to the relevant Queensland authorities to overcome the problem?
– My attention has been drawn to reports of an outbreak of gastroenteritis on Palm Island. I was concerned to learn of that, partly because of the fact of the outbreak, which I suppose would be of concern to anybody, and also because the Commonwealth Government in fact has provided financial assistance to the Queensland Government under the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Act for public utilities projects on Palm Island. Indeed, the main purpose of those grants was to assist the Aboriginal community on Palm Island with essential services- water, sewerage and so on. Something like $6.1m has been provided since 1973 and $2. 175m has been provided for the Palm Island water supply alone.
After I received those reports, I wrote to the State Minister for Health, Sir William Knox. I received a reply, not from Sir William but from the Director-General of Health and Medical Services, who sent a telex to me which indicated that Sir William was away, hence the DirectorGeneral was replying. That report confirmed the outbreak and stated that over two months there had been 65 cases, being 55 cases in children and 10 cases in adults. That resulted in the hospitalisation of 13 children. They have subsequently been discharged and are apparently all right. The investigations which have been made by the State, I am advised by Mr Musgrave, include water sampling and bacteriological analysis of faecal specimens. In general, the findings seem to give rise to no cause for alarm and do not disclose why an outbreak of gastroenteritis should have occurred at all.
I notice, however, in the Press material that was sent to me this morning by my Department that the Townsville Bulletin of 13 November drew attention to some conflicting test results. That paper reports that a sample of water taken from the Palm Island water supply by the Aboriginal and Islanders Medical Centre and tested by the Federal Department of Health ‘s pathology laboratory in Townsville showed that water contained an unacceptable level of bacteria. That report has only just come onto my desk. These apparent conflicts concern me. I will take the matter up again with the Queensland Government. There is certainly no argument about the fact that a substantial number of children have suffered from gastroenteritis. That is of concern to the Federal Government. I will see what action can be taken, in concert with the State authorities, to do something about the matter.
-Has the Minister for Social Security seen the evidence given on Monday by Detective Chief Inspector Thomas that he, between August and December 1977, had several meetings with representatives of her Department, namely, Messrs Lanigan, Corrigan and Prowse, concerning, amongst other things, the payment of moneys to Mr Nakis to give State evidence? Was the Minister informed of any such meetings taking place? If she was, how does this tie in with her answer to me in January this year that only junior officers of her Department were engaged in liaison work with the Commonwealth Police? If she was not notified, should she have been notified?
– I have not seen a transcript of evidence given by Detective Chief Inspector Thomas. I have seen Press reports. There have been discussions in this place with regard to matters that are taking place in the court in New South Wales. There has been wide discussion about the possible payment of $200,000 to an informer in the case known as the alleged social security fraud case. The Director-General of Social Services has made a statement to advise me of the Department’s discussions in this matter. His statement to me is dated 15 November. Because of the way in which other matters have been presented in this place, I feel that I should enlighten the Senate on the contents of this statement and then deal with the other matter that was just raised by Senator Grimes. The DirectorGeneral states that he wishes to confirm that he has not been involved in any negotiations with representatives of other organisations on this matter. The Director-General continues:
In fact, when the possibility of payment of such an amount was raised by the Commonwealth Police with an officer of the Department, I -
That is, the Director-General- issued strong and specific instructions that the Department was not to become involved. The question of a reward was raised with the Department first at a meeting between officers of the Commonwealth Police, the AttorneyGeneral’s Depanment and Social Security on 24 August 1977 when the Depanment was advised of allegations which could be the subject of investigation. This was followed by a meeting on IS September 1977 between Mr Davies and Chief Inspector Thomas of the Commonwealth Police and Mr Prowse, Mr Corrigan and myself of the Department of Social Security. At that meeting there was discussion of the possible payment of a reward for information leading to a successful prosecution. In the memorandum dated 16 September 1977 the Acting Commissioner of the Commonwealth Police provided some figures on the calculation of this possible reward at a ‘maximum pay-out figure of $30,000’. If we look carefully at all the documents I think it is clear and consistent with all that has been said or recorded by our officers or the police- that no one has ever approved the payment of a reward in any formal sense. The advice that went out from Mr Corrigan -
He is an officer of the Department of Social Security- to the police and other departments was on the basis of a police letter saying that an informant had offered to provide certain information for reward and it had been impressed upon the informant during negotiations that the Commonwealth would follow the normal police procedures in granting rewards and pay only on the basis of results obtained. The police letter went on to say that, on the basis of an assumption that the informant’s assessment of the size of the conspiracy was correct, a reward of $30,000 would be appropriate, assuming a successful result of the inquiry. It went on to stress that the above figure was not intended to be binding except as a maximum commitment but provided an indication of the basis on which a reward could be calculated. The letter continued that on the receipt of appropriate advice Compol was prepared to begin investigations involving interviewing and debriefing the informant, introduction of a police agent and the use of search warrants for records of invalid pension payments. In response to this letter Mr Corrigan advised the police that preliminary discussions with the Depanment of Finance indicated that funds for a reward of up to $30,000 could be made available in the event of a successful result of the inquiry, but that the approval of the Treasurer would be necessary.
Subsequently advice was received by Mr Corrigan from the Commonwealth Police that the informant’s solicitor wished to negotiate with me about this matter.
That refers to the Director-General. The statement continues:
I refused to take part in any such discussion and informed the police commissioner on 21 October 1977 that there were no circumstances in which the Depanment would become involved in negotiations with an informant. I also asked Mr Corrigan to ensure that this decision was respected and he recorded on the file that he had taken the matter up with Inspector Thomas, who understood the position.
On 31 October 1977 Mr Corrigan advised me in writing that the police had advised that the informant was now demanding $200,000 and that Mr Thomas had suggested he should come to Canberra for a further meeting on this matter. I repeated my refusal to have anything to do with this issue and informed Mr Harper, (whom I believed to have been Acting Commissioner at the time), that I was unhappy with this development, that I feared that this was a confidence trick and that Social Security should not become involved. (Mr Corrigan made a contemporaneous record of this conversation). There were no other discussions or involvements which could in any way be fairly construed as amounting to endorsing or supporting in any way the payment of a reward of $200,000.
The next thing we heard, on 16 November 1977, was that the police commissioner had approved negotiations taking place with the informant to pay a substantially increased reward. The Depanment of Social Security was not consulted in advance about this decision, if indeed there was such a decision, nor was it involved in the decision in any way. I have seen a police report dated 3 November ‘77 prepared by Detective Chief Inspector Thomas which reports discussions with me in which I informed Mr Harper that the Depanment of Social Security did not wish to be involved with discussions with the informant and that any such negotiations were a matter for the police. It also states, incorrectly, that I had agreed in principle that $200,000 would not be an unrealistic figure which may be determined when all the factors are taken into account at the completion of the court proceedings. I doubt whether such a statement has any ascertainable meaning. It does not assert that I gave any agreement, approval or support to a larger payment. But I certainly did not agree to any proposition expressed in those terms. There was no discussion with Mr Harper which could be construed as involving agreement in principle on anything and there were no discussions with Mr Harper in the presence of Inspector Thomas. It appears that the Inspector has recorded, presumably on the basis of hearsay, something of which he could have no personal knowledge. I did not have any discussion with Mr Harper about any concern for the life of the informant. I put to Mr Harper a quite different matter- my concern that lives of Social Security staff might be in danger if the police improperly involved them in something that should be a police matter. I have never at any time suggested to Mr Thomas or any police representative that either I or the Department of Social Security had any funds under our control that we could use or authorise to be used for the payment of a reward. They were advised in writing that the approval of the Treasurer would be needed for any such payment. No such approval has ever been sought.
To sum up: The only discussions that took place prior to the departmental letter being issued on 5 October 1977 proceeded on the basis of police advice that a reward might be recommended up to a maximum of $30,000. When the informant declined to accept this suggested arrangement the involvement of the Department of Social Security in the matter lapsed. Nothing has been done by me or, insofar as I am aware, by any other Social Security officer to endorse, facilitate or authorise the payment of any money as a reward and there has been no consideration of any proposal that a higher amount should be paid. At no time did I indicate any support for a reward of this amount and all contemporaneous records of the Department support the view that no officer entered into any further discussion of this matter with the Commonwealth Police. It was made absolutely clear that this was purely a matter for the Police. That this approach was accepted by the Commonwealth Police was borne out by a telephone call from Chief Inspector Thomas to Mr Corrigan on 1 6 November 1 977, referred to earlier in this statement.
There is one other matter that I would like to take the opportunity to state. In February of this year, as a result of reading briefing material for the coming parliamentary session, I became aware of letters exchanged between my Department and Compol in September/October 1977. 1 called immediately for an explanation. Before examining the official file in February 1979 1 had no recollection of having considered the matter of the payment of a reward. My examination of the file has not prompted any recollection of the matter. I should record that there is no notation by me on the departmental file to show that the matter of a reward came to my notice prior to February 1 979. The Director-General states that it remains in his memory that he mentioned the matter to me. The Director-General advises that neither he nor I would have the power to give approval for the payment of a reward. It was indicated at the time to Compol that approval of the Treasurer would be required. The DirectorGeneral agrees that these letters were not shown to me and that there is no record of my having considered them. The Director-General agrees that at no time was my approval sought, nor was there any need for my formal approval.
That leads me to the question that was raised by Senator Grimes again. He continues to raise the matter of the letter that was given to him dated 5 December 1978. That letter was incorporated in the Hansard yesterday, but that letter referred specifically to a matter that was raised by Senator Grimes in the Senate on 23 November 1978, whether any senior officer accompanied the Commonwealth Police in operations in which some 175 persons were arrested and charged subsequently with conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth. The second paragraph of that letter reads:
Both the Director-General of my Department and the Commissioner of Commonwealth Police, Mr Davies, have advised me that no officer of the Department was involved in these activities.
The third paragraph of that letter outlines how the function and role of junior officers in the Department, who acted as liaison officers and interpreters to assist the police, were carried out. If senator Grimes is trying to relate the comment in that letter to any such discussions about which we have spoken in relation to the payment of a reward his understanding of the letter is entirely inaccurate. It seems to me that on a number of occasions he attempts to link what was a specific response to a matter raised about accompanying Commonwealth Police in their operations with other discussions which have been acknowledged to have been held in the Department with Commonwealth Police.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question.
Honourable senators interjecting ;
– We have just had a statement from the Minister. I merely seek an answer to the question: Was the Minister made aware of the meetings between Detective Inspector Thomas, Mr Prowse, Mr Corrigan and Mr Lanigan, and when was she made aware of them? I listened carefully to her statement, but I did not hear an answer.
– I have stated that I understood that meetings were held between my departmental officers and officers of the Commonwealth Police. As far as specific meetings are concerned, I have had no specific advice on matters that have involved particular officers at particular times. I was aware of the investigations, as the honourable senator was aware of the investigations, and I think as everyone in Australia was aware of the investigations. I have no particular record that I am able to give to the honourable senator of knowledge of specific meetings at specific times.
– I wish to draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the Gallery to my right of a delegation from the Queensland Parliament Subordinate Legislation Committee. The Chairman of the Committee, Mr P. R. McKechnie, is accompanied by Mr A. P. D. Bertoni, Mr D. Fouras Mr K. J. Hooper and Mr G. P. Scassola. To you honourable gentlemen we tender a warm welcome to our Senate chamber.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
– My quesion is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to claims by the Australian Labor Party in the Queensland Parliament that the Iwasaki Sangyo Co. (Aust.) Pty Ltd has been diverting money to purposes other than development of the Yeppoon tourist resort? Could the Minister inform the Senate of the latest situation in relation to Mr Iwasaki ‘s Yeppoon proposal?
– My understanding is that the Government is awaiting detailed submissions on the future land acquisition plans of the Iwasaki Sangyo company before considering proposed land acquisitions currently before the Government from the company. For this reason the Government made an interim order freezing the proposals for a period of up to 90 days as from 25 October of this year. According to information which has been received from the company’s solicitors, the company has not acquired any land or businesses outside the franchise area.
-I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs whether he recalls my request to him yesterday for his colleague the Minister for Administrative Services to provide factual information as to why there has been a conflict between advice given to a Minister of the Crown and evidence given before a court. At what stage is that advice or information now? Further, in view of the answer given by Senator Guilfoyle today, will he also ask his colleague to give his account of the negotiations in which members of the Commonwealth Police have been involved in respect of this matter?
– The request which was made of me yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate has been referred to the Minister for Administrative Services in the usual way, not by me personally but by my staff. As for what stage it is at, I am afraid I have had no response as yet from the Minister. In the light of the interest in this matter, I will seek to expedite a response. I will pass the third part of the question on to my colleague for reply.
-Could the Minister for Education inform the Senate of the Government’s strategy in relation to the education and training of young people at risk in Australian schools in connection with youth unemployment?
– As I understand it, Senator Lajovic asks what are the Government’s intentions with regard to students at risk in schools. I think that all honourable senators will know that as the result of an initiative by the Commonwealth Government there was an acceptance by all six Ministers for Education in the States plus the Minister of the Northern Territory that this was a problem and that action should be taken. We have journeyed a considerable distance in that recognition. What has happened in terms of unemployed youth has become clear over the years through a number of sources, one of them the education program for unemployed youth. The Williams committee report showed very serious skill deficiencies in people 14 years of age and beyond. Another report showed the hazards of unduly early school leaving.
It has become perfectly clear that there are significant numbers of students at risk in schools. Those students may be at risk for a variety of reasons; maybe for family or community reasons. In any case, the belief develops in their minds that school and school curricula are not meaningful to them. Maybe the generalist stream of education does not attract them. The aim is that we should seek to identify these young people as early as possible, to give them counselling and pastoral care, to devise special courses that might be interesting and helpful to them and to devise ways in which the transition from school to work could be helpful to them. This is one of the most interesting and major potential programs with regard to young people. Properly carried out, it recognises that there are people moving through the schools who suffer social disadvantage and who are handicapped. Just as others may be physically or mentally handicapped, they are socially handicapped because of developed attitudes and artificial limitations. We are aiming to remove those limitations and to give wider horizons to those young people.
-I ask the Attorney-General a question which, while not being confined to his area of responsibility, is one which he ought to be able to answer because he is the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth and a member of the Cabinet which made the decision about which I want to question him. It concerns the rather extraordinary action of the Government in disbanding a law enforcement agency, the Federal Narcotics Bureau, virtually overnight. I ask: Was the Bureau disbanded on 8 November virtually overnight? What arrangements are to be made for the continuance of the investigations which were then in train into large-scale impending heroin importations? Does it mean that months of painstaking surveillance and investigation will be wasted? Is it not true that there will be a vacuum of between 12 months and 18 months before efficient pick-up of that surveillance and investigation will be able to be resumed, a fact apparently missed by the majority of the Press gallery in this place? Does the Government really believe that the Australian Federal Police currently has the resources to handle such a mammoth task? Can it be expected that the Australian Federal Police will continue these investigations with the same devastating finesse and efficiency as was exercised with regard to the alleged social security frauds in Sydney?
– Although, as Senator Chipp said, I am a member of the Cabinet, I did not participate in the decisions. The position is that the matters he has raised should more properly be directed to the Ministers who have been concerned with this matter. I will take appropriate steps to refer the question to them.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware that the British Government commissioned the Managing Director of the firm of Marks and Spencer to report on waste by government in the United Kingdom? Is the
Prime Minister aware that the Managing Director, in his first report, made four recommendations, including recommendations that Ministers should actively manage the running of their departments and look at their own management costs, that the Cabinet should once a year review the whole administrative cost of central government and that there should be a review of the long-established and previously sacred conventions on the way that Government is managed? Will the Prime Minister examine these recommendations and consider their application to this Government?
– I have read of such an investigation. Senator Lewis asked whether the Prime Minister will undertake certain activities. That, of course, must be referred to him. The Government is keen to ensure that the administrative functions of the Government, including the ministerial responsibilities, are as efficient as possible. To the extent that proper business efficiency can be brought to departments and administrations, those aims have been sought and, in my view, significantly achieved. Of course, there is always more that remains to be done. To the extent that the question asks for the Prime Minister’s view, I will draw the Prime Minister’s attention to it.
– I refer the AttorneyGeneral to questions that have been raised about the alleged social security fraud case. In answers the Attorney-General has given he has stated that he had recommended a pardon for a Mr Nakis and that his officers were involved in discussions regarding the payment of a reward to Mr Nakis for evidence. I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Is it not unprecedented both to grant a pardon and to offer a sum of money for assistance to the police?
– Before I answer the real question I think I should clarify again- I thought I had done so before- that although officers of my Department had been present at one of the meetings that were referred to in the statement by Mr Lanigan back in August 1977, the discussions that took place then were in relation to an unnamed informant; nobody knew the name or the person concerned. That was the state of knowledge of myself, officers of my Department and counsel engaged in the social security case prosecution until the information emerged last week in relation to the status of Mr Nakis as an informer. Information has emerged this week on discussions about payment of a reward to him.
Let me make it quite clear that the recommendations in relation to the indemnity and the pardon were made by me in respect of Mr Nakis without any knowledge of the status of Mr Nakis. Recommendations were made to me on the advice of counsel as to his importance as a witness. At that stage I think the prosecution was about to commence or had just commenced. I want to make that quite clear. Senator Melzer asked me: Is the grant of a pardon in these circumstances unprecedented? I have had that question investigated. It is a matter which greatly concerns me. I am told that there is no record in recent years, as far as we can ascertain, in the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s office records of a case where an indemnity or a pardon has been given where there was known to be a reward paid to the person concerned. That is the position. However, all I can say is that it had not arisen before. It certainly is a matter which we would have to give very serious consideration if it was known to be the case. In that sense it was not known at the time. I do not think I can take it any further as to what attitude I would have taken. This is a matter which would have to be weighed in all the circumstances. As I say, there is no record of that situation having ever occurred in the past.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question of the Attorney-General. After the explanation the Attorney-General has given us, does he now intend to take the matter further?
– I most certainly have been giving the whole question the most earnest consideration as it has a number of ramifications. I have certainly been giving it thought insofar as I have been able during the pressures of the week. I propose to have some conferences and further consider the matter tomorrow.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science and the Environment and ask whether the Minister has read an article in the Press of 5 November reporting a claim by an eminent United States scientist Dr Roy that he has discovered a process to reverse phenomena that occur during nuclear fission chain reaction thus making radioactive waste harmless. The Minister may be aware that the article indicates that some other scientists have a certain amount of scepticism about this. I wondered whether the Minister’s Department has noted the article and whether the claim is a valid one.
– I am aware of the Press reports of claims by Dr Radha Roy of the
Arizona State University that he has discovered a process to make radioactive waste harmless. My understanding is that details of that process have not as yet been released. Officers of my Department, and, I understand, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, will be studying Dr Roy’s claims when those details become available. The honourable senator will know that the Government welcomes any improvement in technology which presently exists for the safe management of radioactive wastes. The Government is supporting development of the synroc process, of which Senator Jessop is well aware. That process has been put forward by Professor Ringwood of the Australian National University. He is receiving a three-year grant of about $22 1 ,000 which has been recommended by the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Council. The ANU project is being undertaken with the support and cooperation of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. However, the core of the answer to the question is that the details said to be available are not as yet available.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations: In view of the action taken by that extremely competent practitioner of industrial relations, the honourable P. D. Hills, the New South Wales Minister for Industrial Relations, Technology and Energy, in utilising State legislation to ease problems in the oil industry, could the Senate have a firm pledge that now that the New South Wales Government has taken this action- something that was suggested in response to a question from Senator Baume- there will not be any impediment from the Federal Government, either administratively or by legislation, to the New South Wales Government effectively defusing this situation?
– In order to answer that question I should indicate by way of background that the legislation being introduced by the New South Wales Government by an amendment to the State’s Energy Authority Act provides a means for dealing with certain industrial matters that involve the Kurnell workers. Since the suspension of the Federal award covering these workers- I think that it has been suspended until 3 1 March next year- the avenue for dealing with industrial matters involving these workers has been through informal arrangements involving a mediator. In simple terms, this legislation formalises and upgrades the mediation role and it will enable Mr Hills- he was referred to by
Senator Mulvihill in somewhat glowing terms, from which I do not dissent- to make orders under the Act giving effect to recommendations to be made by the person appointed, who will have the status of a royal commissioner.
The features of this legislation are that arrangements are of a temporary nature- they can apply only while declarations of emergency under the New South Wales Act are in forceand that the person appointed has the capacity to make recommendations. The purpose of the arrangements is to enable the situation to be held pending further consideration of the proposals for a joint sitting. I can certainly give an assurance to Senator Mulvihill that Mr Street, the Minister for Industrial Relations, will pursue as vigorously and as speedily as he can the negotiations that are and have been in train with Mr Hills for the development of this question of a joint sitting. As everyone knows, and as I am sure Senator Mulvihill accepts, there are many problems in relation to this matter, and legislation will be required. Of course, Mr Street will be vigorously carrying on consultations in relation to this question and endeavouring to finalise it as a matter of urgency.
-Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that a severe storm or cyclone struck parts of South Australia last night, cutting a swathe of millions of dollars worth of damage from the township of Port Broughton on Spencer Gulf through to Renmark near the Victorian border and that at this stage communications are out in many of those areas? Is the Minister also aware that the damage at Port Broughton has been described as a miniDarwin in that it is estimated that some 300 homes and beach houses have been badly damaged or totally destroyed there, besides the damage done to the outlying farming areas, including the destruction of grain crops; and that there has also been extensive damage to the Barossa Valley where early estimates show that at least $5m worth of damage has been caused, including the destruction of some 700 acres of vineyards and extensive damage to some of South Australia’s well-known wineries? Is the Minister also aware that the storm got very close to Adelaide and caused extensive damage to many tomato houses, garden areas and apple crops? Because of the extensive damage done by this cyclone, will the Government give very serious consideration to declaring this a national disaster and to giving wholehearted support, including financial assistance for reconstruction, to some of these badly affected areas?
– In common with other honourable senators I learnt last night of this storm and of its magnitude. I learnt during the night and subsequently this morning of the widespread and extensive damage throughout the State. Earlier in the night it was thought to have been concentrated more in the Barossa Valley. It became clear that the Spencer Gulf area had been very widely affected and that the storm had moved very close to Adelaide. One can only regret very much that this has happened. Between the Commonwealth and the States there exist very clear and definite arrangements regarding natural disasters, including financial and physical arrangements. Inevitably the financial arrangements will automatically go into effect, but I would think that the Commonwealth would be consulting immediately with the Premier of South Australia on this whole matter to see in what ways the Commonwealth can help. We can only record the regret of the Commonwealth Government that people have suffered and its willingness to be helpful in the sphere of natural disasters.
-Has the AttorneyGeneral’s attention been drawn to an article in the Australian on 13 November in which it is claimed that the Federal Government is under pressure from mining industry leaders to introduce tougher legislation to protect Australian companies from United States anti-trust laws? Is legislation of this type planned by the Government? Has the Attorney-General been approached by representatives of the mining industry or by other Ministers seeking such legislation?
– I am not specifically aware of the article in the Australian to which Senator Mcintosh referred. The Government is deeply concerned about the wide-ranging extraterritorial application of American anti-trust laws. I have made lengthy statements about that matter. Yesterday I answered a question from Senator Young in relation to it. As the Senate will know, the Government has taken quite a number of steps in relation to the problem. It has passed two pieces of legislation, one to prohibit evidence that is in Australia from being taken out of Australia to be used in American courts and the other to prohibit the enforcement in Australia of anti-trust judgments by American courts. We have filed a brief in the American
Court of Appeal, which is hearing an appeal in relation to decisions to proceed to assess damages against Australian companies. The matter has been taken up at the highest level by my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs and his officers in the Department of Foreign Affairs.
I cannot stress too much the concern which the Australian Government has about this whole matter. I think our record shows that we are deeply concerned about it and that we have taken a lot of action in relation to it. I do not know what specific pressure- I think that is the substance of Senator Mcintosh’s question- is being brought to bear on us. I suppose that it is a matter of concern to companies. Certainly I am well aware of that. But I will seek out the article to which the honourable senator referred and discuss it with my colleagues, who are equally concerned about the matter.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer the Minister to the reports and the considerable discussion which has taken place in the past week in regard to the plight of the Timorese people and to the fact that representations are being made to the Indonesian Government regarding offers of food supplies, transport, et cetera, and arrangements for contributions to alleviate the appalling conditions in Timor. Can the Minister advise the Senate what the present situation is in that regard? What now is the Indonesian Government’s attitude to Australia’s participating in assisting the Timorese people in their plight? Will the Government request the Indonesian Government to receive a delegation of Australian parliamentarians whose aim would be to bring further relief to the people of East Timor by way of supplying urgently required food and materials to rehabilitate the island?
-On 6 November the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs announced that the Government had decided, following consultations with the Indonesian Government, to offer an extra $2m in response to an appeal for the joint Indonesian Red Cross and International Committee of the Red Cross relief effort in East Timor. Discussions with the Indonesian authorities, the IRC and the ICRC on the disbursement of that offer are well advanced and we hope to make an announcement soon. The Indonesian Government has welcomed Australia’s offers of assistance for the joint relief program. It is not clear what an Australian parliamentary delegation could achieve in visiting East Timor. The
Government’s first priority is to alleviate suffering in East Timor. Already two major international relief efforts- those of the IRC and the ICRC and of Catholic services- are under way in East Timor and the Government is concerned that they should continue to operate effectively and with the full support of governments such as that of Australia.
Against that background, at this moment the important thing is to give priority to the delivery of the food and medical supplies, to give priority to the independent operation of those relief agencies. A very understandable interest in and a desire to observe what is happening in Timor is held by Australian members of parliament, particularly Senator Kilgariff. But at this moment, the real priority is to bring relief to the people concerned. We have provided in a monetary form more relief than, I think, has been provided by all the rest of the contributing countries put together and we will continue to do so. I will refer the substance of Senator Kilgariff ‘s question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
-Can the AttorneyGeneral confirm that no officer of the Crown Solicitor’s Office or the Deputy Crown Solicitor’s Office was engaged in any discussion at any time in relation to the payment of a reward for the contribution to be made by an informer in the social security court case?
-I can only repeat what I have already said. Officers of my Department were present at a meeting with other departmental officers in, I think, August; anyway, it was in the period referred to.
– August 1977. That is what you said earlier.
– It was 1977. Thank you, Senator. The officers were present at a meeting at which there was discussion about the investigation and the fact that there was an informant. The informant was unnamed. There were questions about the way the matter should be handled including the informant’s request for payment of a reward. That is the only record that we can ascertain. Although there is no record of any further meetings there is some further information in the departmental records as to the following up of that particular meeting. There was no indication of the name of the person. The officers were never involved in any negotiations or discussions with the particular informant at any stage. There was no knowledge on the part of anybody in my Department or the counsel who were briefed in the case as to the identity of the person concerned.
-I refer the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to a recent Press release over his name where he announced that a Mr Rowland Q.C. is to head an inquiry into the matter of Aboriginal lands in the Northern Territory. Is the Minister satisfied that the terms of reference are sufficiently wide to allow Mr Rowland to investigate and report on all matters relating to Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory? Because of the flow-on effect into the States of Commonwealth land rights legislation, will Mr Rowland be empowered to take evidence from State governments?
– The honourable senator asked me whether I am satisfied that the terms of reference are sufficiently wide to enable Mr Rowland to report on all matters. The answer to that question is no. I have not asked Mr Rowland to report on all matters but rather to report on specific practical difficulties which have been drawn to my attention or allegations about practical difficulties with respect to the land rights legislation which have been drawn to my attention. It is certainly not my wish for Mr Rowland or anybody else to set off and, for example, to undertake another Woodward Aboriginal Land Rights Commission kind of report. The Commonwealth Government is quite satisfied with respect to the broad principles of the Woodward report which was accepted by the then Opposition parties shortly after the release of the report and enacted into legislation in 1976. Mr Rowland has not been retained to examine questions of basic principle.
By way of example, mining companies have represented that it is not possible to explore for minerals on Aboriginal land because the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act does not permit an agreement to be made before a mining lease has been issued. That sort of practical problem is the sort of thing which can arise with new legislation for which there has been no precedent in Australia. I am anxious that if there are practical difficulties of that sort they should be removed. I think all honourable senators would share that view. I think there is broad bipartisan support in this chamber for the land rights legislation. I am sure that all honourable senators wish that the legislation should work as smoothly and effectively as possible. It is important in terms of the relations between the nonAboriginal and Aboriginal communities in the
Northern Territory that that should be so. The aim in appointing Mr Rowland is simply to remove any sharp edges which might exist in terms of the practicalities of the thing and not to examine the principles.
There was a further point in the honourable senator’s question. I had not thought that the States would have any particular interest in this matter, but if State governments had views on the practical operation I would be very happy to receive them and to have them examined along with all the other views I have received.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. In his Press release on 13 November the Minister for Trade and Resources said:
Further discussions with the Northern Territory are being arranged to progress a range of matters in relation to the Jabiru township and Kakadu National Park.
Will the Minister indicate what these matters are and also let the Senate know whether the Northern Land Council will be a party to the discussions?
– I will refer that question to the Minister concerned and seek an early answer from him.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Transport say when the report regarding the manning of Maatsuyker Island light station is expected by the Minister for Transport?
– I am not aware of when the report is to be received. However, I have some advice from the Minister for Transport on the subject. It is that some time ago the Premier of Tasmania indicated that he would send the Commonwealth a submission concerning the Island and that the Commonwealth would take it into consideration. The present program provides for the unmanning of Maatsuyker Island light station within 18 months. The reasoning behind this is that the Commonwealth Government has an obligation to run as effectively and as economically as possible marine navigational aids, which are 100 per cent funded by the commercial shipping industry. The unmanning of that light station will bring about a saving of at least $50,000 a year and will in no way decrease the efficiency of navigational aid to shipping. That is the whole basis of the Commonwealth’s approach to this matter. At the moment the impost placed on ship owners is heavy and this is one way of lightening it in pan. Senator Rae, who is concerned about this matter, also raised it with me some time ago. It is still receiving the consideration of the Government.
– I ask the Minister for Science and the Environment whether the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s Division of Radiophysics has the necessary equipment and qualified personnel to carry out a program of search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. If the answer is yes, does the Government intend giving support to such a program?
– A very similar question was asked previously in the Senate. The situation is that a number of radiophysicists in Australia are interested in this subject. One or two of them have indicated that the resources of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation should be directed to a study of extra-terrestrial intelligence. I have asked CSIRO to examine the matter and I am advised that the facility at Parkes would be capable of adding basically to research in this area. However, the priorities of the Organisation are such that this project is not seen as one to which it should direct its attention at an early stage. I understand that one or two scientists at Parkes are doing some work in this field with the facility that is available there.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the Government is aware of reports that the Premier of Western Australia, Sir Charles Court, is seeking the return of the Monte Bello Islands to Western Australian control. Can the Minister tell the Senate something of the Commonwealth Government’s intentions in the matter?
– I am aware of Press reports which speculate on what the attitude of the Western Australian Government might be. I can tell the honourable senator that recently the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council completed a report on a radioactive waste management program for the Monte Bello Islands. It was tabled in the Parliament recently and included recommendations on the future management of the islands. The radioactive waste management program that has been undertaken at Monte Bello in order to make the islands as safe as possible has included the erection in the vicinity of the test sites of warning signs in English and eight other languages, the construction of concrete pyramids on the two on-shore test sites and the removal of radioactive debris from the area. On 22 June this year the Prime Minister wrote to Sir Charles Court inviting him to nominate an official with whom the Commonwealth could liaise on the future management of the Monte Bello Islands. I look forward to continuing co-operation between the Commonwealth and the Western Australian Government on this matter. Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.
– I raise a point of order Mr President. In view of the fact that Question Time has been shortened by the lengthy statement of the Minister for Social Security, would it not be appropriate to allow Question Time to proceed for another 15 minutes to enable honourable senators who have not had the opportunity to ask a question to do so?
– There is no Standing Order involved. The Leader of the Government in the Senate has the right at any time to ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.
– After Question Time yesterday, Senator McLaren asked me to consider what he claimed to be the imbalance in the broadcast of Senate Question Time on Tuesday. I have obtained details of Question Time on Tuesday and they reveal that, insofar as the allocation of questions was concerned, there was a balance between questions asked from the Government side of the chamber and those asked from the Opposition side. Eighteen questions were asked by Government senators and 1 8 by Opposition senators, the latter including a question that was asked by Senator Mason. In the editing of questions for the broadcast, unanswered questions are deleted and extraneous matters such as points of order are not included. Questions asked towards the end of Question Time are usually not broadcast because of the time limit of the broadcast. The actual time taken in the broadcast of questions from each side of the chamber depends upon the relative length of the questions and answers themselves and upon which questions are put on notice, referred to Ministers in the House of Representatives or otherwise deferred for future reply.
The figures for Tuesday reveal that more broadcast time was taken by questions from the Government side of the chamber. This was mainly because more questions from the Opposition side than from the Government side were put on notice or deferred for future reply, and questions and answers from the Government side were somewhat longer than questions and answers from the Opposition side. It is clear that if there was any imbalance of time in the broadcast it was not due to the editing, but arose from the pattern of questions and answers. Senator McLaren has since indicated to me that he did not intend to make any reflection upon the editing of the questions for broadcast, and I accept his assurance.
I would also like to stress that Tuesday’s broadcast may not have been typical. In order to ascertain whether there is any imbalance in the broadcast time between questions asked from the Government side and questions asked from the Opposition side, the responsible Senate Officers will keep detailed statistics relating to this matter during the remaining days of this period of sitting. If the statistics do reveal any imbalance, I will give consideration to what action may be taken in relation to it. It would be wrong, however, to take action merely on the basis of one day’s statistics, which may be entirely unrepresentative.
– I seek leave to make a short statement.
Leave not granted.
– Pursuant to section 12 of the Immigration Education Act 1971, I present a report entitled ‘Child Migrant Education 1978-79’.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report for the 1977-78 biennium of the Australian National Commission for UNESCO. I seek leave to make a statement relating to that report and to incorporate that statement in Hansard.
Leave not granted.
-I table the statement.
Senator CARRICK (New South Wales-
Minister for Education)- Pursuant to sub-section 19(1) of the Ombudsman Act 1976, I present the annual report of the Commonwealth Ombudsman 1979.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the Foreign Investment Review Board report 1979.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Treasury 1978-79.
– Pursuant to section 25 of the Australia- Japan Foundation Act 1976, I present the annual report of the Australia-Japan Foundation 1978-79.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the 1977-78 annual review of Australia’s Development Assistance Programs.
– I seek leave to move a motion.
Leave not granted.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the Defence Report 1979.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the unclassified version of the report of the Protective Security Review, together with the text of a statement by the Deputy Prime Minister relating to the report.
– I seek leave to move a motion.
Leave not granted.
– I raise a point of order. I appeal to the Government to give Senator
McLaren five minutes in which to make a statement. Thursday is a bad day in the Senate. In the interests of co-operation in the House, surely common sense would demand that Senator McLaren is given five minutes in which to make a statement. I appeal to the Government.
– The business will proceed. I call the Attorney-General.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present a report by the Law Reform Commission entitled ‘Privacy and the Census’.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the International Labour Organisation Instruments, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Industrial Relations relating to the report.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Australian Safeguards Office 1 978-79.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the interim report of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1 979.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 9 of the Coal Research Assistance Act 1977,I present the annual report of the National Energy Research Development and Demonstration Council 1978-79.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report entitled ‘Rehabilitation in Health Services 1 979 ‘.
– Pursuant to section 50B of the Defence Service Homes Act 1918, I present the annual report of the Defence Service Homes Corporation 1977-78.
– I seek leave to move a motion in relation to that report.
Leave not granted.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the sixth report by the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council. I table a statement in relation to that report.
- Mr President, is the Minister proposing just to table the report and deny the Senate the opportunity of debating it?
– The honourable senator can seek leave to make a statement when the report is announced.
– I am tabling the statement.
– Pursuant to section 90 of the Wool Industry Act 1972 I present the final annual report of the Australian Wool Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1 979. An interim annual report for the year was tabled on 12 September 1979, with unaudited financial statements. The final report is similar in text but contains audited financial statements and the Auditor-General ‘s report.
– Pursuant to section 17 of the Consumer Ordinance 1973, I present the annual report of the Consumer Affairs Council and the Consumer Affairs Bureau for 1978-79.
– Pursuant to section 39 of the Housing Loans Insurance Act 1965, 1 present the annual report of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation for 1 979.
– by leave- I move:
I wish to comment briefly on this matter. The report of the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council on radioactive waste management is not yet available to honourable senators but, according to the account of the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster), it is a moderate statement. The Australian Democrats are delighted with that. We do not approve of the extremist view which is so often put in the Senate and elsewhere that there is no problem at all with nuclear waste. 1 find that people with that view normally have not done their homework. If we look at the Minister’s statement we will see, however, that some points need to be made. Paragraph 5 reads:
The AIRAC report has emphasised that technology exists for short term storage of spent fuel, and low, intermediate and high level wastes.
I make the point that the report refers to short term storage. A matter that has to be got into the consciousness of the public and the government of this country is that there really have not been any solutions for long term storage. It is a fact that in Washington State there are wastes which are the result of the United States atomic bomb program and which have been in short term storage for 30 years or more. As yet no definite program has been devised to cope with that situation. I repeat that the Minister’s account of this report is notable not only for what it says but also for what it does not say. The Minister said:
The report notes that a number of approaches for permanent management of high-level waste and spent fuel are under development or have been proposed. Solidification of reprocessing wastes has been developed to an industrial scale and is in use at pilot plants . . . Recent world wide studies suggest that there are a number of geological environments with the capability of safe isolation for all types of radioactive waste.
Again the Australian Democrats applaud the moderation of this view. Paragraph 8 of the Minister’s statement also confirms that when it says: the Government recognises that validation of some of the technical principles involved in nuclear waste disposal in geological repositories will have to await construction and operation of such facilities.
The Minister is referring there to permanent facilities which will be the result of experiment and development. The report does not, however, debate the great dangers and possible financial advantages of fuel-rod reprocessing or the enrichment of uranium in Australia. Both would present Australia with an immediate and permanent necessity for a waste disposal program. The Australian Democrats suggest that these matters have to be resolved in one way or another before we go into this sort of dangerous technology. The problem of security over waste is a massive problem which must go on for centuries.
This report does not discuss that. Once one has committed oneself anywhere in the world to having nuclear waste in storage one also has a security problem because of the risk of criticality and subsequent atomic explosion of plutonium stored as waste or as a result of deliberate action by states or criminal individuals.
I would like to point out through you, Mr President, to honourable senators that there is a very wide range of opinion that an atomic explosion did occur in northern Russia which has been kept secret and which was a result of a small amount of plutonium stored in trenches coming together accidentally and reaching a critical stage. The Australian Democrats view on nuclear energy is well enough known. I would like to stress that at the moment the problem is the improper use of plutonium which is after all, whichever way one looks at it, the result of waste, storage and disposal. It does not matter whether it is reprocessed or stored. Whether it is short term or long term storage there is the problem of disposing of plutonium and other transuranic residues of nuclear fuel.
Finally, the Australian Democrats look forward to reading this report in detail. We hope that AIRAC will take the matters I have raised on board on a continuing basis so that it can provide the Parliament and the Australian public in the years to come with a balanced, safe and prudent point of view. I might say in relation to an answer by the Minister earlier that it is to be hoped the Minister will ask AIRAC to get a balanced point of view on Dr Roy’s controversial alleged method which he claims will neutralise atomic waste.
– I think the Government has to concede that there is genuine concern in the Australian community about the problems of radioactive waste management and that, in fact, on all occasions when this matter has been checked by the pollsters a degree of concern and apprehension has been shown as to the actions the Government will take in protecting not only the present environment but also the future environment. Unfortunately, the history of waste management policy as far as this Government is concerned has been one of great deception of the Australian people. This report continues that deception which has been perpetrated not only by the Government but also by business, particularly the mining sector and sections of the Australian mass media. We believe that the report by the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council is biased and wrong. Consequently we will be studying this report in great detail.
Let us look at some of the comments in the statement made by the Minister that has been tabled. It is brief, but I concede that he has to table a summary of what has been said in the report. It does say that the technology for the short term storage of waste exists. Yet we have the situation in plants throughout the world, from Windscale right across to Japan, that leaks have occurred and drums of waste have been dumped off-shore. Much of that waste is simply buried. There is evidence that houses are built on top of it because of the failure of the Government to recognise its social responsibilities. At the same time we have to recognise the huge and growing size of the problem which means the needs of communities will increasingly conflict with a safe community.
In regard to permanent management, which has already been referred to, the report is dangerously wrong. The strategy for dealing with long term wastes was presented in the report and still requires those wastes to be reprocessed; that needs to be stressed to the Government. The alternative proposed by the Ford Foundation report, one of those so-called expert bodies referred to in the report, is to encapsulate and bury spent fuel rods. Even that suggestion has been rejected by the nuclear industry as being inadequate. There are now commercially viable reprocessing plants throughout the world. As Senator Mason said, the only one that we know of in the Soviet Union is reported to have blown up in the early 1960s. Of course, more recently the United States Government suspended reprocessing at its plants due to safety and other problems. So, it is not good enough for the Government to take the rather simplistic view that I believe it still accepts in presenting this report. It should be pointed out that Professor Ringwood of the Australian National University, in proposing his synroc strategy, has argued:
The important point about disposal of radwaste in glass, and specifically the emplacement of glass in salt formations, is that we are dealing with a situation which is not readily predictable in the long term on the basis of existing scientific principles and practices.
In summarising his proposal, Professor Ringwood states:
The currently favoured technology of incorporating wastes in borosilicate glass, followed by deep burial in geological formations is shown to be suspect because the glass is very likely to devitrify, thereby greatly increasing the solubility of radioactive waste elements in ground water.
Surely these are matters of considerable concern to the Government; certainly they are of considerable concern to the Parliament and to the Australian community. France, which claims to be advanced in its nuclear technology, has not yet identified a site for the disposal of vitrified waste. In fact, in response to a question placed on notice by the honourable member for Reid, Mr Tom Uren, about what measures the French had taken to dispose finally of vitrified wastes, the best answer that the Minister for National Development, Mr Kevin Newman, could give was:
Preliminary investigations into the suitability of salt and granite formations in France for ultimate disposal of solidified high level waste have commenced.
All the Minister was able to say was that preliminary inquiries had commenced. The report itself recognises how unpredictable the process of waste disposal is. On the last page of the report it is stated that we will have to wait until the sites are built before we can know if it will work. So, there is a great deal of uncertainty. In discussing the solution proposed by this report, the Californian Energy Commission stated that the work was: . . constrained by a certain lack of fundamental scientific knowledge in the application of the earth sciences to the problem. As a result, current plans and engineering regimes require a departure from the scientific method and substitute engineering hypothesis and belief for scientific understanding. This engineering approximation requires scientific validation.
The nuclear waste problem is not restricted to the management of high level wastes derived from spent fuel. The decommissioning and disposal of spent nuclear reactors is, in itself, a complex and unsolved problem which is not dealt with by the so-called new developments in Sweden and France. In its April 1978 report on nuclear power costs, the United States Congressional Committee on Government Operations concluded:
After 30 years of nuclear power development, technology to dismantle a large commercial reactor has not yet been demonstrated and the costs of dismantling such a reactor are still unknown.
Finally, it should be noted that the report deals almost exclusively with technical issues and therefore it is very difficult for the layman and for members of the Parliament to understand completely what the scientists have in mind. Nevertheless, sufficient evidence is available to us to show that there is a wide body of opinion amongst the scientific world in regard to the safety aspects of the disposal of radioactive waste. It is clearly the case that if one generation can bury nuclear waste, another generation can knowingly or unknowingly disturb the same waste. In this respect all the proposed methods of nuclear waste disposal commit society to some degree of surveillance in perpetuity. The question of who accepts the social responsibility for what the scientists may finally decide is not even raised in the summary of the report put down by Senator Webster. This requirement carries political, social and moral implications which cannot be ignored. It is also the case that nuclear programs are in progress and that these entail large amounts of deadly waste being in circulation, requiring a high degree of surveillance to guard against human fallibility and mal-intent. This in itself, I submit, requires a measure of social control which can only erode civil liberties and hard-won industrial rights and which obviously threatens the environment if governments do not see their responsibility to adopt a policy and a process which protect not only the present environment but also the environment in the thousands of years that lie ahead. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
– I move:
I wonder whether in this instance I could seek, with the approval of honourable senators opposite, to have the tabled statement in relation to the very important matter of the management of radioactive waste incorporated in Hansard, if that is possible.
Leave not granted.
– The honourable senator has denied his people the opportunity of reading it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Pursuant to section 29 (4) of the Dairy Produce Act 1974, I present the annual report of the Australian Dairy Corporation for 1979.
– by leave- I move:
I have not yet had a chance to look at the report but I want to comment on one of the things in it. I refer to the subsidiaries of the Australian Dairy Corporation. During the hearings of Estimates Committee D on 21 September I was told, in reply to a question, that an Auditor-General’s report on matters concerning the administration of Asia Dairy Industries Limited, a subsidiary of the Corporation, had been sent to the then Minister for Primary Industry a day or two previously. That was confirmed by the AuditorGeneral’s report which was tabled here last Tuesday and which stated that the AuditorGeneral’s report on Asia Dairy Industries was sent to the then Minister on 1 7 September.
On 16 October this year the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) was asked in the House of Representatives whether he had noted that the Committee had been told that the report had gone to his predecessor at about that stage, whether he had had an opportunity to consider the report and, if so, what action he had taken. Mr Nixon’s reply, which I quote in full, was:
There has been a preliminary report to me on this matter. I am waiting for further advice and until that advice comes I am not in a position to make any comment.
The Auditor-General’s supplementary report, which was tabled on Tuesday, also disclosed that further inquiries were initiated by the AuditorGeneral on 19 September, that is, two days after the earlier report on Asia Dairy Industries had been submitted to the then Minister. The present Minister, Mr Nixon, was asked again today, in the House of Representatives, when he intended to table the first report- the one received on 17 September- and whether he had yet received the report of the further investigation initiated by the Auditor-General on 19 September. Mr Nixon’s answer was even less informative than his previous answer to a similar question. He was, to say the least, evasive. In doing that I suggest that, firstly, he is showing some contempt for Parliament, which seems to be a fairly common practice by Ministers of the Government these days.
– I raise a point of order. Did Senator Walsh say that Mr Nixon seemed to be showing contempt of Parliament?
– For Parliament.
– Is that in accordance with the Standing Orders? If not, can it be withdrawn?
– I was engrossed at the time that the point of order was taken. That term is not parliamentary.
– I withdraw, Mr President. It is very clear that Mr Nixon has now had more than a month to consider at least the first report of the Auditor-General. We do not know, because he will not tell us, whether he has received the second report. He has had more than a month to consider the first report and he refuses to answer questions in the House as to when he will table the report or to give any intention of whether he ever intends to table it. That is quite unsatisfactory. I submit that, investigations having been initiated by the Auditor-General, the Parliament is entitled to know the outcome of those investigations. I do not propose to add to the speculation about the possible contents of those reports. I just note that the Minister’s answers have been so uninformative that they can be classed only as evasive. Unless he changes his attitude on this matter one can only come to the conclusion that he intends to collaborate in suppressing from the Parliament the results of investigations initiated by the Auditor-General. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Supervising Scientist. In lieu of seeking leave to make a statement, I table a statement relating to that report.
– by leave- I move:
The first point which I think needs to be stressed is that on the first page of the statement that has been tabled reference is made to the three-year term of the Supervising Scientist. Those of us who have made several visits to the Northern Territory have certainly been impressed with the
Supervising Scientist’s capability and accessibility, amongst his other virtues. We know that the three-year term will end on 8 June 1982. Because of the fact that three major uranium mining projects are in operation, it is reasonable to assume, with all the welter of research which is being conducted, that that would be the time when crucial decisions may have to be made. Obviously when the second Fox report came out there were reservations about the ability of the Alligator Rivers system to sustain three major mining ventures. Although the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment has made several visits to the region and has seen certain revised techniques which may reduce the environmental strains on the Alligator Rivers system, I do not want to see in 1982 a virtual changing of the guard with a new Supervising Scientist because in the tooling-up period of acquiring a certain awareness there could be breaches of environmental codes. In that regard I would like to believe that there could be a longer tenure of office for the Supervising Scientist, otherwise we could have difficulties. If this report had been tabled 48 hours earlier it could have been perused by a number of honourable senators who are aware that the Supervising Scientist is the virtual environmental custodian of the Northern Territory. That is why it is such a vital assignment.
The second point, which I think is equally important, is that we would like to see as soon as possible an end to the parallel laboratory facilities of the Supervising Scientist and of the scientists attached to the various mining companies. Nobody is casting any aspersions on the diligence or integrity of the companies. But we know that decisions will have to be made when their evaluations are assessed by comparing them with the views and evaluations of the Supervising Scientist. I notice that in the statement the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) states:
This work is being carried out in a temporary laboratory set up in the Jabiru construction camp.
I would like to believe that that will be given maximum priority and that, if anything, the Supervising Scientist will have facilities of a quality which surpasses the facilities of the mining companies. I do not think that there is any need for me to go into the matter of decisionmaking the chain of command up to the responsible Minister and, in some cases, to Cabinet and even beyond that. Inevitably, there will be scientific disputation between the Northern Territory authorities and the Australian Government. I conclude on this note: The matter simply boils down to a need to ensure, firstly, that the Supervising Scientist is provided with the opportunity to serve for a longer term so that he can get well on top of things and, secondly, that the provision of his laboratory and kindred facilities is expedited so that he can match research carried out by the mining companies in the next three to five years and beyond. I seek leave to continue my remarks later, Mr President.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– (Western Australia Minister for Aboriginal Affairs)- For the information of honourable senators, I present the annual report of Aboriginal Hostels Ltd 1978-79.
– (Western AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs)- Pursuant to section 30 of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Act 1964, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies 1978-79.
– (Western AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs)- For the information of honourable senators, I present the annual report of the Australian Shippers Council 1979.
– (Western AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs)- For the information of honourable senators, I present the financial statements of the Australian National Railways Commission 1977-78.
– (Western AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs)- Pursuant to section 78 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1 942, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission 1 978-79.
-On behalf of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare, I present a report on annual reports referred to the Committee, together with the official Hansard transcript of evidence taken.
Ordered that the report be printed.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement in relation to the report.
Leave not granted.
-Mr President, I seek leave to give notice of a motion arising from the report.
Leave not granted.
– I present the second report of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations on its inquiry into statutory authorities of the Commonwealth. I move:
This is the second report by the Committee under its responsibility for the parliamentary oversight of Commonwealth statutory authorities and similar bodies. This continues the series of reports which we intend to present to the Senate on the subject. The main objects of this second report are to present the results of our survey of authorities’ financial activities and to elaborate on our suggested annual reports Act to standardise the accountability of authorities.
As honourable senators will recall from our first report, in view of the notable dearth of information on authorities’ activities which was publicly available, we sent to authorities a questionnaire on their financial activities. The results have now been aggregated and analysed in this report. I will not go into the details of the survey results; rather I will choose a few sample statistics to indicate the scope of the economic impact of authorities. Authorities employed over 265,000 people in 1978, whereas departments employed only 119,000; their capital expenditure was over $ 1.6 billion; the total value of their land and buildings was over $2.2 billion; their total investments were over $6 billion. As these few statistics and the details of our report show, the economic impact of authorities is vast and has been considerably underrated.
Our first report contained the first complete list of authorities. Our second report updates that list and takes the process a step further by categorising the authorities according to the functions which they perform. The Committee aims to establish standard and uniform accountability requirements for authorities and consistent criteria governing their creation and operating independence. We therefore recommended that statutorily defined standards of accountability should apply to each of the different functional categories of authorities.
Our first report suggested the enactment of an annual reports Act to standardise the annual reporting and accountability requirements for authorities. Our idea was that, rather than amend the individual enabling Acts of authorities, Parliament should pass a new Act which would apply to all authorities generally. As honourable senators will be aware, at the moment a very unsatisfactory situation exists in relation to the accountability of authorities to the Parliament. There is a wide variation in their reporting requirements. Even when a reporting requirement is statutorily adequate it is often not complied with in practice. Our second report further discusses the contents of our proposed annual reports Act, including the standardisation of reportin g requirements.
Perhaps the most important subject covered by authorities’ reports from a parliamentary viewpoint is their financial activities. Our report discusses this issue in some depth. There is considerable variety in the financial policy of authorities. For example, some authorities are required to pursue a financial policy directed towards making a certain profit. Often those profits are measured as a percentage of the authority’s capital. Yet some authorities receive large loans as a result of the Commonwealth-backed guarantees to which they have access. Those loans may not be taken into account when assessing the level of profit required from authorities.
Borrowings by authorities are also significant. Under the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ of the Australian Loan Council, only authorities which borrow more than $ 1.2 m in the financial year are subject to the full scrutiny of the Council. Moreover, some authorities are given permission to go out into the market place and borrow funds. The possible effects on the short term money market, interest rates and the money supply are clear.
Another significant aspect of the financial behaviour of authorities is the amount of depreciation which they are able to charge. The more depreciation they are able to charge, the more they are able to finance their activities from their own resources. When the large surpluses enjoyed by some authorities are added to those provisions for depreciation it can be seen that those authorities are virtually separate economic entities with the financial ability to operate independently of outside resources and parliamentary appropriation.
The basic recommendation of our second report is the enactment of an annual reports Act along the lines indicated by both this report and our first report. The Committee firmly believes that the standardisation of accountability and reporting requirements which such an Act would produce is highly desirable and would ensure that Parliament was adequately informed on authorities’ activities. I reiterate that unless the Parliament ensures the accountability of authorities they are in effect responsible to no-one; neither to the Executive Government from which they have often been given a degree of independence nor, of course, to the taxpayers, who are their real owners.
I also take this opportunity to inform the
Senate that the Committee’s third report on the subject is well in hand and we hope to present it in the very near future. That report is based upon a series of case studies of annual reports which have been late in their presentation to the Parliament. Our investigations have uncovered many examples of unacceptable accountability practices. The third report will take considerably further our detailed recommendations for the contents of an annual reports Act. I commend the report to the Senate.
– I commend Senator Rae on the report which he has just presented. The report refers to depreciation charges providing finance to service future asset acquisitions, or wording to that effect. From an accounting point of view, to avoid the report’s losing any of its credibility, could that matter be reviewed before the report is printed?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) I seek leave to make a statement concerning the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on parliamentary scrutiny of rules of court.
Leave not granted.
-I table the statement. I move:
– Is the motion concerning the incorporation of the statement?
– No. The document has been tabled.
– I desire to make a statement, but if the Minister’s statement is not to appear in Hansard perhaps at this stage there is no point in my doing so.
– The document has been tabled.
– I seek leave to make a statement in respect of the report referred to by the Attorney-General.
-Is leave granted?
– I seek leave to make it perfectly clear that the Opposition is saying that we should give them leave on everything and we have -
– I take a point of order.
– I know of the point of order without its being raised.
– I raise a point of order.
– Leave has not been sought by Senator Carrick. Is leave granted for the Leader of the Government to make a statement.
Leave not granted.
– My point of order is that Senator Evans was on his feet and was seeking to speak when the Minister quite wrongly took his position at the table and started speaking. He was totally out of order and I think you, Mr President, should rule that way.
– If I may speak on the point of order -
– I have ruled on the point of order.
– As to whether’ Senator Evans should be entitled to speak.
– There was no point of order.
– I take it that I have been denied leave.
– Yes, Senator Evans has been denied leave.
– I had sought leave to discuss the matter before any kind of decisions was made by the Government. Senator Evans can understand that no decision other than denial of leave can be made because the Opposition has refused me leave to speak.
– I raise a point of order. The Leader of the Government sought leave and he was refused leave. He is now continuing to debate the matter of leave not being granted.
– Leave was not granted. There can be no further debate.
– I have another statement to make.
– I seek leave to move a motion in respect of the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on the parliamentary scrutiny of the rules of court.
– That matter was disposed of.
– I sought leave before simply to make a statement in respect of that report. I now seek leave to move a motion in respect of that report.
– I move:
I preface my remarks in speaking to that motion by saying that it is not the wish of the Opposition in any way to delay, hinder, interrupt or obstruct the conduct of Senate business or the proper consideration of statements brought forward by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), or of legislation or anything else. To the extent that the Opposition is proving difficult in regard to the granting of leave, the reasons should be obvious to all concerned from the course of events this morning. I can assure the Senate, and no doubt my colleagues would do likewise, that there would be no question of such difficulties being placed in the way of the orderly conduct of this chamber were the Government to change its attitude and allow my colleague, Senator McLaren, just a couple of minutes to make a statement which, in fairness and good sense, he should have been allowed to make earlier this morning.
Let me come squarely to the terms of this motion to take note of the ministerial response. The ministerial response is, as with so many of the Attorney’s statements to this Parliament, a disappointing one. The Government has accepted only the most innocuous of the Standing Committee’s recommendations, that is, the recommendation that the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances be empowered through the parliamentary channels to forward recommendations to the judges about what rules of court should be. It has accepted that apparently innocuous statement but it has rejected the other major recommendations of the Committee. There were two such other major recommendations. Let me indicate very briefly what they were, why the Committee made them and why it is unfortunate that the Government has taken the attitude that it has.
The first substantial recommendation of the Committee was that rules of superior Commonwealth courts should, as a general rule, be made by a rules committee comprising judges of the particular court and representatives of the legal profession regularly practising in that court. The substance of the recommendation was, of course, to extend the rule-making power beyond the simple confines of the judiciary and to create committees in which the legal profession would be properly represented. The Government has rejected this recommendation- the Attorney’s statement says as much- on the grounds primarily that this would amount to undue interference by the Executive in the administration of justice.
I suggest rather that the real reason for this rejection is simply an undue deference by the Executive and by this Government to the undue sensitivities of the judiciary. The reality of the matter is that the interests of the judiciary in the conduct of court matters are not always coextensive with the interests of those who come before the courts as litigants and as those who represent litigants. A good, clear example of this is quoted in the Senate Committee’s report. I refer to the 1975 case of Queen v. Hass when the High Court of Australia ruled that it was not competent under the High Court’s own judicially created rules for a litigant to appear in person to seek special leave to appeal. That is an extraordinary decision in principle and a quite unwarranted decision but one that was founded on the judges’ desire not to have to suffer the imitation of appellants’ appearing before them without professional representation.
There are enormously significant ways in which rules of court can affect the rights of citizens. Although rules of court seem an exotic subject matter of no particular interest to the Parliament, to the Press or to the public, it is the case that procedural rules can greatly affect in a number of ways litigants and people who come before the courts. They can affect those who can bring claims to the extent that the rules of court go to things like standing and the possibility of representative actions. Rules of court can affect very significantly the chances of success that a litigant might have in an action to the extent that rules of court deal with matters like the discovery and the making available of evidence of one kind or another on which a litigant’s case may very substantially depend. Also, they have great implications for the costs that litigants may have to pay insofar as they deal with and determine, among other things, the number and complexity of the procedural steps that must be accomplished in the course of a particular piece of litigation.
For all of these reasons it is important that rules of court be made not just by the judges, sitting in their usual isolation from the real world but also that there should be a significant additional input to that process. The Committee’s recommendation was a fairly cautious one insofar as it suggested that the input be from the legal profession. Others may think it more appropriate to widen the input to include community representatives or something of that kind. It was a cautious recommendation. Nonetheless, it should have been one acceptable to the Government as being sound in principle and unlikely to cause any significant difficulties in practice. There are in State jurisdictions plenty of precedents for rules and committees of the kind suggested. It is just unfortunate and regrettable that the Government has not found it possible to accept that recommendation.
The other recommendation made by the Committee- again rejected out of hand by the Government- concerned the establishment of an Institute of Judicial Administration. The Committee recommended simply that the Government consider the establishing of such an institute to assist the judiciary in the administration of court systems and to provide information and advice to enable the judges to keep their rules of court practical, simple and up-to-date; or, alternatively, that funds be provided to assist the voluntary body of the same name which was established in 1978. The concept of an Institute of Judicial Administration was, as the report states, first mooted in 1 974 by Mr Justice Fox, in whose judgment the Government hitherto has demonstrated considerable confidence. The reasons it was mooted by Justice Fox are set out at length in the report, in which there is also reference to the precedents for such institutes of judicial administration in various overseas jurisdictions, notably the United States of America and Britain.
There has also been very strong support for the concept of such an institute from Mr Justice Blackburn in the Australian Capital Territory. Indeed, he was the prime mover in establishing in 1978 the voluntary body to which the report refers. The Attorney-General says that there is just no demonstrated need for such an institute. Moreover, the Attorney-General says- this seems to be the real nub of his objections- that the judges themselves expressed differing views. However, I point out that the reality is that the only significant voice in opposition to the concept of having an Institute of Judicial Administration to assist, among other thing, the rule-making process was, as usual as might have been expected, Sir Garfield Barwick, who is quoted in the report as having this to say:
I hold the vie w that a proper system of j judicial administration, set up by statute and administered by the judicial system itself, will keep the judicial machinery in good order much better than any voluntary body outside the judicial system.
Sir Garfield ‘s passion for preserving the powers, privileges and sanctity of the judiciary and the judicial process from any sullying by intrusion from the real world is well known. I suppose it has to be said that the deference that the Government shows here, as elsewhere, to the views of Sir Garfield is not surprising given the political and judicial services which that gentleman has rendered it in recent years; but it is becoming very tiresome for Sir Garfield’s view on this or anything else to be regarded by the Government, as so often it seems to be, as being the last word, as being law. It is tiresome when one considersthis is a point made by the Committee in its report- that the establishment of such an institute would be in the best interests of the conduct of court administration in this country and of the Australian public.
It is a matter for regret now, as it is so often, that when the Committee makes a reasoned consideration of a problem that has been drawn to its attention and produces reasoned conclusions of a moderate and practical kind for the solution thereof, the Government simply resists the implementation of those conclusions in the way in which the Attorney-General and the Government have done on this occasion.
– Unfortunately, one is compelled to speak to this motion in a most odd way. There is not before the chamber or in Hansard at the moment, the contents of the statement that we are discussing. As the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs which presented the report to which a response has now been made by the Government, it is my desire to say a few words about that response.
-Why don ‘t you incorporate it?
– That is exactly what I am seeking to do. I do that seriously as chairman of an all-party committee of this Senate which submitted the report.
– Speak to your Whip. You will not get leave.
– Let me assure Senator Cavanagh that I do not intend to be a hostage to him and be told, as the honourable senator tells me, that I must go to my Whip and resolve some complaint or problem. I speak as a senator and as a chairman of a committee. I expect the other members of my Committee to support me when I seek, as I now do, to have incorporated in Hansard the statement that the AttorneyGeneral has just tabled so that people may understand what it is that we are talking about.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– I will therefore, as part of my speech, read the statement, which I have before me.
– It should be recorded that Senator Cavanagh is the one who objected.
-I note that Senator Cavanagh is the one who objects. I certainly do not intend to take it lightly. As chairman of the Committee I will consider my position.
– Take the matter up with your own Whip rather than blame Senator Cavanagh.
-I will not take it to my own Whip. I will take it up in my own way. So that I can make suitable comment on the statement made this morning by the AttorneyGeneral in response to this useful report, I believe that I should read the statement. The Attorney-General says:
On 29 March 1979 the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs presented its report on Parliamentary scrutiny of rules of court.
The report contains the following three recommendations:
1 ) That rules of court of superior Commonwealth courts should, as a general rule, be made by a rules committee comprising judges of the particular court and representatives of the legal profession regularly practising in that court;
That the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances devise procedures to enable it to make recommendations to the Senate which, if agreed to by the Senate, would be conveyed to the appropriate Commonwealth court to enable it to consider the creation, amendment or substitution of the rules of that court; and
That the Government consider the establishment of an Institute of Judicial Administration to Assist the judiciary in the administration of court systems and to provide information and advice to enable the judges to keep their rules of court practical, simple and uptodate; alternatively that funds be provided to assist the voluntary body of the same name which was established in 1978.
As far as the first recommendation is concerned, the Government takes the view that, with a few exceptions such as those I will mention shortly, the power to make rules of court should continue to be vested in the judges. We would not therefore seek to amend the relevant legislation to vest the power in rule-making committees as proposed by the Senate Committee. Indeed, to do so might be seen as an undue interference by the Executive in the administration of the courts. Senator Missen mentioned this problem when he presented the report of the Senate Standing Committee in the Senate. But the principle of consultation with the profession is a good one and the Government accepts that there should be such consultation. The establishment in the Australian Capital Territory of a non-statutory advisory rules committee on which members of the practising legal profession are represented is a practical precedent which the Government will seek to have followed in other Commonwealth jurisdictions.
I should make it clear that, while stating this to be the general rule, in the Government’s view there are necessarily some exceptions, where matters of practice and procedure are properly enacted by the Parliament itself or made by the Governor-General. Three circumstances were recognized by the Senate Committee in its report where this approach was justified, namely, to achieve uniformity in the exercise of a particular federal jurisdiction, to provide as a matter of policy for informality in proceedings (as in Family Law proceedings) and where it is desired to set court fees on a particular basis is furtherance of a particular policy.
At present the Parliament has power to disallow rules of court. The second recommendation would not affect that power but would involve an additional element by broadening the criteria under which the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances operates to enable it to make recommendations for the amendment of rules of court which it has before it as a result of its present function and to recommend new rules to deal with matters not otherwise adequately covered. Recommendations of this kind, if agreed to by the Senate, would be conveyed to the appropriate court for its consideration.
If the Senate Standing Committe’s second proposal is acceptable to the Senate, the Government would have no objection to its implementation on the basis that it is clearly understood that the Courts will be quite free to accept or reject any recommendations made in this way. Subject to the ultimate sanction of disallowance possessed by the Parliament, it is the view of the Government that the judges should have the final say on what the rules of their courts should be.
The third recommendation relates to the establishment of an Institute of Judicial Administration or the provision of funds to assist a body of that name which was incorporated in the Australian Capital Territory in 1978. While bodies of this kind exist in the United States and the United Kingdom, the Government is not satisfied that there is any demonstrated present need for the establishment of a new body to deal with judicial administration in Australia. So far as the proposal seeks support for the existing Institute with funds, the Government notes that Institute has only recently been established and that its existence and objects are not, as yet, widely supported even by members of the judiciary. The judges themselves have expressed differing views to the Senate Committee on the nature and functions of any such body and on the need for its existence.
After considering all the circumstances the Government is of the view that judicial administration should be left within the judicial system and that to assist the existing Institute with public funds would not, at this stage, be justified.
As a short comment on that statement by the Attorney-General, as Chairman of the Committee might I say that I am somewhat disappointed as to the extent to which the Government has proceeded. It is, I think, a rather timid statement. I agree with most of what Senator Evans said with respect to these matters. As to the rules of court being made by a rules committee, we will see from the statement that the Government has agreed that it is a good idea to have consultation. It does accept the essential principle that the profession ought to have a say and it should not be left to judges alone to decide what the rules should be. They see it from one side of the fence, but there is more than one side. There are several sides of the fence in this case, and I think it is unfortunate that we will not have on the rules committees members of the profession who can make their contribution at that stage. However, the Government accepts consultation and the establishment in the Australian Capital Territory, for example, of a nonstatutory advisory rules committee and that this principle should be followed in other jurisdictions. It is what I might say is a rather timid acceptance of the principle. I regret that it does not go so far as the report recommends.
The second recommendation, which if I remember rightly was not mentioned by Senator Evans, is one in relation to suggestions which are made for rules and changes of rules of court. Of course it is a fact that we should not endeavour as a Parliament or as a House of the Parliament to try to change or to dictate to the judges their rules. I think that would be undesirable and certainly that was in no way intended by the recommendation which the Committee made. But at the same time it is welcome indeed that the Government accepts the fact that this Senate should, through the activities of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, endeavour to set out circumstances and the way in which such recommendations can be put forward by this House of the Parliament and can go before the judges. Of course they would have the final say as to whether they should deny, accept, or do something in a different way. To that extent I think the recommendation by the Government, or its decision, is helpful.
So far as the third recommendation is concerned, that is, the establishment of an institute of judicial administration, I must say that I am very disappointed with the response which the Government has made to that recommendation. We have suggested either the setting up of such an institute or that funds be provided for the existing private institute. But the decision of the Government is to accept neither of those alternatives but to wait and see what happens. I recognise that the private organisation that has been set up has been operating for a short time only, and therefore it may be impossible to know how successful it may be. But if it has no funds, one can make a fair guess that it will not get very far or develop very much useful work. If members of the Senate would have a look at the report and what we have said in this recommendation, they will see that there is nothing unique in Australia about having such an institute, that a number of them are operating very effectively in the United States and in England doing excellent work. Courts ought to be efficient. It is not sufficient to say that because judges are doing the major administration they are necessarily businessmen. In the Supreme Court in Victoria, for example, I think what is called a manager has been appointed. (Quorum formed). The Government’s statement does say that of course this private institute has been established only recently, and it does refer to the fact that there are differing views about it.
Senator Evans has referred to the view of the Chief Justice, Sir Garfield Barwick, that he does not favour support of the present private Institute of Judicial Administration, but he did go on to say, as quoted in the report:
I hold the view that a proper system of judicial administration, set up by statute and administered by the judicial system itself, will keep the judicial machinery in good order much better than any voluntary body outside the judicial system.
He is making a distinction between it being done under a properly instituted system and a private body. But there are other judges who have taken the view that in fact it ought to be done in some cases by the Australian Law Reform Commission, or be done by the private body that has been set up.
I think it is a pity that this matter is not taken further by the Government at this stage. We should not just wait until we see how the private body performs in this way, but we should recognise that it is an important area of government administration. It is not a matter on which we can expect judges to be any good on the plain administrative work which has to be done and which can ensure that courts do not have the problems which we have seen in some Federal courts of considerable delays, with all their effect on litigants, increased costs and so forth. I believe that this is a matter on which there must be more government intervention and it must come down in due course on the side of either setting up an institute which does this work or giving some funds to the private body. From that point of view I am certainly disappointed so far as the response to the third recommendation is concerned. As to the others, I think there is much to be said for the fact that the Government shows some initiative in those areas.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I seek leave to make a statement concerning the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on the Evidence (Australian Capital Territory) Bill 1972.
Leave not granted.
Motion (by Senator Peter Baume) agreed to:
That the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Social Welfare: Continuing scrutiny of relevant aspects of the Report of the Standing Committee on Social Welfare Through a Glass, Darkly, tabled in the Senate on 3 May and 1 1 September 1979.
Motion (by Senator Peter Baume on behalf of Senator Knight) agreed to:
That the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence: The IndoChinese refugee situation and Australia’s role in assisting the refugees, with particular reference to the Report of the Committee on Australia and the Refugee Problem, tabled in the Senate on 1 December 1976.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Monday, 19 November 1979, at half-past ten a.m.
That the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate have effect at eleven p.m. on that day.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Carrick)- by leaveagreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Bills being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of the Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
Leave not granted.
-I shall read them.
State Grants (Schools Assistance Bill) 1979
Similar legislation to this Bill has, in previous years, provided for specific purpose grants by the Commonwealth to the States in respect of government and non-government schools in the States. For 1980 this Bill includes, for the first time, grants in respect of government and nongovernment schools in the Northern Territory in addition to those in the States. Earlier this year the Schools Commission prepared two reports for the 1980 calendar year, one concerning schools in the States and the other concerning schools in the Northern Territory, which were tabled in Parliament on 30 August.
The Government accepted those recommendations of the Commission which responded to the guidelines for schools in the States, but agreed to a subsequent request from the New South Wales Government to transfer some $6m from its general capital to general recurrent allocations. However, the Schools Commission also included amongst its recommendations some concerning longer term funding arrangements which went beyond the guidelines for the next program year of 1980 with which this Bill deals. The Government will be considering these recommendations in the context of developing policy and financial guidelines for the Commission’s programs after 1980. In addition, the Government has decided that the Commission’s recommendations concerning school/work transition and youth policy will be looked at in the context of the Government’s ongoing consideration of possible initiatives in these areas. In reporting on the Northern Territory the Schools Commission recommended that additional loadings should be applied to take account of higher costs in the Territory. The Government has not included these loadings in the approved specific purpose grants since allowance had already been made for them in general purpose grants made to the Northern Territory.
In the Bill, provision is made for the continuation in 1980 of the same programs that have operated under the present legislation for both government and non-government schools. The general resources programs are for general recurrent grants, including short term emergency assistance for non-government schools catering for country children, and building and equipment grants. The specific purpose programs are for child migrant education, disadvantaged schools and students in disadvantaged country areas, special education for handicapped children including children living in institutions, services and development and special projects. There has been a broadening of the provision within the multicultural education program to provide for national level projects, to facilitate the program’s administration and to encourage schools to be more responsive to the multicultural needs of all children. The previous objective of fostering community language teaching will also be retained.
Provisions relating to the administration of the special projects program have now reverted to those existing for 1 978 and previous years. This follows requests from the Government of Western Australia that such a change should be made. In the Schedules to the Bill, Schedules 1 to 10 give details of allocations to individual programs for 1980 and are adjusted to June 1979 prices, except for the non-government schools general recurrent and migrant programs which include some allowance for estimated future cost increases. The estimated cost of the 1980 programs, as supplemented, is $68 lm. The grants for 1 980 will be further adjusted in subsequent legislation for cost movements to the end of 1979 and for increases in the salary and wage components of recurrent grants during 1980.
In relation to the 1979 programs in the States, schedule 1 1 in the Bill reflects cost adjustments for the salary and wage components of recurrent grants from December 1978 prices to June 1979 prices. In accordance with established practice, the non-government schools general recurrent program also includes final provision for cost increases to the end of 1 979. The additional cost of these adjustments is $ 1 5m. Amending legislation will be introduced during the autumn 1980 sittings of the Parliament to finalise the adjustment of 1979 grants.
State Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979
This Bill provides for grants amounting to $225.3m to the States for 1980 for the capital and equipment programs of universities and colleges of advanced education and for the recurrent and capital funding of technical and further education. In addition, the Bill provides for grants amounting to $6.4m to the Northern Territory, for 1980, for advanced education and TAFE recurrent purposes and for major building projects in relation to the provision of tertiary education. In order that the Northern Territory be funded under the same arrangements as apply in the States the Bill also provides $2. 8m for advanced education recurrent purposes in the Northern Territory for 1981. The States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Act 1978 provided grants to the States for universities, colleges of advanced education and TAFE institutions for 1979 as well as recurrent grants for universities and colleges of advanced education for 1980 and 1981.
The grants provided for in the Bill are consistent with those announced in the Senate on 16 October 1979. However, in accordance with established procedures, appropriate adjustments have been made for movements in costs to June 1979, both for the programs now approved and for programs covered under the existing legislation. The Bill puts into effect arrangements relating to the consideration of new teaching developments in universities and colleges of advanced education which have been agreed to by the Australian Education Council and endorsed by the Government. Under the present Act, the Tertiary Education Commission is required to approve, for funding purposes, all courses of advanced education; it has exercised control over major new developments in universities through its financial recommendations. The Bill introduces a new system under which universities and advanced education authorities, subject to State requirements for co-ordination, may introduce new courses of study which do not fall within classes declared by the Minister on the advice of the Tertiary Education Commission. It is intended that these classes will cover new developments of national significance involving major financial or educational implications or potential duplication among the three sectors. The Bill gives the Commission a discretion to disapprove, for funding purposes, courses involving new teaching developments of this kind. It also provides that notice of any disapprovals by the Commission should be tabled in the Parliament; this provision ensures that the operation of these sections is subject to public scrutiny.
The Bill provides a definition of courses of advanced education which is necessary in view of the new arrangements for teaching developments. The definition recognises the responsibilities of the States for the accreditation of these courses but provides that the courses be undertaken for awards of a kind determined by the Minister on the recommendation of the Tertiary Education Commission. It is intended that the kinds of awards determined by the Minister will be the categories currently recognised by the Australian Council on Awards in Advanced Education. Under the existing legislation, payments of advanced education building grants to the States, must be transmitted to the colleges concerned without undue delay, despite the fact that some projects may run ahead of schedule while others may fall behind. The Bill allows the States greater flexibility over the allocation of cash payments between projects according to their rates of progress.
- Mr President, I draw your attention to the state of the House.
– I shall suspend the sitting of the Senate until 2.15 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 p.m. to 2.15 p.m. (Quorum formed.)
– To complete the second reading speech on the States Grants (Teritary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 2), with the agreement of the States concerned the Bill provides recurrent assistance to partially funded non-government teachers colleges in respect of 1980 and 1981. These amounts were approved within the programs for advanced education for the 1979-81 triennium. Until now they have been provided by way of the Commonwealth’s annual appropriation Act. I commend both Bills to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wriedt) adjourned.
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 Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
Leave not granted.
– In the past the permanent works of the Snowy Mountains scheme for electricity generation and irrigation have been funded by advances from the Commonwealth, repayable over 70 years. The total amount invested in the scheme by the Commonwealth is now in excess of $ 820m. The Government is now of the view that, following completion of the scheme, funding by the Commonwealth by these means for certain assets required specifically for the operation and maintenance of the scheme is no longer warranted and that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority should finance such assets in accordance with normal commercial principles in a similar manner to most other authorities. This would also allow the Authority to depreciate such assets in accordance with accepted practice in the electricity supply industry.
Sub-section 25 (3) of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act empowers the Authority, with the consent of the Treasurer, to borrow money, but does not enable the Treasurer to guarantee such borrowings. Such guarantee provisions are an essential pre-requisite to obtain funds at interest rates prescribed by the Australian Loan Council for semi-government authorities. Therefore, in accordance with the Government’s view that guarantees of such borrowings ought to be given only upon the authority of Parliament, the principal provision of this Bill is to amend the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act to enable the Treasurer to guarantee borrowings by the Authority and to delineate the forms of such borrowings. The opportunity has also been taken to amend certain sections of the Act to reflect modern legislative practice and Government policy designed to standardise statutory authority legislation. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Walsh) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Webster)- by leaveagreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of all or several of the Bills being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of all or several such Bills together in Committee of the Whole, and as would prevent the reading of the short titles only on every Order for the reading of the Bills.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Webster) proposed:
That the Bills be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Walsh) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 24 May, on motion by Senator Chaney:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I apologise for the short delay, but the Opposition was incorrectly informed that this Bill was not being proceeded with. I think it is fair to say that we were entitled to draw that conclusion considering the fact that the Bill was first presented to the Senate in May of this year and has been on and off the agenda for a consistent period.
– We straightened it out only two minutes ago.
– Yes, we have just sorted it out. I was looking for the amendment that was brought into this House last week and taken out because the matter was not proceeded with as the Government rearranged its business. The purpose of the amendment is to ask the Senator to express the opinion that this legislation, which deals with Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory should also encompass land rights for the Aboriginals in the Australian Capital Territory. It might not be understood clearly by the Senate that there are Aboriginal land right claims operating in the southern part of the Australian Capital Territory. In fact, there are matters that require the consideration of the Government and the consideration of appropriate legislation. The amendment which I propose to move on behalf of the Opposition is in the following terms: . . but the Senate is of the opinion that the Government should as soon as possible extend by legislation the rights of Aborigines in the Northern Territory to Aborigines in the Australian Capital Territory.
We are somewhat at a loss to understand why there has been this long delay on land rights legislation, in the absence of information and in the absence of any endeavours by the Government and its Minister to explain to the Senate why it has taken six months for this matter to be proceeded with. The original second reading speech having been presented towards the latter end of the autumn session of Parliament, here we are virtually in the last week or so of this session without any explanation for the constant removal of the legislation from the business paper. I will be inviting the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) to make some comments as to the reasons for that delay. I am not able, in the absence of any inside information, to know whether my deductions are borne out, whether my own views or the views of my party are correct, that, in fact, there are some difficulties for the Government as it relates to the States’ inability to appreciate what the national Parliament is doing about the problems of Aboriginal affairs where they relate particularly to the relatively new issue of land rights.
I refer in this context to the statement that was issued on 13 November by the Minister himself which is titled ‘The Examination of Land Rights Legislation’. Mr Barry Rowland has been appointed and he will visit the Northern Territory later this month to conduct his examination of representations received by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the practical operation of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. That statement follows a public pronouncement by Senator Chaney on 24 October last regarding Mr Rowland’s appointment. There are some eight or nine issues which Mr Rowland is being asked to examine. I think it would be fair to comment that they arise as a result of representations that most probably have been brought to the attention of the Government as a result of either deputations or disagreements that might exist in respect of the land rights legislation, its operation and the reluctance of the present majority in the Northern Territory Government to accept the views of the national Parliament. One does not need to stress the point that in more recent times we have seen the Aboriginal people beginning to express, in a much more determined and consistent fashion, their views of land rights. We recognise that this has come 200 years after the white civilisation drove the Aboriginal people from their original holdings and concentrated them in particular areas in certain parts of our continent.
We are aware that there is a conflict here between the policies of the Parliament and the policy of the Government and there is reluctance on the part of the States, including the Northern Territory Government, to accept the overwhelming view of the Australian people. The Aborigines have been browbeaten and driven off their lands and have suffered greatly as a result of their many experiences with the development of civilization in the continent of Australia. However, they fought back and were given some recognition by the Australian community as to their plight and their growing consciousness as a group of indigenous people. After a long and arduous struggle the Aborigines have finally achieved control to a greater or lesser extent over the remaining lands. That is a matter of some contention by the various mining interests in Australia and has caused contention between some of the more reluctant State governments. I would hope that the Minister would give us some explanation for the delay and for his Press statement several days ago. From the Labor Party’s point of view we believe that we are probably witnessing something of a counter-attack by those forces in the Australian community who believe, when it comes to the question of development and rights of development on Aboriginal lands, that there has to be a recognition of the latter day claimants as against the original claimants. So there is a need for the Parliament to join forces with the Aborigines for the purpose of protecting their achievements in their struggle for the fundamental principles of land rights.
In Queensland we have witnessed numerous blatant exercises by self-interested groups and land grabs by aluminium companies which are ably assisted by a very oppressive and racist government which, when it comes to the question of whose rights have to be recognised, seems invariably to go against the Aborigines. We have witnessed similar difficulties in Western Australia and have also witnessed, unfortunately, the disenfranchisement of Aborigines and the systematic denial of their democratic rights. Sir Charles Court and his Government under the guise of trying to ensure that Aborigines are not open to manipulation have taken the step- I would hope a desperate and unsuccessful attempt- of trying to deny Aborigines their basic fundamental right of being enrolled and participating in parliamentary elections. This has already led to a number of attempts by that Government to try to place obstacles in the way of enrolment of Aborigines.
The Western Australian Minister for Health and Community Welfare, Mr Ridge, who holds the seat of Kimberley, has admitted in a Western Australian newspaper that the Liberal Party devised and executed a plan deliberately aimed at denying Aborigines in the Kimberleys an effective vote. The attitude Mr Ridge took is often expressed in some of the States of our Commonwealth. I am sure that this is part of the problem the national Parliament is having. He went on to say that he had to campaign amongst the Aborigines to the extent that he did. One can read into that an expression of racism, that he regarded it as a somewhat degrading experience. For a Minister of the Crown to find it degrading to mix with Aborigines who are, after all, his voters and constituents seems to me to be related to the problems we were discussing yesterday on the racial discrimination and human rights legislation. Mr Ridge is reported as saying:
I believe that we now have enough evidence to try and convince people of the necessity for amending the Electoral Act in relation to illiterate voters.
Mr Ridge concluded in a shameful display of a callous politicking with the claim that if changes to the Act were not made there could be 3,000 to 4,000 Aborigines on the roll by the next election, in which case, I quote him, the Liberal Party would be doomed to failure. One can see the political connotation of those sorts of statements. The Opposition notes the response of the Court Government and its attempts now to exclude these people by some simple expedience from the electoral process. That is not the understanding that the Opposition has of democracy. It is certainly democracy Court style and it is democracy which ought not be accepted in this country. The National Aboriginal Conference has strongly condemned the Court Government for its latest attack on the basic rights of blacks. The Chief Electoral officer in that State, Mr Foreman, has stated that he does not believe that there was any undue duplication of the names of nomadic or illiterate voters on electoral rolls. Nevertheless, the Court government is attempting to use the relative lack of English verbal ability possessed by Western Australian Aborigines to disenfranchise them. On 15 May this year an article in the Australian Financial Review stated:
The proposed amendments will at best create difficulties for Aborigines wishing to vote in State elections and at worst disenfranchise illiterate Aboriginals wishing to register a postal vote.
Nowadays, it is usual to describe the treatment of blacks by the Queensland and Western Australian governments as being somewhat paternalistic. The assumption is that although the laws may be discriminatory, their purpose is well intentioned. In respect of this piece of legislation one is entitled to wonder how well intentioned are the Government’s objectives. That sort of paternalistic approach is the approach of the apologist. The Opposition interprets it as being racist. It seems to me that we should never hesitate to say so. Even though we appreciate that it might not be competent for the Minister to make those sorts of statements, I think it is within our competence in this Parliament to point the finger where it really ought to be pointed- at those people who, in fact, have racist attitudes. There is no doubt about that in Queensland. Aborigines at Aurukun and Mornington Island have been denied self-determination.
The Bill before the Senate has a number of weaknesses. One is entitled to draw the conclusion, although I hesitate to do so, that the Bill has three principal purposes: To give the Government more control over land councils in the Northern Territory, both organisationally and financially; to make the actions of the councils accountable to the Government; and to take away more of the independence of the councils, especially the Northern Land Council. The legislation seeks to remove some of the independence of the Northern Land Council and to vest even more power in the hands of the Minister. The Opposition finds it particularly obnoxious that the amendments give the Commonwealth power to intervene and interfere- some might even say fiddle the books- so far as the Aboriginal benefits trust account is concerned. Those funds have been established for the benefit of the Aboriginal people and should be spent or distributed in consultation with them.
Clause 3 of the Bill allows the Minister to grant parts of a claim rather than having to grant the whole of the claim, as is the legal requirement at present. That means that the legislation has been weakened because, whereas hitherto the Council had more power, there has now been a variant imposed which gives greater power to the Minister and less power to the Council. It gives the Minister extra leeway in blocking the transfer of tribal lands to Aborigines. In some ways this can be described as a pleasantry, as the Minister already can manipulate the recommendations of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner. As the Opposition understands it, he has that power under the existing legislation. Therefore, one doubts the reasons for these changes which are being contemplated. Clause 6 provides for an annual report to the Minister by the Council. The Opposition suggests- I would have thought that the Parliament had determined this-that the Council is responsible to the Aborigines, not to the Minister or to the Government; it is responsible for protecting the interests of the Aborigines themselves. The legislation also provides for the appointment of someone to do this, at the Council’s cost. Previously, that person would have been appointed by the Commonwealth.
Clause 8 shows how the Government has retreated on the important issue of the independence of the Northern Land Council. Some of my colleagues would certainly express the view that it is a retreat because of the obstinancy of, and the difficulties placed in the way of the Government by, those whom the Government has to consult in the legislative processes. Of course, I refer to the Northern Territory Government. Clause 8 provides for the granting of Commonwealth money to non-Aborigines appearing before the Council- that is, the land owners who took the land in the first place and the mining companies which now want uninterrupted access if they feel there are assets there that ought to be exploited and if, in the considered opinion of the government of the day, it is considered to be in the national interest. The Opposition is concerned that the interpretation of national interest could well have an objective which would place the Aborigines in a somewhat different, discriminatory and disadvantaged position.
Finally, the Bill provides for the Minister to have control over the finances of the Land Council. If that is the case- that is the way the Opposition reads the legislation- it seems to be in line with the Government’s aim to prevent any possible impediment to the views that have been expressed openly in a publication by the Australian Mining Industry Council and in other magazines, which seems to indicate that they have set about to weaken the legislation and to vest more power in a development-minded Government to deprive Aborigines of the rights that were originally contemplated in the legislation. The Opposition expects that the Minister will give some reasons why he believes that there has to be a public inquiry- I suppose that is what one would say about the appointment of Mr Rowland- into the difficulties in connection with the conversion of land leases on land held by Aborigines. The Opposition would like some assurance from the Minister that when these sorts of conflicts of interest manifest themselves, the Government will back an objective look at the matter and recognise our commitment to Aborigines, not our commitment to multinational mining companies, many of which are foreign owned and have shown in a historical sense all over the world that they are interested in development for their short term purposes and that they have not really appreciated the damage that they have done to the environment in various countries.
Naturally, the Opposition is concerned that the mentality or philosophy that seems to be characteristic of mining companies is seen in a proper perspective, having regard to our fundamental commitment and obligation to protect the rights of Aborigines. In this case, the Parliament has a particular role to play. We are not saying that there is not some justice in some circumstances in relation to mining development. The Opposition fears that the pressure that builds up on governments, Ministers and political parties in respect of development is often such that it has greater effect and greater influence than the views of those who are less articulate, less organised or less powerful in the protecting of their interests. Nobody in the Senate or in the Parliament would deny, I am sure, that here we have a major area of public conflict between the landowners and those who want to develop the land for various reasons, including the exploitation of natural resources in a particular region.
We would hope that the Government might take our proposed amendment on board because all we seek to do is to add words to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time. Our original amendment sought to have the Bill withdrawn and redrafted with a view to looking at the problem in the Australian Capital Territory. If the Minister has had a chance to examine what the amendment now seeks to do he will see that it seeks to extend the legislation to include Aborigines in the Australian Capital Territory. Some of my colleagues who will follow me in this debate will deal in more detail with certain claims in respect of Aboriginal land in the southern part of the Australian Capital Territory. It has been represented to us that they are legitimate claims, and we have no reason to disregard that representation. One would think, therefore, that rather than leave the matter in the hands of the Minister for the Capital Territory, it ought to come within the province of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs so that he can take on board the proposition that at some future stage the Government should introduce legislation which would extend at least the Northern Territory Aboriginal land rights legislation, with all its weaknesses that I have referred to, to Aborigines in the Australian Capital Territory.
I indicate to the Minister that at the Committee stage we will move at least one other amendment which will seek to give the Parliament rather than the Minister some of the powers that are proposed in the legislation. I know that we are not often able to get much agreement on these matters in the Parliament. Nevertheless, one can hope that the views we have expressed with respect to the Australian Capital Territory will receive the consideration of the Minister. I move:
– The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill is the fourth Bill dealing with Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory, and is part of a continuing stream of such legislation as adjustments to the principal Act are required. One does not buy an expensive piece of equipment costing many thousands of dollars and then just let it run and run. As it is running in it needs adjustment. I suggest that the legislation relating to Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory is an apt analogy because as time goes by adjustments to it are required. We are seeing adjustments now, and in the future we will see more of them. I said that this Bill is part of a stream of legislation. I did not want to indicate that there will be a vast amount, but of necessity there will be adjustments to the legislation purely for the administration and good welfare of the people of the Northern Territory.
I think that Senator Gietzelt has either misunderstood or distorted what this legislation is all about. Perhaps too he is not prepared to recognise what this Government and the Northern Territory Government are doing for the Aboriginal people. He tends to draw a picture of this Government ‘s being browbeaten by big corporations. He has suggested that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) would listen to outside organisations and that he is not doing justice to his job, which I took as a criticism of the Minister. That is far from being the case. I think that the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is doing a tremendous job and I have said so previously. It is a most difficult job and I think that of all the Ministers who have worked in this sphere he has no peer. Senator Gietzelt talked about Aboriginal people being browbeaten and driven off their land. I do not think he was particularly clear about where he was referring to. Was he referring to Australia generally or to the Northern Territory in particular? If he was referring to the Northern Territory, I can assure him that he was way off track.
Before land rights became the issue that they are now- and we have what we might call very forward legislation which is emotive and the subject of much discussion- Aboriginal land rights legislation was introduced in the Northern Territory by that much criticised legislature the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, which in those days was the Legislative Council. When I was a member of it in the early 1960s, for the first time legislation was brought in that recognised the right of Aboriginal people to own land. I think that that piece of legislation introduced in the Northern Territory Legislative Council, as it then was, was the first such piece of legislation in Australia. Admittedly when we look at it now it appears to be a rather small piece of legislation. Perhaps it was a bit crude, but at least it was a beginning, and many applications were made under it. Those applications were halted by an administrative action of the previous Government when Mr Whitlam was Prime Minister. Then the inquiry into Aboriginal land came about and we saw the Federal Act. I emphasise that the people of the Northern Territory fully support Aboriginal land rights, but they believe that there needs to be some adjustment. There are some problems, but the actual principle of Aboriginal people owning land goes way back and is well supported.
One must also look at the present Northern Territory Government which is apt to be criticised in the Senate. I would say it is criticised without reason. The criticisms are one-eyed, distorted and unfair. Only a few days ago the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory was tangling with the Premier of Queensland over a statement that had been made regarding Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory. Regardless of what the tangle was about, part of a statement by the Chief Minister, Mr Paul Everingham, stated that ‘despite the utterances of the Queensland Premier, northern development and Aboriginal land rights are not incompatible’. He was talking of the Northern Territory. He continued and said that ‘the Nabarlek and Ranger uranium mines are being developed on Aboriginal land. The bauxite mine at Gove and the rich manganese deposits on Groote Eylandt are both on Aboriginal land and they have been in production for years’. He is saying that there is the ability for Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory to go alongside development. Of course, he is indicating quite clearly that he, his party and his Government in the Northern Territory support that. I draw Senator Gietzelt ‘s attention to that. He did not criticise that aspect, but he did mention Western Australia and possible legislation there in regard to elections and the right to vote. That principle was introduced by the Federal Government seven years ago, when Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory were given the right to vote. They had to apply to have their names placed on the electoral roll, but once their name was on the roll it was on the roll for keeps- it was there permanently- and they had to vote in elections. But they had to volunteer to have their names placed on the roll.
This week legislation is before the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly which, if it is passed in its present form, will place Aboriginal people on a par with other people in the Northern Territory. All of the Aboriginal people will be expected to vote, as are other people. Perhaps that is a contentious issue, but at least the move is progressive and it will indicate to all that the people of the Northern Territory are on a par. I say that because many people who look in on the Territory are too prone to criticise what they see; they are not prepared to stop and listen to see just what is likely to happen. But, under those circumstances, they must admit that all people are on a par in the Northern Territory.
There is nothing sinister about this legislation. Senator Gietzelt looks upon it as instituting more control by government, more control by the Minister; as taking independence away from Aboriginal people; as a retreat; and so on. That is not the case. People who look at the legislation must appreciate what it is all about. Firstly, it is about financial assistance. This legislation in its present form seeks to provide financial assistance to people, but they must pass a type of means test before they are able to get financial assistance to pay for legal assistance. One could hardly imagine a large mining corporation or a large company going through a means test to see whether it can get financial assistance. I will speak on that matter a little later because I disagree with some aspects of it.
The legislation also allows, I take it, the land councils to borrow from the Aboriginals Benefit Trust Account. I understand that that Trust Account will repay to the Government moneys which have been expended in the administration of the land council system. That is quite in order. But, at the same time, I am a little wary of a situation which might arise. As we well know, the federal Act allows 30 per cent of royalties to go to the traditional land owners, 40 per cent to the land council and 30 per cent, I think it is, to the Aboriginals Benefit Trust Account. It is my hope that the royalties, which will be absolutely immense, eventually will come down through the system and be of benefit to Aboriginal people. I do not see the taxpayer of Australia supporting the Aboriginal people in the future to the degree that he supports them now, provided that the royalties are sufficient for that to be the case. I see more royalties going to the benefit of Aboriginal people, for their health, schooling, housing and so on. I see a situation similar to that of the Fijian land foundation. In Fiji, all the moneys derived from the lease of land by the Fijians to large companies for tourism goes into that foundation, where it is spent on the people.
I think that at present there is a danger of too much money being spent within the land council system. I think that the land councils have to be careful about that. I am not saying that they should not do the things they are doing; all I am saying is that I think that they should husband their money wisely to ensure that not too much money is spent in the administration of the land council system. I often wonder whether it is necessary to hire professional people who charge extremely large sums of money for their services. One remembers the case of a person who came from a State and took a large amount of money away with him. I wonder whether that was completely warranted. Nevertheless, as I said before, I am not against the proposed amendment; I am just saying that I expect the moneys which are spent within the land council system to be spent wisely. We know full well that a lot of money has been spent in the land council system, with the result that the land councils have run short of money and money has had to be found elsewhere to put into the system to keep the land councils going. Well and good; they have to be kept going.
I note that the land councils will be required to produce annual reports. I support that principle. I do not see that as standing over or controlling land councils; I see it as a measure to protect the Aboriginal people. I would like to see that principle of protecting the Aboriginal people applied on a much wider basis and not just to the land council system. I have mentioned to many people, including the Minister, my concern about what is happening today in many of the Aboriginal co-operatives and businesses in the Territory. Thousands of dollars-not just $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000, but running into tens of thousands of dollars- are being knocked off and taken out of those Aboriginal businesses. The people doing that are getting away scot-free. But that is another matter which I will deal with on a later date. I will seek to bring about the provision of assistance for those Aboriginal businesses, to bring about more safeguards, to ensure that they are not robbed, as they are being robbed today and have been robbed before. I look upon the measure requiring land councils to produce annual reports with audited financial statements to the Federal Minister as just a safety precaution. It is right, too, that those annual reports and financial statements should go to the Minister because, after all, the Minister is the person reponsible in law for the welfare of Aboriginal people.
I return to the subject of the provision of financial assistance. I do not believe that the Government has gone far enough in this regard. I say that as one of the two senators from the Northern Territory. I believe that it is our role to ensure, as much as we can, that the actions and policies of the Federal Government are fair to all people. I believe- I think it is the Government’s policy, too- that people must be treated as equals, no matter where they are in Australia. Let us briefly go over the history of what has happened in the few years since the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act was brought in. Previously the small people- I am talking now about the other people who have an interest in the land- faced great difficulties in land rights hearings. They had great difficulty because they are not big people. They are not very financial and do not have many resources behind them. Because of this they were unable to get a Queen’s Counsel or such a person who requires huge fees to represent them in the hearings.
We have had many representations over the years. I refer in particular to the Borroloola land claim and to the Northern Territory fishing inquiry. The commercial fishermen in the Territory by and large are small battlers trying to make their way. At the same time they are endeavouring to get their word in too. I think that they have every right to do so. As the Government has recognised, Mr Justice Toohey pointed out in connection with the Borroloola land claim that non-Aboriginal groups which had financial hardship were unable to retain adequate legal counsel to present their case. This occurred also in the Ayers Rock hearing. A large number of land claims still has to be dealt with. A lot of these will involve regions much closer to areas which have been developed for various reasons. There may be claims concerning unalienated land. Various matters will have to be cleared up. That is why I am gratified that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has appointed a person to look into the various problems. Nevertheless, people will want to have their say more and more.
One must admit that the battlers, the people working for themselves or those who are part of a small concern, have very few financial resources and representation at land claims involves an unusual business expense when compared with the position of their brothers on the eastern coastline and in the cities who do not have to suffer such an expense. The small business people in the Northern Territory have to battle along for their own survival. At the same time these people are subject to a means test. I am against the means test. I believe that if more and more hearings are to occur a means test should not be imposed. These battlers should be able to get legal assistance for this unusual business expense without being subject to a means test. I have had much correspondence from people at Ayers Rock. They bitterly resent the thought of some government bureaucrat going through their books and judging whether they should be given financial asistance to allow them to be represented at land claims. I support the Bill. I certainly support the principle of giving financial assistance for legal aid, but I do not support the thought of a means test for the reasons I have just given.
Many matters need looking at. I wish to look a little further at the land rights system. It is important that non-Aboriginal people who put a different viewpoint at a land rights hearing will be heard by the land commissioner. It seems from section 50 of the principal legislation that the land commissioner notes these submissionsperhaps I am wrong but I think I am right- but does not take them into account in his recommendations. This puts the person who wishes to get over his point of view in a very peculiar situation. I refer to the transcript of proceedings concerning Borroloola taken before His Honour, Mr Justice Toohey, at Darwin on Tuesday 22 August. The hearing ran for quite a few weeks. It is very interesting to look at the summing up and the remarks that have been made by the various legal people who appeared before His Honour Mr Justice Toohey. It is not my intention to dwell on those remarks but one wonders whether the legislation needs some tightening up to ensure that everybody is on an equal footing at these hearings.
Much has been said in the last few weeks about pastoral leases in the Northern Territory. Very many charges have been made regarding the situation. Quite a few Aboriginal people feel that some of the moves represent an attack on them and that their pastoral leases are to be taken from them. Of course, this is completely refuted by the Northern Territory Government. Statements by the Honourable Marshall Perron, who is the Treasurer and Minister for Lands in the Northern Territory, show that the notice given to the Wattie Creek people was also given to probably some 50 or 60 cattle stations in the Northern Territory. The notice indicated that certain things were required under the terms of cattle leases. Anyway, the whole thing was a storm in a teacup. The difficulties have been overcome, and the Wattie Creek people now know that they are in no danger of losing their lease. In fact, there has to be quite a procedure before a person loses a pastoral lease in the Northern Territory. It is certainly not done by a mere inspection or a piece of paper stating that this or that has to be done or the person will lose his lease. The situation is far from that. One of the most controversial situations in the Territory- it is unusual when one looks at the principle of land rights- is the fact that if an Aboriginal organisation purchases a pastoral lease, that land, through a process, can be claimed as Aboriginal land.
As I have indicated previously, I support strongly the principle of Aboriginal people owning land and the operation of the freehold system as it now exists under the Act. But I wonder why it is necessary that land purchased as a pastoral lease should ultimately become subject to freehold title. I think that, having become freehold land under the Federal Act, the covenants to the lease would no longer exist. In turn, since the covenants would not exist, all of the safeguards and other requirements attaching to pastoral leases perhaps may not be met.
The other matter that concerns me, as one who is from the Northern Territory looking at the matter overall to see where the Northern Territory is going and what the future of its Government will be, is that if there is no restriction, especially if royalties become large, a lot of money will be available to Aboriginals. This could well lead to the purchase of more and more cattle stations which then could be converted to Aboriginal freehold land. I repeat that that land would come under the operation of the Federal legislation, not that of the Northern Territory Government. Therefore, I ask: Where is the Northern Territory and its Government going? Since pastoral leases are purchased as business enterprises- I support fully the purchase by Aboriginal people of pastoral leases- they should be run as cattle stations and pastoral leases and not converted to Aboriginal freehold land. There is much opposition to that happening in the Northern Territory and it is the subject of a great deal of emotion. There could even be a clash between traditional owners claiming land under the Art and Aboriginal people who have purchased cattle stations. Of necessity, they may not be the same people.
The Government Whip will be pleased to hear that I have almost concluded my remarks. Unfortunately, even among the Aboriginal people there now seems to be a difference of opinion regarding this matter. I would have liked to incorporate a petition which was sent down to me in the last two days. (Quorum formed). It is a pity that the Vocadex copy of the petition sent to me is not clear enough to permit its incorporation in Hansard. The first petition, which was addressed to Mr Paul Everingham, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, is from Utopia Station. It was not sent to me by him. It came to me from the Aboriginal people, and will be very interesting to quite a few people because Utopia Station has been in the news. Many people have cried wolf about the situation there. The petition was signed by Jimmy Kunoth and has some 24 signatures affixed. It reads:
Dear Mr Everingham,
We, the Aboriginal People, of Utopia Station in Central Australia, would like to be the same as the white people of Central Australia in the way we run our Station.
We want to keep our Station as a Pastoral Lease, and would like any assistance your Government people can give us to do this.
We want our people to be free of trouble.
The insinuation there, I think, is once again that, as I am always complaining, too many people are speaking on behalf of the Aborigines. I would add that a large Aboriginal gathering took place a few days ago. I doubt if any advisors were present. The next petition has 142 signatures and is from Ti Tree Station. Once again, it reads:
Dear Mr Everingham,
We, the people of Ti Tree Cattle Station would like to tell you that we think that this place should be kept and run as a Cattle Station for only us Aboriginal people.
That is why the Government bought it for us.
We now have a good manager, and this is helping us to sell our cattle and get good prices for them.
Now that Liquor Laws have been changed stopping a lot of take-aways from Roadhouses we won’t have as much trouble as before and now we don’t want anybody causing worry with our people about taking this country away from us.
The signatures follow. The suggestion is that at least that group believes that its land should remain within the cattle station system and not, of necessity, be changed so as to become Aboriginal land. There has been criticism of this Government and of the Government of the Northern Territory concerning land not being given to the Aboriginal people. I point out that the four cattle stations purchased in central Australia were purchased not by the previous Labor Government but by the coalition Government as follows: Willowra was purchased in 1972, Utopia in March 1976, Mt Allan in June 1976 and Ti Tree in July 1 976. Those four cattle stations have been purchased by this Government and I would say that the people on them have done a very good job.
Once again, I wish to answer the criticisms made by the Australian Labor Party, which is always saying how good it is and what an interest it takes in the Aboriginal people. Last week Senator Keeffe tabled all sorts of papers relating to consultations at Ranger and endeavoured to show that this Government and the Government of the Northern Territory have done nothing.
– I did not say that. I just said that you were cheating.
– The honourable senator from Queensland has a most odd mind. The point that I am making is one that I have made before. I wish to refer to a debate that took place in the Senate on 4 April 1 979 when consultation between the Aboriginal people and mining companies was being discussed.
I said then and I say again that the land rights Bill introduced by the Labor Government contained absolutely no provision for negotiation and consultation between the Aboriginal people and Ranger uranium mines. This Government has provided for that consultation in law and that consultation has taken place. Yet the Labor Party has the hide or the audacity to criticise that, but in its original Bill it left the Aboriginal people for dead in relation to this particular aspect.
– I was most impressed by Senator Kilgariff’s flowery statement. I want to comment first of all on a couple of remarks that he made earlier when he uttered some criticism of those of us who have cause to criticise the Northern Territory Government. I think he described us as ‘one-eyed, biased and unfair’. As I develop my argument in this debate I will make some reference to the complementary legislation which I believe is unfair to the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory, as are many other actions not only of this Government but also of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. One remark which the honourable senator passed quite astounded me. That was when he said that land rights were not incompatible with development. In 1975 when the Labor Party drafted its Bill for Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory, it said in the attendant publicity that of course it was not incompatible and that the Aborigines were entitled to their share of their traditional lands and their share of land granted to them on a basis of need.
The reference to the royalties from the mining operations in the Northern Territory being immense is a matter for debate. It is quite possible that the Aborigines themselves will get very little from the royalties, at least for a very long time, and some of the official documents issued by this Federal Government have indicated that it may be a long time before the royalties are there in any quantity.
– Like getting on with this speech.
-The things that the Government is now doing relate to pre-payments.
– I raise a point of order. I do not want to disturb the honourable senator when he is developing his own argument, but he did indicate to you, Mr President, that he proposed to deal with the Territory legislation and a number of other matters. I want to take the point of order that we have a quite narrow Bill here, and I would ask that speakers be directed to confine their attention to the Bill. As 1 say, I do not want to destroy the flow of the honourable senator’s argument and his submissions on the Bill, but it sounds as though he is going to give us a general peroration on Aboriginal affairs and land rights, and I do believe that that will take undue time.
– I must indicate that Standing Orders do require that relevancy to the Bill before the chamber is necessary.
– I am not noted for straying too far away from the general context of Bills, but I do believe where there is relevant evidence in relation to a Bill that it ought to be set down for the record. I am becoming very worried about the sensitivity of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) who tries on every occasion to cut back debate on Aboriginal affairs in this chamber. I think it is a shocking state of affairs when he is not prepared to stand up and be counted when it comes to doing things for Aboriginal people. Not only has he done it again today, but this is about the third time in the last six weeks that he has endeavoured to cut back on debate on Aboriginal affairs.
– That is rubbish.
– I would suggest that the honourable senator would not know, because he is never in the Chamber, anyway, and he cannot read Hansard. I do not propose to deviate from the terms of the Bill at all, but there is a large amount of relevant material which I think has to be taken in the general context of the debate; otherwise it is a very narrow debate. I think my colleague Senator Gietzelt summed it up fairly well when he said earlier that this is a further restriction on the Aborigines in the Northern Territory and their right to the land. If I might return briefly to one or two more remarks that Senator Kilgariff made, he claimed that 150 cattle stations have been asked to show cause in regard to their lease holding.
– 1 did not say 1 50.
– I suggest that the honourable senator should be a little more careful with his speeches if he does not want to be misunderstood when he makes a contribution. The fact is that at least three or four of those stations happen to be Aboriginal stations. I refer to what I think is a prime example. In 1975, when Mr Whitlam was Prime Minister of this country, he told the Gurindji people at Wattie Creek that as soon as the land rights legislation was passed they would get their land rights for that land which they were occupying. But in 1976, when this Government brought in its land rights legislation, we discovered that they had to make application for it.
– I raise a point of order. With respect, this has nothing to do with the Bill. I submit that it is out of order and that the honourable senator ought to direct his remarks to the Bill.
– As the Minister points out, with Bills under debate the debate must be restricted to the matters concerned with that particular legislation.
-Thank you, Mr President. You are in a very awkward situation. When Senator Kilgariff, who was speaking for the Country-Liberal Party, deviated totally from the context of the Bill and referred to all these other matters, for most of the time the Minister did not think it was necessary even to be in the House.
– He was wandering in and out of the place all the time. If you want to run the place like this -
– I take a point of order. Senator Keeffe misquoted my colleague a little while ago and referred to something over 100 stations when the figure given was 65. 1 did not leave the chamber at any time during Senator Kilgariff’s speech. I suggest that the honourable senator’s remarks should be withdrawn.
– I must point out that this is not a Standing Order to which you refer, Mr Minister; it is a matter for explanation at the end of a speech.
– It seems to me that these factual misrepresentations are out of order.
-The Minister can say that when I have finished my speech. I do not see why he wants to make a speech about it now.
– The time to bring these matters up is at the end of the honourable senator’s speech.
– I take a point of order. It seems to me that there was quite a bit of leeway given to Senator Kilgariff.
– What point of order are you referring to?
– I am referring to a point of order about the constant interruptions to Senator Keeffe.
– There is no point of order in that I have ruled on the points of order raised thus far.
– May I suggest that Senator Keeffe is entitled to reply to the subject material which Senator Kilgariff raised during the debate. I was here for the greater part of the time that
Senator Kilgariff spoke, and I remember him very clearly referring to pastoral leases in the Northern Territory.
– The honourable senator may not debate my determination. I have asked Senator Keeffe to continue his remarks.
– I am reaching the stage where the guidelines for the debate have now been drawn so narrow that I wonder if I talk about the Mad Hatters Tea Party whether the Minister will disagree with that.
– I heard the comment. I appreciate the fact that the Minister wants to exclude as much debate as possible on the Bill itself. My colleague Senator Gietzelt moved an amendment in these terms: but the Senate is of the opinion that the Government should as soon as possible extend by legislation the rights of Aborigines in the Northern Territory to Aborigines in the Australian Capital Territory.
If I might deviate without being interrupted again by the Minister, the Wreck Bay area is one of the areas which has been set aside for Aboriginal people for a long time. But throughout this century there have been consistent moves by conservative governments to take away as much of that land as possible, so today it is only a very small portion of the original allocation in that area. Even though this particular settlement is inside the boundaries of the Australian Capital Territory, this Government has seen fit to neglect the request from the people who live in that particular community. I understand that the amendment will be opposed by the Government when it is in fact a legitimate amendment which ought to be accepted so far as this Bill is concerned.
Again I will have to refer to relevant material. I do not know what the Minister’s thinking is on this, but I do recall that when we had a debate in this chamber in 1976 on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill some 30 amendments moved by the Opposition were opposed by every member of the Government. There was unanimous support to take away as much as possible from the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. On at least 25 of those occasions divisions were called, and if the Minister does not believe what I am saying he may refer in Hansard to each of the 25 divisions where he will see his name in black and white when he said that the Aborigines may not get this, the Aborigines may not get that. In other words, the watered down version of the land rights legislation that was imposed on the Northern Territory did not even resemble faintly the
Bill that the Labor Party was endeavouring to implement.
I want to refer to a statement that was put out by the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner, on 30 August 1978. I would like the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to listen carefully because he will know that what Mr Viner said on 30 August 1978 is not true on 15 November 1979. The Minister said that there would be no cut in services for Northern Territory Aboriginals. He said:
Uranium royalties would make no difference to the services which the Commonwealth would continue to see were available to Northern Territory Aboriginals . . .
That is the statement of Mr Viner. He continued:
Even disregarding the fact that it will be a number of years before substantial amounts of uranium royalties are available, it will also be a long time before the handicaps which Aboriginals suffer in health, education and other areas will be overcome.
That statement was made only a little over a year ago. On the other hand my colleague on the other side of the chamber, Senator Kilgariff, has said that immense amounts of money are about to flow into the coffer. His ministerial representative at that time said it would be a long time. Mr Viner continued and said:
Funds under my control are applied on the basis of special need. In time to come, the money flowing to Aboriginals as a result of uranium royalties will lessen the need for special programs of assistance but it will not be for a long time yet.
That is in direct contradiction with what Senator Kilgariff said. Perhaps it is the other way round. Perhaps Senator Kilgariff has contradicted the statement of Mr Viner, the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Regardless of what Senator Kilgariff might think of the confidential documents which I read into the Hansard record a few days ago, I think they are a clear indication of how representatives of this Government applied pressure to the Aboriginals of the Northern Territory in an effort to get them to sign those famous mining agreements. The Aboriginal people of Australia sent a message at that time to the members of the Northern Land Council. Of course, the whole purpose of this amending legislation is to further restrict Aborigines in their lawful search for justice. I do not propose to read the whole document, if the Minister is worried about it, but the message from the Aborigines stated:
We have heard that the Northern Land Council has initialled an agreement with the Government concerning the Ranger mine site on Aboriginal land at Jabiru. We know that your Council will be meeting shortly in order to discuss whether the Council will sign the Agreement. We understand your problems, especially Government pressure upon the Council to sign. We further strongly support your Council ‘s efforts to win land rights for Aboriginal peoples in the Northern Territory.
But we must write to you because signing and accepting the agreement would cause problems for land rights all over Australia.
This Government, because of the requirements of the mining companies and the pressures applied to it by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, is prepared to whittle down its original Aboriginal land rights legislation in every possible way. I hope that the current legislation is not going to be misused.
– Why do you not try to prove that?
– I did not quite catch that interjection.
– Why don ‘t you try to prove what you are saying?
-Mr President, if I might answer Senator Kilgariff through you, every statement made on this side of the chamber in this Parliament can be substantiated either verbally or by written documents. In most debates associated with Aboriginal affairs they can be substantiated by documents. There are many things that I could say outside this place without fear of being sued for defamation. Honourable senators would not be able to do that; they need the protection of the Parliament to make some of their very strange statements. I want to refer to the sacred sites of Aboriginal land. This was one of the bones of contention when the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill was passing through this House. Senator Chaney objected at the time and the matter was passed over to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly as part of the complementary legislation. The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly has played ducks and drakes with it politically ever since.
I would like to refer to sections 23 to 27. A person who in accordance with Aboriginal tradition may control the entry of persons upon an area of land containing a sacred site may ask the Administrator to take steps to protect that sacred site. The Administrator in Council then causes an investigation to be made by the Land Commissioner into the following issues: The importance of the site to Aboriginal tradition; whether the owners, that is European owners, of the land object to protection of the site; whether anyone else would be disadvantaged; whether there is any other person interested in the site and whether that person has any objections; and the most appropriate steps that should be taken to protect the site.
The relevance of these provisions has to be made clear in this debate because there is a consistent policy of bowing down to the pressures of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. It is no use this Government’s making apologies for it in the same way as ii makes apologies for what Mr Bjelke-Petersen does in Queensland and for what Sir Charles Court does in Western Australia. In many ways the Northern Territory is subject to the administration of the Australian Parliament and the Australian Government, It is a blot on the face of democracy that neither the Minister nor the Government is prepared to stand up to the people who are trying to bushrange their way through legislation in the Northern Territory. Every time amending legislation comes into this Parliament invariably it weakens the position of the Australian Parliament and the Australian Government. The Minister can shake his head until he looks like someone with Saint Vitus ‘s dance, but it does. That fact will not be denied.
– That’s because you don’t know.
– I do not mind intelligent interjections, Senator Kilgariff, but I cannot stand inane ones. The comment I have on the reference to sections 23 to 27 which I have just mentioned is set out in these words:
These sections also leave a lot unsaid and appear not to have been carefully considered. The Federal legislation provided (Section 23 (2)) for involvement of Land Councils in protection of sacred sites to the extent that the Assembly left them such a role. No role has been left and yet there is no indication as to who will assist applicants in preparing submissions, documenting claims and arguing their validity. There is in fact no structure at all set up for site preservation. Does the Assembly intend that the Museums and An Galleries of the N.T. or the Institute of Aboriginal Studies should be involved?
This illustrates the whole history of the type of legislation which this Government has meekly agreed to. I wonder why this amending Bill has been on the Notice Paper on six or seven different occasions. It has been withdrawn on six or seven different occasions. I know that on the last occasion it was listed the Minister was not in town. That is a fairly legitimate reason for having it withdrawn on that occasion. There seems to have been an abnormal delay lasting many weeks. I think that the legislation first appeared at the beginning of the Budget session.
I want to refer again to a couple of the other points to which this Government has agreed. One is the extension of the town areas. One of the most shocking things that happened was the local declaration extending the city of Darwin down to somewhere near the Adelaide River.
That was done deliberately to exclude Aborigines from putting in land rights claims. This Government, apart from making a couple of feeble fieldmouse-like noises, did not do a thing about it. The then Minister put down what is known as a low key statement. That was all that was said or done. Mr Everingham, the Leader of the majority party in the Northern Territory, has been able to play ducks and drakes with Commonwealth legislation. The fact that he saw fit to come down here a few days ago and lean on the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) in order to ensure that the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly had total control under the Northern Territory legislation over the town site in one of the important uranium provinces is in itself a pretty poor state of affairs. The Deputy Prime Minister has said that in the autumn session of this Parliament amending legislation will be brought in to ensure that the Australian Government retains control.
I would suggest, with great respect, that that amending legislation ought to have been brought in before we rise for the Christmas recess. There has been no attempt to do that because the Government does not care. The Government is prepared to have the hobnailed boots of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly on its back and allow this sort of legislation to be deferred until next year. Do Government senators think that it will be introduced in the autumn session? In 1 980 the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will be facing an election which he will not win. Do they think he will get offside with the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly by allowing that sort of legislation to come in? Of course he will not. I say now that that legislation will not be introduced and that the Government will let the mining companies and the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly dictate to it 90 per cent of its policy on Aboriginal affairs, including the control of that town site.
What happened when the housing scheme in Alice Springs was changed by a small but very biased and racist group of people? I understand that the solicitor of the law firm involved in that matter is no longer in business. Nevertheless, when Mr Skuse and his wife, Sue, were associated with that very racist organisation in Alice Springs this Government again knuckled under to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. It is not surprising that the Government has brought in legislation of the type that will further restrict the freedom of people throughout the Territory as it stands by and watches that freedom being restricted in Western Australia and Queensland.
The first group of ordinances to which this Government agreed in 1978 in complementary legislation included the Aboriginal Land Ordinance, the Territory Parks and Wild Life Conservation Ordinance, the Aboriginal Sacred Sites Ordinance, the Mining Ordinance, the Petroleum (Prospecting and Mining) Ordinance, the Coal Ordinance, the Crown Lands Ordinance, the Social Welfare Ordinance, the Special Purpose Leases Ordinance and the Cemeteries Ordinance. All those were introduced as complementary legislation in 1978. We did not hear a murmur from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs of the day. Admittedly Senator Chaney might be in the situation of not being directly involved because another Minister was responsible. All that Minister did was pay a couple of social visits to Darwin, to chat with the Majority Leader and virtually let the Northern Territory Government go ahead with the introduction of whatever legislation it wanted to introduce.
– He did much more than that.
-Did he buy you a drink, too? A number of draft Bills were produced in 1978 dealing with the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill 1978, the Atomic Energy Act 1953 and other relevant Acts. I know that they are marked ‘confidential’. They probably came out of the Cabinet room. But when they were finally drafted very little alteration was made to them. We have seen a series of Bills prepared- they look like a pack of cards- and all of them have been directed at further restricting the freedoms of Aborigines and further reducing the rights of Aborigines to land rights in the N.T. I say that this Bill is just one more of the Bills that are whittling away at the freedom of Aboriginals. Consequently, by the time we get round to election year, the Government will be able face the N.T. people and say: ‘We have a bit of toothless legislation here and we just hope that all you white people will vote for us’. The Government certainly will not get any votes from black people.
– by leave- I wish to make a personal explanation. At four points in the speech of Senator Keeffe statements were made which reflect on me and which are inaccurate. I would like to put the position straight for the Senate. Firstly, it was alleged by the honourable senator that I was out of the chamber during the speech by my colleague Senator Kilgariff. That is obviously not true. Secondly, he alleged that I was not in town for the passage of the legislation and that that had caused a delay. That is not true. At no stage have I not been in Canberra to be able to deal with this legislation when it has found its way into the program. I will explain the reason for the delay, which in part relates to the acceptance of an amendment suggested by the Australian Labor Party, during my formal reply.
Thirdly, the honourable senator stated that the legislation first appeared at the beginning of the Budget session. This is not a particularly important point, but it reflects the standard of inaccuracy of his speech. The legislation first appeared during the autumn session of this year. Fourthly, it was stated by the honourable senator that the Government had knuckled under to the Northern Territory Government with respect to Alice Springs housing. The fact of the matter is that the location of housing under the Aboriginal Housing Agreement is specifically and directly within the province of the Northern Territory Government. It is not at all within my jurisdiction or the jurisdiction of my Government. The fifth clear point of inaccuracy related to Senator Kilgariff”, who was misquoted as to the number of leases he referred to during his speech. I am sorry to have interrupted the flow of the debate, but I think these inaccuracies indicate a carelessness in Senator Keeffe ‘s approach to this debate on a subject which I think is extremely important and which I do not think is particularly complimentary to the Senate or to the honourable senator.
Senator KEEFFE (Queensland)-by leaveWhat the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has said is most unfair. He has got to the stage where he has made an inaccurate statement. I just cannot understand him. I do not know what is wrong with him. If the figures that were quoted by Senator Kilgariff, which were taken by me to be the figures that the Minister was referring to, were something else, it was an honest mistake. What the Minister said about housing at Alice Springs is not true because his Government had a lot to do with it. It supplied all the capital for it. When pressure was applied the Federal Government knuckled under, not the Northern Territory Government. The Northern Territory Government won all along the line. If misleading statements are to be made in this place, I think that some of the previous debates on this matter ought to be referred to so that the Minister may enlighten himself on the matter. It is unfair to make untrue statements like that.
– I point out to Senator Keeffe that when he seeks leave to make a personal explanation it must be in regard to a matter of personal misrepresentation.
– I am afraid that I cannot agree with Senator Keeffe that there is anything malevolent or sinister in the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 1979. I have looked at it carefully. I cannot really find anything to that effect. The Australian Democrats basically but conditionally support this Bill. I hope that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) does not take the view that he can limit from debate anything which is not strictly in this Bill because there is a great deal implicit in it. I hope to demonstrate that in the course of my speech. For reasons which I will deal with in the Committee stage- I will not take up time with them now- the Australian Democrats do not propose to support the Australian Labor Party’s amendments. We will not oppose the Minister’s proposed amendments. Our reason for this is partly that we have faith in the present Minister to deal reasonably with situations which occur in the area of Aboriginal affairs. We do not see any justice in taking from him powers which I think he can exert responsibly and putting then in the hands of the Parliament. I do not think the matter has reached the stage where that is necessary. If it ever does in the future, I suggest that the Senate will know what to do about it.
– We haven ‘t got the numbers.
– The honourable senator knows what to do about that. As I have said, we respect the Minister. We feel that he is dealing reasonably and honestly with the Aboriginal people. I wish that we could be as confident that the Government will back him up in this matter. I have said before in this chamber that I hope it does. A matter of credibility is involved in this whole question of the dealings of the Government and this nation with land rights. In that regard I think Senator Keeffe has put his finger on an important point. I will refer to some matters which are implicit in the Minister’s second reading speech. He has pointed out that these amendments, which are not particularly controversial and are largely machinery matters, were the subject of lengthy discussion with the Northern Land Council (Quorum formed). I was pointing out that in his second reading speech the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Chaney, himself said that although the amendments presented in this Bill are largely of a machinery nature and are not controversial, there was a phase in which the Northern Land Council had not agreed with them. I presume he has reached the stage where they do agree. It is gratifying if that agreement has been reached.
– Those amendments have been withdrawn.
– Yes. That whole point, however, raises the basic issue which I believe to be of relevance to this Bill; that there is a state of fragility in any relationship or discussions between the Government or perhaps any government and the Northern Land Council over this matter of land rights. I think this is a very important matter to understand and realise, lt is certainly implicit in this Bill. It ought to be a warning to the Government to regard such relationships as fragile and to tread very delicately and carefully in any future changes or amendments it might wish to make. This is not intended as criticism but rather as an attempt to assess a situation which has been confirmed by my own conversations in recent months with Aboriginals in the Northern Territory and, indeed, with members of the Northern Land Council. These confirm that if there is good intent and good faith the relationship, as a progressive one, will continue, but if there is any attempt to sell out that fragile relationship will be destroyed, probably permanently.
I got the impression while in the Northern Territory, both from the Aboriginal people and those close to them, that there is a good deal of worry among them about the proposal to increase the amount of uranium mining in the Kakadu National Park region. Other speakers have mentioned this point. I mentioned it with particular relevance because this whole question of uranium mining in the park and particularly the declaration of the second stage of the park, which is a sacred place and a place regarded as of great value by the Aboriginal people, is relevant to the degree of trust which we have as a people with the Aboriginal people. Indeed, we still are two peoples in spite of what is said to the contrary. I think it is worth asking the Government at this stage, through the Minister or through the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster), just when it does propose to declare stage 2 of the park. Is it going to leave it until the whole region has been scarred and polluted by massive amounts of uranium mining? I do not know. I think it would be a good idea if the Government came out and said what it is going to do. When is it going to allow that second stage of some of the most beautiful land in that park to be declared? If the Minister says that this is irrelevant, I would refer him to something of relevance to any legislation which the Minister brings forward. I quote from page 24 of the Freedom of Information report of one of our own committees, where it says:
A totalitarian government finds it easy to maintain secrecy. A democratic government, however, though it must compete with these other types of organisations has a task which is complicated by its obligations to the people. It needs the trust of the people. A government which pursues secret aims and which operates in greater secrecy than the effective conduct of its proper functions requires, or which turns information services into propaganda agencies, will lose the trust of the people.
I suggest that is relevant in this matter. I hope the Government will see the point and make a clear statement very soon to the many tens of thousands of people in Australia who are very interested indeed in what the Government is going to do about stage 2 of the Kakadu Park. Another point is involved here. When I said that the Australian Democrats’ support of this Bill is conditional, I meant that it is conditional on the understanding, which we believe we can reasonably assume, that neither the Minister nor the Government intends to bring forward further amendments in the near future to this Bill which might in any way limit the powers of the Northern Land Council to exercise a proper right of veto or otherwise over the question of the proceeding of Pancontinental Mining Ltd at Jabiluka. I quote from yesterday’s Melbourne Age in this matter. It states:
The Federal Government will have to amend the Aboriginal Land Rights Act to guarantee development of the Pancontinental Jabiluka uranium project.
The Act gives Aborigines power to veto the project because pan of the land needed by the company is subject to a claim by the Northern Land Council.
As we know, that claim is not yet settled but we hope it will be settled by Mr Justice Toohey by early next year. The Melbourne Age continued:
It gives the council power to block mining because Pancontinental applied for the land after the Act was introduced in 1976.
That final statement is not completely correct. An article in the Australian Financial Review on 13 November makes it clearer. It says:
Following on the report of Justice Fox on the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry the Government embodied in legislation the proviso that if a mining interest had been applied for before June 1976 on land which subsequently became Aboriginal land then Aborigines could not prevent uranium mining but could merely negotiate terms and conditions of that mining.
If a mining interest was applied for after that date on Aboriginal land then it became subject to Aboriginal consent.
Pancontinental, originally, submitted applications for mining leases over areas it thought it would require.
The subsequent proving up of their ore, however, indicated that the company needed much greater areas to cover its project development.
It is significant that the Aboriginal land claim over the Pancontinental area has not yet been heard by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner, Mr Justice Toohey.
For while it seems to be generally accepted that the Aborigines will win the land claim there are a number of other technical but critical processes are to be undergone. I suggest to honourable senators and to the Minister that the Government’s good faith over land rights will be judged and tested both by the Aboriginal people and by all Australians on this single issue. Will the Government support the national interest, particularly that of the Aboriginal people? Will it do that, or will it sell out to the large foreign corporations such as Getty Oil Development Company Ltd that has an important stake in Pancontinental? I should be fair in this context to Pancontinental, I was there recently and I have heard lucid explanations of how good environmentally the underground mining operations it is planning there will be. I would say, from what I observed, that this is so.
Perhaps to Senator Keeffe ‘s surprise I intend to speak about the Mad Hatter because it is relevant to what I have got to say. Honourable senators will recall that it was the Mad Hatter who said when he proposed to fix Alice ‘s watch by putting butter into its works: ‘Ah! But it is the very best butter’. I think that is relevant to this matter. The real issue is not how good the Jabiluka operation will be technically but whether the Aboriginal people who have this land claim and who morally have it now, want it to proceed. I think the Government’s credibility will be tested on whether it will take a firm line, an honest and definite line on that specific point.
Another point is what environmental effect it will have on the Kakadu National Park in view of the uniquely primeval nature of that park, where we will need to have a guaranteed zero effect on the environment if we are to preserve it into the indefinite future. There again, in view of the impending over-supply situation for uranium oxide, from the point of view of the Aborigines themselves and owners of this land, the Government must assure itself very definitely that there is going to be a financial reward in proceeding with mining at Jabiluka. If on the best assessment there is not going to be, or if the Aboriginal people and the Northern Land Council are misinformed on this matter, there will be a sellout of the worst possible proportions.
The last thing we want in maintaining faith in the land rights area is to tell the Northern Land Council that there is a tremendous bonanza for Aborigines there and then find in a few years’ time that we have made a great big hole in the ground, there is a hell of a mess, we have a bankrupt company which can no longer come and fix the damage and they have just got to live with it.
– Were you referring to Jabiluka then?
– Yes, Pancontinental.
-The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 1 979 is the latest in a number of Bills to amend the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. Honourable senators will recall that the principal Act had a number of amendments on its presentation, by both Government and Opposition. This amending Bill today has a number of amendments as well. The main amendments were outlined by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) in his Press statement when he said:
The most significant amendment clarifies the provisions regarding the ownership of minerals on Aboriginal land.
He continued: a number of other amendments of an administrative nature would also be introduced.
At the same time as the Minister indicated his approach to this Bill, he spoke at the Wesley Church in Perth and indicated his attitude towards land rights generally and the Aboriginal situation. I would like to quote a brief part of that address at the Wesley Church. The Minister said:
My experience as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has already brought home to me the enormous range of problems facing Australia’s 800 or more Aboriginal communities- and those numerous families who live in urban areas but cannot be identified as members of a particular community. The problems have familiar namespoverty, unemployment, infant mortality, alcohol abuse. Familiar names- but quite different in the intensity with which they bear down on Aboriginals.
So offensive is this state of disadvantage to sensitive Australians, that many of them seek dramatic solutions by some decisive government actions, which will cause immediate and lasting changes for the better. Land rights, compensation for past wrongs, economic assistance at a given level, a multicultural Australia, are presented as issues for such action. They are all legitimate policy objectives.
Towards the end of his speech he stated:
As I said at the beginning, the Churches and the Government have much in common in the struggle we are waging to help Aboriginals help themselves. We share common objectives. We believe self-management is a key policy. We believe in land rights. We believe that there should be a government response to past dispossession and dispersal. We believe that Aboriginal culture should be respected and preserved, and that Aboriginals should have a choice of lifestyle. We know that there is much to be done in presenting these issues sympathetically to the Australian people.
As recently as a couple of weeks ago- one has to keep updating these notes; they have been updated several times since the Bill was first introduced- it was reported:
In Darwin this week he-
That is the Minister- assured the principles allowing traditional owners rights to claim Aboriginal land would not be changed.
But practical difficulties in the evolving legislation would be tackled.
Of course, the Minister was referring to the setting up of the Rowland investigation. The Opposition has some amendments, which Senator Gietzelt has indicated. I want to comment on some particular concerns about the Bill itself. It might be appropriate if I deal with these under the clauses, as then I may avoid the Minister’s criticisms that I am speaking beyond the scope of the Bill. Clause 3 of the Bill is to amend section 1 1 of the principal Act. That relates to the power of the Minister to accept or reject parts of a Land Commissioner’s recommendation. Honourable senators will recall that in his second reading speech the Minister stated:
The principal Act requires the Minister to make a decision with respect to any recommendations by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner concerning a land claim. Mr Justice Toohey, the present Commissioner, has expressed the view that the Minister has power to accept all or part of a Land Commissioner’s recommendation. However, a legal opinion obtained by the Commonwealth has cast some doubt on whether the Minister does have this power under the Act as it now stands. This Bill will make it clear that the Minister does have the power to accept all or part of a recommendation.
I find that rather disturbing. I accept that the Government has a responsibility to govern; we might almost use the term a ‘mandate to govern’. In that respect it has the final responsibility. But surely this proposition is open to criticism. The Commissioner investigates and takes evidence from interested parties and from professional advisers. In effect, it is a full judicial inquiry because, after all, it is a requirement that the Commissioner be a judge of the court in Darwin. After these recommendations have been made, the Minister accepts the bits which suit. Of course, one has to ask: Suit whom? Is it to suit the supporters of his party, himself, the Aboriginal people or possibly- I am not suggesting this in this case- to suit not national interests but vested interests? I am sure that many people who go to court would like to be able to accept those parts of the judge’s ruling that happen to please them.
I make the point strongly that it is not as if the Aboriginal people have been spoilt by land claim findings. The Borroloola land claim was mentioned by an earlier speaker. I remind the Minister that at Centre Island, which is the land of the Rhumbirriya people, the claim was recognised by the judge as being Rhumbirriya land and they were recognised as the traditional owners, but the land was not granted. Why was it not granted? It was not granted because Mt Isa Mines Ltd wanted the land as a berth, and it wanted access to that berth. In regard to the
North Island claim- more Rhumbirriya landthe claim that the Rhumbirriyas are the traditional owners was recognised but the land was not granted because a prawning company wanted it as a base for its operations. The claim for Borroloola common was recognised and part of the common was granted. As I mentioned at the time when this matter was discussed in the Senate, a corridor one kilometre wide was left right through the middle of the common. This was to provide Mt Isa Mines Ltd with a road, power lines and railway lines if necessary. It would seem to the casual observer that business interests were paramount there, not the interests of the Aboriginal people.
I do not think the Minister need fear that he needs to protect business. I believe that it is the Aboriginal people who need protection. We must beware of going back to that situation where we give Aboriginal people the bits that nobody else happens to want. In all fairness, I am sure that this is not the Minister’s view. The statements which he has made in this place and outside it do not reconcile with any view that we will give Aboriginal people the bits that we do not want. But, the Opposition does have an objection to the proposition that the Minister can simply select those parts or sections of a judge’s recommendations which happen to suit him, and reject the others. If the Commissioner’s recommendations are not to be accepted, surely good reason should be given; the matter should be introduced into this place or into the other place and then the Parliament can be given the opportunity to debate the matter. As I said during the Senate’s discussion on the Borroloola land claim, justice must not only be done but be seen to be done. The Commissioner’s role is quite clear; he is to identify the traditional owners of unalienated Crown land and then set up trusts. Surely his role is not to anticipate the needs of mining companies. If the land belongs to Aboriginal people let it be granted and then if mining or prawning companies or any other groups want to make use of this land, they can make arrangements with the owners of the land, in the same way as they would do anywhere else. The machinery for this exists in the principal Act; I believe that it ought to be followed.
I now turn to clause 5 of the amending Bill. There is also some reference to clauses 10 and 12, but clause 5 is the major one. This is where reference is made to the use of royalty payments for administrative purposes. Reference is made to the Minister’s power to direct payments out of the Aboriginal benefits trust account for the running of land councils. I remind honourable senators that under the Labor Government and under this Government the Aboriginal land councils were set up to serve the Aboriginal people- that is obviously so- but they were also set up to serve government and to provide a contact with the Aboriginal people, to be the group which would go out and get the information that government wanted to assist in the preparation of legislation and in trying to do those things which it claims it wishes to do for the Aboriginal people. The land councils are not government agencies, and I do not suggest that for a moment. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) seem to think that is so but it is not so. We might say that this clause indicates the difference of attitudes between the two parties which are debating this matter today. Labor saw the need for councils and it saw the need for them to be funded. Let us face it; these would not be the only organisations in Australia which are funded to do a job for the community. Groups are set up and funded by the Government.
I refer to the speech made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in Wesley Church and to the situation described by him- the problems of unemployment, the need for economic enterprises, the unsuitability of most areas for development and so on- all of which need money. There is no doubt about that; the proposition is accepted. They need a lot of money. My suggestion is that the money which is collected and put into the trust account could be put to better use than administration. It could be put towards overcoming some of those problems which the Minister outlined in his address. If this is taken to the obvious extreme- to absurdium, as the lawyers would say- this sort of philosophy would suggest that everything gets paid for out of the royaltieshealth, education, welfare, legal aid and the whole lot. Everything could come out of royalties because it would be for the benefit of the Aboriginal people. Of course, there are some people in the community who put this point of view. They suggest that this is exactly what should be done with the money. I remind the Senate that I do not believe that this is the view of the Government, since it has not been expressed this way, and it is certainly not the view on this side of the House.
I also remind the Senate that when the agreements were made on the quantum of royalties there was no suggestion that this account would be used for administration. The suggestion was that the Government would pay for that. Little enough is given, and that is for distribution to Aboriginal people by Aboriginal people. The money needs to be in compensation for what the recent Mereenie oil lease discussions called detrimental effects such as disturbance of spiritual links with the land, deprivation of possession, damage to the land surface, impeding of right of way and impact on surrounding land ‘.
– Are you saying that the level of royalties is far too low?
-That is not the point I made. I said that little enough money is given. I am trying to put the case that we use all the money that is collected for the alleviation of these sorts of problems and not for administration. I am not discussing the quantum of the royalties.
– The Government should pay the administrative costs.
-That is the point I am making. I also have a concern about possible ministerial interference; that is, government interference. We are advised at all times to take the extreme view of the situation. We have no doubt that this Minister would not interfere. His qualities have been lauded this afternoon, as his praises have been sung. But what about a less enlightened Minister? The legislation we have must be tight enough to safeguard Aboriginal interests.
I turn now to clause 6. This is the clause to which Senator Gietzelt will move an amendment during the Committee stage to replace ‘the Minister’ by ‘the Parliament’. Of course, we accept the need for a report. But we also accept the proposition that this report needs to be studied and debated. I find it surprising that the Minister, who has been so eloquent about the role of parliament and so critical about the dangers of rule by the Executive, could have this provision in his Bill. Could it be that his translation to the front bench from one seat behind has somehow changed him?
– No, never.
– I am tempted to draw some Shakespearian allusions. I am assured by my colleagues and by the gentleman behind me, who has a lot of experience in these matters, that one does not change by becoming a Minister or by not being a Minister and being something else. Senator Gietzelt will cover clause 6 in greater depth.
I refer now to clause 7 which substitutes the Administrator of the Northern Territory’ wherever ‘Minister for the Northern Territory’ occurs. It is not that I do not want to see the Northern Territory involved; I certainly do. But what I would like to know- perhaps the Minister will explain this in his summation- is what involvement the Northern Territory is going to have. Let us face it, by ‘Administrator’ we mean the Northern Territory Government. What is it going to do? What involvement is it going to have? We know that the present Government of the Northern Territory is sympathetic to mining interests, to mining companies, to the chambers of industry and so on. I wonder what the attitude of these people is. I quote from the Northern Territory News as follows:
The Territory Chamber of Mines has hit out at Aboriginal land councils, saying recognition of existing and future claims could jeopardise the future of the Territory.
The chamber says it deplores the current trend of the land councils to make claims over mining, pastoral and other leasehold properties.
These are the people to whom the Government in the Northern Territory responds. They are the ones who help to frame the Northern Territory Government’s policy. The Government’s own views on land rights have also been interpreted by the Northern Territory News. They appeared in the publication of 3 November, a short time ago. It stated:
The CLP supports land rights, but when it comes to it the record raises doubts.
Too often, there are other reasons for moving awayextensions of town boundaries (town planning), and Utopia High Court appeal (legal issues).
There is also registration of Aboriginal land and roads, and added together the government has a real problem in convincing everyone it is not more interested in looking after white rather than black interests.
That is the group of people which this Bill will bring in; that is the group which will have some involvement. I would like a statement from the Minister to indicate just what involvement the Northern Territory Government will have. In fact I go so far as to say that we seek some assurance that the Federal Government will accept responsibility, that it will bite the bullet. It is clearand it has been clear to the Minister since he spoke to the Aboriginal communities years ago in those distant days when he was a back bencher and a member of the committee that talked to Aboriginals about land rights- that the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory want the Federal Government to have the final say. The Minister knows that. I hope that the Minister will have the courage to face up to the Northern Territory Government and to the State governments whenever necessary. This may mean, unfortunately for him, that he will have to move outside political affiliations, although he may not have to do so if he waits long enough because in 12 months time he can oppose a Labor government in the Northern Territory. Certainly his colleagues in the Northern Territory do this sort of thing; they do attack. I have a quotation here which shows that they certainly move outside political affiliations. They make a practice of seeking political gain by attacking Canberra. The present Commonwealth Government comes under more attack from colleagues in Queensland and in the Northern Territory than from the Australian Labor Party in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
The Northern Territory Government has made it clear that it is not on the side of the Aboriginal people. As the Northern Territory News indicated, actions speak louder than words. As recently as last Friday, when I made up my notes, the Northern Territory Government proclaimed the Jabiru town site, to the embarrassment of the Federal Government and of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. The area proclaimed was 52 square kilometres, not 1 3 square kilometres as agreed to in the case of Ranger. The size of Jabiru could be anything. Mr Everingham has been quoted as saying: ‘No one could be held by the limit of an arbitrary guesstimate of 3,500 in the Fox report’. Of course, the visit to Canberra this week by Mr Everingham to speak with his colleagues shows that the Northern Territory Government is still fighting this. This surprises me. It seems to mean nothing to Mr Everingham that the Aboriginal people were assured that 3,500 people would be the maximum. This was the promise made by the Minister’s government in 1976. It was the promise repeated by his predecessor, Mr Viner, at the signing of the Ranger Agreement last year. The fears of the Aboriginal people at Oenpelli are well known to the Minister and, because time is short, I will not elaborate on them. The Northern Territory Government has warned that the campaign to get the Kakadu and Uluru national parks under the administration of the Northern Territory would continue. Mr Everingham has made further attacks on the ANPWS, stating bluntly that the Service does not know its job. My colleague Senator Kilgariff mentioned that the Everingham Government sent out warning notices to four pastoral properties. I will just read a statement from the Canberra Times of 6 November. It stated:
Four Aboriginal communities, including the Gurindji at Dagaragu, or Wattle Creek, have received letters recently from the Northern Territory Lands Department drawing attention to alleged breaches of covenant on their pastoral leases, and warning of forfeiture if no answers were received within a specified period.
The moves were interpreted by several Aboriginal groups, and by the deputy Opposition leader in the Territory, Mr Perkins,-
Himself an Aboriginal- as being part of a tactic by the Government to oppose the eventual granting of land rights over the leases.
Let us make it quite clear that the situation is not quite as Senator Kilgariff said it was. It is an involved business to write to these pastoral properties and to threaten forfeiture. It is a three stage process at least. But what happened in this case was that the final statement was sent first- not the first one, to be followed weeks or months later by the second one, to be followed weeks or months later by the third. The third one, the final one, was sent first. Whatever we say, people in the Northern Territory know very well that covenants have not been kept by pastoral properties for 70 years and that for many years absolutely nothing was done about that. I make no complaint about that. It was a situation for another government or for the present Government in another form. It certainly seems that the notices were sent to only those four companies until there was an outcry in the Northern Territory. Then additional statements were sent to another group- perhaps the 50 or 60 referred to by my colleague. When there was an outcry the Government reverted to sending to the Aboriginal communities not letter number one but letter number two. At least it went back one stage. This is part of the total attack on Aboriginal properties.
Always we hear from the Everingham Government and, unfortunately, from some people in this place, that disease will spread out from Aboriginal properties. For some reason -we know what the reason is- the suggestion is made that pastoral properties managed by Aborigines are not being run properly; that the rest of Australia will suffer as a result of these people in the Northern Territory being given pastoral properties to manage. As I said previously, over the years many letters have been sent out and, as far as I know, not one property- including even the immense foreign-owned properties which exist in the Northern Territory- has been resumed. Aboriginal people are feeling insecure. Despite the fine words of Whitlam, which were sincere and would have been carried out, and despite the reiteration by Minister Viner, Aboriginals on pastoral properties have no security of tenure. They could be resumed if in breach. It would seem that the Aboriginal people themselves feel that they have no rights. Let us face it, if all the properties in the Northern Territory which were in breach of their covenants were forefeited there would be a tremendous change to the pattern of ownership in that Territory.
I want to deal with a number of other problems, but I will just mention them because of the shortage of time. There is a problem with roads. The Minister is very aware of that. I mention it only because it is a concern of mine. Access to roads, who is to control them, the permit system- the whole matter is disturbing to the Minister, the Opposition and the Northern Land Council. What is concerning me- I hope it is concerning other people also- is the attitude of some people in Australia. An article about the Northern Territory which was written by a Mr Hewatt and which appeared in the Australian reads:
One quarter of the population plays almost no part in this bustling development. They are the Aboriginals. Their only role is to obstruct by the use of land claims. Right now, with the energy problem growing, they are stalling the extraction and refining of the Territory’s only known oil and gas reserve.
It is hard to see how they will ever be able to play a partnership role in the development of the mighty riches of the land which was once their hunting ground.
In some way we have to overcome that sort of attitude. With respect, I do not suggest that the Minister shares those views, but obviously we need some sort of education program- some sort of statement- to overcome some of that. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the situation in the Northern Territory and of the Aboriginal people. But, unfortunately, that is the sort of material which has an effect on the people who do not know the situation, and who, perhaps, given the right sort of information, would react as they did to the referendum in 1 967. 1 suggest that the NLC and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs have a big job to do in public relations.
This is an important piece of legislation. I do not think it is too strong to say that the Minister’s credibility is on the line. The Aboriginal people are looking for strength. I plead with the Minister not to let them down, to exercise authority and not to be bluffed, as perhaps his predecessor was. The Federal Government has certain responsibilities and I call on the Minister to exercise those responsibilities in the best interests of the Aboriginal people and, ultimately, of Australia as a whole.
– I thank honourable senators for their contributions to this debate on what I was bold or silly enough to describe at some stage as a non-contentious issue. In fact, the debate has ranged over a fair area of concern about Aboriginal land rights and Aboriginal affairs generally. However, I would like to lay at least a couple of ghosts to rest. It is perhaps a healthy thing that there is a concern in the Parliament to make sure that the land rights legislation of 1976 is not whittled away. I understand and respect that concern. I think that my job would be more difficult if that concern did not exist right across the floor of the Parliament. I accept that wholeheartedly. On the other hand, I think that damage can be done by undue suspicion on the part of the Opposition. I believe that that damage can occur in eroding the consensus which was built up over the matter of giving Aboriginals security in Australia through the instrument of secure access to land and what is usually termed land rights. (Quorum formed). As I was saying, I think that, in being unduly suspicious, there is a real risk that the consensus which has built up will be eroded.
Senator Gietzelt, who led for the Opposition in the debate, and a number of other Opposition speakers suggested, for example, that there might be something sinister in the fact that there had been a delay in bringing the Bill forward. I would have preferred to have brought it into the Parliament earlier in the session, but the explanation for not having done so is pretty simple. Senator Cavanagh wrote to me making a suggestion with respect to the disallowance provision as it related to national interest proclamations. I sent that correspondence to my Department for consideration. I got a response. I wrote to Senator Cavanagh saying, I think, that I had the matter under consideration. After giving the matter consideration I came to the conclusion that Senator Cavanagh ‘s suggestion was sound. In other words, I approached the matter in a way in which Senator Gietzelt urged me to approach Opposition amendments. I wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 26 September 1979, which is when I completed my consideration, suggesting that a further amendment to the Bill ought to be made along the lines suggested by Senator Cavanagh in his correspondence.
– You just moved a bit slowly.
– It was slow, I admit that, but I am pointing out to the Senate how the delay occurred. It had nothing to do with any concern about the amendments which were being put forward; it had to do with a suggestion that a further amendment to the legislation should be made. It had to be processed through the Government parties and through the Cabinet system. Some time ago I notified Senator Cavanagh orally that it had been agreed that there should be a further amendment. On perhaps some inefficiency or slowness on my part in dealing with the suggestion rests the delay. I suggest to honourable senators that there is nothing sinister in that.
Another matter of concern to honourable senators is the appointment of Mr Barry Rowland, Q.C., to examine matters which have been raised with me and which allege difficulties in the practical implementation of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. On 13 November I issued a Press release which was aimed at damping down the sorts of fears expressed by honourable senators and reflected in some newspaper articles. The Press release states:
I emphasise that the examination would be without detriment to the basic principles of the Act.
I have consistently said that if there are claims of practical difficulties in the implementation of this pioneering legislation those claims should be examined and, if the difficulties are found to exist, they should be removed. I think that is a sensible stance to take and one which I will continue to take during the period in which I am Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
Those honourable senators who feel that there is something wrong in examining the Act in that way might console themselves by looking at the second report of the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission, headed by Mr Justice Woodward. I refer them in particular to paragraphs 757 to 764, which are headed ‘Future Review of arrangements’. Those paragraphs relate to even a review of principle. Mr Justice Woodward stated in paragraph 757:
In arriving at these recommendations, I have experienced great doubt on a number of issues- particularly those relating to mineral rights and to additional claims in pastoral lease areas. Although I believe the steps recommended to be those most likely to achieve the aims set out at the beginning of this report, there must be uncertainty as to the way in which many of the proposals will turn out in practice.
I do not adopt any stance in respect of substance in reading that paragraph and I have just read the section of my Press release which is relevant to points of principle. On examining those paragraphs one sees, I think, a very sensible observation on the part of Mr Justice Woodward that here is something new that will need to be examined. He says very carefully in those paragraphs that a stable framework is important. Honourable senators opposite who are concerned might read those paragraphs and ponder them because I think the paragraphs represent sound common sense and something about which we ought not to be fearful.
A series of points has been made by honourable senators in this debate. I will touch very quickly on some of the points which have been made. The first two major points made by Senator Gietzelt are those which I have already touched upon. He was also concerned about the position of the States and the Commonwealth ‘s attitude to the States. I can only remind honourable senators opposite that in 1975 when they proposed to legislate for land rights they introduced a Bill which, like the Government’s Bill, was restricted to the Northern Territory. The view was taken by Mr Justice Woodward in his report- he was asked to report only on the Northern Territory- that an examination of the State position would take much longer but that what was done in the Northern Territory would provide something of a precedent. So far, it has not provided a precedent in the sense of complementary legislation being enacted in the States.
Various means are being adopted by State governments to ensure that Aboriginals have secure access to land. In each State the Commonwealth has taken a positive interest in encouraging State action. In New South Wales an inquiry is under way at the moment. In South Australia legislation is proposed. I have had talks with the South Australian Government on that. In Victoria a limited amount of land has been made available. In Tasmania an inquiry has been held. Extensive areas are set aside in Western Australia as reserves and the State Government assures they are permanently reserved for Aboriginal use and benefit. Honourable senators would know of the continuous dealings between this Government and the Queensland Government on the question of land and Aboriginal access to and security on land.
Senator Gietzelt was also concerned; as was Senator Robertson- about an amendment which permits the Minister to accept part or all of a recommendation of a land commissioner. The Commissioner’s view is that the Minister already has this power. As I indicated in the second reading speech, there was concern because of legal advice the Government had received that perhaps that was not a correct view and that I had either to accept a recommendation in total or reject it in total. If any honourable senator needs convincing that that is not a very sensible range of options for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, I refer him to the Commissioner’s report for the year ended 30 June 1977. At page 4, paragraphs 1 7 to 20, the Commissioner puts down his view of the Act and points out that he makes a recommendation on the basis of Aboriginal attachment to land, that the other questions of competing land usage are simply matters for comment and that it is the province of the Minister to make a decision on the basis first of all of the recommendation which relates only to the Aboriginal side of things taking into account the matters of comment on which the Commissioner has also heard evidence.
It is true, one could argue, that the scheme of the Act should be different and that the Commissioner should have the power to make recommendations which exclude areas which it is argued successfully before him should be excluded. I think that these questions of competing land use basically in the end have to be decided by government. I do not pretend that it will necessarily be an easy matter for decision in particular cases. But I think the fact is that it is really a decision for government rather than a decision for a quasi-judicial tribunal to be making. In the report which I put before the Parliament with respect to the Uluru land claim I went to some trouble to point out the land use considerations. In that case I was able to- adopt the recommendations of the Commissioner in total. I hope that in many cases that will be so. I think that the scheme of the Act at the moment is a reasonable one and that this amendment should be seen as doing no more than confirming the legal position as it was understood by the Government and by the Land Commissioner.
The question of clause 8 has been raised by a number of people including Senator Kilgariff. This clause introduces, for the first time, the prospect of persons’ appearing before the Land Commissioner receiving legal aid. I am a little nonplussed, in fact, by the opposition to this clause from honourable senators opposite. The matters which come before the Land Commissioner often affect people other than Aboriginals. Those people naturally want to put their point of view before the Commissioner. It has been a mattter of ill feeling in the Northern Territory that apparently- I only repeat what is felt in the Northern Territory and what is represented to me- unlimited funds are made available to Aboriginals, to land councils and others to get high priced legal help and no assistance is made available to other parts of the community. This clause simply provides the Attorney-General with the power to give legal aid in appropriate cases. I should make it clear, in deference to the comments made by Senator Kilgariff, that a means test is not imposed in an absolute sense in the way it is under the legal aid system. Instead, the question of means is simply one of the factors which the Attorney is required to take into account in determining whether it is reasonable to grant legal aid. In other words, it is not a condition precedent. It is simply one of the factors to be borne in mind.
Senator Gietzelt made a plea that I should take a reasonable attitude to the Opposition amendments. I indicate now that the Government does not propose to accept the amendments which have been put foward. I repeat that I have already accepted an Opposition amendment which was raised with me by Senator Cavanagh as being something which will improve the Bill marginally. For reasons that I will explain in the Committee stage I do not believe that the other amendments are appropriate or would improve the Bill.
Senator Kilgariff raised a series of points. I thank him for his kind remarks and his encouragement. I was pleased that he quoted Paul Everingham, the Chief Minister, in his defence of land rights. A number of comments have been made by Senator Robertson and I think by some other senators about the attitude of the Northern Territory Government to land rights. It is very important that the Senate note not only the comments of the Chief Minister which were referred to by Senator Kilgariff but also the comments of the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Northern Territory, Mr Marshall Perron. At the Develop the North’ seminar in Broome recently he responded strongly to the critical remarks of the Premier of Queensland and defended land rights in the Northern Territory and their operation. In fact, the Northern Territory Government has made it clear on many occasions that it proposes to support land rights. I welcome those assurances.
Senator Kilgariff raised the question of compulsory Aboriginal voting which is to be introduced in the Northern Territory. It seems a little peripheral to the Bill but I would like to say that the recommendations of the Council for Aboriginal Development are in the terms of what is now being done by the Northern Territory Government, namely, the imposition of compulsory voting for Aboriginals, with the exception that the Council has sought a period of delay during which there would be an education campaign. In fact, I have already had a request from the Northern Territory Government seeking an extension to the Northern Territory of the education campaign which is at present operating in Western Australia and South Australia. At present I have that request under consideration and am very sympathetic to it.
I note also Senator Kilgariff’s point that too much could be spent in the land council system. I say in response to that that these are critical years for the land councils which are bringing forward the land claims. Because it is a new system virtually all land claims remain to be dealt with, lt is important that the councils do their work well. The Government has done what it can to support the land councils in gearing themselves up for the complex tasks that they have. It is a difficult area. The costs of the land councils have risen steeply over the last year. I think that has to be expected at this early period. It is a matter that the Government is aware of and concerned about.
With respect to pastoral leases, a matter raised by Senator Kilgariff and Senator Robertson, I can say only that there have been lengthy explanations from the Northern Territory that these leases are not under threat. I have carefully examined those statements and it seems clear that the Northern Territory Government, in common with other governments, is taking a much more careful look at pastoral lease provisions now that pastoral conditions are so much more prosperous except in drought areas. I have received assurances from the Northern Territory Government that the Aboriginal leases will be treated in the same way as all other leases. My Department accepts that it has a responsibility to ensure that Aboriginal attention is drawn to the pastoral lease conditions so that the risk of forfeiture does not arise.
I have already made some comments on the speech by Senator Keeffe in the course of a personal explanation. I regret, for the reason that I mentioned earlier- that we should be building a consensus on these issues rather than breaking it down- that he took such an attacking stance. For example, he suggested that in this legislation, as in the complementary legislation proposals, we were doing the bidding of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I can say only that these amendments have been before the Parliament since April or May of this year and the land councils have not raised a single word of objection. I know of no representations by the Northern Territory Government relating to any of the amendments that are currently before us. As far as my knowledge is concerned, that aspect of Senator Keeffe ‘s remarks has no foundation in fact whatever.
Senator Mason made a very good point when he spoke of the fragility of relations in this area. It is certainly true that the land councils have been given a series of complex tasks to perform. They are under considerable pressure to perform that multiplicity of complex tasks and it would be very easy to destroy the relationship between the Government and the land councils which is important to the good working of this Act. I note his remarks in that respect, with which I do not have any real disagreement. Stage 2 of the Kakadu National Park, as he mentioned, is more the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster), to whom I will refer his remarks for consideration and reply.
The right of veto, which he raised, would be a matter of considerable concern. I say quite flatly to the Senate that the right of veto is not within the review that is currently being undertaken. That is clearly understood by Mr Rowland. I do not believe that I need make any further comment on that. It would be a matter of principle and, therefore, by definition, outside the scope of review. As to the profits which may or may not flow to the Northern Land Council in the event of further development in the uranium province, T can only direct the attention of the Senate and Senator Mason to the fact that, under the Act, the terms and conditions under which mining would proceed are to be negotiated by the Land Council, acting on behalf of the traditional owners, with the miner concerned. Therefore, it lies outside of the province of the Government to determine what those terms and conditions shall be. However, an agreement of that sort does require my approval. I would expect that, as in prior agreements, the land councils would prove quite adequate to the task of negotiating suitable terms and conditions. The solid way in which the Central Land Council has maintained its negotiating stance in the Mereenie situation augurs well for the future of the land council role in this area.
Senator Robertson raised a series of matters. His comments on the Borroloola land situation reflect to some extent either a slight misunderstanding or perhaps a brevity in expressing his views which may have given rise to my not hearing what he said in quite the way that he meant. As would be well known to the honourable senator, many of the Aboriginals who were involved in the claim were extremely disappointed with the finding of the commissioner. He did not find in favour of the Aboriginals, not because of questions of access, mining and so on but because, with respect to quite significant areas of land, he did not find the required strength of traditional attachment to obtain. So, in fact, the claim failed at its root. The remaining problems which I have before me relating to -
– I think you will find that there were areas which were recognised as traditional claims but were not granted for other reasons. I realise that what you are saying applies to some areas but it does not apply to those to which I drew attention.
– It is a complex of areas. The claims in respect of some areas were granted. The Borroloola common, for which title has not yet been issued, but for which it has been recommended, did not involve the excision of a corridor for mining. Rather, it involved the excision of a road over which the public had a right-of-way and comments were made in regard to the width that ought to be permitted, given that there may be mining development. The matter is still before me, but I hope that the arrangements between the Northern Land Council, the Northern Territory Government and the miners who are involved ultimately will produce a reasonable solution for all of the competing demands in that area.
– If the Aboriginals are involved, that will be excellent.
– They are currently involved in discussions and negotiations with the Northern Territory Government on that matter. Also, I query some of Senator Robertson’s comments about the fact that all of the money which is negotiated under these mining agreements is not to go directly to the Aboriginals. The mining agreements were made after negotiations which took place following the passage of the Act, when clearly the parties knew that the breakdown provided for in the Act of 40 per cent, 30 per cent and 30 per cent, would apply. I do not think that, given the agreements which have been made, there has been any misrepresentation on the part of either the traditional owners or the land councils as to what the actual cash flows would be.
– Except in the case of Groote and Gove, where the agreements were made before the Act was passed.
-That is so. Perhaps the penultimate point with which I want to deal is the role of the Northern Territory Government, which Senator Robertson raised also. The fact is that the Commission will be forwarding reports to the Administrator- which means, of course, to the Northern Territory Government. In turn, before decisions are made on claims I will be seeking the comments of that Government because of the difficult land use questions which fall to the Minister for the time being to decide; but that is the extent of the role of the Northern Territory Government.
– The decision will remain with you?
-That is right. The proclamation of the Jabiru town site was dealt with adequately and the position of the Commonwealth made clear by the statement of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) yesterday, a statement which doubtless has been seen by the honourable senators. Again, the matter of roads, which was also raised by Senator Robertson, has been satisfactorily put to bed in terms which will not diminish the rights of Aboriginals but will enable the titles to be registered and any disputes to be settled subsequently, by either discussion or litigation. I can only say that I agree with Senator Robertson’s remarks concerning the Hewatt article. It is incumbent upon us to get the story across far better than we have in the past. I accept that as a government responsibility and am examining it at the moment to see how we can improve the public perception of what we as legislators and as a government, produced in 1976.
I have given a long reply in a debate on a Bill which essentially effects rather technical amendments to the Act, but I appreciate the considerable interest in land rights on the part of honourable senators, whom I thank for their continuing participation in this regard.
– Could you comment on the amendment that has been proposed to the motion for the second reading?
– Which amendment is that?
– The amendment which provides: but the Senate is of the opinion that the Government should as soon as possible extend by legislation the rights of Aborigines in the Northern Territory to Aborigines in the Australian Capital Territory.
– The Government would not propose to accept that amendment. In the Nothern Territory itself claims of that kind are not subject to the provisions of this Act. As I thought would be well known to Opposition senators, claims such as that for Kulaluk, for example, are dealt with by discussion with the Government and by the granting of leases. They are outside the jurisdiction of the Land Commissioner and the land rights Act generally. The view of the Government is that the position of the Wreck Bay people is best dealt with by similar procedures. The present state of affairs between the Government and the Wreck Bay community is such that there is not a claim for traditional land rights as in the Northern Territory or in the traditional community form, but rather a disagreement about the lease area which ought to be granted. There is disagreement about the history of the lease area, the Wreck Bay people alleging that the reserve area was expanded considerably beyond what has been found in government records to be the case. Therefore, it is not proposed, by this Bill or by any other means, to extend the operation of the land rights Act to the Australian Capital Territory or, indeed, change the way of dealing with non-traditional claims for land by Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. It is proposed that they should continue to be dealt with by a system of special lease of the sort seen in Alice Springs and of the sort seen in Darwin.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– There are a number of amendments to be moved, some by me and some by the Opposition. I suggest that we deal with the Bill up to clause 6 in one part, and then take it piece by piece after that according to the amendments. I think the first amendment to be moved by the Opposition is to clause 6.
Clauses 1 to 5- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 6 (Annual Reports by Land Councils).
– The Opposition desires to remove the word ‘Minister’ from lines 22 and 24 and insert therein the word ‘Parliament’. I move:
The reason we do this is borne out, I think, by the explanation which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) gave in the second reading debate. He indicated that there is a lot of information which is not available to us in the normal course of events on which to make judgments about the way in which the land rights legislation is being applied. I think it is fair to say that there is a breakdown in communication, a breakdown in providing information, which probably would be overcome to a great extent if the Parliament were advised more readily and more often about developments in this area. I think it has to be recognised that the land rights legislation is a new concept. It is a principle about which we know there has been considerable pressure and considerable disputation, as the Minister rightly referred to, between the original land owners- here I am referring to the Aborigines- and those who claimed to be the original land owners- and here I am referring to the whites- because of the way in which the early land titles were dealt with.
If we want to have a reasonable and logical debate, a debate that is related as far as is practical to the factual situation in respect of land rights, it seems reasonable that the information ought to be furnished to the Parliament rather than to the Minister, because whilst some of us certainly would take a broad view with respect to the current Minister, I would not apply the same yardstick to his predecessor, who I felt did not have the breadth of vision or approach to the matter to satisfy the Opposition.
I have dealt with the matter in respect of the particularity of this amendment. If we look at it in the sense of the general way in which the Parliament ought to operate as distinct from the manner in which the Minister or the Government operates from time to time, I think there is a powerful case to suggest that we ought to be taking steps to extend more and more the role of the Parliament rather than the role of the Executive. Articles have been written and speeches have been made in this place, particularly by members of the Government, about the subordination of the Parliament to Executive whim. They are questions which I would remind honourable senators and the Government have been expressed from time to time by many members of the Opposition. In particular, I recall in my apprenticeship days in this place the attempts that were made by my then Leader, Senator. Murphy, in relation to the need to establish the supremacy of the Parliament as distinct from the supremacy of the Executive. I recall Senator Sir Magnus Cormack making comments about this prior to his retirement from Parliament, and indeed the Minister himself has made comments on it. So I think there is a very good case not only in respect of this particular piece of legislation but also as part of the general principle of trying to establish in a more principled way the role of the Parliament so that the sort of information which we will be talking about in another piece of legislation- the Freedom of Information Bill- can be made available. I cannot see why the report should be made available to the Minister but not made available to the Parliament. It should not be left to the Minister to decide whether the Parliament should be informed. I think it is logical and reasonable that proposed new section 37A(1) should read:
A Land Council shall, as soon as practical after the end of each financial year, prepare and furnish to the Parliament a report of the operations of the Council during that year, together with financial statements in respect of that year in such form as the Parliament approves . . .
I know from the way in which Parliament operates that it follows that it is the Minister virtually who can determine the fate of some proposal or otherwise determine what happens. But then there are occasions, all too infrequent, where the Parliament, sometimes- the Senate this casemay exercise some influence. Perhaps after the next election the Senate might be more evenly balanced, and that would give the Parliament a slightly better opportunity to play a sort of review role. I do not think it is a matter that really restricts substantially the rights of the Minister, but it certainly does enhance the role of the Parliament. I think in those circumstances it is reasonable for us to argue that the deletion of the word ‘Minister’ and the substitution of the word Parliament ‘ought to be accepted by the Senate.
– I have listened carefully to what has been said by Senator Gietzelt. I agree with part of what he says in the sense that I think it is important that Parliament has an opportunity to examine these areas, particularly where public money is involved. Of course, arguably, no public money will be involved when the accounts get back into balance and the whole of the Land Councils ‘expenses can be met under the 40 per cent allocation. It is hoped that that will be within the next couple of years. There is some reservation in the councils about the extent to which the Government, and I suspect also the Parliament, does interfere with the operations of the land councils, which they say are set up as independent bodies and funded in a way provided for in the statute, normally without additional subventions of public moneys. So it is an area where there is some sensitivity on the part of the land councils.
I have reservations about the amendment on that basis, but also I have reservations on the basis that it seems to me that one might consider changing ‘Minister’ in line 22 to ‘Parliament’, but leaving ‘Minister’ in line 24 on the basis that Parliament is a rather unwieldly body to be setting about approving the form of financial statements, and so on. Where it appears on the second occasion, it seems to me that it would be a rather clumsy instrument to perform that task.
What I would do on behalf of the Government is indicate that we oppose the amendment, but undertake to give the matter consideration and to query the proposal with the land councils between now and the autumn session. It is my intention to introduce further amending legislation in the autumn session to cover the roads question which was mentioned by a number of honourable senators in debate and on which I have indicated to the land councils and the Northern
Territory Government that amendments will be brought forward. I would propose therefore to oppose the amendment, but on the clear understanding that I will give it consideration and refer it to the land councils, and that there will be an opportunity to bring it before the Senate again.
– There are a couple of points that I would like to raise. In relation to Senator Gietzelt ‘s point about the role of Parliament, I am wondering just how much detailed work this House physically has time to do when it comes down to matters of perhaps that degree of detail. There is also the point of view of the land councils themselves. They may not want, for a variety of reasons, to have to go through the considerable work and formality that would be involved in a report to Parliament on their own affairs. I suggest that this might attract unfair publicity to the land councils. There is going to be a situation- if all that we hear is true- where they may have considerable wealth. I do not necessarily think that it is a good thing that this should be made a matter of blazing publicity in quite that way. There again, I think that if the land councils have cause for complaint as a result of their reports to the Minister they have other means of recourse.
– I rise just to say that I will note those remarks.
– I appreciate the view that has been expressed by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) but I would like to refer to Senator Mason’s contribution. If the land council is required, as it is in the existing legislation, to have a report prepared for the Minister, it seems a machinery matter to have the same report made available to the Parliament. After all, the process has already been involved. Whilst I can agree with Senator Mason that the problem facing all members of parliament is how to handle the tremendous volume of reports, let him be assured that in the event of an election producing a Labor government it would certainly be very interested in improving the resources of members of parliament so that they can more readily carry out their role of appreciating these sorts of reports. It is a matter of great concern to me that this week something in excess of 60 reports have been placed on my desk. I will have no chance of even looking at the titles, let alone carrying out any examination of the material in them.
If we have statutory bodies, government departments and other agencies presenting reports to the Parliament, we ought to have the resources to make sure that something happens to them apart from public servants exercising the role of deciding what ought to flow from them. That is the process that is unsatisfactory from the point of view of the member of parliament. In fact, it is left substantially to our friends in the Press Gallery to spend an hour or two scanning through reports, picking out an item and, in fact, often publishing their comments upon the reports before we even have a chance to receive them, least of all to read them. Whilst there is some validity in the point that has been raised by Senator Mason, I think it is partly a dereliction of responsibility on our part because the Government has not agreed as yet to make the resources we need available to us. I think that we are rapidly reaching the stage where each member of the Parliament needs a reader on his personal staff to do the job of drawing attention to the matters that ought to be examined with a view to making some public comment or some comment in the Parliament itself.
I cannot necessarily speak conclusively on behalf of my Party about the Minister’s agreement to consider this matter. In view of the fact that the Minister has come some way along the road to meeting the requirements in the amendment, I propose to ask him whether he might not be prepared to reconsider and adopt the proposition with respect to furnishing the Parliament with the report and not be so much concerned about the financial side of it. If that is a matter that concerns the Government, he has the opportunity to refer that to the Parliament, should he so choose. It is important for us, as members of the Parliament, to have a report on what the land council is doing and what difficulty it has rather than be faced with the prospect that the Minister has to appoint an outsider to report on all of the deficiencies or difficulties that the land council had and then come back to us. It seems to me that it is part of our responsibility to be better informed. The opportunity of having a report from the land council is not asking too much of the Minister. I do not want to press the point, but I think that that might overcome some of the objections that he has raised. If he is not prepared to do that, I suppose the Opposition is grateful for the fact that the matter will be reconsidered and will be brought back in the autumn session.
– The more I hear, the more I do want to give the matter further consideration. I will stand by the position that I have indicated previously.
Clause agreed to.
Proposed new clause 6a.
– I move:
I acknowledge, as I did in my reply to the second reading debate, that this amendment arises out of a suggestion made by Senator Cavanagh who, in correspondence, drew my attention to the difference between the disallowance provision of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act as it relates to a national interest proclamation permitting mining over an Aboriginal veto and what might be called the standard provision in the Acts Interpretation Act and in a number of other Acts. After examination, I concluded that there was a difference and I accepted the honourable senator’s point. Therefore, I put this forward as a Government amendment. Senator Cavanagh has raised a similar point with respect to the National Health Act which also contains this different provision. The National Health Act was amended some time ago in accordance with his suggestion. The Government therefore proposes this amendment.
The difference, for those honourable senators who are not familiar with it, is that the existing section provides that if a disallowance motion is not dealt with within15 sitting days the motion does not take effect. The standard provision is that if it is not dealt with in the 1 5 sitting days which are allowed it is deemed to be carried. The view of the Government has always been that there was no real problem, because if one had a majority sufficient to carry a resolution, one had a majority sufficient to bring it before the chamber. I do accept that there is that possibility of difference. It does away with the possibility of an omission which may mean that the Parliament forgot to deal with it notwithstanding its importance. I propose that amendment which for the moment, we might dub the Cavanagh amendment.
– I appreciate what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has done on this occasion. Originally we discussed this matter some considerable time ago when the Minister was responsible for the carriage of a National Health Bill through this chamber. I had previously protested about the National Health Bill and the Government rectified the position by making the amendment. The only Bill, to my knowledge, which did not have a suitable clause was the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill. In conference with the Minister, he promised to consider the matter. Obviously he has done so. We have had verbal exchanges and some correspondence about the question. When the Minister sent the proposed amendment to me, he suggested that it was satisfactory. He believed that it followed the standard section. To my mind, he is wrong.
In most of the Bills which I have read there is a clause which states that such a declaration, when laid before the House, shall be deemed to have the effect of a regulation, as in the Acts Interpretation Act. This clause follows the one adopted in the National Health Act. For reasons which I will disclose it seems, to my mind, preferable to that in the Acts Interpretation Act. The Acts Interpretation Act brings a regulation into operation on the day that it is gazetted. Fifteen sitting days are then allowed for any member of the Parliament to disagree with the regulation and, if anyone gives notice of a motion for the disallowance of the regulation, the Parliament has a further 15 sitting days to decide the question. That means that a provision by virtue of a regulation may be disallowed some months after it is first gazetted. Fifteen sitting days have to pass and the Parliament might rise three sitting days after a gazettal and not sit again until some months later. That is what I am complaining about.
The Regulations and Ordinances Committee, in correspondence with the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), asked why the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act is so different and why the Government would not accept the amendment that is presently proposed. He could not give an answer. He said that it may be that the Government does not want the Acts Interpretation Act to apply because, on gazettal of the regulation, someone would think that he had some claim only to find out at some later date after the Parliament has considered the question that he never had the claim which he thought he had, and that person may have incurred expenditure and inconvenience in the belief that he was covered. The National Health Act and the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act now provide that the regulation or the determination shall have no effect until such time as 15 sitting days have passed for objections to be lodged and, if an objection is lodged, until 1 5 sitting days have passed for consideration of it. The weakness in the previous provision is that, a motion having been moved for the disallowance of a regulation, it was left more of less to the Government to decide whether it would be put on the Business Paper for consideration. The motion could lapse on the basis of its not being discussed within the 15 sitting days. The proposed amendment would make the declaration ineffective and therefore disallowed unless the motion is discussed within the 15 sitting days.
The proposed amendment will compel the Government to bring the motion on for consideration if it wants its determination to stand. That will get over the possible objection of the Attorney-General and would appear to be a more preferable way of handling the matter than the provision in the Acts Interpretation Act. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee, in considering the matter, found that many Acts had different prescriptions for the purpose of disallowance. Of course, the question arises as to whether they should be brought into line? Should we adopt a standard approach? I believe that the Committee is of the opinion that we could not adopt this new procedure for all Acts because it would mean that regulations brought in while the Parliament is in recess could not have effect until such time as the 1 5 sitting days had elapsed. It is obvious that there is some need to review the whole procedure to be followed in the disallowance of regulations.
The only other point I want to make- I stress that I stated it in correspondence to the Minister- is that the disallowance provision is important in the operation of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act because of what Mr Justice Woodward said in his report. He did not say that the mining should be permitted only if it is in the national interest. In paragraph 569 of his report he points out that Aboriginals should have the final say on whether mining should be permitted upon their land unless the Government of the day were to resolve that the national interest required it. He stated:
I use the word ‘required ‘ deliberately so that such an issue would not be determined on a mere balance of convenience or desirability but only as a matter of necessity.
There one has the statement that the GovernorGeneral ‘s determination should apply not only if the mining is in the national interest but also if the national interest requires it and that drastic results would occur without it. I see that the Government had adopted the position that the Governor-General can make a proclamation if the national interest requires it. I only hope that when the situation arises in which a determination is made by the traditional owners not to permit mining there will be something more than national interest involved for the mining to be permitted. It must be that the national interest requires it, otherwise it could be disastrous for the nation. With those few remarks, I again thank the Minister for what he has done in bringing forward this amendment. We should clean up all those Acts in which there is a provision for the disallowance of a regulation.
– I support what has been said and commend the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for his perspicacity in dealing with this matter and bringing it forward. I also commend Senator Cavanagh, the Deputy Chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, for his persistence in bringing this matter to the attention of the Minister and pressing it. What has been said by Senator Cavanagh is quite correct. As Chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, I am pleased to see this alteration being made. What has been said by Senator Cavanagh in respect to the difference between this form of disallowance and the more usual form is understood and appreciated. One just cannot duplicate such provisions in every case, and one may have to do something in the course of a recess.
I disagree slightly with the Minister’s statement that there is probably very little difference between the two. I think there is some difference in the sense that it is a weakening of the power of the Houses of Parliament to disallow if, in fact, the onus is on them to get a matter on and to disallow it. Whereas there are situations in which apathy may have some effect, clearly in this case it ought to be a determination that means that a declaration should be made. The onus is there to establish it. The onus should be on those who seek to uphold the declaration. An example of that occurred recently in the House of Representatives with regard to the disallowance of regulations- telecommunications by-laws. The effect of the failure to bring on the motion was that the by-laws were deemed to be disallowed.
It may be that at times one is not at all clear whether a majority is for or against a disallowance, but the onus is certainly on the Government under the provision to be inserted in this Bill to bring it forward and to establish that there is clear support for that decision in the debate that takes place. It is true, as Senator Cavanagh pointed out, that when the Committee tried to find out why this provision was put into the original legislation no one really seemed to know why it was put in this unusual form, which we think is a disagreeable form and a form that weakens the powers of the Houses of the Parliament. The important point now is that the provision which is being inserted in this legislation will provide for better consistency and the principle is being established that the onus should be on those who wish to uphold regulations, not the other way round. I am therefore very pleased to see this provision being put in the Bill.
– I rise only to acknowledge the comments of the two honourable senators who have spoken. I agree with the points that have been made with respect to the fact that there is that point of difference in the provision. What is suggested is a strengthening of it. I certainly acknowledge the quotation from Mr Justice Woodward ‘s report by Senator Cavanagh. I am pleased that Senator Cavanagh acknowledges that the Commonwealth has reflected that recommendation in the provision.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 1 1 -by leave- taken together.
– I would like some information on paragraph 8 of the amendment which seeks to alter the proposed new section 54C and which is to permit the payment of expenses of persons who appear before the Land Commissioner. Those who are to receive payments under the new proposed section are referred to in sub-section 1(b):
The Attorney-General, or an officer of the Australian Public Service authorized in writing by the Attorney-General, is satisfied that, in all the circumstances of the case, it is reasonable that the Commonwealth should provide assistance in respect of the whole or a pan of the cost of the representation to which the application relates.
I am concerned as to whether there is going to be a payment by the Commonwealth to anyone who is going to oppose Aborigines getting land. I would not want that to happen. I wonder whether there are any guidelines to explain the wording ‘ … the Attorney-General, is satisfied that, in all the circumstances of the case’. What would the circumstances of the case be in permitting the Attorney-General to pay the whole or part of the cost? Would it be some sort of means test? Would it be considering their rights or their claim for rights as against another group of Aborigines wanting land? Would it be consideration of their mineral interest or a private industry interest in the land? Sub-section 3 (a) provides:
Before the commencement of this section, provision by the Commonwealth of assistance in respect of the whole or a pan of the cost of legal representation was authorised in response to an application made by the Attorney-General.
Some expenses have apparently not been incurred. I would like to know for whose benefit that sub-section was inserted. It is obviously for the payment of someone whom the Commonwealth has paid wholly or in part to appear before the Commissioner. Perhaps the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs could tell us which guidelines apply and what sub-section ( 3 ) is intended to do.
– That was inserted to cover the delay which was occasioned between the announcement of this decision and the introduction of the Bill. I am speaking from memory, but my recollection is that when the Government decision was taken I issued a Press release which indicated that as from that date applications would be entertained. In other words, it was not back-dated in a general sense but it indicated that as from the date of the Press release applications could be made and would be considered even though the Bill -
– Have any been authorised?
-No. The present position- on my advice which is a few days old now but which I have no notice has been changed- is that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has not granted financial assistance for this purpose to date. Approximately seven applications have been received, six relating to the Uluru National Park claim which is one that I referred to and which was pending at that time, and one relating to the Dum-in-merri claim which is yet to be heard.
Regarding the other points which were made by the honourable senator, the section speaks for itself as to the basis on which legal aid is granted. It requires the Attorney-General or delegated officer to be satisfied that in all the circumstances it is reasonable. No attempt has been made to provide a guide book on how the AttorneyGeneral should arrive at the reasonableness of any application although there is a qualification in sub-section (3) which says:
The circumstances . . . including a reference to any hardship that the refusal of the application in question would cause to the applicant . . .
When I was speaking in reply to the second reading debate I indicated that that was not a condition precedent but one of the conditions which was to be taken into account. There are various Acts which provide for legal aid in specific circumstances. I do not have a catalogue of those before me. I examined them at the time this recommendation was being considered. I think in some of them hardship is a condition precedent. In this case hardship is one of the factors which is to be taken into account. My officers have just found the Press release to which I referred. It was issued on 13 February and I announced the following:
The Government intended to legislate to provide financial assistance in appropriate cases to individuals, groups, associations or corporate bodies which wish to be represented in future hearings before the Aboriginal Land Commissioner.
I indicated the basis which was that the Attorney-General should be satisfied, in all the circumstances, including the possibility of hardship to the applicant that it was reasonable. I note that this does not include time. I must have issued a subsequent Press release which established the actual date. This Press release says:
Individuals or groups wishing to take advantage of the new provisions should make application, following the passage of the legislation . . .
In fact, subsequently I made a statement that it could be taken back to this date. I can not give the Senate any further guidance on this matter. I do not think that in any of the statutes in which legal aid is provided there is any guidance as to how one determines whether an application is reasonable.
– I cannot take this much further. I would just say that this Bill justifies the complaints that I have made in debating many Bills over a period. No criteria are set down to determine whether people have a claim for assistance, whether there is an appeal against the decision or any action could be taken. What has to be established is that the Attorney-General or his officer were wrong in their decisions because they were not satisfied. The criterion for receiving payment is that it must be to the satisfaction of an individual. This is entirely wrong and we should be setting down criteria. If it is hardship, we should state it. The only other thing I want to say is that I can see the purpose of including sub-section (3 ), but it seems unnecessary. Applications under this sub-section relate to payments which are authorised. I have been told by the Minister that no payment has been authorised. I suppose it can do no damage if the Minister decides to keep this provision in the Bill. I do not insist on its removal but it does seem totally useless.
– Referring to clause 8(2)(b), it seems that a case has been made out ibr certain guidelines being established which would be related to some sort of a means test application. The Opposition has put forward legislation to provide legal aid. We do not disagree with the general principles, but we would want to see that that legal aid was granted to those who were in need of legal aid. I suppose everybody is in need of legal aid. I am talking of legal aid from the point of view of the person having the incapacity, because of financial restrictions, to have recourse to legal assistance.
– And a genuine Aboriginal interest.
– Yes. I would not object. The case Senator Kilgariff made today is that there would be people who, for a variety of reasons, believe they hold title to land and who might not be in a financial position to represent their point of view before the Land Council. I hope that in those circumstances the Aborigines would win out. Nevertheless, I concede that there could be a case to be adequately represented before the Council. It does seem to me that we ought to have regulations of some sort which say that, for example, Western Mining Corporation Ltd would not qualify for legal assistance but that persons A, B, and C, because of their financial positions, would be eligible.
Apart from making that point, I suppose that all we can say is that perhaps regulations ought to be established which clearly define who would be able to make an application and that that sort of information ought to be freely available to the persons who might find that their rights in the matter are being neglected because of the inability to provide themselves with financial and legal assistance.
– I have listened to the arguments put by honourable senators and I do not believe that I can advance the matter further. This matter was the subject of many representations, some through Senator Kilgariff and some direct from people in the Northern Territory. It was given very careful consideration by the Government and the formula which is contained in proposed section 54C is one that, after very extensive consideration, the Government thought was the most workable and reasonable. As far as Western Mining Corporation Ltd is concerned, the one guideline that is there as to reasonableness is that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack), is obliged to take into account the question of hardship. Unless there is a serious change in the financial position of Western Mining Corporation, I think I can categorically assure the Senate that it will not be in the queue.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 12 and proposed new clause 13- by leave- taken together.
– With respect to clause 12, 1 move:
Page 5, clause 12, add the following new sub-clause:
The reference in sub-section ( 1 ) to amounts paid by the Commonwealth out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund shall be read as not including a reference to-
any amount paid under an agreement under subsection 44(1) or (2) of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976; or
any amount paid out of the appropriation made by item 07 of sub-division 3 of Division 640 of the Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1978-79.
It was intended that the proposed section provide for the repayment of special appropriations made from Consolidated Revenue during 1978-79 to supplement section 64(1) payments- that is, the 40 per cent payments which are made to land councils- which were insufficient to meet Land Council expenses. Section 12 of the Bill as introduced could be interpreted as requiring the repayment of other special payments made during 1978-79 to meet Land Council expenses, such as those under the Ranger agreement. The proposed amendment ensures that these special payments are not required to be repaid to Consolidated Revenue.
– We can take both amendments together.
– 1 will move the second amendment which inserts a new clause 13. I move:
The new clause 13 is to cover the fact that during 1978-79, payments were made under section 64 (4) of the principal Act to meet land council budgets since at the time there were inadequate funds available to councils under section 64 ( 1 ). In addition, some personal loans were made to Aboriginals under section 64(4). A subsequent legal opinion received from the AttorneyGeneral ‘s Department cast some doubt as to the validity of these payments. It was that opinion which led to the payments from the Advance to the Treasurer to the land councils which are to be repaid. Bearing in mind the case of Whitlam v. Sankey, I thought that to continue the payments might give rise to some very serious allegations. The Auditor-General has commented in his 1978-79 annual report that the legislative proposals under consideration in the Bill do not resolve the question of the legality of the payments and loans to land councils. This second amendment will settle this issue.
– The view was expressed during the second reading debate on this Bill that the Opposition would oppose this principle. The Opposition thinks that administrative costs should be borne by the Government; they should not come out of funds provided. Having voiced that objection, I wish to say no more.
– Purely out of courtesy, I respond to the honourable senator by saying that the Government stands by the view it took when it enacted section 64.
– The Government is wrong.
-I accept that there is a difference of opinion.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a third time.
– by leave-Mr President, this morning we had the unfortunate situation of some disagreement concerning leave being granted to an honourable senator to make a very brief statement, I believe of one or two minutes duration, in response to information provided by you. I have since had discussions with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) and also with the Government Whip. To assist all honourable senators and to expedite the work of the Senate, it may be of benefit if Senator McLaren were now to seek leave to make a very brief statement. I believe that his request would be given favourable consideration by the Government.
– by leave- I understand that there have been discussions, as indicated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wriedt). On the basis that agreement has been reached on an orderly process to pass through the Government’s program in the next week, the Government agrees to the proposition that Senator McLaren be invited to seek leave again.
-by leave- Mr President, the reason I sought leave this morning to make a statement arising out of your statement was that I approached you in the Senate yesterday to ask for either a transcript of the broadcast of Question Time on Tuesday evening or a copy of the tape recording. You told me how to go about getting it and then when I asked the question yesterday you very rightly stood up to protect your officers. As I said to you outside the chamber, I had no intention to cast any reflection on the officers of this Parliament, because the officer in question went to no end of trouble to help me get that information. When I sought to say that I had the information, after your support of the officer, Senator Baume stopped me from doing so, and again it was Senator Baume who prevented me from speaking this morning.
The fact is that you have now made that statement and we have the proof of the imbalance of Question Time on Tuesday and your undertaking to monitor the rebroadcast until the end of the session. I appreciate what you have said. The reason I raised the matter was that Senator
Georges and many other honourable senators on this side have repeatedly stood in their places and objected to the length of Dorothy Dix questions from Government members and to the length of answers given. Mr President, in your statement you said:
Questions asked towards the end of Question Time are usually not broadcast because of the time limit of the broadcast. The actual time taken in the broadcast of questions from each side of the chamber depends upon the relative length of the questions and answers themselves -
Mr President, you then went on to say that there was an imbalance. That is the very thing we wanted to have analysed. I am very pleased that you have now given an undertaking that you will monitor the rebroadcasts. We hope that some remedial action will be taken if the things we have complained about in the past occur again. I thank you, Mr President, for the statement you have put down.
Motion (by Senator Rae)- by leaveproposed:
That the Australian Development Assistance review report 1977-78 and the Defence Service Homes Corporation report 1977-78 be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations for investigation and report as to the reasons for the delay in their presentation.
– I wish to speak in support of this motion only to say that everyone is sorry for what happened this morning. Things got overheated. I think that this morning’s exercise indicated that there was a lot of abuse of the privilege of refusing leave. Could a situation in which an honourable senator refuses leave because of spite, or for some reason which other honourable senators do not agree with, be looked at by the Standing Orders Committee with a view to considering whether, where leave is necessary, leave could be sought of the President, who does not have all the prejudice that other honourable senators have. Thus we could remove the possibility of what happened this morning happening on future occasions.
– I will take that matter into consideration and refer it to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration in due time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave- I give notice that, on that next day of sitting, I shall move:
That the following matters be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations:
Reports by the National Health and Medical Research Council on work under the Medical Research Endowment Act during 1976 and 1977;
Annual reports of activities under the National Fitness Act, for the years 1975-76 and 1976-77;
Fourth annual report of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation, for the year 1976-77; and
Seventh annual report on the operations of registered medical and hospital benefits organizations, for the year 1976-77.
– I bring up the 13th report from the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
Debate resumed from 7 November, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Before we resume the debate, I point out that there was some question about a document which Senator Evans was interested in having made available to him, namely, a summary of various recommendations for amendment. I have made that document available to Senator Evans. It is available for distribution in the Senate. I do not know that a great many honourable senators would want to be burdened with it but it can be distributed to any who are interested in having it. I think it would probably be better to distribute it on request.
-When I commenced my speech on this Bill last Wednesday night a few minutes before the adjournment I indicated that the Opposition was not opposed to it but that we approached it with some reservations, in particular the reservation that we knew not whence the provisions in the Bill came; whether and to what extent they were the subject of Administrative Review Council recommendations or whether they were the product of the Government’s own initiative. I am indebted to the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) for his courtesy, after the conclusion of last Wednesday night’s sitting, in subsequently supplying me with the document to which he has just referred, that is, the document headed ‘Administrative Review Council Amendments to the Administrative Tribunal Act’. That document is of a somewhat obscure status. Nonetheless, it indicated to me- although it was undated and apparently incomplete- the range of the considerable number of Administrative Review Council recommendations on these questions to the Attorney-General. That document has probably been superseded by yet another document which has come into the public domain since last Wednesday. Of course, that is the third annual report of the Administrative Review Council which appears to embody all the particular recommendations that are contained in the document to which I have just referred, in addition to a number of other recommendations. So in continuing to refer to the question of what is and what is not the subject of recommendations from the Administrative Review Council, I think it may be more convenient if I concentrate my attention on the third annual report of the ARC.
– I think that the document I gave you is actually a bit fuller than the report on these matters.
– With respect, it is fuller in terms of its explanation of some of the items, but it seems to be less full in some other respects. It may be that we are just splitting hairs at the moment but, in any event, on the particular matters that I want to refer to it is certainly not very full at all; nor for that matter is the Administrative Review Council’s actual report.
The point I want to make is that the Opposition still has some concern on this particular question because it appears that there are still some matters in the Bill now before us which are not the subject of Administrative Review Council recommendation in any of this litter of documents to which we have been referring. Secondly, there seem to be some matters in the Bill which are less than fully argued for, even though they are the subject of some kind of recommendation by the ARC. Further, and perhaps more importantly than either of those two points, there is a very large number of recommendations from the Council relating to the jurisdiction and procedures of the Tribunal which do not feature at all in this legislation and which, it appears to me and to the Opposition, should have been picked up by the Government in bringing forward this legislation. We seek an explanation for the absence of those matters.
I would welcome any corrections that might be forthcoming from the Attorney-General, but matters in the Bill which do not appear to be the subject on any Review Council recommendation anywhere include, for example, clause 7 which is a proposed amendment to section 43 of the Act relating to a power to specify the date at which a Tribunal decision may come into effect. It does not appear to be based on any recommendation from the Council that I can find. It may be, of course, that it is an entirely sensible and practical provision which will improve the flexibility of the Tribunal but we would like to know the patricular reason for it. We would like to be told whether it is just to serve departmental convenience, whether it has arisen out of any circumstance in which litigants would have an interest or whether it is simply something, as 1 have said, that the Government has dreamed up for reasons known only to itself. As to matters which are insufficiently explained in the ARC documentation that I have, I refer in particular to clauses 9 and 14. Clause 9 proposes a new section 44A in the Bill and clause 14 proposes an associated amendment to the Schedule of the Act. This is the question of stay orders in relation to decisions pending the determination of appeals to the Federal Court.
One result of that stay provision, which I acknowledge in general terms is neither unusual nor a provision to which one could take exception, could be that a successful appellant to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal- for example, an appellant against a deportation order, a very serious matter- could still find himself on the receiving end if the Government chose in turn to appeal against that Tribunal decision to the prejudice of the litigant. He could find himself suffering the effect of the original ministerial decision, including being kept in gaol pending the determination- conceivably in many cases for months and months after the Administrative Appeals Tribunal decision in his favour has been made.
Maybe that is an inevitable corollary of any provision for a stay order of that kind to a superior court following a decision of an inferior court or tribunal, as is the structural situation in this case. But I do think that that kind of serious consequence for successful appellants involving the liberty of the subject ought to be the subject of specific argument and justification, either by the Attorney-General in introducing and explaining the legislation or, preferably, by the Administrative Review Council, which is charged with the task of advising the AttorneyGeneral on such matters and, indeed, has made that recommendation. It may be that this matter has been addressed by the Review Council in some other document of which I am not aware, but it certainly does not appear to have been addressed in any of the documents with which I have been supplied or which have been tabled in this Parliament.
As I said, perhaps more significantly than those kinds of concerns is the absence from the Bill now before us of any provisions embodying or picking up a number of recommendationsquite specific and careful recommendationswhich have been made by the Administrative Review Council in respect of the structure and procedures of the Tribunal. I indicate half a dozen of the more significant of such matters which have been recommended to the AttorneyGeneral and are reported in the third annual report of the Council, but which do not appear to get any attention in the Bill now before us. The first such matter to which I refer is a recommendation that there should be an automatic notification of the right of appeal to persons who are on the receiving end of governmental decisions involving the exercise of administrative discretions. That is the subject matter of a recommendation reported in paragraph 78 of the third report.
Then again, the Council has recommended that section 28 of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act should be amended to confer a specific right upon the persons who are affected by administrative decisions to be furnished with the precise terms of that decision. That would require a simple amendment to include a provision which might be thought to be implicit in the existing section 28 but which, nonetheless, was thought by the Administrative Review Council to be important enough to justify legislative correction or redress. Surely such a recommendation in principle is not unacceptable to the Government, but why is it not given effect in this Bill?
The third matter, and a very important one, is a recommendation by the Council that section 1 9 of the present Act should be changed to create a new divisional structure for the Administrative Appeals Tribunal which would enable it to operate more flexibly and more efficiently, given the experience of the exercise of its various jurisdictions which so far have been accumulated. That recommendation is contained in paragraph 83 of the third report. A further matter is an associated recommendation, contained in paragraph 84 of the report, that a power be vested in the President to vary the composition of the Tribunal in certain ways for different purposes to create, again, a greater degree of flexibility than exists at the moment. A further matter which has been recommended by the Council but which has not been given effect in the Bill is a suggested amendment to section 25 (5) of the Act, which would enable the Tribunal to review failures to make decisions within a reasonable time.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m. ( Quorum formed).
– The remaining matter I mention is one that was recommended by the Administrative Review Council but which is conspicuously absent from the terms of the Bill before us. I refer to paragraph 922 of the third report which recommends that there be incorporated in section 45 of the Act a provision to enable the hearing of evidence in the absence of the parties in certain circumstances. It is a simple but convenient procedural device and one which no doubt would aid the proceedings of the Tribunal, but again one which has not been adopted. All these provisions and others that I have mentioned were recommended by the Tribunal during the year ending 30 June 1979, so there has been ample time for them to be assimilated and evaluated by the Government and an attitude determined.
Presumably this body, having been set up, would expect its advice to be taken. But it has not, and the Opposition wants to know why. The Opposition wants to know why particularly when it looks at some of the provisions which have been adopted and picked up. As an example I refer to the proposed amendment to section 50 of the Act which will enable the appointment to the Review Council of persons not only, as has hitherto been required, with experience in public administration, government or administrative law- all of them qualities of experience which one would regard as highly relevant- but also with experience in industry or commerce. It may be that there is good reason in the Review Council ‘s mind for making this recommendation and seeking not to discriminate between available personnel for the Council and qualities that are acceptable for appointment to the Tribunal. One cannot help but notice that qualifications of that kind- experience in industry and commerceare not especially obviously relevant to the work of the Administrative Review Council but do, nonetheless, enable the appointment of people whom the present Government might want to assist in some way. This might be another avenue, to put it more plainly, for jobs for the boys. Is that why this recommendation has been picked up and others have not, or is there some other more rational explanation for what is in and what is out? If there is, we would like to hear it.
Let me move beyond considerations of that kind to raise with the Senate some slightly broader considerations about the whole operation of the present administrative review system which are prompted by the Government’s introduction of this Bill. The first matter to which I want to refer is the unsatisfactory state of affairs that presently exists with respect to the jurisidiction of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. It will be remembered that the Bland Committee report back in 1973 recommended a very substantial body of jurisdiction to be vested in the Tribunal. Regrettably a great deal of that specific jurisdiction that was so recommended has not yet been picked up. The Administrative Review Council has readily and consistently acknowledged that state of affairs in its successive reports. In its first report it provided in an appendix a table comparing the jurisdiction of the Tribunal with that recommended by the Bland Committee.
In its second report it acknowledged that a comparison of the jurisdiction that had been vested with that which had been recommended by the Bland Committee indicated that a considerable distance needed still to be travelled in order to pick up all that jurisdiction. In the third report which is now before the Parliament there was again an acknowledgment that a considerable gap still exists between the Bland recommendations and the Tribunal’s actual jurisdiction. That is not to say, of course, that a great deal of jurisdiction on the face of it has not been vested in the Tribunal. In fact on my count there are about 65 instruments and, in respect of those instruments, over 200 separate provisions which are now appealable to the Tribunal, a good many of those instruments being those enacted since the time of the Bland report. It might be appropriate, for the record, to seek the incorporation in Hansard of a document showing the jurisdiction of the Tribunal as it existed at 1 July this year and as is reported in an appendix to the third report. I seek leave to incorporate the document in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
ADMINISTRATIVE APPEALS TRIBUNAL DECISIONS SUBJECT TO REVIEW
The following list is a brief summary of the particular decisions that are subject to review by the Tribunal as at 1 July 1979. For full details of these decisions, it is necessary to refer to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act as well as the enactments listed.
Air Navigation Regulations, Regulation 254- Decisions refusing, suspending or cancelling certificates or licences, otherwise than under Reg. 256 or 257.
Audit Act, Section 70 AC- Determination of liability for loss of or deficiency in public moneys or damage or loss of public property.
ACT Gun Licence Ordinance, Section 7P- Refusal to grant or review a gun licence, a pistol licence or dealer’s licence; refusal to approve a pistol club, cancellation of approval; refusal to approve persons or cancellation of approval; police objections to licences.
ACT Hawkers Ordinance, Section 27A- Refusal to grant a permit, revocation of a permit or imposition of conditions.
ACT Lakes Ordinance, Section 51, 14(2), 26 and 34- Determination of compensation, revocation of authority to use power boat and cancellation of licence to sell or hire goods et cetera in a lake area.
ACT Land Rent and Rates (Deferment and Remission) Ordinance, Section 2 1 F- Determination of notional unimproved value of prescribed land.
ACT Physiotherapists Registration Ordinance, Section 35- Refusal, suspension or cancellation of registration, refusal to grant certificate; reprimand or refusal to extend period for executor to continue business.
ACT Poisons and Narcotics Drugs Ordinance, Section 10- Authorisations to have in possession a substance for research purposes.
ACT Public Health (Prohibited Drugs) Ordinance, Section 6A ( 1 )- Authorisations to have in possession a prohibited drug for research purposes.
ACT Rates Ordinance, Section 29- Decision on objection to a determination of unimproved value.
ACT Roads and Public Places Ordinance, Section 15G- Refusal to grant a permit, cancellation of a permit or imposition of a condition.
ACT Sale of Motor Vehicles Ordinance, Section 57- Refusal or revocation of a licence or specification of a period to reapply.
ACT Schools Authority Regulations, Regulation 61 - Decision of Authority declaring an election to be void or refusal of a declaration.
ACT Surveyors Ordinance, Section 49A- Review of fees and charges.
ACT Taxation Administration Act, Section 20- Revocation of authority to banker relating to stamp duty on cheques.
Australian Film Commission Act, Section 10 - Requirement of proportion of Australian short films to be exhibited.
Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation Act, Sections 10 and 12- Refusal to grant, cancellation or suspension of a licence.
Automatic Data Processing Equipment Bounty Act, Sections 5(1), 9, 10(1), 12, 12(7), 12(8) and 14-Decisions on eligibility for bounty and on registration of premises.
Bed Sheeting Bounty Act, Sections 9, 10, 11, 11 (7), 11 (8) and 13- Decisions on eligibility for bounty, registration of premises and quantum of security.
Bounty (Agricultural Tractors) Act, Sections 6 (5), 6 (6), 8, 9(1), 11 (3), 11 (6), 11 (8) and 17-Decisions on eligibility to and rate of bounty, registration of premises and amount of security.
Bounty (Books) Act, Sections 3a (2), 3a (3), 4(2), 4 (2a), 4 (3), 4aa (2), 4aa (3), 9, 9a, 1 1, 1 1 (6), 1 1 (7) and 16- L Decisions on eligibility to bounty, registration of premises and quantum of security.
Bounty (Commercial Motor Vehicles) Act 1978, Sections 4(4), 5, 8 (3), 9, 10, 12, 12(6), 12 (7) and 14-Decisions on eligibility to bounty, registration of premises and quantum of security.
Bounty (Dental Alloys) Act, Sections 8, 9, 10, 10 (7), 10 (8) and 12- Decisions on eligibility to bounty, registration of premises and security.
Bounty (Drilling Machines) Act, Sections 4(1), 8, 9, 10(5), 10(7), 10(8) and 12-Decisions on eligibility to bounty and on registration of premises.
Bounty (Injection-moulding Equipment) Act, Sections 5 ( 1), 9, 10, 12, 12 (6), 12 (7) and 14-Decisions on eligibility to bounty, registration of premises and security.
Bounty (Metal- Working Machine Tools) Act, Sections 4(1), 8,9, 11, 11(6), 11 (7) and 1 3-Decisions on eligibility to and rate of bounty, registration of premises and amount of security.
Bounty (Paper) Act, Sections 10, 11, 12, 12(7), 12(8) and 14- Decisions on eligibility to bounty, registration of premises and security.
Bounty (Polyester-Cotton Yarn) Act, Sections 9, 10, 12, 12 (7), 12(8) and 14- Decisions on eligibility to bounty and on registration of premises.
Bounty (Rotary Cultivators) Act, Sections 5(1), 12, 13, 14, 14 (7), 14 (8) and 16- Decisions on eligibility to bounty, registration of premises and security.
Broadcasting and Television Act, Section 1 19A, (Sections 85, 86, 86 (6a), 87, 88, 89a, 90j, 92f, 105ab, 119(2))- Variation, revocation and imposition of conditions on licences; refusal to renew licence; refusal to grant extension of time to lodge an application or reply; suspension and revocation of licence; refusal of consent to transfer of licence; refusal of approval to changes in share ownership; determination of metropolitan areas; refusal to grant or renew a licence for broadcasting or television translator stations for retransmission outside a metropolitan area; restrictions on participation in broadcasts or television.
Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Act, Sections 9, 10(3), 10 (4) and 10 (5)- Decisions on eligibility to bounty and on registration of premises.
Coal Excise Act, Sections 12 and 16- Grant of and transfer of licence with security.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act, Sections 7 (3), 10, 11(3) and 1 3- Delivery of and release of seized goods.
Copyright Act, Section 135 (6)- Delivery on security of copies of a work liable to be forfeited.
Customs Act, Sections 35A, Division 1 of Part V, 1 19, 126, 132B, 132C, 133(3), 151(8) (a), 151a, 157(4), 160, 164b, 167 (1), 183a and 183b- Various matters arising under the Customs Act.
Customs Regulations, Regulations 128B, 132(2), 129, 131, 133 and 134- Refunds, etc. of duty and decisions in relation to draw-back of duty.
Customs Tariff, Sections 7, 8 and 31- Directions as to value and determinations of F.O.B. price and landed costs.
Dairy Industry Stabilisation Act 1977, Section 24a (section 1 1a)- Determination or variation of quotas for dairy products.
Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act, Section 99- Decisions of the Authority.
Distillation Act, Sections 20 and 24- Grant, transfer and cancellation of licence to distil.
Dried Vine Fruits Equalization Act, Sections 11(5), 12 (3) and 19 (3)- Release of liability; remission of amount payable; direction of no further payments.
Dried Vine Fruits Equalization Levy Act, Section 5 (2)- Decision of authorized person.
Excise Act, Sections 5a, 40, 43, 59a, 59b, 60 and 154- Grant and cancellation of licence, quota orders and disputes regarding amount or rate of duty.
Excise Regulations, Regulations 58, 76, 77, 78, 78a and 78B- Refunds, etc, of excise duty and decisions in relation to drawback of duty.
Export Expansion Grants Act, Section 17 (Not yet proclaimed)- Decisions of the Board.
Export-Market Development Grants Act, Section 40a (Not yet proclaimed)- Decisions of the Board.
Home Savings Grant Act, Section 40- Decisions of the Secretary to the Department.
Income Tax Assessment Act, Section 25 1K- Cancellation of registration as tax agent.
Industrial Research and Development Incentives Act, Section 4 1 -Decisions by the Board in connection with an application for a commencement grant.
Insurance Act, Sections 27, 30, 31, 33, 36, 41, 46, 5 1, 62, 93, 105 and 1 13- Various decisions, directions and determinations of Treasurer and Commissioner.
Insurance (Deposits) Act, Section 17- Decisions of the Treasurer as to the net liability or premium income of person carrying on insurance business; value of securities deposited; amount of deposit.
Life Insurance Act, Sections 16A, 19(1), 23a (2), 39 (2), 40 (8), 47, 52 (3), 58 (l)-Various decisions and determinations of Commissioner.
Marriage Act, Division 1 of Part IV Section 33- Refusal to register as marriage celebrant or removal from register.
Metal Working Machine Tools Bounty Act, Sections 3(2), 5, 9, 10, 12 (3), 12 (6), 12 (7) and 12 (8)-Decisions on eligibility to and rate of bounty and on registration of premises.
Migration Act, Sections 12, 13 and 48- Deportation of aliens and immigrants and directions not to act as immigration agent.
Narcotic Drugs Act, Sections 9, 10, 12 and 13- Refusal to grant or revocation of licence to manufacture or specification of conditions of licence. Directions with respect to security of premises, handling of narcotic materials, manufacturing and labelling of drugs.
National Health Act, Sections 13, 14, 73, 73b, 73be, 73BFB, 73d, 78, 90 and 95- Refusal to approve a person as an approved patient, attendant or escort. Refusal of application for registration of medical or hospital benefits organization.
Imposition or variation of terms or conditions of registration; direction to organizations; refusal to approve changes of rules etc.; refusal to give a direction requested by an organization.
Direction as to extent to which the provision of a service or of treatment is to be treated as payment of benefits.
Approval of pharmaceutical chemist, suspension or revocation of the approval or authority of a medical practitioner or pharmaceutical chemist.
Direction to reinstate a person as a contributor to a medical benefit fund.
Approval of a dental practitioner as a participating dental practitioner.
National Health Regulations, Regulation 12 -Decisions on payment of accommodation allowances for patients and approved escorts who live in isolated areas and are referred to consulting physicians at distant towns.
Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Act, Section 23a- Decisions on eligibility to and rate of subsidy, registration of premises and amount of security.
NT Petroleum Products Subsidy Ordinance, Section 5- Direction as to treatment of goods for purpose of a scheme; refusal or revocation of registration as a distributor of eligible petroleum products.
Ombudsman Act, Section 1 1 -Reference for an advisory opinion.
Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Act, Section 54- Decisions of the Commissioner for Superannuation.
Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Act 1948, Section 25- Decisions of the Trust.
Patents Act, Sections 47E, 98, 154, 159c, 160, 77(4), 106 ( 1 ) and Part XV- Various matters including, in specified situations, refusal to register a patent-attorney, restoration of lapsed application, restoration of patents, directions to coowners, applications for licences, extensions of time, consent of mortgagee or licensee to amendment of complete specifications, surrender of patent and refusal to register a patent-attorney.
Patent-Attorney Regulations, Regulation 27- Removal of patent-attorney from register.
Patent Regulations, Regulations 7b (8), 16f(6), 44 and 52- Grant or refusal of restoration of lapsed application. Grant or refusal of licence where lapsed applications are restored.
Phosphate Fertilizer Bounty Act, Sections 7, 10, 11, 13 and 19- Decisions on eligibility for bounty and registration of premises.
Postal By-laws, By-laws 126, 222 and 296- Compensation for articles lost, damaged or delayed during transmission or by the courier service; registration and classification of publications; retention of articles posted abroad.
Repatriation Act, Section 107 VZZB- The President of the Repatriation Review Tribunal may refer to the Tribunal a decision of the Commission which involved an important principle of general application with respect to entitlement or assessment of pension.
Spirits Act, Section 20- Grant of Licence to make or sell methylated spirits.
State Grants (Petroleum Products) Act, Section 5- Direction as to treatment of goods for purposes of a scheme; refusal or revocation of registration as a distributor of eligible petroleum products.
Superannuation Act, Section 154- All decisions under the Act or the superseded Act.
Telecommunications (General) By-laws, By-law 45- Notice to alter, remove or re-erect ponton of a telecommunications installation because of interference.
Trade Marks Act, Sections 70 (2), 71 (1), 103(2), 127(1) and 131 (1)- Various matters including, in specified muations, removal of trade mark from register, restoration of trade mark to register, correction of applications for registration, extension of time and delivery of forfeited goods on security.
Wine Grapes Levy Collection Act- Remission of penalties for non-payment of levy.
– An examination of that jurisdiction as listed will indicate that while undoubtedly there has been some progress in the vesting of a body of jurisdiction in the Tribunal, nonetheless a number of problems or deficiencies reveal themselves. The first is this: Although it is true to say that there are some important matters which are appealable and which do run in quite high volume to the Tribunal- I instance, in particular, deportation cases in respect of which my colleague, Senator Mulvihill, will have something more to say at the Committee stagenonetheless a very large proportion of the statutes and regulations which are in respect of one provision or another appealable to the Tribunal are quite obscure and indeed trivial matters where, in fact, experience has been that there has been only a very small volume of decision making and an even smaller volume of appeals mounted. The list is absolutely full of instruments like the Australian Capital Territory Physiotherapists Registration Ordinance, the Bed Sheeting Bounty Act and other exotic pieces of legislation. Any cursory evaluation of the list and indeed a more detailed one will indicate that it is just a ragtag and bobtail collection with no obvious coherence to it.
The second point to make about the jurisdiction presently vested in the Tribunal is that there is a conspicuous absence from that jurisdiction either wholly or substantially of some of the really major areas of governmental decision making. I instance, in particular, social security appeals which have been the subject of a great deal of consideration by various governmental bodies, not least the Administrative Review Council, over the last couple of years but which seem, once again, to create nothing but inertia when it comes to government implementation of changes in the existing but quite unhappy procedures in that important area. Again in the immigration and citizenship area where appeals are necessary- these matters are the subject of a great deal of investigation, thought and recommendation- there is no significant appellate jurisdiction in the Tribunal. This also applies to the primary industry area and to a vast array of matters covered under Customs legislation which are of great interest and importance to the commercial sector of our community. I also refer to matters relating to public service employment, legal aid and insurance legislation. Insurance is an important area that is not covered at all by the present jurisdiction. All of these matters, as well as a number of others we are told are awaiting Administrative Review Council consideration and report to the Government.
The third matter of jurisdiction to which I wish to direct attention is that a number of quite important areas of jurisdiction recorded on the Administrative Appeals Tribunal list as being vested in the Tribunal nevertheless cannot be exercised in practice because they have not yet been proclaimed. One such example, taken more or less at random, is that of the export finance legislation which was the subject of some critical comments by me in respect of this particular provision in a debate on the Senate on 2 1 November 1978. That was 12 months ago and to my knowledge- again I am happy to be correctedthat particular jurisdiction still awaits proclamation so that it may become operative.
The final matter to note about the jurisdiction of the Tribunal is that it does not extend to a number of matters which desirably ought to be appealable before the Tribunal and which have arisen out of the recent enactment of either major legislation or subordinate legislation. So far as subordinate legislation is concerned, questions as to the reviewability of administrative discretions continually come before the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee. Very often that Committee has drawn the attention of the appropriate Minister to the absence of appeal procedures. In some instances, I readily acknowledge that the Ministers have taken up the Committee’s recommendation and have managed to persuade the Attorney-General that the jurisdiction ought to be vested in the Tribunal. But there are a number of other matters- I take it that Senator Missen who is to follow me in the debate will readily verify this-in respect of which the Regulations and Ordinances Committee has received the unsatisfactory reply that the desirability of a review procedure is acknowledged but that there are resource problems associated with giving the jurisdiction in question to the Tribunal and that under the circumstances the vesting of any such review jurisdiction must await a full consideration of the matter, the balancing of priorities and so on. That has been the kind of reply that we have received, certainly in respect of the Customs area, and also in regard to a number of matters that the Committee has dealt with recently relating to overseas territories.
So the situation with respect to the Tribunal ‘s jurisdiction is unsatisfactory. Moreover, it is very difficult to get from the Government a clear picture of the overall situation. We have a picture of what actual jurisdiction the Tribunal now enjoys but it has been very difficult to extract from the Government some indication of how much jurisdiction has been proposed in one court or another to be vested in the Tribunal- what is in effect in the pipeline so far as the Tribunal is concerned and the kinds of jurisdiction that the Government is willing to vest in the Tribunal when it decides to make the necessary resources available. This is a matter that I have been pursuing for some time in the Estimates Committee. For instance, I raised the matter in Estimates Committee B on 7 May 1979. I asked the Attorney-General what the situation was so far as matters of jurisdiction of this kind were concerned. The Attorney-General answered that the demands for legislation and, for vesting appellate or review jurisdiction in the Tribunal, were running ahead of the Government’s resources and that he would do his best to give some indication of what that level of demand was. Although I raised the matter again in the Committee of the Whole on 29 May, and in various other ways subsequently, I still await an answer. The Senate- certainly the Opposition members- awaits an overall picture of just where the Government thinks it is going.
– They appear to be waiting breathlessly.
– It is clear despite the Attorney-General’s willingness to be robust in his replies on this matter that the Government is embarrassed by this question of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal’s jurisdiction. It ought to be. This whole question of the new administrative law is assuming the dimensions of a national confidence trick. We have an elaborate administrative law structure. On paper it is a good structure, one that is the envy of many elsewhere- in the States and, indeed, in common law jurisdictions overseas. But that whole new structure, attractive as it may look on paper, does not mean very much for most people in Australia who are presently affected by discretionary administrative decisions. The Tribunal just does not have vested in it the range of jurisdiction that it needs.
There are a number of reasons why this seems to be so. The most important is simply the tightfistedness of this Government in not making available the resources needed by the Tribunal to do its job properly. The national establishment for the Tribunal looks, on the face of it, to be quite substantial. It has one full-time president, Mr Justice Brennan, four full-time deputy presidents, two senior full-time members, two senior part-time members and 18 ordinary parttime members. That, at least, was the situation, as I understand it, as at 19 October. There may have been an increase of one or two in the number of personnel since but the reality is that most of the Tribunal’s members operate parttime. The bulk of the establishment is parttime in practice, very part-time indeed. A better idea of the actual scale of the Tribunal’s operation is conveyed not by listing the actual membership proper but rather its support staff. One notes that the staff available to service these multitudinous members throughout Australia numbers just 23. It is proposed in this year’s Estimates to extend that number to 27 to service the operation of a proper appellate administrative structure for the whole of Australia. That is manifestly, on its face, quite unsatisfactory. The resources simply must be made available if the system is to mean anything and not be just a shop window exercise.
At this stage, I want to make some positive suggestions for the Government’s attention, other than those involving simply the expenditure of money. It is .obvious that one of the reasons for the inadequate vesting of jurisdiction in the Tribunal is the delays that have occurred in the work of the Administrative Review Council, on whose advice the Government quite properly relies, or purports to rely, in these matters. The membership of the Administrative Review Council is, on the face of it, very impressive indeed. It is such as to inspire considerable confidence in the quality of its recommendations. Indeed, that confidence is borne out by any reading of the reports of the Council.
It consists of the following ex-officio members: The President, Mr Justice Brennan, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Professor Richardson and Mr Justice Michael Kirby, as Chairman of the Australian Law Reform Commission. In addition, the appointed members are: Mr Michael Codd, Deputy Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; Mr Daniels, Secretary, Department of the Capital Territory; Sir Frederick Deer, an ex-General Manager of M.L.C. Assurance Co. Ltd; Mr Gyles, Q C, a Sydney barrister; Mr Neaves, Secretary, Attorney-General’s Department; Mr Keys, national Secretary of the Returned Services League; Mr Kolts, Second Parliamentary Counsel; Mr Linehan of the Industrial Relations Bureau; and Mr Tucker, a Melbourne businessman so described. That might be, on the face of it, an impressive body of personnel but there is one thing to note about the make-up of the Administrative Review Council, a body which is established under the Act, an amendment to which we are now considering. That is that all the members of the Review Council are part-time members and, as such, they necessarily operate within very tight constraints. They get together at best about one day per month. They are serviced by a small secretariat of just six people, including three highly qualified and highly competent researchers under the directorship of Dr Graham Taylor. But there is a question as to whether both the composition and strength in terms of numbers of the research staff, and in particular the composition and operation of the Review Council, are sufficient to perform the huge task that this Government has placed upon its shoulders. One measure of the extent to which that Review Council has been able to perform its task, in particular a measure of how far it is lagging behind in terms of fulfilling the obligations placed upon it in terms of making recommendations on these critical questions of jurisdiction, is a list of current priorities of the Review Council which that body has recently made available. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the current priorities list of the Administrative Review Council.
The document read as follows-
Powers for licensing the Carrying-on of a Pursuit or a Practice (2nd Priority).
Environmental Decision-making (2nd Priority).
Proposals for AAT Jurisdiction:
National Health Tribunals (2nd Priority). “Philosophical” Subjects:
Review of Policy by AAT (2nd Priority).
Administrative Review of the Merits (2nd Priority); Cost/benefit and Tribunal Procedures.
Review of Primary Commonwealth Administrative Law Legislation:
Review of Matters Related to Administrative Law Remedies and Machinery:
Review of Procedures for Exercising Administrative Discretions:
Systems of Review and Appeal:
Public Service (P79/ 16 and 78/2).
Proposals for AAT Jurisdiction:
Other Administrative Tribunals:
“Philosophical “ Subjects:
Indeed the Administrative Review Council itself, in a very subtle fashion, as befits its status- it is subordinate to the AttorneyGeneral indicated in Mr Justice Brennan ‘s introduction to the third report that the situation was fast emerging where some urgent attention would have to be devoted to the ARC’s operation. In the last sentence of that introduction Mr Justice Brennan said:
The time may be approaching when the Council ‘s attempt to deal with the multitude of problems attendant on the launching of the new administrative review system will yield to a slower and more fundamental analysis of its working.
Might I suggest that the most appropriate way of meeting that need to which Mr Justice Brennan refers would be in fact to create a full-time component to its membership.
The final point that I want to make in listing the reasons for the problems that obviously exist with respect to the jurisdiction of the Tribunal is that it is really only part of the problem to talk about the unwillingness of the Government to make the resources available and the slowness, for various good reasons, of the Administrative Review Council in performing its side of the business of making recommendations. What further has been crucial in this whole process has been the failure of the Government itself- the Attorney-General’s Department, the Minister -to act promptly and decisively to implement the recommendations of the Review Council. So far as the Administrative Appeals Tribunal itself is concerned- the immediate subject of this debate- the most obvious illustration of that is the Social Security Appeals Tribunal system which has been the subject of quite substantial documentation and recommendation from the Council, but which at the moment seems no closer to fruition.
Another series of examples of recommendations which seem so far to have escaped the Government’s enthusiasm by way of actual implementation, even when there are no resource implications, are of course in the list to which I referred earlier in this speech, and matters relating to the structure and the procedures of the Tribunal. But the other matter, on which the Government has been spectacularly Iaggardly in implementing recommendations once they have been made has been in the area, has been the subject of Senator Missen ‘s concern for a number of months, I know, not just on the administrative review side but also on the judicial review side. I am talking about the implementation in practice of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act, an Act which was assented to as long ago as 16 August 1977 but which has not yet been proclaimed into effect. The reason, we are told, is that section 19 of that particular Act allowed the exemption by regulation for any discretion which the Public Service regarded as appropriately exempt and which the Government was prepared to accept as being in that category.
I understand that a substantial report was received from the Administrative Review Council shortly after the presentation of its last report, that is, shortly after June 1978, recommending what should be exempt and what should not be exempt. But nothing has yet happened by way of implementation of that Council’s recommendations. I asked questions about it in August last year, Senator Button asked questions about it in February this year, I asked questions about it again in June this year, and I think Senator Missen and others on the Government side have had a continuing interest in this particular matter. But the Attorney-General on this, as regrettably on a number of other matters, has been rather unforthcoming. I hope that he will remedy that taciturnity tonight. I have no great confidence or optimism that he will, but it would help to restore some of our confidence that this vast edifice, this splendid looking edifice of administrative law reform, does actually mean something in practice and is not going to be in practice simply a damp squib as a result of the Government’s inertia. The Opposition would be a lot happier if, instead of bringing forward legislation like this Bill tonight, which simply tinkers in various marginal ways with the jurisdiction of the Tribunal- mostly in ways which I have acknowledged are quite unexceptionable within existing legislative structure- the Government were to demonstrate by its actions and not just by its words a genuine commitment to making this machinery work.
– 1 propose to make a short speech on the subject of this Bill.
– You have nothing to say, that is why.
– I thank Senator Evans for that charming comment.
– He can still say nothing in 40 minutes.
– Maybe brevity will still be the soul of wit and maybe a long speech does not necessarily prove to be the most useful speech. I think Mr Everett, who made the long speech lasting three hours before Lincoln’s three-minute Gettysburg Address, is forgotten by history and Lincoln is the man who is remembered.
May I say that I do not regard this as a large Bill. It is a Bill which I think does some useful things. I do not propose to go into the detail that Senator Evans did. After his third final point he tried to tie me into the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) situation. That does not seem to have very much to do with this Bill. I am hopeful that before Christmas we will hear some good news in that area. I would hope so. But it does not seem to help very much in a discussion of this Bill. It is clear that Senator Evans is unhappy about this Bill and unhappy about various things which have not yet happened to increase the jurisdiction of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. This Bill does, I think, make some useful amendments. I am sorry that I did not hear the earlier part of Senator Evans’ speech and what he said in praise of the Bill, if he did say anything in praise of it.
Let us remind ourselves that insofar as the Government is progressively extending the jurisdiction of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, one does not expect it to be done speedily. One does not expect that the Tribunal ought to be taking on great slabs of jurisdiction at a particular time until it has digested others. One recognises that the recommendations which this Bill covers are useful. Those recommendations were made by the Administrative Review Council. Insofar as the recommendations increase the ability of the Council to bring to it people with expertise in other areas, that in itself is extremely valuable. It is also useful in that it allows the President of the Tribunal and the presidency of the Council to be separated because of the increasing work of both bodies. One can pay very considerable tribute to Mr Justice Brennan and the work that he has already done. There is no reflection on him in this necessity. He recognises the desirability of not having a situation where there could be a conflict of interest between the two people who hold the post of president.
So far as the rather complex provisions in this Bill in regard to stay orders are concerned, I think they are useful. Obviously there are defects in this area which have to be remedied. It seems to me that Senator Evans expects too much too quickly. In a very short time the Administrative Appeals Tribunal has done some excellent work in this new area of administrative review. I would like to put into the record tonight the statement which the Tribunal recently issued setting out the details of its business for the year ended 30 June 1979. There is one table in it that might not be suitable for reproduction but it is not essential to the document. I seek leave to have this material incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
1977- 78 = 1; 1976-77=2.
1978- 79 = 31; 1977-78 = 12; 1976-77 = 2.
Eighteen preliminary conferences were held during 1978-79 (78 in 1977-78).
– Regarding the work that the Tribunal has done, it must be recognised that there has been a change in the jurisdiction. Additional items have been added to its jurisdiction each year. In fact, one can see change and improvement coming in future years. Looking at the figures in this table, one finds that in 1977-78 the Australian Capital Territory Rates Ordinance constituted 1 2 1 , or 44 per cent, of the total lodgments of claims. In the year 1978-79 that declined to 39.2 per cent. My understanding from discussions with the judge is that these claims will constantly decline as the principles have been laid down in these cases.
– Your three minutes is up.
– Three minutes, is it? I am not putting myself in the Lincoln class. I undertook to speak for at least five minutes. With all respect to Senator Knight, who no doubt believes that Australian Capital Territory rates cases are ones that ought to go direct to the High Court, I am glad to see that the percentage of the amount of jurisdiction which is devoted to this very fascinating area of rates is declining. I can see that I am not going to receive any more votes from Canberra citizens in future elections. I will have to bear that with equanimity. It would appear that we are going to have less concentration on rates and more on the other areas of jurisdiction. Despite what Senator Evans has said, no doubt we will get a position where the very imortant area of social security will, having been properly considered, be put into the jurisdiction of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. That is obviously an important addition to jurisdiction.
I believe that there is a lot more to be given to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. I did not entirely agree with him when it was suggested that the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances found that there was any great resistance to the provision of appeals and to putting matters in the hands of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. That is not my impression from the responses which we had from Ministers. Obviously the jurisdiction will increase to a number of areas because there are a lot of areas in our laws where there are not adequate forms of appeal provided at the present time.
Therefore, I believe that this is a useful Bill in a limited compass. I believe that we will see it followed by other Bills in this area.
Having recently presented a report on freedom of information, the members of that committee hope that there will be very substantial work done by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in that area of the law. It is not necessary for us suddenly to flood this Tribunal with a great deal of jurisdiction. It is important that it develop as quickly as possible, but in an orderly fashion. I commend the Government for putting forward these useful amendments and trust that it will continue to keep the jurisdiction question under very close attention.
– in reply- The Administrative Appeals Tribunal Amendment Bill is a very simple Bill. It is quite staggering that the debate should have taken the length of time that it has. However, I suppose we are getting rather used to that attention to detail in the second reading debates on Bills in the Senate today. The position is that the Government has proposed some few amendments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act. Substantially, they are based upon recommendations made to the Government by the Administrative Review Council. However, some of the recommendations were not exactly recommended by the Administrative Review Council. For the information of Senator Evans- I am sure it will be of the greatest interest to the rest of the members of the Senate- clause 3 is not based on a recommendation of the Administrative Review Council because it is only consequential to subclause 5 (b). Sub-clause 5 (b) is not based on a recommendation of the Council. In respect of clause 6, the proposed new section 41 (3) confers on the Tribunal the power to vary or revoke, but the Council’s recommendations referred only to revocation. Honourable senators will be concerned to find these very major matters of difference.
There are a few others in the Bill. A recommendation was not made as to clause 13. This is a necessary machinery provision following self-government in the Northern Territory which had not been considered by the Council. I regret that that upset Senator Evans so deeply. The other matter that Senator Evans is particularly concerned about is this: The Government received a large number of recommendations for amendment to this Act which have not been implemented. I know that Senator Evans believes that any recommendation made to the Government by any old council or body or Senate committee should immediately be implemented by the Government without further consideration. I was given a lecture by Senator Evans recently about his report on freedom of information, that without further ado or consideration the Government should implement all the recommendations that were made. I am quite familiar with Senator Evans’ view that any recommendations made to this Government should be implemented without further consideration.
The Administrative Review Council is a very expert and specialised body. It gives very detailed and deep consideration to not only the operation of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal but also to many other matters dealing with the Government’s program of administrative review of decisions. I have made available to Senator Evans, at his request, and to other honourable senators who are interested, the full details of the recommendations that have been made over a period to the Government about the amendments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act. The fact of the matter is that I have been considering a number of these recommendations. Some of them are not as simple to implement as Senator Evans seems to think. For instance, I was quite interested in his view that we should have implemented immediately the recommendation that the Tribunal should in certain circumstances conduct hearings in the absence of one of the parties. For a civil libertarian of Senator Evans’s status in this Senate and in the community, I would have thought that any recommendations that proceedings should take place in the absence of one of the parties was a serious recommendation that would have to be seriously thought about by the Government. I am giving it very serious thought, but I am not prepared to give immediate imprimatur to that recommendation.
That is one of the reasons why we have not implemented as speedily as Senator Evans may have hoped all of the recommendations which have been made. The immediate reason is that the Government was presented with some urgent decisions in this matter. We wish to implement those decisions in this session- in particular the separation of the position of Chairman of the Administrative Review Council from the position of President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Because we could not complete the consideration of all the other recommendations it was decided to implement in this session simply those matters which had been identified as urgent. In fact, some of them were so identified by the Chairman of the Administrative Review Council, Mr Justice Brennan. That is why these proposals have been brought forward this evening in this Bill. Despite the very lengthy consideration which has been given to them, I gather that they are supported by the Opposition. I may be forgiven for being in some doubt as to what is the Opposition’s attitude. Perhaps that is my fault for not having given the greatest attention to the detailed speech by Senator Evans. I hope that the Bill will have a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I want to direct some remarks to clause 6. In view of the badinage across the chamber, the only way I can think of expressing my situation is by referring to something that happened in about 1936 when, I think, four British law lords and Sir Walter Citrine, as he was later known, of the British Trade Union Congress went to the West Indies to draw up a constitution for that country. I know that when” Sir Walter returned he felt that he was half a lawyer when serving under Lord Birkenhead. I do not know who among those speakers who preceded me will take the role of Lord Birkenhead. I look around me and make no comment on that.
I rise to speak about clause 6 because it touches on the Immigration Act. The AttorneyGeneral can probably clarify the situation for me. On 17 August 1977, Senator Guilfoyle explained to the Senate which alleged injustices under the Immigration Act could go before the Ombudsman and which ones could go before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. My prime purpose for raising this matter is to say that although these amendments are innocuous they may not be so innocuous when taken in conjunction with recent amendments to the Immigration Act. I want to be sure that the same ground rules will still apply. In effect, will the people with resident status or Australian citizens who are alleging that there have been immigration injustices have access to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, whereas the illegal migrant or the person who has overstayed will have to go to the Ombudsman? That is the first point I want confirmed.
The second point goes a bit further. I can understand what the Attorney-General is saying about a stay of proceedings and having a breathing spell. I know that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr MacKellar, implemented deportation orders against five people and that in one case the Administrative Appeals Tribunal disallowed the recommendation. I understand that, notwithstanding the enlargement of the holding processes, there is nothing in this Bill that will stop the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs going to a higher body- in effect, the Federal Court of Australia- so that even if a person feels that he has vindicated himself under the legislation before us there is nothing to stop the Minister from having another bite of the cherry and going to the Federal Court of Australia. I am interested in that point.
I know that sections 12, 13, and 14 of the Immigration Act provide for this but to me, as a layman, it seemed to be part of a jigsaw puzzle in that when one gets to the last piece and tries to force it in one finds that the whole lot comes asunder. The Attorney-General has claimed that this legislation is innocuous. Leaving aside some of the more involved issues which I probably cannot comprehend, I have raised this matter to be sure that the position in relation to the eligibility of people in the immigration field- that is, the division between clients of the Ombudsman and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal- has not been changed. I ask the Attorney-General to clarify those points for me.
– I think the general proposition that Senator Mulvihill has put in regard to the distinction between rights under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and recourse to the Ombudsman are broadly correct, except that there has been a right of appeal in respect of deportation decisions under sections 12 and 13 of the Immigration Act, which perhaps qualifies the views he expressed. Perhaps he is aware of that. There is nothing in this Bill which affects that. The rights are still there. All that is affected by clause 6 is the decision which may be made to stay the operation of a deportation order. Under the combination of clause 6 and clause 14 the actual right to detain a person in the case of a deportation order cannot be affected by the decision of the Tribunal even though it may be favourable to the person.
I think that that is a point that Senator Evans made during his speech to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. It may mean that a person would be detained. Even though he had succeeded in an appeal, if the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs appealed to a federal court the person to whom the order referred would still be detained. The reason for that is that the decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in a deportation case is only a recommendation to the Minister. It is not in itself setting aside the decision of the Minister. The Minister would still retain the ultimate power of deciding whether a person should be deported. Under the provisions that now apply doubts have been expressed as to whether the Tribunal has the power to exercise some lesser powernamely, to prevent the deportation- but not to affect the power to detain. The Bill clarifies that and confirms the Minister’s power to detain the person even though he can be prevented by order while the case to deport is being heard; that is the purpose of these provisions. There is certainly nothing here to stop the Minister from appealing to the Federal Court.
– I have only one other point about the staying process and this could be hypothetical. If a Minister is going overseas for up to six weeks, is there anything in the Bill where there is an obligation on the acting Minister for Immigration to act? Alternatively, if he thinks it is a hot one he may wait for the Minister to come back in eight weeks time by which time the person concerned could be in custody. Is there nothing here to accelerate a speedy action to arbitrate on the case?
– I do not think it would make any difference whether the Minister is away. While the Minister is away the acting Minister has the full powers of the Minister and he will proceed whether the actual Minister is here or not.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
– by leave- I refer to remarks made by me this morning following the tabling of the second report of the Senate Committee on Finance and Government Operations-Statutory Authorities of the Commonwealth’. In that statement I raised a doubt as to the accuracy of certain matters relating to depreciation charges. On further examination of both the text of the statement and the relevant sections of the report, I wish to state that I was in error and not Senator Rae. I therefore wish to apologise to Senator Rae and his Committee and in doing so wish to withdraw my earlier remarks.
Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle) agreed to:
That Senator Harradine be granted leave of absence for one week.
Debate resumed from 25 October, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I suggest that the second reading of this Bill and the Canberra College of Advanced Education Amendment Bill 1979 be debated cognately.
– I understood that to be the arrangement. These two Bills, the Australian National University Amendment Bill and the Canberra College of Advanced Education Amendment Bill, are primarily introduced for the purpose of putting into operation the Government’s policy of membership of student organisations and the expenditure of fees on student organisations by the institutions involved. As well as those issues, the Bills also make amendments for the financial provisions of existing Acts and, in the case of the legislation applying to the Australian National University, introduces other changes to the structure of the boards of that body. These latter changes have the support of the institutions involved in the case of the ANU and were developed following considerable consultation with that institution. On this latter issue, the Opposition has no objection to the legislation. We have no hesitation in opposing those provisions contained in the Bills which deal with the use of fees collected by the institution. We claim that these provisions introduce a principle which is fundamentally unsound and which will create problems, possibly unforseen at this stage in their extent, but certainly which will be quite unjustified.
The issue of membership of student organisations and the use of fees collected from the students has a long, controversial history stemming mainly from objections to the Australian Union of Students taken by students connected with Liberal Party student organisations. As a result of criticism of the activities of the AUS, the Government adopted a policy that membership of student organisations would no longer be compulsory and that fees raised from students would not be permitted to go to AUS. With a view to implementing that policy, the Government put pressure on various tertiary institutions throughout Australia to change their rules so that Government policy could be implemented. As well as action taken by the Government, a number of students, most of whom were connected with Liberal Party organisations, challenged in court the rights of universities to collect student union fees.
In November 1 977 Mr Justice Kaye held that a levy of the annual general service fee was beyond the powers of the University of Melbourne. Following that decision, the State Government introduced legislation somewhat along the lines of the Bill before the Senate. On appeal that decision was overturned and a similar action in New South Wales resulted in the Supreme Court in that State ruling that the University of New South Wales had the right to collect student fees. Unfortunately, the Liberal Party made the whole issue a political football and legislation was introduced in Western Australia and Victoria and is now being introduced in the national Parliament. There is little doubt that the actions by the Government are based on political considerations rather than concern either for the students or for the institutions which they attend.
We should look at that in a little more detail. As a result of pressure from the Government, the Council of the Australian National University adopted new fee rules in 1977 which provided for exemption for compulsory membership of, and payment of fees to, approved student bodies and gave rights of appeal to any student dissatisfied with decisions on those issues. Notwithstanding this change to the rules, the Federal Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, advised the university that it intended to override the University Council and introduce legislation dealing with student fees. This in fact happened even though the university has had other universities object to what can only be described as a high-handed action by the Government.
Without any consultation with the university the Minister introduced an obnoxious Bill to put into effect this proposal. Not only was this Bill criticised by the university, as was a similar Bill to affect the Canberra College of Advanced Education; it was even too much for a number of Government members who, quite rightly and with every justification, pointed out serious objections to the provisions contained in the Bill. As a result, the Bill has been replaced by the current Bills to remove the more objectionable provisions. The introduction of the Bill last year showed just what the Government was really about. It was determined to press ahead with the legislation even though the universities had indicated that they would comply with the Government’s request. The Government showed it was unwilling to consult with the universities in relation to the provisions of the Bill. It also showed that its attitude to AUS was one of vindictiveness because the legislation had little concern for the welfare of the institutions or their students.
I make it clear that objections to these Bills are not just coming from what might be termed left wing or radical student organisations. Members of the Council of the Australian National University- the Council, no less- have complained bitterly to the Government about the nature of its actions. Sir John Crawford wrote to the Minister on 30 April this year strongly criticising what the Government was intending to do under this legislation. That was not the act of a radical student; it was an action taken by, and a considered view of, an eminent chancellor of the Australian National University. He was supported in his position by the Pro Chancellor, Mr Justice Blackburn, who could hardly be considered to be amongst any radical elements on that campus. The proposed legislation has been consistently criticised by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Low. It seems extraordinary that the Government is prepared to ignore these protests and the criticisms of people of this standing.
Why has the legislation been objected to so strongly? It is obvious when one looks at the provisions that are contained in the Bill. I will deal with the provisions contained in the Australian National University Amendment Bill, but the provisions that apply in the Canberra College of Advanced Education Amendment Bill are similar. The Australian National University Amendment Bill requires the University Council to satisfy itself prior to putting money into any student organisations that the governing body of the organisation is representative of its members. Having satisfied itself on that point, the University Council then has a duty to take all reasonable steps to ensure that any moneys paid to each and every student organisation for amenities or services are spent on those amenities or services. Those amenities or services must be declared by the University’s statutes to be the type of activity on which those moneys can be spent but, before allowing the expenditure of this money on amenities or services, the University must determine that they are activities which will directly benefit the University. One cannot imagine a more complicated can of worms than that. It is forcing the University to become directly involved in the activities of every student organisation on campus receiving financial support.
I draw the attention of the Senate to three points. Firstly, the legislation forces on the University provisions which will be extremely difficult to administer. I believe that anyone listening to the paragraph I have just read of what is required by this legislation would have to accept that point. Secondly, the legislation requires the University Council to intrude into the activities of the various student organisations. Thirdly, it requires the University to make decisions which can be subject to legal challenge by students who disagree when the decisions are reached. In recent times we have seen the implications of that. The fact is that it is a very real threat and proposition. The unfortunate thing about the whole issue is that the universities, and particularly the Australian National University, have been prepared to co-operate with the Government so it could achieve the things it desired without adopting these high-handed measures. There was insufficient consultation with the two institutions directly affected by the legislation and, in fact, to the extent that there was consultation, it was very largely ignored. Merely because the Government wished to deal with the Australian Union of Students and remove its financial support, it has unnecessarily eroded the autonomy of the University. The Government places no trust either in the University Council or the various student organisations. The result is that it seeks to create conflict between those various groups, it can only be said, for political purposes.
All in all, the provisions are utterly unsatisfactory and they are opposed by the Opposition. It is not as if the Government has no control over the Australian Union of Students. There are four members of Parliament on the Council and 12 members of the Council are nominated by the Governor-General. In those circumstances there is absolutely no justification for this measure. The provisions of the Bill are likely to lead to considerable difficulty in administration, and for that reason the suggestion of the institutions that the measures be incorporated in three statutes rather than in legislation is one of that the Government should have adopted if it were determined to go ahead with this quite unsound policy. It is extraordinary that legislation of this kind is opposed by the majority of people who are affected by it. Certainly, it is opposed by people of great eminence in the Australian National University who could not be accused of holding views which so many people seem to believe dominate in student union policies. Yet, despite that position, the Government is proceeding with this legislation. The Opposition believes that the Government is unable to justify the bringing down of this legislation. There is no justification given in the Bill or in the second reading speech. Indications are given of what the Government intends to do, and then there is no justification for it. For those reasons the Opposition will be moving a second reading amendment, copies of which will be circulated.
– I rise to support the Australian National University Amendment Bill 1979 and the associated measure, the Canberra College of Advanced Education Amendment Bill 1979. As has been said, the Australian National University Amendment Bill has had a reasonably rocky passage. A Bill of the same title, first introduced on 21 November 1978, was withdrawn on 25 October this year to make room for this particular Bill, which comes before us with some provisions different from those in the earlier Bill to which I will refer in a few moments. However, in making his speech the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) at one point claimed that this Bill was opposed by the majority of people affected by it. He then went on to discuss the attitude of the Australian National University Council. However, the majority of people affected by this Bill are the students on the campus of the Australian National University.
The legislation is about the rights of the students on the campus at the Australian National University in regard to the compulsory membership of student organisations and the attitude that the University was previously prepared to adopt- of denying students entry to the University, preventing them from sitting for examinations and denying them their examination results on no other test than that they had failed to become members of a student organisation. That is one of the matters to which this Bill goes. They are the majority of people affected by the provisions of this legislation on whose behalf and for whose protection from strong arm tactics by the University and its Council this legislation has been introduced.
There are a number of other things carried out in this legislation, apart from those matters which relate to student organisations. They involve the changing of the structure of the academic boards of the School of General Studies and of the Institute of Advanced Studies. The name of the School of General Studies is to be changed to Faculties in the School of General Studies and there will be amendments to the financial provision in the Act to bring them into line with current Commonwealth provisions. Those matters are certainly not opposed in any way by the University. Indeed, a Press statement issued by the Vice-Chancellor on 25 October makes that abundantly clear. The policy on the control of student organisations and the question of the compulsory membership of student and other organisation has been a clear plank of the Government parties for a considerable time. When elected both in 1975 and 1977, there was no doubt in the mind of anybody who cared to investigate the matter that the Government parties were opposed to the principles of compulsory unionism and would seek where possible to bring about a situation in which membership of any such organisations was entirely voluntary. This Bill is a step in that direction, taken in relation to a body for which this Parliament has ultimate legislative responsibility and authority. I, for one, hope that the principle established in this regard is a principle that will find its way into other pieces of legislation in due course.
I wish to raise two matters concerning the differences between this Bill and the Bill which was introduced on 24 November. In the previous Bill there was a provision in proposed new section 29a (3) that organisations on campus, in order to be eligible for support out of moneys collected by way of fees, should be only those in which, at their last election for office bearers, the percentage of students electing office bearers was not less than 25 per cent. That rule which, as Senator Wriedt indicated, was one of the matters that concerned the Government members who had the responsibility for examining this legislation, was believed to be somewhat impractical and does not reappear in the new legislation.
The previous total prohibition on the payment of moneys to national student organisations- I should perhaps say supra-campus organisations- which originally was proposed in the old Bill in proposed new section 29A (6) (b), has now been replaced in the current Bill by proposed new section 29a (4) which, as honourable senators can see, allows payment to be made to national student organisations which fulfil certain criteria and which are essentially those that are providing services and amenities, those services and amenities being services and amenities which are of direct benefit to the University. Even when an organisation represents or claims to represent students at tertiary education institutions, there are three provisions to allow the Council of the University to see that compulsorily collected fees are available to them. Those objects listed in the sub-clause are: ‘Encouraging sporting or other recreational activities amongst students or students and other persons’; ‘promoting the interests of students, or students and other persons in some particular educational, social or cultural field ‘-which one would have thought was a fairly broad sweep; or ‘promoting the interests of post-graduate students, or a class of post-graduate students, at tertiary education institutions ‘.
The important thing, in my view, is not the provisions which may or may not relate to the Australian Union of Students, but the question about whether membership of student organisations is to be compulsory. Proposed new section 32a provides that admission of a person to, or enrolment of a person at, the university as a student shall not be refused on the grounds that he has refused or failed to make application to become a member of an organisation of students, or of students and other persons; that his position at the University shall not be terminated or suspended on that ground; and that no discrimination based on the failure to become a member, or termination of membership, of an organisation of students shall be allowed to interfere with his admission to or continuation in any course of study or instruction, the conferring of a degree, diploma or certificate of the University or the enjoyment of any benefit, advantage or privilege in relation to the University. It will be interesting to invite honourable senators opposite to indicate whether they believe that the University is justified in any way in refusing to a student the details of the results of his examination simply by virtue of the fact that he fails to become a member of a student organisation.
The attitude which the University adopted was not only immoral but also intellectually dishonest and certainly dictatorial. The University, having shown no willingness on its own part to come to grips with that attitude, and clearly not being prepared to remove this burden from students, finds that the Government will remove this burden from students. That is the purpose of the Government in this part of the legislation. In the annual report of the Australian National University, which was presented only the other day to the Parliament, the following comment on this legislation is to be found:
The University is dismayed at this -
That being this Bill- proceeding not only because of the absence of consultation on this point . . .
That is a point that the Council of the ANU has raised on previous occasions- it raised it in the Canberra Times on 8 May 1979- and it indicates the extent to which the University Council, in my judgment, ought to be maintaining certain higher standards in terms of the accuracy of the statements it makes publicly. I refer honourable senators to a question asked in the Senate on 8 May 1979 by Senator Knight. He asked Senator Carrick, as Minister for Education, what degree of consultation had taken place. Senator Carrick said this:
Let me simply say at the outset that upon reading that report -
That was the newspaper report- this morning I could only hope that it was not a complete report of the information handed out by the Australian National University. If it is, it is a gross distortion of what has happened. I think that the matter should be put right. From reading that article this morning, one would believe that there was an exchange of letters and no consultation at all. One would never know that subsequent to the writing of the letter to me by the Chancellor I received the Chancellor and three of his councillors in a very lengthy discussion. I was able, I believe, to assure the Chancellor that there had been very frequent discussions on this matter.
– Prior to or after the statute?
– Prior to, during and after the statute. There were discussions throughout the whole period. Let me make that abundantly clear.
Yet the University now repeats this in the front of its annual report.
– Are you calling the ViceChancellor a liar?
– I will come in a moment to the attitude of the Vice-Chancellor on this matter, and in particular to the assurances given -
– I would back his sincerity against yours.
-I am not really concerned as to what the honourable senator backs or does not back. The central issue of this matter, as I have said, is not just the payment of fees for membership of a student organisation, but also the question of the payment to national bodies such as the Australian Union of Students of not just some sort of fee collected at random on campus but of a fee which is collected in a compulsory fashion from all students and which parades under the title of the general services fee. That is the money about which we are speaking. It is the money collected from all students. This Bill gives no relief to any student to prevent or to deny his having to pay that fee which is levied in a compulsory fashion.
I must say that I am not particularly concerned about the Australian Union of Students. It is a moribund and decaying body, as students on campuses throughout Australia have indicated. It is an organisation from which universities such as the University of New South Wales, the University of Melbourne, the Conservatorium of Music, the Swinburne Institute of Advanced
Education, Macquarie University, the State College of Victoria and various other universities have progressively seceded. I do not believe that it is an organisation of such great consequence that legislation would be needed to diminish it. It is a body which is diminishing under the pressure of its own weight and its own incompetence and lack of integrity. Some persons have tended to defend the AUS. A letter which I received from the President of the Students’ Association of the Australian National University states in part:
Freedom of learning and research is fundamental to democratic societies.
What he apparently does not believe is fundamental to democratic societies is the right of people not to join organisations if they do not want to join them.
I come now to a matter which was raised apropos a comment which Senator Evans made. At the last meeting of the University Council, which I think took place on 9 November, a resolution was passed in the following terms:
In other words, the University has now resolved that moneys which were collected out of the general services fee during 1979 and which were held without being distributed during this year are now to be distributed and some of them are to be paid -
– That is not right. It was just a prohibition on any payment to the AUS.
-Yes, I appreciate that.
– There was distribution otherwise.
– Yes, it was distributed to other organisations; I understand that. The resolution provides now that money may be paid to the AUS in relation to moneys collected from the fee in 1 979. Next year that will not be possible because this legislation will relate to the fees collected for the academic year of 1 980. So there is a move by the University Council to make some payment to the AUS as it relates to moneys collected during 1979.
I believe that the history of this legislation will indicate that a number of discussions took place between various members of the Government parties and various representatives of the Australian National University. Throughout those discussions a serious attempt was made to reach a compromise on a number of matters contained in the Bill which is before the Senate.
As I said, a number of amendments to the Bill we considered previously arose as a result of the discussions which took place between the University representatives and the members of the Government parties on the education, science and the environment committee. However, I do not believe that the attitude expressed by the University Council in its Press statement of 25 October or its resolution of 9 November entirely squares with the sorts of assurances and undertakings which that committee was given. I regret that it has come to that point. I do not believe that the representatives of the University with whom we held discussions will be able to discuss with us matters relating to future amendments, if there are any, to the Australian National University Act in the same degree of frankness and cooperation as has occurred in the past. I regret very much that that is the case. I regret that those sorts of discussions at that sort of level will not be able to take place in the future.
However, I am not concerned with the ins and outs of the politics of the AUS; I am concerned with the matter of the rights of students on campus who do not want to be members of student organisations or who have a genuine objection to money which is taken compulsorily out of their pockets being paid to the AUS.
– What about those who want to be members?
-If they want to be members of the AUS and to pay a fee to the AUS individually, collected by the AUS on campus, good luck to them, but to take that money out of the fee which is levied compulsorily on all students- the general services fee- is a different matter altogether. If the AUS wants to collect a separate fee on campus for its affiliation and its purposes, let it do so. But to have access to money taken by coercion out of the pockets of students who have to pay the general services fee, which this Bill does not give them any relief from paying, is a different and a separate issued which this legislation picks up and picks up properly.
It will be necessary in the future to examine closely the matter of general services fees as such. It may well be that the case made out to us on a number of occasions, that general services fees are an imposition and that those organisations on campus should be required to go on a payyourownway basis, is a matter which ought to be looked at. I do not think now is the appropriate time to look at it, but I think it ought to be looked at and studied carefully in the course of the next 12 months. The reasons I have advanced in terms of supporting this Bill on the basis of the right of free choice for students at the Australian National University and the Canberra College of Advanced Education bring me quite clearly to a position in which I am happy to give both Bills my total support.
-When entering the chamber this morning for the day’s business I picked up the Order of Business paper which is issued as a guide to honourable senators and I looked in vain for mention of the Human Rights Commission Bill 1979, which had occupied so much of the time of this Senate yesterday. One would have expected that such an important Bill would be before the Senate today. In fact, one finds that it is relegated to No. 22 or No. 23 on the Notice Paper.
– But surely the Australian National University Amendment Bill is about human rights.
– The Bill is about the destruction of human rights and that is the point I find so amazing. Rather than our debating the human rights which, even though in an indeterminant or unsatisfactory manner, the Human Rights Commission Bill 1979 in some measure seeks to protect, we find ourselves debating a partisan, paternalistic, authoritarian and dictatorial piece of legislation which denies to adult Australians- do not forget that on the whole students are 1 8 years of age or older- the right to associate and affiliate with a particular national body of students. If I were making that sort of remark on my own behalf or on behalf of the students at the Australian National University or at the Canberra College of Advanced Education, I guess it would cut no ice with honourable senators opposite and would be regarded as just the outpourings of somebody who was so constantly in the company of students in the course of his career prior to entering this place that he is unable to do anything but be their mouthpiece.
But against whom is the Government arrayed in this matter? It is not arrayed merely against the student associations on the various campuses- associations democratically elected, associations not captured by the Australian Liberal Students Federation, to which I will come in a moment and which is behind this legislation. What the Government is arrayed against is the Council of the Australian National University. I doubt that one could name a more distinguished panel of directors of any Australian institute. Certainly, the Council is not a radical group promoting some sort of factional cause or factional point of view. It is a group whose sole interest is to protect the integrity of that great national educational institution. That Council of distinguished Australians has stated publicly and has demonstrated by the subordinate legislation it passed- of course, it was not authenticated by the Government as it ought to have been- that it has gone as far as it can consistent with its integrity and the integrity of that educational institution as a whole. Members of that Council include members of this Parliament- some four of them. There are a dozen members appointed by the Governor-General, as well as various heads of the institutes and schools within the University and members appointed by the Council itself. I note that one current member is Sir William Vines.
Those persons have pleaded with the Government not to go ahead with the legislation. On 2 February of this year- admittedly an earlier draft of this Bill was in prospect then, but that does not affect the Council’s general declarations- the Council made several resolutions, including the following: It declared that the Council should retain the right to determine from time to time what part of the general service fee may be used by student organisations for payments to national bodies representing students at tertiary educational institutions. It declared that, therefore, it should strongly oppose amendment of the principal Australian National University Act prohibiting such payment. As further evidence I could go on to quote the illustrious Chancellor of that University, Sir John Crawford. I could also quote from the annual report of the University which was laid on the table of this House only, I think, on Tuesday. The Vice-Chancellor, in his report to Parliament, states that the oversight of student organisations is a matter which is properly the responsibility of Council and that this is well in hand. I could leave the defence of the Council, its integrity and its actions, to be dealt with by Senator Rae, who honourable senators will have noticed vehemently interjected and contradicted Senator Puplick ‘s outline of the activity and the interpretations of that activity of the Council in dealing with the very question of concern, legitimate concern, about conscientious objection against compulsory membership of the student association. That has been provided for in a very practical manner by the University Council as has also, I believe, the question of obtaining a degree despite the fact that a student had not joined or paid fees to the student association. I will leave that aspect for Senator Rae to deal with because he is a distinguished member of the University Council.
One might think that that was sufficient to give cause to honourable senators opposite, that they might realise that they are not dealing here with some group of radical students but are dealing with a most distinguished body of Australians who feel that this legislation threatens the integrity of the educational institution. And of course it does. This Bill freezes certain student antagonisms and factions which were developing in the early and mid-1970s. It disables the university community in the months and years to come from making those adjustments in the relationship between the campus bodies and the national bodies on the sort of claims that students want pressed by their national or local associations of students. It creates an iceberg at the student association level rather than a fluid situation which can respond to political and social needs as perceived by the students themselves. My great objection to the legislation is that it prevents the student associations from growing and being conducted in a way which is responsive to the wishes of the students themselves. These wishes can and ought to be democratically ascertained. On campus after campus these wishes have been democratically ascertained.
This is the aspect on which Senator Puplick was so contradictory. He made the usual Liberal diatribe against the Australian Union of Students in which he said it was moribund and decaying. For the purposes of my present argument I will not deny that. But if it is moribund and decaying it is because of disaffiliations by student bodies throughout Australia at democratically-conducted referenda and voting. Surely the way to affect the future and the policies of a national body of students like the AUS is by ensuring that the bodies of students at the various affiliated campuses have a democratic means of either remaining affiliated or removing themselves from the aegis of the AUS. That is the way to tackle the problem of a national body of students. The logic admitted by Senator Puplick in his remarks is that democratic elections and democratic referenda on affiliation in campuses throughout Australia ought to be the way of determining whether students are members of and pay a fee to the AUS. It should not be done by national parliamentary legislation aiding and abetting a faction of students in their particular political struggle.
This legislation enables the Government to pacify a small group of student activists who have wormed their way into ministerial offices and into the Young Liberal Movement. From that privileged position with the ear of the government- as I say in the very corridors of ministerial power- they have required the Government to introduce into the national Parliament a piece of legislation to help them in their cause. In relation to the Australian National University campus I ask: Why has it proved impossible for the Australian Liberal Students Federation to go to that campus and get the 380 signatures required- a mere 10 per cent of the student population- to enable a referendum to be held as to whether the ANU students ought to be affiliated with the AUS? Surely that is the democratic means of achieving the desired end that the ANU students, as a body, ought not to be affiliated with the AUS. Surely that is the means to approach the matter if one believes in democracy at the university campus level. Having been defeated at the ANU campus level, the Australian Liberal Students Federation used the influence that it has through its advantageous position to require the Government and this Parliament to pass an Act to achieve its end.
Honourable senators may say that I am engaging in something of a fantasy, but I have proof positive of my contention in my hand at this very moment. It is an invitation from the Australian Liberal Students Federation requesting the pleasure of the company of my research assistant at the ANU Amendment Bill party to be held at 166 Dexter Street, Cook, Australian Capital Territory, commencing at 8 p.m. on Monday, 19 November 1979. The dress is to be casual. Beer, wine and savouries will be served. The organisers are very confident that this party will go ahead. They know the Government is guaranteed the numbers for its passage. In fact, if we do not pass the Bill tonight the Government has said to the Federation that it will bring back the Senate especially on Monday to make sure the Federation at least can go ahead with its party on Monday night with the knowledge that the Senate has passed this legislation.
That may be an extreme interpretation of the Senate program over the next few sitting days. I notice that the RSVP mentions telephone number 514657 and the address 166 Dexter Street, Cook. I thought it would be advantageous to try to ascertain whose address that is. Honourable senators may find it not surprising that the
Canberra telephone directory records against that phone number the name of Mr M. Yabsley. Mr Michael Yabsley is, of course, very well identified with the Australian Liberal Students Federation. He is a man who never raised conscientious objection to joining the AUS or a student association while at the ANU. That has not prevented him from threatening the association with legal action for the last two or three years. Of course, he has never actually brought that to the boil. There has just been a constant harassment of that organisation.
The point I have been making is actually very important. I have revealed the lobby which lies behind this piece of legislation. This is not an attempt by government to secure rights in some high-minded way. Senator Puplick drew attention to the fact that that cannot be so. The legislation retains the compulsory levy of a general services fee for the association of students on the ANU campus. So this is not a matter of great principle. It is not attacked by the student association on the campus itself. Let us not pretend that we are dealing with some great democratic principle. The matter is not attacked on the campus itself. We are dealing in this legislation with nothing other than an attempt by legislative dictate to weaken and destroy the AUS rather than allow student campuses throughout Australia to vote on the matter.
In referring to the so-called concessions which have been made by the Government since the earliest draft Senator Puplick made the aim to destroy the AUS even more clear. This legislation, by way of concession, allows money to be forwarded to national student bodies which encourage sporting or other recreational activities or promote the interests of students in some particular educational, social, or cultural field or promote the interests of postgraduate students. A series of sub-sections allows the passage of money compulsorily gathered to go to those national organisations.
It is made very clear what is left out of the subsections. It is a student body which attempts to advance in a general way the interests of students within tertiary education institutions in Australia. I refer, for example, to the marshalling of cases for presentation to the Government on the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowances or, as we recently experienced in this place, the marshalling of an excellent submission on the overseas student tuition levy. These are general matters rather than particular. It is against that sort of political activity on behalf of students at tertiary education institutions that this Bill is directed. This Government is not content to let the democratic forces on campuses work. It wants to aid and abet, to lend the force of this national Parliament to a faction of student politics within Australia.
I propose to conclude my remarks because I realise that my chances of persuading any honourable senator of the Government parties to oppose this Bill are very slight. It is a cause of genuine regret to me that we are confronted with a government which, by its presentation of this legislation, has diminished its stature and shown subservience to those students who have the ear of some Liberal politicians. I note that Senator Carrick has entered the Senate chamber for this debate. I must say that the normal moderation which characterises his liberal approach- such as that which leads him to be the target of vicious attacks by the right wing of his own New South Wales branch of the Liberal Party- has for some reason been modified, suspended or rendered inoperable, by the constant pressure from a group of students which is largely associated with the Australian Liberal Student Federation. I regret that the Minister and the Government have come before this Parliament with this draconian legislation to aid a faction fight within student politics. In this respect, I regret to say that this Bill is a disgrace to the national Parliament and to good government and ought to be rejected.
Mr Deputy President, I propose to move an amendment to the second reading motions in respect of both Bills. I seek your guidance as to whether, since this is a cognate debate, I should make the Senate aware of both amendments at the same time.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The amendments should be moved individually.
– In respect of the Australian National University Amendment Bill 1979 I move:
– I imagine that people who have listened to the debate so far may get the impression that it dealt only with student organisations and the membership thereof. In fact, the Australian National University Amendment Bill deals with a number of other matters which have not been mentioned, I presume because there is absolutely no contention in relation to them. The Bill covers a number of matters which have been the subject of discussion between the University Council, the University administration, the Department of Education and the Minister for Education (Senator
Carrick) for some time. They involve amendments to the Australian National University Act, basically to accommodate a need for change which has arisen since the Act was last amended. I take it that those provisions, which are supported by the Government and by the Council, are not opposed by the Opposition. I mention that simply to indicate that the Bill contains a number of matters which are not in dispute.
Indeed, virtually only one aspect of it is in dispute. That relates to the way in which the University, as one of the many universities in Australia, and the Canberra College of Advanced Education, as one of many such colleges in Australia, pay fees to student associations and how they can be levied and disbursed. I have been a member of the Council of the Australian National University for 10 years. That is a matter of great pride to me because I regard the University as one of the finest institutions in the world. It is one of the institutions of which Australia can be truly proud. It is one which, although it has a much shorter history than many similar institutions in Australia or the world, has developed a reputation of which Australia can be truly proud.
I find it unfortunate that tonight we are dealing on an acrimonious basis with a proposed amendment which I can only say represents an interference in what I would have hoped was an area of administration that could have been left to the Council which has been described by Senator Tate as one of some general eminence and in which some trust could have been placed. I found it most unfortunate that my colleague, Senator Puplick, should have made the statement that he did in relation to a motion that was carried at the meeting of the Council on 9 November. He said, in effect, ‘There is a move to distribute money to the AUS’. He said that that was his interpretation of a motion which, in fact, said that the Council had reached the stage where, having earlier in the year said that it requested student organisations to make no payment to the Australian Union of Students until the Council had considered this further, rescinded that request. It referred to the General Services Fee Advisory Committee which is nominated and selected by Council and which has the function of determining, subject to Council, to which organisations fees will be paid and in what proportion and the total question as to whether the AUS and any contribution to it fall within the concepts already determined by Council as being in the interests of the University. _ “
What happened, and I suggest what has been ignored, is that early this year the Council considered very seriously what it had considered for some two or three years. It moved from a position which I found difficult to support on an occasion when I moved a motion and could not get a seconder. I found myself somewhat lonely. It was in relation to voluntary membership of student associations. It seriously and conscientiously came to some conclusions in relation to a statute which it has the power, subject to the approval of the Governor-General, to introduce. That statute sets out the basis upon which the Council believes that the question of voluntary student membership and contribution of fees should be approached. What happened last Friday at the Council meeting was that it rescinded its previous motion, which was binding in that nothing could happen, and said- it was a reasonable step forward- that it would refer the matter to the General Services Fee Advisory Committee for recommendation as to what payment, if any- I am sorry that my colleague Senator Puplick did not emphasise the words ‘if any’- should be made by University associations for the purpose of affiliation with the Australian Union of Students. It happens that there has been some argument during the period in which there has been discussion and negotiation- and in a moment I will congratulate the Minister for Education upon the attitude that he has adopted in relation to this- on both sides of Lake Burley Griffin. There has been a continuing obligation on the part of a number of university organisations to pay affiliation fees.
The legislation has not been in existence. The law has not said ‘You cannot make a payment’. The organisations are still affiliated. Are we suggesting that the University Council is not permitted to take into account, for instance, the question of whether there is a legal obligation for this year to make a payment? I would have hoped that, particularly from this side of the chamber, there would have been a recognition that there is a problem which does need consideration and which does not lead to the sort of judgment which was being made when it was suggested that there is a move to distribute moneys to the AUS. If I could put it another way, there is a move to sort out a problem, and the resolution which has been taken by the Council is a responsible resolution to set in train a sequence of events which will enable the problem to be resolved.
I have undertaken to the Government Whip to be brief tonight. That is a matter of some regret, but it has been caused by the obfuscation of the general proceedings of this chamber over many days by an Opposition which seems to be more intent on wasting time than getting on with business. I find it unfortunate and objectionable that time on an important matter like this, one in which I am interested and about which I am concerned, should now have to be limited because the Opposition has frittered away the time of the chamber. Let me refer very briefly to the fact that compulsory membership of student associations has been a matter of concern to me for a long time, since long before the time when a whole lot of people who have been sounding off about it loudly began to show concern.
– And of mine.
– I accept that. I do not like compulsion, I do not like the gag. I do not like all sons of things like that. 1 have been opposed to compulsory membership of student associations for a very long time. I had sought to put the view on the Australian National University Council that this situation should not exist. That view is accepted by the Council at this time. While referring to the student association at the ANU I notice that Mr Bartos is in the Gallery this evening. I should like to suggest that, whilst our views may not be identical, I think it is important to recognise that the student association has come a very long way in moving towards a changed attitude on this matter. What is so unfortunate is that we should find amongst some people the attitude that one has to take a sledge hammer to crack a nut. I find it unfortunate that this has not been able to be left totally to what is, I believe, a responsible council at the Australian National University to assess- bearing in mind, and certainly as a virtually totally publicly-funded organisation it should bear in mind- some reasonable attitudes which are put forward by the Government of the day which is organising the funds, which this year amount to $86m, which is not exactly a minor amount of money. Of course the Council should take that into account. But I do regard it as unfortunate that we do not appear to be prepared to say ‘Let us try to make a system work in which a government can make its views known, knowing that it has the sanction if necessary to withdraw the funds’. That is the ultimate sanction. It is unfortunate that if we have to legislate -
– May I ask a question? How long do we wait?
– The Council has acted.
– The Council has moved further than either the Government or any other section of the community in relation to this question, and one of the things that I regard as unfortunate is the extent to which there has been a maligning of the Council of the Australian National University as being obdurate, stupid, and made up of a group of revolutionaries. As Senator Tate said, if we look through the list of the people who are on that Council, it could hardly be regarded as anything other than one of the most carefully selected and resonably responsible bodies in the community. There has been a major change. There has been a recognition of the sort of problems which were having attention drawn to them.
I do not go along with the criticism that has been made of the Australian Liberal Students Federation. I happen to be one of the trustees, and it is my honour to be one of the trustees; I have spoken to them and I make no secret of it. I have been a guest speaker at their annual function and I have spoken on this subject of voluntary membership. But to me the unfortunate part is that we seem to be going further than is necessary. We seem to be reducing a situation in which there could be trust to a situation in which there is mistrust, and that is the sadness. When I hear Senator Puplick threatening that there will not be able to be communication between the university administration and the committees of this Parliament, saying that there cannot be trust any longer, I find that a matter of great sadness. It is one that has stirred me to breach an understanding I gave to the Whip not to speak for very long tonight. I find that one of the matters of great concern, and I should like the opportunity at some time to speak at much greater length about the way in which the University functions and about the way in which the University Council functions, and the disaster which I think will befall one of Australia’s great institutions if this sort of attitude, which seems to be behind the debate which is taking place here, is going to prevail.
Because of the understanding which I gave, which I understand is part of an arrangement to get on with the business of the Senate, and because there has been an unconscionable delay in getting on with that business, I curtail the remainder of my remarks. But I ask people not to make hasty judgments, not to make unfair judgments, about the Council of that University. I congratulate the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) for the attitude which he has adopted in relation to this matter. I believe that Senator Carrick has enabled there to be a development from the original Bill, which I would have regarded as Draconian in the extreme, and which I think probably would have induced me to vote against it, to one which I am just not prepared to support. I congratulate you, Mr Minister.
I do not propose to vote in favour of the Bill because whilst it contains many desirable features which are of a machinery kind, I think it is unnecessary for the Parliament to impose on the Council of the University requirements in relation to these areas, particularly when the Council has made it demonstrably clear that it is prepared to act and has spent a very large part of more than 12 months of Council meetings discussing the very issues which are being so cursorily and superficially discussed here tonight.
With a degree of sadness that we have before us this sort of situation in relation to one of our great institutions, let me just say that it is my pride that I have enjoyed 10 years’ association with it, and that I have great faith in the Council of the University to be able to make decisions which are reasonable and responsible and which do take into account some of the fundamental considerations of what is important to the Australian way of life, considerations which include an absence of compulsion and a freedom of choice. I believe that the University Council, if given the chance to implement that sort of concept, would do so admirably. I am delighted to find that many of the amendments which have been made from the original Bill to the current one do leave to the Council most of the decisions. That, again, is why I am so delighted to be able to say ‘thank you’ to the Minister. I think it is unfortunate that they do not leave to the Council all the decisions. For that reason I propose to abstain from voting on the Bill.
-I congratulate Senator Rae on a thoroughly admirable, balanced, rational and restrained speech. It is fascinating that the one Government member to have anything to say on the Australian National University Amendment Bill and the Canberra College of Advanced Education Amendment Bill which is consistent with the objections that the Opposition has taken, even if not always for exactly the same reasons, is the one member on the Government side who knows what he is talking about in the sense that he is, and has been for a long time, a member of the Australian National University Council. He has lived with these problems, he knows all the people concerned, he knows the nature of the issues, and he has tried to resolve them without the necessity for the kind of ham-fisted legislation that we have at the moment. I would only hope that as this debate proceeds he reconsiders his stated intention simply to abstain from the vote on this matter and in fact supports the Opposition amendment which, as Senator Tate has indicated, is directly aimed at those provisions of the two Bills which are concerned with student fees and organisations on the basis that for a variety of reasons they are quite inappropriate in legislation.
As has been made quite clear by the Opposition, although from what Senator Rae said it may need to be made clear again, we have no objections at all to those provisions of the two Bills which relate to the structure or functioning of the university on matters such as the composition of academic boards. The provisions which I have just mentioned were the subject of consultation and discussion and, in many cases, requests from the university concerned. Our objection is to those provisions which do not appear to have satisfied those criteria; namely, clauses 16 and 1 9 of the Australian National University Bill and clauses 5 and 6 of the Canberra College of Advanced Education Bill. They are, for all practical purposes, identical except to the extent that the CAE Bill contains, in both those clauses, an additional overriding ministerial discretion which means that even if the Council in question were minded to act in favour of the student organisations in question, the Minister for Education could still override the Council.
In looking at these Bills one does notice that there have been some modifications in their terms since they were originally introduced in November 1 978. The Opposition is duly grateful for that. But they are still heavy-handed, politically-motivated interferences in internal college and university affairs. They still amount to an unjustified interference in student organisations; an interference with the principle of student control of student organisations through ordinary democratic processes. Moreover, they are interferences which are unjustified by any existing state of affairs, either within the ANU, the CAE or the general state of Australian tertiary student affairs. Moreover, these provisions have been brought forward with a quite unprecedented lack of consultation, not just with the student organisations- that is perfectly normalbut with the university and the college. That is not normal and it is much to be regretted.
The lack of consultation is something that Senator Puplick seemed most anxious to deny. I did not notice Senator Rae, who knows precisely what happened, being anxious to support Senator Puplick on that any more than on anything else. The absence of effective consultation and advance notification of governmental intention was the subject not only of the Crawford letter, which has been the subject of some altercation; it also was referred to, as Senator Puplick pointed out, in that part of the 1 978 ANU report which represents the annual report of the ViceChancellor. The Vice-Chancellor says as follows:
The Government’s announcement in mid-year -
Referring to mid- 1978- was the first time that can be recalled when a government had announced specific proposals for changes in the University’s Act before discussing these with the University itself. The University is dismayed at this proceeding, not only because of the absence of consultation on this point -
He was referring to the oversight of student organisations- but also because the Government’s announcement marks a serious departure from the principle that the governing body of the University should have full responsibility for the determination of policies devised under broad guidelines provided by its Act.
I do not know whether Senator Puplick is calling the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Low, a liar. That is what he appeared to be doing. If he did so it is most regrettable and quite unable to be understood. It is a conscious and deliberate statement by the Vice-Chancellor and I find it impossible to believe that he is telling anything other than the whole truth.
In talking about the terms of the Bills let me deal with the compulsory membership clause, clause 1 9 of the ANU Bill. A similar provision is contained in the Canberra College of Advanced Education Bill. This was the clause that Senator Puplick regarded as the most important. Indeed, it is the aspect of this legislation which may appear to many people to be the less offensive of the provisions which are attacked by the Opposition. Nonetheless, there are good grounds for attacking the compulsory membership, or the non-compulsory membership- perhaps to describe it more accurately- clauses in this proposed legislation.
There are two basic things wrong with this provision. The first is that even if one accepts the legitimacy of the content of that clause as it is presently written, it is wrong that this kind of provision be embodied in legislative form, given the circumstances which lie behind its introduction. As Senator Rae has said, although not in the degree of detail one would have hoped, given the contribution he would have been able to make to explain the history of this matter, the fact is that the University, after a long period wrestling with this very difficult problem has, for better or worse, adopted its own identical ground rules so far as student organisation membership is concerned. Membership of any student organisation at the ANU, under the rules there devised and now operating, is not compulsory. Any student can avoid being designated and regarded as a member of a student organisation simply by ticking a ‘no’ box beside the name of the organisation in question on his enrolment form. I understand that some 1 5 per cent of the students at the ANU have taken advantage of this opting out clause this year. For the Government to insist now on embodying this internally adopted procedure in legislative form is just grossly offensive to the good faith and integrity of the University Council of which Senator Rae is a member. It should be rejected as unnecessary. If for no other reason it should be rejected because it is offensive.
I go further than that. I seek to persuade the Senate that not only is it wrong to proceed with that provision for that reason, which is the basis on which I understood Senator Rae was rejecting that clause, but for another reason also. It is this: It is wrong in principle to go as far as this clause does. It is easy to say that freedom of association, a concept with which I am obviously in complete accord, implies, as a necessary corollary to it, the freedom not to associate. The issue is, and always has been, a little bit more complicated than that when one is talking about the membership of unions or associations from which the members derive some obvious benefit. Trade unions are the most obvious context in which this question has been traditionally debated. I will argue in a moment that the ANU association and its equivalent, the Canberra College body, are properly described as bodies of a trade union kind- an association from the membership of which the members and other people derive benefits.
I accept unequivocally that genuine conscientious objection to membership of an organisation should be a ground for exemption, but when the person in question does derive benefits from that organisation, fairness demands, equity demands, that the onus be upon the objector to establish that his objection is a genuinely conscientious one. If one is looking for criteria for conscientious objection one could perhaps advance, as I have before in this chamber, criteria such as the following: That the objection reflects a genuine moral position; that it is compelling in character; that it has had some durability over time; that it just does not represent flash-in-the-pan thinking or activity of the individual in question; and, furthermore, that it somehow represents a subordination of self-interest and is not just someone looking out for himself, seeking to save himself some money or advance his interests in some other ways.
I think, although it can be difficult in particular cases, that it is possible to identify genuinely conscientious beliefs and that those beliefs should be taken into account with the membership of student organisations as with any other organisation. There ought to be no doubt that the Australian National University Students Association- I will take it as the example because I have less information about the students’ association of the Canberra College of Advanced Education; indeed, it seems to be rather less active on all fronts than its university counterparts- is a union-type body from which its members and indeed all those students at the university do in face derive genuine benefits. The activities of that body, which is a democraticallyelected and constituted body- I take it that nobody has seriously contested this- are such as to justify that description.
It is concerned with representing the interests of students to a variety of faculty boards and other administrative bodies within the University. It is concerned with the provision of secretarial, duplicating and telephone services and financial grants to something like 50 clubs and societies. Indeed, I understand that the largest single financial grant last year was to the Australian Liberal Students Federation on that campus. The Association acts as a resource and information centre to assist students with a variety of inquiries. It runs, either by funding or by direct administration, the following student services: The loan fund; the newspaper and magazine; the orientation handbook; two campus creches; low-cost accommodation at Lennox House; and crisis accommodation in a cottage, so called. It supplies arts and craft equipment and operates a bulk food co-operative. It runs parents’ day, orientation week and bush week. It runs a campus radio station and the Childers Street Theatre. For a variety of reasons which are obvious and which could be spelt out in much more detail if I were minded to do so and the Government Whip were minded to let me do so, one could say about the operation of the Students Association that, as a body of that kind, it genuinely represents the interests of students.
There are, no doubt, those who nonetheless, whatever the range of useful activities that Association might perform, have sincere objections to what that organisation does, and perhaps what it resolves and says and the kinds of campaigns it runs. How does one handle that kind of objection? I believe that the appropriate mechansim under circumstances in which one has an organisation which is performing very obvious services and providing very obvious benefits for the students in question is that there ought not to be a universal opting-out clause of the kind that has now been accepted by the University and is proposed to be sledge-hammered in over the informalised legislation form. I believe that the appropriate way of dealing with genuine objections is simply to start with the principle of compulsory unionism, if you like, but readily acknowledging the legitimacy of genuine conscientious objection and creating a mechanism, as the University tried to do when this matter first blew up in 1977, which will filter out the genuine cases and allow their position to be respected.
Might I say just one other thing on the subject of conscientious objection. I think an awful lot of cant is talked about conscientious objection to an organisation which is based simply on an objection to one or other activity in which that organisation might engage, one or other way that that organisation might spend its funds or one or other kind of resolution that that organisation might, by majority of vote, have adopted. I take the view- I believe it is shared by a number of my colleagues; indeed, I would not be surprised if it was shared by some people on the other side of the chamber- that the appropriate way of dealing with an organisation of which one is a member and which does things that one does not like or may even find morally objectionable is the ordinary, time-honoured way, the democratic way, of gathering the forces to change the policy of that organisation, perhaps changing the executive membership of the organisation in question. That is the remedy of shareholders of a company who dislike some of the way in which the company is conducting its affairs. The remedy of taxpayers in society at large who have the most acute moral objection to some way in which the Government spends their money is to use the democratic process of the ballot box or its equivalent. So too, I suggest, is that the normal and appropriate way of dealing with objections, not to the organisation as such, but to individual things that it might do. That, after all, is the nub of objection that has been pursued throughout this whole lengthy debate by the opponents of the Australian Union of Students and those who have pursued this campaign of action on particular campuses, including the campus of the ANU.
Might I draw to the Senate’s attention and in particular to the attention of Senator Carrick, who after all is responsible for this legislation,
Senator Carrick ‘s views on this subject, as committed to paper on 3 March 1976 in a letter that seems to have had wider circulation than it was generally intended to have. It was addressed to the General Secretary of the Western Australian Division of the Liberal Party of Australia on the subject of membership of student organisations. Senator Carrick had this to say:
I share the concern of your members that any student body should promote international terrorism and antizionism. These are wholly non-Australian and they are evil concepts.
However, as within the trade union movement, the cure must originate basically from the members themselves. It is within the students’ unions to rectify the matter.
It is an important problem and I would be happy to discuss it further. In other days I have participated- successfully too- in the marshalling of student ideas and energies towards the democratic process.
I could not have put it better or more succinctly than it appears in the text of Senator Carrick ‘s letter. That is the way of handling objections to the particular policies and resolutions of organisations that he finds offensive. The way to handle them is to operate through the democratic process. I fear that I have to remind Senator Carrick of another piece of correspondence which he directed to all Liberal and National Country Party members and senators. Unfortunately, my copy is undated, but I suspect it was written in about 1977. Again under the subject heading of Extremist Student Activities’, he said:
Nevertheless, in many such cases the fault lies with the failure of the general student body to participate in the election of office bearers and in the general critical comment of the actions of the office bearers throughout the year. If there is to be an elected body of any sort its success or failure will depend fairly heavily upon student participation.
He is, of course, speaking on the general theme of compulsory membership of student organisations and how it should be responded to. Senator Carrick went on to say:
The next question comes when moneys are used for the support of controversial activity such as the PLO, or the establishment and maintenance of permissive abortion clinics, to take two examples. The institutions of course have the capacity to delimit the use of their student funds and some do so. Equally, it is highly desirable to encourage student decision-making to prevent a minority viewpoint being asserted.
Once again, one could hardly find a more succinct and admirable statement of the democratic principle. That, might I suggest, is part of the answer to those who approach the issue of membership of student organisations in this way.
Let me now turn to the question of the allocation of fees. It is the subject matter which is in clause 16 of the Australian National University Amendment Bill and again in the equivalent provision of the Canberra College of Advanced
Education Amendment Bill. There are a number of objections that can be mounted to this clause including the phrase ‘direct benefit to the University’ which can be picked up at the Committee stage. The main objection I want to deal with and discuss at this stage is that part of clause 1 6 which is so clearly directed at the inhibition or the prohibition of payments to national student organisations. It is a clause which is obviously unashamedly directed in the propaganda- if not of the Minister, certainly of some of his supporters, including some sitting in the galleries of this chamber- at the Australian Union of Students.
Again there are two aspects of this that the Opposition finds bad. The first one is that it is wrong in principle, whatever the situation may be in practice, for this kind of aspect of university affairs of how university organisation money is spent, to be the subject of legislative interference by the national Parliament. The second point I want to make- this is going beyond what other speakers have dealt with tonight- whatever the situation might have been a couple of years ago and whatever views one might have had then about goings on within Australian Union of Students, is that any such clause is now quite unjustified by the recent and current state of affairs within the Australian Union of Students. On the question of principle I do not think I need to labour the point excessively because this has been done effectively by Senator Wriedt. I simply state that it has been the subject of strenuous and substantial objections by the University Council and its spokesmen, not least of course Senator Rae here tonight. There has been strenuous objection to the interference with the University’s own discretionary control of these particular matters, interference with the University’s own dedicated attempts to resolve the difficulties that have presented themselves in this particular respect.
I refer to statements in University Council minutes. I will not stop to read them out. These statements occurred in July 1977, February 1979 and the statement I referred to earlier from ViceChancellor Low in the 1978 annual report. This statement was issued by the Vice-Chancellor on 25 October this year when he made it absolutely clear- he was speaking undoubtedly on the University’s behalf- that he was unable to accept this interference with the discretionary powers and activities of the University Council in this particular respect. His language was moderate under the circumstances but absolutely pointed and clear. The Vice-Chancellor said that he believed it would be more appropriate to leave the discretion hereto to the University’s distinguished and broadly based governing body, the Council.
Again I might add that this appears to be a principle which Senator Carrick rather unequivocably supports. Referring to his Western Australian letter of 19 March 1976, he said as follows:
Student bodies are an integral part of campus life at Australian Universities and provide a wide range of services for their members including food services, welfare services, social and cultural activities, spotting facilities and student representation. These bodies are established either by the legislation establishing the University or by statute or resolution of the University governing body. Accordingly any questions concerning their operations or activities are matters for the Universities themselves to resolve.
Has the honourable senator resiled from that particular position? Maybe he has been conducting an unhappy one-man campaign against the desires of his even more extravagant colleagues on this particular subject. If so, it regrettably appears that the honourable senator has been most unsuccessful, but certainly he made an excellent fist of stating the relevant principles, if I might say so, in that particular letter. The question necessarily presents itself in this debate as to the current status and activities of the AUS since I do not think anyone on the other side of the chamber would even begin to try to conceal the fact that the primary objective of this part of the legislation relating to fee payments to national student organisations deals with the recent controversies surrounding AUS. Let me say right at the outset that there is no doubt that -
– Is this the outset?
– If the honourable senator listens he might just conceivably learn something on a matter on which he has been as rampantly prejudicial in his statements as anyone else in this chamber. Let me say that AUS undoubtedly went through a phase following its very rapid expansion with a large number of campuses joining it when it became a general tertiary institution body rather than one confined to the universities. Undoubtedly it went through a phase of fairly extravagant commitment to causes which had only minority support on campuses around Australia. These commitments were unpalatable, not only to the right wing, whose views have been so well articulated in this respect rather unusually by Senator Puplick here tonight, but also they were unquestionably offensive to a large body of mainstream Australian Labor Party supporters among the student body. There is no doubt about that.
In response to the way in which that extravagant behaviour in a number of respects was going on the democratic process took its natural course. As Senator Tate said, there were a number of sucessions, rather conspicuous sucessions, from AUS on various campuses. I will indicate the more prominent of them in 1979: University of Queensland; James Cook University of Townsville; Sydney University; Macquarie University; University of New South Wales; Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology; the South Australian Institute of Technology; and the University of Tasmania. I have saved Senator Teague the trouble of filling us in. In turn, let it be understood- because this is crucial to the relevance and the propriety of the Government’s proceeding with this legislation at that time- that that development had its effect within the body of AUS itself. It had its effect on the national organisation and the reality is that AUS is an organisation which has now put its house in order.
At the Special Council meetings of the Australian Union of Students on 22-24 June and 14-15 July this year it was decided to make a number of changes to the structure of AUS in response to criticism made very largely by Liberal students on the various campuses and also by the social Centre Unity group of Labor Party student leaders and their supporters. These changes, which are currently in the process of ratification, include the following and are all very relevant indeed to this particular debate. First of all is the election of the AUS national executive by proportional representation which will have the effect of guaranteeing all political groups with at least 10 per cent support of the AUS annual council a place on the executive of the organisation. Previously the executive had largely been elected on a State by State basis allowing groups with a narrow majority in certain States to achieve an overwhelming majority on the executive. That problem has been overcome.
Secondly, there is a new system of votes at the AUS councils whereby the voting strength of campus delegations is proportional to student numbers except that the half dozen smaller campuses have been upgraded to two votes instead of the nil or one vote they would have had under a perfectly proportional system. Thirdly, the direct election of the AUS regional organisers in each State is through a ballot of each member campus. Previously the regional organisers had been elected by delegates at AUS regional conferences under a collegiate system and that, in turn, resulted in the appointment of some people which might have been thought, perhaps properly in some quarters, as inappropriate. They are the three major structural changes. In addition, there was a fourth one involving the streamlining of the AUS annual council so that no policy motions could be passed unless the AUS was allocating resources in that area of policy. That will operate and will have the effect of preventing AUS operating in the future as a mini all purpose world Parliament with policy on each and every conceivable international and national issue. It will help ensure that the national union concentrates its energies and attention on what it obviously ought to be concentrating on, and that is education. I know that people are looking at the clock but this is the kind of legislation which is damaging and destructive to people’s reputations and individual students’ rights-
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– A number of endeavours have been made- not least again by Senator Puplick- to paint a picture of the Australian Union of Students as not only a kind of moribund organisation but a ratbag organisation with no proper role in the business of lobbying for improvements in educational standards. I point out to Senator Puplick and to anyone else on the Government side who is open-minded enough to appreciate a bit of hard data rather than just prejudicial -
– Nobody could be less openminded than you are.
- Senator Lajovic has a conspicuous reputation for idiot interjections based on a total lack of any kind of knowledge. Perhaps the honourable senator would listen while I indicate to him and to the Senate -
– I have been listening to you for 32 minutes. It is far too long.
– The honourable senator manifestly has not learned anything. Maybe he can start now at this very late stage. Among the submissions on the subject of education that have been made by AUS to various authorities this year are pre-Budget submissions on student financing, an 80-page document on the Tertiary
Education Assistance Scheme and other fee matters, submissions on the future of the Sturt College of Advanced Education in South Australia- I point that out for the benefit of Senator Teague- submissions on the effect of the proposed tuition fee for overseas students and submissions to the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts on the effectiveness of schools with particular reference to numeracy and literacy. Following that, AUS representatives appeared before the Senate Committee, as the honourable senator may recall, on 22 October. Maybe he can tell the Senate whether they were putting on a nauseous, ratbag performance or whether they were contributing intelligently to a discussion of a serious issue. I will be interested to hear the honourable senator’s contribution.
– He will be more intelligent than you.
– Sometimes the calibre of the honourable senator’s interjections makes me wince.
– Order! The honourable senator will address his remarks to the Chair.
– I will endeavour to. I do not ask for your protection, Mr President, but it would be helpful when it comes to folly of that order. Submissions were made to the national inquiry into teacher education- a 91 page document- in response to which the secretary of that inquiry, Mr Milligan, wrote to the Australian Union of Students stating that he appreciated the efforts the Union had put into the preparation of such a comprehensive and documented submission. A submission was made to the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts in regard to the funding of tertiary education and the role of the Tertiary Education Commission. Among the submissions which are currently in preparation are a major submission to Senator Carrick on the report of the Inquiry into Education and Training- the Williams report, the submission to the Tertiary Education Commission on education funding, planning and co-ordination, and a submission to both the Commission and the Government on the declining standards of tertiary libraries. Other research has been done this year while the trauma of secessions from campuses has occurred on the possible reintroduction of tuition fees, trends in graduate employment and unemployment, part-time and external students’ problems and the restructuring of tertiary education at the State level.
Education Information is a journal produced for all campuses and the Australian Union of Students also contributes to a document called News Notes, with short information summaries for journalists and decision-makers. The AUS is a member of the steering committee overseeing the present Commonwealth Education Department survey of student incomes and expenditures and frequently consults with a whole variety of bodies such as the Vice-Chancellors’ Committee and the Conference of College of Advance Education Principals, the Federation of University Staff Associations and so on. If that is the record of a moribund body in terms of its unquestioned basic role as a representative of student educational interests, I would like Senator Puplick to get up and say so because clearly that is quite inconsistent. I will produce the particular documentation which lies behind that list if there are any lingering misapprehensions about the utility of the AUS in that particular respect.
Of course, the reality is that even given the role that AUS has been playing in these areas, and even given those fundamental changes that were made at the June and July conferences this year to the structure of AUS- putting its house in order- the Australian Liberal Students Federation is still unhappy. One has to appreciate that most of the Liberal students at the AUS special council voted against the first three major structural changes that I have mentioned, for the quite cynical reason that a reformed Australian Union of Students would have had greater credibility and student support, and the Federation is pledged to destroy the body. If anyone thinks pledged to destroy’ is an excessively stringent phrase, I will quote the well-known Mr Yabsley, who I am delighted to see is here with us in the gallery tonight. I understand that he is the former vice-president of the Australian Liberal Students Federation. In an article on the AUS in the National Student of October 1978, he stated:
Liberal students are the unblushing assassins of AUS.
It is interesting to stop for half a moment and consider what manner of man is this Mr Yabsley. Sentor Tate told the Senate that Mr Yabsley is a fairly avid party giver. Another lesser-known aspect of Mr Yabsley ‘s career is that he is regarded in South Africa as a thoroughly admirable ambassador for that country. The November 1978 issue of Rotary in Africa, contains an enconium from Mr Arnold Jarvis, the President of the Rotary Club of Potchefstroom In regard to Mr Yabsley, he stated:
I recently met Mr John Mills, at one time South Africa’s Ambassador in Canberra, who is now the South African Ambassador in Rome. He told me he had seen a lot of Michael when he was in Australia and that this young man was a great help to him and a really great ambassador for South Africa.
That is the kind of person who works as a Minister’s private secretary, who was a former senator’s research assistant, and who has been lobbying so conspicuously for this legislation. Of course, Mr Yabsley is one of those who is always a conspicuous litigant in the round of cases, some of which are still wending their way to fruition around the nation, challenging the expenditure by student organisations. Another such litigant is a gentleman known as Mr John Bell, who is a Victorian executive member of the Australian Liberal Students Federation. He said that -
– Are you going to mention some of your left wing friends in the AUS?
– There are lots of those. Mr John Bell, when speaking to a ASLF conference in a speech that was reported in the Age of 1 7 May 1978, stated:
I emphasise that any opportunity to smear AUS in the Press must not be wasted. An opportunity missed is an opportunity lost.
Another litigant in the saga around the country was Mr Nick Xenophou, who started out as a pretty dedicated compatriot of Mr Bell and Mr Yabsley in the national campaign to denigrate AUS. But regrettably Mr Xenophou had a change of heart after initiating his litigation and he blew the whistle on the whole enterprise. In an interview, which I do not think has been subsequently retracted in any way, in the issue of the National Student dated 12 March 1979, a copy of which is readily available for scrutiny should any honourable senators want to see the full text, Mr Xenophou among other things, stated:
As to whether the writs were simply actions by individual students, I can assure you they were not. The writs were part of a conspiracy by the ALSF -
The Australian Liberal Students Federation- supported by wealthy and vested interests, to destroy AUS.
Since 1977, when the ‘far right’ took control of the ALSF, there has been a concerted and consistent campaign to obliterate AUS.
Honourable senators might say that that is just general rhetoric and accusations. But what about this:
That was the South Australian one. To continue:
I’ve seen a cheque from one, of UPF’s member mining companies- EZ Industries- for the sum of $500. A letter from George MacKay, the Chairperson of UPF at the time accompanied the cheque … I can assure you that at least in 1977, the Liberal Party played a substantial role in the funding of ALSF. The then- President showed me a cheque for SI, 500 from the Liberal Party, signed by Tony Eggleton.
The truth is that the Liberal Party has been inextricably connected with the whole attack on the AUS since the word go. It has been associated every inch of the way with the court actions which have taken place in just about every State and Territory in the Commonwealth. It has been associated with the legislation in Victoria and in other Liberal jurisdictions which has been aimed at limiting freedom of action of student organisations and the autonomy of the universities in controlling them. This legislation is the Commonwealth Liberal’s contribution to that particular exercise. It is a straight-out political exercise of the most cynical kind. It has nothing to do with the protection of the majority of students, as Senator Carrick or Senator Puplick would have us believe. It has nothing to do with the protection of a minority of genuinely conscientious objecting students. Lest it be thought that the majority of students around the nation share the view of the organisation held by Senator Lajovic, who seems to have some kind of congenital physical twitch at the moment, and his colleague, let me make a couple of points. One is that as far as the ANU and the Canberra College of Advanced Education are concerned, there has never been any attempt to secede from AUS, even when AUS was operating in its most confessedly extravagant fashion. Never was such a motion moved, although ample democratic process is available on the campus should anyone have been inclined to do so, quite apart from any vote being taken involving a majority of students.
Furthermore, for those who are claiming, despite what I was indicating about the reform and restructuring of AUS, that it is still some sort of moribund institution on the way downhill, one remaining point needs to be made. It arises out of what can be described only as the recent round of secession referenda on the campuses. The outcome of that series of votes, which took place in September this year, can be described only as representing a situation in which the tide has unequivocally turned. There is now a resurgence, for reasons I have explained, of confidence in the AUS, such that Monash University, Adelaide University, Griffith University in Queensland, Newcastle University and the Western Australian Institute of Technology all rejected secession motions in September of this year, and Melbourne University, which had previously seceded, returned to affiliation with AUS by a 65 per cent majority vote. That is the answer to those who would claim that this legislation is protective of a majority of students around the nation and, in particular, protective of a majority of students at the ANU and the CCAE who must be saved from themselves as far as contributions to national students organisations are concerned.
The Opposition is saying that the provisions of this legislation that deal with student organisations and fees are just thoroughly bad. They are quite insensitive to university autonomy and, if we want to put this way, to the academic freedom that is integrally associated with the notion of university autonomy. This legislation, as I have said, has absolutely nothing to do with protecting the position of the genuine conscientious objector on tertiary campuses. It has nothing to do with protecting the interests, as again I have just explained, of the majority of students on either of these two particular campuses or elsewhere. What it has one hell of a lot to do with is this Government’s acting under pressure from and in the interests of a noisy and fanatical minority within its own ranks. The University has indicated its profound unhappiness and dissatisfaction with these particular provisions and that dissatisfaction has been rearticulated here tonight with admirable clarity by Senator Rae. The Opposition shares that dissatisfaction.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston)- I call Senator Rocher.
– This will be great.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President, and Senator Gietzelt. In speaking in this cognate debate on the Australian National University Amendment Bill 1979 and the Canberra College of Advanced Education Amendment Bill 1979, 1 state at the outset that I will be very brief. I will be addressing myself mainly to the ANU Bill. Any measure which moves towards the adoption of voluntarism is very acceptable and welcome to me. Whilst the Australian National University Amendment Bill does not go all the way, in that there will remain a capacity for the University Council to insist that fees be paid for amenities and services, it does at least seek to exclude from compulsory fees to be extracted from students funds which in the past could be and were used to support political causes with which many of the students who paid those fees did not agree. Provisions in these amendments have the stated objective of making fees payable voluntarily in respect of an organisation of students.
However, the term ‘amenities and services’, as it stands, may be interpreted in a way which defeats a stated purpose of the legislation. As the amendment stands, there is no adequate definition of the term ‘amenities and services’. In the absence of an adequate definition, it is worth considering for a moment the words of His Excellency the Governor of Victoria, Sir Henry Winnecke. His Excellency, in his judgment as visitor in the matter of the University of Melbourne and a petition to the visitor by Joseph de Simone and others, said, amongst other things:
The interest centres around the words ‘the provision of amenities or services’. The expression is a composite one. In the context it signifies little more than ‘the provision of that which is of use or assistance. ‘ The objects, no doubt, are the students of the University. Whenever anyone is called upon to say whether an ‘amenity or service’ is being provided for the students, there must be involved an element of personal opinion as to whether it will be of use or assistance to them. a duty to apply money to an amenity or service or to ensure that an amenity or service is being or will be provided for the students involves the forming of such an opinion, albeit genuinely, honestly and perhaps not irrationally.
Where the duty is to ensure that the moneys are ‘applied by the organisation bona fide in the provision of amenities or services that are of direct benefit to the University’ the same considerations apply, with the addition, apart from the expression ‘bona fide’, that the benefit to the students of the university from the amenities or services is to be ‘direct’. That is a word of emphasis designed to exclude what is merely consequential or remote. But there is still involved the forming of an opinion as to the existence of the qualities described. The duty is to form an opinion that the moneys will be applied bona fide in the provision of something of use or assistance to students, that will be of benefit to the students in a way that is not merely inconsequential or remote but direct; and that involves forming the opinion genuinely and not dishonestly or irrationally.
Whilst the judgment of His Excellency from which I have quoted concerns another matter, his words are relevant, nonetheless. They hold that the undefined expression ‘amenities and services’ imposes no restriction on the range of matters for which amenities and services money may be expended. I can find nothing in the Bills under discussion which will ensure that fees to be paid cannot find their way into the hands of a student organisation. Even the audited financial statements to be provided in future will not highlight excessive amounts paid to a student newspaper, for example; nor will they reveal that someone employed in a particular task, while remunerated out of fees paid for amenities and services, spends part of his paid time working on behalf of a student organisation. With the passage of this legislation, much will be left to the goodwill of the councils of both the College of Advanced Education and the Australian National University.
It has been put to me that in the past the Council of the ANU has not showed a great or real commitment to voluntary student unionism, although I am reassured by much of what
Senator Rae has said tonight on that matter. Furthermore, past practices in most, if not all, Australian universities have demanded payment of other than tuition fees as a prerequisite to obtaining a university education. Part of those fees were and still are used to finance student organisations- organisations which hold views and conduct their affairs in a manner contrary to the views of many of the students who were and are forced to subscribe funds.
As only tertiary institutions in the Australian Capital Territory involve specific Commonwealth legislation, we in the Senate have a special interest and duty. Part of that duty, as I see it, is to avoid unnecessary and unwarranted compulsion. It is reasonable that those of us who oppose compulsion in matters of association should want to see the highest standards observed in our tertiary institutions. It is equally important to encourage those institutions to observe both the principle and the practice of voluntary association and, by connotation, of voluntary disassociation. I regret that the amendments contained in this legislation do not-perhaps they cannot- meet those criteria. Apparently there is such an intention, but the form of words used does not reflect that intention. I interpret the legislation in that way on reading the second reading speech of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). Combined with an absence of a definition of the term ‘amentities and services’, the wording used in proposed new section 29a (4) (b) (iv) of the Australian National University Amendment Bill also is of some concern. That provision permits fees for amenities and services being appropriated for the object of: . . promoting the interests of students, or students and other persons, in some particular educational, social or cultural field;
Whatever is intended by those words, they offer an opportunity to the Council of the University to thwart what proposed new section 32A of the Australian National University Amendment Bill leads me to believe is the main thrust of the measures before the Senate. Under this legislation, a student body which combines educational, social or cultural activities with poitical activity can still legitimately attract and be paid moneys subscribed for amenities and services. Given that the Bill in its present form is passed in this Senate and in the other place, I repeat the point I made earlier, that is, that what is intended will meet Government objectives in important respects only if the Council of the ANU observes the spirit rather than the letter of the proposed amendments contained in the Bill. Again I am reassured by what Senator Rae had to say earlier this evening.
In passing, I think that it is worth assuming that the incidentals allowance component of the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme will be spent almost entirely on the proposed Australian National University services and amenities fee. For those at the Australian National University who qualify for TEAS, the fee in fact will be paid by the Australian taxpayer. It is also worth asking what the difference, if any, will be between the fee to be paid by those who elect to opt out of subscribing indirectly to a student organisation and the fee payable by those who are agreeable to subscribing. I for one will be interested in the extent of any differential to be struck by the Council of the Australian National University between fees payable by those who take advantage of relief from compulsion to pay part of the fee and those who do not. It should be a considerable and worthwhile saving for students who exercise their right to dissociate according to their preferences.
I expect that a future inspection of audited accounts will confirm that surpluses resulting from on-campus trading ventures, such as the cafeteria, will not be employed to fund student organisations. I think it goes without saying that funding of that type would defeat or circumvent the stated intention of these Bills. On the whole, the Bills represent a small step towards the practice of voluntary freedom of association on the campuses of two eminent Australian tertiary institutions. There remains a long way to go, both in the Australian Capital Territory and in the rest of Australia. The Bills have my support despite the reservations I have expressed. In closing, I urge the Minister for Education to do all that is possible by way of oversight and supervision to see that the spirit of the legislation is observed.
– The Senate has been debating two Bills in a cognate debate. One Bill relates to the Australian National University and the other to the Canberra College of Advanced Education. Those Bills relate substantially to alterations to financial provisions and administrative restructuring, relating specifically to the Australian National University, but also to the Canberra College of Advanced Education. It is perfectly clear that honourable senators on both sides of the chamber accept those features. The Bills relate also to student organisations.
The fact is that over a growing number of years the community, in a very articulate fashion, and the students have expressed the view that it is repugnant to democratic freedom that students on campus should be compelled to join organisations to which they are philosophically opposed and that they should be compelled to provide money out of their pockets to benefit organisations to which they are opposed. There can be no rational opposition to the community’s viewpoint. The community expressed the view, and it was reflected very articulately, that students on campus should be free to join voluntarily, or not to join, socio-political activities and to contribute voluntarily by way of subscription or not to contribute. That should apply both to campus student organisations and to supra-campus or national organisations. That is the simple principle of the matter.
The Bills provide that membership of student organisations is to be voluntary and that fees payable in respect of membership of those organisations are to be paid voluntarily. Compulsory fees are to be used only for the provision of amenities or services. Where the Council of the Australian National University makes compulsory moneys available to a student organisation for the provision of approved amenities or services, the Council must first be satisfied that the governing body of that organisation is representative of its members. Amenities or services provided from the compulsory fee payment are to be provided for all students, irrespective of whether they are members of a particular student organisation.
The Council of the University is to declare in a statute which are the approved amenities or services on which student organisations can expend compulsory fees moneys. Approved amenities or services are to be those which are of direct benefit to the University and compulsory fees moneys are not to be paid to a national organisation that is socio-political. They can be paid to non-socio-political national organisations. Financial statements are to be prepared and audited each year showing the details of the manner in which compulsory fees have been expended.
I am grateful to Senator Evans for reading the letters that I have written. Rather than supporting his arguments they in fact supported the very tenets in what I have just said. My colleagues are perfectly clear on this point. Democracy depends upon the vigorous participation and intervention of its members in the doings of democracy. Somehow or other Senator Evans managed to make that a plea on my part that people should be compelled to do such things. Democracy expects that in a voluntary fashion that drive occurs. Nowhere have I mentioned compulsion at all. I can only say that if Senator Evans’ advocacy were so unsuccessful when he was paid for it the Commissioner of Taxation would have no difficulty in calculating his annual income.
I have always believed it desirable that students on campus should seek to resolve their problems. It so happens that the United Nations charter states, and those who believe in democracy are of the view, that no people should be compelled against their will to join an organisation and certainly no people should be compelled against their will to contribute financially to an organisation. Let me say right from the word go that a large part of the monologue tonight has been the suggestion that this Bill is aimed at destroying a particular national organisation. That is nonsense. The Bill sets out to state that there shall be no compulsion of a student to join a socio-political organisation at the campus level or at the national level. They shall join voluntarily if they wish. That would apply to a national socio-political organisation that is dominated by the Liberal Party, the National Country Party or the Labor Party. How silly it is to say that the legislation is aimed at any one body. It is aimed at any national socio-political organisation whatever its political content. Whether or not a national body is involved- I was interested to hear that Senator Evans found that this has many undesirable characteristics- is totally irrelevant to this debate. I say that to expose the fact that for an hour the debate has been wandering at large, as happens in a monologue.
The Opposition has argued that the Bill represents an attack on academic freedom. How is it an attack on the lecturers, the professors, the faculties and the teaching or anything of the sort? To say so is demonstrable nonsense. Senator Evans went on to say that we should not legislate in this regard. He has no objection at all to our legislating for financial amendments or for matters concerning the nature of the institution at all. What he said was demonstrable nonsense. It is the duty of government to legislate to set up the framework of a statutory body within which academic freedom shall flourish. There is no attack at all on academic freedom.
Let me now give a classic example of the ridiculous argument. It was said that the bodies should be left to themselves to make their own rules and that nobody from outside should interfere. In 1977 I attended a meeting of the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee. I told those assembled and subsequently the principals of all colleges that my Government was committed to the principle that there should not be compulsion of students in socio-economic matters. I also stated that it was the duty of institutions on campus to look to the upholding of the laws of the land on the campus and that the violence, intimidation and threats that were going on had to be stopped. I hoped that that statement would have the support of all the people. I am delighted to say that for a variety of reasons it has. The invitation was handed to these people.
I do not want to be critical of the Australian National University. I share Senator Rae ‘s view that it is a fine body and that academically it is a fine institution. I share his view that the Council is comprised of people of considerable stature and objective judgment. It is very easy to put forward all sorts of insinuations in a case such as this. Let me refer to a matter that was raised with me in the Senate a year or more ago. I was asked whether I knew that a student at the ANU had been refused his examination results and therefore the right to re-enrol in the following year because he had declined to pay that portion of his student fees which were to be allocated to a socio-economic body. He said that he declined to do so because he refused to support a body the philosophy and the activities of which were repugnant to him. On Senator Evans’s argument the Government should say: ‘That has nothing to do with the Parliament or the community. Here is an immutable situation. The Government should not do anything’.
– The enormity of that administrative error has been recognised.
-I agree. I do not think Senator Rae heard me correctly. I acknowledged the fact that I did not want to be critical of this institution. I then wrote to the University and said that the occurrence was intolerable to any democratic principle at all. Does anyone suggest that that was an interference with academic freedom? To say it is so is demonstrable nonsense. In fact the interference with academic freedom was the restraint of the student against re-enrolling. That is clear. Opportunities should be provided for such things to be rectified. An attempt was made in due course for an opting out procedure. I have to say now that sadly enough that procedure, in its testing, failed. The Government then indicated, after some two years in which it had invited institutions to take certain measures, that it proposed to legislate.
Many discussions were held. Reports in the Press that the Government acted without having discussions with the University are totally wrong. The statement in the annual report of the ANU to that effect is factually wrong. Many discussions were held. The ANU asked whether we would let it, by subordinate legislation, carry out the Government’s policy. The University then went to work and submitted to us a piece of subordinate legislation which unhappily on a number of significant matters was diametrically opposed to government policy. What is more, the University indicated that on those matters it was unwilling to act in terms of subordinate legislation. So the Government found itself in the simple situation that, to carry out policies which were part of its mandate, it needed to legislate. It is so doing. I say, with the best will in the world, that we have consulted many times. We have sought the best solutions.
asked a series of questions. I agree with him that the success or otherwise of legislation such as this will depend very largely upon, firstly, the essential co-operation of the council or senate of a body and, secondly, whether goodwill is exercised in its interpretation. It may be that in the course of the journey we will find that for one reason or another holes will appear in the dike. If they do, we intend, either by discussion or amendment, to rectify them. That is a general picture of the framework. It is not a melodramatic situation at all. It represents an expression of the community’s view, as reflected in public opinion polls and in voluminous correspondence, that one should not have compulsion. I stress again that whether a campus or national body be concerned sociopolitically, the voluntary principle will remain.
I believe Senator Evans said that this year the Australian National University had acted to give voluntary membership. As I understand it, although a form may have been filled in, the compulsory fee charged represented basically an escalation, for cost-of-living purposes, above that of the year before. There was no attempt to deduct from that fee the voluntary content. I make it perfectly clear that the intention of the Bill is that if a person expresses a desire not to belong to a socio-economic body, that fee will be reduced. It will not be payable. There can be no attempt to compel payment of that fee for any indirect purpose or attempt to direct money through other channels to that end.
I invite everyone to accept the goodwill of this legislation. Let us not look at the history of the journey or at any of the difficulties that have been encountered. It has been a long journey and its very length demonstrates the Government’s desire to have the matter discussed and thought out along the way. It shows too the Government’s desire not to be heavy-handed. If the Government had wanted to crack down it could have passed legislation four years ago. The fact that this has been a quite gentle process, characterised by discussion over the long term, is quite clear.
– And I trust that the discussion will be able to continue in relation to the implementation and any of the problems which arise.
– As late as today, at my invitation, the Pro Chancellor came to my office for discussions. I had thought to invite the Chancellor but he is overseas. I expressed the thorough goodwill of the Government and the hope that dialogue, communication and cooperation should be even better than in the past. Against that background, I commend the Bills to the Senate.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Tate’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke )
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question put:
That theBill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President -Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 15- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 16 (Fees for the provision of amenities and services to students).
– I would just indicate formally, as was indicated during the second reading speeches that the Opposition opposes clause 16 for the reasons which were well advanced by the Opposition during the second reading debate.
-There is just one additional matter which I think needs to be drawn to the Senate’s attention. It was not canvassed by any honourable senator during the second reading debate. I certainly do not propose to cover any of the ground previously trodden. I refer to clause 16 (4) (a), which states that the Council shall not allow moneys to be paid: unless the Council is of the opinion that provision of those amenities or services, … to students, . . . by or on behalf of the organization . . . will directly benefit the University;
There is a problem with the expression ‘directly benefit the University’. It is not a problem in the sense that I or the Opposition do not believe that in some sense the payments or the provision of the facilities in question ought not to be properly capable of construction as benefiting the University and its members. That is clearly an appropriate general limitation. The worry is, however, that that particular phrase is capable of a very narrow construction indeed. Giving it legislative form in this fashion means that there is something to worry about. This is not an entirely unfamiliar expression in university statutes and internal rules. I understand that it is in fact an expression which occurs in the Australian National University subordinate legislation at the moment. But I understand that in the past provisions of this kind have generally been construed as properly being left in the hands of the student organisation concerned.
– The principal point involves the purposes of a university and the purposes of this particular University.
-I am sorry. Could the honourable senator expand on that?
– The purposes of a university and in particular the purposes of this University; that what it is all about. Benefit to the University is that.
– Meaning this University in this particular case?
-The difficulty about it is that I see the prospect of a conflict conceivably emerging between a student organisation in what it wants to do so far as purely internal University matters are concerned and what the University Council may regard as activity which is not in the best interests or beneficial to the University as a whole. The reality is that on many issues student organisations historically- and no doubt this will continue to be the case in the future- have tended to act in ways that may be aggressive to the university administration or the academic part of it. They have pursued issues which have been genuinely perceived to be in the interests of the students but which have been vigorously resisted by the administration. As a former student politician. I can think of many examples from my own days in the mid- 1 960s, but more recent examples have involved such activities as campaigns for examination reform, campaigns on matters related to entrance requirements, exercises in support in one way or another of child care facilities and things of that kind. In many of these instances there is a potential for very real conflict between what the student organisation is on about and what the university council, were it so minded, could conceivably regard as activity which is not beneficial to the university’s interests, perhaps not beneficial to the academic standards of the university and not beneficial to the university’s capacity to conduct its affairs in a financially orderly way.
In the past the interpretation of these sorts of phrases has been very much a joint good faith arrangement between the university council and the student bodies in question. One hopes that this will continue to be the case in the future. I know that there is concern within the ANU campus about this particular phrase. Certainly, it is possible to see a sound objective basis for that concern, given the potentially quite conservative character of the University Council. If that is not so at the ANU at the moment in terms of the stance it has taken in the past, it may well prove to be a rather more conservative institution in the future should this Government remain in office, given, as Senator Tate pointed out in the course of his speech, the extraordinary opportunities that the Government has to influence the composition of that Council.Given those considerations and given the possibility of that expression being construed in, unhappily, a very narrow way, the Opposition puts that forward as yet another reason why this clause should be opposed.
– I disagree with Senator Evans’s opposition. The expression is an expression which has achieved a degree of understanding which does not need to be avoided if we have to have this legislation. I do not believe that this is the desirable way to achieve it, but we are not going to achieve anything by adopting the argument of Senator Evans. The purposes of the University and of benefit to the University are expressions which are well understood and well capable of interpretation. I would simply indicate that, notwithstanding what I have said previously in relation to the whole Bill, the objection which has been taken is not one which appeals to me.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 17 and 18- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 19 (Membership of organisation not to be compulsory).
– Again I simply indicate that the Opposition formally opposes clause 1 9. There is no need for any reiteration of the reasons.
– I make only one additional comment on the subject of clause 19. It is prompted by Senator Carrick ‘s excursions on the subject of academic freedom and the inappropriateness of any such notion in the context of this debate and the Opposition’s arguments about the effect of these clauses. I remind him again of the letter that he wrote, I assume, in 1977 to Liberal and National Country Party senators and members when in the course of resisting a suggestion that the Commonwealth use its powers to influence the control and conduct of student organisations- he is welcome to look at the document to see the passage I am referring to- he said:
Again the question of desirability and necessity emerges. There is always a danger that future governments might see such an action-
That is, governmental use of money and other powers to control student organisations- as a precedent for imposing limitations upon genuine academic freedom.
– I did not say that this did.
– I am not suggesting, with respect, that Senator Carrick was referring in that letter, by some sort of Nostradamus-like foresight, to the terms of this legislation. What I am suggesting is that he was referring to Government activity, either through the use of money power or legislative means, to control the way in which student organisations worked and how they might be dissuaded from supporting lunatic or extremist causes. I will repeat for the record what Senator Carrick said. I would be interested in his response. He said:
There is always a danger that future governments might see such an action as a precedent for imposing limitations upon genuine, academic freedom.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 25 October, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-On behalf of the Opposition, I move:
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Tate’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke )
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question put:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6- by leave- taken together.
– Clauses 5 and 6 are officially opposed by the Opposition for reasons which have already been stated.
Clauses agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 1 1.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1 979:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
That committee did not, however, meet and, therefore, no decisions were taken by it.
The honourable senator would be aware that the Government has now decided on its policy for the development of commercial FM broadcasting and this was announced by me earlier this year.
Under these circumstances, details of membership of the ad hoc committee would appear to be irrelevant.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 5 April 1 979:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Travel and accommodation arrangements are based on needs. Travel is usually by air (first class) or by car (official or hire) if appropriate.
Accommodation is normal motel (all facilities) standard except on rare occasions when additional space may be necessary for purposes of meetings/discussions, etc.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 5 April 1979:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 30 May 1979:
Will an Australian delegation be attending the World Administrative Radio Conference to be held in 1979; if so, (a) who will be Australia’s delegates; and (b) what are their professional qualifications and experience.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 6 June 1 979:
Has the staffing organisation of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal now been reviewed; if so: (a) what was the result of the review; (b) what request was made for additional staff; and (c) what additional staff has been provided.
The staffing organisation of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal has been reviewed on the basis that the Broadcasting Information Office will be established. Until the BIO is established, the Tribunal will continue to carry out those functions which the Government has indicated will be performed by the BIO. Pending creation of the BIO the establishment of Tribunal stands at some 167 positions of which 103 are currently staffed.
The staffing organisation of the Tribunal (pre-supposing the existence of the BIO) is as follows:
the organisation consists of four branches, i.e. Secretariat and Public Relations; Management Services; Public Inquiry (and Licensing); Programs.
the approved establishment comprises 34 positions; and
there is no provision for state offices as such.
The question of additional staff did not arise in the recent review; on the contrary insofar as the Tribunal itself is concerned a significant reduction in positions resulted.
Action is being taken to fill new positions within the limits of the staff ceiling.
Fire at Radio Communications Service Centre at Botany (Question No. 1697)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 7 June 1979:
The cause of the fire in unknown, but the NSW Police report to the City coroner indicated no suspicious circumstances.
From time of arrival of the Fire Brigade on 17 December 1978 until the afternoon of 18 December 1978, the building was completely under control of the Fire Brigade.
The building was taken over by Telecom staff from the Fire Brigade during the afternoon of 18 December 1978, and from close of business on that day until commencement of business on 19 December 1978 the building was attended continuously by a security company guard. This arrangement of Telecom staff during normal hours and a security guard during other times, provided continual attendance until the morning of 22 December 1 978.
On 22 December 1978 a full time security company guard was employed until 26 January 1979, when the building was completely vacated by Telecom.
Action to secure the building physically was commenced on 18 December 1978 and completed on 20 December 1978.
The long term effect of the damage has been to slow down repair time, as some repairs have had to be undertaken in situ due to shortages of spare equipment modules and test equipment required to replace items damaged in the fire.
Fire protection and security arrangements at these locations include automatic fire alarm systems incorporating smoke and heat detection devices and are connected to the NSW Fire Brigade.
The Redfern Radio Terminal is located within the Redfern Telephone Exchange building and is staffed continuously. The Waverley Terminal is staffed during normal working hours and at other times equipment and security alarms are monitored at Redfern.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 22 August 1 979:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Hermes Satellite: Subscriber Two-way Telephony (Question No. 1779)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 22 August 1979:
What is the estimated power consumption of the small earth station using an antenna of 1.2 metres’ diameter or less, envisaged for use on remote homesteads, needed to effect: (a) television reception only from (b) two-way telephony through, a 20 watt satellite transponder similar to that used in the Canadian Hermes satellite and planned for use in the ANIK C series satellite.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 22 August 1979:
Subscriber Telephony Circuits, Operating through Satellite (Question No. 1783)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 22 August 1979:
How many individual subscriber telephony circuits, operating through satellites, are there (a) world-wide, (b) in Canada and (c) in the United States of America.
My Department does not have details of subscriber telephony circuits, operating through satellite on world-wide basis, however, I am informed that Canada provides telephony, television and radio services for 43 remote communities via their national satellite. By the end of 1 979 there will be 224 telephony circuits operating in the single channel per carrier mode.
Radio Station 2JJ (Question No. 1871)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 30 August 1 979:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
The question of using the FM band was not pursued at that time. Consequently, the possible upgrading of 2 JJ had to be reconsidered in light of other developments of the national radio and television services. As recently as 19 September 1979, however, I affirmed to the ABC my support for 2 JJ and, in particular, the transfer of that service to the FM band. It is proposed that the standby transmitter for the present National FM Service in Sydney will be utilised.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 12 September 1979:
Dr Bochner. $2,250.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice, on 12 September 1979:
– The Minister for Housing and Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In the years 1974-75 to 1977-78 the proportion of advances to Tasmania allocated to the Home Builders’ Account was as follows: 1974-75-30 per cent; 1975-76-20 per cent; 1976-77-20 percent; 1977-78-21 percent.
In 1978-79I as Minister for Housing and Construction in consultation with the Tasmanian Minister determined on 22 December 1978 the amounts to be advanced to Tasmania in respect of the 1978-79 financial year as Rental Housing Assistance advances and as Home Purchase Assistance advances. These amounts were $ 14.305m and $6. 131m respectively. Following a request from the Tasmanian Housing Minister I varied that determination on 27 February 1979 to $ 16.349m and $4.087m respectively. Although the allocation of advances between the two programs was varied for the financial year as a whole, there was no transfer of funds from the Home Purchase Assistance Account as a result of the variation.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 20 September 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Report-States Grants (Schools) Act 1972- Financial Assistance granted to each State in 1974-75-19 May 1976.
Report-States Grants (Schools) Act 1972- Financial Assistance granted to each State in 1975-76-2 November 1977.
Report- States Grants (Schools) Act 1972- Financial Assistance granted to each State in 1976-77-23 February 1978.
Report-States Grants (Schools) Act 1973- Financial Assistance granted to each State in 1975-30 November 1976.
Report-States Grants (Schools) Act 1973-Financial Assistance granted to each State in 1 976- 25 August 1 977.
Report -States Grants (Schools) Act 1976- Financial Assistance granted to each State- 23 February 1 978.
Report- States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1976-24 November 1978.
It is not possible to provide information in respect of payments to individual government schools except in relation to grants made under the Special Projects (Innovations) Program of the Commission. The Commonwealth Government, through Schools Commission programs, provides bulk funding to the Victorian Government for government school programs to disburse as it sees fit The following funds have been allocated to government schools in Victoria through Schools Commission programs in 1978 and 1979.
Funds provided for Tertiary Institutions in the electorate of Flinders and Holt are detailed below.
Flinders: State College of Victoria- Frankston.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 26 September 1979:
-The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Since 1942 there has been a statutory requirement that commercial broadcasting stations devote a certain percentage of their total music time to the playing of music composed by Australians. This was originally set at a level of 2b per cent. In 1956 this requirement was raised to 5 per cent of total music time.
On 1 July 1973 the former Australian Broadcasting Control Board, now the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, introduced a requirement that commercial broadcasting stations devote a minimum of 10 per cent of their total music time to the playing of music performed by Australians.
This percentage has been increased on three occasions to the present level of 20 per cent:
In its report of the 1977 public inquiry into the concept of self-regulation for broadcasters, the Tribunal proposed that the percentage requirement relating to Australian music performances be increased in two stages from 20 per cent to 30 per cent. The Tribunal is currently holding discussions with representatives of commercial broadcasting stations and the Australian recording industry on these matters.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 10 October 1979:
What is the normal length of time that persons purchasing:
neckbraces under the pensioner medical benefits scheme; and
eyeglasses, have to wait between application for, and fitting of, these devices.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Commonwealth does not provide neckbraces to persons under the pensioner health benefits arrangements nor does it have any direct involvement in the purchase of eyeglasses. Accordingly, I am unable to provide the information sought by the honourable senator.
However, the honourable senator will be aware that under the hospital cost-sharing arrangements with the States the Commonwealth meets fifty per cent of agreed net operating costs of recognized (that is, public) hospitals. To the extent that the States provide aids and appliances, such as neckbraces and eyeglasses to eligible persons as part of the ordinary operations of recognized hospitals, the Commonwealth meets fifty per cent of the costs. Means testing is applied in some cases.
The practice of supplying aids and appliances differs to some extent between the States and between hospitals within a State. I will continue to encourage States to provide aids and appliances on a uniform basis.
If the honourable senator would care to provide details of specific cases I would be willing to have my Department pursue them with the relevant State health authorities.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 17 October 1979:
What were the costs charged for the time purchased by each candidate, and the percentage distribution between candidates of the total costs, in connection with the State election in Tasmania on 28 July 1979 (see the answer to Senate Question No. 1933, Hansard, 1 1 October 1979, pages 1306-9).
-The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Information in relation to individual candidates is not required to be supplied to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal and, therefore, it is not available.
Housing of Asian Refugees in Canberra (Question No. 2142)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 24 October 1979:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
At 30 September 1979:
The figure at (a) (iii) includes dwellings that were being upgraded.
The Department agreed to make available as the need arises a further 52 houses throughout Canberra to SouthEast Asian refugees sponsored by interested organisations in Canberra. Every effort is made to find a house for such a family in the area of the sponsors choice.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 25 October 1979:
What was the total cost to the Commonwealth of the $ 16 bed/day subsidy for: (a) beds in private hospitals; and (b) private beds in public hospitals, for each year since 1 969-70.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The $16 daily bed payment was introduced in 1975, effective from the dates the cost-sharing agreements with the States were entered into. Those dates were:
New South Wales- 1 October 1975.
Victoria- 1 August 1975.
Queensland- 1 September 1975.
South Australia- 1 July 1975.
Western Australia- 1 August 1975.
Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory and Northern
Territory- 1 July 1975.
The following table shows the total cost to the Commonwealth of the daily bed payment since its introduction:
-On 28 May 1979 Senator Walsh asked me the following question without notice:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Last Friday in Brisbane, the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia rejected the Australian Wheat Board’s submission that the wheat marketing case was settled and committed Ubergang’s case for hearing in the full High Court. In the Budget session, the Government will introduce the new wheat stabilisation Bills, which need to be passed by 30 September. In the event of the Court’s emasculating the Bills either before or after they are passed, what contingency plans does the Government have for wheat stabilisation? Will the Government be seeking a referendum to amend the Constitution?
The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Uebergang’s case (Uebergang and Others v. Australian Wheat Board) involves (amongst other issues) a challenge, on the basis of section 92 of the Constitution, to the application of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act, 1974 of the New South Wales to inter-State transactions.
A similar challenge was rejected by the High Court on 8 September 1978 in Clark King and Co. Pty Ltd v. Australian Wheat Board. The fact that there is a further High Court challenge to the same legislation does not preclude the Commonwealth and State Governments, in reliance upon the Clark King case, from seeking further legislation in relation to wheat marketing and pricing arrangements. Whether further legislation or a constitutional amendment is desirable would depend on the outcome of the challenge in Uebergang’s case.
Uranium Enrichment Plant
-On 22 August 1 979 Senator MacGibbon asked me, as the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources, the following question without notice:
Apart from the many technological and financial advantages accruing to the Australian community from the construction in north Queensland of an enrichment plant for uranium oxide, can the Minister define any proven hazards from such a venture? Are not such fears completely groundless?
The Minister for Trade and Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The potential hazards associated with a uranium enrichment plant may only be assessed in detail when a particular enrichment process and plant location have been selected. In general, however, such plants are not considered to offer hazards to the general public beyond those associated with conventional industrial plants.
Plants for the enrichment of uranium in the form of its compound uranium hexafluoride (UF6) for use in nuclear reactors are in operation in the USA, USSR, UK, France and the Netherlands; the three United States plants have been in use for almost 30 years. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission has advised that it is not aware of any record of any incident or malfunction causing injury or damage to persons or property adjacent to enrichment plants.
-On 18 October 1979 (Hansard, page 1475) Senator Walters asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Health, a question without notice concerning quarantine laws.
The Minister for Health has provided the following information:
Policies relating to plant, animal and human quarantine are made in consultation with appropriate experts throughout Australia. In particular, the development and formulation of agricultural quarantine policies routinely involves consultation with the Chief Quarantine Officers (Animals) and (Plants) and through them the appropriate branches of the State Departments of Agriculture. New policies are not implemented until there is broad agreement among the relevant authorities. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, universities and other research organisations are consulted where particular expertise is required.
Breaches of Industrial Awards
– On 7 November 1979 Senator Bishop asked me, as the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations, the following question without notice:
I ask the Minister whether he has seen a statement in this morning’s Press by the Director of the Industrial Relations Bureau, Mr Linehan, stating:
What can be said is that from the Bureau experience there would appear to be a very high incidence of breaches and maybe employee rights are not as secure as may be thought.
Has the Minister noted that the figures indicate a continuing situation where many breaches of awards by employers are not being effectively prosecuted? The Minister will know that from discussions we have had in this place. I ask the Minister How can the Government justify this continuing situation while it brings into the Parliament very drastic regulations and provisions in relation to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which restrict the rights of employees? What does the Government propose to do about this report?
The Minister for Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
When introducing the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill 1977 I said in the Second Reading Speech in that part relating to the Industrial Relations Bureau, inter alia: … It will be an independent body whose basic aim will be to secure the observance of the Act, regulations and awards in a reasonable and amicable manner”, and”. . . The Bureau will seek to secure correction of breaches of the industrial law without recourse to the legal processes of the Court. Where the Bureau is unable to have the breach remedied, it will have the responsibility of pursuing the necessary action in the Court’.
I have been advised that the remarks attributable to the Director of the Industrial Relations Bureau were made in the context of a talk given by him to the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia at a Symposium on Trade Unions and the Law. The topic of the session in which the Director participated was ‘Legal Enforcement of Industrial Relations Decisions’.
The first Annual Report of the Bureau 1 977-78 Appendix H advised the criteria to be applied in relation to securing the observance of the Act, regulations and awards. Generally where an award breach by an employer has been rectified the Bureau would only proceed to a prosecution where the breach is serious or regarded as deliberate on the evidence available or the employer has previously been in breach of an award and the current breach was similar in character.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 November 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19791115_senate_31_s83/>.